Gear

The Devil Is In The Details: Three Parts To Check This Autumn

DSC03150.JPG

It’s mid-September and your gear has been taking a beating. Especially if you’re still looking ahead to the slew of fall races still to come, we’ve got three maintenance tips even the most experienced cyclists forget to check all season long. 

For many riders, the season isn’t even close to being over. With the Leelanau Harvest Tour in the bag, we’ve still got a dozen or so mountain bike and gravel races to choose from across the state. Even the Iceman Cometh Challenge isn’t the last chance to be competitive; the Farmland 5K and Free-For-All Bike Race is another month after that! 

If you’re like us, you’ve been riding hard since the snow melted. You’ve certainly made a few repairs or tweaks, and we’ve probably even had you stop by for a tune-up. There are a few small things that Nate, Jeff, and Dustin always like to check this time of year, and even if you can’t make it in right away, you can check them out at home. 

All Things Pedals. Depending on your pedal system, there can actually be a ton of moving parts to clipless pedals. From the pedal spindle to play in the pedal body, every millimeter of this crucial contact point is subject to all of your power output. Take a second to feel the pedal for side-to-side play, and spin it to make sure it rotates smoothly. Listen fo a grinding or dry sound; if you hear that, you may need to service your pedals. It’s also worth looking at the springs that offer resistance to keep you clipped in. If those springs are rusted, they’re much more likely to snap or offer more play than usual. Worst case, they snap and your foot comes out! That additional float can also cause knee and ankle problems if they become too tight or too loose. 

  1. Grease Your Bottom Bracket. If you don’t know the last time someone inspected your bottom bracket, it’s time you inspected your bottom bracket. There are a dozen variations of BBs, with some more likely to squeak or bind than others. The biggest factors in wearing out these bearings aren’t time or miles; most often, the conditions you ride in dictate how long they last. Riding on wet, sandy, or muddy days can have a big impact on wear. Take your chain off the chain ring and give your cranks a spin; much like your pedals, a grinding sound or quick stop means your BB is probably dry. You can also give your cranks a sort of push-pull to feel for lateral play in the bottom bracket. If it moves at all, you need service. 

    Valve cores. Really, your whole tubeless system probably needs to be looked over. With a valve core tool, check to make sure your valves are still tight. Months of airing up can change how they fit in the valve itself. Additionally, the sealant at the base of the valve core can build up, making it harder to pump in air. Shake your wheel and listen for the slosh of sealant; if you don’t hear anything, your tires are dried out and need more juice. 

This time of year, it’s all about the little things. Taking extra care of your bike will help to avoid disappointed mechanicals on race day, and make sure you’re not stranded on the trail when things get cold, soggy, and a bit darker. We can offer you a free estimate and let you know what your bike needs to keep rolling. Stop in for September tune-up and ride into autumn with confidence!

Meet Your New Best Friend: A Faster Iceman with the Thunderburt

schwalbe_HS451_thunder-burt_line-rot_54622_0.png

Folks, there’s no denying it. It’s Iceman season, and we’re helping riders gear up for the biggest events of fall with the right gear. 

The two biggest races of fall are Peak2Peak and the Iceman Cometh Challenge. For so many riders in northern Michigan, the two events are really the pinnacle of the season. We’ve had all summer to rack up miles, we’ve put in a few efforts at races like Mud, Sweat and Beers, Traverse City Trails Festival and Glacial Hills, and we’ve dialed in our fitness to be in perfect shape for late October and early and November. Often, the difference between a good race and a great one is the gear. 

Tires are a big part of a solid race, and we’ve ridden a bit of everything over the years. One of the tires that we just keep coming back to is the Schwalbe Thunderburt. Designed with minimal rolling resistance and weight, ‘Burts have been some of our go-to tires for a couple of years. At first glance, the dimpled, nearly smooth tread pattern does make some people nervous. As a rear tire, we’ve found that having your body weight over the tire is enough, and since both Peak2Peak and Iceman are almost entirely on sand, there isn’t much to worry about. 

Our favorite set-up is running Thunderburts front and rear, but there are some races where having a bit more bite up front makes sense. In that situation, we’ll often recommend going with a Rocket Ron, a tire with more tread and traction for handling in slick, wet conditions or tighter singletrack sections. 

The tire itself offers up a number of options, but nearly every one is lightweight. The Addix line-up in 2.25” comes in at a crazy-light 575 grams; the 2.1” width is only 515 grams! But lightweight isn’t the only reason to grab a Burt. According to bicyclerollingresistance.com it’s one of the fastest mountain bike tires on the market, only two spots behind the top tire, Schwalbe’s Big One. It offers up just 22.3 Watts, which isn’t far behind some low-end road tires!

The key to Thunderburts is getting some miles on them before race day, so get in now and put in some big rides. You’re going to notice a huge difference, both accelerating and once you’re laying down the power on Sand Lakes Road!

Tubes, Tubeless, and Tires: What's The Right Way To Ride Road?

FLAT.jpg

At Patrick’s Heavy Ride with Friends this weekend, we had a disaster flat. The tire was a beast to get back on the rim and the tube’s valve stem was too short. With just the tip of the valve sticking out, we tried and ruined three different CO2 chucks and wasted ten minutes with a hand pump trying to get a rideable amount of air in, with no luck. 

Away went the levers and tubes and pumps and out came the worst case scenario tool; the cell phone. Just ten miles later, I had a puncture while riding along the ugly but necessary stretch of US-31 that links Torch Lake to Eastport, right on the famous Ride Around Torch loop. A geyser of Stan’s, a jarring hiss and the muted panic of trying to come to a stop without causing a crash for my companions or veering into the RV and semi-truck traffic, I slid to a halt. Son of a….Nothing worse than back to back flats!

Tubed or tubeless, puncture-resistant, everything flats sometimes. There are pros and cons to each, as this weekend’s twin disasters proved. I was able to easily fix my flat by first trying to let the Stan’s sealant do it’s tubeless magic. The gash was too big, and so I was forced to use my DynaPlug. That essentially means that, while I was able to keep riding and get home, that tire isn’t reliable enough to keep riding and my $90 tubeless tire is now going to be used only with tubes. That’s my second ‘ruined’ tire of the summer, and I’m going back to my far more trusty and anti-flat Panaracer GravelKing slicks. 

The alternative, riding tubes, is a bit less work and, in theory, more reliable. Got a flat? Put in a tube and go. But the reality is always so different. With more and more riders on deep section rims, having the right valve length can be a pain. Certain tire and rim combinations are almost impossible to swap, and the tube replacement is always going to be slower than the tubeless alternative. 

Is one better than the other? Maybe the real question is, what tire is better in the long run? Are we sacrificing a few grams to shave seconds off a ride at the risk of flatting and sacrificing minutes? Frankly, yes. While scoffed at by some, puncture-resistant tires like the famous Continental GatorSkin weigh a few grams more and may have a more harsh ride, but a properly installed GatorSkin will offer up thousands of miles and decidedly fewer flats than a ‘faster’ tire. And over the course of a tire, what’s more valuable?

Our advice is to ride the tire for what you’re doing. Unless you’re racing, a slightly heavier tire can be more cost effective, offer more miles and fewer flats. If you’re not in a hurry, ride tubes and make sure you’re carrying a tube with a valve long enough for your rim depth. If you do ride deep rims, make sure you also stash a valve stem extender in your flat kit so that you can borrow a tube from a friend if necessary. 

If you do opt for tubeless, bring a tube and a can of sealant with your CO2. We carry Pitstop and other projects that will help seal even the worst cuts. If all else fails, bring a patch or a DynaPlug, and save that tube as a last resort. 

For both tubed and tubeless, we also recommend the CO2 that never runs out; it’s called a hand pump! 

How do you decide what kind of tires to ride? Any tubeless tricks? Let us know in the comments!

Summer Threads: New City Bike Shop Kit Just Arrived!

HOTT KITT.jpg

Freshen up your wardrobe and show the world who keeps you rolling! 2019 City Bike Shop kit is here.

You loved it when the City Bike Shop Racing team lined up in it last year, and now it’s your turn to rock what we’ve been told (and, full disclosure, we agree) is the best looking CBS kit ever. Designed by our very own Nate Farran, the kit is hitting the shelves just in time to break out shorts sleeves and bare those knees!

Made by Sugoi, these fit relatively true to size for an athletic, race-ready fit. Our current stock includes bibs, jerseys, vests, and jackets in a wide ranges of sizes. Because it’s single order, smaller and larger sizes might be more limited and could go quick…but when the stuff looks this good, it all is going to fly off the shelves.

We’ve stuck with our game plan of unveiling our team’s new kit and offering the previous year’s duds without sponsor logos. Let’s just say you are DEFINITELY going to be able to spot the 2019 City Bike Shop Racing kits once the guys and gals get out there wearing them!

Stop by and check out the new threads, show your City Bike Shop pride, or find a gift for your pedaling pal.

Gravel Rubber: WTB's Nano 40

Nanos.jpg

In northern Michigan, girth matters. We’ve been riding the WTB Nanos, and they’re the right tire for a lot of local riding.

With more bikes blurring or erasing the line between gravel, road, cyclocross, and even mountain biking, the importance of rolling the right tire to handle it all makes more of a difference than ever. We’ve all been there; riding a fast tire on pavement that slides all over the place in the dirt, or a heavily treaded dirt tire that rolls like a slug on anything hard-packed or paved. It’s a lot to ask of a tire, when you think about it. For decades, the demands of each tire was relatively narrow. Slicks stayed on pavement. Treaded tires stayed on dirt, usually on a completely different wheel size. Today, tires have to do more.

Finding the tire for your style of riding and where you ride is key. Here in Traverse City, we have a lot of rough, cracked roads, so a supple tire is important. Our gravel isn’t really ‘gravel’ as other places would have it. Here, we have sand. With sand, width is the biggest factor for a tire, and we’ve found that a 40mm tire serves as the best benchmark for anyone mixing pavement, gravel, and trail. In other parts of the state, the clay base mean 28mm or 32mm tires are fine; up here, you might as well back a towel, because you’ll be spending a lot of time with your butt in the sand.

Enter the Nano. We first started riding this tire three years ago, and with thousands of miles on them and plenty of other tires tested, we keep coming back to these. The deep chevron tread offers a firm footprint for dirt and an almost paddle-like impact on the sand. It’s a low enough profile that it doesn’t hum or feel slow on pavement, either, which is a good thing; they ride so well on so many surfaces that you’ll spend a lot of time on these on the roads getting around town or riding up to the trailhead.

And yes, these are darn good on the sandy Vasa Pathway and the flowy Singletrack, too. The key for these tires is finding the right tire pressure. We never have them over 40 psi which, to the thumb-press, feels rather firm. On a tubeless rim, 20-25 is a good range, and between 25-30 psi if you’re using tubes.

That tube or tubeless decision is a bit of an important one. While not heavy per se, they’re slightly on the heftier side for a 40mm tire, though the ‘race’ version, which require tubes, might save you a few grams.

We’ve got black and skin wall Nanos in stock to suite your flavor.

Got a gravel tire you dig? Let us know!

The Perfect Arcadia Grit & Gravel Bike Is...

REESE.jpg

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!