I have been at this bicycle retailing thing for a pretty long time but I still get excited each year when the new bikes come out along with all the new accessories, jerseys, shorts-Heck, I even get excited about new improvements in car racks! On the other hand I sometimes feel a bit jaded about the fact that bike companies sometimes make changes for the sake of change without really advancing the state of the art. But one thing I now know and appreciate is that there are definitely very different bikes with very different personalities to appeal to virtually any rider. Whether you ride road, mountain, fitness, Triathlon, BMX-there are hundreds and hundreds of models to choose from. So many, in fact, that it can create a kind of shoppers paralysis when it comes to figuring out what model of bike is right for you. Certainly there is no shortage of information from manufacturers, gear review sites, magazines, friends with opinions, on-line forums-The only problem with all of that information and all those opinions is that ultimately you are going to be riding the bike you choose-no one else. It’s a big investment for a good bike and you don’t really want to make a mistake.
So let me tell you a true story-As the owner of a bike store I have my pick of the litter. For the 2013 season I picked, for my mountain bike, a Cannondale Carbon Scalpel 1. Let me tell you, it was a pretty spectacular bike! Four inches of travel on a race tuned platform that weighed in at a scant 23 and change pounds. With a super quick steering angle and a short-ish wheelbase combined with 29 inch-wheels, this bike was a racers dream machine. Several members of Team Bulldog/Cycle Craft race the Scalpel and are on the podium with predictable regularity. Lots of my friends were jealous of my bike buuuuut……I hated it. Well maybe hate is too strong a word but I really didn’t love the bike but I didn’t really want to admit it to myself or to anyone else for that matter. The truth is the bike scared the hell out of me. You can’t really ride the scalpel slowly-it demands to be raced. It’s super aggressive capability just seemed above my ability to ride it. I compare the experience I was having with trying to drive a race tuned Porsche at the mall on a Saturday afternoon. The thing is, I don’t race-I haven’t raced in 15 years. But for $6000 how could I not be in love? I suspect that the truth is lots of people buy bikes based on someone’s glowing recommendation or compelling marketing only to be disappointed with end result but don’t dare say so because they spent a bunch of money on it.
Fast forward a year-For the 2014 season I started out with a Giant Trance, which I loved! Sadly I gave it up to customer who wanted this exact model and it was sold out at Giant. Now I have a Cannondale Trigger Carbon 2- and I truly love it! Let me explain why. Both of these bikes are five-inch travel all-mountain bikes with 27.5-inch wheels. The all mountain platform is a lot more stable at speed than the Scalpel was. The longer suspension soaks up the rough stuff like nobody’s business and the 27.5” wheels accelerate out of turns quicker than the 29”. A little bit slower steering geometry and beefier tires help me feel much more confident on the bike and hence-I am having lots of fun riding and regularly grinning from ear to ear and blurting out spontaneous “woohoos!”
Herein lies the crux of my tale-All of these bikes worked as advertised when set up properly. But it turns out that the bikes that worked for me specifically were the Trance and the Trigger because both are really well designed bikes that are made to do the kind of rides that are suited to me. Don’t get me wrong- I am not trying to convince you that those bikes are the best for everyone, just that they are best for me. My point is that finding the right bike for you starts with a really honest conversation with yourself about what kind of riding you are really likely to be doing and what your expectations are for your rides. Even with very little experience, making a list of what is important to you about your bike before you start seeking out specific model information will help you focus on the right kinds of bikes and cut through the marketing chatter and untold thousands of opinions based on scientific studies of one. Most of the bikes you are likely to find in reputable bike stores will be of high quality and offer good value for your money. Focus on getting the right fit and the right set-up. Whether it’s a road bike, a mountain bike, triathlon, or anything in between, picking the right tool and using it properly should provide you with many years of ear to ear grinning and spontaneous “woohoos!” of your own.
by Christine M.
As a wife, a mother of two, a teacher and a student, balancing the struggles of staying fit and raising a family can prove to be quite a challenge.
Every year, I spend the majority of my “Me-Time” training and raising money for The Young Survival Coalition. For three days and 245 miles I will ride my bicycle and raise over $2500 to make sure that no young woman ever has to face breast cancer alone. The survivors and fighters I ride for ensure that I am out on my bike and motivated despite whatever obstacles are in my way.
When I first arrived at Tour de Pink I did not know anyone. After walking into the lobby fashionably late, a kind rider in kitten heels welcomed us warmly and grabbed our bikes to bring them to check in. Five minutes later I had a new family; the Tour de Pink family. I had no idea when I signed up just how much meaning and purpose this ride would bring to my life.
During dinner, my dear friend and team captain Tony Dean gave a speech that would forever change my life. He described a difficult year that he had and that throughout that year there were so many reasons to NOT ride. “There are plenty of reasons not to ride” he said, but more importantly “the reasons TO RIDE outweigh all the negative”. I looked across the table to where my new friend Gina, a survivor and mother of 3, was sitting. As tears poured down her eyes I looked at her and thought to myself “This is why I ride”.
This year I will be participating in my fifth Tour de Pink. I know as my training commences, the excuses will come up on why I shouldn’t ride. There’s work, school, family, even just laziness. Then, I look at my friends who are survivors and I understand the magnitude of why I am riding goes beyond just me.
There are plenty of reasons NOT to ride. The reason I DO ride is so young women feel empowered in spite of a breast cancer diagnosis. I ride for the women I have met who are newly diagnosed and scared. I ride for Gina O’Connell, my friend and my inspiration. I ride for Kayla Falcon who lost her battle early but dedicated every day of her life to being happy. I ride for the families of these women. I ride for Shilpa, my friend and childhood mentor who lost her battle 5 short months after it began. Continuing to ride and to use my love for cycling to help others will be on my annual agenda as long as I am healthy and able to ride.
This is why I ride.
If you’d like to donate to Christine’s campaign for the Young Survival Coalition, click here!
by Kevin E.
Heart is racing. Muscles are burning. Face is twisted in a grimace. Part of your brain says “Stop, you’ll hurt yourself!” but another screams louder “Push harder!!” And somehow, you do push harder and harder still.
You may recognize this sensation as an adrenaline rush. Clinically, its nothing more than a release of a hormone that allows the body to turn fuel into energy faster. A simple, routine bodily process.
For athletes, it holds a special place in our souls. Its the spark for our fire. Its what gets us out of bed before dawn for a workout. It pushes us to the finish when we might not believe we can make it.
To most modern humans, the adrenaline response is a bonus power-up. We induce it partly for the release of pleasure-inducing endorphins that accompanies it. Its a natural and legal recreational high.
For our ancestors though, it was the difference between life and death.
The adrenaline response is one of the evolutionary adaptations that helped to ensure our species’ survival in the early days. Along with a body built for long-distance running, adrenaline helped give early humans the stamina to chase down large prey and escape more powerful predators.
From the very beginning, Homo Sapiens were born endurance athletes. Some experts argue that this was the key to unlocking the potential of our superior intellect. Early humans’ endurance helped them hunt megafauna, affording them access to protein-rich food sources to fuel their growing brains. They used those growing brains to build tools, establish settlements, etc. The rest, as they say, is history.
If you’re reading this now, you have adrenaline to thank, at least in part.
The modern human lives in a different world. The most endurance many of us have to muster in search of food is spanning the vast distance from the couch to the fridge. Smilodons, giant bears, and other prehistoric predators are no longer bearing down on us at every turn. Our superior intellect has created a world where the physical adaptations that got us here are no longer necessary.
So what’s to become of those features that the miracle of evolution has blessed us with through the generations?
Will the human adrenaline response go the way of the appendix, a vestigal stump that stagnates within our bodies, waiting to be excised?
Perhaps one day we’ll be removing our adrenal glands along with our tonsils. But today, adrenaline still flows within each and every one of us. As proud Homo Sapiens, it is our duty to unleash it while we still can. It’s part of who we are.
So get out there and get your heart rate up. Feel your skin tingle as the adrenaline flows through you. Dig deep and push yourself further than you’ve ever gone before. Connect with your humanity and feel what it might have felt like to chase a Mastodon down the Pleistocene tundra with your prehistoric hunting party. No time machine necessary.
by Kevin E.
I’m hooked on this new computer game! Its an MMORPG, or massively multiplayer online role-playing game for all the n00bs out there. I’m only at level 5, but I’ve already earned some cool wardrobe items and I’m about to unlock new steeds for my character. There’s a lot of grinding involved but the PvP (player vs. player) gameplay is fun. I could sink a lot of hours into this game, if only I could find more time to play.
Its called Zwift.
A Zwift Kick In The Butt
Zwift is the latest in a long line of products aiming to make riding inside for hours less eye-stabbingly boring. But what makes it more compelling than a bumpin’ playlist or a Netflix marathon?
Interactivity. Its not just a distraction, its an active part of the experience. If you happen to own one of the newest crop of Smart Trainers, like the Cycleops PowerBeam Pro, Tacx Neo, or Wahoo Kickr, its even more active.
I read a lot about Zwift during its open beta phase, but nobody seemed to know how to define it. But within minutes of my first session, I knew exactly what I was dealing with:
Zwift is a video game. No more, no less.
Game-ify Your Training
I’m a 90’s kid, so it should come as no surprise to learn that I’ve been playing video games for most of my life. Nintendo, Sega, Playstation, Xbox, PC; you name it, I’ve probably played it. So as a gamer, I felt right at home playing Zwift with the other gamers making their way around Zwift’s virtual island, Watopia.
What’s that? You use Zwift, but you’re not a gamer?
You are now! Welcome you to the party! Come on in, the water’s fine!
Ever wondered why online games like World of Warcraft and Call of Duty are so attractive to “the youths”? (Since you’re here reading this, I’m assuming you aren’t one of those proverbial “youths”. Sorry?)
If you’ve played Zwift, you’ve already experienced what drives the kids (perhaps your kids) to whittle away hours and hours playing those games:
1. Character Progression
Just like World of Warcraft players earn XP (experience points) for each quest they complete, Zwift-ers also earn XP and unlock achievements for logging saddle time and completing intervals successfully. In both games, earning XP leads to leveling-up, which unlocks clothing to display your status to other players and power-ups to improve in-game performance.
2. Competitive Multiplayer
Call of Duty players know that the only way to prove your skill is to throw down in Player vs. Player matches. Getting the top spot on the end-of-match leaderboard earns bragging rights (and lots of XP). Zwift also has leaderboards for the various sprint points and climbs on the virtual roads, goading players to throw down the watts and shoot for the top spot.
Don’t Hate The Player…
Ok, so Zwift is a video game. But Zwifters aren’t your typical “gamers” right?
We’re athletes! We’re not sitting around pushing buttons, we’re training!
And we’re adults! There’s no bragging, shaming, or cheating. And definitely no Swatting. We’re mature!
Not from what I’ve seen. I’ve closely observed the text chat and the banter isn’t much different from any other gaming community.
Mom jokes? Check.
Bragging? You bet. (Mostly humble-bragging, at least)
Shaming? Oh boy. A lot of the chat messages I’ve seen are calling out the “cheaters”.
Yes, players cheat at Zwift. But I’m not surprised. Gamers want to win, some by any means necessary. Zwift is no exception.
But its not all trolling and peacocking. I’ve also gotten plenty of encouragement, props, and overall good vibes from players. The first time I got a virtual thumbs-up from a fellow Zwifter halfway across the world, I couldn’t help but feel good about the Zwift community.
…Love The Game!
Games like Zwift, World of Warcraft, Call Of Duty, StarCraft, etc. encourage players to keep playing through progression and competition. It immerses you in its virtual world, builds your skills, tests those skills against digital and human opponents, and rewards victory with access to new skills. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Zwift is unique in one crucial aspect: Players can take their character progression into the real world. Leveling up in Zwift takes work; work that will pay off on the real roads. That’s more than you can say for World of Warcraft. Being a level 90 Paladin won’t get you to the front of the line at the grocery store.
Zwift is proof that video games can be more than playthings to distract kids from their homework. They can impact our lives in positive and constructive ways by motivating us to improve ourselves along with our virtual avatars.
Zwift is a great way for “non-gamers” to experience the power of video games. I don’t expect Zwifters to suddenly start spending hundreds of hours and thousands of real-world dollars playing EVE Online, but they might gain an understanding of what makes those games so attractive and engaging.
Zwift is just a video game. But video games are so much more than you might think they are.
Screenshots courtesy of Nick Paglia. He’s done more cool stuff in Zwift than I have.
by Kevin E
This is my bike, the new Foundry Chilkoot. It’s many things: Smooth. Refined. Metal. Beautiful. Fast.
However, there’s one thing it isn’t: Light.
And I don’t care.
Weight Weenies Anonymous
At around 18.5lbs, it isn’t what many would call heavy either. But even with a carefully-curated build kit, its one of the heavier road bikes I’ve ever owned. But that doesn’t concern me. Not anymore anyway…
Rewind to 2008. The Scott Addict SL broke the 800g frame barrier in ’07, sparking an arms race that raged for the next few years, with the major brands shaving grams and posturing in magazine ads for the lightweight title. The gossamer prize seemed to be the only cause that mattered. I wanted a piece of the action.
I had finally saved up enough scratch to buy my dream bike: a Cervelo S2. It was carbon and sculpted in the wind tunnel, just like an F1 race car. I shaved all the grams I could by getting all the carbon parts I could afford. Carbon bars, carbon-railed saddle, carbon cranks, carbon bottle cages, etc.
Then Cannondale went nuclear in 2012 and dropped the sub-700g Supersix EVO. Of course, I had to have one.
Out of the box, it was a 16lb wonder. Over the next three years of riding and racing it, I tweaked the build until it was 15.5lbs with all accessories. It ultimately culminated this past year with a stripped-down variation for the hilly Flanders Time Trial that weighed in at a scant 13.8lbs.
After that race, I realized that my gram-shaving could go no further. Shaving any more weight would require sacrifices I wasn’t willing to make.
Mythbusting the Light Bike
Being a weight-weenie is all about sacrifice. What are you willing to give up in order to make a lighter bike? Durability, comfort, braking performance, and more are among those sacrifices. Eventually the grams saved don’t equal the frustration added.
Chasing the light-bike unicorn taught me a few things:
1. When the wheels are down, nobody cares how light your bike is.
My riding partners would ooh and ahh when they picked up my 15lb bike in the parking lot. But when the wheels were turning, we never spoke of it. I guess we were too busy enjoying the wind in our faces while chasing each other to the next town line. “The Lightest Bike In The Universe” looks great in a magazine ad, but it doesn’t mean much for most of us in the real world. Bikes are meant to be ridden, not weighed.
2. Climbing is still hard.
My carbon wonder-bike should’ve given me gossamer wings to float effortlessly up the hills, right? Wrong. Even when my EVO was pared down under 14lbs for the Flanders TT, the climb up Naughright Road still hurt. A lot. As the old Greg LeMond adage goes, “It never gets easier, you just go faster.” And according to some science, lighter isn’t that much faster.
3. Light, Durable, Cheap; Pick Two.
I once spec’d the lightest custom wheel build I could get on modest budget. Feathery rims, spindly spokes, the works. The fabulous New Jersey roads chewed them up and spit those fancy triple-butted spokes back at me in pieces. The wheels I ride for training now, complete with 32 straight-gauge spokes, are overbuilt for me. But reliable equipment I can ride every day and forget about is more valuable to me than extra-light parts that require constant attention.
Full Metal Jacket
With these lessons in mind, I went about searching for a new steed. I decided to go back to the wonder material of the previous generation: Titanium.
Before carbon fiber took its crown, titanium was the featherweight king. In 2006, the Litespeed Ghisallo was the lightest production frame in the world at 770g.
While carbon has since surpassed titanium in the lightweight arms race, it’s durability and silky-smooth ride quality have kept it in the conversation. However, titanium frames have become increasingly rare outside of full-custom builds.
Then Foundry announced the Chilkoot last Fall. Of course, I had to have one. I pre-ordered one sight-unseen.
Its everything I hoped it would be and more.
Is it better than my carbon bike? I don’t really think that’s a fair comparison.
A lot of carbon bikes seem to be all about the numbers. How much does it weigh? How much BB deflection occurs at X watts? How many grams of drag does it create at X mph and Y yaw angle? The list goes on…
The things I like about my Chilkoot can’t be plotted on a graph. I like that it filters out the harsh road buzz, but lets the good sensations through. I like that it seems to transform from comfy cruiser to razor sharp racer and back again at a turn of the pedals. I like that its quiet and creak-free (long live threaded bottom brackets!).
If hyper-light carbon bikes are fine dining, the Chilkoot is comfort food. Grandma’s lasagna. Dad’s beef stew. No fancy plating, but man is it tasty. The Chilkoot might not be the lightest or even the fastest on paper, but its a ton of fun. And for most of us, isn’t that what its all about?
Light Isn’t Always Right
Am I saying that weight doesn’t matter at all? Not exactly. Its just not always as important for most of us as the marketing might lead you to believe.
Am I saying you shouldn’t buy the lightest bike you can? Of course not. Light bikes are cool! But a scale doesn’t tell the whole story.
Go ahead and get that light bike. Just make sure its the right bike.
For many cyclists stretching is often overlooked. Doing these five yoga poses will help increase flexibility which will aid in better cycling and they will strengthen the muscles we use for riding while getting a great warm up! Hold each pose for a cycle of 5-10 breaths and make sure to breath. Proper breathing technique for yoga is in through the nose and out through the mouth. With every inhalation push yourself to go just a little bit further on the exhale.
No. 1 Downward Dog
How: From all fours lift hips to the sky. Keep palms strongly grounded on to floor. Focus on keeping back straight.
Why: This pose helps to lengthen the back muscles as well as the hamstrings. This will help to give more power while pedaling.
No. 2 Chair Pose
How: From standing with feet about a fists width, squat back into an imaginary chair with arms overhead and hands together. Roll shoulders back and down to help open the chest.
Why: This pose helps strengthen the glutes, quads, hamstrings and lower back
No. 3 Warrior I
How: From standing step one foot forward and bend at the knee into a lunge. Make sure to keep knee in line with ankle and not past toes. Keep heel flat to the ground and raise hands overhead. Hold for 10 count then switch sides.
Why: This pose helps to loosen up the hip flexors.
No. 4 Half-pigeon Pose
How: From downward dog lift one leg high to the sky and then through the arms to a lunge. Then place shin to the ground with leg crossed in front of you. Keep rear leg straight with the top of the foot to the floor. Work on keeping hips level, this can be achieved by placing a block under the hip. If possible, fold forward and hold for 10 count then repeat on other side.
Why: This pose will work the hips and will give you a more efficient pedal stroke.
No. 5 Bridge Pose
How: From lying on back, bend knees keeping feet planted on the floor close to the glutes with arms at your sides. Then on your next exhale lift pelvis high to the sky and tuck arms behind back clasping your hands together. Tuck chin to chest and keep shoulder blades and head flat on the floor.
Why: This pose helps strengthen glutes and back. This will also help open the chest giving you better reach on the bike.
When I listen to myself tell people what a time trial race feels like, I often wonder why the heck I subject myself to such suffering.
2015 was my second season competing in the NJ Time Trial Cup series. I was aiming for a top-10 overall for the series, having just missed out in 2014. Despite a rough winter recovering from a knee injury, I worked hard all season with lots of help from my coach Brian Lariviere and strung together ten solid races. I achieved my goal and finished the series in 7th place among a deep field in Cat. 4/5 Men.
Bike racing has done so much more for me than just make me faster. It’s taken me to places around NJ that I never would have discovered on my own. Its given me something to strive for every time I get on my bike. Best of all, its given me the chance to pin on a number and be like my cycling heroes a few times each summer for 30 minutes to an hour. For me, that’s worth every second of suffering. –Kevin Eng
by Kevin E.
So 2015 is here, and we couldn’t be more excited to jump in headfirst. We’ve got lots of big things coming up that we can’t wait to tell you about. But before we do that, 2015 is also a good time to look back, because this year will be our 45th year in the business. Yeah, you read that right. 45 years. Right about now, we’re suddenly feeling the urge to buy a convertible and start dying our hair.
In all seriousness though, 45 years is a long time to be in the bike business. Local bike shops come and go, especially now in the face of a changing retail landscape. That’s why we feel so fortunate to have such a loyal community of cyclists that keep coming by to see us, talk bikes with us, and best of all, ride with us! It gives us great pleasure to fuel your passion for the sport that we love, and to help new friends find themselves on a bike. So on behalf of everyone here at Cycle Craft, let me take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you, our customers and our friends, for choosing us and making us a part of your pedal-powered passion.
Now let’s turn the clock back…
In 1970, Cycle Craft opened its doors just about a hundred yards from our current Parsippany location. Under original owner Ron Farber, Cycle Craft remained a relatively small local shop for its first two decades.
But by the 90s, the cycling world was changing fast. Mountain biking had grown from a niche to a full-grown sport. European road racing had finally hit the mainstream in the US. Customers demanded more from their bike shop than ever before. Cycle Craft needed to up its game.
Heading up Cycle Craft’s new identity was super-team Ron Lippner (aka RL) and Brendan Poh. Together, RL and Brendan set out to make their vision of “The Ultimate Bicycle Center” a reality. As business tripled in just a few short years, so too did the size of the building. In 1996, Ron, RL, and Brendan picked up Cycle Craft and took it down the road to our current 8,000 sq. ft. flagship location. Over the rest of the decade, Cycle Craft established itself as a leader in the Tri-State Area by providing unparalleled inventory and never-before-offered services like Lifetime Maintenance and Guaranteed Fit. Other shops soon followed RL and Brendan’s lead and borrowed these and other concepts pioneered at Cycle Craft.
Into the 21st Century
In 2002, Ron Farber sold Cycle Craft to new owner Andy Boyland, and Brendan became the new General Manager. Under Andy and Brendan’s leadership, Cycle Craft continued to grow. Cycle Craft Long Valley opened in 2006 to better serve our customers in western Morris County. With some of the best road riding in NJ at our doorstep and the Columbia Trail right around the corner, its a great place to be.
In 2012, Brendan and his wife Cathy took over the reigns of Cycle Craft as co-owners, and since then we’ve grown even further!
We added the Rock ‘N Root Adventure Center in Andover in 2012, where we specialize in repairs, demos and bike rentals. With easy access to Kittatinny Valley State Park and the Sussex Branch Rail Trail, there’s no shortage of places to try out one of our rental fat bikes!
In 2014, we opened Cycle Craft Jefferson, not far from some of the best riding in NJ. We’re only 10 minutes from the trails in Mahlon Dickerson Reservation and 30 minutes from Mountain Creek Bike Park.
With a total of four locations, we are one of the largest independent bicycle dealers in the Tri-State Area.
Leading From The Front
Over the last 45 years we’ve gone from a small local shop to one of the most well-recognized independent bicycle retailers in the Northeast. We got there not only by providing the best customer service we can, but also by pioneering new techniques and practices to ensure local bike shops like us remain relevant in the ever-changing retail landscape.
For example, we were one of the first shops in the nation to offer the Guru Fit Experience, and our expert fit team is recognized as the nationwide leader among all Guru-equipped dealers with over 500 athletes of all levels served to date. At a recent seminar, Brendan and Cathy shared our experience to help educate other Guru-equipped dealers from around the country on how to grow their business through proper fitting.
Over the past 45 years, we’ve done our best to spread the joy of cycling to as many people as we can. It’s been a fun ride so far, and we have no intention of slowing down. We’ve got big things in store for 2015, so stay tuned! Thanks to our loyal customers and friends for coming along with us, and we hope you’ll stick with us for many years to come!
Come celebrate with us April 4th-12th at any of our locations for great prices on merchandise!
If you told me in 2010 that in a few short years I’d be a Pro downhill racer, I would have laughed in your face. In 2011, my brother Tim began working at Diablo Bike Park, now known as Mountain Creek Bike Park in Vernon. He suggested that I volunteer at the registration table for the U.S. Open of Mountain Biking. Having no background in cycling I didn’t know what “downhill” was exactly, but I said yes. I met all kinds of awesome people. Men, women, racers and media, it was a little overwhelming. Later that day I volunteered to course marshal for the Giant Slalom. The racers kept asking “Do you ride?” and I kept saying no, but I so badly wanted to try! It looked thrilling; everyone was high fiving and cheering each other on. It seemed like such an amazing community of supportive people despite it being a competitive sport.
The following weekend my friend Matt, who I had met at the U.S. Open, lent me his demo Diamondback Scapegoat and we headed to the lift. Watching me struggle to get the bike onto the lift was probably hilarious to everyone waiting behind me. No one really warned me as to what I was getting myself into, but off I went. I had never used or even knew what hydraulic disc brakes were. I quickly found out that when you squeeze them really hard, especially over rocks, you catapult yourself over the front of the bike. Three over the bars later and we’re finally back at the bottom. I was covered in scrapes and my hands were destroyed but I was smiling. I was literally head over heels for this sport! I started racing the following year and I continue to race to this day at the Pro level. Pinch me!
When I’m not downhilling, I really enjoy trail riding but my equipment was not up to the task. I had been using my dad’s entry-level trail bike for quite awhile. It was way too big for me, and I had outgrown its performance. I was especially tired of the insane backaches that come with riding the wrong size bike. My first mountain bike ever was a used 2008 Giant Reign X1. Man, was that thing clapped out.
I’ve always ridden men’s bikes. There aren’t too many women’s specific downhill bikes and even though I knew there were women’s specific trail and road bikes, I was skeptical. Despite my coworkers’ advice to consider a women’s specific bike, my stubbornness got the best of me. I went with another men’s bike, the Giant Trance 2 in a medium. I fit well on my medium downhill bike, so I figured I would be able to shred on this bike.
For weeks I was just so excited to have a brand new bike that I ignored my riding performance. I was riding as often as possible and I really loved showing off my new bike to my friends. The more the excitement of a new bike wore off the more I realized that something wasn’t quite right. I started to notice how clumsy I felt when I would try to rail a corner, jump or send a drop. I could tell the bikes wheelbase was too long for me. I hadn’t taken into account the wheel size difference between the Trance and my downhill bike. Every time I would try to jump or drop I couldn’t maneuver the bike like I knew I had the skills to do. When I would drop and try to get my butt over the back wheel, the front would nose dive so hard that I thought for sure I was going to go OTB. I also couldn’t for the life of me get the wheels to leave the ground when I would try to jump. For anyone that knows me, I love to jump. I started losing confidence and getting frustrated. I know that the Trance is an awesome bike; all of my friends that own one love it, but it wasn’t the right bike for me. I ended up trying a smaller bike from a different brand and I realized that I needed to make a change.
“…the Intrigue is truly made for a woman!”
I started looking at bikes from Liv, Giant’s women’s specific sister brand and settled on the Intrigue 2. I started comparing the geometry and discovered that the Intrigue is truly made for a woman! The reach is shorter and the head angle is a little steeper to complement a woman’s lower center of gravity. This makes for snappier handling, the ability to get my butt over the back for drops without nose diving and I can throw this thing around in the air like I want to. I needed this bike! I sold the Trance and got the Intrigue 2 in small. Now that I’m on the right bike, I have my confidence back and I can rip on the Intrigue!
Technology has come a long way and the difference in women’s and men’s bikes goes beyond just the color of the paint. Companies like Giant have considered how our bodies differ and how that affects the way we ride. Since I’ve been on the women’s bike my performance has skyrocketed. Plus, I can’t stop smiling when I ride my Intrigue. I’m in love!
by Kevin E.
Welcome to Part II of our Power Meter Buyer’s Guide! Now that we’ve covered the basics in Part I, here we’ll highlight a few power meters to put on your short list.
Location, Location, Location
Where your power meter is located is key to ensuring it will meet your needs. As we discussed in Part I, the most common types of power meters reside in your cranks, hubs, or pedals. Below we’ve selected a few examples that might be the best one for you.
Crank-based power meters were the first of their kind and made watts part of the cycling vernacular. Crank-based systems are great for riders with one primary bike and/or riders who swap wheels often (triathletes, time trialists, cyclocrossers).
Quarq has been one of the most recognized names in power meters since 2008. In 2011, bicycle component maker SRAM acquired Quarq and lent its engineering and manufacturing expertise. The Quarq Elsa RS is their latest feature-packed top-flight unit. Also available are the less expensive entry-level Riken model ($1200) and add-ons for specialty cranks like Cannondale SiSL and Specialized S-Works.
- Lightweight Hollow Carbon Arms & Aluminum Spider (616g)
- Measures Left/Right Power Balance to help train pedal stroke efficiency
- 1.5% accuracy
- Built-in cadence sensor
- Automatic temperature compensation for accurate power data year-round
- Waterproof for all-weather riding
- Compatible with ANT+ head units (Garmin, etc)
- Elsa RS compatible with new Shimano 4-bolt chainrings (5-bolt standard version available)
- MSRP: $1600
Best for: Frequent wheel-swappers, pedaling technicians
Stages made a big splash on the power meter scene by offering their left-crank-only power meters for nearly half the price of their competitors. While their single-sided design doesn’t offer left/right power balance, there isn’t much else you don’t get with a Stages power meter for considerably less dough. You might think measuring from just one leg isn’t accurate, but the pros at Team Sky think its more than accurate enough for them. And with mountain bike models available, its not just for roadies.
- Nearly no weight penalty (~20g), practically invisible
- Easy installation
- 2% accuracy
- Built-in cadence sensor
- Automatic temperature compensation & weatherproofing
- Simultaneous ANT+ & Bluetooth compatibility
- Many models available to match nearly any bike (including MTBs!)
- MSRP: starting at $529
Best for: First-time buyers, smartphone users, MTBers
Powertap C1 Chainrings – New for 2016
New for 2016 from Powertap, the C1 Chainring Power Meter is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to add dual-side power meter functionality to your existing crankset. They are compatible with most 5-bolt cranksets, and installation is as easy as replacing chainrings.
- Installs on your existing crankset
- Only 150g additional weight
- Measures left/right power balance
- 2% accuracy
- Simultaneous ANT+ & Bluetooth compatibility
- User-replaceable battery
- MSRP $699
Best for: First-time buyers, pedaling technicians on a budget
Rear Hub-based systems from PowerTap are another popular option for power meter users. Hub-based systems can be easily swapped between bikes and can be bundled in with a wheel upgrade.
Wheels are often one of the first upgrades you’ll buy for your bike, so why not add in a power meter while you’re at it? Whether you spec out a custom wheel build or choose one of the many pre-built options, you can get a power meter for less cash than you’d think. If you have multiple bikes, swapping is as easy as putting on a wheel. Got a disc-brake thru-axle MTB? No problem! Track bike? You’re covered!
- 1.5% accuracy
- Built-in speed/cadence sensor, no zip-ties needed!
- Minimal weight penalty
- Tool-free installation
- ANT+ compatibility, Bluetooth optional
- Can be bundled with a Joule head unit
- Disc-brake and track models available
- MSRP: Hubs starting at $599, Complete wheels starting at $799
Best for: Wheel upgraders, multi-bike stables
Pedal-based power meters measure power closest to the source. Pedal-based systems require no special tools to install and can be swapped between multiple bikes relatively easily.
Though they took a while to get it to market, Garmin took the time to get the Vector system right. The setup is neat and tidy and can fit on virtually any bike. They can be installed/swapped at home without special tools, so long as you follow the proper installation procedure for best accuracy. They are Look Keo
compatible only, so users of other systems will have to change cleats. If you can do without left/right power balance, the more affordable left-pedal-only Vector S is also available.
- Swappable between bikes
- Measures where force is applied, eliminating drivetrain losses
- Left/Right power balance
- Built-in cadence sensor
- ANT+ compatible
- Also available in a single-sided version (Vector S)
- MSRP: $1299 (Vector 2) $699 (Vector 2S)
Best for: Look Keo users, frequent bike-swappers
Powertap P1 Pedals – New for 2016
Powertap’s expanded 2016 product line includes a new pedal-based option, the P1. Just like the Garmin Vector pedals, the P1 pedals provide true left/right power balance and super-accurate power measurement, but with even simpler installation and swap-ability between bikes. All electronics are integrated in the pedal body itself, so they are literally plug-and-play. No pods to align, no torque wrenches necessary. The trade-off is ~40g of additional weight and a chunkier appearance over the Garmin Vector, and they require a special, proprietary cleat.
- Easily swappable between bikes
- Super accurate power measurement (1.5% accuracy)
- Left/Right power balance
- Built-in cadence sensor
- ANT+ & Bluetooth compatibility
- User-replaceable AAA battery
- MSRP $1199
So How Do I Use This Thing?
A power meter is one of the best training tools you can buy, but the data it provides won’t be very helpful if you don’t know what to do with it.
The first step in training with power is to do an FTP test. An FTP test will determine your Functional Threshold Power, or the maximum power output you can sustain for an hour. The training zones will be working in during interval training will be based upon this value. Depending on who you ask, the procedure for a proper FTP test can vary. If you’re a DIY kind of person, the training video series The Sufferfest offers an easy-to-follow test to do indoors at home.
The next step is to build a training plan. There are plenty of resources out there to help you with that, but the best way is to enlist the help of a cycling coach to build a personalized training plan just for you. He or she can assist you in completing an FTP test, customize a training plan, and guide you along the way towards achieving your cycling goals.
A power meter is not an insignificant purchase, but using one properly will undoubtedly do more for your riding than any other upgrade you can buy. Today’s power meters are accurate, easy to use, and more accessible and affordable than ever. If you still have more questions or if you’re ready to start unlocking your potential by training with power, give us a shout!
by Kevin E.
The great Eddy Merckx once said “Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades.” For the most part, his words still ring true. Fitness and skill will almost always trump equipment when it comes to all-out speed.
But if there’s any piece of equipment that will measurably improve your fitness, its a power meter. It is perhaps the most effective upgrade to help you ride up grades.
Now is a great time to make the jump to a power meter. They’re more accessible and affordable than ever! Just a few short years ago, you couldn’t get near a power meter for less than $1500. Today, you can get a proper power meter for half that. You’ve also probably noticed that you’re positively swimming in options, and you’re left with more questions than answers. What’s the best place for my power meter? What kind of data will I get? What does all that data actually mean? How does it help me?
This handy guide will help answer at least some of those questions. Here we’ll break down the bevy of devices available to you and what kind of data you’ll get from them. As far as what the data means and how it will help you be a better rider, you might consider getting some outside help from a USA Cycling Certified Cycling Coach.
So What Is A Power Meter Anyway?
Before we delve into which power meter to buy, you might be asking “What is this voodoo device, and why should I get one?”
The short answer: A power meter measures the energy you’re putting into your pedals to move forward. If you want the most accurate way to determine, track, and improve your cycling fitness, this is it.
The long(ish) answer: A power meter uses electronic devices called strain gauges to measure the deflection of a torque tube to determine how much force is being applied to it and calculates a power value, in watts, based on a pre-programmed algorithm that basically boils down to force x distance / time = power.
Unlike a heart rate monitor that measures your body’s response to your effort, a power meter directly measures the force you’re applying to the drivetrain of your bicycle and eliminates or corrects for outside variables like temperature, humidity, and aerobic fitness. A watt is a watt, no matter who its coming from or what day it is.
Speaking of who its coming from, check out the power data from pro rider/reigning world champ Michael Kwiatkovski’s win at the 2014 UCI World Championships. For a frame of reference, the average enthusiast cyclist (aka mere mortals like you and I) can sustain ~150-180 watts for an hour. Keep that figure in mind as you read.
Where Should I Put It?
A power meter can be placed at nearly any point along the drivetrain of your bicycle, but the most common applications are at the crank, rear hub, or at the pedals. As far as which is best, that really depends on your individual needs (more on that later). As far as what will provide the most accurate data, the industry has pretty much settled on a 1-2% accuracy rating. So no matter where you put it, most direct-force power meters will reliably produce power numbers within 1-2% of the fabled “actual value”.
Why do they cost so much?
Strain gauges, the heart and soul of a power meter, are finely tuned electronic devices that require precision manufacturing and calibration to ensure that 1-2% accuracy users demand. Hence, good ones aren’t cheap to make. Yes, you will read many an internet forum post explaining how manufacturers are robbing you because strain gauges cost pennies to make. They aren’t wrong. There are cheap strain gauges out there, but those inferior units aren’t the ones going into power meters from Quarq, PowerTap, etc.
So Which One Should I Get?
As mentioned above, the power meter you choose will depend on your individual needs.
Before selecting a power meter, you should ask yourself a few key questions:
- Do you own multiple bikes? Do you want a power meter on all of them?
- How often do you change your bike’s setup? (Wheels, gearing, etc.)
- What cycling computer do you use? (Garmin, Smartphone, etc.)
- What data do you want to see?
When you’ve got your answers, tune in to Part II where we’ll highlight a few models to put on your short list, now updated for 2016!