Saturday, December 28, 2013

Aww Yeeaah! What A Beautiful Day to Ride a Bike!

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Riding in the country on my 1988 Schwinn Le Tour


I don't photograph my rides as much as I should and I really need to start taking my cameras on my rides more. I have seen some breathtaking landscapes that a cell phone picture just can't justify, and in the future I will try to get into the habit of lugging around my real cameras again. This picture, however, did a good job of summing up today's bike ride through the countryside on my old 80's Schwinn Le Tour road bike, the latest edition to my stable of vintage bikes. Today the weather was awesome, 65 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. I rode about 17 miles out to the country and back from my house on this trusty old steel bike with toeclips. This isn't the fastest bike that I own by far, but it is one of the most comfortable bikes that I have. It handled descents that normally feel twitchy on my other bikes with stability and grace. It absorbed all the road imperfections and I didn't feel any soreness despite not riding with gloves or padded shorts today. I felt I got a great workout despite riding in my Vans tennis shoes, jeans, T-shirt and pullover sweater. I definitely did not look like a typical roadie.

I wasn't looking for another bike when this bike came along, In fact, this bike found me through a friend of mine trying to sell the bike that once belonged to her dad. All the bike needed was some new tires, shifter cables and bar wrap and she was ready to go. The chain and freewheel will probably need to be replaced in the near future, but for now I am content to ride it the way it is, despite it's minor imperfections. The squeaky freewheel and the extra weight actually give the bike some character.  I have already dragged my child stroller on it, and it is officially the go to bike for rides with the kid in tow. 

The Schwinn is now the trailer puller, commuter and general workhorse bike.


Pretty soon I will no longer be living near these nice country roads which have offered some captivating scenery over the past three years. From glowing sunrises and rays of light beaming through the trees in the early mornings, to golden and auburn autumns where the monotony of crimson reds and canary yellows is only broken by the deep blue sky and the lake nearby that mirrors it. From dogs chasing me as I ride along fields of wheat and old red barns, to diving into foggy descents on overcast and chilly mornings. These are some of the memories I will treasure from this place, and, who knows, I may come back just to ride out here again. I am more excited about where I will be riding in the future as it holds a good mix of urban cycling with the countryside not that far away. Hopefully the roads will be as hospitable as the ones I am used to riding and hopefully I will be riding more, exploring more. Stay tuned and subscribe for more posts from a Bicycle's Point Of View.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Is Steel Coming Back to the Peloton? Yes it is..yes it is

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The Steel Renaissance is Finally Here! Well, sort of...


It appears someone's ears must have been hurting when I wrote my last few articles about steel bicycles. Apparently a few people in the bike industry finally had the common sense to make a bicycle that I actually want, let alone one that is practical when the tires roll off the smooth tarmac and out into the countryside. Condor and Genesis, companies both based in Britain, have introduced a line of pro-quality steel bicycles that have already made their way into this year's UCI cycling program. 

Picture courtesy of Genesis Bicycles


When watching the Tour Of Britain this year, I noticed what appeared to be steel bikes ridden by the Madison-Genesis team, a wild card team in the tour this year with a lot of young talent. Since my eyes did not believe what I was seeing I figured they were just carbon bicycles that looked like they were made of steel tubing. Months later I have recently discovered that this team was riding on their Reynolds 953 steel equipped flagship model, the Genesis Volare 953 Team. The Madison Genesis team did not win the Tour of Britain this year, however one of their riders did walk away with the jersey for most combative rider. The team has already had victories on this bike in a couple of under 23 events. Genesis has been innovative and forward thinking in designing a bike that can stand the rigors of the spring classics and the Belgian and French cobblestones. 

The Condor Super Acciaio.


Condor has also made strides in introducing their own competitive model, the Super Acciaio. Already ridden my the amateur team Rapha-Conor JLT, this bike is expected to be seen more next year in pro-tour events. 

Are these bikes affordable to the average person? No, these bikes still come at a premium price. However, compare them to a $10k carbon Trek or Specialized and the price of these bikes starts to look much more reasonable. Keep an eye out for these two bike manufacturers which are bringing back to cycling something it has long been missing and in need of, the feel of steel.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Saying Goodbye to a few things for now, and new changes to come

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Saying Goodbye to the Bike Shop, Relocating and Looking at Cycling...Differently



After six months of gainful employment, it is time to say goodbye to my job as a bike mechanic. With a move coming up and a few life's changes to follow, I feel like I have reached the end of the road as regards working at this particular bike shop. I can attribute this feeling to several things, but mainly due to the fact that I have reached a point where I am content just being the cyclist I am. I own all the bikes I would ever want or need and I have all my own tools to do maintenance on them when they break down. I have also reached a critical point where I have hit the glass ceiling at my current place of employment. Because of the push to be a retail shop more than an actual bicycle shop, I feel like I am wasting my potential and am not using  my skill sets as a mechanic to the fullest. I also feel that the shop where I am currently working pushes the carbon fiber, spandex clad roadie image to all of it's customers by not selling a good variety of mid range to upper end road bikes. Being that our bike shop caters to many first time consumers, many customers walk away on bicycles that don't suit them, only to return them a year later, causing the store a huge profit loss because their return policy is so lenient. 

To me the realization came as I was selling a customer on purchasing a bicycle he was interested in. Although he really liked the bicycle, I knew that because the way the bicycle was designed it would not give him the comfort that he was looking for. It was a bicycle that I myself would never own or ride, but since I was in the position that I had to sell him something, I tried to pitch the sale as best as I could but failed to sound genuine about it. That is when I stopped and asked myself "What am I doing here. working a part time gig at a bike shop, barely making back my gas money and toll fees to get here and then pretending like customers actually need bikes like these?"


Had the customer been me, I would have sold him on a steel touring bike with braze-ons for racks which is that this customer in reality really needed. Instead he was considering an unforgivably rigid carbon fiber road bike that was going to aggravate all of the back and wrist pains he was already complaining to me about. The problem is, my store doesn't sell steel road bikes. How am I supposed to steer someone to make the right purchasing decision for them if the bike shop doesn't even carry the bicycle that they need?


Once the job is no longer fun and there is no opportunity for advancement, financially or otherwise, it's really time to move on. That's where I am at.  I am ready for a new start, doing something different. I would love to continue to work as a bike mechanic, but I can't work somewhere where I can't make a living doing it. And to me I'm at a point where if that is the case I'm fine with that, in fact I prefer it that way. Business should be business and pleasure should be pleasure.


Coming up is a new move into a really nice, bike friendly community, and a chance at a new start there. Hopefully the move brings new friends and new experiences that I am looking forward to having with my in-laws in our soon to be shared residence. Hopefully the cost of living savings will allow us to put funds aside for traveling and having more bicycling experiences abroad. Hopefully I will have a rental property up and running soon which will bring in some income to compensate for my not working at a bike shop. There are a lot of new things going on in my life as of the moment, these are exciting times for me right now. Cycling is taking a smaller window in the whole scenario, I no longer feel it deserves the same level of importance to the point where I have to work at a bike shop, unless it's a professional shop with respectable pay. I need to start pedaling more slowly, letting my wife catch up as I pull along a child trailer and spend more time on the bike with my family. Either way, I'm too slow for pace-lining roadies and I am too fast for the Grant Petersen or Jan Heine touring types. I'm stuck somewhere in the middle, riding on what a lot of people consider ancient technology, ripping up and down country roads with no agenda, no training schedule in mind. Riding a bike because I feel like it, because it makes me happy. I ride a bike because I like the way my legs look when I wear shorts, because after every ride I have dumped my stress load on the side of the road, and my mind is focused. Few people will ever understand the commitment I have to riding and the relationship I have with my bicycle. I know few people that are as passionate about cycling as I am, even fewer among are my friends. As long as I am mobile, I believe cycling will always be a part of me. For now, I say goodbye to working in the industry, reading cycling magazines, and trying to keep up with the latest trends. I'm not going to write off working in the bicycle industry again and I already have some job leads that I am following up on. I am also saying goodbye to continuously buying, trading, reselling or restoring bicycles. I have a couple of restorations left that I haven't sold off yet, I will restore those and perhaps motorize a bicycle.  I really don't have the time to keep doing restorations as frequently as I used to. I honestly don't have very much more time for blogging. But never fear, my beloved readers, if I am not blogging about something on my computer, it's usually because I am enjoying myself in real life, so take comfort in that. My plan is from here on out to enjoy the bikes I already own, to make new adventures with my family, and to let my readers in on what I am doing, every once in a while. Keep subscribing to my posts, but keep the rubber side down in between my articles, as I will be doing the same.





Thursday, November 14, 2013

John's 1983 Schwinn Varsity Deluxe Refurbishment

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My 1983 Schwinn Varsity Deluxe Project, putting
the bike up to date.


After and full overhaul and regreasing and replacing some parts, John now has a great little bicycle his daughter will enjoy.  Alot of parts were brought up to date and some parts were even replaced with parts I had extra from other Schwinn restorations I have done. Here's a couple of before and after photos.

 New brake pads and tires...



New cables


 New chain and and a re greased crankset


The bike now looks better and rides a lot better too. If you have a bicycle that is in need of repair, and live in the Dallas metro area, drop me an email and I will see what I can do. Thanks again for subscribing to A Bicycle's Point Of View.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Atala on a Budget

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My new Bicycle, My Atala Build

After having sold my Raleigh Sport road bike along with a few other bikes and things to clear out the garage and supplement some much needed income at the time, I started to miss having a bicycle that was fairly new ( meaning less than 10 years old). I wanted a bicycle where I could start anew, something upgradable and something in the steel variety.

I had a few parts lying around in the garage and saw no need to buy a whole new bike with all the components already on it.  So I went on eBay and purchased this new old stock Atala bicycle frame which I then built up myself.

By the way, I love eBay and I love PayPal. The bill the later feature allowed me to finance this frame over the course of six months, not bad to pay off a frame a little over $300.

The wheelset, brakes, saddle, stem, handlebars and headset were all items that I either had from other bikes or that were given to me on trades and other small parts purchases. On a previous post I said I would not be going back to brifters, but every man has his price. When a coworker offered to sell me his brifters, crankset and rear derailleur for $25 I went for it. I ended up replacing the crankset with an ISIS drive crankset from eBay due to bottom bracket compatibility issues. I could not get a JIS crankset to work with the Italian bottom bracket I already had, so I went full ISIS drive. The rear cassette had to be adapted with a spacer to work with the 7 speed shifting. I purchased the chain, tires, tubes, rim liner, handlebar wrap and shifter boss adapters from the bike shop were I work at. Nearly $200 in parts later, I now have a complete bicycle.

So how does it ride, $500 later? The bike is very smooth and pedaling and shifting is effortless. On my usual 20 mile, hilly ride I hardly had to get out of my 53 tooth font chainring, and felt like I could have done the whole ride on my large chainring. The shorter chain stays allowed me to pedal up hill with a higher gear ratio than I would normally do otherwise. Despite their reputation for failure, the Shimano RSX shifters shifted on a dime making the bike ride like a champ. 

But how does this bike compare, to say, My Woodrup? The Woodrup is definitely the nicer riding bicycle. The steel is more springy and I hardly feel the road under my feet. For a steel frame, the Atala is very stiff. Not jarring stiff, but noticeably stiffer than my Woodrup. The frame is made from Dedacciai Zero Tre tubing, so one would expect a really nice ride quality from this bike, Italian tubing and all. The ride quality is comparable to 4130 Cromoly steel. The frame was so stiff that I did a magnet test to see if it indeed was a steel frame. The bike feels solid, but the fork hardly has any give and doesn't shock absorb as well as my Woodrup. I'm glad I decided on using 700x25 tires on this bike, otherwise I would feel the road imperfections even more so.  This is my only beef with the bike, that I could have bought a used Reynolds 531 frame for the same price or even a complete Fuji Connoisseur bike, also with Reynolds tubing.

I plan to make this bike work for me. Even if I don't do anything more than ride around for recreation, it is a good bike to cross train on. I feel the frame supports by body well and that I can keep it around for a long time and come out even if I ever want to sell it. Soon I plan on commuting on my bicycle more and it will be a nice bike to have around for that purpose. I can ride the Atala hard on the weekdays and relegate the Woodrup as my Sunday bike.

I feel like overall I really got a good deal out of this bike. $500 isn't chump change, but there is nothing out there at the moment cycling wise that can compare at that price point. Hundreds more could have been spent if I didn't have all those parts to build up the bike with. Therefore, I still feel like I built this on a budget, since I only had to come up with $200 up front. $500 all at once would have put a real dent in my finances, so I'm glad I went this route, even though I had other alternatives to choose from. Hopefully this is the beginning of many new and happy memories on my Atala.

Check out some more pictures for eye candy and subscribe to get more informative posts from a Bicycle's Point of View.  

Shimano RSX 7 Speed drivetrain and Vuelta ISIS drive crankset



Cinelli Handlebars and Stem. Shimano RSX Brifters, probably from the 90's

I didn't compromise on the saddle, it's Brooks or nothing

Sunday, November 3, 2013

John's 1983 Schwinn Varsity Deluxe Restoration

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I recently started a restoration project for a customer of mine named John. This bike will be a present for his little girl, who will soon be big enough to ride it. This restoration involves a good detailing and regreasing of all the parts, so it is more like refurbishing to like new condition than a full restoration that would involve repainting or re-decaling.


John's bike is unique in that it has 24 inch tires and a freewheeling crankset and a fixed freewheel. This bike is also equipped with Shimano Positron shifting,  which uses an indexed rear derailleur. The purpose of Shimano Positron was to be able to shift gears without pedaling. The idea was soon abandoned in 1984, when Shimano revolutionized the bike industry with indexed shifters.

This will be a nice little project and I will post updates on my progress. Here's a couple of pictures of what I have done so far.
Freewheeling crankset actually uses a freewheel inside the crankset rather than on the rear wheel of the bike.
24 inch tires were common with youth's lightweight bikes of the 70's and 80's

Shimano Positron shifting came with a solid shifting cable and an indexed rear derailleur.


Repacking: Crankset and bearings are removed and ready to be degreased

Crankset and hardware before degreasing

Degreasing using Simple Green solution, an all natural degreaser that is free of harmful chemicals


I use chrome polish on all chrome parts to clean out the grime and surface rust on the bike.
  
Some more notes on this restoration: by 1983 Schwinn had apparently abandoned the S-5 rim as the Schwinn 547 rim diameter tires that I purchased for this wheel did not fit well on the rim and popped off. I will have to reorder some standard 24 inch tires with the 540 rim diameter, similar to what some wheelchairs use. This is an important observation as I could not find any information online about this previously.

Thanks to Hugh's Bike Blog about the tip for using chrome polish to clean and restore chrome finishes. Stay tuned and subscribe for more posts from a bicycle's point of view.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Why I will never go back to brifters

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My Move away from Brifters, and why I won't be coming back to them.


At first glance, this title might sound retro-grouchy, even draconian towards the use of new technology. I might make readers assume that I refuse to see the benefits and performance gains that new components, such as brifters are offering cyclists. In part, that is true, and I won't deny my personal preference on the matter. However, I have found that after almost a year of riding a bike without brifters, or integrated shifters and brakes, I am now ready to leave them behind altogether. I have seen my riding technique improve dramatically since riding my new-old Woodrup steel bike, this summer attaining an average speed of 18 miles an hour, something I haven't done in a really long time since previous years past.



Riding in a modern day group ride or a criterium race, and you will constantly hear the clicking of gears, even going up or down the slightest elevation change. The ever increasing number of speeds on a rear cassette means riders really don't know what to set their gear ratios to. Riding with downtube shifters has made me realize how much of a handicap brifters are in covering up errors in one's riding and shifting technique. There are several component changes that have come up in recent years, such as the compact crankset, where riders don't even have to shift to the small chainring when climbing with the gear range they have on their rear cassettes. Most cyclists here in my area will not shift to the lower chainring for climbing, and I find that many of them churning their pedals slowly up hills, standing off of their saddles as they ungracefully climb to the tops of them. 

Prior to this year I was one of those cyclists that could sprint well but could be overtaken over a long distance by others who knew how to conserve their energy. Cycling is all about energy conservation and efficiency, and how to outperform other cyclists while using less effort. Through owning a bike with downtube shifters my pedal stroke while climbing has improved, I am able to pedal smoothly and efficiently up hills while passing other struggling cyclists, and my times have improved by almost two miles an hour. By not falling back on a wide range rear cassette ( I am currently riding a 7 speed 12-21 freewheel) and not having brifters, I have learned how to push through harder gears that I would have normally shifted down from, as well as to use my smaller chainring while climbing and calculating the terrain changes and adjusting my gear ratios accordingly.

I would compare the learning experience of riding a bike with downtube shifters with my experience in photography. My first photography class was a black and white photography class where we used traditional film cameras and developed our own prints. If it weren't for that class, I would have never developed an interest in photography. Just like a traditional photography class taught me the principles of lighting, shutter speed and lens aperture, the traditional downtube shifter bicycle has taught me the principles of shifting on a bike. It makes me want to ride my bike all the more, at a time when my interest in cycling in general waned a little bit, because of no longer having aspirations to do any serious racing (you can thank the Lance Armstrong culture for that). I might show up to a few races in the future, but it will be on my retro bike with downtubes. I will still try to place if I race again, though I am not realistically expecting to do so. So the serious intent isn't there anymore. Neither is the obsession with carbon fiber groupsets or $10,000.00 bikes.

By the way, did I mention that riding a bike with downtube shifters is way more fun than riding one with brifters? Learning how to coordinate a shift with one hand on the handlebar and another one on the shifter will be a challenge at first, but then it becomes one fluid, natural movement. Since downtube shifters are less accessible than brifters, the need to shift will be less and the rider will learn the gear that they will need to be in before they shift. 

I am now selling the very first road bike that I purchased new, my 2007 Raleigh Sport road bike with brifters. Anyone living in the Dallas metro area is welcome to it for 250 bucks.  Any takers?



Editor's note: Since I wrote this article, I acquired a lovely, new-old-stock steel Atala frame and equipped it with a pair of Shimano RSX brifters a co-worker sold to me for 25 bucks. Being the most economical option at the time to use brifters instead of downtube shifters, the brifters have stayed on the bike and I now once again have a bike with brifters, only that it is steel and that it is my size as well. Whatever you ride, love it because you use it, not because it cost you a lot of money.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fall Is Here!

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Picture courtesy of Bike 198 www.bike198.com


Finally, fall has arrived to this arid part of the world. This morning I was able to put on a light sweater and get a ride in before work today! It was a beautiful day to ride my 18 mile route across the countryside. I averaged slower than normal, however I was also taking in the breeze of the cool morning. For the next three and a half months, we will have some great weather for cycling here in Texas. More posts to follow, now get on your bikes and ride!

Friday, September 13, 2013

How To Make It In Fort Worth

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Ft.Worth, the "other" city across Dallas-and what you need to do to live there.


Fort Worth really is a beautiful city. It's not a fake kind of beauty that you can guise behind a fancy bridge with white arches or a pretty city skyline. It has never been a problem for me to walk the streets of Fort Worth at night. I know that I am safe and I feel safe as well. Fort Worth has an impressive arts district, parks, museums and miles of bike trails. In short, Fort Worth gets me, and then again it doesn't. Once a resident among it's city limits, I had to abandon this city 7 years ago to get a job, find a wife, and ultimately move forward in life which I wasn't able to do in Fort Worth, as hard as I tried.

I must have handed out about 100 or more resumes in my early 20's. I was an educated, energetic and hard working young man ready to do whatever anyone asked of me (I still am, by the way ;) ). I don't know why so many companies in Fort Worth turned me down. I still believe that there is an unspoken social (maybe even ethnic) bias in Fort Worth that makes it's way into the workforce. There was no reason for employers not to give me a chance. Retrospectively, I knew others who were able to find success and were able to stay within the confines of Fort Worth's city limits. Here's how they did it, and how you too might make it in Fort Worth.

Go To School

This isn't a guarantee for employment, but having a college degree will improve your chances at finding a job that can pay the bills there. Look for opportunities in heath care, paralegal assistance, information technology, graphic design and computer aided drafting. Baylor is a major employer of many health care professionals in Fort Worth, and health care jobs are always in demand. To live comfortably, try to acquire at least an associates level degree if considering making the move to Fort. Worth.

Be Your Own Boss

Tradesmen seem to have it pretty good in Fort Worth from what I have personally witnessed. Some successful friends of mine were able to make ends meet by becoming landscapers, carpenters, carpet cleaners and installers, door installers, and home re modelers. There is no shame in hard work, if you want to live in Fort Worth, that is.

Work at the Airport

If you don't have an two year college education, and no trade skills to speak of, the next step to making it in Fort Worth is to work at the airports nearby. Alliance airport is home to two major courier companies and DFW airport has several air freight and logistics warehouses. Keep in mind that working at an airport is hard work, requires working crazy shifts and it does not pay a lot of money. Jobs at the airport start around nine dollars an hour, and can pay up to fifteen in some companies. Paired with a second job or someone else splitting the bills, it might be possible to get by on an airport salary. I wouldn't do it long term, especially with a family in tow.

Work Outside of Fort Worth

Dallas has more work opportunities and more industries to choose from. Even the retail jobs pay better in Dallas. A fry cook at In And Out Burger starts making $10.50 an hour, which is unheard of in Fort Worth last I checked. I work at a bike shop and it's enough to supplement our family income for the time being. Companies are fair about the hiring process, and will at least call you in for an interview, even if your skill sets aren't top notch. My first legitimate job in Dallas was in Technical Support, where I learned on the job many of the computer and software skills I have today. I was also  given the opportunity to work in the health care field for two years as a monitor technician. 

Living in Fort Worth with a job in Dallas will be a challenge. The commute from city to city is about an hour each way. Traffic construction between cities is the worst I have seen in over 20 years of living in this area. Because of the nightmare traffic, many people who live in Fort Worth will eventually move to Dallas to save on gas and to reduce their stress levels. With a comparable cost of living between the two cities, it's no surprise that Dallas continues to keep getting transplants from Fort. Worth, myself included.

In conclusion, I miss the idea of Fort Worth. I miss being close to a city where I didn't have to leave town to get to where I wanted to go. I miss having everything I enjoy in one zip code. I miss a being in a city that is walkable at any hour of the day. Unfortunately, through no fault of my own, Fort Worth lost this citizen who did everything possible to make an honest living within it's boarders. No matter what I did to stay, it just wasn't good enough. I wasn't part of the social clique that makes up the Fort Worth elite. In Dallas, however, I found the value I knew I always had, as an individual and as a contributor to the community. That doesn't mean that it is impossible to live in Fort Worth, and it doesn't mean that I might not one day try to live there again, however things have to change. Fort Worth needs to find a way to hold on to the companies headquartered there. They also need to welcome more entrepreneurs and small businesses into their downtown area. Allowing artisans and musicians to perform in the streets on saturday nights was generating a lot of business, they need to start doing that again. With more economic diversity and transparent hiring practices, Fort Worth can be everything that Dallas is not. However, there needs to be a way to put food on the table that is accessible to everyone. Without that, Fort Worth will never outgrow or outclass Dallas, and will continue struggling economically and keep losing more residents each year. Betsy Price, if you're reading this, I hope you're taking notes.




Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Where did all the time go?

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Finding time for bike riding is not as easy as it used to be.

It's 1:40am and I just finished replacing a brake cable on my rigid 26er mountain bike. It seems that my days are always ending real late and the only time that I can find to ride or work on my bicycles is at really odd hours, either at the crack of dawn or late into the night. Only a few years ago I was riding 3 times a week, 30 miles at a time on a regular basis. Now it's a  struggle to fit 18 mile rides twice a week into my schedule. 

Where does all the time go? Between my part time job, raising a kid and my other obligations, bike riding is seeing a real slim piece of the pie nowadays. With fall approaching, daylight hours are also being reduced, so I will have to ride at night if I want to ride during the week. Not a problem, other that this will mean driving 25 minutes to my in law's house so they can babysit my kid. My 3 year old is still too little to go with me on really long rides, and my car will not hold all my riding gear as well as his. 

I'm also getting to a point where I just want to ride for fitness, and realize that I am light years away from being in any competitive form. With the little time that I can dedicate to cycling, it will probably stay that way until my son starts school. In the meantime, I have to be there for my kid and not be an absentee cycling father who's always on his bike. A part of me wants to be self-centered, then I realize how narcissistic and big headed that is.

I love cycling, I wish I could do it all the time and be in great shape. I probably would be in great shape if I rode my bike everyday. However I also believe in priorities, and until that day comes when I can get an eight hour a day break to be a competitive cyclist I am just going to have to keep fitting cycling into the open gaps in my schedule.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Are 26 Inch High End Bikes Dissappearing?

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The demise of 26 inch mountain bikes and entry level full suspension bikes, and what the market wants to push down our throats now.


I recently came across an observation while working at the bike shop that there were no high end 26 inch mountain bikes for sale. All the top models are now featured in the 29er variety, one of three new wheel diameter sizes introduced to the market in recent years. The other size, 650b, is virtually the same wheel size as a 26 inch wheel only differing in two milometers.  Rumor has it that soon my shop will sell an altogether new wheel diameter size that will be introduced to the market by next year. 27.5 inch wheels will soon become the middle child of this latest wheel diameter craze, smaller than a 29er but larger than a 650b size wheel. With so many new wheel sizes being introduced the trusty 26er bike is given the backseat my most major bicycle manufacturers nowadays. 26 inch models are now featuring low end components and are becoming mountain bikes designed with the path and pavement crowd in mind. It seems that if someone wants a serious mountain bike, 26 inches are no longer an option. But why?


Why fix something if it ain't broken? What was wrong with 26 inch mountain bikes in the first place? For over 15 years, the only mountain bikes I have ever owned have been 26ers. I never had a problem with my 26 inch bike. The smaller wheel size always made for stronger wheelsets that could take the abuse of a rigid fork. Replacement parts were always easy to find from tubes, wheels and forks for 26 inch bikes. It is still the most common wheel diameter in the world, so if my mountain bike were to brake down on me while traveling, I would have a better chance of getting it fixed abroad. So why do so many manufacturers inadvertently want to get rid of 26 inch bikes?


Some bikes are so well made that they can last years, even decades or rigorous abuse, before finally falling apart.  Mountain bikes, namely good quality earlier models, are an example of this. Besides a flat repair and an occasional chain replacement, these bikes will take a beating and keep coming back for more. The fact that some of these bikes are so well made has become a problem  for the bike industry to keep selling new bikes to people when their old bikes work just fine. At the same time cycling has increased in popularity in the last few years, drawing in a crowd of new consumers who are none the wiser about which wheel size will suit them the best. So now the whole bicycle industry is capitalizing on this, selling consumers on the advantages of 29 inch bikes, whether those advantages are real or not. It's hard to ignore the  incredible claims spewing out the mouths of industry professionals who sold out their own companies to the darkside monopolies long ago. From greater speed, less rolling resistance over obstacles and greater uphill traction, all of these claims have been made about 29ers outperforming 26ers. The more people who say it, the more opinion becomes fact. The whole thing sounds like "The Emperor's New Clothes" parable, with 29 inch bikes instead of invisible clothing being the case here.


How about the average consumer? Has everybody bought in to all the hype? Apparently not, as requests for 26 inch bicycles are at an all time high, and experienced riders are disappointed when they are not stocked on the shelves. At the bike shop where I work at I even had a guy who returned a 29er for a lower end 26er because the 29er didn't feel right. The 29er sucked up all the trail imperfections which made bunny hopping at his usual spots on the trail impossible. At the shop I can't seem build 26 inch bikes fast enough as they are always selling out. Meanwhile the 29er and carbon fiber road bike shelves sit nice and pretty, scoring only a few sales a week. I build the bikes that make the store a profit, since the other roadie geeks who work with me are all too eager to manage the other inventory, geeking out and polishing every shiny new road bike as it comes out of the packaging box.


Another type of bike that is going away is the entry level full suspension bicycle. I had a chance to buy a Mongoose Otero in 2010 for a little over 500 bucks. Now that price won't even cover the costs of some of the new hardtail bikes being sold.  2010 was the last year were we saw 26 inch, full suspension offerings by Mongoose, Diamondback, Airborne and a few other notable companies which sold their products at a very affordable price point.


For those of us who still love our 26 inch bikes, there is a silver lining to all this,  although it might be a temporary one. High end 26 inch bikes are probably being sold for a song on Craigslist as we speak, as well as other outlet websites and stores. Now is a great time to pick up a gently used, good quality 26er rig as these bikes are expected to drop in value for a little while. So take advantage of this opportunity while it lasts, before the industry gets nostalgic or the 29er and all other metric wheel diameter fads fade away. As for me, I'll be holding on to the good 26 inch bikes that I already own, and if I see a great deal on a new mountain bike, I'll happily buy it in the 26 inch variety. Stay tuned and subscribe from more updates and industry down low's from A Bicycle's Point Of View.














Sunday, August 18, 2013

Back On The Bike

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Ciao, bella! Greetings from my Guerciotti

After 3 weeks of vacationing on the beach, eating too much and not riding, I finally hop back on my bike for a nice little ride around White Rock Lake. I rode with a friend who is just getting into road cycling and it made for a pretty nice and enjoyable ride.

Felipe is new at cycling,  but he shows a lot of potential.
See ya!

Monday, August 12, 2013

August Updates

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Vacationing, Reviving my health kick, and the blazing Texas heat


This is the only post that I will probably do for the month of August. I had a great time vacationing with the family and friends in Panama City Beach Florida last week. Panama City has an awesome beach which for the most part is very clear and clean. I saw lots of marine life on the water such as schools of manta rays and other fish. Sting rays and crabs are also common sights in the water.  I finally got a chance to get rid of my farmer's tan that I had developed over a summer of road biking. It was a really fun vacation, and I did everything from fishing, skim boarding, and taking long walks and jogs on the beach. On a side note, I would also like to add that Panama City is a very bike friendly place. All down the  beach strip there were bike lanes and people riding their beach cruisers down them. On the outskirts of the city there is a bike path that stretches for miles. I sort of regretted not bringing my bicycle on this trip, but we had a very packed and cramped caravan and the bicycle would have gotten rained on a lot during the trip as well. 

When I got home, I was surprised to find that the bathroom scale was not in my favor. It seems that any break from my routine, even if only for a few weeks, will have me racking up the pounds. I did eat a lot while on vacation and had at least one beer a day, so  this may have had something to do with it. Weighing in at 10 pounds heavier than I was when I left to Florida has me thinking about what I will have to do to loose that weight again. Most of my weight resides in my upper body nowadays, which has me considering returning to weight training and taking advantage of my gym's swimming pool. The gym is becoming a more sensible option especially as the hottest weather of the year approaches here in Texas. While I like waking up at the crack of dawn and getting a good bike ride in the morning I don't always have the time or the energy to do so. All summer long I have pushed myself to develop a habit of doing early morning Sunday rides of around 20 to 30 miles. I feel like I am going to have to push myself harder as my body is no longer staying in shape with me exercising 3 times a week. Maybe a change in diet is also in order, but for now, let's just say I might need to hit the gym more often.

Back to the weather here in Texas. The 100 plus degree days of bone dry heat are enough to suck the life out of anyone attempting to live here right now. Getting caught riding a bike in the middle of the day can spell danger for any cyclist, since heat strokes and dehydration can occur riding in these temperatures. There is a window of between sunrise and nine o clock to go for a bike ride before the real heat sets in. After that, it's better to ride at dusk around White Rock Lake where no cars will hit cyclists. Some of the local mountain bike trails are also an option, and around this time of year I usually transition to more mountain biking as the trails are usually dry and open to the public. The natural shade of the wooded trails provide protection from the UV rays, even if riding in the middle of the day. 

It looks like more mountain bike adventures are to come soon, and I'll keep posting updates on my fitness, my riding, and anything else of note or other current events. Stay tuned and subscribe for more posts from A Bicycle's Point Of View.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Cycling Versus Insanity, Zumba and other Fad Excercises

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Discussing some of today's most popular body sculpting exercises, and
whether these will stand the test of time, compared to cycling.



So, which one are you doing? Riding a bike, or Zumba? Commuting to work, or Crossfit? I have friends and acquaintances that believe riding a bike to be an activity they once did down their neighborhood block as little kids, never to be repeated again as a car-owning adult. When it comes to getting in shape, they will resort to some of the more recently popular methods. "Why ride a bike and expose myself to the elements, when I can just do Insanity from the comfort of my home or take a Zumba class at the gym?", some might ask.  Because cycling is  an activity that will stand the test of time, one that will help maintain a healthy (but not an elite) weight, improve blood circulation, improve quality of life and in turn add longevity to the person who does it on a routine basis. It's also an activity many will enjoy doing, so having a routine of cycling won't be as hard to maintain as a group workout program. 

I will admit, programs such as Insanity, P90X, Crossfit and Zumba give results. From dramatic weight loss to sculpted abs, people can achieve these results from continually doing these programs. They also serve as a great way to get ready for beach season and lose that extra 10 pounds of persistent flab hanging around the mid-section. If physical image is the participant's end goal, these programs can achieve great results. However, without continuity these results are not long lasting. These exercise programs rely heavily on high intensity workouts that shock the body's metabolism into reacting more quickly than normal, losing weight faster over a shorter period of time. Sometimes, the weight can be loss at an unhealthy rate, leading to rapid weight gain over any short period of inactivity. I have known friends who have gained the weight back with interest after falling back to their old habits.

Many of these programs also do not respect the lower lumbar. Some programs like P90X will put a warning on their videos for people to have had previous back injuries. However, back injuries can occur during these exercises if a person has weak or undeveloped back muscles. I personally know of someone who developed a severe back injury after a session of Insanity who did not have any preexisting back problems.  Cycling, however, strengthens back muscles and along with core exercises, can dramatically improve lower back function. 

These programs also rely on the use of good marketing and over the top claims of fitness and athletic ability. Crossfit is an example of this. Crossfit claims that it can make anyone excel at any sport they choose because they will have the fitness advantage every time. I would like to see one of those top heavy Crossfit dudes challenge me in a bike race. Being a good cyclist only comes through lots and lots of cycling. Through many times of tearing and strengthening leg muscles, the body learns to send less lactic acid to the legs the longer someone rides. Leg endurance is something that takes years to obtain, and I highly doubt someone who has been doing Crossfit, even for a few years, can simply hop on a road bike and win a criterium. Having a twin brother who is Navy Seal qualified but cannot even hold the draft of my rear wheel, I know this first hand. While upper body strength is desirable for most men to have, too much muscle mass on top will feel like an anchor weight when climbing hills on a bike, a skill essential in cycling. Lean muscles are more desirable than large muscles for cyclists.

Crossfit takes their big-headedness a step further, opening up Crossfit gyms everywhere, temples where they can teach their doctrine to their loyal followers. Reebok now has an annual Crossfit challenge that looks like an Ironman and a World's Strongest Man competition put together. There they determine, in their own words, who the fittest person on earth is. What they don't realize is that fitness is relative. Not all athletes or truly fit people sport six packs and massive pectorals. Not all athletes do football scrimmages, climb up ropes and do Olympic lifts. And while it takes a great level of fitness to do all those things, that does not make people who do Crossfit the ultimate all rounders. 


Zumba is the Jazzercise of the new generation. Having a mom who was into Jazzercise, I would know. Another dance aerobic workout, this time Latin inspired. I can remember how my Mom's hobby turned into an obsession, sometimes dragging me with her to do her Jazzercise classes. Imagine a 14 year old surrounded by a bunch of fifty year old women in tight, brightly colored spandex. So yeah...forgive me if I don't have the fondest memories of Jazzercise or the best impression of Zumba either.

How about these themed running events that have been popping up lately? Events like the Tough Mudder where people run in the mud for no reason and come out looking like mud pies? Again, not very appealing to me. I rather be dirty in my own sweat than caked in mud any day.  These events take a lame activity (no offense to any runners reading this, however I was also a runner and I know firsthand how boring it is) and try to spice it up by adding a theme or a cause and all the sudden it becomes something fun. It gives runners the motivation to continue aimlessly jogging around the trails to "train" for events like these.

Any physical activity, as long as it is being done regularly, will give results. The aim of these workout videos and clubs is to make the consumer believe that they have something no one else has. But in reality, people have been going to the gym and getting hard abs and fit bodies since Jack Lalanne. Sometimes it is a good idea to look beyond the flash and the bang and ask whether these training methods are necessary to be fit and healthy individuals, and whether they can be done on a regular and routine basis for the years to come.

In conclusion, I'll simply end this topic with a question "Which of these will you be doing when you're 60, 70, or even 80 years of age?". I know cyclists who are that old, and I also know old people in really bad health who are that old as well. Cycling is a long term activity. The results are not immediately noticeable, but the effects are long lasting. If you are someone who is getting winded or is getting their back broken trying to keep up with these trending workouts, maybe it's time to give cycling a try. When all the hype blows over, you'll be thankful you did. Stay tuned for more informative articles from A Bicycle's Point Of View.




Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tales of the Rigid Part II-The Renunion

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My New Old School Mountain Bike. A fully rigid 1993 GT Timberlilne

In case you haven't been following my blog, the title of this article is alluding to a blog post I wrote a while back called Tales of the Rigid, check it out. At around the age of 15 when I started getting into mountain biking, good suspension bikes where still very uncommon among average working class people. There were some affordable suspension bikes back then, but the technology was not nearly as advanced as it is today and good suspension systems like Rockshox, Manitou and Marzocchi were out of our reach. Bottoming out and going over the handlebars was a common occurrence on cheaper suspension systems. Because of this many people decided to forgo suspension all together and ride the trails on rigid mountain bikes.

So what did I use to ride some of the most technical singletrack in Dallas and Fort Worth when I was growing up? You guessed it, I rode on a rigid, twenty six inch wheeled mountain bike with no bells and whistles. I remember what a blast it was to ride trails like Northshore, Horseshoe Trail, L.B Houston and Knob Hills in the late 90's and early 2000's on my rigid Huffy mountain bike. I have recently been longing to get back on a rigid bike, but they are no longer made in the twenty six inch variety and even rigid 29ers are getting hard to come by.

It wasn't until very recently when talking to my boss about old school mountain biking when he offered to sell me his old mountain bike for a song. He had taken great care of the bike and it looked like it had only been ridden a few times. When he sold it to me he had converted it to a cruising commuter. It sported some Schwalbe Fat Frank cruiser tires and and a Brooks leather saddle. The Brooks saddle and the tires were not included in the deal, however my plans for the bike do not require them. My boss was kind enough to throw in a WTB Deep V saddle and brand new knobbies with the purchase of the bike. He's an real awesome guy, and I'm really enjoying my new job at the bike shop.

Yesterday I was finally able to break away to the mountain bike trail to try it out. I rode Rowlett Creek Preserve, a trail known for having some real techincal creek crossings and trail loops. I skipped the really crazy creek crossings and loop 13, a concrete and re-bar laden jungle. As I rode the bike I started to reacquaint myself with using my body, rather than shocks as the suspension. Once I started riding the harder loops the clock started turning back to my early days of mountain biking. It was as if a dormant switch was turned on and reignited in my brain. I was using muscles and maneuvers that I hadn't used in years. I realized that everything I was riding with my full suspension bike could be done on a rigid, perhaps even faster and with less mistakes. Without a heavy suspension system weighing me down I was climbing hills like a billy goat and getting air on bumps I would normally absorb with a suspension bike. On a rigid bike I am in touch with the terrain that is below my feet, and every rock and obstacle could be felt. Even though my new rigid bike is light years better than the one I used to have back in the day, I was able to experience that old feeling from long ago. A rediscovered sense of adventure, a feeling that I haven't seen all there is to see. It took getting home and looking at myself in the mirror to finally realize that I wasn't fifteen anymore. I also realized that I could do almost everything on the trail that I was doing on my full suspension bike on my rigid bike. It was an awesome experience, and I can't wait to do it again.

Flashback to the late 90's. My brother and I on our rigid Huffy mountain bikes. I'm on the right.


Stay tuned for more bicycle adventures from a Bicycle's Point of View. Subscribe if you haven't already.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

My Man For The Tour

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Why Nairo Quintana is my pick for the tour
Nairo Quintana leads a charge in the tour of the Basque country. Picture courtesy of Colombia.com


In case my readers were wondering, I have been watching the Tour De France, despite my busy schedule (as well as picking up on my real cycling on the bike).  Stage 8 of today's race really excited me. It wasn't because of Chris Froome winning the stage and taking the overall lead; sports commentators had predicted this moment would come all along. In fact, the whole year Chris Froome has been talked up by the media to become the favorite to win the tour. What excited me the most was how Nairo Quintana attacked at the Col de Pailhères and held back the peloton until the last 3 miles of the race. Nairo's attack was reminiscent of the great Colombian climber Lucho Herrera and how he would destroy the peloton once the road started going uphill. 


The 1980's saw the dominance of Colombian talent with the Cafe De Colombia and Postobon cycling teams making headlines throughout the decade. They were the underdogs of cycling, sons of farmers that had been recruited from high up in the Colombian mountains to become some of the greatest climbers the sport has ever seen. Nicknamed the Escarabajos, Colombian cyclists were known as fast ascenders that triumphed over rocky, mountainous terrain. Yet on other types of terrain, like flats and descents they were not as dominant, due to their diminutive physiques. With the elimination of doping programs which allowed otherwise untalented athletes to become great climbers (insert Lance Armstrong's name here), Colombian cycling is enjoying a modern day renaissance, and no one at this time embodies this movement better than Nairo Quintana.

Lucho Herrera was the dominant cyclist of the 1980's. Picture courtesy of Rapha.


Nairo Quintana joins an ever growing list of Colombian superstars and are taking the cycling scene by storm this year. Other Colombian favorites include Rigoberto Uran, Javier Acevedo, Carlos Betancur and the list goes on and on. My favorite for the tour is Quintana. He is one of the best climbers and underrated riders in the peloton. He is also a very humble character and all around good guy that I can relate to. So watch out Chris Froome, this year's tour is a hilly one, one that Nairo Quintana can and will capitalize on. If Chris Froome can come out of nowhere and get so many palmares, so can Nairo Quintana, with even more reason. Nairo's professional career has just begun, as opposed to Froome's, who is at the late bloom of his own career. If I were a betting man (which I'm not) my money would be on Nairo Quintana for the tour de France victory, or at the very least the king of the mountains jersey. Quintana is the rider to watch out for, one that is sure to turn heads at the tour this year and surprise the unsuspecting media.

On a side note, I wanted to comment on how Lance Armstrong recently claimed that it is impossible to win the tour the France without doping. I was going to write an article about this, then came to the realization that this guy doesn't deserve a full page spread on the stupid blunder he made. All I will say is that he should have instead apologized for his shameful actions and wish that others would not copy his bad example. Instead he shows the world the washed up, old guy has-been, armchair class act without any decency that he is. My dream is to one day find Lance Armstrong on one of my bike rides, pass on front of him and rip up a huge, nasty fart in his face, as a show of the gratitude I have for him. If it didn't have a nagging mouth, one would confuse Armstrong for gutter trash lying on the side of the road. With those unrepentant words Lance is showing himself deserving of every lawsuit that has come his way.  I'm sorry if I am being harsh, but these are the nicest words I can use to describe Lance Armstrong at this time. This is not the image I once had of him, but this is what he has become. Sorry Lance, you're no one's hero anymore.

Whaah!...loser. Picture courtesy of the Telegraph.uk


Stay tuned for more news and updates from a Bicycle's Point of View.






Thursday, June 27, 2013

Back to Work, and back on the bike

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The New Job, 101 Degrees in June, and Other News


After my last post, where I was feeling a little winded from back to back 30 mile rides on my road bike, I decided to follow my own advice and am riding shorter distances in this summer heat that is sure to become a blazing furnace by the end of August. Today marks the first over 100 degree day that we have had in Texas, and it is only the beginning of whats to come. My riding habits have shifted from riding during the day to riding at the crack of dawn or in the wee hours of the evening. Around the country, some states might reach a high UV index, or a level 10, around this time of year. Everyday since the start of June the UV index level here has been at 11, or extreme, which I believe is probably a designation only people living in Texas receive. Besides the depleting ozone layer there is another reason why I have had to adjust my riding schedule. This month I started a new job, doing what I enjoy doing as a bicycle mechanic at a bike shop.

Home repairs, car trouble, the need for a new car payment (which is an unfortunate necessity when living in Texas, especially with a family in tow), and making travel plans have all made it necessary to get a second source of income. I'm not complaining; I have enjoyed being a homemaker for over a year now and was already anxious to rejoin the workforce when I was offered this new job. I hope to show my employers my years of experience in bicycle repair and hope to turn some heads in the near future. I'm glad to get a part time job where I can pick up the slack financially as well as give me the opportunity to use my skills as a bike mechanic, while at the same time allowing my wife to continue to work in her field.

As I have already mentioned, I have been riding shorter distances of around fifteen to twenty miles at a time. Even though the distances have been shorter, the quality of my riding has improved and I am now logging faster times with less effort. I am also riding more regularly since I can squeeze more shorter rides in my schedule than longer rides that last well over an hour. I have also changed my riding style and now use the smaller front chainring for long hill climbs. The higher cadence allows me to climb some hills two or three miles an hour faster than I did before. Using this improved technique in my riding as well as moving my clip-less pedal cleats closer to the ball of my foot has eliminated the dull knee pain I was experiencing earlier. I have ordered some new pedal cleats with zero degrees of float to replace the worn out cleats I have been using for the past three years, which will prevent any future issues as well as compliment my current skill level.

So with all that being said I will have less time to blog, less time to restore old bicycles, and less time to find and score any bargains for the foreseeable future. I will try to keep the articles coming, and if nothing else will give a monthly update, as I am doing now. Stay tuned for more posts from A Bicycle's Point Of View.



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tired Legs, Time Off and when to get off the bike

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Some self-help advice on dealing with cycling related tiredness.


Last Memorial Day weekend I went to a 3 day bike riding binge where I must have ridden close to 80 miles in 3 days. I normally don't ride these types of long distances, and normally spread my rides more evenly during the week than attacking that distance on a weekend. As if that wasn't epic enough, the local weather here has been hot and humid for about a month now. On recent rides I have been feeling fatigued, even in rides less than 20 miles long. Last weekend finally broke my spirit, after a 32 mile ride were I crashed in the final few miles of the ride. I have been off the bike since then, trying to recover the sensation and strength in my legs. I have been sore all over and even my knees were bothering me at one point. The day fatigue is starting to go away now, along with the back pains probably caused by muscles that were strained during the fall. I have been off the bike for almost two weeks now, trying to find the energy to get back on again. 

I can probably blame my tiredness on late nights with a toddler, poor eating habits and my fat friends always eager to stuff my face with delicious food. But I have always had poor sleeping and eating habits, in addition to a large appetite. It wasn't until about last month when I started to feel like I was hitting a wall in my training, after over 5 years of constant riding. I may have to consider that as I get older some of my habits have to change. Being more well rested will help my body recover for those epic rides, as well as help rebuild the muscle mass in my legs. A better diet and abstaining from binge eating attacks will also contribute to higher energy levels and overall well-being. I can go weeks, for example, eating proper portions and dieting well until a spread of good food is laid out before me, then all my discipline goes out the window. This is probably my biggest downfall, and is the reason why I haven't been able to achieve the fitness level to compete.

Or I could just need a break off of my bike for a while, until I feel like getting on again and riding for pleasure.  I also need to start looking at riding my bike whenever I can fit it in my schedule, instead of prioritizing a number of rides a week, always leaving me tired as I try to fit in a ride at the crack of dawn after a poor night's sleep. While cycling helps me to keep it together mentally and physically, it is not the thread that holds my life together. And although it will always be an activity that, as long as I am able to I'll participate in, it is not the only activity that I engage in.

I compare my experience with cycling like Forrest Gump running across the United States four times. He just wanted to run. He wasn't running for world peace or anything like that. When he got tired, he stopped and went home. All the while he ran he thought back on his life's experiences up to that point. He just went out for a run that lasted 3 years, according to the movie anyway. That's what my experience with cycling has been like. 


 

I'm sure Forrest would have continued to run on the weekends, if his character was real. No one runs for that long and doesn't at least try to keep their fitness up. The same goes for me and cycling. I think up to this point cycling has helped me out a great deal in sorting out the thoughts in my mind and giving me the space for personal reflection about where I should be heading. I feel like I have a few more epic rides left in me, possibly even a long cross country tour. But like arrows in a quiver, that number is limited. As my son gets older, I'll be happy just to take rides together with him  on the trails or around the neighborhood roads in my local area. If he gets into cycling as much as I have he might give me the second wind I will need when I'm older. Hopefully I will one day be the one drafting off his rear wheel.

I will probably hop back on my bike real soon. If my fatigue has been the result of taking too much training at once maybe that's a sign for me to take it easy for a while. I also have to consider the length of time I have been riding and my other obligations which are making riding consistently more difficult. Maybe it's time to settle for the "very good recreational rider, but not pro" designation. Or maybe I need to get more sleep, eat better and rethink my training strategy so that I am not pushing myself to the red every time I go ride. Or maybe it's routine that I need; there are simply too many ways that I can address this. 

In conclusion, sometimes it's good to get off the bike, take a minute and think about what we're doing. Having tired legs does not mean more training. Sometimes it's better to sleep in on that weekend group ride instead of joining the ride on little sleep or fatigued legs. The reason for constant riding is to improve fitness and increase leg strength, not to debilitate and wear the body out. I hope this personal reflection has been helpful and has answered any rhetorical questions readers might have had. Cycling related fatigue is normal and very common, even among those who love the sport. Too much of a good thing can also be bad. Sometimes it's prudent to take a break from that activity we love so much but can be taking a toll on us as well. Once we recover, we can enjoy the benefits of regular exercise and training cycling can give us, as long as we aren't overdoing ourselves. Stay tuned for more cycling related articles, and subscribe to my page to get the latest updates.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Fixed Gear Versus Geared Bikes Part II

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Single Speed Vs. Geared Bikes

In response to my original Article

One year ago, I wrote an article about the differences of single speed and geared bikes and the advantages and disadvantages of each one. I received some great feedback from readers about their thoughts on using single speed bikes (no one mentioned fixed gear bikes or "fixies"). In this review of my own previous article, I'll discuss this subject a little more, as well as clarify some previous observations.

Single speed bikes in competition: The most common event that features single speed bikes are track events where the bikes are used in their fixed gear form. But that is recently changing, as new events, both on road and off, are emerging that don't follow the traditional format of bicycle racing. Some of these events are cyclocross racing, Gravel Grinders, and mountain bike long distance endurance events. In all these categories there have been instances where riders on single speed bicycles have dominated over a field of other racers on geared bicycles. Single speed bicycles are yet to leave the amateur scene and move up to the professional ranks of the sport. It would be marvelous to see these bikes in actual road races or in any UCI sponsored event. So far, this has yet to happen. There are little known or publicized victories of single speed bicycles, even in amateur racing. Not to say that it doesn't happen, but there is little or no video, articles, and other information that goes in favor of using single speed bicycles in competition.

Fixies for Fashion:  It is an undeniable fact that over the recent years fixed geared bicycles have been the rave among the ironic hipster crowd. Although some track bicycles are wonderful works of art, Cinelli bicycles being the prime example of that, the hipster crowd misuses these bicycles from their original purpose. They do that by altering the handlebars from drop bars to tiny flat bars that can barely be controlled when steering. Sometimes classic road bikes are not exempt from this either, as many hipsters will hack off the rear derailleur dropout in an attempt to make the frame appear like a track frame. Many collectible bicycles have met their end at the hands of these misguided fashion felons.

Tip for first time buyers: My previous article contained some purchasing tips for those who wished to buy a bicycle for the first time, and was not targeted at advanced riders. Advanced riders will find that a single speed bike suits them due to a gear ratio they found works best for them. Inexperienced riders do not have the benefit of riding experience to know which single gear ratio will suit their needs. Therefore, if a first time buyer buys a fixed gear bicycle living in a hilly area, they may not enjoy their purchase. My recommendation for first time buyers who are looking for a single speed bike is to consider the lay of the land in the area they live in. A single speed bicycle will most certainly suit an area with flat terrain.

My last article provoked a response, somewhat non-favorable, from a few slighted single speedsters who believe that riding with one cog does not affect and actually improves their speed. These riders were usually comparing the difference between a geared and a single speed mountain bike, which actually makes sense to say that the weight difference of gears plus the use of lightweight materials like carbon and titanium might actually make climbing faster, thus improving average speed. Mountain biking is one of the styles of cycling that is seeing a benefit from the use of single speed bikes. However, I have personally bested a few individuals on the trail who were riding on their single speed bicycles using my full suspension geared bike with 3.25 inch mud tires.  In the end, its the engine, and not be bike, that will determine performance. Geared bicycles, however, have proven their worth and are still the standard in professional racing, even in cross country mountain bike racing. When that changes, single speed bicycles will gain more notoriety and credibility for use in competition.

The important thing is that single speed bikes as well as geared bikes offer a source of enjoyment and physical fitness. I was not trying to create any distinctions from riders who choose to ride geared bikes from those who ride single speed bikes. For the first time consumer, the geared bike will be the best value for their dollar and will serve as a stepping stone for if they would like to purchase a single speed bike in the future. My reference to hipsters does not extend itself to all people who ride single speed bikes, either. When I say "hipsters" I am usually referring to the modern meaning of the term. This term refers to a younger generation of individuals, usually between the ages of 18-25, usually in college and usually living off of their parent's dime. Individuals with lots of borrowed credit or disposable income, who do not know the value of a classic road bike and therefore destroy one at the first opportunity. I am not referring to trail riders and commuters who use single speed bicycles or anyone else for that matter. This subculture will probably last a few more years, then will go the way of the Emo kid and the soft core punk rocker. But while it lasts, let's not fail to mention that this is currently the only youth group that embraces cycling in any way shape or form. My hope is once the bicycle is no longer seen as a fashion accessory, that it can truly be embraced by former hipsters for what it truly is. 

I hope I shed some light on my previous article about single speed versus geared bicycles.  Keep subscribing to my blog to stay current with new releases as I tend to discuss many subjects like these. Stay tuned for more articles from A Bicycle's Point of View.


On a side note, this marks my 100th post on my blog. Happily blogging since 2009!