Tech

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

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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!

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

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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!

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!

First Look: Scott Addict RC

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We’ve been watching and waiting for the new Addict to drop, and it was well worth the wait!

While we haven’t been able to swing a leg over one yet, we’re really excited to get a few of the all-new Scott Addict RC rigs on the shop floor. Scott was looking to update one of the most succesful bikes on the planet over the past year, and they’ve timed their release to come just ahead of the 2019 Tour de France. One of the riders participating in this week’s Grand Tour, Simon Yates, gave the Addict it’s most famous win at the Vuetla a Espana in 2018.

At first look, what is most striking about the Addict is how many aspect of it’s sister bike, the Foil, its adopted. The Foil was Scott’s aero road bike, and its disctinctive integrated stem and bar shift over to make the Addict more aero as well. Those aerodynamic touches also tickle the top tube and downtube, with the forks looking just a bit more thick as well. That’s all apart of the mission to make the Addict even more well rounded, adding a new element to its reputation as one of lightest climbing bikes in the world.

And that aero touch hasn’t hurt its weight, either. The new frame is 14% more stiff than previous models. They didn’t add weight to the frame, and left no stone unturned in trying to save a few grams. Even the seat clamp gets an update, reducing the mechanism to just 12 grams and offering a secure closure that won’t stress your carbon frame.

One of the biggest changes and things we love about the new Addict doesn’t make the press sheet, but it’s not lost on us. Scott has always done a great job offering a wide range of models, but they’ve never done as good a job in offering options than with this model. There are a full DOZEN specifications to choose from, each with a different colorway and unique groupset and build. Any budget and any preference, there’s an Addict for you.

To learn more about the Scott Addict line-up, check out Scott’s info sheet or stop by to see us!

The Most Useful Tool In Your Garage....

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It has zero moving parts, costs less than $15, and can save you thousands in repairs over the life of your bike. Do you have one?

There seems to be no end to the number of tools on offer. With a wide range of ‘standards’ making mockery of the very word, your tool box is always growing. There is one tool, however, that works with ever brand, every speed, and any bike, and it could save your a ton of money each season. It’s the chain gauge.

The chain tool, the chain checker, call it what you want. This handy tool can do more for your bike than you think. By checking your chain once a week, you can track the wear of your chain and your drivetrain, helping you replace parts early to get more life out of every link and cog.

The chain gauge will offer you two different numbers, .75 and .1. With a wear indication of .5, most parts manufacturers recommend replacing your chain. Doing this on time and consistently means you’ll only have to replace the chain without suffering a decrease in shift performance. Some riders can get two, three, four, even more chains without having to address any other drive train parts!

If you wait until 1, you may need to replace your chain and cassette together. This is because those parts wear together, and installing a new chain might cause skipping and the dreaded ‘mystery’ shift when you’re putting down the power.

Just how long and how many miles you get from each chain can vary widely based on your type of riding and conditions. A single ride in the rain and sand can eat away your chain’s life span quickly; each fall, an especially wet Out’n’Back can be enough to knock the life out of a relatively new chain! Based on our experiences, checking your chain once a week is enough to identify wear patterns. Road bikes ridden in dry conditions can usually get 500 miles or more; mountain bikes, however, can wear in half the time due to dust, sand, and the unique torque they face on the trail.

Stop by and we’ll grab you a chain tool and show you how to use it. By staying ahead of your repairs, you’ll save a lot of money in the long haul and face fewer big repairs, which means your bike spends less time in the shop and more time out on the roads or trails!

Gravel Rubber: WTB's Nano 40

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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!

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!