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Tag Archive: Fixed Gear

What’s the Deal with Gravel? (In a Jerry Seinfeld voice)

So I feel like the kid in the 1950s pot commercial; I rode gravel once and now I’m hooked and my whole life has been turned upside down. I just can’t see the road the same. I now see cars and replace them with trees, signal lights are now steep hills, cement streets are now dirt paths… Everything has flipped and I love it.

I had tried cross and it was plenty fun. Not like every day fun, but fun once-in-awhile-fun. I will/must/don’t want to admit how bad I am on a mountain bike. On a road bike is where I was the most comfortable. Gravel does not come natural for me even if I’ve tried most of what cycling has to offer. For me it’s not the descents because I’m not all that confident in my skills. It’s the views as I suffer and drag my 200 pound butt up these climbs that normally lead to some hike-a-bike situations. The climbing can be brutal but like the Instagram inspirational quote with a majestic background says, “It’s just a hill, get over it.” If you can, then you will get a new perspective; your eyes will open to everything you’ve missed on a road bike or a mountain bike.

On a road bike you ride with your eyes wide shut. That’s the appeal for me, a lot of it is just not thinking and just going; you can zone out on a climb and even forget about the views. On a mountain bike you are more aware but there is still a level of letting the bike do it’s job and going for it. The closest thing to riding gavel (on a rigid bike with drops), in my opinion, is riding a fixed gear bike. On a fixed gear bike you have to be aware of everything around you. From the cars to the road conditions, the signal lights to the pedestrians, you are on full alert all the time. Not having real brakes will do that to you. Gravel is somewhat like that, you have an idea of control but it’s more controlled chaos then precision.

The real beauty of gravel [(…and I get a ten-cent commission every time I type G R A V E L)- Gravel] riding is that it’s not just about riding, hiking is also a big part of the experience. On a road bike you can take another route, on a mountain bike you have a lot of gearing and a more capable bike, so when you get to a section that’s above your pay grade you either push yourself or hike-a-bike. You go on a ride and you really don’t know if you are going to be able to ride every section of it. How much of a route you can manage changes as you improve and get more confident/stronger. I tend to fall more on the climbs than the descents. I’ve also done a lot to improve my gearing.

Nonetheless, gravel is my new obsession. So much so that this summer I am planning a Summer Adventure Gravel Series (SAGS) around the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. The adventure part is that there will be no routes given out. We will have to stay together, this will help avoid douchebagery. This is not a race. This is not about being first, fast, or better. This is about the people next to you, the landscape that surrounds you, and the route in front of you. Aside from maybe the Cannondale Slate [(with a gearing upgrade) no pun intended] there will not be a perfect bike for every situation. After, I hope we question our bikes but not our time in the saddle. I’m currently doing recon for the S.A.G.S ride- details will come.

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).

First Impression: Kona Project 2 Messenger Bag

First Impression.

I like it.

After using it for a couple of weeks, I’ve found the bag to be quite useful.

Regarding it’s look, it’s stylish–the main zipper streamlines a clean-looking design. The Kona logo is visible along with the 2 buckle-harnesses that keep the contents of the bag secure.

Upon opening, three separate compartments are visible. One being a “divider” where it has a velcro flap to secure the contents from the rest of the bag. The inside of the first compartment has more pockets and zippers similar to an inside of a backpack to put in smaller items.

Opened

When closing, one can see that there are magnetic flaps that secure to make sure that the sides stay closed.

On the sides are the magnetic flaps

The adjustable strap has a cell phone holder, and an accompanying buckle that couples with another strap to make sure the bag secures to the wearer.

Cell phone holder, adjustable strap and additional strap for stability.

Here are the specs from the manufacturer. It should be noted that Kona tapped the talents of Brenthaven in order to create this bag.

  • Name: Kona Project 2 Messenger Bag- Blue
  • Model #: 6102
  • Weight: 3.2 lb.
  • External Dimensions: 21.5″ W x 16″ H x 8″ D
  • Fits laptops up to 16″
  • Built in safety light with replaceable battery compartment
  • Bomber, water-shedding 1000D Cordura fabric
  • Waterproof internal compartment for laptop, electronics
  • Comfortable shoulder strap with quick release phone pocket
  • Large capacity, expands to 1300 cubic inches
  • 100% lifetime guarantee and then some
  • Patent pending magnetic Hydro FlapsTM keep your gear dry

I’ll upload some photos of me actually using it when the review is done!

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Cycling Proficiency License?

Biker's License

Not the best example but you get the idea.

I recently saw an article discussing bicycle safety and the need for, wait for it…. bicycling licenses. I know, I know, such an idea is outrageous but it isn’t to me when I see people riding recklessly either because they’re clueless or they arrogantly believe the road is theirs. That said, as much as I want cyclists to be proficient (so those that are reckless don’t give me a bad name) I’m not sure where to take a stand here since there are glaring questions that would need to be addressed before any legislation is written.

Here’s a couple:

1. Would you need a license even if you ride only a handful of times a year?

2. What kind of test (written and behind the handlebar, haha) would you be running to determine proficiency?

3. Who would run the tests? The DMV? A local bike shop certified in testing?

These are some concerns I have. Personally, I lean towards having no license since laying down infrastructure for it seems impossible. On the other hand, I also think a lot of people need help with bicycling naivete!

What about you guys? What do you think?

Original article

Redline Urbis-Test in Progress

We received the new Redline Urbis about a month ago and since then we’ve been putting it through its paces.
Redline Urbis
Redline Bicycles has the Urbis listed under their commuter bike section. Since I don’t want to beat a dead Sarah Jessica Parker, we’ll just say that the Urbis is a fixed gear BICYCLE that has a flip-flop hub that one can use to commute with. Rather than having one person testing this bicycle, I’ve solicited the help of 4 men in 4 different age groups to test out the bike and to get their opinions.

Redline Urbis

The age groups:

15 year old High school student/ hipster from Irvine. Ca.
26 year old Sales professional from Costa Mesa, Ca. (Team Racer for MtnBikeRiders.com)
34 year old Blogger (That’s me!) from Fullerton, Ca. (Team Racer for MtnBikeRiders.com)
42 year old Warranty Manager from Costa Mesa, Ca. (Team Racer for MtnBikeRiders.com)

All four of us have been given two weeks to ride the bike as much as we can. In the end, we’ll be posting our collective reviews for everyone to see.

Redline Urbis

Here’s the spec sheet:

Frame Redline Full Chromoly, Double Butted Main Tubes,120mm Spacing
Fork Redline Full Chromoly, Disc Tabs
Headset Threadless 28.6mm
Frt Der
Rear Der
Shifter
Crank Redline Alloy 36T
BB Set ISIS, Hollow Chromoly Axle
Cogs 16T Single Fixed
Pedal Poly Carbonate Platform W Chromoly Axle & Straps
Rim Allloy 36H Deep V
Hub RL Nutted Disc Frt, Alloy Nutted Fixed – Free rear
Spoke 14 Guage Stainless
Tire Kenda 700 X 35 Reflector Side Wall
Bar Redline Alloy JR Cruiser 550 mm x 90mm
Stem Redline Alloy Forged
Saddle Redline Pivotal
Seat Post Redline Alloy Pivotal 27.2 x 320mm
Brakes Tektro Alloy Disc
Brake Lever Tektro Alloy 2 Finger
Price: $549

Redline Urbis

Fixed Gear Friday: KHS Flite 100 Review

The KHS Flite 100 is KHS’ offering for track racers and bike messengers. Here are the specs of the bike:

Frame: Reynolds 520 Double Butted full CrMo
Fork: CrMo track
Headset: Cane Creek A-Headset
Rims: Weimann SP17 Alloy, Doublewall, black
Hubs: Alloy Flip-Flop Track, black
Tires: Kenda Koncept 700x23c, Kevlar
Spokes: 14G Stainless 36°, black
Chain: KMC Z30
Crankset: FSA Vero Track, 165mm x 48T, black
Bottom Bracket: Sealed Cartridge
Cassette: Shimano Dura-Ace SS-7600, 16T
Pedals: Alloy road w/toe clips & straps
Seatpost: Alloy micro-adjust
Saddle: San Marco Ponza Lux
Handlebar: Alloy track bend, black
Stem: Alloy 3D Forged, black
Tape: Cork Tape, black
Brake Levers: Tektro alloy top mount, Front Only
Brakes: Alloy dual pivot, Front Only
Color:Flat Dark Gray
Frame Sizes: 50, 53(tested), 57, 60cm (measured center-to-center)

Weight as tested:20.05lbs

Here’s some info about me and my commute: I’m 5’7″, 160lbs and 37yrs young. My commute is 23.6 miles round trip and it is mostly flat. I ride from Whittier, CA to Downey CA in Los Angeles County. 90% of my commute is ridden on the street and the rest is on the San Gabriel River Trail Bike path.

Aesthetics:
The KHS Flite 100’s flat dark gray/black scheme reminds me of a Stealth Bomber; the bike is very unassuming, it has proper track dropbars instead of risers and there are no trendy Deep V rims here. KHS did add a little touch of ‘retro’ with its fork:

KHS also added a front brake to this year’s bike; you can also add a rear brake since the frame is drilled for one.


These cracks on the road help me determine the bike’s ride quality.

The ride:
The KHS Flite 100 is one fast machine: once you are up to speed, you can cruise at 19-20mph effortlessly; if you want to sprint, the Flite 100 feels stiff with no noticeable flex. The steel frame absorbs most of the road chatter; however, the 150 psi tires will make the ride uncomfortable. I usually inflated the tires to 100 psi and I had no issues. The San Marco Ponza Lux saddle is rather hard, but once I dialed it in, I got used to it. The Tektro front brake did a great job slowing the bike down in conjunction with my legs, being able to use your legs to control the speed of a bike is one of the great things of riding a fixed gear bike.

I found the 48X16 gear combination to be adequate for my commute, it does take the Flite 100 a little time to get up to speed, but when it does, it flies. The last half mile of my commute is a gradual incline, it does take a little bit of more effort to get up the road, but that is how your physical condition is improved by riding a fixie/singlespeed bike.

Things I would like to change:I complained about the lack of water bottle bosses, so I asked KHS why is it that they are missing. Their answer was that the KHS Flite 100 is a true track bike that it is used for competition and it is also mostly used by messengers that ride short distances. My solution was to add a handlebar water bottle mount which kind of ruined the look of the bike, but another alternative is to get a water bottle holder that clamps to the seat tube or the downtube. I also didn’t care for the pedals; I know that this is a personal preference, I just like the easiness of entry of clipless pedals.

Should you buy one?
Riding a fixed geared bike is an experience that I recommend trying, not because it is the cool thing to do, but because of how much your pedal technique and your physical condition improves. The MSRP of this bike is $549, which is pretty much the average. Although the bike is a great seller among track riders and messengers, I also think that this bike is a good medium distance, flat terrain machine. If you are looking for a decent Fixed Gear bicycle, check out the Flite 100, you won’t be disappointed.

For more information, go to www.khsbicycles.com

Commuter Profile: Marsha “Princess Hungry” Ungchusri

Today’s commuter profile comes from Marsha Ungchusri, known as “Princess Hungry” to legions of fixed-gear fans for her great product reviews and fantastic sense of humor over at Fixed Gear Gallery. Here’s a bit about her in her own words:

pink dress

How long have you been a bike commuter?

About two and a half years. I got back on the bike three years ago to do a charity bike ride from Austin, TX to Anchorage, AK to raise money for cancer research through Texas 4000 for Cancer (www.texas4000.org). My perception of distance and what my body was capable of doing encouraged the idea of cycling to commute when I came back to Austin.

Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?

I started consistently cycling to work when I graduated from college and began teaching at a middle school 6 miles from home. Before, I use to just putz around campus by bike, but since joining the ‘grown-up’ world, I’ve done all I could to stay a kid at heart. My students got a kick out of seeing me ride by their bus stop in the mornings and I would always get waves and “HEY MISS U!!!!? (My last name is really long and unpronounceable by the general public). It was definitely a workout since the ride there was uphill and I had to haul graded papers, lunch, change of clothes, etc. daily. I started leaving my ‘teacher shoes’ at work to lighten the load a bit.

My commute to work is now a downhill 3-mile cruise through downtown where I currently work at a local bike shop in town. While Jack and Adam’s is not a commuter shop per se (we mostly sell road and triathlon bicycles), most of the employees ride to work (anywhere from 3-20 miles round trip). Since there is no shower at the store we usually hose off in the back and give the customers at the Jack in the Box across the street a show. Unfortunately, we recently put up a fence in the back so no more shows.

xtra

What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?

I am the Queen Bee @ Jack & Adam’s Bicycles in Austin, TX. I run the sales floor and make sure people are taken care of. I use to teach 6th grade science at Mendez Middle School.

Right now I also intern at The Butler Bros. Firm where I get to play on Illustrator and participate in ad branding.

What kind(s) of bike do you have?

Do you mean what kind of bikes I don’t have? Ha.

Right now I currently have 4.5 bikes in my quiver. I race on a Level 3 custom Lynskey titanium bike. My previous race bike was the Trek 1500 I rode to Alaska in 2005 that is now my geared commuter bike. I also have a KHS Flite 100 fixed (48-18) for toodling around town and my most recent build, an 80’s Univega MTB xtracycle single speed conversion with pink grips (Thanks Lee). I also had a Fuji Palisade fixed conversion (my first!) that was a beautiful light cream color with sky blue logos and Michelin tires to match. It also had little red bullhorns. I lent it to a friend and it pretty much belongs to him now, but your first conversion is always close to your heart, eh?

lynskey

I’ve been eyeing this beautiful Biondi frame from Spain that is hanging at a shop here in town. I am torn between building it up as a geared bike or as my ‘nice’ going out fixed. I would also like to get a cross bike at some point and go play in the dirt.

So many decisions!

another KHS fan

Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?

It was 7am and I had just turned off my street onto the main street into town and a guy on a Bianchi Brava flies by and slows down. He waits for me to catch up and blurts out, “OMG YOU’RE PRINCESSHUNGRY! YOU WRITE ALL THOSE REVIEWS FOR FIXED GEAR GALLERY!!?

Mind you, it’s early in the morning and my coffee has not kicked in yet. I don’t normally respond to anything loud very well that early.

We stop at the light and I mumble something like “Yep, that’s me…? When the light turned green I dropped him. Poor guy.

What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?

I think my favorite comments/questions are:

“Do you sweat??
“Isn’t it hot out there??
“What do you do when it rains??
“What about groceries??
“You’re crazy?
“What do you mean you haven’t driven your car in 6 months??
“I would do it but it’s too hard/far/no showers at work?

How about bicycling advocacy? Are you active in any local or regional advocacy groups?

Right now I am looking for a local cycling advocacy group to invest my time and resources in, but what I have found has left me rather disappointed. Most cycling groups here are geared towards recreational riding, trail riding, or racing. While I race for AT&T Brain and Spine, there isn’t very much to be had for cycle commuting advocacy. We do have the Streets Smarts Task Force and one of my teammates is the Cycling and Pedestrian manager for the City of Austin, but for a city that is ranked Silver by the League of American Bicyclists, we are definitely lacking. As one of my friends from NYC said after riding around Austin for a week, “You guys talk the talk, but you sure don’t walk the walk?. With people riding bicycles on the sidewalk, up the wrong side of the street, etc. I agree with him wholeheartedly. Sure, we may be better off than say the likes of Houston or Dallas, but in the grand scope of things with cities like Portland, Seattle, Copenhagen… we are eons behind.

I think what this fair city needs is a group that unifies all of the different genres of cyclists we have here in town. What we lack is a common voice and mission to be heard. Instead our voices get lost in the din of big trucks and SUVs and the infrastructure to support a cycling Austin will stay blue prints.

I love this city and I see the potential in it to become car-lite and cycling friendly. With gas prices through the roof (woohoo!) we are at a tipping point that will either shepherd us into a world with more bikes, or we will continue to be wholly dependent on the car.

racing mode
(Photo courtesy of DCM Photography)

Anything else that you want to share with us?

For my internship at the Butler Bros. marketing firm my current project is to create a brand and mission statement for a hypothetical bicycle advocacy group (which may not be so hypothetical once I am through with it). In my head is brewing a campaign called the Cute Commute Campaign that will be a subgroup within what I think I will be branding “bikeAustin?.

More info to come on: http://princesshungry.blogspot.com

We’d like to thank Marsha for sharing her pictures and information…the marketing campaign sounds like a great idea, and we wish you the best of luck in implementing it!

First impression: KHS Flite 100

Our buddy Vince Calvillo was at the City of Angels ride in the exhibitor area and he told me that I could take any bike to test, so I came home with a KHS Flite 100.

I picked this fixed geared bike because it is very unassuming; no flashy wheels, no weird handlebars and it comes with a front brake.

I prepped the bike last night for today’s commute, I added a rear blinkie, a mirror and a handlebar water bottle holder. Yeah, I know, the water bottle holder looks kind of hacky, but I do get thirsty on my 21 mile commute.

It has been a while since I’ve ridden a fixed gear bike, but fortunately I got used to it right away… except for the pedals. The Flite 100 comes with pedals with toe clips and straps; I never liked them, so for tomorrow’s commute, the pedal duty belongs to my Crank Bros Quattro Sl.

Today’s commute was interrupted by a phone call from my daughter’s school, she was not feeling well so I had to turn around and ride back to go and pick her up. Since I was a little worried about her, I was not able to compile a lot of detailed observations on how the Flite 100 rides. All I can say is that the ride was rather smooth and fast.

I’ll be riding this bike to work primarily — come back for the updates.