Saturday, December 22, 2012

HC Holiday greetings and plans

Happy Holidays to all our customers and friends. We had a great time in 2012, not only working on your bike needs, but also spending time riding and hanging out with many of you.

I (Jim) am off on a little mid-winter solo bike adventure.
technical trail

But Mark will be holding down the shop according to the following holiday schedule. Of course, we'll be closed on Christmas and New Year's Day and all the usual days we're closed, but we'll be open at the following times:

Wednesday, Dec 26, 4-6 pm
Thursday, Dec 27, 4-6 pm
Friday, Dec 28, 4-6 pm
Saturday, Dec 29, 12-1 pm

Wednesday, Jan 2, 4-6 pm
Thursday, Jan 3, 4-6 pm

Friday, Jan 4, back to normal.

Please come in and buy stuff or get your bike fixed during this time. Mark will take good care of you while I'm gone. No word yet on the "boss is gone, mechanic has gone crazy" sale.

And one final thing: Maybe one of you will pick up my slack and suggest a time for a Christmas Day or New Year's Eve/Day bike ride.

Friday, December 14, 2012

It's winter at the bike shop

All our most cockamamie schemes get hatched, and often implemented in the winter. It's been winter for a week now, and fat bike fever has set in. We've sold a Pugsley or two and we have an order in for a Krampus.
Last week we had several Pugsley variants in all 3 repair stands.

One of them was for Abby, who had an irrepressible and unforgettable grin after testing a fat tire bike at another shop a couple months ago. One thing led to another, and now she has a Neck Romancer, seen here during a ride last week, before we had snow. This is the XS 14" size, which is new this year.

They also go to 24" for you giants.

Meanwhile, I've been riding around on my Pugsley, which is an older version, circa 2007ish, but with modern upgrades including the Moonlander fork, Clown Shoe front wheel, Rolling Darryl rear wheel, and Surly Knard 26x3.8" folding tires front and rear.

It's pretty sweet.

This morning, I went through the woods to get to work.

This is the Clown Shoe rim in action. Those red things are the rim tape bulging through the rim cutouts, which looks cool. You can buy different color rim tape, to suit your tastes.

And the Knard tire on the Clown Shoe. Sorry there's no scale, but the tire is almost exactly 100 mm (4") wide.

I have owned or tried versions of fat tire bikes dating back to the first purple Pugsleys in 2006 or so. I tried fat front mountain bikes, which are "normal" mountain bikes with a Pugsley fork and front wheel. But I have to say that I'm finally starting to understand the tremendous potential of these bikes as all-terrain adventure vehicles. With tires pumped to maximum recommended pressure (15 psi on the Knard!!), they roll plenty fast on pavement. Let the air out until the pressure is around 5 psi, and the tires will smoosh themselves over just about anything you've the legs and skill to ride over. Sand traps become as firm as pavement, as does packed snow. Big beach rocks and gravel? No problem. It's too bad that the early press on these bikes centered on snow races, because they are much more than snow bikes. Every adventurous cyclist should have one.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fat tire bike ride and demo Saturday Dec 1

The regular Saturday morning HC ride will depart at the usual 8am start time, and return by noon. This week you will greatly benefit by riding a bike with fat tires. Skinny tires are welcome, of course, if you don't mind pushing and/or carrying your bike, which is its own kind of fun.

We will have a Surly Krampus along for you to try.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving schedule and ride

We'll be closed for Thanksgiving Thursday and Friday this week, but otherwise open during our (ab)normal hours or by appointment.

Please join us on Thanksgiving Day at the shop for an adventure ride departing at 9am, and returning around noon. Bring an offroad-trail-capable bike and an adventurous demeanor. You'll be plenty hungry afterward for holiday feasting, eating rivalries, etc.

See you then!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

New hours

Starting the week of Oct 29, at least through the winter, we'll be open on Saturdays only one hour, from noon until 1 pm. The Saturday ride will still go on 8am-noon, and then we'll be open for the hour after that, or by appointment. The last few months, Saturdays have been extremely dead, and we wait around all day for a flurry of activity for 10 minutes at closing time (if we're lucky). We'd prefer to front-load that flurry of activity, and then go home earlier.

For now, we'll keep the same weekday hours, Tuesday through Friday 1-6 PM, or by appointment. I'm very willing to stay late or come in early most days, so please don't hesitate to ask.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

New stuff at HC

We just received one of the new Rivendell Sam Hillborne framesets, and quickly turned it into a bike. This one is a 60 cm. I was a little skeptical about the double top-tube, but now I like it. It looks cool and, presumably, makes the frame stronger. Yes, it adds weight, but only a few ounces. If you're concerned about a few ounces, you're probably not reading this blog!
It's a little too big for me, but I rode it anyway. It was comfortable and handled well, like every Rivendell I've ever ridden. Also, I like the color. Forgive the cheapie saddle, pedals, and the home-brewed top-tube protector.

We are now carrying SmartWool base layers and socks. I wear wool year-round (mostly SmartWool) and I regret all the days when I don't. It's pricey, but it's so comfortable in a range of temperatures.

Camping and Adventure Stuff:
It's no secret to anybody who reads this blog that bike-camping is a big part of my bicycling lifestyle. So now we have some bike-oriented camping gear that I've tried and liked: dry bags, water bladders, Jet Boil stoves, sleeping pads, etc. No sleeping bags or tents yet, but soon. I camp in Minnesota year-round, and there's no reason to stop being adventurous on your bike just because it's October.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What do you need for winter cycling? Part 1 - the bikes

Asking that question on an internet forum will generate a wide range of responses. Winter conditions vary in time and place, and every cyclist has different priorities and biases.

Speaking for myself, entering my 9th consecutive winter of transportational and recreational cycling, experimenting every day with various bike, gear, and clothing permutations, I have formed some distinct patterns, stuff that works for me, riding the streets of Minneapolis and Saint Paul and surrounding areas. For starters, let's talk bikes. I'll plan to get to clothing and various widgets later.

We always have one or two of these around the shop:
Since 2006, when we had our first Pugsley here, people have been asking the same basic questions:
1. What's that for?
2. Doesn't it slow you down?
3. Can/do you ride that in the winter?

The answer to all of the above is "probably".

The "early adopters" in the lifespan of commercially available fat-tire bikes like the Pugsley were people who were either eccentric or into riding on snowy trails or both. Of course, the definition of "snowy trail" varies, but these fat tires generally work best when the trail is well-packed and/or groomed, such as is the case of many snowmobile trails. They don't "float" over fresh powder snow (unless it's really shallow), nor do they have much advantage, by and large, on snow-covered city streets, regardless of whether the snow in the streets has been plowed, packed down by the pressure of thousands of car tires, or turned into rutted, salty, icy, oatmeal/pie-dough, which, in my experience is an archetypal Minneapolis winter condition on low-traffic side streets.

Not too long ago, some of the people who make and sell fat-tire bikes stopped calling them "snow bikes", and actively promoted the idea that these bikes are better regarded as "fat bikes", which are good for lots of interesting types of riding, but are not necessarily the best thing for every conceivable version of snow. After all, this would likely be a fun bike in lots of places that never get snow, or for riders who have no interest in riding the Arrowhead 135. The insistence on product categorization is a double-edged sword - create a purpose to sell the product, while not alienating too many potential customers in the process of defining the niche.

In short, fat bikes are a ton of fun, and they have a lot of practical applications. But don't make the mistake of thinking you need to get one before you can ride during the winter, or the corollary mistake of thinking that riding in winter is the only rationale for owning and riding a fat bike.

I've ridden various winter steeds in the past 8 winters, and this bike is the culmination of my winter bike tinkering up to this point:
It's a Surly Cross-check fixed-gear with Schwalbe studded tires. I like the Cross-check because it's a good balance of stability and responsiveness. I like fixed-gear because it has few moving parts to get gunked up or otherwise rendered inoperable by winter conditions and my corresponding neglect. Also, fixed-gear provides an instant feedback when the tire starts to slip, giving me a head-start on correcting things before I wipe out. And I like studded tires because I don't want to fear for my life and limb when I'm riding on slippery roads. This would not be the ideal bike for riding snowmobile trails, but for riding the streets of the Twin Cities, it's as good a balance of various desirable qualities as I've found or imagined.

Fixed-gear is a version of single-speed without the freewheeling mechanism. In practice, this means that fixed-gear riders can't stop pedaling and coast - the pedals are always moving, except when stopped or skidding. Sometimes I tell people this, and they wrinkle up their noses and ask, "why would you want that?" Of course, if you have to ask, maybe you don't want that, which is fine. Maybe you don't want a freewheeling single-speed either, which is also fine. But if you did want all the great things about the Cross-check, but with the reduced-maintenance of a fixed-gear or single-speed, you'd have to either buy the multi-speed Cross-check and modify it, or buy a frameset and build up your single-speed from scratch. Either way, the costs added up to more than many wanted to spend. Surly came to the rescue this Fall with the new Cross-check single-speed complete bike. We just received one today. The color is a swanky deep gray-blue, and the price of $999 makes it a bargain. If you're looking for a stock bike for urban commuting this winter, this is, by my standards, the best you can do.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wheelbuilding class, November 10

Building and riding your own wheels can be a satisfying experience on its own, provides a valuable home-mechanic skill, and results in excellent quality wheels when done properly.


I will hold the class at the shop Saturday, November 10, 8am-Noon. The registration fee is $60, which is required to reserve your spot on a first-come, first served basis. Limited to 4 students. I will provide step-by-step instruction and a workspace equipped with a truing stand and spoke wrench for you to use during the class. Most people are able to build one wheel during the class, but others try to build a pair of wheels (I can help if you run out of time). You can supply your own rim(s), hub(s), and/or spokes, or you can get those items from HC for a discounted price with class registration.

Build up your dream touring wheels for next summer's adventures, or a dynamo wheel for winter commuting, or any other type of wheel(s) you may need.

 If you don't know which wheel components suit your needs, tastes, and budget, we will help with that, too. Space is limited to 4 registrants, so call 612-727-2565 or stop in to register and discuss options for your new wheels.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

FYI: Surly price increase

Just today we noticed that most Surly framesets and complete bikes have increased in price, which happens from time to time. For the most part, complete bikes have gone up $50-100. Even at the new price, we still believe that Surly bikes represent the best bang for the buck (usually the best bang, period, actually) for non-frivolous bicyclers of a rugged and adventurous disposition. At the moment, it seems remaining stock of most 2012 Surly bike models is still available at the lower price. In other words, if you've been contemplating the purchase of a Long Haul Trucker or Cross-check, now would be a good time. In the near future, it'll still be a good time to buy a Surly, but it'll cost more. The $100 you save now will go a long way toward a rack, fenders, fancier saddle, nice pedals, or a titanium bell.

Stuff I like

The wide variety of bikes, parts, and accessories these days can be difficult to navigate. But, lucky for you, the customer, some of us bike shop professionals are in the trenches, trying various products so you don't have to. Here are a few things that I like:

Except for my Ortlieb panniers, this is pretty much my touring set-up from last week's north woods excursion.

There's a lot to see here. The bike is my Curt Goodrich custom touring bike, but for all practical purposes it could be a Surly or any other similarly rugged steed. The racks are from Surly, but there are other good racks, too.

The frame bag is a Revelate Tangle bag, which is handy as heck and comes in 3 sizes. We have them in our online catalog priced between $75 and $78 at the moment. That's the large one shown here. What fits in it? I carry a 3L Hydrapak water bladder, a multitool, a small pump, tent poles and stakes, a tube or two, and this time of year, it's a good place for some gloves or a hat. Sometimes I put extra nuts or bacon in there, for a snack.

 Now on the front end, I've strapped a Hyalite dry cylinder. These come in different sizes (20L, 25L, 35L). This is the 20L size ($30), which is enough to fit my sleeping bag, 2-person tent, and a full-size feather pillow. The plastic window is handy for when you dig through the bag to find stuff. A person could easily do a comfortable bike tour with two of these and a few Surly Junk Straps. That would be an economical and extremely versatile touring set-up.

Speaking of Junk Straps:
The Surly Junk Strap is, in my opinion, the greatest recent innovation in cycling. It's basically one of those cheapie nylon toe straps from old-fashioned pedals, but it's 120 cm long, which is just shy of 4 feet if you're not into the metric system. I think every cyclist should carry at least 1, but preferably 3 or 4 of these at all times. They are so useful for so many things. $8 each, quantity discounts available.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fall Northwoods Trip

What a ride! We started with 7 riders, but one left halfway through the trip with an aching knee. I'll elaborate on the details later, but for now enjoy some photos:






























Friday, August 31, 2012

September Bike Tour - OPEN TO ALL

Second, you may recall reading months ago about the Northern Wisconsin bike tour. It'll be a week of bike adventure Sept 23-30, along some of the rustic back roads of Northern Wisconsin. And you're invited!
What to expect:

1. The scenery and solitude of the North Woods: endless forests, lakes, streams, wildlife, campfires, and rustic forest roads. Bring a camera and take lots of pictures.

2. Rustic forest roads = dirt, gravel, and/or pavement (in order of preference): I have not yet plotted the exact route, and even if I had, I wouldn't tell you what it is. But here's my basic guiding principle: when given a choice between two roads, I will most likely select dirt over pavement, low traffic over high traffic. In other words, a bike with fat, versatile tires is strongly preferred to a bike that has skinny, high-pressure tires. Two-inch or wider tires are ideal, but you will probably be able to do ok with something as skinny as 700x35, if you must.

3. Self-supported: You will be carrying your own gear. There is no support car. We will stop in small towns along the route for resupply at least once every day or two, so you won't need a week's worth of food/water on-board, but you will need to carry at least a one-day food/water supply. We will most often camp in state/national forest campgrounds, which will likely have potable water sources, and maybe a lake to rinse off road grime, but showers will be few and far between, I expect. Bring money for food and camping and other on-the-road expenses. You are responsible for you, more or less.

4. Every cyclist is welcome. My goal is to have the route be easy enough that any halfway fit cyclist can ride it comfortably. This is not intended to be a race or an endurance challenge, but a pleasant excursion in the north woods. I am reluctant to state how many miles we'll ride in a day, because we'll be traveling a variety of surfaces that will dictate our speed and distance. As a rough guide to the expected fitness level, you should be able to ride 50 miles on moderately hilly pavement in a day.

5. Late September can mean a wide range of weather conditions in Northern Wisconsin. Snow is unlikely, as are 90-degree days, but both are certainly not impossible. On average, we can likely expect pleasant daytime highs and cooler evenings, nights, and mornings. Check the weather forecasts and bring appropriate clothing. Better to have multiple thin layers that can be combined as needed for cool weather than to have a heavy winter ensemble stuffed into your panniers. Cool-weather gloves and hats are a good idea.

6. We'll leave, by car, early-ish in the day on September 23. The idea is to coordinate vehicles to get all of us and our bikes/gear in as few vehicles as possible. We'll drive to a lakefront cabin owned by the family of one of the tour participants. The driving time is approximately 4 hours. We'll spend the first night at this cabin (most likely sleeping in our tents, not in the cabin). The lake at the cabin is good for fishing right off the dock, so bring your fishing stuff, if you're so inclined. The next morning, we'll have breakfast, load up the bikes, and roll out. We'll leave the cars at the cabin. Then we'll return there sometime on Sept 30 to drive back to the Twin Cities.

Any questions? Email hiawathacyclery at gmail. Often some people want to participate in the tour, but make special arrangements, such as meeting a loved one at a predetermined location and/or doing only part of the weeklong tour (meeting us three days into it, or peeling off at some halfway point). Such plans are fine, but please figure this out on your own. It's impossible for me to tell you in advance where we'll be at a certain time or on a certain day. And cell service will be spotty at best, so coordinating meeting points and times on the fly will be somewhat dicey.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Back from Montana

The Montana excursion was a glorious experience. Weasel and I rode some amazing countryside. We Amtrak'ed to Whitefish, MT, spent the night in a motel, and embarked up the Great Divide Route at the crack of noon the next day. There was little or no descending that first day, and no pavement for most of the first three days.


In our search for a campground marked on a cartoon-like map, we made a wrong turn up this two-track road with a relentless grade. The view was nice.
Near Upper Whitefish Lake

But we eventually found the place, Upper Whitefish Lake. It was a pretty primitive campground. There was no way to pay, and we'd neglected to purchase the necessary state camping permit back in town. So for this first night, we were campsite pirates. The view was nice.
Upper Whitefish Lake

Upper Whitefish Lake

More climbing toward Red Meadow Pass (about 5600 feet amsl, 2500 feet above Whitefish). The view was nice.
heading to Red Meadow Pass

heading to Red Meadow Pass

Over the pass, past the gorgeous Red Meadow Lake (which I didn't photograph for some reason), and down a sketchy descent, we eventually made our way to the "town" of Polebridge. The view was nice.
Polebridge, MT

From Polebridge, we were able to enter into Glacier National Park. It was getting late in the afternoon, and campsites were apparently in short supply at Bowman Lake, but we decided to chance it. After all, it was only 6 miles. Those 6 miles were arduous, to say the least. Bowman Lake Road is very steep in places and rough everywhere. The view was nice.
Bowman Lake

Bowman Lake

filth and neglect

From Bowman Lake, we headed down the Inside North Fork Road, a portion of which is closed to cars. It was rugged terrain, a rustic road (my favorite), and there were thimbleberries and huckleberries to snack on. Also, lots of grizzly poop in the road. The view was nice.
Thimble berry, Inside North Fork Road

The Weasel, Inside North Fork Road

Inside North Fork Road

Inside North Fork Road

Inside North Fork Road

This brought us to the large campground at Apgar. Apgar also had a restaurant and ice cream and a paved road, which we detoured with a short chunk of singletrack. The next morning, we started on the first piece of the Going to the Sun Road, which is closed to bikes 11am-4pm. We took a break during these 5 hours at Lake McDonald Lodge. I caught a fish. The view was nice.

After camping at Avalanche Creek, we were back on Going to the Sun Road, now going uphill in earnest. The view was nice.

Going to the Sun Road

Going to the Sun Road

Going to the Sun Road

Going to the Sun Road

Going to the Sun Road

Finally, after 32 miles of going uphill, much of which on the side of a mountain ravine, we made Logan Pass, a beautiful place if ever there was one. The view was very nice.
Logan Pass, Going to the Sun Road

After Logan Pass, we bombed down the other side to Rising Sun for our 5th night of camping. This is on St Mary's Lake. The water was cold, but the view was nice.
Going to the Sun Road
Our final day of riding brought us to East Glacier and Brownie's hostel, which was neat place. I'd consider living there, I think. Of course, the view was nice.