ALC 2018: Get on your bike

AIDS/LifeCycle, 2018: in just 5 months I will be riding 545 miles from San Fransisco to LA. And it is going to ROCK!

But, right now it feels a little daunting to start training again. I’ve been doing a few rides here and there, but now is the time to get serious and get the training plan together!

  • Step 1. Get on your bike! I had planned for a ride today, but was rained out and the ride was cancelled.
  • Step 2. Eventually you’re going to have to ride in the rain. But today was not that day.

So here is to remembering beautiful weather back in December and fingers crossed for better weather tomorrow.

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Which bike should I buy? Part 2: Tips for bike buying – How do I find the right bike for my budget?

It can be overwhelming and expensive to try to get into a new hobby like biking, but it doesn’t have to be! In the last Cheeky post, we talked about finding the right type of bike to buy to help you meet your goalsLet’s go through a handy list of bike buying tips outlining options to help you make the right decision for your budget.

When you’re looking to buy a bike, it’s helpful to first be familiar with the different bike components. We’ll reference some of these terms throughout the post/ blog… (or maybe say that these are term they will hear out in the biking world, and that’s why they should be familiar with them?). 

What are the parts that make up a bike? 

 

Common bike parts
What parts make up a bicycle?

Biggest driver of cost of your bike can be bike frame material:  Different materials (metal types) will drive pricing, provide differentiation in bike performance:

Weight is the thing everyone talks about first. How much does the bike weigh?! A lighter bike means less mass to move up a hill, therefore less effort expended. Does it mean that you might climb up that hill faster? Probably, to the tune of a few seconds. You can spend a lot of money getting the lightest bike, with the lightest components. So many riders in the biking community are utterly obsessed with their bike’s weight.

Cheeky Fun Fact: My personal strategy is to try to lose a few pounds myself, which would give me the weight advantage, and would generally make me a healthier person which also improves my riding. It’s a win-win.

Stiffness of the bike’s material/metal which is important for optimum power transfer from the effort you put into your pedal stroke and how much it transfers to your forward motion.

Comfort, Cheeky’s most valued trait, which can also be related to the stiffness of your bike. A bicycle that is stiff will transfer power and will also make for a more bumpy ride because the material/metal doesn’t absorb the bumps as much as a softer metal would.

Let’s review some common materials you’ll see in the market:

  • Steel – Common on older bikes (90’s and prior). Steel is typically the heaviest option available, making it a great choice if you are looking for something very sturdy, and budget friendly. These beasts can take a beating: dings, dents, bad crashes, and small bends and still keep on rolling! This makes them popular for touring and commuting. Unlike aluminum and especially carbon bikes which “fail fast” after being damaged (sometimes immediately), a steel bike will stand up to wear and tear and will keep going for years. That’s why they remain so pervasive in the used-bike market. Steel bikes are a great option for beginning riders but can be found at yard sales, on consignment at bike shops, or on ebay.  Newer designed steel bikes can compete with aluminum and carbon fiber bike weight and performance, and while they are easier to find, they can be pricey.
  • Aluminum – is a lightweight material that can get you moving, widely available at most entry level price points for road bikes, mountain bikes and commuters. Aluminum is not quite as strong/durable as steel, but is typically lighter than steel and provides more rigidity which will make a difference for power transfer in your pedal stroke. Aluminum is more durable than a carbon fiber bike, or titanium bike, but may be a little heavier due to the way it’s constructed, or have less aerodynamic designs.

Cheeky Fun Fact: My first road bike was an aluminum 2001 Lemond, Nevada City, and it was a boss!

  • Carbon Fiber – Found in bikes that make up the higher end of the price range because they have an incredible strength to weight ratio which makes them ideal for cranking out speed and power in the toughest of races. Because of the reduced weight of the material, designers can create extremely aerodynamic designs that would otherwise not be possible with other metals (as it would add significantly more weight). This stiff metal is great for transferring your power in each pedal stroke. Stiffness can also reduce comfort, but most big brands of bikes have adapted their design to make their carbon bikes more comfortable (you’ll feel less of the uncomfortable bumps from a rough road).

But – and this is a big but (or butt if you’re Cheeky) – a bad crash, especially into a road sign, post or car can cause serious damage to the frame. That may feel obvious that crashing into things is bad, but Carbon fiber bikes won’t dent like another metal, they crack. And once a carbon bike gets a crack it is no longer safe to ride and should be replaced. And that can get be a blow to your budget! That in mind, carbon is a fantastic option for a high performance bike, especially for road riding/road racing, due to its versatility and general badassity.

  • Titanium – The most expensive of our biking options, it’s lighter and stiffer than steel but more responsive too. It won’t be as light as your carbon or aluminum options, but those purchasing a titanium bike may consider it a bike for life, or an investment, because titanium doesn’t rust or corrode like other metals.
  • Combination of metals – Some bikes will come with combination or metals, for example an aluminum frame and a carbon seat post. This may be a nice compromise for optimizing performance, comfort (potentially dampening road vibrations because of the thicker sidewall of the carbon seatpost than aluminum) and your budget. Keep this option in mind too!

Component quality is another cost driver: Components, also known as the groupset, are the parts of the bike that make you go (gears, derailleurs, crank sets) and make you stop (braking systems, etc.). All component sets will get the job done, but some will do it more smoothly (like shifting between gears). They can also be made with better quality parts and look flashier.

There are a lot details available on this topic, and I’ll be honest that components groups isn’t my passion. So for those who want all the nitty gritty detail of performance levels and product differentiation check out this lovely post from BikeRadar.com.

For a TL;DR view, I’ve listed out the general hierarchy of groupset quality for the 3 most common brands (Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo), and the name of the models for each quality level/pricing point.

Shimano – Very Common groupset brand:

  1. Entry level Shimano groupsets: Claris, Sora and Tiagra
  2. Performance Shimano groupsets: 105 and Ultegra
  3. Pro-level Shimano groupsets: Dura-Ace

SRAM – Newest brand on the block:

  1. Entry level SRAM groupsets: Apex
  2. Performance SRAM groupsets: Rival and Force
  3. Pro-level SRAM groupsets: Red
  4. SRAM eTap groupsets: electronic shifting and hydraulic disc brakes

Campagnolo – Found on higher end bikes, and not commonly found on entry level bikes:

  1. Entry level Campagnolo groupsets: Centaur
  2. Performance Campagnolo groupsets: Potenza and Chorus
  3. Pro-level Campagnolo groupsets: Record and Super Record

Now that you’ve gotten familiar with the top 2 price drivers, what else should you be asking?  Evaluate the bikes in your price range and then ask:

  1. What more am I getting in this price range than the one below it?
  2. What am I not getting in this price range, than the one above it?

Sometimes the features in the price range above will reduce weight, or improve the quality of components by a level. For example, you may get improved shifting by spending a little more, and the bike will be a few grams lighter. I might be willing to pay more for better shifting, but I would rather work on personally shedding a few of my own grams of weight, and keep that extra money in my pocket. That works for me, but you have to do what is right for you!

What kind of bike are you looking to buy? Leave your comments and thoughts below!

 Next up for bike buying tips: How do I know what bike size is right for me?

Which bike should I buy? Part 1: Cruisers, Hybrids, Mountain bikes, Road and Touring bikes.

Have you looked at the huge selection of bikes out there and wondered where to even start? What are the different bike options available? Which bike would help you might meet your goals? Cruisers, Hybrids, Mountain bikes, Road bikes, and Touring bikes, oh my!

Today we are going to talk about these different types of bikes, and which could help you meet your goals.

What type of bike is right for me?

Cruiser/City

Hybrid/ Cyclocross Mountain Road

Touring

Riding paved and smooth surfaces

Yes

Yes Yes, less efficient on roads Yes

Yes

Riding paved and unpaved trails, grass or gravel

Yes

Yes Yes No

No

Trail riding, obstacles

No

No Yes No

No

Mileage/Distance

Low

Medium Low High

High

Speed

Slow

Medium Medium Fast

Medium

Commuting

No

Yes Yes, but less efficient on roads No

Yes

Comfort

High

High Medium Low

Medium

Handlebar style

Upright/Flat

Upright/Flat Flat Drop

Flat/Drop

Weight

Heavy

Medium Medium Light

Medium

Carrying loads

No

Light loads Yes, with some modification

No

Heavy loads

Let’s explore each of these categories of bikes in more detail:

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image from Amazon via https://bikesreviewed.com/cruiser/best-cruiser-bikes/

Cruisers/City bikes are great for casual riding, cruising on paved or smooth paths, and comfort. These are typically large bikes with limited gears and wide tires and an upright geometry geared for comfort. They tend to be heavier bikes and are great for shorter distance riding. When you’re riding a cruiser, you’re riding to see and be seen on a boardwalk, a park, or around town.

 

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Image from Amazon via https://bikesreviewed.com/hybrid/best-hybrid-bikes-2017/

Hybrid/Cyclocross bikes are designed for comfort by providing a cushy saddle, somewhat wider tires with smooth tread appropriate for paved trails or very light off-trail riding. These have flat or even upright handlebars and some even include a slight front suspension to increase a rider’s comfort. These bikes aren’t as heavy duty as mountain bikes, and are not as fast or efficient as a road bike, but are great for short distance commuting, general purpose riding and especially if you want to carry some small loads with you.

Cheeky Fun Fact: A hybrid bike was the gateway that lead me to road cycling today!

The hybrid bike I purchased from my local sports store was very comfortable, to sit on with its cushy seat, upright geometry and flat handlebars. I rode it everywhere around town and often rode it on a paved path to get to work, at the time this was a 5 mile ride each way. A 25-30 minute ride was the best way to start and end my work day!

My hybrid bike handled great on the paved path and because it had slightly wider tires with more tread it also handled well when the path had washed over with gravel, dirt and debris. Great for my goals at the time!

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Cheeky’s very first mountain bike – Giant Yukon SE from 2001

Image from BicycleBlueBook.com

Mountain bikes are great for trails and mountains. They have wider knobby tires for increased traction and stability on the trails. Mountain bikes are heavier than a hybrid or road bike, and many include shocks/suspension for absorbing all the bumps off-roading provides.

  • “Hardtail” mountain bikes include only front wheel suspension
  • “Full Suspension” bikes include suspension on the front and rear
  • “Rigid” mountain bikes don’t have any suspension
  • If a Mountain bike is calling your name, bikesreviewed.com offers up reviews for the best in 2017 Mountain bikes

Mountain biking is a ton of fun and requires a different mental skill set than road riding. You have to be alert to every coming obstacle while planning your next power burst or executing a quick turn on a sharp corner of a trail. Very different from riding on a long stretch of a smooth road on a road bike. It is utterly satisfying to complete a great trail ride, and you just feel like you can conquer the world!

In the area I went to college I had easy access to fun-to-ride fire roads and some seriously technical mountain biking trails too. My first mountain bike was a Giant Yukon SE that I saved and saved for. It was a hardtail beauty with disc brakes for quick stops.  It was perfect for my mountain biking needs for a long time. But after a bad crash, having the options of a 10 foot drop off on my right filled with sharp rocks or a barbed wire fence on my left, in which leaning left was an easy decision considering the alternative. I have since decided that I would focus on road riding as my main biking pursuit in the future. That said, Mountain bikers are total badasses!

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Cheeky’s very first road bike: a used 2001 Lemond, Nevada City

Image from BicycleBlueBook.com

Road bike – If you have a need for speed and want to ride some longer distances on a paved surface a road bike will be the bike for you!  Drop handlebars for increased aero-efficiency, The design puts the rider’s body at a more aggressive geometry than a hybrid and typically includes drop handlebars to further increase the aerodynamics.

I started with a hybrid bike, but after about 6 months of commuting back and forth on that hybrid I found that I wanted to go farther, to explore more of the routes and roads in my town, and I wanted to go faster! My goals had changed and my hybrid was no longer the best option to help me meet my need for speed! Speed being relative.

I sold my bicycle on commision through my local bike shop and found a second-hand aluminum framed road bicycle with drop handlebars that promised improved efficiency and speed! It was a beautiful blue 2001 Lemond Nevada City, that I lovingly christened  “the Lemond.” I was less creative with names back then.

I still love this bike, but it has since been loaned to a family member to get them rolling on their cycling journey.

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Image from BikeRadar.com

Touring Bicycle – A road bike that is designed to be a road-riding, heavy load carrying beast! In addition to drop handlebars and a lower gear range (which my Cheeky friends lovingly refer to as the turkey platter of gears rather than the normal dinner plate of gears a road bike offers. A larger range of lower gears means you can spin/pedal at a faster cadence which is easier on your knees and makes climbing hills more pleasant!) this bike has mounting points that can fit panniers/cargo racks and fenders. It is the bike you need for lugging heavy loads of gear up hills for the ultimate long distance, self-supported rides. Because a rider will be on this bike for days and days at a time, it offers a more relaxed geometry than the design of a road bike to keep a rider comfortable for the long stretches of distance riding. I definitely see one of these bikes in my future!

There is a world full of lovely bikes options that will help you get rolling. Identifying what your bike riding goals are will help steer you toward the bike that will meet your needs.

Cheeky’s next post, Step 2. Which bike should I buy? Part 2: Tips for bike buying will cover important tips to keep in mind when you’re looking to buy a bicycle, questions you should ask, and some of the benefits of working with a local bicycle shop rather than Craigslist for your purchase.

 

Cheeky’s Guide to Getting Started on your Bike: Step 1. Identifying your Bike Riding Goals

Today I am excited to kick off a new series called “Cheeky’s Guide to Getting Started on your Bike!”  

This series of posts will apply to you whether you are a not-yet cyclist, a beginner cyclist, or someone who just wants to pick your bike up again after a long hiatus. I’ve been in all three of those buckets.

I will detail out the Cheeky’s 8 steps to help you get in the saddle!

  1. Figure out your motivation and identify your bike riding goals.
  2. Which bike should I buy?
    • Types of Bikes
    • Tips for bike buying.
  3. What is a bike fit, and why do I need one?
  4. Riding safely: you need somewhere to ride.
  5. Do I really need cycling shorts? 
  6. Avoid the BONK! 
  7. What should I bring along when I ride?
  8. Listen to your body.

Now, let’s get rolling (see what I did there?!)!

Step 1:  Figure out your motivation and identify your bike riding goals: What kind of riding do you want to do?

We all have different reasons for getting on a bike, and in my opinion, any reason is a good reason if it gets you on a bike! Understanding what kind of riding you want to do will help you get started in the right direction with the right bike and having some goals for yourself can keep you motivated!:

What kind of riding do you want to do?

  • Low-key cruising for short distances
    • I’m only going to ride a few miles at a time and I am just cruising around my neighborhood. I’m not riding for speed or distance, I’m just cruisin’!
  • Riding for exercise and health
    • I want to get outside and get healthy!
    • I want to improve my endurance, balance, flexibility, stamina, and overall cardiovascular health on a bike.
    • I want to build muscle, burn calories and let my mind feel the freedom that two wheels can offer!
  • Bike Commuting instead of driving
    • I want to get out of my car! I’m interested in commuting to work on my bike.
    • I want to improve my fitness and maybe become less dependent on my car. I would like to explore something that will help me have an efficient and comfortable bike ride.
  • Mountain biking in the great outdoors
    • I am a badass and want to ride my bike in the dirt! Trails sound awesome to me. Maybe I’ll start on some fire-access roads that are packed dirt, but later in life I want to dodge rocks and tree roots and generally show off my absolute badassery.
  • Riding for distance or speed (or both!)
    • I’m thinking about signing up for my first charity ride. I like the idea of longer rides, maybe 50 or 60 miles at a time or more! Someday I might consider riding a century ride (100 miles!), but for now I know I want to log some miles!
    • Even if you can’t ride 5 miles yet, you can ride for distance too! If Cheeky did it, so can you!

Riding a bicycle is great for mind, body and spirit! Each journey starts with mile at a time and every time you get on your bicycle you grow as a cyclist. Now that you have an idea of what kind of cycling you want to do, the next step is finding the right bike to get you riding. This can feel a bit overwhelming, but fear not dear reader, Cheeky’s got your covered in Step 2: Which bike should I buy?