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Thunderbolt lights will get you through the storm

Topping out at just under 100 lumens, thunderbolt lights are perfect for  commuters and anyone looking to increase visibility in evening and morning rides. When I bought my matching head and taillights, the first thing I noticed about them was their versatility. Two rubber  straps stretch considerably, allowing you to mount the thunderbolts almost anywhere you can imagine. The headlight could comfortably fit on my handlebars or headtube, while the tail light  fit easily fit on my rear rack, helmet or seat stay.

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Riding home with them that evening I immediately noticed their intensity. They far outclassed any lights I had owned before and lit part of the road around me. I felt secure in my visibility, and the flash setting ensured that even the most inattentive of drivers would notice me. They have since been my companions on late night grocery runs and evening rides.

The big test for my thunderbolts came earlier this year on a long ride in the rain. I had heard of other lights shorting out in the wet northwest weather, but the thunderbolt’s rubber outer shell appeared watertight to me. The seal covering its USB charging port was my only concern.  The entire trip it rained, sprinkling when my friend and I left and progressing to regular plodding Seattle rain as the ride went on. As we came to the end of the trip, a storm hit and rain began to sheet in head and crosswinds. Visibility was near zero at times and my partner and I became soaked as the persistent rain sought out any crack in our waterproof gear. A mile and a half from home, hail began to fall with the heavy rain.

The thunderbolt lights powered on through all of this, never showing any sign of dimming or shorting, their rubber seals holding true and watertight. I was glad that I could depend on them when I most needed them, when rain and dim light would have otherwise obscured my reflective gear. They are charging at my computer as I write, getting ready for the next adventure.

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Specialized Spotlight: The Cobble Gobbler

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In 2013, Specialized launched a new seat-post to help riders handle any rough terrain they might encounter on a daily ride. They wanted to create a design that would increase comfort, while retaining the performance of other carbon seatposts. The result was the CG-R, otherwise known as the Cobble Gobbler.
 
The technology behind Specialized’s suspension seatpost is pretty straightforward. A carbon leaf-spring absorbs large impacts, while a Zertz gel insert tucked into the bend smooths out the finer vibrations.The end result is a seatpost that comes in at 200 grams, with 18mm of vertical cushion – keeping your body in the most efficient pedaling position over roots and bumps that would have launched you off of a rigid seatpost. The CG-R is an elegant solution to the paradox of comfort and performance. It sacrifices neither, allowing for impact absorption without a large loss of pedal power. This make it desirable for long rides, commuting, and even for the cyclocross and gravel racing scene.

There are however, a few caveats to the praise I have for this seatpost. First, the distinct look of the spring takes some getting used to. It grows on you, trust me, but at first you do take a moment to think to yourself, “that looks… different.” Secondly, 18mm of flex is a lot when you consider potential efficiency loss in watts. If you are a racer, or rider that lives to get the most power out of his bike, the CG-R is not going to be as stiff as some of the SL carbon seatposts available. Third, the price tag of 200 dollars is not cheap, placing the CG-R above the S-Works carbon seatposts in price. That being said, for what the seatpost was designed to do, it does its job well.

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I have been riding this CG-R for the last two months on my Allez and my Crux. Even after many hours in the saddle, I still have the moments where I am astounded by the subtle suspension of the seat-post. I still feel the road, I feel the cracks, I feel my tires as I corner, I feel my bike as I put power down to accelerate just as I do with any rigid seatpost. Then I hit a bump, a pothole, a cobble road (thanks downtown), and am able to sit through the jarring impacts, and best of all feel relatively comfortable. Sure, some obstacles will still throw me, some impacts will make me wish I had lifted off the saddle for that bump, but for the majority of road imperfections, I just grin and keep pedaling.

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It’s Never too Late to Learn to Ride

Learning to ride a bike at 61 raises some concerns: will I be publicly humiliated? How hard will it be? My head will have a helmet, but what about the rest of me?

Drawn to the forests, mountains, and ocean waters of the Pacific Northwest, I’ve lived a reasonably active life since my arrival in Seattle 22 years ago. Biking, however, has not been part of me outdoor profile.When my wife and long-time sea kayaking partner had to stop paddling because of leg pain, I thought that biking would make up in land miles what we were giving up in nautical ones (she has no problems pedaling). But that meant learning to ride, something I’d avoided for countless years out of fear and ignorance. I had always wanted to ride, but my wife’s situation clinched it: spending time together out of doors was too precious to lose. Recalling a conversation I had some years back with a woman who had learned to ride as an adult with Cycle University, I signed up for three 90-minute one-on-one lessons.

Lesson 1

My instructor, Colin Gibson, a tall, trim athlete with an impressive racing record, immediately put me at ease with his infectious good cheer. After some discussion about my experience (zero) and goals (ride a bike without falling) Colin started the process with a bike fitting: making sure that the bike I would train on was the right size and configuration for my body type. Riding a poorly fitted bike means using more energy than necessary, and could lead to injury.

Moving outdoors (in public view!) it was time for the basics: starting and stopping a bike. What’s natural for experienced riders turns out to require some conscious coordination for newbies. Body posture, brakes, and pedal position need to work together seamlessly to start the bike moving, and to bring it to a stop without falling. It seemed like a daunting proposition at first, but with Colin carefully scrutinizing my attempts and following on foot closely enough to prevent mishaps, I eventually was able to move the bike a short distance and bring it to a safe stop. No prizes for elegance that day, but none of the passersby seemed to care or notice. Whew!

Lesson 2

About a week later, Colin had us at a shoreline park in West Seattle, where there was ample space to build on the previous week’s lesson and add to my (limited) skill set. The park wasn’t within view of the street, so that bit of anxiety was alleviated. After a review of start and stop basics, it was time to master turning the bike. Apparently the world is lacking in bike pathways that move in a straight line forever; one must learn to turn the bike occasionally. Moving the bike a longer distance felt great, but up ahead was a chain link fence that meant a turn was necessary. The first two attempts were less than successful. Nothing serious happened; but people would have stared had anybody been around. After getting the low down from Colin on what I was doing right and what I needed to change, I gave it a go. Sure enough it worked, the bike arcing to the left and then heading back to my starting point. Turning again, I went towards the fence once more and made another left. It seemed I could go on this way for a while when Colin reminded me that I should learn to perform a right turn as well. I saw the logic in that, and went on to do so.

Next up was attempting to move the bike in a figure eight pattern. Seemed easy enough, but that maneuver eluded me that day. I had better luck when Colin suggested using some nearby speed bumps to practice the proper body and pedal positions when encountering a bump in the road. Not a bad day, overall.

Lesson 3

This was it, the final lesson, and time to ride a bike on a trail along with pedestrians and other cyclists. Colin chose the Alki Trail in West Seattle, a long, mostly flat pathway that offered some grand views of Puget Sound and the Seattle skyline. After a quick review, we were on the trail, Colin following closely enough for me to hear his cautions, suggestions, and encouragement. It soon became clear that biking requires your full attention. The trail seemed to be full of nothing but tricky obstacles: people walking their dogs, cyclists of all abilities, children emerging from parked cars, joggers wearing ear buds (with their backs to me!), Scuba divers prepping their gear, stop signs, and active driveways. Colin, ever vigilant, coached me along, and I learned to use my brakes to adjust my speed and call out as I passed (mostly) on the left. We rounded Duwamish Head, at the northern tip of West Seattle, and continued on for a total of three miles before stopping to rest and admire the view. My body told me I’d just done something new, but I was elated. On the ride back the trail was just as busy, but what I remember most was the sun shining, the water sparkling, and a refreshing wind.

It’s been a month since the last lesson, and my wife and I are on our bikes routinely, going farther with each ride.

I’ve discovered that there are many adults who’ve never learned to ride, and multiple approaches to teaching them. The advantages of group lessons are cost and camaraderie. For me, the one-on-one method was the best for my learning style. Choose a method that suits you, learn to ride, and commit to improving by riding. When taking lessons remember to wear clothing that’s comfortable but not too loose, and bring a full water bottle. I found visualization helped me prepare for a lesson. Learning to ride as an adult won’t be as hard as you think, people will admire the effort, and you’ll be too happy to mind a little soreness.

On your left!

Sal

 

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Dean’s Letter: Go Crazy for Cyclocross!

I love Cyclocross because it is the most fun kind of racing. No matter how I end up finishing a race, I always get an amazing workout and my “hair blown back” as my friend Toddy T used to say. Cyclocross is never boring. It is slippery, arduous, thrilling and tricky. Often I am riding so hard I can barely breathe – and I love it. Like downhill skiing, it is you against the course. There are always one or two rooty or rocky sections of each course that I mess up on. Maybe I didn’t position my bike right and got knocked off my line, or crashed and had to run to catch up. But from those mistakes, I learn. I love the feeling of finally getting it right, nailing it through a tough section without losing too much speed. It’s a great feeling to make up ground on another rider because I found a faster way through a turn.

Our Cross Bootcamp started this week, and I love it because it gets my head back into the game of Cross and starts the fitness gains I want to make through winter. I actually become more fit through the winter because of cross, and tend to get a bit out of shape in the spring. When Cross Bootcamp starts I know my downtime is over. It feels good to begin pushing my limits again, and I am excited to see our junior racers out there doing the same. It is very inspiring to see our kids braving the elements and giving it everything they have on the course. Their efforts have motivated me to get back into racing cross seriously. We plan to go to Austin TX this winter for the national championships, giving me the chance to see how I stack up against the other 50 year olds. Here is a video of me in my last race last year at Enumclaw if you want to get a feel for what cross is all about.

This is early for most “normal” people to think about cross, but a good time to start dipping your toes in the water if you are just starting. If you want to join us in September or take an intro class from us in the next couple months I hope to see you. Lots of people jump on the band wagon in September or October when we have more classic Cross weather. Join us and get on the program, your body, bike handling skills and mojo will be glad you did.

Coach Craig