Tech

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!

Scared of Riding Carbon? Don't Be. Giant Has You Covered.

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We’ve all had that buddy. They show up to the group ride and gingerly set their bike down on the ground, lean it precariously against the car, and take a step back to look at it. To us, it looks fine. But to them, it has a problem. Somewhere, usually near the seatpost or maybe on a chain stay, there’s a crack. Or, at the very least, something that looks terrifyingly like a crack. The buddy calls you over, and then everyone over. What do you think of that? Is it a crack?

Riders agonize over the little scraps and marks that are part and parcel to riding, especially riding in the woods. The anxiety of busting a frame has caused some folks we know to swear-off riding carbon frames. While we love steel and aluminum, there are plenty of riders who do benefit from the lightweight and riding characteristics of carbon for racing or just keeping up with pals. Luckily, Giant has your back.

Giant’s new Composite Confidence guarantee takes the stress out of owning a carbon frame or, as their program applies to components as well, anything carbon on your bike. The program, only just announced this spring, covers any broken components for two full years. No other company covers so much for so long, but it’s no surprise that Giant, the makers of most brand’s frames anyway, knows just what their carbon can take.

It’s pretty simple. If you buy anything carbon from an authorized Giant dealer (hey, that’s us) and it breaks while riding, you’re good. It doesn’t cover issues caused off the road or trail, so don’t leave your bike on the roof rack and drive into your garage. We don’t recommend that in any case, but especially not for a carbon warranty claim. If you experience an issue, bring it in. We’ll get the ball rolling for you and make sure you’re back on the trail or road as soon as possible.

For all the details, you can head here.

So what looks good? We’ve got the latest MTB, Road, and Gravel/Cross bikes in stock and ready to rock this spring, so stop by and ride carbon with confidence.

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!

Spring Riding Essentials: Be Ready For The Thaw

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While we shoveled just two days ago and the shop windows were lined with frost this morning, spring is coming. With temps hitting the 40s and even 60s over the next few days, even a cold snap or two during the ides of March won’t slow the approach of spring.

To get ready, we put together a few bits of gear you might want to nab so you’re ready to roll when the roads are clear. With so much snow in the woods and much of the trails almost sure to turn icy, hitting the pavement is likely the best way to enjoy the warmer days.

  1. Tires. Even with mostly clear pavement, you’re going to find plenty of splotches of ice, dirt, debris, and water out on the roads. For more grip, put the widest tires you can on your road bike. We’re rocking a mix of Panaracer GravelKings in both the slick and treaded options in a nice wide 32c. We’ve had a ton of luck with these tires on the dirt and on the road over the past two years, and they’ve proven to be extremely durable for high miles and puncture resistant, too.

  2. Check Your Flat Kit. It’s been a long while since you’ve looking in your bag. Make sure your tube hold air, your chuck or pump aren’t rusted out, and make sure you’ve got a lever, a patch, and maybe a quick link, too. There’s nothing worse than flatting on a cold, soggy spring ride, only to find you don’t have everything you need to get moving again.

  3. Dress For Anything. Spring weather is notoriously changeable in northern Michigan, and if you head out in sun, seeing rain clouds unleash overhead just a few miles later isn’t a surprise. Always bring a shell or rain jacket, which will also come in handy if you have to stop for a flat. Grabbing a second pair of gloves for the second half of the ride isn’t a bad idea, either.

  4. Tubeless? Get Refreshed. Your wheels haven’t turned in a while, so you’ll need to make sure your tubeless sealant is refreshed. We usually take the extra second to take the tire off the rim and clean out the old, dried up sealant. If you don’t have an air compressor, it’s usually easier to just drop off your wheels and let us tackle it.

  5. Fenders. Especially if you ride with pals, a set of fenders are a real treat. Many bikes will have dedicated mounts to fit sturdy, full coverage fenders. Even if your bike doesn’t have those mounts, there are plenty of clip-on options that fit a wide range of wheel sizes and tire widths. They do more than just help keep you dry, too. Fendors also help keep your drivetrain, bottom bracket, pedals, and frame protected from slush and salt.

  6. Get Visible. Drivers often just aren’t used to seeing riders back on the road in March and April. This makes it more important than ever to wear bright, visible colors to stand out against the grey roads and white, snowy shoulders of the road. Even if you’re riding during day, use a pair of bright front and rear lights to draw more attention and give yourself a little more room.

  7. Get In Soon. Need a tune-up? Get in now. The first sunny day with temperatures over 50 and we’re going to get a big rush of bikes needing work. The sooner you can get your bike to Natron and Jeff, the better. Call ahead to reserve a spot or check in on our current turn-around time!

We’re exciting for the new season to get here, and we want to make sure we’ve got everything you need to hit the spring at full speed!