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My Quest for a new Mountain Bike

Crave!

It’s been around 13 years since I got my Specialized Stumpjumper mountain bike and this spring I finally made up my mind that it wasn’t worth repairing any more.

Besides, it has 26” wheels and that’s so last year. The last 4 years I raced it I was running it as a single speed on the East Coast. That’s right, just one gear. There is something very pure about having two speeds; go, or don’t go. I made many good memories on my Stumpjumper, but that didn’t change the fact that it was time for a new bike.

The search came with some constraints: budget, ride characteristics, and weight.

I wanted to keep the same competitive geometry of the Stumpjumper in the next bike I chose. The Specialized Rockhopper and Hard

rock didn’t have the geometry or the level of components I was looking for. The Stumpjumper FSR is lots of fun, has great shocks and can climb as well as it can descend, but it was a little more suspension than I needed. The Epic and Stumpjumper hardtail were more my speed with their cross-country oriented gearing and suspension. Unfortunately, both the Stumpjumpers and the Epic were way outside my budget.

What is left in the mountain lineup from Specialized? The Crave! (formerly Carve) With geometry very close to the Stumpjumper hardtail I found it well suited to my needs, and it was much faster than my old rig.

The level of components on each bike was a large deciding factor for me.  No, I’m n

ot a weight weenie, (Okay, I am) but I was looking for something that I didn’t feel would drag me down.  I went back to my roots; single-speed.

Specialized offers the Crave in an “SL” model: Carbon fork, single speed

aluminum frame.  My size (15.5″) with all stock parts weighed in at 21lbs 11oz, respectable for $1300. I decided to go tubeless (everyone should) and I trimmed the weight to 21lbs, getting rid of more than half a pound by doing not a whole lot.

My first real ride on the Crave was in Hood River, Oregon. Verdict: AWESOME.  I look forward to racing it.

By Reinout Schooldermann

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Safety First: A Guide to City Cycling

 
Seattle is a city with a vibrant cycling community. All year round, Seattle cyclists hit the streets to train, commute, and have fun. Seattle is also a city with lots of car traffic, and a cycling infrastructure which forces cyclists to share roads directly with drivers. This creates a dangerous situation where cyclists are put at risk on a daily basis to get out on their bikes and ride. Cyclists must smarten up in a hurry if they wish to enjoy the cycling this city has to offer, and there are steps you can take to greatly improve your safety on the street.
 
Here are some good pointers to get you started:
 
Make sure you are comfortable handling on your bike and that your bike is in good working order.

If you are a confident handler of your bike, you will also be a safer cyclist out on the road. Many people still have a childish memory of riding their bikes, where they didn’t necessarily need a high skill-level to careen around the driveway or neighborhood. There weren’t rules, it was all about fun. Cyclists riding in the city need to take responsibility when out on the roads. They must learn not only the cycling-specific rules of the road, but also how to things like shift properly, stop smoothly, corner efficiently and safely, descend, and perform an emergency stop. Practice of these skills ensures your responses will be more predictable in situations that require quick decision-making and evasive maneuvers, making the streets safer for yourself and those around you.
 
Cycle University is a huge resource for developing cycling skills and knowledge, and offers basic to advanced skills development in group or one-on-one settings. Check out our summer offerings on the class page- Road 101, 201, and 301 will teach you practical skills for safe handling and gaining confidence on your bike.
 
A well kept bike is a safe bike, for hopefully obvious reasons.  Even if you don’t ride a lot and find it hard to justify handing out extra money on bike maintenance, you at least need to make sure you have the ability to brake safely, that your frame and components are structurally sound, and that your tires are in good condition.
 
Cycle University has a full bike service department at both the Sand Point and West Seattle location. Your safety is our first concern: If you’re curious what kind of condition your bike is in, we will happily look over your bike and give a free estimate on the services we would recommend for you.

Everything is out to get you.
 
You cannot rely on the assumption that drivers will drive aware and in a predictable manner. DON’T, DON’T, DON’T. There is no ‘winning’ when going up against vehicles in a collision scenario. Your best defense is to assume that the car directly to your left could – no, WILL, without warning – dive to the right into the next side street.  The driver making a left hand turn, they won’t see you and will go ahead and make that left hand turn even with you having right of way. That car pulling up to the intersection, it’s going to fly out directly in front of you.
 
Yep, this sounds terrible. You probably don’t feel it’s fair, and you will feel paranoid, but it will also keep you ready to respond when the moment comes. I say, ‘when’, and not, ‘if’, because close calls happen regularly, they are inevitable when you spend any time riding with vehicular traffic, and I cannot stress the importance of remaining aware when you’re on the road. It is YOUR JOB to look out for cars and the moment you get lazy in this regard, and don’t make that extra effort, taking the extra precautions, however unlikely it is that a driver will make a mistake or act unpredictably, it is YOU who will suffer the consequences if they do.

Bike lanes do not spell ‘safety’.

You say now, ‘But wait? What about when I find a bike lane to ride in? Aren’t they there so I can relax and feel more safe?’ My answer is absolutely not!  Bike lanes, in theory, are there to help protect cyclists, as well as improve traffic flow.  In practice, and for the most part in the United States, bike lanes consist of nothing more than a painted strip on the same road shared by car traffic, and actually create dangerous situations in certain cases.
 
Bike lanes are not your excuse to relax and pay less attention to traffic. This is probably one of the largest problem areas of urban commuting, as cyclists assume that they do not have to worry about cars anymore once they’re in a bike lane, as if within some invisible force field.
The primary things to be especially cautious of in bike lanes include:
 

  • Car doors opening to the right of the bike lane.  Many urban streets allow cars to park to the far right of the street, creating a bike lane sandwich.   Whenever you see a line of parked cars to your right, it is your cue move to the far left of your lane, giving approximately a car-door distance between you and the row of vehicles. Other things to look out for are drivers pulling out of or diving into potential parking spaces, DO NOT ASSUME THEY SEE YOU.
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  • Drivers turning/ Drivers pulling out from side streets.  In order for a car to turn off of their current street onto a side street, yes, they have to intersect your bike path.  In order for a car to merge onto the same street you are on, they must intersect your bike path. They should do this in a safe manner, but do you assume that they will?  -Did you answer, ‘NO!’ ?  – GOOD!  You are learning!
     
    My rule of thumb with drivers making left hand turns or poised at a side street looking to merge with, or drive across your current street, MAKE EYE CONTACT. I cannot overemphasize the importance in these situations. It seems like a hassle, and it is, as sometimes it requires you to slow down a moment to make sure drivers look your direction and acknowledge your presence, it is all extra effort on your part, but the potential alternative could be devastating.The second type of turn to deal with would be that of vehicles from your flow direction, looking to make a right hand turn.
     
    Be on the lookout for blinker signals of cars directly in front of you, but also of vehicles you are traveling beside, once you approach side streets. You do not want to stay for more than a moment directly beside a vehicle – instead, space yourself behind, where you can keep a visual on their blinkers, where the driver can see you better in their mirrors, and where you would have appropriate distance to react in case they make an unexpected or unannounced turn, or, in front of the car.
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  • Use your judgment with bike lanes.  It may be appropriate, and the best choice for YOUR safety, to merge with traffic in certain areas, even if a bike lane is available. Situations like this would be in places where the bike lane is obstructed by an object or parked vehicle, where the bike lane is in very poor condition, and where the bike lane is on a long descent and the vehicles have a reasonably low speed limit. This last example may seem strange, but there are situations, due to your increased speed and therefore inability to react as quickly and safely to cars turning into side streets or merging out of side streets (intersecting your bike lane), where merging with traffic, as long as you are close to matching their speed, is the safer alternative.
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    Riding in the city is serious business, but it can also be really fun and rewarding. Don’t let fear keep you from riding your bike on the city, instead, equip yourself with the tools and knowledge to do it safely.

    Now, let’s all get out and ride!

    Coach Vanessa

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    Dean’s Letter: The Platinum Rule

    Those who have been in our shop of late may have noticed a change- new posters stating what I call the Platinum Rule: Treat others as they would like to be treated. Here at Cycle U, our focus lies on helping riders achieve their goals through training suited to their unique needs. This philosophy reflects our commitment to listen to our riders and help them to achieve their goals.

     

    It fosters a unique dialogue between rider and coach- not just us telling you what to do, but a two way discussion to help you improve your abilities. Being open to the ideas and perspectives of our riders helps us to understand their needs as both a cyclist and a person. To understand what another person truly desires of themselves and others is not just a good coaching tool- it is a philosophy for life.

     

    It is what has shaped Cycle U and created all of our classes, shops and coaching.  We listen, we brainstorm ideas, and we create solutions.  I can’t believe it has been 10 years since I started Cycle U.  I have so many great memories of rides, training sessions, retail encounters and conversations with all of you that I feel immensely blessed and lucky.

     

     It all started with a little idea to educate instead of sell, and it has grown into something much bigger than I ever imagined.  The people that work here now, and those who have worked here and gone on to bigger and better things, I am proud of each one of you and you deserve the credit as much as I do.  Thanks for joining us on the ride, and let’s get ready for the next one!

     

    Spin to win,

     

    Coach Craig
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    Bike Spotlight: S-Works Venge

    0030030_specialized_s_works_venge_di2_racing_road_bike_2014_450

    I first had the opportunity to ride a Venge S-works last year at SBCU. the first thing I noticed was the bike’s amazing lateral stiffness. When I put power into the pedals there was no movement. It’s off the line performance was shockingly different than the Roubaix I had been riding, but I found it to my liking.

    I found there was little difference in feel between the carbon frames of the S-Works and base model Venge. Overall however, I was so impressed by it that I bought the S-Works Bike and have been putting mile upon mile on it ever since. It’s expectedly fast on corners, and if you get your trajectory just right, you’ll come out the other side with virtually the same speed you went in. It eats up straightaways, slicing through the wind like a hot knife through butter.

    On the whole, the Venge is a great performer in almost every category. I took it up some of the more challenging hills in West Seattle, including the Marine View climb, the 35th ave climb out of the Arroyos, and the awe inspiring Salmon Creek Ravine(Goat Hill) climb. It performed well, but on a sustained climb I would prefer the Tarmac or the Roubaix. The Venge promises much more, and I will continue to experiment and share my results with you as I explore its capabilities

    By Jeff Neubert

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    Specialized Sitero Review

    Specialized has been making saddles under their Body Geometry label for years, but only recently jumped into the TT/Triathlon market with their new Sitero saddle.  We recently got a few of the unique new saddles in at the shop, and quickly installed them on the bikes of our coaches for some race feedback.  First, here’s a technical rundown.

    The TT/Triathlon saddle market has recently been dominated by two shapes: the split nose, and the padded nose.  When riders drop into the aero position, the pelvis rotates forward.  In this position, standard road saddles, with their narrow, firm noses, tend to place uncomfortable pressure on the soft tissue of the perineum, which can cause pain and numbness.  The split nose design attempts to sidestep this issue by creating a hollow channel for soft tissue to occupy, while displacing most of the rider’s body weight onto the pubic arch.  The padded nose design simply bulks up the nose of a standard saddle, which diffuses pressure on the perineum.  You can see examples of these two designs below (left & center)

    TT Saddles Top View

    Left-to-right: ISM Adamo TT, Fi’zi:k Ares, Specialized Sitero

     

    TT Saddles Side View

    Top-to-bottom: Specialized Sitero, Fi’zi:k Ares, ISM Adamo TT

     

    Both of these designs have their benefits and drawbacks.  The split nose design can be comfortable, so long as the width of the saddle matches that of the rider’s pelvic arch.  If the saddle is too narrow or too wide, the perineum or the pelvic arch winds up taking on excess pressure.  The padded nose design can relieve some of the stress of a standard road saddle, but becomes more uncomfortable during longer efforts for many riders.

    The Specialized Sitero addresses these issues with a novel design.  Like split nose saddles, it is designed to displace body weight onto the pelvic arch, but it does so with a wedge-shaped design that becomes progressively wider.  The range of widths on the Sitero is 4-14.5cm, while the ISM saddle (above left) holds at a constant 6cm for the length of its hollow channel.  This means that riders with different hip widths can ride the same saddle by sitting further toward the front or back.

    pelvis

    Sit bones for standard road saddles (red); pelvic arch for TT saddles (blue)

    I raced with the Sitero in the 9-mile time trial at Tour of Walla Walla, a course with mostly flat terrain and a 3-minute hill at 5% grade.  During the race, the first thing I noticed was that while my position was identical to that on my previous padded nose saddle, the Sitero was much firmer.  It felt less like I was floating on soft tissue and more like I was anchored to the saddle with my bones.  This initially felt less plush, but over the course of the ride I noticed that I didn’t have to shift my weight to allow blood circulation and relieve pressure the way I occasionally did on my previous saddle.

    On the short hill I slid back slightly on the saddle and on the aerobars.  This put more of my weight on my sit bones like a standard road saddle and allowed my hip angle to open, which is generally a more powerful position. The split nose kept the front of the saddle from being uncomfortable.

    I was satisfied with the saddle overall.  The hardest part for me was matching the position.  The Sitero has a very short nose, so measurements like distance behind the bottom bracket are not relevant.  It took some trial and error on the trainer and a few test rides before I was confident that I had the position correct.

    Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 3.54.24 PM

    Cycle U has the Sitero Expert Gel at both shops in red, white, or black starting at $175.  Come in to test one out today!

    More info:

    http://www.specialized.com/us/en/ftb/saddles/roadtriathlon-saddles/sitero-expert-gel