Race

Traverse City Trails Festival Recap: Podiums and Plenty of Fun!

The City Bike Shop Racing Team had a huge turn out this past Saturday to support Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association at the Traverse City Trails Festival.

At the start of both the 40 and 25 mile race, the blue kits of City Bike Shop were everywhere! Our squad had July 20 earmarked for months. We’ve been looking forward to the TCTF since last year, and a big part of that enthusiasm comes from how involved some of our members are. Tom White, a trail-building legend, runs nearly every aspect of the TCTF and plays a big role in trail development with NMMBA. Our own Mike Walters has grown into Tom’s right-hand man and has put in countless hours creating and maintaining the trails that make up the course.

Our riders wanted to make all that hard work count. On the grueling 40 mile race, we had a tremendous showing! On the Expert 50+, John Duby nabbed third just ahead of Vince Mack, giving us two riders in the top five of one of the most competitive fields of the day. Meanwhile, Dan Packer Jr. took the singlespeed win and really impressed by finishing under the three-hour mark, while his old man was second in his category with a time just over three hours! We also had Alex Pina go for second in the Sport 30-39, with DJ Kenney and David Haapala second and third in the Sport 40-49.

In the 25 mile race, Beth Grassa took on some of the best singletrack riders in the state and came home fourth with a time of 2:02 in the Expert category. Nate Farran put months of Norte coaching to good use and may or may not have let one of his pupils, Brody Day, edge him out on the line. He slid through for 9th in the Expert field in a time of 1:52:53. Eric Grassa also broke the vaunted two hour mark with a time of 1:56:20, good enough to be in the top thirty overall!

Dave Walston kept the team’s singlespeed street cred alive in the 25 mile race, too. He put down a second place finish, just behind a flying Matt Fain. Matt won the 30-39 category in 1:55, one of our team’s top times of the day. We also saw top tens from Scott Kuhns, Sue Welton, and an on-form Jim Hills.

Check out the full results from TCTF and give your pals some kudos! We had a ton of fun catching up with riders from Traverse City and across the state this weekend, and we’re already looking forward to the even in 2020!

Our Traverse City Trails Festival Tips

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Ready to race or tour this weekend? After a few big recon rides, we’ve got a few tips to make this Saturday’s Traverse City Trails Festival presented by Short’s Brewing as fun as possible. 

In just its third year, the TCTF has grown into one of the can’t-miss, won’t-miss events of the season. With a wide range of distances and the choice to race or tour, it’s a way to enjoy the trails while you support them! It’s the biggest fundraiser of the year for Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association, which means every race entry goes right back into creating and maintaining a world-class trail experiences in Traverse City and beyond. 

Whether you’re racing or touring, a few things remain the same. After getting out to pre-ride the course a few times, we’ve collected a handful of tips worth considering before Saturday that will make things more fun and, just maybe, a little faster, too. 

Low Ain’t Slow. Nearly every single one of us stopped to lower our tire pressure over the course of one or more of these pre-rides. Seriously. With so much singletrack, traction is vitally important. Not only did dumping a little air help us with more grip, it also did a lot to make some of the roughest sections of trail feel a bit smoother. 

Adjust Your Fork (And Shock). The bike for the day is definitely full suspension, but even if you’re on a hardtail, it’s worth making a few adjustments. If you can hit the woods this week, use the O-ring on your stanchion to see how much of your travel you’re using. The goal should be to use all of it, with the O-ring being pushed all the way up the stanchion to within a few millimeters of the top of the fork leg. If you ride full suspension, do the same on your rear shock, too. If you need help getting set-up, make sure you stop by and ask Nate for some tips and learn how to make smart changes to get the most out of your travel. 

Bring Water (And Snacks). The 25 mile route is a big effort; the 40 miler, even tougher. Bring enough water to stay hydrated and make sure you have a way to get to it. It’s a great race to use a hydration pack so you can quickly take sips in the singletrack without having to reach for a bottle, ride on handed, and stab the bottle back to the cage in tight turns. The same goes for food. Try to unwrap your gels, bars, and food so you can get to them quickly if you plan on eating on the move. There are a few aid stations, but it’s always smart to plan on being self-sufficient, just in case. Plan on one bottle of water per hour of riding, and try to eat between 40 and 60 grams of carbs per hour as well. Race day isn’t a good time to experiment, so stick to drinks and snacks you’ve had before. 

Look At The Map. Try to identify specific sections of trail to use as landmarks throughout the race. Use wider sections to eat and drink; parts of the Muncie Lake Pathway, Vasa Pathway, and some more open singletrack are the best spots to fuel up. Use mile markers or familiar sections of traill as reminders to eat or drink, check in on how you’re feeling, and see how far into the race you are. NMMBA has route files that you can upload to a Wahoo Elmnt or Garmin Forerunner right here.

Online registration closes Wednesday night, and you can save yourself $10 by getting signed up.

We’ll see you at Ranch Rudolf Saturday for one of the most enjoyable days of the summer!

Gear Up For The Traverse City Trails Festival on July 20!

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We’re a bit partial to the woods. With so many incredible trails, awesome events, and wonderful people to ride with, being a mountain biker in Traverse City is kind of a no-brainer.

We have a lot of people to thank for all those trails and races, but Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association deserves a lot of the credit for giving us so many great places to ride. For over a decade, NMMBA has led the way as our local trail stewards, advocates, and now, race promoters with the third edition of the Traverse City Trails Festival presented by Short’s Brewing.

The TCTF is a special event for a number of reasons. First, it’s the biggest fundraiser of the year for NMMBA, a vital way to support their trail efforts across the region. It also offers rider a chance to ride up to 40 miles of unmarked trails; for 364 days of the year, this singletrack has no signage due to DNR regulations. Just one day a year, you can explore the trails with arrows and a group of friends! And that’s another plus; in addition to 40, 25, and 15 mile races, you can also opt to tour the 25 and 15 mile courses at your own pace with friends, without worrying about competing.

It’s extra special to City Bike Shop because the TCTF is the labor of love of long-time team leader and racer Tom White. Tom has dedicated so many hours of his life to offering others an incredible trail experience. His mountain biking and trail building efforts span over three decades and have served as the basis for nearly every inch of riding we enjoy in Traverse City. His efforts to spearhead the TCTF, on top of his every day trail work, is a massive investment of time and we all owe him a ton. Want to say thanks? It’s as easy as signing up for the TCTF.

This past Saturday, riders took an early look at the 2019 TCTF course, including our own Bryan Warner, John Duby, plus Tom White led the 25 mile ride. The word on the 2019 route is really encouraging. Some of the rougher, newer trails from 2018 are ridden in and much faster, and the way Tom has woven in a great mix of old favorites and new places to ride, like the Strombolis Lake Loop, really make for a fun day in the woods, whether you’re racing, touring, or just rolling around the woods.

To learn more about the TCTF, head here. Make sure you get signed up and we’ll see you on Saturday, July 20!

2019 Bike Benzie: A Can't Miss Tour (Or Race!) In Northern Michigan

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There are plenty of events that pop up throughout the summer, but Bike Benzie is one we never miss.

Northern Michigan is home to an endless calendar of fun races and rides. It’s tough to find a weekend without at least one or two really unique events on the agenda, so much so that it’s hard to choose which ones to to hit. One we always show up for is a small little race and tour that gives us a chance to enjoy the roads of Benzie County and the lake shore, plus ample slices of pie. It’s nearly June, and that means it’s Bike Benzie time!

Bike Benzie is a fundraiser for the Benzie Sunrise Rotary. Over the years, the ride has shifted shapes to meet the interests of riders from all over the region. It’s current form offers a little something for everyone; there’s a 100 mile tour, 62 mile tour, 62 mile race, 62 mile team time trial, plus a 30 mile tour to get newer riders out for a stroll. The start and finish at Crystal Mountain Resort puts all over those routes onto some beautiful, low-traffic roads that even locals just don’t get a chance to ride nearly as much as we’d like.

Those 62 mile events are the real favorite. While a lot of riders head on to enjoy a 62 mile tour, there are two chances to get a little competitive, too. The 62 mile race is a grand fondo-type mass start event that suits riders who want to go hard. The team time trial offers teams a unique chance to combine four-man and three-woman teams to take on the same 62 mile course.

No matter if you race or ride, everyone gets a delicious meal once back at Crystal Mountain, complete with live music, plenty of pie and cookies, and a very friendly group of people to relive the action of the day with! With so many great food stops, make sure you leave room for after; they’re going to try to feed you as much as they can!

For more on the Bike Benzie, and all the good work the Benzie Sunrise Rotary does for the community, head here. Online registration ends May 30 at 8 pm, so get you and your pals signed up!

The Perfect Arcadia Grit & Gravel Bike Is...

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After a glorious day of racing at Mud, Sweat and Beers, plus a full day of embracing beer and tacos on Cinco de Mayo, it’s time to look at to the next big (and local) thing: Arcadia.

Arcadia Grit & Gravel offers up one of the most unique concepts in the state. The mountain bike race has relied on a route that’s like nothing else to provide both a fun experience and a killer challenge to racers of all abilities. To start, the race combines nearly 10 miles of pavement, gravel, and two-track, plus two key climbs, to sort riders out. An opening ascent two miles in and another long, grueling climb near the 8 mile mark serve as separators, but there is plenty of time to be gained in the sinuous, rolling pavement in between.

The reward for all that cranking is arguably the best singletrack in the state. The Arcadia trail system combines two loops of flowing, winding, exhilarating trail on either side of a lonely, quiet gravel road that splits the trail in two. Riders are often giggling throughout these two sections of trail, and the final two miles back to Arcadia and the finish are simply a blur. Throw in blooming trillium at the roadside and some sunny weather, and there’s hardly a more beautiful race on the calendar.

But that sharp divide in terrain gives some riders a bit of indecision. A gravel bike for the first half, and take your chances on the trail, or is is smarter to survive the paved surfaces and thrive in the singletrack? It’s a decision that’s heavily influenced by your level of confidence in bike handling. We take a look at two options, one with drop bars and one for our mountain bikers.

Giant Revolt 2. The ideal rig for giving it a go on the gravel. The Revolt 2 comes with a 2x drivetrain that offer up a wide range of gearing options for the steep opening ascent of Erdman Road, which sees pitches over 11% and much of it in loose sand. Alternatively, you’ll have a big gear for stomping away on the pavement and will be able to stretch the bunch on the long paved downhill. But what about the trail? Well, the Revolt fits up to 700 x 48 or 650 x 2.0 tires, so you can get some pretty wide rubber on there for more traction once you hit the singletrack. You can see all the Revolt options here.

Scott Scale RC. For the singletrack shredder, going with a feather light hardtail is the way to go at Arcadia. While the race is just about 50/50 between gravel and singletrack, most racers would argue that the most important part comes with the sharp right turn into the woods at the top of Taylor Road. The ascent of the longest climb in the race almost immediately tosses riders from wide open roads to tight, twisting, trillium-lined singletrack, and if you hit it tired, you can get gapped quick. That’s why riding your lightest hardtail is a really smart option. To survive the gravel and pavement, make sure you’re running a 32t or bigger chainring to avoid spinning out. Once into the trees, slap off your lockout and get shredding! Check out the full Scale family here.

Do you have any tips for riders taking on their first Arcadia Grit & Gravel? Let us know in the comments!

Mud, Sweat and Beers 2019: Race Week Check List

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For Pros to beginners, Mud, Sweat and Beers is often the very first tilt of the season. It’s been a full six months since Iceman, and you may have forgotten what check before you hit the start line. We take you through a few things to do this week to make sure your rig is ready to shred.

You can’t gain much fitness in the final five days before a race, but you can take care of some of the technical details to avoid mechanicals and get the most out of the hard work you’ve put in to get ready for the event. We offer a quick race-week tune up to check and tweak some hard-to-adjust things like your bottom bracket and hubs, but there are plenty of things that you can do to make sure you’re all set.

  1. Tubeless refresh. When’s the last time you added sealant to your tires? If you aren’t sure, it’s probably time, especially if your bike hasn’t seen much action over winter. Adding 2-4 oz of your preferred sealant is the best way to avoid flats. Make sure you stick with the sealant you used last time; Stan’s and Orange Seal don’t interact well and may not seal a puncture as quickly. It might also be a good time to remove the tire and wipe out all the old, dried sealant, too. Ideal Day: Do this on Monday to make sure everything seals up and holds well.

  2. Drive Train Check. Use a chain gauge to check the stretch and wear of your chain. If it’s beyond .75, it may be time to replace your chain and cassette. If the weather looks bad, it may not be a bad idea to stick with your worn drive train until after the race so you don’t put some destructive miles on new parts. Ideal Day: Tuesday. This gives you a little time to ride the new stuff and make any adjustments that might be necessary.

  3. Torque It Down. Take a T25 or adjustable torque wrench and check your stem, seat post, and other bolts that you may have adjusted this spring. It’s also a good time to check for any play in your hubs, see how tight your thru axles or quick releases levers, even your how firm your pedals are installed.

  4. Spin Those Pedals. Pedals often get neglected. Take a second to feel for side-to-side play in your pedal body before a race to make sure you’re as efficient as possible. You can also spin the pedals and listen to a grind or a jerky, uneven turn. That means your bearings are dry and may need to be serviced. If you ride Crank Bros Egg Beaters or Candy pedals, you might also look to make sure that the springs aren’t rusted and move evenly. Ideal Day: Wednesday, so that you have time to ride new or serviced pedals a time or two before the event.

  5. Shock Pressure. Making sure your fork and shock are good to roll is key. Check your pressure and make a note of how the settings contribute to your recon ride. Play with a few psi firmer or softer, and make sure you adjust for sag as well. Nate is a genius at getting your fork or full suspension set-up for the trail. If you need pointers, stop by! Ideal Day: Every day. Keeping an accurate record of your suspension can help you make the right adjustments for how and where you ride.

There are few things as thrilling as tearing through the woods with your pals, and nothing more disappointing than having that experience soiled by a flat tire or loose part. Take five minutes a day this week to check one of these easy adjustments off your list, and if your bike needs more, get it into City Bike Shop soon! From everyone at the shop, have a wonderful race and we’ll see you at the start line!

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!