Monday, June 2, 2014

Back on the Road (Bike)

At the end of March 2014 I had knee surgery to replace the torn ACL in my right knee. Luckily (I guess), I had already been through this recovery journey once nine years ago to the day when I had knee surgery to replace the torn ACL in my left knee. Luckily, I say, because I knew what to expect this time. I knew how long the initial sucky part would last, how long until I could run, hike, ski again, and how long until I could start riding a bike.

Working in a bike shop every day it has been hard to watch from the sidelines as this spring has started winding up, as the group rides started rolling out of the parking lot, as the flood of people started coming in to get their bike fixed up, buy a new bike, get some cool new gear, or just to have a little conversation about riding bikes.

The middle of May marked the first step back for me – my first ride. I don’t count the ten-minute warm-ups twice a week at PT on an exercise bike or the random stints on a trainer with my saddle jacked a couple inches higher than normal so that I could push the pedals all the way around. The last time I had ridden outside had been around New Year in the freezing, howling wind, with bar mitts on my handlebars and nearly every square inch of skin covered for protection. So when a lovely, 60-something spring day came along just after a checkup with my surgeon I knew it was time to get rolling once again.

The middle of May also left me without a road bike of my own, and with a store full of options I felt it was a great time to try out 4 or 5 new bikes:

2013 BMC Gran Fondo GF01 Ultegra Di2
$7000 (sale $5500)

GF01 at Fort McClary

Truth be told, I’ve ridden a GF01 before. This is our second season as a BMC dealer, and my first impression when I had first ridden this bike was a pretty mind-bending experience. The Gran Fondo is what some other companies call a “comfort road bike” or “endurance road bike.” We’ve sold similar category bikes for years, like the Specialized Roubaix and Cannondale Synapse, and they have evolved from being cushy 1970s Cadillac-feeling bikes in their first few generations to something that still cushions the bumps, pot-holes and rough spots in the road, but are more responsive and racy. But the Gran Fondo is another evolutionary step forward in my opinion. I first rode it up the hill, through a neighborhood and then blasted down along the rugged railroad tracks, and it sucked up the roughness the way I would expect a relaxed-geometry bike with exceptional vertical compliance to do. But then I got back out onto pavement, grabbed the drops and sprinted to get up to speed in traffic, and it felt just as stiff as a race bike! In fact, it is the bike that the BMC pro team rides in the spring classic races like the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, where a bike has to be extremely supple to get over the cobbled sections, but still responsive enough to deliver the racers to the finish line as quickly as possible.

On this first road ride of mine I was not getting to any finish line quickly, but that wasn’t my goal. My goal was just to ride up the coast in Maine for half an hour before turning around and coming home. I knew the Gran Fondo was the perfect bike for this first ride. I wasn’t really worthy of pushing this bike anywhere near its limits yet, but it was a very refined ride that cushioned the blows that our frost-heaved roads harbored, made it as easy as possible for me to get up the hills, and let me concentrate on the mild throbbing that my knee relayed to my brain as it got pushed near its range-of-motion limit with every pedal stroke.

As I pedaled over the Memorial Bridge from New Hampshire to Maine the Gran Fondo kind of disappeared beneath me. It was smooth and supple, but made it easy for me when I needed to put the extra effort in to get up the exasperatingly small inclines along the way. Since we just became the sole New England Mavic Test Center, I had installed a pair of Mavic Cosmic Carbone 40 wheels (CC40’s), and their light, aero shape helped me push my average up to the laughable 14mph average. Five miles up Route 103 I pulled into the entrance for Fort McClary, and rolled along the gravel road, paths and grass lawn out to the fence overlooking Portsmouth Harbor. On the horizon our two lighthouses and the sparkling Isles of Shoals created a perfect backdrop to take a few photos of the bike and a much-needed little break for my knee.

This Gran Fondo is a leftover 2013 bike. We have a handful of them left that we got at the end of the season at a great deal, so we can pass the savings on to customers. It was a brand new model for BMC last year, so aside from the Ultegra Di2 electronic components going from 10-speed to 11-speed for 2014, there really isn’t any difference to the 2014 model. The fact that we have dropped the price from $7000.00 down to $5500.00 has meant that we have sold quite a few this spring, though we still have most sizes left in stock, as well as a few of the mechanical Ultegra version ($6000.00 marked down to $4800.00).

Stopped by the fort in the sun, with just a hint of a breeze stirring the air, it was the first time this year that it really felt like this cold, snowy, lingering winter, both literally and figuratively, was finally releasing its hold. With trees budding, flowers blooming, and just a gentle tailwind to remind me that I wasn’t sweating on a LifeCyle anymore, the ride back to Portsmouth was equally pleasant, and after waiting for the bridge to reopen from a crossing, I even managed to hold most of the cars off from passing me as I “sprinted” back into New Hampshire.

Salsa Warbird 2

A week later I was able to take a ride on the 2014 Salsa Warbird 2. Not a standard road bike, this brand new model personifies the company’s philosophy on building a bike. We just became a Salsa dealer last fall, and after a winter selling their innovative fatbikes, the Mukluk and the Beargrease, and the early spring selling Vaya touring bikes, we’ve already grown to love them. Their tagline is “Adventure by Bike,” and while the Warbird’s expressed task is gravel road racing, it is well suited for many different adventures. Every bike that Salsa makes has disc brakes – every fat bike, touring bike, mountain bike and even road bike. The Warbird 2’s aluminum frame and ENVE carbon fork provide miles of mud clearance, beyond even the 700 x 35c Clement tires.

I looked for an adventurous route, but given my lack of time and still pitiful strength, stamina and endurance, I had to settle for a tour of nearby New Castle Island and aim for as many short gravelly sections and grassy shoulders as I could find. On the road the Warbird felt like a solid road bike. With a 105 kit, Stan’s No Tubes Iron Cross rims and a compact double 36/46T crankset, the bike weighs in at just over 21 pounds, which is respectable given a 105-equipped Specialized Secteur Expert Disc weighs in the 23 pound vicinity. The Warbird also comes as a Titanium frame, Ultegra 10-speed bike with DT Swiss 350 hubs that drop a few pounds off the weight and smooth out the gravelliest of roads, but also nearly doubles the price tag to $4500. The aluminum Warbird 2 felt smooth and predictable, and climbed up the short hill onto the great island with great aplomb (though my fitness left me wheezing a little towards the top).

Taking a hard right onto Neal's Lane, the Warbird seemed to yelp with glee as the tires dug into the loose gravel, but maybe that was just me relishing my first slightly-drifted turn on a bike in six months! The bike chugged along over the bumpy terrain straight as an arrow, took the sharp left turn at the center of the island and accelerated back out to the intersection with Route 1B. Out of breath as I pushed up the small incline back on the pavement, I wasn’t sure if it was from my lack of fitness or the excitement of the last half mile!

My goal was to stop by the ocean at Great Island Commons to take a few photos of the bike, but I was too early in the day, and the gate was locked. So, I continued out to the next left turn and rode out to Fort Stark instead, which felt right. I had just taken an online Game of Thrones quiz the night before which named me as part of the Stark family: Josh Stark, first of my name, father of knee injuries. The gate at Fort Stark was open, and I pedaled across the grounds, skirted the fenced off areas around the hulking fort, and climbed up a grassy, gravelly hill around the backside of the park. I ended up on a high plateau overlooking the ruins of the fort grounds and battlements, with a view of all the boats moored in Little Harbor in one direction and the mouth of the Piscataqua River, Whaleback Lighthouse, and Wood Island in the other.

Riding back into town over the Route 1B causeway into a headwind just a few minutes later than I wanted to be for work, the Warbird felt rock solid as I draped my forearms over the handlebars to milk just another mph or two out of the bike in an aero position. Salsa's Cowbell 2 handlebars are ideal for this bike. Riding on top of the hoods or up top it feels like a regular road bike. But the drops flair out a little bit, so when you are driving along a bumpy backroad you have a wider, more stable grip on the bars. Rolling through Market Square with traffic starting to build I just couldn’t resist the impulse to dive down a side alley and aim for the railway and just a little more rough terrain before dropping down directly into Papa Wheelies parking lot from the woods. Woo Hee!

More to come...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Notes from our Service Lab - The Smart Bike Washer and our March Service Special

If you missed out on our Winter Overhaul special, do not worry, we’re ready with a great deal to get your bikes ready for Spring! Unique to the local cycling area, we are now using a special parts cleaning machine that for one, is much more healthy for our service technicians and our shop air space, but also is environmentally friendly for you, our cycling friends.  The Smart Bike Washer uses a process called bioremediation and Ozzy literally eats the grease! 

Here’s a little more about that.

 A proven leader in the parts washing industry and made in the U.S.A., the patented bioremediating SmartWasher® is safe to use, cost effective and extraordinarily strong – the ultimate solution to parts washing. The SmartWasher systems employ a natural process called bioremediation to eliminate liquid hazardous waste streams, reduce the release of harmful pollutants and increase employee safety while washing parts. The patented systems combine three essential components: the SmartWasher, the parts washer, with a powerful water based degreasing solution called OzzyJuice®, along with a microbe impregnated particulate trap called an OzzyMat. The merging of these three remarkable products not only defines the SmartWasher® system but also produces one truly amazing smart washer.

 We've been using this machine since early December 2013 and it's very impressive. It works amazingly well to clean grease with minimal effort involved in cleaning. The grease comes right off with some light brushing. No foul smell in our shop, or on our clothes, or harmful chemicals entering our lungs either. -comments from our shop guys, Jud & Steve. The shop guys have been seen competing for cleaning bikes as they come in it works so well and they're that excited about it.

For the month of March, we are offering our Pro Tune up and Drive Train cleaning service special, normally the labor charge for the combined service items would be $150. Save Fifty Bucks and get the whole deal for $100 labor. Plus, you can also take -15% off any parts you might need to get the bike ready for riding. Whether it be brake or shift cables, cable housing, chains, cassettes, tires, tubes, bar tape or grips...during the tune up special save 15%. 

Enjoy those last few days of Winter while you can, but bring your bikes down before the Spring rush. We're stocked up and ready to get your bikes dialed in for the warm weather that will be here before you know it. 

 Photo taken recently at the local Fat Bike Race Series at Stratham Hill Park.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Stromer ST1 - Something More Than A Bicycle

Stromer ST1 - Something More Than A Bicycle

This spring Papa Wheelies became a Stromer dealer. Stromer is a Swiss brand of electric pedal-assisted bike making headway in America. This type of machine is an idea that has been evolving for the last decade or so and has been getting more and more refined as the technological constraints involved have advanced.

For the past 5 or 6 years we have struggled with how to best tackle this niche. We have sold a few - special orders mostly - and helped a number of individuals tinker with the bike mechanic aspects of bolting a two-stroke gas-powered engine onto a variety of bicycles not designed for the job. We have stocked a battery-powered, pedal-assisted three-speed steel cruiser or two and searched out inexpensive options for a number of customers, but it has never been something that has caught on enough, and the last Torker pedal-assist electric bike we stocked sat around for well over a year before finding a home.

That Torker was fun to ride around town, especially uphill, where you could push a hand-throttle, and as long as you were at least soft-pedaling, it would pull you up the hill. But it was clunky. The mechanism to turn on the electric assist was essentially a cadence magnet, so you needed to pedal a full pedal-stroke before the assist abruptly kicked on. And the front-hub-mounted motor meant that the assist would pull you from the front wheel while your pedaling forces were driving you from the rear, which would be a little disconcerting.

Enter the Stromer. It, and the new Specialized Turbo (which is starting to be available in the US in very limited numbers this year), are a new generation of this genre. The Stromer is very seemless, with a torque measuring device located at the rear hub that not only immediately powers up when you first put pressure on the pedals, it also adjusts power based on rider input. So, if you soft-pedal it adds a gentle push, and when you really push it really moves!

It feels like riding a bike, but with extra power in your legs. The 500-watt brushless motor in the rear hub and the large Lithium-Ion battery integrated into the downtube mean the bike weighs close to 60 pounds, but the weight is so well distributed and the power coming from the motor, well, overpowers the weight.

From a stop at a traffic light or stop sign within 2-3 pedal strokes you are moving along at 20mph, keeping up with cars and trucks and outpacing them at times! The Stromer has four power settings: Power, City, Tour & Eco. For the first few weeks we had Stromers in stock they never left the Power mode, and I took a Stromer ST1 Platinum on the local 8-mile New Castle Island road loop and blew up most of the Segment KOM's on Strava on a quick lunch trip.

It wasn't until I took an extended 15-mile ride on a Stromer with a battery that wasn't fully charged and got worried that I would run out of juice that I started playing around with the other modes. Eco mode is really how a Stromer is meant to be ridden. It gives you the least amount of power assist. It doesn't accelerate off the line and doesn't really feel any different than just riding a bike, until you realize that with a moderate effort you are ticking along at 20+ mph! For extended commuting or extending your typical range on a bike, you can get 50-65 miles on a charge. Regenerative breaking, like in a Toyota Prius, refunds up to 10% of battery power.

Even so, we'll probably keep the demo Stromers in Power Mode for zipping around town, feeling like a kid again, and outpacing cars without breaking a sweat!

Stromer ST1 Elite $3499.99
Stromer Platinum Carbon Fork $3999.99
Stromer Rental/Demo $100/day (applicable to purchase)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

2013 Specialized S-Works Venge with Campagnolo EPS Electronic Shifting

We recently built up the most expensive custom bike we've ever stocked at Papa Wheelies: a 2013 Specialized S-Works Venge frameset built up with Campy Super Record EPS electronic shifting and a set of ridiculously light DT Swiss RR525 wheels.

The Venge is Specialized's aero road bike, a category that has been heating up over the last few years, with a number of companies jumping on the bandwagon, and for good reason. Bikes like the Venge or the BMC TimeMachine Road can be stiff, responsive, relatively lightweight, give you an appreciable aero advantage and be very capable descenders. In fact, last summer I was right on my boss's wheel heading down a steep descent in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire when he started pulling away from me. I looked down at my computer as I helplessly drifted behind to see that I was going 53.5 mph and getting dropped on my stupid round-tubed bike!

This build up is an incredible machine! It weighs in at under 14 lbs and whistles through a headwind. I took it out for a short 10-mile loop for a shakedown ride to make some adjustments on the shifting. The Campy is smooth and precise, and after testing a number of Shimano Dura Ace and Ultegra Di2 bikes (Ultegra Di2 has become a very good-selling gruppo over the last year, but that's another story) Campy is as good as you would expect given the price tag. After setting up the bike in the shop and tuning it (which is more like programming a computer than wrenching on a bike) my ride revealed that the front derailleur was a little out of adjustment. Adjusting it was a relatively simple operation I could perform at 15 mph: hold down the hidden button on the right shifter for 6 seconds until the blue light flashed, entering it into setup mode, then adjust the derailleur out 1/10th of a millimeter per click until aligned, hold the hidden button down again until it flashed out of setup mode, and shift to see how it works.

The DT Swiss wheelset is as light as anything I've ever ridden. At 990 grams for the pair, they are pounds lighter than a lot of wheels out there. You could put a set of something more aero like Zipp 404 Firecrest Carbon Clinchers on this bike and still be below the Tour de France weight limit.


Flashing through downtown Portsmouth at the speed limit to get out to Route 1B towards New Castle Island, the Venge felt effortless. Heading across the causeway bridge at the first town-line sprint I easily outmaneuvered my shadow to a convincing win, HA! In actuality, I was still in mid winter condition, and didn't expect much from a performance standpoint on this ride. The bike felt great - the geometry is very similar to the Tarmac and sprints well (Mark Cavendish won Worlds in a sprint finish on one in 2011). And at 13.75 lbs it climbed like a dream up the local test piece, the Alpe d' Sagamore to the Col du Luster King Auto Detailing!

Pulling back into the bike shop parking lot I popped my Garmin into the computer dock to upload the ride to Strava, not expecting much from my out-of-season form, and shocked to find that I had racked up 6 personal records on a ten-mile loop I had done a hundred times before! I guess the proof really is in the pudding, and for $16,500.00 you can truly buy speed. As I hung the Venge up on the wall I realized that unfortunately for me since I can't buy that much speed, I'll be chasing this out-of-shape loop on this fiery Venge for some time to come on my round-tubed bike!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

2013 Stumpjumper FSR Elite 29

A funny thing is happening in the 29er world lately. The 29-inch wheel grew out of a desire to roll faster in the woods, to maintain momentum, and to smooth out bumpy terrain. For close to a decade 29ers were a completely hardtail phenomenon, their inherently-longer wheelbase and heavier wheels limiting their application.

Full suspension 29ers were decidedly tank-like, plowing over rough terrain, but sluggish in tight terrain and anything headed uphill. In our corner of the world the 2010 Specialized Epic FSR29er changed all that. Suddenly, there was a 100mm travel full suspension 29er that did everything the best lightweight 26ers did, but with the added benefit of rolling over the rocky, rooty trails of the Granite State on bigger wheels. On a medium frame the wheelbase was only 13mm longer than the 26” wheel version. Stronger, lighter 29er wheel options like Stans, Industry 9, Roval and ENVE took away the weight penalty on extended climbs or in tight, technical terrain where constant acceleration is the name of the game.

We sold dozens of these bikes each year since Specialized made them readily available in 2011. It became our number one selling full suspension bike and revitalized our local mountain bike scene (once one rider got on one everyone else they rode with started thinking seriously about 29ers).

But this is a review of the 2013Stumpjumper FSR Elite 29er, not an Epic. The Stumpjumper, with an additional inch of travel and more relaxed geometry, had been our best-selling full suspension bike for close to a decade in its 26” version until the Epic 29 came along. Now, over 90% of the full suspension bikes we sell are 29ers. Some of that is most likely because they just ride faster in the rough, rooty, rocky terrain with very few extended (1000 vertical-feet-plus climbs) we have here, but I think most of it is that full suspension 29ers have just evolved and improved.

Last year Specialized tweaked the Stumpjumper FSR 29er geometry, and after sending people out on both our Epic and Stumpy Test Bikes we ended up selling more Stumpy 29ers than Epic 29ers!

The 2013 Stumpy FSR Elite 29 is a fantastic bike! It’s got 140mm of travel front and rear with a Fox Talas CTD fork and a Fox/Specialized Brain rear shock. It's M5 aluminum frame with 142mm dropouts is light, stiff, and doesn't cost a fortune when you wrap it around a tree at 20 mph! It’s got a carbon SRAM S2200 crankset, SLX/XTR drivetrain, Avid Elixir 5 SL brakes and a 3-position Command Post with internal frame routing and handlebar remote.

On the trail the Stumpy is well-balanced: it is a jack-of-all-trades It climbs the steep, technical power climbs around these parts as the equal of any cross country bike, yet delivers on the downhills like a completely different species. The brain on the rear shock can be set up in a range of ways to accommodate a fast, smooth rolling ride, a nasty, technical, rocky ride, or anything in between. The CTD feature on the Fox Talas fork does likewise on the front end: it’s like having 2 or 3 bikes in one.

We have 2013 Stumpjumper FSR 29 test bikes in multiple sizes at the shop. $75/day gets you out riding one on your local trail, and if that's the spark that makes you decide you want one for yourself the $75 will go towards whichever one you want to buy! 

As bike companies put more resources into 29 inch bike platforms they are finding ways to accentuate the benefits of bigger wheels over a wider variety of terrain and are minimizing any of the big wheel's traditional shortcomings. Longer travel models are incorporating the bigger wheels, and rumors are flying of 29" Specialized Enduros being seen at gravity events. 29ers have come a long way, and their future is decidedly bright!

You won't know until you ride one...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fast and Easy Winter Bike Maintenance

Here it is January 7, 2012 and we're in a massive snow drought. I use the word massive because it adds drama to our lack of ability to enjoy 'winter activities' that I would love to be doing right now...skiing, ice climbing, snowshoeing, you get my point, but with all this amazing weather, what are we cyclists to do? Ride! If that's what you said, then you got the answer right. 

I wanted to write up a quick post about 15 minute bike maintenance and how to wash off the salt and road grunge that can build up on your bike this time of year. It's really quite simple and though I may have been a little fussy and exceeded the 15 minute time limit, you can really get it done in that amount of time.

Here's what you need-

1. A bucket of hot water, no soap.
2. An old crusty water bottle.
3. Chain lube
4. Three rags- one goes in the bucket of hot water, one greasy rag used to wipe off chain lube, the other used to wipe the bike clean and dry.
5. If you go over the 15 min time limit, you'll also want to have some de-greaser and frame polish.
6. One dirty bike.

 Basic tools for the job.

One dirty bike.

It's really easy to start, you don't need a repair stand as pictured above, leaning the bike against some object that still allows the pedals to rotate backwards works great. I put the chain in the large chain ring, small cog so it spins easily during the process. So fill your crusty water bottle and spray away!

I suggest spraying the whole frame, wheels, tires, drive train and anything else that may have got salt or other grime on while you were enjoying your sweet winter bike ride. I feel the hot water is great to really clean off the gunk and salt, especially if your bike is cold, maybe it's just psychological, but what ever works for you. After you've sprayed most of the salt off, I take the rag from the bucket and give a good wipe down of the whole bike, wheels, spokes, frame, chain and derailleurs and other frame parts. Soak the rag in the bucket as needed and scrub all the salt that wasn't removed from just spraying water over your bike.

When you're done this, use your nice dry rag (I like to pamper my ride with a nice soft, cut up, old towel) and give the bike a good wipe down, wiping dry all the same parts you just washed off.

Giving a nice wipe down and special attention to detail.

The last thing I do is grab the greasy rag from my cleaning kit and wipe the chain down real good to soak up some of the water. Then I apply chain lube to the chain. Again, I'm pretty fussy so I put a drop of lube at each roller pin and bushing. You really don't need an excess amount of lube all over the chain and link plates, just enough to keep the moving bits lubed and happy.

Now that your bike is clean, dry, and chain well lubed, you'll be ready to ride on the next time, no rusted chain or ruined components from the salt and winter road grime.
 That is one brilliantly clean bike!

What I did in my extra fifteen or twenty minutes. 
Lubed all the spoke nipples at the rim with chain lube, cleaned and wiped down both wheels and hubs, used de-greaser to clean my derailleur pulleys taking off all the built up crud, pulled both wheels off the bike to give a little frame and fork inspection and polish. As well as, just a general close eye over every part of the bike, so I'm confident it's absolutely clean and ready to roll.
Bike repair isn't rocket science by any means, but if you're not into cleaning your bike, bring it down to our shop and we'll give it all the love it deserves.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Papa Wheelies Holiday Party and Big Sale

Join us Thursday, December 8th for our 10th Annual
    This is our annual thank you to our customers...we couldn't do what we do without you!
    We will have bikes, beer, food, wine and fun from 5 - 10 PM Thursday, December 8th. And, oh yeah, everything in the store will be on sale at the best prices of the year!! If you've been waiting to get something bike-related, this is the time to buy.
(Thurs, Dec 8th - Mon, Dec 12)  
  • All new IN STOCK 2012 bikes  10% OFF
  • All new 2011 bicycles will be  20% OFF
  • All new 2010 bicycles at up to 70% OFF
Gift Card Sale: Can't figure out what to get for the cyclist in your life?
For one day only: any gift card $50 or more will get you an extra 20% of value!
($50 purchase = $60 gift card, $100 = $120 gift card)

Winter Bike Overhaul: 50% OFF! Reg. $200.00 (includes cables/housing, complete breakdown and reassembly of bike) $99.99

We now offer 12-month, 0% financing - Sign up for your own Papa Wheelies/Back Bay Bicycles Freedom to Ride Card today through GE Capital!