Monday, April 13, 2015

Traveling to DFW? Bicycle Tour Services by Johnny

Links to this post
Traveling to the Dallas/ Fort Worth Area?

Let's go riding together.

 I have recently been brainstorming ways to monetize from my bicycling hobby while helping others to get into cycling. My blog currently has 11 page followers, 35 google plus followers, 14 YouTube subscribers and about 300 international daily views. The Dallas/ Fort Worth area is popular for having international business traffic from abroad, so why not offer bicycle tours in Dallas?

Whether you're in Dallas on business, here on vacation or a local resident looking to get to know the area better, I am now accepting appointments for guided tours for both on road and off road excursions. There are a lot of interesting things to see and do in Dallas and Fort Worth. From riding around downtown to exploring some of the best mountain bike trails in North Texas, I am looking to let others in on my local knowledge of where the best places for riding are. 

I will try to accommodate as many people as I can per booking in the future, however at this time there is a 3 person limit. The tour package includes hotel pickup, travel to and from the trails and bicycle rental for those who do not bring their own bicycle. At this time I have a range of bicycle sizes that will fit someone between 5'8" and 6'2". 

If you are interested in scheduling a bicycle tour around the Dallas/ Fort Worth area, send me your contact information with your date of arrival, desired excursion (city sightseeing, mountain biking, for example) and any other criteria you might have. Pricing is based on location and duration of the ride, as well as any additional expenses incurred. Tours will be from 2 to 4 hours depending on the location. Tours will be limited to the Dallas/ Fort Worth area but special packages will be made in the future for those wishing to explore outside the metro area. I want to start this venture organically, with the following that I have built up over 5 years of writing this blog. I am an experienced, knowledgeable and reputable cyclist and can give credentials if needed. 

Help me launch this much needed eco-tourism model in Dallas. Send me an email to schedule your tour today!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

April Update: New Videos and Cycling Tips

Links to this post
Nutrition tips, cycling tips and how to set goals for cycling.

With my busy schedule, I have not had the opportunity to sit down and compose a thought on this blog page until today, so I apologize to my readers for leaving you hanging. With the Collin Classic coming up in June as well as Hotter N' Hell in August, I have been using the little time I have to exercise and do some actual riding. However, I have posted some new videos on my YouTube channel for my subscribers to enjoy. The following videos go into some depth regarding nutritional advice, tips for more efficient climbing and my views on Crits and Bicycle Rallies. Check out my channel and subscribe for more videos to come.

This year so far has gotten off to a great start. I know what I have to do to get in shape for the events that I am going to be riding this year. Some of the gains from last year's 18 pound weight loss have carried over to this year and I am starting the season about 7 to 8 pounds lighter than I did last year. It won't take long to achieve and exceed the form I had last year if all goes according to plan. I have a new goal for 2015; setting a sub 6 hour time for a hundred mile cycling event. More specifically, finishing the Hotter N' Hell in less than 6 hours and maybe even going for a 5 hour time limit. This will require training hard and some new equipment with the latest technology to get me there. "La Poderosa", or my beloved Woodrup steel bike featured in the video above, has officially retired from racing and will be relegated to the Sunday morning group bike ride. It served me well in last year's event, but the marginal losses in shifting with downtube shifters and lack of proper cadence because of cranking big gears took their toll and contributed to the time deficit I had. I was also wearing about 15 pounds of gear on my Camelback and stopped at one too many rest stops while I waited for others who were riding with me. All that resulted in a finishing time of 7:45, still not a bad time, all things considered. This year I'll be signing up not as a first-time newbie tourist, but rather as a seasoned veteran rider that will be "in it to win it" figuratively speaking. My goal is to ride well at these events but also get the attention of some of the local teams in the area. I want to be able to keep up with the best riders around the area where I live and maybe that will open up an opportunity to do something else with this passion that I enjoy. 

Right now I have Motobecane Super Strada on order from Bikes Direct that I will be doing a future review on. It departs from the vintage steel bikes that I love to ride but comes fully loaded with the latest tech such as an external bottom bracket and a Shimano Ultegra 22 speed groupset. The Frame is still made out of an alloy, however it's an aluminum frame with a carbon fiber fork. At 19.5 pounds, it will be about 4 to 5 pounds lighter than the Woodrup when it's all said and done. Spec for spec it can be compared to a Cannondale Caad 8 in performance, but with a nicer groupset. This year my goal is light, fast and efficient, and this bike seems to have all three. It's not a flashy bike but it will soon be the workhorse of my stable.

Another goal that I have is to keep up with one of my childhood friends who will soon be visiting me. He was a beast on the bike when I was 15 and today he is a semi-pro level mountain biker. I'm trying to fit at least one mountain bike ride a week to be prepared to ride with him by the time he visits me. Last year I was all about road cycling for most of the year, this year I will be mixing it up on both the trail and on the road. 

Setting goals every year is important for anyone wishing to maintain a physically active lifestyle. As an adult with a family in tow, I know firsthand how easy it can be to be lured into the complacent mindset of "I'm too old" or "too busy" to be doing this. We may have friends who were once physically active and have allowed themselves to drift into that way of thinking. Setting goals allows us to keep our head above the water in this sense. It allows us to get rid of distractions or excess baggage in our lives or at least know how to deal with the baggage better. It promotes a positive mindset because we always have something to look forward to as we strive to stay busy. It keeps kids (and adults) out of trouble and keeps their minds out of the gutter. It keeps us disciplined from eating in a way that will mess up our progress. Some people keep a journal of their goals. I used to be one of those people and that is a great practice to have. Setting goals down on paper (or in this case, my blog) commits the mind into action and is a great way to see how far we've come along after a certain period of time.

To those who have a hard time committing to their health goals, all I have to say is "don't be that guy (or gal)". At the end of the day, no one likes a victim and no one wants to hear sob stories about someone who would of but could not get in shape. Some people have all the emotional support, coaching and equipment or accessibility to it to get themselves in shape, however they lack the desire. Desire is not something you can buy on a carbon fiber bling bike. It is not something that someone else can have for you. Desire comes from within. It is a powerful force that drives people to change and to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. It's willing to put in the hard work and the self discipline knowing that their is no easy path to success. It's watching the pounds slowly inch away on the scale instead of becoming bulimic and expecting an overnight miracle. 

Just remember, if we push hard enough, something is likely to stick. We may lose progress in our fitness from year to year, but eventually good habits will catch up to us as long as we stay consistent. Some people have to go at it alone, because neither their peers nor family members care much for what they are doing. That's okay, the key is to be a positive influence on others, even if that means being left out or skipping the dinner plans for that evening. That might seem inhospitable or unsocial at first glance, but they will eventually get the point as to why you are doing it. Once others see our gains they will want to follow. We must also realize that all people are skeptical by nature and reluctant to embrace new ideas. When people see our results, they will want in on our little secret and they too will follow us eventually. Sometimes WE have to create a following, lead by example and grow the interest in both cycling and healthy living in our area or surroundings. I definitely speak from experience on this matter, so feel free to quote me as the source. 

That's all the updates I have for now, stay tuned and subscribe to my blog and YouTube channel for more informative posts from A Bicycle's Point Of View.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Motobecane Boris X5 Review

Links to this post
Reviewing my first Fat Bike, A Motobecane Boris X5

The Motobecane Boris X5, a proven snow bike and a bargain fat bike

I'm excited, really excited about this bike. I honestly don't know where to begin. This is the first bike I buy brand new in a really long time. This is also the first bike that I buy from Bikes Direct. I have been hovering around their website for many years, checking out the cool bikes that they sell but had always been afraid to pull the trigger on purchasing one until now. From the time I purchased this bike until now it has been nothing but grins and giggles and this has been a fun bike to ride. The following is a review on this bike and the experiences I have had on it.

As readers of this blog already know, I have been following the Fat Bike trend for a while now, hoping to one day put enough money aside to buy one and get in on the action. I had my eye set on the Motobecane Lurch fat bike as it had the biggest tires, a tapered fork and boasted a rugged steel frame which I am a big fan of. The price, even at around 1K, is still prohibitive for a guy like me and I had a hard time convincing my wife to let me buy a bike at that price point. The Motobecane Boris, starting at $599.00, seemed like a more realistic option and after selling another bike that I owned, I was able to get into it for about $200.00. 

I ordered the bike over the weekend and it arrived at my doorstep the following Tuesday. Bikes Direct has super fast shipping and the product arrived well packaged and without defects. Don't let the negative reviews out there influence your buying decision on this bike or any other bike from Bikes Direct. They make quality bikes built to last. Their bikes are just as nice as bikes that sell for 4 to 5 times the price. Out of the box I had to install the handlebars, front wheel and seatpost as well as adjust the mechanical disc brakes. After that, the bike was ready to ride. 

So, how does it ride? I can tell you that it is different than anything that I have ever ridden. It doesn't perform like a cross country bike on singletrack the way a 29er or a 26 inch wheeled mountain bike would perform. As far as using this bike for XC racing, the traditional options are still better and handle quicker through twisty trails. On the other hand, this bike can still ride over anything a regular mountain bike can, albeit a bit slower. It has the additional benefit of being able to power through loose terrain where the wheels on a regular mountain bike would normally get stuck. Some people describe the ride like a "tractor" feel; slow and steady yet powerful and grounded. Like a tractor, tight and fast turns tend to cause the front wheel to oversteer to one side or the other. Some claim that replacing the tires with more studded tires will eliminate this, however fat bike tires can cost around $90.00 per tire so it's not a cheap fix. It's better simply to ride the bike knowing what it can and can't do. Riding a Fat bike over the course of a few hours is a great upper body workout because the rider is usually having to do more steering from side to side to prevent the bike from oversteering and sliding out.  Here are a couple of videos of the Boris riding through my local mountain bike trails.

Fat bikes were originally intended for use in snowy conditions. The original Fat bike movement started in places like Alaska, Canada and Michigan, as a way to solve the problem of inactivity and transportation during the winter time. So having said that, this bike really came alive during the past week of snowfall here in Texas. I was able to run errands to the store and ride my bike around town while most people couldn't even get out of their driveway. The bike handled superbly in the snow and even the oversteer was less pronounced riding through these conditions. Even with snow as deep as 2 feet in some places, this bike had a bunch of traction climbing the snowy and icy hills around town. The super low gearing made sitting while climbing possible, hence allowing me to put my weight on the back of the bike so that the rear wheel did not spin out. Check out some of my snow videos from the past week of riding.

This bike really shines in snowy conditions.

While researching fat bikes I read reviews claiming how a fat bike rides like a full suspension bike and how fat bikes can go anywhere and ride over anything. As good as this sounds and as much as I want to believe this, the truth is that this bike has it's limitations. This is not a bike that I would do downhill or freeride mountain biking on, for example. This is not a replacement for a full suspension bike just because of it's wide tires; this bike lacks the maneuverability of a traditional full susser and the speed of a traditional cross country mountain bike. What this bike can offer is a new dimension of riding and one that most people have not seen before. This bike doesn't require groomed trails or hard packed soil. In fact, it shines above the rest when the terrain is rocky, sandy, snowy or muddy. While these conditions might limit other types of bikes, it almost enables the Fat bike to be a stellar performer. It's the perfect beach bike, camping bike or snow bike to visit those Inuit friends of yours. The Fat bike is the ultimate trekking and exploration bike available at this time. The Motobecane Boris is one of the best bargains available at this time for those who wish to try this type of bike out. Still on the fence? Don't be, go get you one!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cycling's Cost of Entry

Links to this post
Getting into Cycling:
Cheap, Expensive or Both?

When looking at the kinds of bikes professionals use (and I mean the guys we actually see on TV, not riding around the neighborhood on Sunday mornings), many formulate preconceived notions that cycling is a rich man's sport, similar to playing golf and yacht racing. The truth is that there is a slight bit of truth, however small it may be, to that stereotype. It's a view that often gets compounded and reinforced by the bicycle industry itself. Most bikes seen in the Tour De France are actually rebranded custom made bicycles that are not available in stores. The ones that are, however, can sell well over $10,000 USD. Does that mean that cycling is unattainable for someone that isn't a CEO of a fortune 500 company or a trust fund beneficiary?

Let's discuss this topic not as the cost of entry into competitive cycling, which can be an endless and upside down venture. Rather, let's talk about whether the average kid on the block or adult can get into a decent bicycle at a reasonable cost.  

Consider the image that competitive cycling has left on the average person. Competitive cycling, at least here in the U.S, has no development leagues and no academic support to promote the sport. For example, there are no cycling teams in high school and no community groups that teach people about bicycle racing. Although USA cycling may call itself a development program, it's not a program where just anybody can participate. There are membership dues, racing fees and equipment costs that are not covered by this organization. In addition, to state things plainly, USA Cycling is behind on the times in regards to issues like racial and economic diversity among it's members and granting female athletes equal opportunities for competition*.  Let's also point out that the most notable athlete to come out of USA Cycling, Lance Armstrong, was the biggest cheat and liar of them all. Meanwhile other riders with real talent, like Colombian cyclists, have been largely ignored for about 20 years until the recent crackdown on doping has forced the cycling community to recognize where the real talent is. 

Does that mean that cycling is not for the masses? Does that mean we should all just buy our bikes from Wal-Mart and quit trying to compete? As things stand, many of us will be excluded from competitive cycling simply by default. But that doesn't mean that our passion for cycling should end there. Should someone tell their kid who is into basketball they shouldn't play because they are too short to compete? The same line of reasoning can be applied for someone who is into cycling. Maybe our pockets aren't deep enough to afford the equipment and training that would get us to compete on a professional level. So is there a happy medium in regards to all of this?

We can find solace in knowing firsthand that getting into a decent bicycle is attainable for the majority of people on a real middle class income. If a single person makes above $25,000 a year, for example, there is no reason why they can't afford a bicycle between $300 and $800. Let's discuss a price comparison between common modern day gadgets that most people buy and the cost of getting into cycling for each respective item. 

Consider the smartphone. It is not a necessity to own a smartphone, however the majority of people living in the U.S now own one. Let's consider some of the prices for these types of phones.

The Samsung Galaxy S5: $599.00
iPhone 6: $649.00 to $749.00
LG G3: $699.00

Now let's see what types of bicycles someone can buy new for about the same prices

Fuji Ace 24 youth road bike: $439.00
Mercier Kilo Track bike: $399.00 to $449.00
Motobecane Fantom CX: $469.95
Motobecane Mirage Pro: $549.00
Motobecane Boris X5 Fat bike: $599.00
Motobecane Gran Tourismo:$699.00
Motobecane Super Strada: $799.00

Some might say that they don't pay full retail price on their smartphones. How about on game consoles? Let's compare the cost between game consoles and the cost of respectably priced bicycles.

Playstation 4:$399.00
Xbox One: $349.00
Wii U: $300.00 to $360.00

Let's see what kinds of bicycles we could buy for the price of a game console

Mongoose Dolomite Fat bike: $212.00 to $250.00
Windsor Track bike: $279.00 to $299.00
Gravity Deadeye Fat bike: $299.00 to $399.00

Sometimes we might think that a good bicycle is just not affordable, however, on reviewing some of these prices we might just be prioritizing our gadgets like phones, games and tablets over our fitness. I included the Mongoose Dolomite in my comparison because although it is sold at Wal-Mart, it has been proven to be a real bang for the buck bicycle in terms of being a ridable bike and in terms of quality. In addition to the bikes listed, there are thousands of lightly used bikes sold locally and through online classifieds that are of good quality and in some cases professional quality. One just needs to know where to look. 

I know that what I am saying might not be enough to satisfy someone who is really talented at cycling but cannot afford the best equipment. I think those who would still like to compete but can't afford to do so in the main arena should organize themselves in their communities and hold non-sanctioned races with other low to moderately priced bicycles. There is no law forbidding people getting together for competition, and this includes cycling. There is more power in numbers, and when people get together, others will take notice and follow suit. When a large number of the overall cycling population starts competing outside the establishment, then organizations like the UCI and USA Cycling will have to take notice and start making concessions for those who they left out of their inner circles.

In conclusion, in overall terms of getting a durable bicycle, the cost of entry into cycling is attainable to most of us. It is mostly up to us to see the half glass full and take advantage of this to become good cyclists.

*Other source material for this topic can be found in the following media links.

The Guardian
The Daily Camera

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My First Mountain Bike Race- The Erwin Park Endurance Series

Links to this post
That' me on the left. I finish in sixth place of out of ten who participated in the 4 hour single speed division. Picture courtesy of Stalin Photography.

It was a cold, cloudy and muddy 29 degrees Fahrenheit when I rode my first mountain bike race two weeks ago on January 10th, 2015. Since showing up is half the battle, I figured this was going to be my best chance at placing well in a local race. The race was held on a course that I am familiar with and ride often. I also assumed that most of the local competition wouldn't show up due to the cold weather. What I wasn't ready for was the injury I suffered on the day before the race, which has resulted in a seroma on my inner thigh as a result of crashing into a tree and is currently keeping me off the bike as I write this.   

The crash was so bad that my rigid single speed has momentarily become a front suspension mountain bike,  currently equipped with a $25 used fork from the spare parts bin of a bike shop. A new rigid fork has been ordered and I will be going back to rigid as soon as I install it. Thankfully the tree that I ran into only bent the front fork of my bike and did not bend the frame itself. The suspension fork that I raced on clanked and banged even on the slightest of drops. I might as well had been racing on a pogo stick with a bike attached to it. Despite the odds, even with a bruise building fluid in my leg, a bad fork which changed my bike geometry and the cold, pneumonia inducing weather I decided to show up to this race. I had already paid my entry fee, which was non-refundable and I did not want to miss the opportunity to participate in my first mountain bike race. In hindsight, I probably should have stayed home, sucked up the entry fee but maybe saved the money spent on ER and doctor's visits as a result of further aggravating my injury. 

I ended up getting sixth place in my division of ten riders. Overall, I wasn't in the top ten racers but I definitely wasn't last. This experience has made me want to try doing this again in the future, maybe when I don't have so many odds stacked against me. Had I showed up to this race with a fixed up bike and uninjured, I definitely could have placed in the top 3 of my division and would have walked away with a medal. I wish I could say that I enjoyed this experience without pain and I would have enjoyed it much more without an injured leg, even if I got the same result. The one thing that this race did teach me is that mountain bike racing is still a lot more fun than racing in criteriums or road bicycle rallies. The single speed division doesn't boast a lot of participation so getting a good result is more attainable than riding for overall position. I plan to give single speed mountain bike racing another try in the future, once I can get back on a bike again, which won't be for at least another week or so. 

Subscribe for more informative posts from A Bicycle's Point Of View.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

My 2010 Mongoose Otero Elite: Long Term Review

Links to this post
Purchased new in 2010, my five year old Mongoose has seen a lot of upgrades, but the bones on this bike are still strong.

My Mongoose Otero is the bike that is behind most of my modern day mountain biking adventures and has seen everything from pinewood forests to sandy beaches. Nearly every part of this bike with the exception of the frame, derailleurs, handlebars and seat post has been replaced. I have not been kind to this bike in the slightest; it has taken a beating and continues  to come back for more. With my recent shock upgrade it rides better than it did when I purchased it new.

Exploring the sandy beaches at Tybee Island

At $550.00, this bike was one of the most affordable full suspension bikes of it's time. 2010 was the last year this model would be available before being replaced by the Salvo, a full suspension bike with a vertically aligned rear travel not available here in the U.S. This year would also be the last year we would see well specced, 26 inch wheeled bicycles at this price and of this quality. The following years have placed a greater emphasis on developing 29er bicycles as well as 27.5 inch wheel mountain bikes. 

As readers of my blog are already aware, I'm a big fan of steel bikes. Some might wonder why I'm writing an article on a five year old aluminum full suspension bike when I do most of my riding on a rigid steel one. The explanation is simple; the reason why I now ride rigid mountain bikes as an adult is because a full suspension bike gave me the confidence to do so. The risk of failure isn't as great if I don't land a jump on a full suspension bike properly. On a rigid bike, landing hard on the front wheel almost always ends up hurting either the bike or the rider involved. In addition to landing, cornering my full suspension bike is a lot easier, especially with the 2.32 inch wide Vredestein Black Panther tires I have on it. I am able to run the tire pressure as low as 30 psi and paired with my wider profile Sun Rims Dynolite wheels, I get great traction over loose surfaces. Who knows, with my mongoose up to date I may put off getting a fat bike, at least for now.

Although climbing speed is sacrificed due to the travel eating up the uphill pedal stroke, speed is more than made up for going downhill. This is where the Mongoose shines and proves it's worth as a well designed yet affordable bicycle. The robust aluminum frame is durable and has taken some big hits and spills. After five years I have yet to find a cracked weld on it. 

The best part about this bicycle are the infinite possibilities of upgrades that can be done to it. The bicycle's rear shock eye to eye distance is a standard 6.5 inches, impressive for a bicycle manufactured at it's price range. By swapping out the old hardware from the original shock I was able to upgrade the Suntour Raidon shock to a much nicer shock made by DNM. This shock features a dual air chamber, lockout capabilities and adjustable rebound. For $85.00 I got a shock that has been compared to the much more expensive Fox RP2 in performance. DNM shocks are available at online retailers like eBay and Amazon and no, I don't get paid a royalty for telling my readers that.

I upgraded the rear shock with a DNM dual chamber air shock by removing the new hardware and replacing it with the original bolts.
In addition to upgrading the rear shock, I also upgraded the front fork, which was a heavy behemoth Suntour XCM that weighed about 10 pounds. The bike now has a Rockshox XC28 fork with 100 millimeters of travel and a 220 pound rated, aftermarket coil spring. The front and rear shock can easily take my weight and stand up to the style of cross country riding that I do. This bicycle handles with confidence and there is no feeling of being thrown over the handlebars, even on landings that I don't make perfectly. 

Good 26 inch full suspension mountain bikes are not really manufactured anymore these days, unless they are uber expensive downhill bikes. In general, mountain bikes of good quality are no longer sold to consumers at the price that I paid for this one. This has proven to be a dependable trail bike that has given me confidence to improve my mountain biking skills by providing me with some room for error in should I land incorrectly. Riding a full suspension bike like this one is a great way to hone mountain biking skills after cross training with a rigid, old school mountain bike. My Mongoose Otero has amplified my riding skills by making jumps higher and downhills faster than they would be otherwise. Stay tuned for more reviews and tips from A Bicycle's Point of View.


Friday, December 26, 2014

2014...A Year In Review

Links to this post
Was 2014 a Defining Year For You?

In five more days, 2014 will be gone and 2015 will arrive at our doorstep. The year seemed to have gone by quickly, however it was jammed pack with lots of international and historical events that we'll be looking back on in the years to come.  I wanted to make an article about some of the important highlights of this year as well as some of the cool biking trends that have also come about.

This year we were able to enjoy both the winter olympics in Russia and World Cup soccer simultaneously in a single year.  It's hard to imagine that the recently disputed territory of Crimea lay not far from where the winter Olympics were once held. As cool as it was to see the world come together in unity for sports, sadly we have also seen many tensions building worldwide over political reasons. 

This year also marks the passing of a few awesome actors from my childhood and adolescence like Robin Williams, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Walker who did all of the Fast and Furious films. I'll always remember Paul Walker for his inspiring movies that fueled my pubescent desires for fast cars and good looking women. They all died way before their time, but were some of the icons of my generation and will be missed.

If I were to pick a soundtrack for this year, it would probably feature a song or two by Imagine Dragons, Passenger and Bastille. This was a year where a lot of Indie musicians shined and became mainstream. This year pretty much marked the end of any vestiges of 90's pop and rap music and I haven't seen anyone sagging their pants, wearing corn-rolls or wearing oversize clothing for a while now. 

This year I felt like I was living in the moment, as if history was being made right in front of me. I have only felt this way a few times in my life; in 1989 when the Berlin wall came down, in 2000 when the price of gasoline dropped to 99 cents a gallon and in 2009 when I went to Germany to visit. I feel like my generation has finally come of age, like we finally have the driver's seat and a seat at the dinner table where our voices are heard loud and clear. I can't say 30 somethings rule the world just yet; there will always be some nagging older figure trying to ruin the fun for us. I believe there is now a social awareness that will prevent us from doing this to the next generation when we become old geezers and hags. Although we feel the need to control our own lives, we don't have the desire to control anyone else's. My outlook is positive, come what may, for better or for worse. I'm a young person at the crossroads of adulthood. I'm at a good point in my life right now where I relate to a lot of different people and can see things from multiple perspectives while maintaining my own.

Bicycling has also taken a new direction this year, thanks in large part to the popularity of fat bikes soaring. Introduced to the mainstream a couple of years ago by a company called Surly, fat bikes are now being made by established manufacturers like Felt, Cannondale and Giant. The fat biking trend has also started new up and coming companies like 9zero7 from Alaska and Framed bikes which are based in Minnesota.  These types of bikes offer the most utility I have ever seen mountain bikes to offer and I personally think that this trend is here to stay. 2014 has seen a spike in interest when it comes to fat biking and it won't be long until we start seeing local and national events dedicated to the fat tired, all terrain experience. For more on fat biking check out the link.

"2014, the year traditional 26 inch wheel mountain bikes died", some might say. I honestly don't know how to respond to that, other than saying that it might be true like it might not be. I'm just happy some companies are still making steel mountain bikes, even though they are usually single speed and rigid frames. I love riding my 93' GT Timberline, however I also love riding my 2010 GT Peace 29er. I'm happy that they are both steel mountain bikes and can appreciate the advantages each type of wheel size has.

This has been a summary of what are in my opinion some of the important milestones of 2014. How has 2014 been for you? I hope it has treated you, my dear reader kindly. Even if it hasn't, I hope you can share in my optimism about whatever the future may bring the next year. Just remember, dear reader that you are only as young as you feel. Even though another year goes by and we all inevitably get older, that doesn't mean we have to get old, cranky, bitter and annoying at heart. Keep doing things that will keep you motivated, keep you hungry, keep you excited about life. Keep taking the road less traveled, keep grinding against the current, keep turning the status quo. Keep riding that bike, seeing the world, enjoying life. Signing off...until next year guys.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Know Your Author

Links to this post
Who is "Johnny"?

First off I want to say that I'm not the type of person to go off on a tangent about my life's story, especially to people I don't know on a blog. So even with this little insight into who I am there is nothing more personal about me than what's already available online. I don't want to be at the center of my own writing material, because that would seem self serving. However, I do think readers should know a little bit about me, how I came to enjoying cycling so much and why I started this blog. 

My real name is Jonathan. Johnny is a version of my name friends and family would call me when I was growing up, so that is also my alias I go by for my blog. I'm almost 30 years old and I have been living in North Texas for most of my life. I am originally from a small mountain town in Puerto Rico, full of historic charm, friendly people and an old school approach about doing things. I moved to Texas when I was a little boy and had to assimilate to the English language quickly. My first language is actually Spanish, even though I can't speak it as well as I used to. I am also fluent in Portuguese.

My love for bicycling started at around the age of 5. I used to ride a big wheeler down the hillside of my grandparent's farm and would spend hours walking the bike uphill then coasting down it. When I came to Texas in 1990, my parents bought my brother and I our first bikes. Our bikes were blue, Murray BMX bikes with coaster brakes. I did not learn how to ride my bike with training wheels, rather my dad took us to a field and let us coast down a hill there, letting let the trees break our fall. It was a tough way to learn how to ride a bike, however I am thankful for my Dad for taking the time to teach me and not making me a wuss by overprotecting me the way some parents do with their kids nowadays. 

 I got my first mountain bike in 1997-98. By the age of 14 my Dad, my brother and I would ride all around the cities of Euless and Arlington, sometimes even going as far as Bedford, another town nearby.  We all rode rigid Huffy mountain bikes with either thumb shifters or grip shifters. My Dad had a neon green and marble gray Huffy Stone Mountain that he bought new in 1990. Mine was a gold Huffy with grip shifters and my brother's bike was a red and black huffy with cantilever brakes ( I always thought my brother's cantilever brakes looked cool and that he had the "real" bike). My dad actually gave me my first real experience at road riding. Thanks in large part to him I have always seen cycling on the street as a natural thing to do. 

I was around 15 when I rode at a mountain bike trail for the first time. A kid in the neighborhood, Stephen Ritter and his eccentric dad Doug were the first people to get me into using my mountain bike on the trails. I remember how good Steve was at riding as well as how much I sucked back then. The bike didn't do me any favors either, as it was a 40 pound Huffy with a single piece crankset and inadequate gearing. Either way I rode the crap out that bike, on and off the mountain bike trail. It ultimately met it's doom on a rocky trail after I had been chased by a bull that had come loose off someone's farm.  

2007 to Present

After I wrecked my first mountain bike while mountain biking, I bought another mountain bike a few years later. It was a Mongoose DH 2.5 full suspension bike from Sports Authority. I was 16 to 17 at the time and worked at a grocery store. Sports Authority used to do a once a year sale where they marked their bikes at 99 dollars, which was just what I could afford then. It wasn't the most quality bicycle to say the least. The shocks bounced around like a trampoline and one night it ended up throwing me over my handlebars, resulting in 3 broken teeth. A few years later it was stolen from outside my apartment ( I was tired of it and sort of left it outside in front of my apartment for too long).  

After I turned 22 I was looking for an exercise that I could do without having to join a gym and that was going to keep me in good shape for a long time. It would have to be an activity that I could do alone, something that I could do on days when I was bored of running (yes, I was a runner back then, a good one at that). Running tended to leave me with knee pain and I was also looking for something that would not aggravate my knee any further. Then I read "It's not about the bike" by Lance Armstrong. I also started to pay close attention to the Tour De France and saw the kind of shape the guys riding their bikes where in. They seemed boyish to me even though they were grown men and the extra weight that would have normally been around their abdomen and shoulders was absent. I decided that road cycling was the sport that I wanted to do and that summer I bought my first road bike. 

Since 2007 I have been actively riding a bike, whether a road bike or a mountain bike on the trail. What started with one bike became a hobby and even at one point a job, as I have worked at several bike shops. In between that I got married and had a family and yet I still find a way to stay active with cycling despite my life's changes. Around 2009 I started buying, fixing and selling used bicycles. That is where the idea of writing a blog came from. I wanted to share tips on how to repair used bikes for people who were either tired of being overcharged at the bike shop for a flat tire or were also flipping bikes for profit. I also found that there were vintage bicycles that were completely different from anything that is made today. I have always had a draw to vintage and classic things, from cars to motorcycles to clothing. It seemed like a natural progression for me to get into vintage bicycles as well. For a time I was involved in restoring old bicycles, but that has since faded out with time constraints and other obligations. I will still refurbish vintage bicycles as long as they are "mostly there" meaning only needing the most basic services to get them running again. 

Some of my cycling milestones include two metric centuries and one real one of 102 miles this year. In addition to that I have also done long rides with friends from 50 to 70 miles at a time. I have averaged as fast as 18 to 19.5 miles an hour over the course of 20 to 30 miles on a 1980's steel road bike with downtube shifters. Since I don't really use Strava I don't have any real data to share,  so sorry Stravaphiles. Among my friends I am the fast guy, the guy that will pull someone back up to the pack if they fall behind, the guy that sprints uphill on a breakaway, yeah that's me.

Some other things that I'll share about myself are that I have always enjoyed art and photography. I had a stint as a wedding and event photographer and have held pretty much every kind of manual job out there with the exception of Alaskan crab fishing. I like all sorts of music, however the music that I can relate to the most was made in the early 2000's by bands like U2, the Dave Matthews Band, Five for Fighting, The Script; pretty much this was the soundtrack of my young adulthood, as well as Reggae music. I can ollie a skateboard and can still do a pop shove it, although I am out of practice. I once swam across a lake in Germany and saw an old, fat lady get naked (just throwing that out there). I am very health conscious and I see living a healthy lifestyle not as a burden but as an obligation I have to myself and others. To me there is nothing more burdensome than sick individuals who put themselves in that situation and leave it up to their families to take care of them. Although I do not have a stellar diet or sport a six pack, I watch what I eat and try to make healthy choices if I see myself eating too much junk food. It's something that I try to practice and encourage other loved ones to do as well.  I also have personal views on things that I don't share about on this blog and not all my blog posts reflect my personal views. I hate being politically correct but I do it a lot on this blog as well as in my personal life. I like my coffee strong in the mornings and mid-afternoons. Yep, that pretty much about sums it up.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Single Speed Mountain Biking: My New Favorite Thing

Links to this post
The Picture does not do the gradient of the climb any justice, however it was a beautiful autumn day here in Texas.

No shocks, no gears, no clipless pedals, no carbon. "What are you thinking..." some might say, bewildered that I would find such enjoyment out of this bike setup. As backwards and pain inflicting as it seems to want to ride a single speed mountain bike, it really isn't, my single speed has actually become one of my favorite bikes. Despite not having the benefit of granny gears and suspension, after a month of riding this way I honestly do not miss those perceived advantages. Today I did an 18 mile mountain bike ride and experienced no pain whatsoever afterwards. I chose Northshore Trail, located in Grapevine, Texas which is the hardest trail in my surrounding area. I wanted to see if a single speed bicycle could stack up to the most monstrous climbs and rock gardens that I could throw at it. Surprisingly, I did a lot less walking than I was planning on doing. This bike could climb straight up a rock face with enough inertia and was only impeded by the most impassible boulders on the trail. When my friend Levi warned me about the obstacle trail simply known as "the wall" and hoped that I could get up it, I was able to roll up and over the 8 foot plus precipice when I came across it (Levi did not make it up "the wall" as he later told me).

My friend Levi
I was a cold morning when we started out on our ride. When I got out of bed, the temperature read 35 degrees Fahrenheit on my phone and when we got to the trail it must have been just about 10 degrees warmer. Despite being conditioned to the cold through mountain biking during the week as I normally do,  we were both short of breath and had to stop for some breaks during the first few miles of the ride, until our bodies and lungs acclimated to the cold temperature.

The west side of the trail is notorious for having an expert level of difficulty with the last 3 miles being a one way track and basically a playground for trials riders. We were able to complete most of the loop with the exception of those 3 miles and our total came to about 18 miles for the ride. The eastward side of the trail is smooth, winding and sloping singletrack with creek crossings, bridges and small rock gardens scattered throughout. At the end of the trail going east is Rockledge Park, a once public park that has now become a campsite. It lines the shore of the lake and the view is fantastic. Out of all Dallas and Fort Worth area trails, this is the most beautiful trail as well as the most challenging. 

At the easternmost end of the trail, at the campsite known as Rockledge Park.

Will this be the only mountain bike that I ride? No, and I will still use my geared mountain bikes whenever I can. However, for my needs I foresee my single speed being my go to, main mountain bike that I will be doing most of my riding on. With the high maintenance my suspension bikes demand a single speed bike is a welcome change. I added a few videos of me riding my single speed mountain bike through this trail from Levi's Helmet cam. They're not the best quality and are only 30 second clips, so my apologies in advance. Check them out, and stay tuned for more adventurous riding!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Mountain Biking in Texas: Erwin Park, Mckinney

Links to this post
Erwin Park Trail: The place where locals ride.

The trail isn't the most technical trail in north Texas, but is challenging enough on my 90's rigid
mountain bike.

Past the northern suburbs of the city of Dallas and Tarrant county, mountain biking options are few and far in between. Erwin Park has been around since the 90's and it's the go to place for local Collin county mountain biking scene.  About 8 miles long, this trail is known to have lots of tree roots that can frustrate many  a newcomer who come and ride it. It is not the fastest flowing trail in DFW, nor is it the most challenging. In spite of this it is challenging enough to keep intermediate riders on their toes and boasts a variety of obstacles that are both natural and manmade. There are no rock gardens at Erwin and only one huge drop that would require a bicycle with suspension (there is a detour on the trail for this drop, so it's not necessary to cross it and can be avoided all together). A rigid bicycle of good quality should be able to handle anything this trail throws at it, although a front suspension will take the edge off the bumpy surfaces and the many tree roots that are scattered along it.

Erwin Park is a short distance from home and can be ridden in about one hour. It's not an all day sort of trail, but it's short enough where I can now go mountain biking a few times during the week in between the things that I have to do. As winter draws near, the days get shorter and daylight runs out. It can be frustrating and dangerous riding at night on the roads in this cold weather. Although not as cold as many states in the Northeast, Texas is a very windy state. When cold fronts come through, 20 and even 30 mile an hour winds can be expected, which will drop the wind chill factor by over 10 degrees. A bright sunny day can be freezing and a cloudy day can be much warmer. It's one of the few places that I know of where someone can freeze while getting a tan. It's nice to have a local trail in the woods where I can escape of the chilly plains winds that are so common around this time of year. The tradeoff of course is riding shorter distances and a slight loss of form during the winter months, but anything beats being on the stationary bike or trainer. 

I recently purchased a Nikon S32 point and shoot camera for my off road bike rides. I wanted something other than my phone where I could take pictures and video of  the things that I saw on my mountain biking trips. Here's a few snapshots and videos from my ride at Erwin Park.

The area around the trail still reminds me that I'm still in Texas.

If you're new into mountain biking, or just new to the DFW area, you should definitely give Erwin Park a try. Stay tune for more video clips and photography articles of places to ride that make North Texas a great destination for any kind of cyclist. Please subscribe to my posts for future write ups.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cycling Home From Siberia: A Book Review of a Great Adventure

Links to this post
Photo courtesy of

With an Arctic cold front blasting through Texas right about now, what better time than now to do a book review about riding a bicycle through really cold places such as Siberia and Tibet. This book will motivate it's readers to grab their winter gear and harden up on their bicycles as they read the account of riding through sub-zero temperatures and rugged landscapes. This has to be one of my all time favorite reads, as it combines my love for cycling and travel into one ultimate adventure. In the following review I will do my best to summarize this book as objectively and accurately as I can.

The book begins in Magadan, a coastal town on the edge of Russia around September of 2004. Ten years the author's junior, at the time I had graduated high school that year and I was on my first fall semester in college. Rob Lilwall was already a college professor and an accomplished book salesman when he began his journey. What was originally planned as a one year journey through Siberia ended up in a three year tour of southeast Asia, the Pacific, Australia, India and the Middle East. The author goes into vivid detail describing the weather, majestic climbs and descending valleys as well as the hospitality of strangers, many of little means living in the developing world. What makes this book so great is the vivid imagery that the author uses to describe the people and landscapes. The author also makes us aware that although performing an incredible feat by cycling through most of the world, he is also human and at times struggles with inner conflicts. At the start of the journey his lack of confidence and insecurities glaringly show, but in the end his travels have made him a braver, experienced and more self-reliant person. The key to his success in his travels was that wherever he went, he made himself a likable guy. Every time he would go into a different country for example, he would translate a letter in the language of that country explaining why he was cycling around the world. Most people who read the letter were all too happy to give him a place to stay. 

The author also includes some short essays about religion in his book. He expresses his own views at times about his faith and has made an effort throughout his life to develop a moral compass, something that is severely lacking in today's society. Although he found a girlfriend throughout his journey, he strongly believed that relations before marriage were wrong and was able to keep the relationship going for the next two years until he returned to England and married her. That mirrors my own views that I personally have had about this subject throughout my life. The author also makes a distinction between those to practice the faith and those who give it a bad name. The author gives the example of how much of the debased entertainment made by hollywood is seen by foreigners to be coming from Christian people, under the assumption that all Westerners are religious and Christian and would practice what is on TV. Although a man of strong convictions, the author gives the impression that even he does not have a complete picture of everything involving his faith. Through his own account, he describes how rival churches in Papua New Guinea, although each professing to believe in the Bible, have intimidated and even killed each other seeing the other as competition for recruiting members. The bible defines Jesus's disciples as having love for one another (John 13:35). That means true Christians will not go to war against one another and will treat each other the same everywhere in the world.

Although the author credits and to some extent emphasizes the hospitality of Churches for giving him a place to stay, he was also taken in by many people who did not share his beliefs as many believed in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or whatever the predominant religion of the region was. It may have been the regional customs of hospitality and a sense of doing the right thing or simply human decency that motivated many of the author's hosts to take him in for the night rather than a shared religious belief. The author also recurrently mentions the church-backed aid organization that he is raising funds for to help needy children throughout the world. Although  there is no doubt the author has a strong and sincere desire to help others, that is not the be all end all expression of the Christian faith. Jesus also gave us the commandment to preach the good news and to make disciples of people of all nations (Matthew 24:14, 28:19). Those who go from door to door the way Jesus did and observing this commandment can be considered among those who practice true Christianity. Rather than focusing on the door to door ministry, many mainstream religions that call themselves Christian think they can achieve this by converting members through aid in developing countries, hence coining the phrase "Rice Christians". However, those who study the Bible know that the desire to serve God comes from the heart and not for personal gain. Those would be the talking points that I would engage the author with if I were to meet him in person. The author's efforts to practice Christianity are laudable and are better than most, however I have to respectfully disagree on more than one of the subjects he brought up in his book. I will have to say he took an objective approach in expressing his views and I was neither offended nor uncomfortable in reading his book. The mention of his faith and beliefs were inconsequential to the rest of the story. However, as a man of faith myself, I have to clear the air about this subject since I am recommending this book by reviewing it and would like to share the discrepancies that I found with readers of my blog. In conclusion, the religious views expressed in the book should be looked at as reference material only.*

The author makes us aware that his journey by bicycle wasn't some idyllic, stroll around a bucolic world, rather there were some nitty gritty and dangerous aspects about it as well. He was robbed twice, once at gunpoint and had to dodge border crossings while crossing Tibet, a country that he couldn't get a Visa to travel in and was therefore in the country illegally. He was chased by a mob of machete wielding bandits in Papua New Guinea and contracted malaria after his stay there. For those of you who like an adventure story, this book has that as well. 

In conclusion, this is a well rounded account of a world travel by bicycle and the obstacles and challenges faced by such a journey. This book answered a lot of my questions about bikepacking, world travel and what gear to carry with me if I were to go on such an expedition. I don't think that this type of adventuring is for me. Not everyone has the time or the resources that Rob Lilwall had when he made this journey. In ten years the world has also changed, and some of the countries he rode through have become more dangerous to outsiders. I would like to plan a weekend trip to a state park on bicycle one day. That is the only type of bikepacking that I can see myself doing in the near future. Maybe when my son is older we can do a father son bike tour, but definitely not on the scale of Lilwall's journey.

This was a good read and a remedy for my cabin fever. If the cold weather is bringing you down and you need some motivation to ride, definitely pick up a copy at a book store near you. 

Stay tuned for more reviews and posts and subscribe to my blog for more updates.

*Ten years ago, when I was in school, it was very common to have student theologians (Southern Baptists, never any other type of religion) visit our campus and have discussions about religion with anyone who would listen to them. The nearby church would host events in the school auditorium, often times with religious rock music inviting people to their church parties and I had to excuse myself from going to such events on many occasions. Back then school districts blurred the line between separation of church and state, something that is no longer heard of these days.  It was 2004, it was the Bush Era, and it was a bible-thumping under the guise of piety kind of time to be living in. Rob Lilwall is from that generation of theologians, that's why it doesn't bother me as much. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fat Bikes...It's what's hot right now.

Links to this post
Fat bikes point to the future of mountain biking

Courtesy of

After years of racing bikes being the predominant style of bicycle that has been constantly promoted to consumers, regardless of whether or not people had intentions to race, a new type of bike is making big waves in the mountain bike scene. Enter the fat bike, a bicycle that can go anywhere, do anything. We embrace it's arrival with open arms as we attempt to wrap around it's massive girth.

What makes fat bikes so special? The 4 to 5 inch tires leave a wider footprint that allows the bicycle to float over soft terrain such as snow and sand where regular tires would simply sink and become bogged down. This makes fat bikes capable of being taken off the trail to places once inaccessible to bicycles. Ever thought about riding a bicycle down the Oregon coastline? This bike can do that, and much more. The bicycle pictured above has a Rockshox Bluto fork, however a front shock is overkill for what most people will be using the bike for. The plush, wide tires offer plenty of shock absorption without the addition of a front fork. With the addition of a front fork, this bike can probably ride straight off a cliff without any problems whatsoever. 

Department stores have caught on early to the trend while most bike shops have not. You can now buy a department store, steel fat bike such as the Mongoose Beast or Mongoose Dolomite for around $200. Bike shop quality fat bikes start around $500 and up and are mostly found through online retailers. 

Since the invention of the mountain bike, people have wanted a bicycle that could test the limits of what is possible. However, the industry focused more on how to ride over terrain faster than seeking to test the limits of where a bicycle could be ridden. This bicycle may finally be the answer to that long awaited expectation. This is the biggest trend, as well as the only trend, happening in the world of bicycles at this time. Brick and mortar retailers need to zero in on this opportunity and stock as many of these bikes on their shelves as they can possibly fit in their stores. Forget 27.5 bikes, forget fixies. There is a downward trend of new bicycles being sold because there is simply no new interest to buy the same kinds of bikes that have always been around, maybe with a few tweaks but nonetheless the same candy with a different wrapper. This bike is a different thing altogether. I'm going to save up to buy one of these soon, and the sticker shock isn't going to deter me this time. I have personally not been as excited about a new type of bicycle hitting the market as I have been about the fat bike.  This bike, when purchased will complete my stable and may end up replacing my full suspension mountain bike. So stay tuned for a future review and keep subscribing to my blog for more posts.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The 29er becomes a teenager

Links to this post
Are 29er's now "new school"?

According to self proclaimed bicycle historians and fad bloggers, the concept of a 29er bicycle had existed for a really long time. Apparently since the 80's, some custom builders and European bicycle manufacturers wanted to get away from 26" wheels as the standard for mountain bikes. Prior to 2007, I don't remember ever seeing a 29er mountain bike. It was that year that I walked into an independently owned bicycle store (otherwise known as local bike shop, or LBS) for the first time and picked up Gary Fisher's catalog of bicycles for that year. That is when I learned that such a thing as 29ers even existed. Gary Fisher claimed that the "Genesis geometry" on these new bicycles improved riding characteristics such as handling, rolling resistance and overall speed. I was intrigued and always wanted to try one out but the sticker shock always turned me away from committing to buying one until very recently.  

Lately I have been writing articles on mountain biking with an emphasis on 26 inch "old school" mountain bikes. But it recently dawned on me that the 29er mountain bike isn't the new kid on the block anymore. It has been around for a while now, seven years since I first came across one and thirteen years since Gary Fisher made the first commercially available 29er in 2001.  From the standpoint of someone who got into mountain biking in the Aughts it is now understandable why 29 inch mountain bikes and not 26 inch mountain bikes have become the new norm. It stands to reason that if 29ers have been around for about thirteen years that replacement parts and tires could and should be found anywhere in the world, at least in westernized countries. It would be interesting to find out if anyone has ever toured around the world on a 29er and has had their bicycle break down on them in order to prove this theory. 

Last week I bought my first 29er mountain bike. It's an awesome steel, single speed and rigid beast of a bike. I took it to my local mountain bike trail and now it is the funnest off road bicycle that I own. I believe that the claims of speed and stability that 29er bikes are alleged to have are true. On the rooty parts of the trails, my wheels did not sink in between the gaps of the roots. Rather my wheels seem to hover over everything; roots, log piles, bridges, rock gardens, etc. The bottom bracket clearance on this bike is insane. I smash my pedals hard, and frequently damage my pedals mountain biking when I take sharp turns or don't go over obstacles with the right foot technique. This bike allows me to pedal straight through anything without stopping.

So are there any disadvantages to 29er bicycles? There are disadvantages, many which are well documented, about having a bicycle with a larger wheel size. First of all, turning is not as fast as on a 26" mountain bike. A skilled rider can still turn around obstacles fast while riding a 29er but the rider loses the ability to take tight corners at speed like on a 26er. Being that my 29er is a single speed, popping a wheelie takes massive amounts of effort, whereas it only takes a flick of the wrist to lift up the front wheel on the 26 inch bike. These are the only two disadvantages of 29er bikes to 26 inch bicycles that are worth noting. The rest is pure preference and aesthetics. Riding a 29er bike is simply "different" than riding a 26er. There is no better or worse riding style. The two can't be compared against each other properly because they are simply not the same kind of bike. It's like trying to compare a cyclocross bike to a fat bike. 

My conclusion about the 29er to 26er debate, after having ridden a 29er, is this: For trick riding, trials riding, downhill, freeride or anything that involves doing wheelies, jumps, or having precision control, go 26. For riding fast off road, plowing through otherwise technical sections of the trail and for overall efficiency, go 29. For cross country, enduro and all traditional mountain biking racing events, do both. The 29er may be "just another wheel size". It may, if people allow it to, mark the end of the 26" wheeled mountain bike. Some people will always have to bunny hop over something on their bike. They will always go for the bike that suits their riding style best. Whatever your riding style is, pick the bike that works the best for you. There is no wrong choice.

Stay tuned for more informative posts. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Riding Skills 101: Ebb and Flow

Links to this post
Ebb and flow, and why its important stay calm and just ride

Cycling, just like any other sport, should be an exercise in calming our  nerves and stress levels with the added benefit of movement and sightseeing. The benefit of reducing stress in our lives is that it balances us emotionally and physically, and our bodies react positively by metabolizing better and feeling less fatigued. In no way should an activity like cycling become a cause for stress, so knowing what outlook to have when riding is important so that we get the most out of the exercise we put in. I'm going to be discussing what I refer to as the "ebb and flow", in cycling, particularly when it comes to mountain biking. However, anyone who rides a bicycle can benefit from the points that I will  bring out to help develop riding skills in both the road and the mountain.

What do I mean when I say, ebb and flow? Like an ocean tide or a calm stream, riding a bike should be a natural movement, complementing the environment around it and adapting to the contours of the land. This can be evident in one's ability to maneuver the bicycle, as well as one's pedaling efficiency and ability to spot obstacles on the trail. Although I can focus on just these aspects of riding there is a lot more to it than just good technique and balance. There is also an emotional element to riding that can accelerate or impede one's progress as a cyclist. Let me give a few examples of what I mean.

Some people drink Red Bull, listen to loud music and rev up their Jeep Wrangler's for everyone to see as they make their way to the mountain bike trail. Once there, they pull off their uber-expensive, full suspension mountain bikes off of their racks and attack the trail at high speed, ignoring the dryness of the soil or the abrupt turns, roots or drop-offs that they might encounter. The end result? Many people brake their frames, bottom out their shocks or hit a tree that they were not looking out for. It happens all the time, just look up the YouTube videos. In addition to injury, many riders exert enormous amounts of effort only to not make a personal best or the fastest time on the trail. 

Ebb and flow starts before the rubber hits the road. We need to check our state of mind before we set foot out the door for a ride. Are we calm? Are we focused? Are we aware? It is actually more beneficial to listen to relaxing music before a ride than to listen to something that will pump up our adrenaline (and stress levels) as a result.  If we are already aggressive before a ride, we are already depleting our energy levels even before the first pedal stroke. We are also not focused, instead we are looking over our shoulder to see who we dropped or who is gaining on us. By not being focused we are thus not aware of the obstacles that lay ahead. A good mountain biker will train his peripheral vision to see six to ten feet ahead of them at all times. This can make the difference between gearing down for a hill, crossing a rock garden or doing an endo over a ledge. We have to know when to adjust our body mechanics when something changes in the terrain. If we already expect the change, we have given our bodies time to react to it. A novice mountain biker only needs to learn a few basic skills and the rest is mostly awareness and focus. As long as a rider can lean their weight back when going downhill and can lift up their front wheel, that is almost all someone would need to know to ride basic singletrack.

On the road or on the mountain, hammerfests* should be avoided. Once somebody is riding at speed, their is no need to be continually sprinting, attacking and dropping other cyclists  in a non-race situation. Not only is it a big waste of energy, the person who does this sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of the environment. They become a stressful pain in the rear in a otherwise idyllic setting. A calm cyclist holds a steady tempo and rides in a predictable nature. Someone who is naturally fast  usually glides past others rather than goes full sprint just to pass. Their movement, even when passing, seems natural and to be expected. A cheery hello or hand wave also removes any competitive feelings from the person getting passed.

A calm state of mind when riding, as well as mental focus will allow us to get the most out of our experience. We will make progress in our speed, our fitness and our bike handling skills logging the same amount of miles or less than a stressed out cyclist would. So pratice that ebb and flow!

Stay tuned for more informative posts.

*For those of you who don't know the meaning of this word, it refers to non-verbal challenges that cyclists usually make to one another, whether by rudely passing someone abruptly and intentionally not acknowledging them or by catching up to another cyclist for the sole purpose of sprinting past them. We have all done it at one time or another, however it is not acceptable behavior and should be avoided.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Condition is Everything

Links to this post
When it comes to old bicycles, condition is everything

Why am I posting this? Because over the years, I have bought many old bicycles. I overpaid for some bicycles based on their brand name and country of origin. In addition to the price I paid for some of my bicycles, I spent to have the them restored, in some instances twice as much as I paid originally. While some restorations have been worth it, others left me with a mediocre and somewhat decent bike at best. That is why when deciding on buying a bicycle, it's a good idea to look at the overall condition of the bike before making a decision.

Case and point, I recently got a late 70's to early 80's(ish) Concord Selecta Freedom Deluxe 12 speed road bike on trade. At the time of production, this was a mid-range bicycle made with Kuwahara tubing instead of the plain gauge, hi tensile steel so commonly found in bikes of that same era. This bike features a really cool, super smooth crankset that is a combination of the press fit and Octalink drive technologies seen today on modern bicycles. This crank also features self-extracting crank bolts which unscrew with a 6mm allen key, no special crank puller tool required. The Shimano Selecta crankset appeared around the same time as positron shifting, which was the first attempt at indexed shifting.

My Concord Selecta "Freedom Deluxe" 12 speed road bike.

The decals on this bike are painted, and the lugs have been ornately pinstriped.

The decals on this bike are in great shape. 

At first glance, there seems to be nothing special about this bicycle. It has a bolted on rear wheel, bolted on saddle, stem shifters, no rear derailleur hanger and no water bottle braze ons. The bike snob "connoisseur" types would quickly pass on this bike, assuming it is a cheap, low end model. What this bike doesn't show on the outside it reveals as soon as I mount on the saddle. 

This is the smoothest, most compliant bike of all my ten speed bike-boom era bicycles. The foam grips and the alloy wheels give it a comfortable and plush ride, and the steel frame does it's job of absorbing the road vibrations. The stem shifters shift effortlessly and I have just the right amount of climbing and sprinting gear ratios. What a climber this bike is! Seriously, I did not have to get off the saddle at all, not even on the steepest climbs of my routes the last time I rode it. The stamped, Selecta crankset spun smoothly up hills and I found myself spinning where I would normally be mashing. The saddle was firm enough but not super stiff in the crotch area, and the steel frame absorbed a lot of the impact to the groin region. Japanese road bikes of the 70's and 80's have a reputation for being well made and having better quality than the Peugeots and Merciers that were being made during the same period. However, the thing that sets this bike apart from my other bikes was the condition that I received it in.

This bike was received in time capsule, almost air-sealed, new-old-stock condition compared to other vintage bicycles that I have restored over the years. This bicycle needs no restoration, therefore there is nothing I have to put into it after making the initial investment. When I say nothing, not even the tires need replacing. The rubber on the tires is still new with the little stubbies sticking out the sides. Sometimes its better to get a lightly used, mass produced Japanese bicycle that is in good condition rather than buying a high end bicycle parts project. A middle of the road, not so prestigious bicycle in good condition will be ridden more, enjoyed more and it will be easier to keep up with in the future. A high end bicycle will be stored and collected after restoration, hardly getting any ride time over fears that if it breaks down it will be expensive to fix. These days, the better the condition and the better the fit, the more valuable a bicycle is to me. The Concord Selecta wins on both counts. I get freedom from riding it, just as the name on the frame suggests. It's a bicycle I can use to go exploring downtown or the trails around my area. I feel comfortable riding it helmet-less and in my regular clothing. A 20 mile ride on this bike wouldn't be out of the question, because I know that I received it in good cosmetic and mechanical condition. So I can't stress this enough. I have paid way too much in the past for bicycles that I never got running off the ground. So condition is everything...CONDITION-CONDITION-CONDITION!!!

Stay tuned and subscribe for more informative posts.

***Here's a checklist to go over when looking over a bicycle for purchase***

  1. Does the frame have cracks, dents, rust or feel off balance when ridden?
  2. Does the fork on the frame look bent?
  3. Does the chain have rust?
  4. Are the tires dry-rotted?
  5. Are there any missing bolts on the bicycle?
  6. Are the cables worn or rusted?
  7. Are the brake pads worn?
  8. Is there any rust pitting on the chrome components?
  9. Are the wheels severely bent or missing spokes?
  10. Does the freewheel or the rear cassette engage when pedaled?