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: