Friday, December 19, 2008

Product Recommendation: Fox Flux Helmet

Product Recommendation: the Fox Flux helmet

The Fox Flux is one of a number of “all-mountain” specific helmets being offered up by the major players in the helmet world, and while Fox is a late comer in helmets, the Flux has turned out to be worth the wait. The first thing that draws your attention is its good looks. It even has a removable spoiler (which isn’t near as dorky as is sounds when you see it) but under the aggressive veneer lay several features that make it great choice for a mid-priced helmet ($100).

Having run this helmet for two seasons now, I can say without reservation that this is the best ventilation I’ve ever had in a helmet. The vents are huge in size and in number, making an all day rides in the deserts of Moab and Sedona immeasurably more tolerable than with helmets with smaller vents. The vents are so large, in fact, that I’ve taken to wearing Coolmax skullcaps under it to prevent any leopard print sunburns on my bald head. Even people with hair sometimes have to be careful to avoid this on the forehead, but this is a minor inconvenience given the ventilation.

Of course, one of the things that distinguish an all-mountain helmet from a regular helmet is the added coverage further down the back of the head, and the Flux is no different. Should you perform any impromptu acrobatics sans bicycle onto a bunch of rocks you have a little extra protection for your melon, which is, albeit, small consolation at that particular moment, but you get the idea. It is advisable, however to make sure that your sunglasses play well with the extra coverage. The longer ear stems on some shades bottom out on the retention device or the helmet itself. This actually prompted me to take the ear stems on my Oakley Racing Jackets to the grinder. Glasses I’ve used with the helmets since then have worked out, however.

Speaking of retention, the way the straps anchor directly into the shell at the temples is a convenient feature that reduces the hassle of twisted straps. As far a fit options go, the Flux only comes in two sizes: small/medium and large/extra large. Yet, they seem to work out nicely for most people’s heads, and as long as that’s the case, I don’t expect Fox to expand its sizing options any time soon. One should always try a helmet on before buying anyway. Happy helmet hunting!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rave- Lezyne Alloy / Pressure Drive pumps

It takes a lot to get me excited these days, and the fact that I can’t shut up about a frame pump should be testament enough as to how cool this thing is.

Kaj, Karli, and I were walking around Interbike this last September when I turned to Kaj and said “You know, there has got to be something here that we’ve never seen before that is the coolest thing, ever. My goal today is to find it.” Kaj, in his normal understated Kaj enthusiasm, says "That's a good goal." We had to weed through some not-so-spectacular stuff like leopard print seat packs and light up rollers (which I have video of Kaj riding, if anyone’s interested), but we eventually found ourselves at the Lezyne booth, checking out their new frame pumps.

Long story short, these frame pumps ROCK. Think about, just for a second, everything that you have ever hated about every pump you’ve ever owned. This pump fixes them all. It’s an all-metal construction- no plastic pump heads, closure levers, handles, etc. to break at the most inopportune moment. The piston is machined, and those of you that know me know what a sucker I am for machined bits (which is why I love Hope brakes, Thomson stems, Lezyne’s multitools, etc., but that’s a separate blog altogether). The best part, though, is the hose. It has both a Schrader and presta end, so it works on any tube out there. It screws onto the valve, rather than press-fitting, so there aren’t any rubber seals to get chewed up and go bad. Finally, when you pump it, the hose flexes rather mangling your valve stem and/or ripping it out of your tube altogether. Ingenious.

The pump comes in two flavors- Alloy Drive (mountain) and Pressure Drive (road)- and two sizes in each flavor. They’re feather light, damn sexy, and only cost about $10 more than any “normal,” lesser frame pump.

Best. Frame. Pump. Ever. Seriously.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Product Review: Smartwool Socks

Socks often end up an afterthought for cyclists looking to get fully equipped with all the necessary gear for the long haul. The clothing world in general relegates the lowly sock to the bottom spot on the totem pole. Not even underwear is subject to such a lack of attention.

But any encounter with a really well made sock will prove this lack of attention to be quite unfair. Ask any bike fitter and they will tell you that the foot pedal interface is arguably the most important part of a bike fit. This is where the vast majority of the power generated by your body is transmitted to the bike, but if things down there are out of kilter, then in the words of Walter in the Big Lebowski, "You are about to enter a world of pain."

Thankfully, Smartwool socks are about the opposite of pain. Their use of all-natural merino wool has a number of benefits over the traditional synthetic fabric socks that (I think, unjustly) dominate the cycling market. They wick moisture away from your feet in a way that synthetics all claim to, but don't. Because they keep your feet drier, they are better able to allow your feet to regulate their own temperature, so they keep your feet warmer when it's cold out, and cooler when it's hot. This, and the fact that the merino is naturally antimicrobial makes them less prone to stinkiness. Even socks that are specifically designed to reduce odor (think x-static) don't live up to the hype the way Smartwools do. Last but not least, Smartwools are obscenely comfortable- so obscenely comfortable, in fact, that I can't even repeat what a friend of mine remarked upon trying their hiking sock for the first time.

Smartwool has been making a concerted effort of late to grow their cycling specific line-up, including not only socks, but baselayers, jerseys, helmet liners, and more. I'm confident that once people try out their socks, like the PhD cycling models, they will feel comfortable opening the wallet for any of these other products. All of their stuff is nice, but the socks?... The best, most exalted socks on the face of the planet. How's that for a ringing endorsement? ~RC

Monday, December 15, 2008

I love my Maverick and it loves me.

Over the Great Divide

From July 20th, 2008

I had three days off this past weekend and wanted to make a bike vacation out of it, but none of my co-workers were able to go. I wanted to go and get a lift ticket at a ski resort and take my bike up the chairlift since I moved to Colorado but nobody could ever go and since I didn't have a car, that goal has been on the backburner all this time. Another thing I had heard of people doing is riding mountain bikes over the continental divide to Winter Park, which is probably about 30 miles of mostly rough jeep roads some of which are too rocky to even ride a bike on. They have lift riding there.

So, I thought "to hell with everyone else", filled a backpack with lots of food, clothing, maps, and other essentials and left for Winter Park. I'm generally a wuss when it comes to longer rides. 4 hours is usually enough to drive me straight into the ground physically, and yet here I was, embarking on a journey of indeterminant length and difficulty.

The trail snakes from behind Eldora Ski resort (which is closed during the summer) up to the ruins of an old rail grade over Rollins Pass above tree level at 11,660 ft above sea level. You have to cross some railroad trestles dating from the late 1800's where the train would have to plow through the snow with a massive corkscrew plow on the front of it. Now the train passes under the divide through Moffat Tunnel, built in the twenties over several years, resulting in 38 worker deaths, and one bankrupt mister Moffat, but I digress. From there, you can pick up about 15 miles of dirt roads leading down the other side into Winter Park. The weather was cooperative and sunny and the ride went off well. I took everything at an easy pace and was pushing my bike up incredibly steep, rocky, slopes for much of that time, which ironically enough, saved my riding legs. Though the ride took six and half hours, I arrived in Winter Park feeling relatively good.

I got a hotel with a shower, cable television, a pool, and a hot tub, stuffed my face at a local restaurant, washed my riding clothes, watched the Tour de France stage and went to bed. The next day I rode a couple of miles to Winter Park Ski resort, bought a lift ticket and did some downhilling. It was some pretty fantastic riding, with huge bermed turns, jumps, wall rides, and wooden bridges, and I rode just about all of it. At the bottom they were busy building the freestyle course for Crankworx, a huge mountain bike freeride festival, with the huge jumps to go with it. When I went over to take a few pictures, I realized one of the guys working on the course was a pro freerider who appears in all the crazy videos we play at the bike shop, John Cowen, so I got to meet him too.

Today was the dreaded ride back home. I thought my legs would quit on me before I even got back up to Rollins Pass, but surprisingly, they felt pretty good once I settled into a good pace that I could hold for awhile. Storm clouds moved in and started raining on me as soon as I reached the top so I donned raingear and started the rocky descent down into the valley below.

There I saw the first biker on that route all weekend and he turned out to be the guy that used to live next door to me at the cabin. He took wrong turn and was just about to find out he was going the exact opposite direction he wanted to when I found him. We rode together through multiple puddles and creek crossings en route to Eldora Ski Resort where he convinced me (in spite of my fatigue and better judgement) to do this crazy downhill back toward town. I hadn't done it on my new bike and was anxious to try it out down the super steep boulders that the trail was known for and the bike got me down it with out wrecking, although I had plently of opportunities.

Now, here I am back at the pizza place in Ned, inhaling a cheese bread until I feel sick, and writing about the tree. I must say, as tired as I am, I'm feeling pretty damn good about myself right now having survived so much riding without completely bonking and ending up trudging in agony all the way home. I wish I were always that lucky.


Bike Names

So after much scrounging, selling off things, saving, fiddling, fetching of small parts, swearing, and harrassment from hordes of unclean bicycle mechanics, I finally have a rideable mountain bike to hit the trails with. I built it from the ground up- almost every nut and bolt of it- because that's the way (uh-huh, uh-huh) I like it.

Dare I say this bike is hell on wheels? A two wheeled, mud flinging, carnival of gyroscopic motion? A magic carpet? It is all of these things and more. When I sprint on it, I swear I can hear the roar of jet engines. When I jump it, I could be forgiven for thinking it had wings. When I round a bermed corner, I marvel that the wheel I laced and built myself doesn't explode like a roadside bomb filled with spokes.

So only question left to ask is this: what do I name this fine, custom built, piece of machinery? I've met lots of people who have names for their cars, but it takes a true enthusiast- someone who really loves their bike, to name it. It got me thinking of what it is that really makes for a great bike name.

Cisco, who's a regular at our shop, named is mountain bike "Excalibur". Kevin named his blue Ibis Mojo with the matching blue Maverick DUC32 fork the "Blue Bomber". Karli named her custom purple anodized Maverick ML8 "Purple Rain". Dave Pike has a mutant cro-moly town bike he calls "Big Chrome."

I figure I can rival that with a name of my own. My bike is a Giant Reign 0 that I had powdercoated white. The two choices I came up with are "Arctic Fox" or "Apollo the Off-road Supernova". Look at the attached pictures, and you can see where I'm coming from. In the end, I kept both names, and once I do a few upgrades in the spring, it will henceforth be named "Apollo the Off Road Supernova Version 2.0 a.k.a. The Arctic Fox" There's nothing like piling on.

If you'd like to name one of or all of your bikes, ask yourself some of these questions and ultimately you should come up with something good. What do you use the bike for? What color is it? Is it light, heavy, fast, or slow? Think about all of it's attributes and then think of some pop icons and see if any of them fit the bike's attributes. For example, some guys here have downhill or freeride bikes and have named them Sledgehammer, Hoss, and The Beast. Fitting monikers eh? Here's some more ideas on the house:

The Silver Bullet
The Maltese Falcon
The Pink Panther
Urban Destroyer
Rolling Thunder
The Beef-Hammer
Lightning Hopkins
Machine of the Gods
The Blue Streak
Greased Lightning
Freedom Wheels

Hopefully there's enough here to get your creative juices flowing. We'd love to hear what you come up with!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Welcome to post number one!

I'm so excited about this blog. I just started working at Full Cycle a month ago, but in that short time I've met some amazing people who do really fun things on bikes of all kinds. Those people are Full Cycle staff and those fun things range from mountain bike camping adventures, ski-biking, cyclocross racing, bike commuting in all weather, and even bringing home a full-sized Christmas tree on a bike trailer. Ok, that last one didn't happen, but it was talked about a whole lot, and it's definitely possible.

So this is the place where Full Cycle staff will talk about our adventures on bikes, the bikes and gear we like, upcoming events, ideas for fun things to do on a bike, places to ride, and our general bike-related thoughts.

Here's a brief tale for starters. For you mountain bikers looking for a way to get your more timid friends, girlfriends, wives, husbands, whoever, into mountain biking - listen up. I just moved here from the east coast, where I sucked at mountain biking. I was on a heavy old hybrid bike, and was forever slipping and falling on roots. So in honor of self-preservation, I gave up on mountain biking. Also, I'm somewhat clumsy and I'm nervous about falling. Good qualities in a mountain biker, right?

Then I moved out here, and within a week I was handed a rental Giant Trance X from Full Cycle and was hauled across the state to Fruita for a multi-day mountain bike trip. I was game, but also pretty sure that my co-bikers would soon realize that me and mountain biking aren't a good mix, and that it was a better use of my time to stay at camp and clean up after breakfast.

It took me about 5 minutes on the trail to realize that mountain biking FREAKING ROCKS. This was not scary. This was addictive fun. Riding on sweet trails and having an good bike made me feel like all was right with the world, and that I could take on anything the trail could give. I'm getting all giddy just thinking about it, so I'd better stop writing before I babble on and on (too late?). But seriously people, get your friends and family on a good mountain bike (from Full Cycle!) and get them out to Fruita, and you'll have riding partners for life.

Until next time, happy biking!