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The struggling cyclist.

Before I explain where I am let me mention where I came from.
I was always an outsider to sports. I had the determination and heart but I never had the raw skill. In golf they use the term L.O.F.T. Google it . Baseball, football, soccer, whatever, I was not really very good. I came into cycling after an injury. It was meant to be rehab for my back. That lead to the idea of commuting. Well, what it would lead to  was an obsession. At my lowest point I was fighting multiple addictions and cycling was what kept me going the streight path. I began racing and riding daily. I would race for a few years for a few teams and even for myself (unattached) when I lacked the fitness to race for a team .

Fast forward 10 years, I’m now married, a father of 3, and I have a dog to boot. In many ways I have what I want. I still have the drive to go out and test myself when I’m riding but there are many weeks that I just can’t ride, some weeks I’m just too tired, and yet others I’m not willing to make the sacrifice to get a ride in.  The fire is still there but the time/motivation/will is at times lacking. I set goals but get confronted with realities. Sure I could ride Saturday but one son has practice and the other has a soccer game. Did I mention my two-year old? So my choices are 4am ride or no ride. I made my choice before I typed it.

I don’t think I’m alone in my position nor do I think I need a small violin playing “sad romance”. What I need is a spark, something to convince myself to ride when it’s difficult to get going . As it turned out that spark that made me want to ride was a ride. That and something I heard on a podcast, something about second degree fun. It’s fun, just not from the idea or start. Like a climb, not really fun as a idea but as you get to the top, you can look back at the climb as a good time. Albeit a miserable, painful, good time .

So what keeps you going? Do you ever need a break or time to miss riding? Are you the type of rider who just wishes they had more time to ride? Let me know as that’s one of my motivations (I love hearing about others passion to ride).

Wanna race?

And it starts like most races do with a little hesitation, some trepidation, and a lot of anticipation. I roll out and set a steady tempo. I know my fitness is not where it used to be so I decide that a long range attack allá Contador is the way to go. I’m receiving information and it’s telling me I have a 30 second gap. I’m holding steady pushing about 20 miles per hour. I have some luck on my side and I have not had too many reasons to slow down. As I’m approaching the first climb, my first true test, my breakaway has gained me 2 minutes.

The climb shines light on the cracks in my foundation. I’m coming undone and I’m starting to Pedal in squares. The 2 mile climb is pushing my heart rate to 190 beats per minute, I’m bleeding time and fading fast. This climb that tops out at 7% and has taken my two-minute lead down to one minute. In the last mile of climbing I’ve fallen apart and this climb has taken its toll and although the major climb is over there is still more climbing to be done.

I’m feeling confident that I can get some of the time back on the upcoming rolling section. The problem is that this section is much less rolling then I remembered it. The next half mile has not a single negative grade and an average grade of 3%. I begin to lose more time and when I reach the two-thirds marker I’m only 20 seconds ahead. Those 20 seconds dissolve into zero, zero grows to a negative. My second best effort on this section is still about 1mph too slow.  I’m now 20 seconds behind, I’ve been caught, and I don’t have much left in the tank.

My strategy might seem to have failed me but I’m exactly where I want to be. I limp up the rest of the climb and utilize one of my best skills. The descent is my playground. I slowly see my deficit disappear and I even make up a few seconds. In my aerodynamic tuck I’m able to gain one minute and 30 seconds as I turn right, right into the last real climb. From here Colima is only 0.3 miles but with an average grade of over 6%, it can do some damage.  This climb is no test, this climb is a deal-breaker, make or break, win or lose.

My 1 minute and 30 second Advantage disappears yet again I get out of saddle I give it everything I have left to no avail. I’m riding like a man possessed but I’m two minutes behind. In 2 minutes I’ve lost 2 minutes. My lungs feel like raisins, I can feel the burn down my esophagus, my legs are begging me to stop, I consider sitting up. But for every climb there is a descent, so I hold my pace steady and continue up the climb. 2 minutes and 15 seconds is what I have to make up on a 2 mile descent.

I rearranged myself about 3 times trying to find an aerodynamic position I can hold for the entirety of the Hill. Colima Road flattens out and it’s now up to my legs pushing at times 28 miles per hour, holding my threshold as long as I can. I look down and realize I’m 3 minutes ahead. All that is left is to maintain my lead. I want to do more than maintain though, so I push each pedal as hard as I can for the remaining 2 miles. Little by little I’m gaining time, three minutes turns into four, four minutes balloons to 5, and by the time I’m at the finish my lead would tell a different story than my body. I’m a wreck but I’m feeling like an accomplished wreck.

My first race in sometime was not against a Peloton or a friend, it was against myself via my virtual partner on my Garmin 520. I had no idea that this is going to be so much fun, so competitive, and so inspiring. At the time I didn’t think twice I just thought “oh look what I can do” with my Garmin. It seems like my commute has found yet another way to keep my interest.

Watch the video

ELux Fat Tire Cruiser: Review

Elux Bicycles eview

We received the ELux Electric Bicycles Fat Tire Cruiser a few weeks ago and since then we’ve been able to put some miles on it. Rather than fill the first part of the review with the spec info and all that jazz, just go to their website to see all of it. For the most part I’ll be peppering in the spec info throughout the article. So with that being said, I’m just going to jump into it. Ok, so here we go. The ELux is a FUN electric bike! Yep, it’s as simple as that. Fun and functional. The fat tires do offer a different ride and when you keep the air pressure a bit low, it sorta acts like suspension and it also provides some extra traction on loose gravel and sand.

Elux Electric Bicycles

This bike’s 750w Bafang brushless geared motor is powered by a 48v 14Ah Lithium Ion battery. ELux says you can get up to a 30+mile range on a single charge with pedal assist. I was able to get 17.2 miles on a full charge, but that’s with me using the throttle about 90% of the time on various terrain such as steep hills, gravel, dirt, mud, bike path, street and sand. So you’re probably wondering, “17.2 miles is pretty far from 30 miles on a single charge…” Yes it is, but that range ELux provides takes into consideration that their test subject who determined those miles probably weighed about 150lbs and set the pedal assist to 3. But when I rode the bike I weigh over 220lbs and using the throttle most of the time on some steep hills. I figured if all my miles were simply on flat ground on the street, then I’m sure I could have reached that 30 mile range they had mentioned.

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Yes we know that the Elux isn’t what some of you would consider a “commuter bike.” But rather than beating a dead horse and repeating myself that ANY BIKE is a commuter bike, I’ll just go into why this bike got our attention for testing. First of all those fat tires rather fascinating. But we noticed it had fenders, and a rear rack. Plus it has an LED headlight that could is powered by the main battery and switched on by the control panel. Hmm, from the looks of it, this bike would fall into that ideal commuter bike. In addition, it’s electric powered.

In this photo below, we paired the Elux with our Blackburn cooler pannier to show that you can carry bags on the bike. Two things I didn’t like about their rack was it didn’t have an anchor point and the rails were too thick.I have a Banjo Brothers grocery pannier bag that I couldn’t use because it requires it to anchored on the bottom, plus the hooks on the bag were too small for Elux’s rack. However, for the Blackburn bags you see, they worked just fine because it mounts on with Velcro straps.

elux bikes review

We’ve heard from commuter purists that an electric bike is cheating. Eh, is it really? I mean c’mon…anyway. We don’t consider it cheating. We think it’s perfect for those who normally can’t pedal a traditional bike. In this case, it’s right for me since I’ve developed arthritis on both knees. Pedal assist is a welcome reprieve from painful pedaling.

The display on the LCD screen is easy to read and super easy to use. There are 4 buttons on the control panel so you can’t mess it up too much. There’s a power, Set, + and -. You hit the + to up your pedal assist and of course you hit the – button to lower your pedal assist. A great feature on this control panel is the USB port that you can access to charge your devices! Plus the panel  has the ability to be backlit so you can see it at night.

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In addition, there’s even a walking mode too. That means if you’re walking up a hill with the bike, it will give you enough power so you’re not having to lug the bike up. Mind you this is super helpful since this bike weighs 75lbs.

Components are pretty much entry level with Shimano Tourney 7 speed drive train and shifter. The bike is dressed with front and rear 180mm Tektro Mechanical Disc Brakes, which offer plenty of stopping power for this heavy rig.

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The battery can be taken out for charging by unlocking it with the provided key and removing the saddle/seat post via quick release. You can actually leave the battery on the bike while charging. Elux says charging time is 4-6 hours. After draining the battery, it took us close to 6 hours to get a full charge.

Elux stated that the bike can legally reach up to 21mph, which it can on flat ground. I asked if you could hack the system and remove the limiter, unfortunately there isn’t a way. But naturally once the battery life starts to diminish, the bike can’t touch those max speeds.

During our testing period, we never experienced any mechanical or electrical issues. In fact the bike performed rather well given the fact we took in on terrain that the company probably never intended it be ridden on. Yes, it is heavy at 75lbs and if you ever have to transport the bike, it would help if you had a rear rack that could handle fat tires or a truck/van.

Overall we liked this bike. We couldn’t find really any issues, other than the rack that I mentioned above. The 750w 48v system works like a clock and is as reliable as a Japanese car. Elux gives it an an MSRP of $2250. This might be high to some of you, but that’s actually on the low site compared to other brands out there that offer the same motor/battery combo. They do offer a decent warranty; 3 Year Frame, 3 Year limited Battery, 1 year Motor. Other brands only offer 2 years on the frame and 12 months on the battery/motor.

Speaking of which, Bafang motors are used by other brands out there. The Samsung battery that Elux equips their bikes with are also a staple brand for the ebike business. That should help put you at ease since these batteries shouldn’t catch on fire like other cheaper Chinese batteries out there. All the other parts on this bike are you standard bicycle parts that you could buy at your local shop. In fact, you’ll maintain this bike just like any other bike, the battery and motor are pretty much trouble free.

Just to keep things clear, we didn’t receive any compensation from ELux Electric Bicycles for this review.

FTC Disclaimer

 

E-Lux Electric Fat Tire Cruiser-First Impression

elux Fat Tire Cruiser Electric Bicycle

We recently took delivery of the new E-Lux Electric Fat Tire Cruiser for testing. I’ve never seen a fat tire beach cruiser like this before. The first thing I said when I saw it was…”Wow this thing is tall!” The photo below doesn’t really do it justice…
elux Fat Tire Cruiser Electric Bicycle

So here’s some basic specs:
Motor:750w Brushless Geared Motor
Battery: 48V 13Ah Samsung Lithium Ion
Brakes: Front and rear Tektro Disc Brakes
Power: Pedal Assist of Throttle
Range: 30+ Miles
Speed: 21mph
Charging time: 4-6 hours

e-lux ebikes

During my first 10 miles on the Elux, I have to say I was smiling the whole time. This powerful 750w motor, coupled with the 48v battery gives it enough oomph to get up some of the steepest hills in my area.
fat tire electric bike

For my maiden voyage, I took the E-Lux around a variety of terrain so I could get a feel for this bike. I rode a mixture of street, dirt and gravel. I had the pedal assist on #5 (the highest setting) to see if the bike had any trouble hauling my husky butt around. One some of the steeper gravel climbs, I did pedal a bit just to make sure I cleared the hills.

This bike is pretty heavy, right around 75lbs. But you won’t really feel it when you’re riding, especially if you’re on the throttle or pedal assist. The only time the weight is ever an issue is when you have to lift it.
elux ebikes

I’ve only ridden the Elux 10 miles and so far it’s performing much like other e-bikes out there. The fat tires are a hoot on gravel and sand. I was actually impressed with the tires since they seem to grip even when you lean the bike into a corner. I have to add, it’s also a handsome looking bike. Yes it does have fat tires, but that’s what makes this bike unique. For all you die-hard commuters out there, notice the fenders and rear rack? What you didn’t see in the photos is the pannier that I had mounted on the rack to carry my keys, camera and snacks. I also have to add that this bike does come equipped with a front “to-be-seen” headlight.

We plan on putting this bike through the paces to see how well the electric system works as well as the rest of the machine. I know that many of you object to electric assist bikes, some may even consider it “cheating.” But the reality is this segment of the bicycle industry is growing. There are more and more e-bike brands out there that offer a whole slew of options and styles. So stay tuned for our review in the coming weeks.

New Year, New Bike?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, I’ve been wanting a new bike for the new year. I figured something new would get me more excited about riding bicycles. So I started looking around for a CycloCross Bike, or some may call it CX bike.

I’ve always loved 700c wheeled bicycles for commuting. To me they just ride smoother and faster than 26″ wheels. So that meant a CX bike would be a great addition to my stable. I’ve had my share of CX bikes in the past and I love them. This time around I want to focus in on a bike that is going to be budget minded. I really don’t want to, nor have the funds to get a fancy bike.

So a few choices came to mind. The first one is the Liberty CX available only through BikesDirect for about $399.99.

cyclocross bike

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next choice was to go single speed with the State Warhawk which retails for about $579.
state warhawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyhow, if things go as planned with selling off my body parts and services, I may be able to get this new bike soon. We’ll keep you updated on the progress.

Bike Racks Are Becoming Rare…

In the immediate area where I live, I’ve started noticing that there are less and less bicycle racks than ever before. It seemed like every grocery store had them and each shopping center used to have a designated area for them. But not I’m venturing out more for casual rides and to find places to eat/drink, I’m having a harder time finding a good place to lock my bike.

Take for example my trip to the grocery store, they used to have a HUGE bike rack. But now it’s gone. So I had to find some metal railing to lock my bike against. What’s interesting is, if I go do downtown Fullerton, the seems to be more of an acceptance to bicycles there. In fact there are actually quite a bit of 2-bike racks peppered around the area. I guess I just don’t get why in some areas, there are racks while others it’s absent.

I felt safer on the street than the grocery store parking lot

I was on my way home when I decided to make a detour at the local grocery store to get a few items for the home. As I make my way through the parking lot, I was greeted by aggressive drivers who seemed to be in a rush. There were work trucks, Mad Moms in Minivans, the elderly (nursing home nearby) and a few rogue shopping carts.shopping center
Gosh, I have to say I felt so vulnerable and so much more at risk riding through the parking lot than I did when I was on the street! I had vehicles coming at me from all directions and none of them seem to be paying attention to me since I wasn’t a car. Luckily I made it in the store…but now that I’m done shopping, I gotta try and get home! Wish me luck!

Growing up through commuting

So about 10 years ago when I started to commute to my jobs I was really into the whole idea of less is more. This meant that my bike was a fixed gear with one brake, messenger bag and small blinky lights. Each year that progressed I noticed I found that the things I thought were “goofy” at one point, were grabbing my attention.

Let’s take for example rear racks and panniers. I used to think they were for “old people.” Well, as I got older I see that they are way more practical than I had ever imagine. But before I got into the pannier thing, I actually ditched the messenger bag for backpacks. I figured it was better for my shoulders and there were a ton of companies that made some great bags. But that too went by the wayside as I didn’t like showing up to places with a wet back and sore shoulders.
panniers

Now that I’m 10 years older I’d like to tell you what I now prefer when it comes to bike commuting. Ready for this?

-multi-geared bike
-rack with at least 2 panniers
-big lights! Minimum of at least 600 lumens on the headlight and 2 blinkers in the back. I like to place them on two different spots for added visibility.
-T-shirts. I used to commute with only cycling clothing. Now I just grab t-shirts and regular shorts.
-I stopped riding fixed gears…arthritic knees.

Perhaps its with time that I started seeing things differently as I did when I was younger. But one thing I’m grateful for is the choices available that the bicycle industry makes for its consumers. Let’s face it, each company has to cater to it’s various demographics to remain competitive and that’s good for us, young and seasoned riders.

What about you? Were there things you’ve changed through out your commuting career? Do you now do things that you didn’t think of when you were younger? It’s like a young married man saying “I’ll never get a mini-van.” Only to find himself at the dealer a few years later falling in love with a new van with built-in DVD player for the kids.

Book reviews: Last-minute gift ideas for the bicycling reader in your life

I’ve got a backlog of book reviews waiting to be published, so I thought I would combine them into a longer “roundup” — as you well know, books can be a great holiday gift for the two-wheeler in your life. Or, you could always treat yourself to one of these titles. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

Bike Porn, Volume 1

bike_porn

Chris Naylor is the author of Bike Porn, Volume 1 (West Sussex, UK: Summersdale Publishers, Ltd., 2013). In this book, Chris has compiled dozens of high-quality photos of some really spectacular bikes. These photos are juxataposed with cycling-friendly quotes, from notables such as H.G. Wells, Grant Peterson, Jean-Paul Sartre, Bob Weir, and many more. It’s a celebration of the craftsmanship and technology of the modern bicycle.

Lots of custom bikes from today’s hot builders are featured, as are components like wheels. The photographs are from many contributors, and all of them display crisp resolution, focusing on subtle details as well as the entire bike. The book is printed on matte-finished, high-quality paper, and serves as a mini “coffee table” book. The tech geek in me wished for more information about some of the bicycles displayed within Bike Porn’s pages, but that’s beyond the scope of the book. This is a good addition to a collection of bicycle design titles, generating inspiration and interest in some really fantastic two-wheeled machines.

The Road Less Taken

road_less_taken

Kathryn Bertine’s The Road Less Taken: Lessons from a Life Spent Cycling (Chicago: Triumph Books, 2014) is a humorous peek into the world of professional women’s bike racing. Kathryn is an accomplished writer, penning features for publications like ESPN, espnW. In addition to her professional racing career with the Wiggle-Honda team, she has also found the time to create documentary films and to write two other cycling memoirs. Most importantly, she is one of the founders of Le Tour Entier, an organization that helped launch La Course, the women’s Tour de France that premiered in the 2014 season.

Kathryn details what it’s like to be a professional cyclist among women’s ranks — the financial struggles, homestays, mechanical issues, and so much else. She approaches her narrative with a large dose of self-deprecating humor, giving a funny and insightful overview of the fairly deplorable state of professional women’s bike racing. Kathryn’s ability to convey her passion for the sport despite the many struggles is refreshing, and she gives a great look into what motivates riders, how they stay focused, and how she was able to overcome adversity during her years as a racer. She finishes off the book with some articles she wrote for other publications, highlighting women’s sports issues and showcasing other female athletes. The book, on the whole, is a bit scattershot — Kathryn tends to jump around a bit in almost a stream-of-consciousness writing style. It works here, though, and I found it to be a very enjoyable read.

The Monuments

the_monuments

Since I began following bike racing in the mid 1980s, I always had a soft spot for the spring and fall classics, particularly the five races known as “The Monuments”. In Peter Cossin’s book The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling’s Greatest One-Day Races (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), I found a treasure trove of information. Let me just put this out here right now: this is overwhelmingly the best book I’ve read this year, and I read a LOT of books (60-80 a year). I simply could not put this tome down…it is filled with historical accounts, little-known facts, and the origins of the greatest races on the pro calendar.

What are The Monuments, you ask? Well, in order of their placement on the racing calendar, we’ve got Milan-Sanremo (known as “La Primavera” in Italian, their phrase for “spring”). Next up is de Ronde van Vlaanderen, known to English speakers as the Tour of Flanders, referred to by fans as “Vlaanderens mooiste” (Flander’s most beautiful). A week later comes Paris-Roubaix, the Hell of the North. This one is considered the Queen of the Classics, and legends are born on the cobbles. Next up is La Doyenne (the old lady), cycling’s oldest Monument that most people know as Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Rounding out the calendar is the Giro di Lombardia, colloquially known as “The Race of the Falling Leaves”. This last used to mark the end of the pro season, and was a last chance for many cyclists to get a prestigious win for the year.

Peter Cossins addresses each race with incredible detail, from accounts of the first runnings of each race through to modern times. These accounts are amazing in their detail — it is almost as if the author was there, roadside, catching all the breathtaking action of true cycling legends giving their all in these events. Even as a seasoned follower of these races, I learned many details. For example, most fans think Paris-Roubaix is called “Hell of the North” due to the mud, the inclement weather, and the torturous cobbled secteurs. In fact, it was given that nickname just after World War I, when the race traversed areas utterly devastated by the fighting in that brutal conflict.

The Monuments deserves a place in every racing fan’s bookshelf — I simply cannot convey how much I enjoyed reading this title. I even skipped meals in order to finish this thing; it is that compelling.

Faster

faster

Written by Michael Hutchinson, a professional cyclist with over 50 national titles, Faster: The Obsession, Science and Luck Behind the World’s Fastest Cyclists (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014) gives a detailed examination into the art and science of professional bike racers. Hutchinson presents the information in a way that breaks down complex ideas about physiology, nutrition, and technology into concepts that are easily digested, even for a layperson. In other words, I didn’t have to ask my wife to explain some of the physiological details to me (she’s a medical professional working on her doctorate).

Hutchinson talks about some of the extremes pros go to to eke out those crucial seconds that stand between them and a win (high-altitude simulation tents, anyone?). He delves deeply into laboratory testing, the psychology of successful riders, and many other facets of the sacrifices, black magic, and hard science of the professional athlete’s training regimen. Throughout the book, Hutchinson is not afraid to poke fun at himself or at a lot of the mysteries surrounding extreme athletic preparation. His writing style blends humor with a rich examination of the sport, and it’s been very pleasant to read (so far…I’m not quite finished with the book yet). For the cyclist who also likes to pin on a race number from time to time, this is a valuable addition to a book collection. There are no “secret formulas” on offer here, but much of the information can be used to formulate training game plans all the same.

These four books are available online or at most well-stocked book retailers. Each of them makes a fantastic gift for the bike fan in your life.

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