Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Vanlifing: What is #Vanlife and why is it so popular?

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This Article will talk about the pros and cons of camper van ownership, and how this applies to bicycle adventures.

Meet Ruby, our new Volkswagen Vanagon, and latest family addition

If you haven't been living under a rock for the past year or so, you have probably heard of the term van life. Van lifing is essentially living or traveling for an extended period of time from within your van. Let me give a disclaimer; neither my job nor my wife's job allow for us to actually live in our van. We bought the van for the sole purpose of all weather camping trips where we could in theory sleep in the car if we had to and maybe the occasional road trip out of state. So some self proclaimed van life experts might say that "we're not doing it right". That's okay, we are doing it our own way.

On that note we can start discussing the pros and cons of actually living in a van, or any vehicle for that matter. First off, the illusion to being part of  van life is saving money by living in your vehicle and not having to pay rent. I'm going to burst that bubble real quick. It takes money to set yourself up for van lifing. First you will need a van. Depending on how new or practical the van is (ours is not, as we bought a 35 year old van, even though it is in good condition) you will incur maintenance and repair expenses. Right at the onset, be prepared to shell out $5-8k for a vehicle that is decent and in running condition. Be prepared to spend another grand right off the bat getting it roadworthy if it is an older, vintage vehicle.  In the specific case of Ruby, our VW Vanagon, we will in the long run look to spend another small fortune on a modern engine retrofit. For right now, the van runs fine, although it is cranky to get off and moving and needs a few tries to get it cold started. In the specific case of our VW, regular inspection of the engine is required and fuel lines and ground wires need to be checked regularly for leaks or tears. This requires a willingness to get to know the car mechanically and oftentimes do our own repair work. If this isn't your cup of tea, I would recommend starting with a cheap Chevy panel van or a late 90's/early 00's conversion van. If money is no object then $40-$60k will get you a new Sprinter or just an RV. A starter van in good mechanical condition, no matter what you decide on getting, will be equally hard to come by. That is because very few full size vans were made after the end of the 90's. Fuel efficiency and smaller families have popularized SUVs and mini vans to the point that they are most of the large vehicles seen on the roads today.

Having a vehicle that is large enough to carry all of our camping equipment, bikes and ourselves in it is the main draw for our recent van purchase. I always thought of vans as the ultimate dork mobile. That is because my first daily driver was a Ford Aerostar, during a time in my teenage years where friends drove in mustangs, pick up trucks, Toyota Celicas and Honda Civics. Now, my view has changed somewhat. I don't see owning a van as the ultimate compromise anymore. Rather, I just see it as the right tool for the job. Especially if said van can be used as a bike hauler, interim camper and comes in metallic red with a manual transmission. I'm sure that the honeymoon will wear off as soon as I roll up my sleeves and get under the engine of this thing. But for now, we love our newest addition to the family.

We can conclude that unless you already had a van and lost your job or got evicted out of your home, living in your van as a way to save money and try to live the simple life is oftentimes a false narrative. People who live in their cars do so out of necessity, not choice. I know this first hand because I have a brother who lived in his van for almost a year (remember the Ford Aerostar?). He was one stinky hippie when someone finally decided on giving him room and boarding. He was also one step away from being homeless; a starving musician that would eye people at restaurants so he could swoop in on their leftovers once they were done eating. Not exactly what is pictured on Instagram nowadays under the hashtag #vanlife. The true vehicle for traveling around the country and living in is an RV. That doesn't mean that you can't live in your van and be a telecommuter or just someone who works from their laptop and travels, the question more or less is would you really want to if you had the choice not to? An old, full size van is the perfect vehicle for a weekend mountain biking trip or out of state adventure. For more permanent, on the road living situations there are better vehicle options out there to choose from. No matter how many adventure blogs I read and YouTube videos I watch, I can't wrap my head around the thought of ending a camping trip with my van in the back of a flat bad tow truck. It very well could happen being that I have an old vehicle but it would most certainly happen if I lived in it full time. Of course, sometimes hasty decisions reap unforgettable experiences. Sometimes risks pay off with dividends. Case in point we took Ruby on a 10 hour drive all the way to South Texas. The van had a broken fuel gauge and odometer, so we were guesstimating on when to stop for gas. We made it all the way to South Padre Island and repaired the van on the way back. We ran into some unforeseen expenses, but we spent our winter break traveling instead of being cooped up at home feeling sorry for ourselves. That is what the Vanlife movement means to us.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Op Ed: Chris Froome Should Win 5 and Go Home

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"It's hard to leave the table when you're winning"

The 2018 cycling season is already being discussed with a tremendous announcement that Chris Froome, the current winner of the Tour De France in recent years has decided to take on the two most hardest bicycle races back to back, The Giro D' Italia and the Tour De France in a single year. This is coming off his success as having won the Tour/Vuelta double last year, also a difficult feat in of itself. The last person to do that was Marco Pantani in 1998, a good 20 years ago. Back then Pantani was loaded to the gills with an experimental drug that later became known to the world as EPO, the same drug that Lance Armstrong took during all of his tour victories. Marco Pantani was 28 at the time of his Giro-Tour victory year, a good 5 years younger than Froome will be by the time he starts the Giro next year. There is one fundamental difference between these two riders and I'm not referring or alluding to EPO use. Marco Pantani was a talent at a very young age. He had always been an accomplished rider even before he won his first Tour De France. Chris Froome blossomed later into his career. Chris Froome and I are a few months apart in age. It doesn't matter if you are the best athlete in the world, at a certain point age will catch up to anybody. Falls start to hurt more, recovery times slow down and a person may never fully recover from some injuries. So I'm not speaking as a world class athlete, I'm speaking as someone who is the same age as Chris Froome. It's time to rake it in, cash the chips and go home. It's hard to leave the table when you're winning, but that's the smart thing to do. It's not about matching records with the greats in the sport, because people will never know to what lengths those greats went to so that they could achieve those records. Stick around any longer and you will risk losing it all; your money, your success, your accomplishments, your credibility and your reputation.

Hubris sometimes doesn't allow people to know when to quit in a high risk game such as gambling, or in this case, professional cycling. They might as well be the same thing, because both require a poker face. If you call someone's bluff, then the game is over. So the question remains, if Chris Froome goes for one more Tour De France, will someone call his bluff? Unlike the last person that this happened to, Chris Froome is a likeable character that lays low and stays down to earth even when success comes his way. This has calmed any negative press that might be said of him to the point that even David Walsh, a famous reporter and Lance Armstrong whistle blower has come to his defense. Once in while, we will hear the suggestive mutterings of Greg Le Mond or Bob Roll implying that something fishy is afoot, but without the conviction or condemning language used against Lance Armstrong. Can Chris Froome manage to keep them silent for two more back to back grand tour victories? 

I hope Chris Froome takes a lesson from the Miguel Indurain playbook. Win 5, cash in and go home. Indurain wasn't trying to one up Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil or any previous 5 time Tour De France champs. He knew better, and was long gone by the time Marco Pantani, Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstong day-viewed with their superhuman cycling feats. He didn't try to rationalize a reason to go for number 6; he was confident that the world would remember him for his 5 victory contribution. He left with his money, his legacy and his reputation intact. He is the Michael Jordan of cycling, nothing negative or controversial can be said of him. Let's hope Froome follows in his footsteps. I really like the way Froome treats his teammates, the press and his rivals. At the end of the day that counts for a lot and even protects his career to some extent. Counting on that, let's see if Froome has it in him for a Giro-Tour double as well as a fifth Tour De France victory.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Bike Mechanic Confidential- Money saving tips, mechanical advice and the inside scoop that the industry won't tell you

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Thinking about a new upgrade to your bike? Not sure if you need the latest gadget? Thinking about replacing your 5 year old bike with a carbon fiber wonder? Have you already looked at next year's bike catalogs? If you answered yes to at least one of these questions, you are on the consumer end of the bike industry. The customer, the end user, the money tree that keeps on giving and keeping the bike shops, online retailers and the whole entourage afloat. Need a fat bike? Just rationalize the purchase by saying "why yes, I need a bike for the one week out of the year when it snows, or to go frolic on the beach". Bike shops love you and are eager to take your money to have the privilege of working on your Colnago, oogling the bike over because it's a bike that a $9/hour bike mechanic employee will never be able to save up for. You make it rain dollar bills like Lil' Wayne in a purple drank video...

Or do you? Are you getting tired of spending an arm and a leg every time you walk into a bike shop? Not an independently wealthy trust fund kid?  Wondering if some things are unnecessary, or are things you can do yourself? Then there is hope for you, my friend. Welcome to the club of bike aficionados of the non-corporate, non doctorate inclination. Welcome to the club of do-it-yourselfers. Let me share with you some insider tips that the industry doesn't want to share.

Never use the lockout on your suspension mountain bike:  

The first rule to proper mountain biking, to getting longevity out of your suspension and to not blow out your fork seals, is to NEVER under any circumstances ride with the lockout engaged while you ride off road. Some people may argue with this notion but I maintain that unless your first name is Nino and your last name is Shurter then you have no business trying to fiddle with your lockout mechanism on your mountain bike. Set sag, pre-load and have the right air pressure in the fork if the fork has an air chamber. Those things are more important than locking out the fork for climbs and forgetting to disengage it on the descents. No suspension fork, no matter how expensive, will stand up to that kind of abuse. A good fork should last a number of years if the lockout is never used. Forget 30 hour maintenance oil changes, forget overhauling the fork and having all of the internals replaced. No lockout, no worries. You will, however, need to do is if you are a remote lockout, trigger happy fool. My advice? Take that remote lockout straight off the handlebars and chuck that thing as far as you can throw it. This leads into another suspension related, money saving tip.

Your Suntour coil shocks work just fine:

I rode a set of Suntour XCM shocks hard for over 5 years before they finally died. They came on my first full suspension bike which went through some of the local hard trails in the area and even went off road in Georgia and North Carolina. The failure of my shocks was due to leaving them locked out and taking them through a technical descent. Otherwise I don't think I would have had any problems with them. I currently have another set of Suntour XCR 32's  on my full suspension 29er. These shocks are super value coil shocks with oil dampening rebound adjustment. True to their reputation they have given me excellent performance and have taken everything I have thrown at them so far, from technical rock gardens to 3 foot drops. The only upgrade that would make sense, if only to save a little weight and add a little stiffness, would be a set of Fox 32's.

Why the emphasis on Suntour? Rockshox seems to be leaving the coil suspension game to try to be a more premium brand the way Fox is. Rockshox at one time made some of the best coil forks that could be found on the market, such as the Judy, Tora, Dart and XC28 models. These had the ability to be self serviced and fine tuned depending on what kind of suspension coil they had. They seem to be exiting the entry level price point and their products are usually found on bikes starting at around a grand. So that leaves Suntour with the $400 to $800 market, the target which most beginners or new kids to the sport would be able to afford.

Was there anything wrong with coil shocks in the first place? No, in fact once the industry got it right and built a bombproof, indestructible coil shock like the Rockshox Judy, they realized that they weren't going to sell any more bikes, because the thing would just not break. They needed to find a graceful way to sell us another bike so they gave us longer travel options, tapered head tubes and a more affordable mid-range solo air option. Also counting on user error, they gave us the lockout feature on our forks, because that's how they guarantee repeat business.

The moral of this story? As we say in Texas, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Ride your bike to the ground and o-nly upgrade things to add comfort to your ride, like your grips and your saddle. Shocks are a part of the bike and represent about a third of it's overall value, so it's a big ticket item to upgrade just for the sake of upgradeditis. 

Unless you park your bike outside, never replace cable housing: 

Cable housing becomes damaged only if it is cut, severely bent or exposed to the elements and becomes rusted from the inside out. Ride a lot, but leave your bike stored indoors in a dry place? You will never have to change cable housing, no matter how many times a mechanic brings it up as part of a performance tune. Not necessary.

Dawn or Simple Green cleans better than that bike wash stuff they sell at the shops: 

Forget buying bike specific cleaning products. All you need is a bucket with water, a rag, a brush, some dish washing soap or an environmentally friendly cleaner like Simple Green to get the job done. It will cost less and give a better clean than the stuff the store sells.

Stop shaving, using chamois butt-r and slurping gels:

The pro's are the people you see on TV. They are not you and I. We are but mere mortals that have to work for a living and must carry on with dignity and self-respect. We will neither see or appreciate the aerodynamic gains of having our legs shaved or our rear ends slathered in chamois butt-r. Hair stubble hurts, no joke. Not even Peter Sagan shaves his legs anymore.

Emphasize needs and wants, and pick the right tool for the job: 

Looking for a new bike but already have 20 bikes in the garage? Let me stop you right there. You don't need a new bike. Maybe a kid in Malawi needs a new bike, but you certainly don't. Chances are that you already have the tool needed for the job required. With  a little modification, an old mountain bike can become a drop bar gravel grinder or a commuter with some street slicks. Don't have a road bike but want a road bike? Take a rigid mountain bike and put drop bars on it. That bike will hold you over until you are averaging 18-19mph with the fast guys in the club. Looking for your first bike? Think about all realistic scenarios that you will be riding your bike. These days there are many good options in the "one bike that does it all" category. They might be heavier, have knobby tires or made of steel, but one good bike can last a lifetime.

Mid-range is the best range: 

Not sure if your 9 speed Shimano Sora or Shimano Alivio groupset is up to par with that of your friend's Dura Ace or XTR groupsets? Have you found yourself being talked out of your triple chainring crankset to go to a 1x? Have a solid set of wheels but saving up for some carbon ENVE's? Do you find yourself blaming your bike more than your time off the bike for performance loses?

My go to road bikes for group rides lately are a 1988 Schwinn Tempo with downtube shifters, a 6 speed freewheel, 32 spoke count wheels and a steel frame. My other is a 2012 Cannondale Caad 8 with an aluminum frame and Shimano Tiagra shifting. I can average 20mph or more on the fast rides in my area and stay with the rest of the pack, on both bikes. My go to mountain bike is a Fuji Outland 29er full suspension mountain bike that I bought new. I have less than $1,400 invested between all three of these bikes. So while I'm not saying that my bikes are cheap by any means, all three of those bikes might equal the price of what the industry advertises as a "performance" or "race specific" bicycle. The difference between the bikes that I own and a $1,400 bike ends at the price tag. For $500-$800, or about half the price, the same kind of bike can be had. I don't mean a dumb down version of the $1,400 bike. I mean oftentimes, the same performance can be had out of a mid-range bike. The mid-range package might be less flashy, less desirable and less advertised. However, it might have parts that are more durable and have less proprietary technology on it that makes it easier to maintain. What if I told you that 9 speed groupsets were the sweet spot? 9 speed groupsets for road and mountain have the best price point, best durability, best functionality, best reliability and oftentimes the best design. There are also the staple groupsets of mid-range bikes. Something to consider whether you are a beginner cyclist or a seasoned rider eyeing their next bike purchase.

Don't be a poser: 

There are other cyclists besides Chris Froome. Don't be that guy that shows up to the club rides in full Team SKY jersey kit. Not only does that reek for noob behavior, but you will be on the wrong side of history later and will look back on how much of a tool you were for being such a bandwagon Team SKY fan-fan.

When in doubt, Youtube it: 

You can learn literally anything on Youtube, even bicycle repair. Don't want to learn? That's fine too. We in the bike industry appreciate your dollars. However, I will suggest at least learning how to do basic maintenance on your bike. Because when all of the shops in the area are a month out on repairs, you don't want to drop your bike off at the shop because of a flat tire. 

These are some insider tips that the bike industry isn't talking about. Hopefully this has been a helpful article for some of my readers out there. Till next time!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Vintage Mountain Bike Racing

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Tales of the rigid mountain bike
The vintage mountain bike race

Vintage Mountain Bike Race on my 1990 GT Karakoram

Mountain bikes have been around since the late 70's and mass produced since the mid 80's. Therefore, it's fair to say that some of those early mountain bikes can now be considered classics. Lately, people are reminiscing about all things 90's. Even mom jeans tried to make a short lived comeback. What's next, acid washed jeans, neon and the like? One cool trend that I have been noticing, at least in the world of mountain biking, is an appreciation for old school mountain bikes, like the ones I grew up riding as a kid.

It was probably 1997 or 1998 when I first got my Huffy rigid mountain bike, with grip shifters and cheap brakes that imitated a much earlier but more functional U-brake design. It was about 98' or 99' when that bike hit dirt for the first time at a flat trail then known to the locals as California Crossing. By then, good suspension systems were just being developed and we dreamed about doing the things that we can do today on our modern suspension 29ers. We lacked the skill and the equipment to be good at mountain biking, but the motivation was definitely there. 

Mountain biking was on experimental territory back then and so were mountain bikers. It wasn't unusual to see people riding in cut off jeans, flannel shirts and gardening gloves. Lycra as common as it now is wasn't the norm back in those days. Sure, some people wore Lycra in mountain bike racing. Most people however didn't buy their clothes from a bike shop and wore whatever exercise clothing they could find or make themselves. That's right, even exercise clothing had to some extent, be made because no one really wore exercise specific clothing aside from Richard Simmons and a bunch of suburban Mom's doing aerobic workout routines in front of a TV.   

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to relive that old 90's feeling to a certain extent. The local mountain bike racing association decided to host an exibition vintage mountain bike race, only accepting bikes that were made before 1999 with no modern modifications. I had found this 1990 GT Karakoram on Craigslist that I'm sure I only paid 20 bucks for. The bike needed to be stripped down to the frame, cleaned, re-greased and needed a couple of new parts. All in all I think I added around $100 to that original $20 purchase price. I lined up against guys with some pretty iconic 90's bikes that where real contenders in their day. The winner of the race had a Schwinn Homegrown with a Rockshox SID fork and lightweight Mavic Crossmax wheels. The guy with the Schwinn posted a lap time that could have easily put him in a top ten position in the regular races. The guy in second place had a titanium Merlin mountain bike that probably weighed nothing, as he ended up modifying it with carbon cranks ( I seriously don't know how he didn't get DQ'ed from a 90's themed mountain bike race).  I came in fourth, with my friend Nathan taking third on his 90's Ironhorse with Rockshox Quadra forks that he engineered to turn them into rigid forks. There were other cool bikes that were way lighter and more responsive than mine, so 4th place out of 11th was a good ride for me. I received a cool participation award for most vintage bike, and a lot of kudos from other riders for having the guts to show up and narrowly miss the podium on a nearly 30 year old, rigid bike with a front shifter that dropped the chain. I did, in fact have a mechanical which caused me to fall 3 places back and I had to overtake 3 guys to get back in 4th position.

Here's a couple of more pictures of the vintage mountain bike race...

Nathan on his Ironhorse with modified shocks.

The only other rider who had a bike older than mine

I hope to see more races like these as time goes on. I appreciate the nod DORBA gave to us former 90's kids and mountain bikers. In a world that is ever more serious and focused on tech, nutrition and other nuances, it's nice to get back to our lighthearted roots and more innocent times. I will still continue to ride my modern mountain bikes because I'm not a curmudgeon or a retro grouch. I will nevertheless look forward to the next event like this and hopefully this one won't be the last!

Possibly to come on my blog; I will try if time allows to showcase some of my recent vintage mountain bike findings, write more point of view articles and try to revive this blog a little bit. My goal is to go from a roadie to a mountain biker and come full circle with myself. Let's see if changing the format up a little bit will bring life into a bike blog that is nearly a decade old.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Are Cyclists Selfish?

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Taking The "Me" Out of Cycling:
A Look at how to be a cyclist without making it all about us

Self-centered people are often the ones making onlookers and would-be cyclists refer to all cyclists as "douchebags". Of course, selfish people and self-centered people are not limited to the confines of the bicycle riding, Lycra wearing types. Someone who exhibits these traits doesn't just have to be a cyclist. In fact, these attitudes in cycling are just a symptom of the bigger problem of where we have come to as a society. Smart phones, selfie sticks, status updates, targeted advertising; everything is geared to put our own interests ahead of everything else. We come to see ourselves not as contributors to society. Rather, we at many times expect the rest of the world to wait on us and attend to our needs. The more I pay attention to this, the more obvious it becomes. 

I'm going to preface this by saying that this is my first blog post in well over a year. I have been busy with life since my last blog post. If  I'm honest I have also lost interest in trying to write about the same cycling topics that have been already extensively discussed in online forums and around the cycling inter-webs. I don't want the articles that I write about to be aimless content filler that just gets lost in the void of useless information. Since I have very little time to write anymore, I want my content to matter somewhat and to make a positive impact. Having said that I'm writing this article with the intent of looking inward and becoming better cyclists from the inside out, not relying on the latest gadget or the newest bicycle to do it for us. 

Like all bad habits, a selfish attitude is a bad habit that goes from being a mere tendency to a lifestyle once it is left unchecked. Cycling is a sport which can be as expensive or as inexpensive as we want it to be. Most of the time, the guys and gals you see participating in clubs where there is organized riding or racing have opted to make it as expensive as they can make it for themselves. On that side of the spectrum, the industry that retails the sport is one that highly discourages contentment. The aim of the game is no longer about fitness, recreation or the personal enjoyment of being in the outdoors. The motivation for spending is not getting "dropped". That is why bikes these days are marketed as lighter and faster. That is why people often times end up spending ten times the amount for a delicate carbon fiber paper bike rather than a durable, steel touring bike that can last a lifetime. And let's face it, once we are no longer happy with the current bike we own we see buying another bike as the solution. It doesn't help that most cyclists have a morbid fear of getting dropped. Well, someone who is always buying without regard to price and can never be satisfied with what they own is already making it about themselves. So in that regard cyclists can be selfish, to the point of narcissism even.

So how can you be a cyclist without becoming selfish? You have to look at the greater picture. Getting dropped is a part of life, and every ride is a learning and training opportunity that will make us stronger so that eventually we will no longer get dropped. No bike no matter how expensive is going to teach that lesson for us, only lots of humbling experiences will. You might find after a while that group riding really isn't your thing. That's okay, you don't need to ride at race pace to enjoy cycling. Maybe you are more suited to riding by yourself, adventure riding, mountain biking or simply riding with a different social group of people who are not interested in racing. You can still become a very fit individual doing it this way if that is what you are aiming for. 

My Mom once told me that 99% of the things that happen to us are as a result of our attitude. So if we have an "attitude of gratitude", that can go a long way. I have seen ungrateful people in all levels of society so this is not really based on our upbringing or where we are from. We can have a humble beginning only to get spoiled later in life. We could also have everything given to us but still have humility and accept things that might be a little lower than the standards set for us. Being grateful will also allow us to get out of the rat race, live within our means and have more time for riding. It will also prevent us from getting "upgraditis" and replace our bikes every few years. Buying an expensive bike doesn't make us a contributing member to society as some would portray it,  on the contrary that's just being a wasteful consumer and in some cases, a hoarder.

There is another aspect of cycling where most people act really selfishly towards one another. In a group ride setting, it's common courtesy to wait for an individual that has a mechanical, call out gaps in the pack and start and finish rides as a group. More and more even on social, non-competitive rides these kind gestures are disappearing as people become more selfish. More and more group rides in my area are becoming "drop" rides, meaning the group doesn't wait up, on purpose. Blowing through traffic lights and not calling out to pedestrians is another selfish way for cyclists to behave on the roads, since they are posing a danger to themselves and others. Reckless cycling is just as bad as reckless driving and it's inconsiderate to the family members of those cyclists who already worry about them being on the roads.  

After many years of riding to be one of the fastest, riding not to get dropped and paying attention to all of the market trends, I'm just about done with it. It has become the ultimate game of chasing the rabbit for me. That still doesn't mean that don't love riding my bike. The difference now is that I'm going to forgo my pride and there will be times where I will get dropped. There will also be times where I'm slower. That's okay, I've earned it. I'm no stranger to the fast guys in my area. They know who I am and who I can be with the right amount of time and training. It's time I put things in their proper place. My rides from here on out will be done between family obligations or with my family and for my personal enjoyment and well-being. I don't see myself going to the bike shop and shelling out a few grand on a new bike anymore. The bikes that I currently have are just going to have to last for the long haul. Besides, there are other things and people in life that are more important. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

High Cadence Vs. High Power. How Do You Climb?

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Which is the best way to climb?

This might surprise you, but there really is no right or wrong way to climb hills on a bike. Well, there are bad gearing choices and wrong positioning that can hinder a cyclist from climbing at their best. But this article relates to climbing efficiency based on proven techniques that many professionals use. There are two camps that have come out of this debate on which is better. High cadence (ie: Chris Froome, Lance Armstrong, Miguel Indurain) versus high power (ie: Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana, Marco Pantani). So which is better, dancing or spinning on the bike? Both skills are equally important, as a well rounded and successful climber must be able to do both. This article will describe the best scenarios where it would be most beneficial to use one skill or the other.

Dancing On The Pedals: "Dancing" on the bike usually refers to pedaling off the saddle for a sustained period of time, kind of like a really long sprint uphill, but riding at tempo instead of all out. When the rider dances on the pedals, it should look like the are on a StairMaster instead of on a bike. The back should be straight, the arms relaxed and slightly bent, hands resting on the brake hoods. The arms and legs should be parallel to each other, nothing sticking out the sides or bowing out. The bike should sway from side to side with each turn of the cranks, the rider shouldn't have to rock their hips for propulsion. If you climb out of the saddle this way, you are doing it right. This is a technique worth practicing, as it is used by some of the best climbers in the world. Alberto Contador regularly goes on training rides where he will ride off the saddle for more than an hour, just to hone this technique. Keep in mind that this technique requires good endurance and power. It is good for uphill accelerations or for breaking away from a pack on sustained climbs. It also trains the legs to put more power down on a lower cadence.

Keep in mind when doing this technique that it is impossible to ride off the saddle for an entire climb. At a certain point, the legs will lose the ability to propel this way, especially as the grade gets steeper and the climb gets longer. The legs will eventually need to recharge and to flush the lactic acid that they have been accumulating. That is where the high spinning technique comes into play.

Spinning On The Bike: Two time Tour De France champion Chris Froome has used the high spin, high cadence climb to an art form. His ability to sprint from 90 to over 100rpm on very steep gradients of a given climb have gone unmatched and unrivaled by no other in the sport. The only rider in the past few years who can trade blows with him on the mountains is Nairo Quintana, the light framed climber from Colombia. Chris Froome's climb is his signature trademark. He never lets his cadence drop below 90rpm while he is climbing, no matter how steep the grade. He makes full use of the lower range of  his gearing, in order to keep spinning no matter what. His climbing style is reminiscent to that of Miguel Indurain, as it is mostly on the saddle as opposed to off the saddle. He doesn't freak out when his opponents attack him, rather he raises his cadence and closes the gap quickly. In addition, Chris Froome uses a power meter, so he knows when he is reaching his red line and hardly ever pedals beyond his power wattage threshold. He is exacting and calculating in the way he rides, which has become a point of contention with some cycling fans which want to see more spontaneity in cycling. Nevertheless it's a style he has been proven to be very effective for him, regardless of his critics.

The key to successful climbing is knowing when to use each of these techniques. It helps to know the climb and ride it beforehand. If it is a climb featured on one of your regular club rides, then you will have the upper hand on your friends if you can practice on it regularly. Some climbs are gradual ascents that get steeper towards the crest of the hill. Other climbs are broken up into sections where the climb will level off and then pitch up again. Other climbs are monsters that go continually upward without letup while the road winds up the mountain. If you have those kind of climbs in your area then consider yourself lucky; you have what you need to become a very good climber.

For rolling terrain I recommend an off the saddle, on the saddle approach. For sustained gradients it is best to stay on the saddle and only come off the saddle towards the crest of the climb. For climbs with switchbacks I recommend riding the switchbacks off the saddle towards the outside of the turn. Never attack on the climb early. Your speed should gradually increase as you ascend on the climb. Save your energy for the steepest sections. Climb at your rhythm, even if that means getting dropped the first few times. Stick to your game plan, refine it as you see necessary, but don't chase the wheel of a guy who attacks early. You can pace yourself back but you will end up blowing up if you give chase. Those are my tips on how to be a better climber.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Thoughts And Ponderings- April 2016

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Man, I haven't written a blog post in a while...

Today is the first day in weeks that I actually have a little bit of downtime to collect my thoughts and put something down in print. I have been so busy as of late and will most likely continue to be busy throughout this year. There is a lot of things that I am currently planning for ( selling my rental home, planing vacations, repairing bicycles as a business, etc., etc). I have basically had to decide where to place my time best. Writing has taken a back seat behind repairing bicycles at this point. So rather than try to write a blog post with a specific subject in mind, I'm just going to write a collection of thoughts and ideas that I have had lately.

There should be a "L'Eroica" style race here in Texas: I have been thinking for years that this would be a great idea. It would be a bicycle race for vintage road bikes, with an added twist. All bikes must be bike boom bikes from the seventies and eighties, with stem shifters, platform pedals and center pull brakes. Bikes could also have downtube shifters and side pull brakes, but nothing ridiculously  high end from that period (ie: Cinelli, Masi, etc.). Just a race for the low to mid range bikes that the majority of people bought and rode back then (I'm thinking Schwinn bikes, Centurions, Peugeots, Nishiki and other Japanese brands). Also, no spandex allowed. This would be a great way to get a bunch of bike flippers, college kids and old, curmudgeon retro-grouches to do some exercise with  the bikes they already own. If anyone is interested in getting an event like this going, contact me and let's set something up.

I can't seem to sell my vintage bikes anymore: I can't seem to command a good price for my vintage bikes anymore. It seems that if a vintage bike is worth more than $200, people are hesistant to buy or will try and talk me down to the $200 price range. As with everything else, sometimes the price is the price. There are some bikes that I can't take less than $300 for because I would then be giving them away and taking a huge loss on the money that I invested on them. Yet because newer bikes are getting less and less expensive, people in general do not see the value of vintage bikes anymore. This is a trend that I predicted would happen and it has finally occurred. The vintage bicycle has become to the modern cyclist what Tulips are to Amsterdam. The flipping of old bikes is a bubble that has busted. To all my fellow bike flippers, we had a good run from 2007-2011. By 2014, bicycle reselling was on life support. By 2015, it had already keeled over and died. Oh well, I guess I'll be stuck with a few vintage bikes to donate to a museum one day.

Housing in North Texas is getting expensive: Texas was always the cheapest place to live for many years. Ever since I moved here in 1990, Texas has beat all other states in terms of affordability in housing, taxes, goods, services, etc. There is a rapid growth occurring in the number of people moving into DFW, so much so that some houses have appraised for 30% more than what they were worth only a year ago. I'm in the process of fixing up and selling my rental, but know that I won't even be able to buy a foreclosure in the area once I sell my property. Meanwhile, it's a great time to buy up beach front property in Puerto Rico, as the housing market has collapsed due to Puerto Rico defaulting on it's national debt and many Puerto Ricans selling their homes to move to the mainland U.S. 

Riding bikes is way more fun than fixing them: Since I have been so busy lately, I have had to prioritize the things that I do on my free time. If stuck between having time to ride my bike and finding another  project to work on, I always go with a bike ride. These days riding my bike is way more beneficial for me because it is an escape from the stresses of the day and is getting me in shape. I currently weigh what I weighed when I was 20 and single, which is a feat of it's own as a married 31 year old. This is because I have given exercising and eating healthy a priority over all the other stuff that I could be doing. There is very little time to sit around and think anymore. Every once in a while I will take a break to find my muse, draw something or play the piano. The truth is however, that I will neither host an art gallery exibition or be a concert pianist, because I will be too busy riding to do what it takes to become a professional artist or musician. I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything either, because I rather be a healthy adult than anything else at this point of my life.

It feels good to stay current: It feels good to stay current with all the trends that are occurring and all of the changes that are going on as I get older. Staying current not only applies to faddish things like music, pop-culture and hairstyles, it also applies to making life changes such as selling a rental property and simplifying my life. It applies to losing weight, becoming "mostly" a vegetarian and finding what I'm really good at and sticking with it. When I was younger I wanted to be in a hundred different places at once. Getting other people's approval was more important for me. Now I see things differently. Staying current to me also means to adjust my point of view when necessary and to not have such a hard-lined, staunch interpretation of things that I don't really know much about. I used to look down on fixed geared bikes, now I own one. I used to not like 29ers, now I also have a 29er. Sometimes our ideas and perceptions of things come down to our experience. No one should ever form a judgement on something if their experience in that given area is limited. As long as it is not illegal, unhealthy or immoral, people should be open to trying new things. That way we do not become old before our time and a burden on the younger generations that follow with our expired logic and outdated thinking. Sometimes we are quick to criticize the next tech advancement in cycling as a passing fad, such as new wheel sizes, electronic shifting and carbon fiber frames. If we are honest with ourselves, we realize that much of these criticisms stem from the fact that these technologies may be out of our reach, financially speaking or otherwise. It used to be everytime I walked into a bike shop and looked at a 29er or a carbon fiber road bike, I would walk out with sticker shock. Now, within reason, I entertain the idea of being able to walk into a bike shop and walk out with a brand new bike. There is nothing wrong with being able to keep up with friends on an old, beat up, mended up 26er. There is also nothing wrong with being able to keep up with friends on a 29er or whatever other wheel sizes are out there. The important thing is to have fun on a solid bike that won't unexpectedly break down on the trail. Bikes do wear out over time and when they do, there is nothing wrong with replacing them with the latest technology. Just like there is nothing wrong with getting a high fade pompadour, waxing your mustache and wearing V-neck T-shirts and RayBan sunglasses while drinking a craft beer. If you are that one guy still wearing a Smashing Pumpkins tee shirt under a plaid layer with a chili bowl hair cut, that's cool too. Just know that you are in the wrong decade and will stand out like a sore thumb. It's better to stay current, age with grace and be relatable to your kids when they become teenagers. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

E-Bikes: The Future of Cycling? Why I Think So

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E-Bikes are the future of cycling, here are some reasons why

The Lapierre Overvolt full suspension mountain bike. Picture courtesy of Lapierre Bicycles and Big-Bike Magazine

I'll be the first one to admit that I wasn't a fan of the idea of electric assisted bicycles being used on the trail or on the roads by recreational cyclists. The purist in me wants all my effort to come 100% from me and feels that anything less than that would be cheating. However I have come to the conclusion that this point of view is very narrow minded. E-bikes, although still in their developmental phase, are the future of cycling and will eventually become a popular choice for all cyclists once the trickle down economics come into play and once there is enough R&D in place to make a good product at an affordable price for most people. Let me explain why.

E-bikes appeal to both the competitive and the commuter-recreational cyclist communities. While a commuter might use an e-bike to get around town and keep up with the pace of traffic, a competitive cyclist may have more devious reasons. For example, there are now stealth electric motors that can fit inside the seat tube of the bicycle and connect to the crankset directly, producing as much as 250 watts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, allowing an otherwise novice climber to summit hills like Chris Froome. To put into perspective what 200 watts is on a bicycle, If I held 200 watts for an hour, according to my weight I would average 20 or more miles an hour over varied terrain. 250 watts combined with a rider that can produce around 200 watts is a combined 450 watts of energy, which is what top level athletes can produce on climbs in the Tour De France. It would be enough to summit a 10 kilometer climb in the 30 minute time window that the motor has before it runs out of battery. Here is a demonstration by Greg Lemond of what these stealth motors can do.

Vivax Assist, a German based company sells these motors for a little over $2,000 as well as complete bikes for about four grand. Carrera bicycle company in Italy is also working on an electric assist road bike with the same capabilities. If a competitive cyclist wants a serious advantage over their competition, speed can now be bought for a price and it won't involve taking drugs or doping. This technology would suit the road racer more than the time trialist or the criterium racer, being as the motor can only be engaged for short periods of time when climbing punchy gradients. Minutes can be taken out of competitors with the same fitness level or fitter, as a result.

So would it be cheating if a professional road racer used an electric motor on their bicycle? As long as doping is allowed in professional cycling than the answer, at least in my opinion, is no. The UCI is still turning a blind eye to dopers, such as team Astana which is still allowed to compete even though 5 guys tested positive for banned substances this year. Then there are riders from doping teams moving into teams with a "squeaky clean" reputation. One of Team Sky's claims is that they would never work with a professional if they had a doping past. How about if they have a doping present, or come from a team of dopers? Just throwing that out there, because I personally do not think anyone is absolved of guilt on the professional level. Clean riders shouldn't be subjected to getting dropped in every single race because the competition is dirty. The law of omerta should now be "don't say what I have under my hood, and I won't tell anyone what you have running in your veins, okay?".

Now that we covered competitive cyclists, how about the rest of us? How are E-bikes appealing to the mass population? The answer is simple. The majority of people are inclined to laziness. If there is a more efficient, less physically exerting way of getting the same results or better without putting in as much effort, people generally always choose the easiest route. Why would it be any different when it comes to riding a bike? Another reason that E-Bikes are appealing to the majority of us is because we don't have to go out of our way to ride one. We don't need special clothing, an aerodynamically efficient yet uncomfortable riding position or a 15 pound, $5,000 bicycle. Someone on 50 pound E-bike can be doing the same speeds if not faster than a "serious" cyclist while riding on their bike in their baggy clothing with their kids and a load of groceries in tow and not even breaking a sweat. Who wouldn't want that convenience?

Picture courtesy of

Electric assist bicycles are the great equalizer, not just among cyclists but among all vehicles. One common complaint about cyclists is that they can't keep up with the speed of traffic. The E-bike eliminates this concern and takes the pressure and the perceived responsibility off of the cyclist. While one couldn't pedal one on the freeway yet, an E-bike works well for neighborhood, suburban and country roads, basically anywhere where there are 20 to 35 mile an hour speed limits. 

If I could afford an E-bike like the LaPierre Overvolt pictured at the beginning of the article, I would be setting Strava KOMs all over the place and probably matching or exceeding speeds of the local racers where I live. I would be enjoying the bewildered looks on their faces as I zoom by them up hills. I would definitely be having fun on an E-bike and that is the reason why I think they are the future of cycling.

On a side note, I also wanted to say that this blog is almost six years old. I'm not running out of material to write about, I just don't have the same enthusiasm as I did when I started writing about cycling, restoring old bicycles and other related topics. Starting next year I might update this blog maybe once a month or so. I want to make it a point to focus my mind on other things. I hope this blog has left an imprint on some of my readers and has served for inspiration. I'm no Sheldon Brown, but I have given my 10 cents worth into the small online cycling community.

Monday, November 9, 2015

...And Lest We Forget

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How To Become More Grounded in Our Bike Obsession
By Johnny- A Bicycle's Point of View

When we first get on a bike, we are not paying any attention whatsoever to the machine that is below our seat. Our objective is simple, to get from one place to another while exercising. Along the way, some of us start to pay attention to the nuances of the experience. We start describing our rides as harsh, compliant, fast, slow, labored and the list goes on and on. In our search for a heightened and more enlightened cycling experience, we start to shell out the dollars on parts, components and eventually complete bikes that in our minds will bring us closer to the desired outcome. Some of us are collectors by nature, some with addictive personalities that get consumed by our hobbies and passions. Some of us are trying to fill a void left empty by the absence of an important person in our lives. Bike riding to some may replace an experience that otherwise would have involved a mother, a father, a brother or a sister. We cling on to the one thing that makes everything else not matter while we are doing it. The mental, emotional and physical escape from life is a welcome relief at times, especially when things aren't going particularly our way. Loss of a job or unemployability, a forced living situation, loss of financial or emotional independence can make bike riding even more important for some of us. We come to see the world in two halves, when we are riding a bike and when we do not.

Some of us take it a step further and research everything there is to know about cycling, from the professional sporting side of cycling to the mechanics involved to finely tune and calibrate our machines. Some of us end up owning every tool you could find at a local bike shop and some of us even become bike mechanics by trade. Steel, spokes, wires and rubber all of the sudden become mobile art projects rather than the transportation tools they were originally intended for. Satisfaction only comes when we can take a rusted pile of bike and turn it into a shiny bicycle that rides like new. Our appetites are satiated only momentarily, then it's on to the next project. Some of us spend our winter months in our garages, fixing every $20 bicycle we picked up earlier in the year. Some try to sell our projects to our friends, in the often vain attempt to get them involved in our world. More than anything, some of us want to be understood by those closest to us, not realizing that we are the ones who have strayed from reality. While we have a window into their world, they can only see a mirror into ours.  

So why am I writing this? Because Bike Obsession is something that a lot of cyclists have. Heck, if you found this blog on a Google search, chances are you too are as obsessed about bicycles as I am. Bike Obsession has been well documented throughout the blogosphere and even in literature, just read "Need For The Bike" by Paul Fournel and you'll see what I'm talking about.  But is all that obsession healthy?

Sometimes we need to go back to square one and remember why we started riding a bike in the first place. The bike has always only been just a machine, a means to an end. No matter how much we romanticize it, nothing can change that fact. It's hard to look at our passion objectively, but we will miss out on the here and now if we are not at least a little bit pragmatic. It's like dating a beautiful woman who is physically divine and all you want to do is paint her on a canvas and worship her beauty. She might have flaws about her that you are willing to ignore or worse yet, she might not be as much into you as you are into her. You can lose years of your life if you do not see someone for who they really are, not as you imagine them to be. Likewise good relationships can be ruined and good experiences can be left out of our lives if we impose our need to always be on our bikes instead of enjoying our time with others. That may require us to bend our will to the activities they enjoy doing. Just remember that relationships are give and take and one day you might have a new biking buddy if you are willing to be a friend first. The bicycle is only there to connect the dots in between, a vessel to transport us to and from meaningful activities, people and places. After all, it's only a machine and a means to an end.

An Open Letter For Those Plagiarizing Off My Blog

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To Whom it May Concern,

 I'm glad you are a fan of my work and display almost all of my blog posts on your website. What I am not happy with is the fact that you are claiming authorship to my material. You are in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and my intellectual property rights. You know I don't have the money to sue you, as you do not have the money to lawyer up in case I call you out by name on my blog (which I'm really struggling not to do, by the way). I could report you to the governmental agencies that deal with intellectual property theft, but I am not that high minded about my work nor do I possess in my literature anything ground breaking or Nobel Peace Prize winning. I'm just a guy who writes a bike blog about bikes as a hobby and as a passion. You know that and exploit it to the fullest, copying and pasting my images and articles without linking back to my webpage or naming the source from where you got the information you acquired. Then you have the audacity to tell others not to copy and paste your articles on their pages in your disclosure policy.

Along with my work, you have used other sources from prominent bloggers in the bike blog community. For example, you have copied and pasted several articles from "Lovely Bicycle!" which I'm sure you will have to answer for once the original author of that blog finds out. They will probably not be as lenient as I am, especially if they are writing a blog for a living.

If you really look up to me as an author, feel free to keep using my material, but quote me as a source and link directly back to my original posts.

I'm going to give you a pass because when I type the name of your blog in Google search, my blog is the second one on the search results list that shows up and your blog is nowhere to be seen. That is the irony of someone who is not creative enough to come up with their own material and tries to profit off others's talent.


Jonathan a.k.a "Johnny" Guzman

A Bicycle's Point Of View

P.S- Consider this also a cease and desist letter.

Friday, October 16, 2015

October Ramblings and a Little Bit About Everything

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October Rambings: It's still summer in Texas, back to mountain biking and why 
I've been riding a fixie lately.

In a few days, the weather pattern will change and then we will be complaining why it's so freakishly cold here in Texas. For now, we are still getting high's in the 90's, although mornings are a lot cooler than they were a few months ago. Texas weather changes in an instant. Many times trees here do not get to show off their fall colors before a cold snap comes and shakes all the leaves off of them. Winters in Texas are very hard. They are as cold as up north but usually without the snow and the general wintertime ambience. What we do get in the winter here in texas are strong winds, cold winds, howling winds. Wind gusts that can easily knock someone off of their bike if they are riding out in the countryside. In short, I'm not looking forward to the upcoming weather, but it is a part of life and if I manage to dodge getting bronchitis this year I'll consider it a good winter.

A few years back I wrote an article about fixed gear bikes.  Although I'd like to point out that I was mostly accurate about everything I said in the article, I also made an error in judgement. I portrayed fixed gear bikes in a mostly negative light and made implications that those who ride fixies are reckless adrenaline junkies that don't really care about cycling. In doing so I dismissed a whole movement, a whole subculture that took place in the mid-aughts right underneath our noses. What's worse is that most of the guys who really took to riding fixed gear bikes are around my age. I got into cycling a different way, riding geared racing bikes with the older demographic of Sunday club riders. Fixed gear riders didn't need Lance Armstrong or Phil Liggett to tell them that cycling was cool. While many of them were tricksters and rode their bikes like I use to ride my skateboard, fixies got many young people on bikes that ended up being really good cyclists. When I worked at a bike shop, the strongest riders in the shop all rode on fixed gear bikes. All of them could hold 20mph averages and had good climbing and sprinting ability. Maybe I should have been racing alleycat races instead of training for the Hotter N' Hell, or working on my track standing ability instead of obsessing over bike components and weight. So recently I bought a fixed gear bike, and it has been almost exclusively the bike that I use when I do road riding. It's a bike that leaves my thighs reeling in pain, and I get more fitter doing shorter distances on my fixie than longer distances on my geared bikes, even if my average speed is higher on the geared bikes. Fixed geared bikes also have an advantage in that they are the only road bikes that come with traditional geometry someone can buy new. In a sea of compact frame options, only a handful of manufacturers are making steel and traditional frame geometry bicycles. Those that do charge north of $2,000 for a bike, but the fixed equivalent of the same bike can be had for $400-$500 brand new. Putting it that way, fixed gear bikes have the biggest bang for the buck.

With the shorter days and the cooling weather its time to take the mountain bikes out of the shed and hit the local area trails. I have already started doing one or two mountain bike rides a week. When the cold wind gusts get unbearable, I will probably be exclusively riding in the woods on my mountain bike, where at least I will be shielded by the trees. I'm looking forward to more mountain biking adventures in the coming months.

Stay tuned for more "ramblings" from A Bicycle's Point of View.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Secret To Averaging 19mph on a Bike

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Tips and Tricks to Becoming a Faster Recreational Cyclist

Not Trying to toot my own horn here, but a few times a year I belong to the 19+mph club.

Why 19mph? Why not set a 20+mph average speed as a personal goal? First of all, because I only speak from experience. In all of my 8 or more years of cycling recreationally, I have yet to do a 20mph average speed on a ride, group or solo. I have soloed 18 to 19mph riding alone doing distances of over 20 miles. Second of all, anyone averaging over 20mph on a solo ride or in a group setting has improved to a whole other level. Averaging 20+mph consistently on long rides sets the rider up for racing and holding 24mph averages in criteriums. The difference between an 18-19mph average and a 20mph average is what separates the riders from the racers in the cycling world.  I have enough experience to offer suggestions to my readers on at least how to get to my level, which has taken me a long time (maybe a little too long) to achieve. For those of my readers new to cycling, this article is for you. My hope is that anyone looking to get faster on a bike will have an accelerated learning curve by following the tips and suggestions that I offer.

Rule #1: Pay Your Dues: There are no shortcuts to building endurance, because endurance is how well we manage pain. For the first time rider or even the veteran rider, that means getting out on your bike regularly. Even with regular amounts of cycling, speed comes in stages and there will be plateaus both physically as well as in overall performance. Plateaus don't generally last long, as long as the cyclist is willing to push through them. Averaging 16 to 17mph is a plateau most people can't or don't want to overcome. That is because they are either content with their speed or don't have the time or the energy to go a little farther out on their rides and push a little harder. Paying your dues in cycling means holding on to pacelines on group rides knowing that you will inevitably fall off the pace and get dropped. It involves overcoming discouraging experiences being willing to go through the same experiences again the next  time. Mental fortitude is as important as physical gains (maybe even more so) when trying to improve one's performance, especially when it comes to cycling.

Rule#2: Ride Hills, Ride them Hard: Hills are natural intervals we encounter while out riding. While many cyclists dread going up hills and generally avoid them on their routes, I say embrace them. Hills are  a part of life. In life, we have our ups and downs. Whatever doesn't keep us down makes us stronger individuals the next time we have to pick ourselves up. Successful cyclists approach hills the same way they approach life. I'm not trying to get philosophical here, but most 16mph cyclists don't ride hills, they cruise on flat terrain thinking that they are going fast.  They are content to take the easy approach to riding, therefore many of them are fat or potbellied and don't look good in Lycra. Want to be a fine and fit cyclist? Ride hills. Don't just look at hills as part of the ride or a mere obstacle to overcome, look at hills as the main event. When approaching a hill, the objective to should be to give it as much gas up the hill as possible. This doesn't always mean getting into your climbing gears, either. To build strength up the hills, it's best to practice climbing them on a harder gear than you would normally do otherwise. Use the time not climbing hills to recover, riding tempo while you approach the next hill. While descending skills are important, climbing skills are even more so and merit the most attention. The foundation of  a cyclist's speed and endurance is made going up and down hills.

Rule#3: Ride Some More Hills on your Fixie: "What?!?!? Blasphemy!" One might say. "A fixie for training?" Yes, and let me explain why. Fixed geared bikes have their purpose. Their purpose is not to be used for posing around campus trying to look cool or to be in the next Macaframa video. Although skidding is a neat trick on a fixed geared bike that is not all a fixed gear bike is intended to do. Actually, a fixed geared bike is sort of a bonus tool that a cyclist can possess in building leg muscle and perfecting pedaling technique and timing. 

My new fixed gear bike is giving me impressive results when I hop back on my regular bikes. Note the brakes on the bike. I'm crazy but I'm not stupid. ;)

On a fixed geared bike, backpedaling is an essential skill that not only helps control speeds going downhill but also builds strength in the hamstring region of the thigh. Most cyclists boast impressive quads and many overdevelop their quads to the point of looking like track sprinters. The hamstrings are just as important to exercise as they activate more quickly than quads when climbing. So while the gear ratio can't change on a fixed geared bike, a fixed geared bike has the potential to make someone a better climber. A fixed geared bike is also a great tool for the time crunched cyclist because a big workout can be had in a shorter distance than on a regular 20 mile ride. So if you already have a geared bike and want an awesome training bike that can be used to run errands or to sit on your trainer in the wintertime, get a fixie. Preferably buy a purpose built track bike like the one in the picture rather than hacking up a classic 80's frame just to make it a fixed gear. Oh yeah, and use brakes if you want to stop.

Rule #4: Exercise off the bike: All the fast guys that I ride with are triathletes. When I say fast, I mean regular 20+mph cyclists.  The secret to their speed is that they are working out all parts of their bodies; their upper bodies while swimming, their abs when running and their legs when cycling. So what if you, like me, are not a triathlete and are not inclined to run? You can still find another sport away from cycling that engages the body in another way. Playing soccer, skateboarding and playing basketball are all complete cardio workouts that don't involve repetitive running or swimming laps, but have the same positive benefits. Hiking trails is a great way to get out in nature while getting the same benefits of running. 

These are my tricks and "cheats" to becoming a faster cyclist. If I could add one more it would be to make it interesting, not boring, not a chore for you or your loved one. However, don't do it just enough to hate it. Stay consistent, and you will see results. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hotter N' Hell 2015: How Did it Go?

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The 2015 Hotter N' Hell Hundred

Carlos (Center of the photo) finished the ride in 5:10, Levi (Left hand side) came in 10 minutes after me (on the Right). I finished the ride with an elapsed time of 5:38 and a moving time of 5:10.

With the hot month of July we had this year, I thought this year's Hotter N' Hell was going to be a scorcher. Well, it was, in the sense that I am now officially a "Scorcher", or a sub 6 hour century rider. The actual temperature itself averaged in the low 80's, freakishly cool for this time of year in what is supposed to be the hottest part of the country right now.  I am by no means complaining that it wasn't hot enough. You see the guy in the blue, long sleeved jersey in the photo above? Yep, that's me, dressed up trying to protect myself from the sun. The cool, overcast and breezy day kept me fresh on the bike and contributed to my performance.

The first 50 miles of the race, as opposed to last year's Hotter N' Hell, were the hardest.  The roads were so bumpy that even my Selle SMP TRK saddle didn't help to take the edge off the harshness of the ride. I rode the last couple of miles to the 50 mile rest stop standing on my pedals and cramping. At the rest stop, I ate a hot dog and knocked back a few bottles of pickle juice. That might sound disgusting, but after 15 minutes the cramping started to go away. My cramps were so bad that I had to slowly remount and pedal the bike once I was on my way. The pickle juice basically saved me from falling off the pace, maybe even from ending my ride early.

At the starting line.

The 50 mile rest stop.

I rode the rest of the ride at my own pace and wasn't even looking at my average speed until the end of the ride. I caught several pacelines on the way to the finish, dropping back whenever I needed to recover or when I needed a swig of water. I  only stopped one other time at the 85 mile mark, because I had run out of water by that point. I tried to fill up my bottles as quickly as I could and was off to the finish line.

This year was about breaking my personal record, as well as redemption for having been the last among my friends to cross the finish line. I not only broke my record by over two hours but I now can start at the front of the race with all of the other "Scorchers" should I decide to do this again next year. The Hotter N' Hell is basically the one event a year we non-professional riders can aspire to. It's a great event and a bucket list item if you are a cyclist living in Texas that takes riding seriously. If you have a fleeting interest in the sport then this ride is not for you. This race is tough, even though this year it wasn't particularly hot, cyclists still had to turn the pedals for a 100 miles to finish it. Last year we had temperatures around 103 and headwinds of 20 mph for the last 30 miles of the race. In years like that it takes the entire year to train up for a 100 mile race. I'm glad things worked out the way they did this year, because I have not been training as much as I did last year and in years past. This might very well be the last century ride that I do in August, although next year I'm looking at going to Hotter N' Hell for the triple threat. We'll see what happens next year.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Johnny's Mobile Bicycle Repair

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2016 Update: We just got our service vehicle for mobile repairs!

Readers of my blog already know that I'm an experienced bike mechanic. For the past 6 years, I have been in and around bike shops building bicycles and doing everything from changing flat tires to advanced services like hydraulic disc brake bleeds. The truth is, I live, breathe even bleed bikes. Is that all I'm good at? Readers who follow my blog know the answer to that also. Although I have done photography as a business and have an affinity for drawing, repairing bicycles is the thing that I currently enjoy the most, the thing that I can focus my attention on. I have always been a hands-on kind of guy. I have had office jobs that I have hated and know myself well enough to say I rather work standing up and moving around than sitting down, fixated on a computer screen. That is where the idea of Johnny's Mobile Bike Repair came up.

I actually started brainstorming on this idea almost six months ago, debating the feasibility of working for myself as a home based but traveling bicycle mechanic. I realized that I already possessed most of the tools and the knowledge needed to put the idea into practice. I started advertising a couple of weeks ago and now I'm starting to gain a following on Facebook and from business referrals.

Back in Business! Mobile bike mechanic Servicing the north DFW area and Collin County

The concept is actually pretty simple, one most established bike shops wouldn't even dream of considering. What if the customer didn't have to go to the bike shop? What if the mechanic came to them, picked up their bicycle, fixed it and delivered it back to them within a reasonable amount of time? This is how Johnny's Mobile Bicycle Repair works. In addition, I do concessions for customers with large cargo bicycles to have them repaired on site. In other words, I will at times bring my tools and perform repairs at the customer's home, based on how I see fit. Because it is impossible to haul a garage full of tools everywhere I go, I can only do on site repairs on an as needed basis.  

My shop bench with the tools of the trade.

I have plenty of rack storage to handle a decent sized workload.

So far the reception has been positive and I have had a steady stream of work trickling in. Hopefully this business will grow as more people in the DFW area find out about me. Here are some of the services that I am currently offering.

-Tune ups starting at $50
-Brake bleed services
-Bicycle Restorations
-Parts replacement and install
-Bike builds and tear downs for travelers
-Frame powdercoating
-Rust removal*
-..and much more

I am a full service bicycle shop based in my garage. There is little that I can not do and no part that I can't order. Not having a commercial overhead or a retail business is what allows me to offer my services at competitive prices with a fast turnaround. I encourage all customers to have their parts purchased if they want to replace anything on the bicycle before making an appointment. I stock a variety of basic parts but do not stock bicycle components. I can order anything but that will delay the repair by one to two weeks. 

I have the ability to fix all kinds of bicycles, however my target audience is the adult bicycle market. The parts that I stock are mostly for road bikes and mountain bikes. I can fix cruisers, BMX bikes, recumbents and tandems, however I will have to order parts in to work on those bicycles. I say this to be as transparent as possible to anyone wishing to use my services. 

Find me on Facebook, email me or call me if...

-you love cycling and riding your bike
-you are tired of the turnaround times at your local bike shop
-you resent the overinflated prices being charged to you
-your club needs a wrench and the established shops are ignoring you
-you are an avid mountain biker
-you commute by bike
-you do triathlons
-you are a roadie, fixed geared hipster, old guy on a recumbent, vintage retro-grouch, all of the above, call me if you love to ride whatever bike it may be

If you are this kind of customer, I can definitely help you out. My goal is to grow my business within the dedicated community of cyclists, and give cyclists freedom of choice rather than forcing them to take their bicycles to a bike shop every time they need something fixed on it. No matter what the make and model is on your bicycle, I will not turn down anybody who loves cycling.

 There is a minimum onsite service fee of $50 that I charge every time I go out. This means that the customer must purchase $50 or more worth of services. If the customer purchases a tune-up and that is all they need, the service fee will also cover the cost of the tune-up. Additional gas fees may apply if living outside Collin County.  The turnaround for ordering parts and fixing a bicycle is about two weeks. If parts are not needed, it takes me approximately two hours to perform any extensive repair, about 30 minutes to an hour to perform a basic tune.

*I remove rust on chrome plated parts and components only.

Check out my Facebook page for more information at

Stay tuned for more informative posts from A Bicycle's Point of View.