Cross Training

For many of us, cold weather means it’s time to hang the bike in the garage and pack on a few pounds.  First comes Halloween and a bounty of candy, then Thanksgiving with its usual turkey feast, then Christmas and New Year’s, and as long as we’re on a roll, we might as well go out on Valentine’s day and eat a big dinner and a few boxes of chocolates….

And by springtime you don’t need to look around for the motivation you need to get back on your bike.  Motivation jiggles when you walk down the stairs and mercifully blocks your view of the scale. 

An off season is good for you.  It gives your body the period of rest it needs to recuperate and it gives you a much-needed mental break that keeps your sport from becoming stale.  When springtime rolls around you are psyched up and ready to ride.

Still, if you don’t want to wave goodbye to all of the fitness gains you made this year and still want to keep up with you healthy, active lifestyle, consider taking up a new sport that works well with the changing weather, gives your body new challenges, and has a crossover benefit for cycling.

When it comes to Fall and Winter, there are great outdoor opportunities right where you are that can keep your motivation to exercise high.

Mountain Biking and Cyclocross

If you’re not ready to give up cycling but riding on the road is getting tough with cold winds and less and less daylight, look into riding off-road.  Mountain biking and cyclocross both involve much lower speeds than road cycling (which keeps windchill down) and extremely powerful bursts of effort (which keeps body-heat up). 

Since most mountain biking trails are in wooded areas, you tend to get a lot more windbreak.  A well-travelled trail that is packed hard can even be comfortably ridden in the middle of winter, provided you get a moderately warm, sunny day.

Running

Running is excellent cross training for cycling.  It is far less weather-dependent (you don’t lose much foot traction in the rain) and because you move at lower speeds it’s easier to keep warm.  The fact that you carry your own weight means that it has similar benefits to resistance training for cyclists: increased hip extension power and core strength. 

Running is also highly accessible- if you have sneakers and a stretche of road or trail, you can run. 

Cross Country Skiing

Nordic skiing is one of the best types of cross training available to cyclists who live where snow and ice keep you off of the roads for months at a time.  The fitness benefits are tremendous because of the total use of upper and lower body muscles.  It’s also a great way to get out and enjoy the outdoors when most people would rather be inside, brooding.  You’ll find the energy demands to be similar to mountain biking where you need to maintain a high level of aerobic output while also doing some powerful hill climbing and very skillful descending. 

It’s also a relatively cheap sport to enter.  Whereas an entry-level road bike, plus helmet, kit, shoes, and pedals will set you back around $1300, you can get into a basic touring package for around $300, or both skate and classic skis, boots, and two sets of poles for under $600, retail. 

Whatever you choose, finding a sport that keeps you active and having fun in the Fall and Winter will do wonders for your fitness and happiness year-round. 

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Mechanics’ Classes: Round II

This month we’ll be offering a limited number of mechanics’ classes.  If you’d like to learn the basics of bike repair, we have a course that suits your level of skill and desire to learn. Bring your own bike.

Mechanics’ Classes Info

Dates: Basic Class     September 10th, 6:30pm to aprox. 9:00pm

Advanced Class        September 10th, 6:30pm- 9:30pm, and September 11th, 6:30pm – 10:30pm

Basic Class covers: Shop Tool Use and Basics Tires and Tubes Emergency field repairs

This class is ideal for someone who wants to be able to do basic, regular maintenance.  Great for commuters and enthusiasts.  Participants will also receive a one-time 10% discount on basic maintenance items: Lubes and Cleaners Tire Levers Patch kits Multi-tools Small Seat Bags Spare Tubes

Cost: $35 +materials; $20 holds a place

Advanced Class: This class covers the same material as the basic class, plus all the basic skills necessary to perform a tune-up and get a mechanically sound bike functioning the way it should.  Cost of the class includes tuition and a copy of the Park Tool Big Blue Book of Bike Repair.  Participants will receive a one-time 10% discount on tools ordered through the shop,  and after using the tools we keep in the shop they should have a good idea of what they might want for themselves.

Cost: $75+ materials; $40 holds a place

Both classes are a great deal, but we’d certainly suggest the advanced class to anyone who is interested in it.  Since the Park manual is included in the price, you’re really getting 7 hours of instruction for the price of a single tune-up.  It’s a real value.

We’re limiting each class to just six participants, so sign up soon.  Look for more classes in the future.  We’ll likely be adding an even more advanced course that will tackle hub, headset, and bottom bracket overhaul and possibly a course on shock maintenance.


Movil Maze Trailbuilding Clinic

This Sunday, July 29, Tom Damen is putting on a quick trailbuilding clinic that will help you learn how to add more trail to the Movil Maze.  A little volunteer help will go a long way toward putting in the new trail, and after this clinic anyone should be able to help out whenever they want, as much as they feel comfortable. 

I won’t harp on how important it is to help out, but I will say that just spending a couple of hours learning how the trails are built gives you an appreciation for all the work that went into making these trails for us. 

Things to bring:
Gloves, Long pants and long shirt, shoes, bug spray, water, a snack, and if you have tools, a garden rake or a square shovel will be helpful, but not necessary.

The clinic will run 1-3pm, and then we’ll ride!


Why am I getting all of these flats?

Often people wonder why they get so many flats on their bikes.  I’ve heard things like, “This is my third flat in just under a year.  This is so frustrating!”

Flat tires are (to some extent) a part of cycling.  There are things you can do to minimize the number you get, and with a little luck you can ride with very few flat tires.

One reason that bicycles get so many more flats than cars is that their tires are much, much thinner.  Bikes don’t have the same suspension that cars have (if they have any suspension at all) and they rely mainly on their tires to absorb road shock.  A thin, supple tire casing allows the bike to absorb small irregularities in pavement and improves overall handling and feel.  A bike with tires as thick as car tires would ride like it was on solid rubber.  Solid rubber tires have been tried various times since the invention of the pneumatic tire.  They generally just remind people why we went away from solid rubber tires in the first place.

Tubes are generally punctured in one of five ways:
1. A foreign object enters from the tread or sidewall
2. The tube is punctured by a spoke head from the inside
3. The tire pressure is low enough that on a bump, the rim compresses all the air out of it and cuts two tiny holes in the tube, also known as a “snakebite” flat.
4. The tube was installed incorrectly and gets pinched between the tire and rim before being inflated.  This will cause it to split wide open and generally makes a very loud bang.
5. The tread has a large enough hole in it that the tube can push through.  You’ll often see a star-shaped hole where it burst.

So, how do you prevent flats?

Always ride at the recommended tire pressure.  Also, ride on tires that are in good shape.  As the tread wears down and gets thin, the tire when viewed from in front or behind will look squared off rather than round where it would contact the road.  More tread = fewer flats.  If the side walls have large cuts, you can see threads, the threads are cut, or there is a suspicious lump or bulge, the casing has been damaged enough that you need a new tire.

Make sure your rim strip is in good shape.  If the cloth or rubber strip covering the spoke heads inside the rim is worn or torn so that you can see the sharp metal heads, it needs to be replaced.

Finally, don’t ride over glass, staples, tacks, thorns, sharks’ teeth, pitchforks, etc.

I’m still having problems/I want bulletproof tires!
If the regular methods aren’t enough for you, you have a few options.

1. Sealant
Some people like to fill their tubes with Slime or other sealants.   Generally, bike tires run at higher pressures and the sealant gets pushed out before it can do its job.  It works better in things like wheelbarrow tires.  Don’t be surprised if you still flat, and get a green, goopy mess.

2. Tire liners
Tough, plastic tire liners that go between the tube and the tire can help prevent punctures.  They do reduce ride quality.

3. Kevlar/Puncture Resistant Tires
You can also purchase tires that are built with a puncture-resistant belt inside of them.  This is the same concept as the tire liner, but its built into the tire itself.  They work reasonably well; the best tires we’ve seen are Continental Gatorskins (which are tough to mount), and Specialized Armadillos which are backed by a puncture-proof warranty.  Neither is cheap, but they beat the most expensive options which is…

4. Tubeless tires
Ditch the tubes.  If you have rims built for tubeless tires or buy a conversion kit you can run high-quality tires that use a high-end latex sealant.  The big difference between this sealant and the kind you typically see in Wal-Mart is that it works.  It’s designed to work with the tubeless tires and we’ve seen it seal holes from large nails.  It’s truly impressive stuff.  The conversion (if you need it) will run $90+ and is a one-time expenditure.  For road bikes the tires are around $120 each or so, but they ride like butter.  Mountain bike tires are cheaper.  Some sealant manufacturers claim that their particular brand will work with any tire, even regular, non-tubeless designs, but we’ve seen mixed results.

Final Thoughts
Punctures are a part of biking.  No system is bulletproof, and eventually you will get a flat.  The best thing to do is to learn how to deal with them out on the road and carry a spare tube and mini pump or CO2 inflater.  When flats become a manageable bump in the road rather than a ride-ending crisis, they become far less frustrating.


Work Party at the Movil Maze

The Movil Maze has Bemidji’s only real singletrack mountain bike trails.  A lot of volunteer work, mainly by Tom Damen, has built four miles of trail for just thousands of dollars.  For comparison, Cuyuna’s 25 miles of trail cost 1.5-2 million dollars, or $80,000 per mile, so you can see how incredible an accomplishment the Movil Maze is.

Tomorrow, (Saturday, July 20) Tom will be looking for volunteers to help put in quite a bit of new trail.  Brush has been mostly cleared on four new sections and a mini-excavator has been rented that should allow pretty dramatic development of trail.  At 6am, work begins, and we’d love to have as many volunteers as possible helping out.  Bringing rakes and square shovels is helpful, but not required.  There will be tools to go around and work to be done that doesn’t require any tools at all.  Most of the work will be clearing small amounts of fallen brush and raking behind the excavator.

Most important is to bring appropriate clothing, water, and a snack.  Long sleeves and pants made from a light material should keep bugs off.  Work gloves and closed-toed shoes are necessary.  The area we’ll be working in is buggy, but not insufferable.  Bring bug spray if you usually use it.

Water is important as the trail is dense and the labor isn’t always easy.  Bring at least a liter.  A small snack can keep you going.

If Saturday morning doesn’t work for you but you’d still like to help out, stay tuned for more opportunities to participate in work parties and also, don’t be afraid to take initiative and work on your own.  Even maintaining the existing trail helps put new trail in.  Every hour you spend raking or picking up branches is an hour that someone else can spend building new trail.

The impact of a few of us can be quite large.  One of the largest funding sources for the project is a $5000 dollar, matching-fund grant.  Using all of that money is important to securing future funding, and volunteer hours count toward the matching funds.  One hour of unskilled labor is worth $15, so six volunteers working an average of an hour per week (and an hour isn’t much) would cover $4500 dollars of the matching funds in the course of a calendar year.  A little bit of help goes a long way.

We all like to ride, here’s a chance to pay it back.


Mechanics’ Classes

This month we’ll be offering a limited number of mechanics’ classes.  If you’d like to learn the basics of bike repair, we have a course that suits your level of skill and desire to learn. 

Mechanics’ Classes Info

Dates:
Basic Class     July 24th, 6:30pm to aprox. 9:00pm
Advanced Class        July 24th, 6:30pm- 9:30pm, and July 26th, 6:30pm – 10:30pm

Basic Class covers:
Shop Tool Use and Basics
Tires and Tubes
Emergency field repairs

This class is ideal for someone who wants to be able to do basic, regular maintenance.  Great for commuters and enthusiasts.  Participants will also receive a one-time 10% discount on basic maintenance items:
Lubes and Cleaners
Tire Levers
Patch kits
Multi-tools
Small Seat Bags
Spare Tubes

Cost: $35 +materials; $20 holds a place

Advanced Class:
This class covers the same material as the basic class, plus all the basic skills necessary to perform a tune-up and get a mechanically sound bike functioning the way it should.  Cost of the class includes tuition and a copy of the Park Tool Big Blue Book of Bike Repair.  Participants will receive a one-time 10% discount on tools ordered through the shop,  and after using the tools we keep in the shop they should have a good idea of what they might want for themselves.

Cost: $75+ materials; $40 holds a place
 


 
Both classes are a great deal, but we’d certainly suggest the advanced class to anyone who is interested in it.  Since the Park manual is included in the price, you’re really getting 7 hours of instruction for the price of a single tune-up.  It’s a real value.

We’re limiting each class to just six participants, so sign up soon.  Look for more classes in the future.  We’ll likely be adding an even more advanced course that will tackle hub, headset, and bottom bracket overhaul and possibly a course on shock maintenance.


Choosing a Saddle

Every day customers come to us hoping that we can help them find a comfortable saddle.  It’s true, cycling can be a “pain in the ass,” but read on and together we’ll “get to the bottom” of the mysteries of saddle selection (hopefully without any more awful puns…but I make no promises).

The ideal saddle is supportive, soft, built for your anatomy, light, and aesthetically pleasing.  It’s also, to some degree, imaginary.  Finding the “perfect” saddle is, for a lot of people, a snipe hunt, but finding a saddle that will serve you comfortably is a little easier to manage (provided you’re willing to redefine “comfortably”).  Few things in cycling are more personal than saddle choice.

Choosing the right saddle used to be a kind of guessing game, buying saddles and trying them until the right one was found.  And once a cyclist found a saddle that worked for him or her, he or she kept it and treasured it, bought a spare, and moved it from bike to bike.  Now there are a variety of ways to help measure your anatomy to find you something that fits right from the get-go.

At the shop we have a seat with a memory foam pad called the “Ass-o-meter”  that, when sat on, will indicate the spacing between your ischial tuberosities, or “sit-bones.”  These bones, found on the bottom of the pelvis, should make solid contact with your saddle.  Too narrow and they don’t receive the proper support, too wide and the saddle begins to cut of circulation to the glutes causing cramping.

As you can see, the sit bones are narrower than the hips, and for most people, a saddle need be no more than 145mm wide.  Of course position on the bike affects the width of saddle necessary.  As you lean forward into a more aggressive position, you tend to put your weight primarily on the inside of the sit bones, meaning you’ll need a more narrow saddle.  If you’ve ever seen a road bike with its seemingly tiny saddle and wondered how anyone stands riding them, bike position is the answer.

By measuring your sit-bones and assessing your usual position, we can point you in the direction of a saddle designed for your anatomy and the type of riding you do.  Our favorite saddles are made by Specialized and are a part of their Body Geometry line of products.  They are one of the few saddle lines that have been empirically tested in the laboratory to ensure that they deliver the kind of comfort and circulation that cyclists need, and when we match riders to saddles with their fitting system we get astounding results.  To date, no person we’ve matched with a body geometry saddle has returned it, but if they do, we’ll be ready to swap it out for the saddle they need.

Customers commonly come in wanting the widest, softest saddle available.  This is understandable since at first it seems like a saddle is a different kind of chair, and a wide soft chair is the most comfortable.  However, chairs are for sedentary sitting, while bike saddles need to support the human body while it moves and exercises.  As such, wide and soft isn’t always the best choice.  Think of a saddle like a mattress.  For some, a soft, pillowy mattress would be heaven, but for others one night of sleeping on it would leave them sore and aching the next day.  Seek good support and fit, and long-term comfort will result.  A soft saddle that can feel nice initially will often begin creating pressure points within a half hour.  A firm saddle, while lacking in initial comfort, gives uniform support.

Breaking in your own hind end is also an important part of saddle comfort.  Every spring when my bike comes back out I get to enjoy the aches and pains of my first long rides.  It’s inevitable.  If you don’t ride your butt softens up.  We suggest that anyone considering buying a new saddle waits at least two weeks and rides their current saddle around a dozen times.  If comfort is increasing, stick with what you’ve got.  Pretty soon you’ll hardly notice the aches and pains that made you cringe earlier in the season.

Bike fit can also be a factor in saddle comfort.  Generally, your weight will be split three ways, between the saddle, pedals, and bars.  If you choose to ride in a more upright position your weight will shift from your hands to your hind end.  This will obviously add pressure to the saddle area.  Many saddle issues can be cured by a thorough bike fitting.

It’s also worth investing in a decent pair of padded bike shorts.  Not only will the pad add a bit of comfort, the shorts are built so that seams do not rub against you and cause chaffing.  If fashion is an issue (and skin-tight lycra isn’t something you consider fashionable) baggy shorts are available that look great in any setting.  You can also buy liner shorts that can be worn below any pair of shorts or pants.

Happy Riding!