Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What is a gravel road bike?

We are often asked, "What is a gravel road bike?" when people are shopping for a new bike in our stores. There is no single right answer. A gravel road bike can be a road bike with a wider and knobbier tire. A gravel road bike can be a cyclocross bike. A gravel road bike can be a mountain bike with thinner tires and drop bars. The point I'm trying to make is: a gravel road bike can be whatever you want it to be, as long it suits your needs. There are companies that have jumped on the trend and are designing bikes around the specific needs of gravel-centric riders, but there are many bikes out there that are very capable "gravel grinders" with little or no modification. The gravel road bikes that today's major manufacturers are turning out are highly modified road bikes. They have lengthened wheels bases, slacked head & seat tubes, shortened reaches, lowered BB's, and increased tire clearances. All of these modifications have been done to increase comfort and stability during long hours in the saddle on less than ideal road conditions. Some companies have focused on the endurance racing end of the spectrum of gravel riding and eliminated the rack and fender mounts while other have embraced the versatility of these bikes and kept these features. Below are a select few of the bikes we carry that make excellent gravel road bikes.

The Salsa Warbird. The Warbird was recently redesigned and is one of the bikes that is designed for the lighter weight racing end of the spectrum. It has no rack or fender mounts and is ideal for the performance minded rider. Salsa offers a wide variety of bags to fit the Warbird if you wish to carry gear on your adventures. There are both carbon and aluminum models available and they can handle a waide range of tire sizes.

The Niner RLT 9. Niner is know as the company that jumped headfirst into designing bikes around the 29" wheel (which is the same diameter as the 700c). The RLT 9 is their first model made with drop handlebars instead of a flat bar mountain bike. RLT stands for Road Less Traveled and that's what this bike is all about. It has almost identical geometry to the Salsa Warbird, gives you the ability to run 29"x1.75" tires, and it has rack and fender mounts.

The GT Grade is the new guy on the block. It's a completely new model from GT and comes in both alloy and carbon models. The grade ships with smooth 28c tires, but is just as happy wearing wider knobbies. The frame on the grade is unique in that it was engineered to offer the most flex and compliance where you want it while remaining stiff and efficient where you need it. This is your road bike, adventure bike, gravel bike, and touring bike all wrapped into one.

The Fuji Sportif is found in their road family of bikes, but it's just as capable on the gravel roads. It comes with 28c smooth tires like the GT Grade, but because of the disc brakes and the frame design it can accommodate larger and knobbier tires. The Sportif family of bikes is all aluminum, but they come with different build specs that allow the different models a variety of price points. Rack and fender mounts are standard on all the Sportif models and they offer the best versatility for the money.

Stop in our shops and ask questions. We like that. Try some bikes. We like that too. We're here to make your bike purchase easy, no confusing.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Your Helmet Questions: Answered!

Will a more expensive helmet protect my head better?
In a word, no. All helmets labelled as bicycle helmets have to pass the same CPSC standards to be considered safe. That means that there’s no functional difference between the $40 and $250 models.

So what’s the difference then?
A more expensive helmet will be lighter and better ventilated. You’ll notice that many of the high-priced helmets in the shop are light as a feather and practically see-through. These helmets are carefully engineered to provide the best airflow and lowest weight—all while still protecting your head. That engineering is what makes them so high priced. Higher end lids will often be more comfortable, too. They generally come in different sizes (S, M, L) while the less expensive models will have one size shell and an inner adjuster to fit your noggin.

Can I keep using my helmet after I crash?
Nope! Helmets are designed for one impact only. The inside is made of polystyrene foam (the same stuff that picnic coolers are made of). When you crash, the foam inside crushes to absorb the impact. Once it’s flattened, it’s no use to you. Many helmet manufacturers do have a crash replacement discount, though—if your helmet is ruined in a crash within a certain time a
fter purchase, you’ll get a percentage discount off a new one. Stop by and ask. We’re glad to help you out!

Do I ever need to clean my helmet?
Dude, have you ever smelled the inside of your helmet? Go ahead and try it, then meet us back here. YES, you should definitely clean your helmet periodically. Get a bucket full of warm water and some dish soap. Swirl your lid around, and scrub the pads and straps gently. Let it dry in a warm place. Most manufacturers will sell replacement pads and straps too. Replacing those is an inexpensive luxury that can make a yucky helmet feel clean again.

My helmet from 1977 is still good, right?

Wrong! Helmets degrade over time, due to sun, sweat, and the decay of the foam inside. You should replace your helmet at least every five years, or once you crash. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Which Type of Bike Shorts is Right for You?

Buying your first pair of bike shorts can be pretty overwhelming. But fear not! Our handy guide to bike short types is here and ready to help.

Baggies: These shorts are basically like a cargo short with a padded liner underneath. The liner is usually removable, so you can wash it separately or wear the shorts without it. These shorts are used for mountain biking or casual riding.
Pros: These shorts are far more subtle looking than your traditional spandex “bike shorts.”
Cons: The extra fabric can be annoying to some riders and is not aerodynamic.

Bibs: These shorts are designed with long straps that go over the shoulders, kind of like overalls. The idea is to eliminate the waistband to increase comfort. They might look funny, but they’re actually really comfy. Hint: Your jersey goes over the straps. They’re used for road or mountain biking.
Pros: Super comfortable, won’t snag on trees or branches in the woods.
Cons: Skin-tight lycra can be intimidating for newbies.  For women, the straps can make it tough to take a quick bathroom break during a ride.

Shorts: These padded Lycra shorts are what most people think of when you say “bike shorts.” They’re pretty simple, and have varying features depending on price point.
Pros: These shorts are comfortable and inexpensive. They also can be worn under other clothing if necessary. For women, they make bathroom breaks easier.
Cons: As with bibs, skin tight can be scary. Also, the waistband can cause some discomfort when you’re hunched in the saddle for hours.

Stop by the store--- we’re happy to help you figure out which kind is best for you!

Friday, August 22, 2014

How to Clean Your Bike

Whether you’re riding on the road or hitting the trails, your bike gets dirty fast. These simple steps will help you keep your steed functioning and looking sharp!

First, give your bike a gentle shower with a garden hose. This will loosen up any dirt that’s stuck to the frame and prevent it from scratching the paint when you wash. Stay away from pressure washers—the water will force itself into your bearings and cause them to seize and rust. Spray gently, and brush away loose dirt.
Next, dip your sponge into a bucket of soapy water (dish soap works just fine, but other degreasing cleaners can be less work). Squeeze the suds all over the frame, sponging gently. Pay special attention to places you might normally miss—under the down tube, on the inside of the fork legs, and on the brake pads. Once the frame is clean, go for the drivetrain. You’ll want to use a different sponge than the one you use for your frame—your chain and cassette collect tons of dirt, and you don’t want to rub that on your frame. Grab the chain with a sponge or rag and pedal backwards. The degreaser will come in handy at this point. Floss between your cassette cogs with the side of a rag. Strip all the old, dirty grease off the drivetrain—you’ll put new stuff on soon.

Scrub your rims well with something slightly abrasive—a scrubber sponge or some Orange GoJo work really well. Be sure to rinse all the abrasive off well.

Once your bike has been soaped and degreased, spray it down with clean water to rinse. Dry the frame and drivetrain off. You can get a lot of water off by lifting one wheel off the ground a few inches and letting it drop to the floor (it won’t damage the bike).

Now that your bike is squeaky clean, you need to relube. Drip lubricant on the chain as you pedal backwards. Let it sit a few minutes, and wipe it off completely. Grab the chain with a rag again and pedal backwards. You cannot wipe off too much of the lube. You want the lube to grease the inner workings of the chain, and not hang around on the outside to collect dirt.

Once you’re done, finish up with some frame polish for maximum shine. Your bike is ready for the trail or the road again!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How to Test a Bike:

Buying a new bike can be an overwhelming experience. Here at Sickler’s, we want to make it as easy for you as possible! These tips will help you get the most out of your test rides.

Choose the right time. Generally, weekday mornings are the quietest time in our shops. That means that you will likely have the parking lot to yourself to test bikes to your heart’s content. Saturdays are our busiest time. We are happy to serve you then, but keep in mind that you might be waiting slightly longer if there are several other people who arrive there before you.

Wear appropriate clothing. If you’re coming straight from the office, pack a change of clothes. High heels and a pencil skirt make test riding anything a real challenge. Go for shorts and sneakers. Avoid long, loose fitting pants that may get caught in the bike’s chain.

Take your time. Ride the bike around the parking lot. As you do so, test out the shifters and brakes. See how quickly the bike responds to increases in speed. Lift the bike to feel its weight. Turn sharply and gradually. Think about how your arms, hands, back, and neck feel. We are happy to let you ride a bike in the parking lot as long as you’d like to ensure that you get the best test possible! This is the best way to compare sizes and models too.

Ask questions. We will explain to you the noteworthy features of the bikes you test. But please—stop us if you have any questions or if something is unclear. We strive to make your bike test a positive experience for you, and that means understanding everything that comes with the bike.

Get our advice. The shop employee that is helping you will be happy to offer an assessment of your fit on a particular bike. Be open minded—if he or she suggests a different size or type of frame, give it a try. You never know what you might like!