The Well-Equipped (Colorado) Cyclist

C_catalog_13Had a chance today to spend some time with one of my favorite items of cycling literature — the Colorado Cyclist catalog. I’d been missing it — after getting it regularly for a couple of years, it stopped coming. I’m not sure why it started up again, but I’m glad it did. It gives me the opportunity to see just what kind of gear I, who considers himself one of the top B-level riders in the country, should be sporting on club rides (or any other ride, for that matter).

For those of you not in the know, Colorado Cyclist is an online (and brick and mortar) cycling shop based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Its large (80-page), full-color catalog is full of gear to drool over — both hardware such as bikes and components, and soft goods, such as clothing. Here’s what the well-dressed cyclist is wearing this year.

Oakley sunglasses. The XL Black Plaid are particularly cool. They come with a G30 lens for bright days, and a VR50 lens for low light. A steal at $279.00.

Sidi Wire Carbon shoes. They have a new closure system “utilizing low-friction line material that doesn’t bind.” In white or yellow (which is really screaming hi-visibility green). $499.99.

The Kask Vertigo helmet. This can be adjusted for fit by using either a dial or a finger push system. I guess you pay extra for two systems. This goes for $299.99.

I’ve always liked the European flair of Assos cycling gear. This year, their SS Mille jersey has two types of breathable fabric, and the three traditional pockets across the back are placed in an “innovative” manner — but they don’t have a picture of them so we can see the innovation. This, and several other Assos jersey models, goes for $199.99. But their “intermediate” long-sleeved S7 jersey will set you back $369.99.

To further deck yourself out like the pro cyclist you could be, pair the jersey with a pair of Assos tk.607_S5 Bib Knickers. $339.99.

Now that you look the part, be sure to saddle up the appropriate mount. I see that Colorado Cyclist is selling Focus bikes now. The Izalco pro 1.0 goes for $4,800.00 — not bad, by premium bike standards. And what do I find on the back cover? A Focus Cayo 1.0 for a mere $1,699.00. Okay, it’s the 2012 model, but still…

I do like the way the catalog displays shorts. They have large color pictures of the chamois pads for all their shorts, and you can get a sense of how the padding might work for you. It’s something I wish all sellers would do for this crucial piece of equipment.

But really, for the kind of riding I do, and my level of ability, this catalog is simply a compendium of high-end stuff I either can’t afford, don’t need, or am unworthy of. But it’s fun to go through it — kind of like my wife poring over the jewels in the Ross-Simons catalog. Those aren’t going to see the inside of this house either — but it’s fun to dream.

Editor’s Choice — Essential Cycling Gear

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel is back, and he’s got the results of an informal survey.

HemmelsRide2Let’s face it, the title of this blog may be Bike Noob, but it’s a description that no longer really fits Ray, its creator. Nor does it really describe occasional contributors Don Blount or myself. Between the three of us, we’ve logged tens of thousands of miles, including multiple centuries, big charity rides, serious mountain ascents, races…and even changed a cassette or two. And along the way we’ve learned, often through trial and error, what kind of stuff helped us to better enjoy the ride.

So I emailed both Ray and Don and posed this question: What five items were your best purchases, or do you consider most valuable? My thinking is that the answers just may improve the ride for both noobs and experienced riders alike…not to mention save the expense of a drawer full of unused gear. (Don’t ask me how I know about that last one.)

As you might expect, there were several shared answers. Both Ray and I gave the nod to quality tires, specifically Continentals. “I run 25 mm, because I like the extra little bit of cushioning they give,” notes Ray of his favored Gatorskins. “They’re 100 psi instead of the 120 I had run on my 23s. Earlier this week, a club ride had a whole mess of flats rolling over grit left after a rainfall. Me, no problems.”

I wholeheartedly agree, although my favorite style is the GP4000S in the 23mm version. Before I switched to the Continentals, flats were a little too common. In the years since, they’re a rare occurrence. Hope I didn’t just jinx myself.

Ray and I also agreed on the merits of a good base layer in cooler weather. Base layers provide some warmth, but perhaps more importantly, wick away sweat so it doesn’t stay against your skin and chill your core. “Let me sing the praises of a base layer t-shirt I got last year,” comments Ray. “It’s a polyester T from Performance that fits loosely, and I think the air that gets trapped in the folds helps insulate me. It’s never as soaked with sweat as my clingy base layers.” Me, I like clingy, but agree most “polyester-feel” shirts leave me soggy. My runaway favorite is the Pro Zero from Craft. It’s pricey (I waited till I had a credit at Performance and the shirt went on sale), but I can honestly say it’s worth every penny. Something about the material feels more like a cozy cotton, or maybe even a nice, non-scratchy wool. It does a fantastic job of wicking away the moisture, keeping me feeling dry on those cold days.

Ray recommended two more pieces of clothing — a long-sleeved jersey from Performance, and a pair of wool socks, specifically Wooleators by D-Feet. “I’ve had the jersey for years, and I still look forward to wearing it,” says Ray, noting the lightly brushed fleece lining. “Great by itself in the 60s, with a base layer in the 50s, and under a windbreaker in the 40s.” As to the socks, he notes they do what wool does best — keep his feet warm in cold weather and cool in the heat.

Don and I agreed upon the benefits of a professional bike fit. “I rode my bike for a few months with the setup I received at the bike shop before going to a professional fitter,” says Don, who has had a fine-tuning since and plans on getting checked again before Spring. “A good fit goes along with a good ride.” I, too, received an initial fit with the purchase of my bike, but later fine-tuned it with a professional fitting. My fitter put me into a far more comfortable, efficient, and dare I say faster position on the bike. Fitters can also take into account previous injuries or limitations.

Don and I also tout the merits of a comfortable saddle. “Ever ride with a sore bum?” asks Don. “Enough said.” Don favors the Selle Italia SLR Gel Flow saddle. I’m still looking for my preferred perch. Along the same lines, Don and I both recommend a quality pair of cycling shorts or bibs. If you ride a lot, this isn’t a place to scrimp. Cheap alternatives are available, but pricier shorts typically feature far better chamois pads and more comfortable materials and cuts. Well worth the investment.

Don also suggests choosing the correct gearing. “I did an all-time high of more than 90,000 feet of climbing in 2012,” he says. “I rode with a 50-34 compact chainring and an 11-28 cassette. I know folks who switch out their rear cassette depending on the terrain. I am too lazy to do that, but this combo works pretty well for me for the riding I do.” I stick with my stock 11-28 when I get the chance to go into the mountains, but have added a 12-25 for the everyday flat conditions here in Florida as I feel it gives me more choices in my typical range. Truth be told, a cassette is actually a pretty simple thing to swap, although you’ll need a couple inexpensive tools. It’s also a good idea to match a chain to each cassette to prolong the life of both.

Other personal favorites? Don pegs comfortable shoes. His Bont ctt3 shoes are heat moldable, better to accommodate his “platypus” (wide across the ball, narrow at the heel) feet. He also likes to wear something under his helmet. “Even with padding, a bicycle helmet can feel like sandpaper on my shaved head,” says Don. He has proper headwear for every season — a breathable, sweat-absorbing skullcap for hot weather, a wind-blocking style for cool to cold temps, and a Walz wool cap (with earflaps) for really cold days.

Me, I’ve grown pretty attached to a sports drink, Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix. Adequate fluids are essential while riding, but I’m sick of syrupy Gatorade and hate those fizzy tablet drinks. All-natural Skratch (formerly Secret Drink Mix) tastes great, is flavored by real fruit, and has some sharp, science-minded bike nerds behind it. It’s pricey, but hey, I don’t drink that other bicycling staple — coffee — so guess that’s how I justify the expense.

One last item? Don suggested a bike computer, specifically his Garmin Edge. “It helps me keep track of time, distance and vitals such as heart rate, elevation, cadence and speed. In short, it provides great feedback for my riding.”

If there’s one common thread throughout all our picks, it’s comfort. “I believe comfort goes a long way in helping a rider’s performance,” suggests Don. “If one is not comfortable on the bike, then you won’t spend time on the bike.” Ray also notes that, with perhaps the exception of his tires, most of his must-haves are pretty reasonable in terms of price. “Not a lot of expensive stuff (on my list),” he says. “But I’m not the gearhead some of my fellow riders are. You can have a great cycling experience for a modest outlay.”

Agree, disagree, or have a few suggestions of your own? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Discontinued Products

I wanted to replace my worn out Vredestein Fortezza SE tire with another exactly like it. It had exhibited excellent ride and wear characteristics during the time I owned it, but eventually it wore out — after well over 3,000 miles — and it was time to retire it.

I had bought it at a Performance store in town, so I headed over there again. But in the aisle with the tires, no Fortezza SE to be found. Performance doesn’t stock them anymore. They’ve got a higher-end Vredestein tire, the TriComp Road, at twice the price of the Fortezza SE. Okay, certainly I could find one somewhere else.

I hit the Vredestein Tire website, and navigated my way past lots of contemporary music and nifty videos to their tire listing. Sure enough, there was the TriComp — but no Fortezza SE. The TriComp looks to be a great tire, with an advertised excellent grip in both wet and dry weather, and very good puncture resistance. But I wondered what had happened to my Fortezza SE.

I gave up, and put a Continental Gatorskin on the back of my bike. I still have a Fortezza SE on the front, and it should be good for another thousand miles or two.

But have you ever noticed that whenever you find a great product, it gets dropped from the company’s product line? Runners know this. When I used to run, I found a great pair of shoes that cushioned my feet and provided excellent support at the same time. I ran in them until the black outer sole wore through. When I went to get a replacement, the line had been discontinued.

The replacement product is always touted as being an improvement, and it just might be.  But very often, it doesn’t work exactly like the item it replaced. Some runners used to buy two or more pair of a favorite shoe, knowing the model would be discontinued, and wanting to make sure they would still be able to enjoy it well into the future.

Or golf clubs. My wife started building up a collection of Ping hybrid clubs several years ago, when we were still regular players. She had two, but when she looked for two others of different lofts to round out her set, she found out that Ping had dropped the G5 line, and added a G10 or something. I was able to find the two additional G5s she needed, but I had to go on EBay to do it, and battle through a couple of different auctions, losing twice, before I was able to land the coveted clubs. What I thought was funny about that was that the G5 had replaced the G3 line just a few years before.

(“What’s the difference between the G5 and the G3?”  “Two.”)

Obviously, some of that goes on in the biking industry too. Bikes, of course, are always changing. My bike is a 2008 Specialized Allez Elite Compact, which means it came with upgraded drive train components — Tiagra front and 105 rear — over the base Allez. The current Allez is offered in six different versions, including an Elite Compact. But the current Elite Compact is different from mine. It has a 10-speed cassette instead of my nine — improvement. Both front and rear are Tiagra — slight downgrade. It also has alloy chainstays and seatpost — mine are carbon fiber. The wheels are probably better than mine. All in all, my four-year-old Allez is a good match for what’s rolling off the Specialized line now.

I know one constant in life is change. But it’s still frustrating when change makes you rethink your cycling situation and moves you in a (slightly) different direction.

Have you ever been flummoxed by the discontinuation of a cycling product you really, really liked?

How Much CO2?

One of the A riders in the club posted on the Yahoo group that he was making the move to CO2 cartridges, after many years of resisting them. That started online discussions that took two separate tracks.

12g threaded

Another member asked, “How many pounds of pressure does a 12 gram cartridge impart to a 700×23 tire? I use 16g cans and still have trouble getting home with the optimum 92-94 lbs onboard.”

The Internet is a wonderful thing. It doesn’t take long before answers start rolling in. Multiple answers.

“I’ve never checked the actual pressure,” answered a fast rider, “but my 23’s are quite firm after using a 12 gm cartridge. I just did a bit of research and it appears that you get about 100 psi in a 23mm tire from a 12 gm cartridge and about 125 from a 16 gm.”

But that doesn’t allow for individual differences. The fellow who posted that probably doesn’t weight more than 130 pounds soaking wet. The original poster followed up:

“Am I the only one who rides 25 mm tires? What did your research say about the pressures in the larger road tire?”

Cripes. We haven’t answered the cartridge size question yet, and now we’re introducing tire size variations? It’s gonna get confusing.

“I ride 25s too,” chimed in another member, “and am somewhat heaver than Steve so you probably will not be surprised to hear that I only roll with the 16s on the road bike.  However, I also put some Gatorskins on the wheels so I don’t get flats very often any longer [although I just jinxed it and am sure to get a flat on my next ride] so the extra cheese spent on the threaded 16 gram cartridges isn’t a big deal.  If you use less than 6 of these a year, it’s not a major expense.” But he also had a practical suggestion.

“Go buy a 12 gram and a 16 gram cartridge.  Let all of the air out of your rear tire, fill it up with the 12 gram cartridge, and go for a ride.  Repeat with the 16 gram.  Which did you like better?”

I imagined pffffft! sounds coming from garages all over the neighborhood as cyclists took him up on that idea.

16g unthreaded

Then, of course, there’s that complication you get with CO2:

“Bear in mind that CO2 bleeds out of a tire much faster than pumped air,” wrote the 130-pounder, “so if you fix the flat in the early part of a three-hour ride, you will find a lower pressure when you get home. This is why, after fixing a flat on the road with CO2, I always deflate the tire and refill it with a pump at home. However, unless it gets down in the low 80 lbs range, you shouldn’t have any problems short of a pinch flat if you hit a big pothole or rock.”

Okay, this is all good information. But one member had a great idea: Go right to the source. The Genuine Innovations website has a link to an inflation chart.

“Unfortunately there isn’t a measure for the 25mm tire,” said the guy who suggested experimenting. “But there is one for 23 and 28. You should be right in the middle. It looks like a 12gm will get you 90psi in the 23mm tire and 62psi in the 28mm tire or about 80psi in the 25mm. If you want a higher pressure, go with the 16.”

What was the second discussion track? Cost, of course.

The original poster wrote: “If you buy cartridges from a bike shop they can be pretty expensive. I just checked online and it appears that you can get them reasonably cheap if you get a bunch of them. For example you can get a box of 50 16 gram non-threaded cartidges for $50 including shipping. And different prices for different amounts. but 50 for $50 seems about the best.”

Another replied, “Buy a box of 12 gram cartridges at Walmart in the BB/paintball gun section. 15 for $7.97.”

“+1 on that recommendation,” said a third.  “I buy mine in bulk from a discount sporting goods store.  The only thing is that these do not have the threads to screw into some of the smaller nozzles.  I had to use it this weekend and a single Crossmark CO2 cartridge inflated my tire in one shot.”

Well, that was settled pretty quickly. Looks like a bunch of my club pals are headed for Wal-Mart to get their CO2. But one of the previous commenters signed off with some wise advice:

“Even though I’ve had good luck with cartridges, I still have a frame pump attached to my bike just in case Mr. Murphy is drafting.”




Saddled With a Problem

At the end of our New Year’s Day ride, Pat pulled into the grass/dirt/mud parking lot ahead of me. I walked the skinny-tired bike. When I caught up to her, she had a perplexed look on her face.

“Look at this,” she said, pointing at her saddle.

She put her hand on it, and it dipped quite a bit. It was very easy to rock the saddle without much effort.

“What the heck…?” I sputtered.

I grabbed the saddle too, and rocked it up and down. Then I stooped to look underneath.

It’s amazing she was able to complete the ride at all. Both saddle rails had broken. The saddle was held in place by part of a broken rail, which looked about ready to slide away on its own. The seat bag stayed in place only because of the velcro wrap around the seat post.

I touched one of the rails, and a chunk of it broke away in my hand. To my untrained eye, it appeared to be a case of metal fatigue. Sure, it was a chilly day, but by this time, it was around 50 degrees (10C), so it’s not like the rails were dealing with temperature extremes.

“Well, at least it broke at the right place,” Pat said. The ride was sponsored by a local bike shop. We walked over to the store to check out saddles. Even though the store had been open for a while before the ride, so riders could stock up on necessities, it was closed now for New Year’s Day.

“I can fix you up at home,” I said.

We got the bike home, and I removed the saddle to take a closer look.

I’ve never seen anything like it. Maybe you have. The saddle is not original equipment on her 1992 bike. When she started training for a charity ride in 2007, some experienced bikers suggested she’d be more comfortable with a new saddle. The one recommended by the LBS was a Specialized Dolce Gel woman’s saddle. Pat always thought it was okay, but just okay.

We’ll probably be back at the store soon. Today I dug out the original saddle that came with the bike (I tend to be a bit of a pack rat) and put it on. It’s going to feel different from what she’s been used to, but maybe I can get away without having to shell out money for a new perch.

Whatcha Want For Christmas?

It just occurred to me this afternoon: Christmas is coming fast, and I haven’t gotten off my duff to do anything about it!

It shouldn’t be too tough to take care of Mrs. Noob this year.  She wants a pair of leg warmers, because she thinks mine are cool.  Actually, they’re warm, which is why she wants a pair.  She also wants a new pair of biking shoes.  But she already has carbon-soled Specialized, so she might have to get along with those a little longer.  And last month, she asked for a pair of knickers, which, although she says she doesn’t want them anymore, might be just the ticket for milder, but not yet warm, days.

No, the big dilemma is what do I want for Christmas?  Geez, I haven’t thought much about it.  Give me a few minutes and let me thumb through some back issues of Bicycling and some old Nashbar catalogs.

Okay, I’m back.  I do have some ideas.  I got caught in rapidly falling dusk a couple of weeks ago, and it’s just gotten worse since, as the days get shorter.  And if I ever take the advice of some of my hardier biking friends, I might get out weekday mornings and get in a ride before work.  In either case, I need lighting.  My taillight is okay.  Not great, but okay.  What I need is a decent headlight.  Since I would mostly ride on lit streets, I don’t need a super powerful light — just something that will make me visible.  I like what I’ve read about the Planet Bike Blaze.

Another idea that will not break the bank is a Road ID.  I don’t have one yet.  I think it would be a good idea to get one.  I’ve left a $2 coupon for one on Mrs. Noob’s desk.

Bar tape might be a nice thing to have.  I always get mid-range stuff with gel, because I like a cushy feel on my bars.  But it might be nice to get something a little different — like maybe that Cinelli bubble tape with the raised knobbies.  Put some gel inserts under that, and I think you’d have one comfy grip.

And if Santa is feeling particularly generous this year, one thing I’ve wanted for quite awhile is one of those wool cycling jerseys.  I really could have used it last weekend.  And with wool, you can wear it pretty much all year around — cool in summer, warm in winter.  Although it probably wouldn’t get much summer use around here.

I think I’ll retire to my home office and compose a good argument supporting my desire for these objects.  Heck, I’ll be happy to get just one of them.

Have you mailed your Christmas list to the North Pole yet?  What did you ask for?


Back when my wife first got the idea to join a big charity ride, she started training with more experienced cyclists. They quickly showed her the ropes, and introduced her to current equipment that she needed to upgrade to. For instance, her old styrofoam helmet had to go. And she was using clipless pedals before I had ever even heard of them. But there was one item that her friends could not convince her to shed: her kickstand.

Pat’s bike stands proudly, supported by its kickstand.

She never considered her kickstand as a problem. Its additional weight didn’t bother her, because she figured she was slow, anyway, and a few more ounces wouldn’t make a difference. Besides, it was convenient to stand the bike wherever, without having to look for a tree, or a wall, or something solid to lean the bike against.

Besides, since she rides a hybrid, she regards the stand as a necessary piece of equipment. It just looks appropriate there, even if it might not be on a road bike.

In our club, one member rides a budget Schwinn road bike, and it still has its kickstand. When he first started riding with us, it was the subject of much behind-the-back comment. Once he showed he was just as fast as most others (he’s a solid B+ rider), the comments stopped — although it still identifies him (“Oh, you mean the guy with the kickstand”).

The kickstand-equipped road bike.

Just how vital is it for a road biker to unload the kickstand? And why? Is it uncool? Or unnecessary? Or a weight burden? What would you tell someone new to road riding?