Backyard Bucket List: Three Places You Need To Ride in Northern Michigan

Arcadia.jpg

It’s finally starting to feel like spring, and with warm temps and superb trail conditions, we’ve got three places you need to ride….and soon!

One of the best parts about riding in northern Michigan is that there’s always someplace new to roll. All over the region, both new trails and old favorites are always improving, adding mileage, and offering new experiences to locals and visitors alike. We’re spoiled, and all these opportunities come thanks to organizations like Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association, Leelanau Conservancy, and Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. We’ve picked one trail from each for you to put your northern Michigan bucket list.

Glacial Hills. NMMBA, the GTRLC, and Antrim County have turned Glacial Hills from a neat network of trail into the destination trail it seemed almost fated to become. Professionally designed and machine built, Glacial Hills offered the region its first glimpse of a unique blend of natural and flow trail. Using the natural terrain of Antrim County, just outside of Bellaire, and retaining the wild, beautiful views, Glacial Hills draw thousands of riders north each and every season. The trail is in peak bloom through May, with a wide array of wildflowers lighting up the trail side.

Open to bikes, hikers, and runners, the trail boasts one of the most dedicated trail crews around. Nearly two dozen volunteers take care of the trail on a bi-weekly basis, responding to downed trees within a few hours, and offering a manicured place to shred no matter what. There are three trailheads to choose from, and you’re going to want to stop by and support one of the trails biggest advocates, Short’s Brewing, after the ride.

Palmer Woods. For years, there just weren’t many trail opportunities in Leelanau County. With the footpaths at the Leelanau State Park off limits, most riders stuck to hot lap at 45 North Winery’s 3 mile trail. All that changed with the addition of Palmer Woods. The Leelanau Conservancy unveiled the first phase last fall, with all machine-built trails, rock gardens, drops, and plenty of beginner-friendly lines as well. It’s a place where riders learn new skills with a massive smile on their faces, and a great way to work a bike ride into your trip to Glen Arbor, the Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore, Leeland, all points north.

Arcadia Dunes. This is really the crown jewel in the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy’s growing collection. Arcadia has been compared to Glacial Hills, and vice versa, thanks to the flowing, ribbon-like quality of both networks. Perhaps Arcadia in particular, it’s the sort of trail that sends riders up over 1,000 feet of elevation 11 mile lap, but you’re never really quite sure where or how, because it never felt that hard. Like Glacial, the Arcadia is awash with wildflowers through May and often into June. It’s also a wonderful place to simple slow down and enjoy the trails. If you come to a stop, you’ll be surrounded by peace and quiet, with the trail often completely to yourself!

Arcadia is also just across the road from Lake Michigan. Take a second after your ride to peek over the bluffs and enjoy some incredible views, and perhaps even catch sight of a freighter or two!

Looking for more places to ride…and a bike to ride them with? Stop by City Bike Shop and we’ll point you in the right direction for the perfect road or trail.

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!

Mud, Sweat and Beers 2019: Race Week Check List

bleed.JPG

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!

The Top Secret Tip To Avoiding Summer Construction? A Bike.

LIV Alight.JPG

Summer construction is coming. Be ready.

Traverse City’s roads are getting a much-needed remake over the next few months, and it’s going to cause some headaches. First up is a complete closure of Eighth Street, now slated to start in mid-May. That means the project will be underway for Memorial Day Weekend, the Cherry Festival, and possibly the TC Film Fest as well. As a major cross-town artery, it’s going to push cars onto the Grandview Parkway and all sort of side streets just as we greet tens of thousands of additional tourists and seasonal residents.

This summer is the perfect chance to commit to the commute. Whenever possible, park the car and get around by bike! A backpack and a lock is really all you need, but we have found that using a dedicated commuter bike makes getting around easier. There are a few things to consider when either adapting your current bike to town duty, or for picking out something new.

Fenders. If you’re committed to parking the car, you’re going to find yourself riding in light rain or on wet roads plenty of times this spring. Fenders are a simply way to show up to work dry, and as a relatively inexpensive accessory, they’re a no brainer for most riders. When possible, buy a bike that comes with fenders; they’re already installed typically built into the price to save you a little money, and you KNOW they fit perfectly.

Racks. Especially once the temperatures get really warm, having a rear rack for books, computers, even a quick stop at the grocery store makes life easy. You’ll be able to decide between panniers, bags that sit on either side of your rear wheel on a rear rack, or a bag that will sit on top of your rear tire. Consider what you would like to carry every day, but also what sorts of errands you usually run on the way home from work. Panniers are often enough for stopping at the store for staples, especially if you have bags on both sides.

Lights. These days, even the racer-types ride with daytime blinking lights for getting around the roads a bit more safely. If you’re making the dash across town, investing in a set of lights will help you be seen by hurried, harried motorists. We recommend riding with a rear light at all times, ideally set to blink rapidly to draw drivers’ attention. It’s the most simple thing you can do to be a few degrees safer besides wearing a helmet.

Lock. You need one. While we’re lucky to live in a place with low bike theft issues, if someone sees a bike unlocked, they will take it. Defeat the opportunist’s theft by using a combination lock that runs through the frame. If you’re locking up for a long time, every day, it may also be worth adding a U-lock for a bit more security.

Giant and LIV offer a number of commuter and fitness bikes that are relatively inexpensive to buy and maintain, which means you can leave your race rig safe in the garage where it won’t fall victim to crime or be exposed to the elements. Stop by to see the Giant Escape City and LIV Alight 2 City.

Skip the stress, the stopped traffic, and the wasted time and build a little extra physical activity into your day! Stop by and see what’s new at City Bike Shop.

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

preview.jpg

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.

Gravel Tips For Barry-Roubaix!

Dream bike.jpg

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

MTS.jpg

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!

2019 New Bike Spotlight: Scott Addict Gravel 30

20180906_104321.jpg

We’ve been lusting after this one since it came into the shop very late into the season last fall.

With all eyes on Iceman Cometh from September on, we didn’t get this beauty all attention it deserves. Scott Bikes have always offered some bling-ship bikes, but this one takes the cake. Spec’d to shred, priced to keep to keep a roof over your head, and with looks that make necks snap, the is the do-it-all bike that you’ll have a hard time leaving in the garage.

Now, when we say ‘do-it-all’ we don’t necessarily mean this is going to be your top choice for Mud, Sweat, and Beers, although you could certainly give it a go on this bike. It’s not going to clear 650b tires with a 47 or 2.0 tires, but it should fit a nice wide 32 or 35 that should see you happy on everything but the worst sand. And those skinwall Schwalbe G-Ones don’t just look pretty; they’re tested as some of the most efficient tires on the market, with low rolling resistance and a plush, supple ride. For pavement, gravel, and even some early and late season Vasa Pathway, you’ve got a great tire to just go.

The build is all Syncros for the cockpit, with Shimano 105 everywhere and matching hydraulic brakes. It’s a workman’s bike, tough enough to handle your dusty, muddy rides and keep ticking. We also took a look at the geometry, and we’re pretty happy with how they’ve set up a bike that really has a lot asked of it. The top tube is really true to size, with plenty of head tube for those long days in the saddle. It’s also a nice balance between snappy and stable at 1,017mm, which really suits a bike that will be tossed into the Tuesday Night Ride and onto the gravel roads east of Traverse City.

Scott packs a lot of perks into this bike, and to see that skinwall/tan accent spread from the tires to the seat right out of the box shows just how much Scott pays attention to detail. We’re really excited to get a few more riders on this bike as the roads slowly start to clear and we roll into April. Stop by and see the Scott Addict Gravel 30, or check out what other rigs we’ve got to toss you on!