Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bikers: Another Option!

A note from Judy:

Here's another option for getting started with a bike for the triathlon. This bike shop offers the option to rent a bike to figure out what type of bike you like and they size you. Plus, they're called "Big Wheels." How bad could they be? ;)

Swimming Lessons

It seems that a number of us will have to learn to swim or at least brush up on our skills. Click on the title of this post or on the link below to find flyers for local class schedules (and prices). I'm sure there are more, so if you find another venue, please comment to this post or let me know so I can share the information with the rest of the group.

Oh, and before you guys ask me: yes, I am wearing contacts in the picture above; maybe that's why you didn't immediately recognize me.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Our Logo:

Grace would like to get your feedback on our logo, so please comment to this post!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How to Size a Bike

This is a reprinting of the email Craig sent us Sunday night. (Thanks, Craig)

We do a good job, but you can do it yourself if you want.

1. Get someone to help you. That person holds the handlebar (and the brake levers to keep you from running him/her over) while you get on the seat.

2. Sit back on the saddle. Not off the back but put your sit bones on the sweet spot near the back.

3. Place your heels on the middle of the pedals and pedal backward slowly.

4. Your leg should be at full extension with out having to reach. Move the seat up or down to match.

5. Once you have that, find something to lean against. Sit back on the seat and pedal backwards until the pedals are level, (9 and 3 o'clock).

6. Have your helper take a level and tuck one end under your knee cap. The level when plumb should go through the center of the spindle. Move the seat forward and backward until this is accomplished. (The front of your knee should be directly over the center of the pedal when it is farthest forward).

7. Once you have that, sit back, put your hands on the drops or on the handlebar top. Look down at the hub, is it in front or behind the handlebar? Switch the stem until it is in line.

This is a good starting place. But it needs some tweaking. If you toe down or heel down you need to adjust the saddle height to compensate. Your leg should be 95% straight at the bottom of the stroke.

You can also do the saddle height by measuring your inseam.

Take a big book, stand against the wall, pull the book into your crotch, snug not tight, in socks, measure down. Multiply this by .883 and this is the distance from the center of the crank spindle to the top of the saddle along the line of the seat tube. Again you need to compensate for toe or heel down pedaling.

This should be pretty close.

My experience is that almost everyone who come here needs their bikes adjusted. New comers almost always ride with their seat too low, and at least half have a stem that is too long, almost none have a too short stem.

No bike will feel good if it is the wrong size and improperly fitted to you. Unfortunately most shops leave this to the customer.


There is probably no substitute for finding a Local Bike Shop (LBS)
that you find helpful and get along with where there is mutual
respect. I think this "can" exist in some parts of the world, but
have also seen a whole lot of ripping off and taking advantage of
those who trust and don't know better. This is very true if you are
not mechanically inclined and will need help with all the little
adjustments and with repairs over time if you end up logging a lot
of miles with a good fitting bike (the goal, right?). I've been in
the Consumer Electronics (CE) business for thirty plus years and
always tell people to start and get into a good relationship with a
local "Electronics Contractor" (not Circuit City or Best Buy) who
can be their long-term liaison to this complicated technology and to
keep up to date with the best stuff for their needs. I've seen a
lot of the same taking advantage of folks in the CE business as well
as honest folks seeking a mutually beneficial long term relationship.

Everything that is written here generally refers to entry level
men's bikes and (as I understand it) there are A LOT of bikes being
built in WSD (Women's Specific Design) by many companies now that
offer a better fit specifically tailored to the general differences
for women's bodies. Sorry, I can't help with those variables here.

I have no experience with it but have heard that Seven Cycles
dealers (some of them anyway) have a great fitting tool they can use
to figure out what you need, and then help you order a really nice,
custom, multi-thousand dollar Titanium bike that will make you very,
very happy.

All that being said, I am a geek (yeah, I admit it). I'm a guy who
wants to learn everything there is to know about everything I'm
interested in and who owns (or is willing to buy) all the tools
needed and to gain the expertise to perform 95% of my own repairs.
I was also an EBay mogul at the time I took up cycling almost a
decade ago and bought over fifty bikes in five years to narrow down
the size and performance characteristics I desired. I've re-sold
about forty of those bikes when I moved up, found something I liked
better or got the thing I wanted in my correct size. So, what
follows is some advice I created a year ago (about spring of '07)
for a good friend's son who was looking for a first road bike.
Please do not take offence, but hopefully it will offer some insight
and direction to begin the search to finding the right fit and the
right bike.

This kind of info could take many hours or even days to try to put
down everything one needs to know to go bike shopping but I'll try
to summarize a few things for your shopping help. All of the
suggestions offered here are great. Some of the reading like the
Peter White piece are pretty deep for beginners but full of great
info. This "blog" is oriented more towards a healthy dose of
personal opinion merged with a multi-year summary of the commercial
recommendations that have gotten overall good reviews.

I'll give you mostly retail prices below for comparison. If you
know what you are doing and work at it you can usually find what you
want used on EBay or Road Bike Review for about half price. That
being said, there is rampant fraud on both of those sites now,
especially in bicycles as a category. Cyclists tend to be eager and
want a nice new'ish top of the line bike for a low price and
therefore we tend to be gullible as all get-out. If you are not
experienced playing in this arena, I do not recommend making a high-
end bike one of your early purchases on EBay. The majority of
competent, long-ride-capable, road bikes on the market fall into the
$3000 to $4500 price range now. There are couple of bikes that
actually sell for over $20,000 (ceramic wheel bearings and such
details) and quite a few top shelf bikes top the $10K range. I've
bought and tried about 50 bikes over the last seven years and
learned a lot about what fits me, how different bikes handle, feel
and learned why you never regret buying the very best. I'm going to
assume that you want a decent performance bike to ride with a group
of friends.

Many beginners come to me with a perceived budget of $250 to $400
and you have to realize that a pair of my pedals plus a saddle that
I put on each of my bikes cost more than that! Heck, I've got some
Sidi cycling shoes that retail for almost that! I think that you
would be much happier and be more likely to actually enjoy riding if
he can buy a decent $2K bike that fits you and you can generally buy
that same bike a couple of years old on EBay for $1K (my rule of
thumb is I try to get stuff for about half of new actual selling
price. I'm mechanically inclined, do all my own work and have tools
but it can be worth buying at retail if you get a good LBS (Local
Bike Shop) that will keep you humming along and help with
adjustments and issues.

I bought all but one of those 50+ bikes on EBay and have resold 40
of them. If I could know the exact correct sizing in advance, I'd
tell everyone to buy a (new price) $5K to $6.5K Colnago C40 used or
C50 new depending on the build components and wheels, and all around
my recommendation for the best overall bike ever made. There are
many other bikes priced in that region that other's in the club will
swear by. Lately, many have been buying the new Specialized Tarmac
carbon bikes in that same price range, other's picking up
Pinarello's and other brands.

So, with all that craziness aside, here is what a new rider needs to
concentrate on. Fitting and purpose…period. There are bike shops
that have fitting gear and will spend a few hours telling you what
size you need. To do this properly generally costs $175 to $300.
(I throw that out because that is all many want to spend on this
first bike!). I think the fitting calculator on the
www.wrenchscience. com website is very accurate and does a great
job. You MUST have someone else (good friend since you need to put
on padded bike shorts and they will have their hand up your legs)
take all the measurements and you should run through the
measurements at least twice and average the results. You CANNOT
measure yourself! Plug in the 10 details to the site and it will
estimate your proper size frame and general set up dimensions to
start with. I didn't start with this but now that I know exactly
my "dialed in" settings and going back to check it this calculator
would have been a great starting point in my search and saved me a
lot of stupid, wrong-sized purchases.

I have short torso and very long legs so I prefer Italian geometry
(hence the Colnago's and Pinarello's) . If instead you have a
relatively long torso and short legs, then you will fit on many more
brands of bikes than I do. Generally you will be shopping for what
is known as "Lemond" geometry bikes which have a longer top tube and
shorter seat tube. A "square" traditional frame would have the same
length of seat tube and top tube (center to center). My bikes tend
to have longer seat tubes and if you are more "normal" you should be
shopping for longer top tubes. This would include brands like Trek,
Lemond, Litespeed, Ritchey and most of the others. You also need to
identify what type of riding you want to do. General
classifications include: Comfort, performance, sprinting, climbing,
racing as fast as possible, touring and what combo of these.

I give you much of this background to let you know I have to depend
on other sources of info like magazine reviews and other people's
experiences because most of my own experience has been with higher
end bikes. When I first started riding again 8 years ago, the first
bike I bought was an older but very clean Cannondale Black Lightning
for about $400 on EBay. It was OK, very stiff and uncomfortable
ride and not a modern gear-set so I quickly wanted much more, tried
a steel Bianchi and then started buying the higher end stuff, mostly
carbon fiber and drawn, butted aluminum. (Butted tubes is a
technical term which means the tubes are actually "drawn" with
different thicknesses allowing the frame maker to save weight and
improve ride quality, albeit, at a higher price.) I'm aimed at the
highest performance, the best quality and fastest bikes with long
ride comfort a lesser selection criteria, but that is just me. I
ride with the fastest two groups in the Balto Bike Club and have
averaged between 17 and 18 mph over rolling Maryland terrain over
the last several years. Most weekend riders are soon in either the
13/15 mph or the 15/17 mph average speed groups.

Note that EVERYTHING listed below is compiled from year's of reviews
from commercial bike magazine reviews. These are always subject to
the influence of selling advertising. They also ALL come with
various grades of Shimano (or worse) gear and shifter components.
I'm a big fan of Campagnolo components but they start at much higher
prices and are not offered on virtually any "standard" bikes. Campy
is usually on custom built, higher end bikes and there are a lot
fewer mechanics at LBS's who know how to tune it well. Just my two-

From Bicycling Magazine reviews over the last few years:

A) Entry Level Bikes:
My Picks based on reviews:
Trek 1000 $710 reviewed as the best $700 bike we've ever ridden!
Aluminum frame, great ride, 25c tires for smoother ride (though not
as fast as your buddies on their 23c) and has carbon seatpost.
Advantage over those below is the Tiagra shifters instead of Sora
(which is pretty poor in most reviews). Recent Ebay sales @ $400 to
$600. Just an aside here, I'm not much of a Trek fan, hated all
that I've tried, but they own a huge part of the market and are
probably in a good position to build a better than average entry
level bike.
Schwinn Fastback Sport $679, overall just a notch below the Trek.
Has been a best buy rated for three years. Not many on Ebay.
Others worth consideration:
Raleigh Grand Sport @ $615 is true entry level. Triple crank front
(somewhat fussy) mated with 8 speed rear gives gears for any hill.
Has the worst Shimano Sora shifters and worst Tektro brakes on the
market (pretty bad stuff) but still a whole lot better than the no
brand stuff on department store bikes. $400 new on Ebay.
Jamis Ventura Comp $700 retail. Aimed at new riders, stable,
confident, responsive lightweight aluminum frame, climbs very well.
Comes with very low end gears & brakes (only 2x8 set for 16 speeds,
a major downer these days).

After picking the Trek or the Schwinn as the best entry level bike
you should really consider the KHS Flite 700 where you get a WAY
more bike for just a little more money @ $999. Sexy curved carbon
seat stays and Ultegra rear derailleur 9 speed with compact crank
(50/34 teeth) with fast racing geometry to keep up with your
buddies, better wheels make it a deal. Brakes are pretty lame
Tektro but they are the better model with dual pivots. If you could
stretch to this, it would be a no-brainer for me.

B) Cheap Bikes (but somewhat better than entry level) they have
something good to say about -
Schwinn Fastback Comp $1,100 they call a Super Deal. A fun, safe
into to road riding but don't race. Very smooth ride due to carbon
seat stays and fork. As above, and what you get in this price
range, it has the lowest end Shimano Tiagra gear set. $800 "new"on
Colnago Primavera $1,800. A new low price, entry level from top
Italian maker but it is really a Taiwan built (like most of these
cheap ones) bike with a better name on it. Has a better groupo with
Shimano 105 and FSA crank but is really stiff and not so
comfortable, more of a racing bike than for casual club riding.
Cannondale CAAD9 Optimo 2 for $1,800. Again, a stiff and fast and
fun bike but not very comfortable. Comes with really great spec
Shimano Ultegra making it a bargain.
Schwinn Letour GSX $999. This is what is called a "Plush" bike,
meant more for comfort than pure speed. Like the Fastback above has
carbon stays and fork and a more upright, comfort oriented riding
position. Cheapo groupo w/Tiagra again.
Jamis Ventura Race $1000. Better spec Tiagra 9 speed (18 overall
w/2 chainrings) and a 105 rear derailleur which is a critical
element in the drivetrain worthy of spending more on and upgrading.
Fuji Roubaix $1,240. Hi-tech at low price. Curvy tubes with butting
(thinning in middle) for smooth ride and lower weight, same T/9/105
spec as above.
Felt F75 at $1,399 might be the best brand, value and performance
you can get near that price. They make very high end bikes but this
one with a carbon steerer inside the fork and 10-speed Ultegra
derailleur and 105 set is a great spec at the price. Also better
than average wheels and good brand pedigree. $800 "like new" but
used on EBay. I would SERIOUSLY consider this bike.

The best overall $2,000 carbon fiber bikes. Carbon is great as it
mutes road buzz and makes long rides more comfortable, it doesn't
rust or bend or dent like steel or aluminum. If built right, it is
perhaps the best overall bike (or boat or car) material for top
level performance at the lowest weight. Done wrong, it can be
flexy, dead feeling and not so fun.
****Raleigh Supercourse $1,475 offers the best value in a full
carbon bike, period. Basically, you are getting their $2,625
flagship with decent wheels and lesser components dropping back to
Tiagra 9 speed with 105 rear. Worth serious consideration and
probably a good fit too.
Schwinn Peloton Pro $2300, excellent parts (Ultegra) & all carbon
fork (nice), wheels could be lighter. Overall, 17 pounds.
Giant TCR Composite 2 $2,170, same frame as $4K bike, light and
racy. Weak brakes but everything else is top spec Ultegra. This
would be a great choice.
Felt F4 $2,329. This is probably what I'd buy if you could spend
this much. Great spec with Ultegra and a DuraAce rear derailleur,
105 brakes, nice wheels great tires.
Jamis Xenith Comp $2000. Bit less $, good spec with 105, flexy
wheels and heavy. OK but I'd spend the difference and get the Felt.
Raleigh Prestige $2,625. Ultegra and D-A spec is great, even
brakes. Light and neutral, not really racy but not boring either.

Best Deals on off branded mail order Bikes:
The Scattante R650 @$999 which is available at www.supergo. com got a
rave review in 2004.
www.performancebike .com has well built, house brand bikes often on
sale for great prices. Their 2007 Scattante R-660 got great
reviews. On sale $1399. They also have Schwinn Fastback with
Triple chainrings on sale now for $700.

A good and unbiased
review site for any mid to high end bikes you are considering is
www.roadbikereview. com.


The Peter White article is very good but pretty deep stuff.
Also, I have always had good luck with showing people the
www.wrenchscience. com site. They have updated it so you go there,
then you click on "Road", then you click on the tab for "Fit
System". They now force you to create an account to use it but it is
harmless. They only email you about once a month and you can cancel
the email if you like later.

The key to using their (or any) fitting system is getting good
measurments. You cannot measure youself. I always propose that it
is great foreplay to strip down to your cycling shorts and to have
your spouse measure you

Read the descriptions of how to do each measurment carefully. Do each one three times and then average the results for the best chance of getting a good number.

Plug in the data to the boxes and it spits out a pretty good size for
you. You are probably right, you could choose between two sizes and
have already heard about "shorter" (more upright) verses "longer"
(stretched out). These days, a lot of bikes are "compact" (with
sloping top tubes) and only come in three or four sizes (S, M, L,
etc.). They intend for you to make changes in stem and post length
and angle or setback to dial in between sizes. I don't like ANY of
these bikes and much prefer a "traditional" frame shape and have
figured out that I really prefer a top tube between 56.3 and 57cm and
nothing else. Generally, this means I'm looking at a 57cm frame,
sometimes a 58cm (Colnago measures differently) .

One very important key that I discovered by trying over 50 bikes was
that I have much longer legs and a shorter torso so I cannot
comfortably ride any "American" geometry bike. This eliminates Trek,
Litespeed, Lemond, Merlin and a host of others unless I go custom. I
need "Italian" geometry and am a natural for their taller and shorter
frames. These also tend to be higher strung designs with quicker
handling. I've ended up really loving bikes from Colnago and
Pinarello the most.

Getting the size right is very important and I suspect that one of
the two you think is OK would end up being tiring if not painful on
all day rides and the other gets the balance of your weight correct
between your arms and your butt and will make all the difference on
the Civil War Century!