Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Frozen Finger Shootout

February and the coldest temps of the year come calling once again, and your extremities are always the first to notice. On a long winter's ride it can be hard to find gloves warm enough to keep you happy but dexterous enough to keep shifting and braking from becoming a nightmare.

In the distant past we gave up and found other things to do instead: we skied, we snowshoed, we sat on the couch eating potato chips. Mountain bikes with 26 x 2.1" studded tires or 29" tires just didn't cut it anyway once more than a few inches of snow ended up sticking to the ground.

But with the advent of fatbikes and the amazing awesomeness that they create on your local trails it seems sad to just bike-hybernate until the lovely days of spring.

45North Cobrafist Pogies v. Bar Mitts
So, whaddaya do? For years I used Bar Mitts for winter riding. The concept was simple: attach a neoprene overmitt of sorts to each side of your handlebar encompassing your shifter, brake lever and grip, and slip your hand into the open end wearing a minimal glove; then ride like you normally would.

The downside is that in order to attach the Bar Mitts to the outside end of your grips you need to strap a 1/2" wide integrated piece of velcro around the grip, narrowing the real estate for your hands to grip the bar. And things can get sweaty in there. Neoprene is great at stopping wind penetration, but it is essentially a humid wetsuit for your hands.

Enter 45North, the brand dedicated to winter and riding through it, no matter how harsh the conditions. Last winter they released the Cobrafist Pogies, essentially a pair of little condominiums for your hands, replete with climate control, waterproofness, and adjustable drawstring wrist cuffs. These things are structural! A bar-end plug anchors the outside to your handlebar, allowing you to utilize every millimeter of existing grip. On the inboard end, foam pieces seal the opening wrapped in a neoprene zippered sleeve. An elastic drawcord at the cuff can be left open to leave a wizard's sleeve effect, can shrink the wrist opening to a tight seal, or can be set anywhere in between! On top of your hands there is a diagonal zipper that functions as a vent. Leave it closed when you start and everything is cold; open it up when your hands start to heat up to cool things off like AC.

On a winter wonderland ride in Fort Rock, Exeter, New Hampshire last Thursday, I rode with the Cobrafists. I wore a thin pair of Specialized Deflector gloves that I normally wear on some of those first crisp Autumn mornings, but usually abandon by Thanksgiving or so for something more like a ski glove. For the first hour everything worked like a charm: thin gloves made it feel like a summer day in terms of shifting and breaking, after my hands heated up a bit I opened the vent somewhat and quickly regulated the environment back to perfect.

Then the left bar plug popped out! Full disclosure: I did punch a stout tree rather hard with my left fist when I deviated from the packed path and took a squirrelly run off the trail stage-left. Stopping to fix my mechanical(?), I thought I had gotten everything straightened out, but ended up with the plug popping out, followed by me punching it back in again and again. Eventually I pulled the whole thing off and zipped it up in the front of my jacket, which worked for about 20 minutes of riding until my left hand started to freeze, at which point I just loosely positioned the Cobrafist back over the grip and cinched the drawcord tight around my wrist to turn it into a glorified mitten, which worked enough to get me back to the parking lot with all 5 of those digits still intact!

And the Winner Is:

One with Bar Mitts, One with just Gloves!
Cobrafist Pogies: I think once I dial in the connection of the Cobrafist that it will be a fantastic system. In its defense, my hands came out fine on two occasions when I misjudged the width of a bridge underneath the snow and did a quick flying dismount/endo/landing-on-my-back-in-a-semi-frozen-stream! My only other beef with them is there is a little mesh pocket inside that my finger invariably worked around the wrong side of when entering them quickly.

Bar Mitts: Still work very well, and at about half the price these are definitely a viable option. Last winter I cut off the cumbersome velcro straps, poked tiny holes in each end, and squeezed expanding road bike bar end plugs through the holes, anchoring the ends into the handlebar just like the Cobrafists do. With that modification, and the ability to open the zippers that attach the Bar Mitts to the inboard side a little bit, I get plenty of ventilation and the ability to use the entire width of the grip.

Just Gloves: Gloves have worked well in the winter for forever. Most fatbikes these days are pretty simplified. More and more are 1x11 or 1x10 speed drivetrains, so you only need enough dexterity to use a single shifter and a pair of brake levers. When it gets really cold, however, your hands are the first thing to feel the effects, even with big, heavily insulated mitts. And now that I'm used to having a structure attached to my handlebars and have become used to being able to easily maneuver to my brake levers and shifter, I feel pretty clumsy in big, fat gloves.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

We are Charge Bikes Dealers - Papa Wheelies Bike Shop

Photo courtesy of Robbie Jenkins Photo

Another bike added to our fat bike universe the Charge Bikes Cooker Maxi 1. This bike is killer and at $1200.00 it's a absolute bargain. Come on in to the shop to see it in person and take a spin.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Papa Wheelies Bike Shop - Lifetime Tune Policy Change

Papa Wheelies Lifetime Tune Policy Change

Effective 8/1/15

We have sold a lot of bikes over the years and every new bike we sell has always come with a life time of free of service, which by the way is pretty awesome! Due to the increased demands over the past two seasons it has been difficult to turn around service work in a reasonable time during our busy spring/summer months, and for this, we apologize. Because of this we have had to re-examine what "Lifetime" service really means. What it means is we want to continue to offer our valued customers the best and most beneficial service to go along with their new bike purchase. Going forward all Papa Tunes will be abolutely free during our slower months (August 1st - Febuary 28th). You can still bring your bike in anytime for a tune up, but in March, April, May, June & July you will have to pay a $25.00 surcharge. We thank you for your support and your business, if you have any questions please don't hesitate to reach out to us at 603-427-2060 or by email

So please, bring your bike in when you are ready to hang it up for the season, let us tune it up for free and it will be ready to roll come Springtime!

Papa Wheelies Service Department

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!