The Real Skinny on Carbon Fiber Bikes

August 19th, 2014

A recent article by the New York Times on the pitfalls of carbon fiber road bike frames glossed over some key points and was almost misleading in its assertions that carbon fiber is a fragile material waiting to snap at the least opportune moment.

Tour De France Racing Carbon Frames

Racing carbon fiber road bikes at the Tour De France.

The article largely references riders in the Tour De France and the frequency with which bikes break during major crashes. Nevertheless, there’s a halo effect on readers that suggests the material itself poses a risk to even casual riders. Riders in the Tour are at the absolute edge of what is humanly possible on a bike. The most powerful riders in the world are giving 100% effort to win which means pushing their equipment to its absolute limits. A bicycle frame, fork or wheels, when crashed while being pushed to its limits will undoubtedly fail. It’s worth noting the causal relationship between  material failure and crashes. The materials generally fail because of the crash, not vice versa.

The article also claims that carbon fiber generally fails without warning. Most bike shops will tell you that when frames fail, they very often offer signs of failure before catastrophic problems arise. Many times a cracked frame will exhibit a creaking or clicking noise that can persist for months before the frame breaks completely. If examined properly, the crack can be caught and the frame warrantied or replaced before it gets worse. All riders should periodically examine their bikes (or have them examined at a shop) to check for any apparent issues.

Not to suggest that the New York Times is engaging in fear-mongering, but the rhetoric used by Mr. Austen lends a certain degree of sensationalism. Words like “shatter” and “explode” hardly summarize carbon fiber frame failures which are most often quite boring. Rarely does a carbon frame fail so spectacularly that it causes catastrophic injury, except in extreme scenarios such as professional racing. Indeed, most frames present signs of failure long before it occurs and even then it is generally in less critical locations unlikely to cause a major event. Most riders will never come close to stressing a frame as much as a professional rider who trains hundreds of miles per week and can sustain a much higher power output for hours at a time.

Two years ago, Santa Cruz Bicycles, a leading manufacturer of aluminum and carbon fiber mountain bike frames released a video in which they failure tested their aluminum models back to back with the equivalent carbon versions. The tests, designed to simulate real world riding scenarios, revealed that the carbon frames could withstand much more abuse than the aluminum models.While lightweight road frames undergo slightly different stresses, the fact remains: carbon is incredibly strong.

Carbon Fiber road frame mold

A carbon road frame in the beginning stages of the carbon fiber layup process.

As mentioned by the New York Times article, carbon frames start their lives as sheets of cloth fiber which are carefully cut and laid in pre-determined patterns to maximize strength while minimizing weight. Depending on the fiber weave, the directional layup and the amount of material, frame engineers can increase strength in high stress areas while improving overall comfort and ride quality. Cutting edge frames such as the Trek Emonda SLR or Specialized S-Works McLaren Tarmac ($15,000 and $20,000, respectively) undergo hundreds if not thousands of hours of development and testing to present the most advanced carbon construction available. To suggest that carbon construction is as simple as laying fibers down and covering them in epoxy is a gross oversimplification.

The Times also claims “Small spills that used to mean, at best, straightening handlebars often require a bike change.” In reality, there is no such thing as a small spill in a race like the Tour De France.  Per VeloNews, the average speed for the entire Tour De France generally hovers around 40kph, or roughly 25mph. The peloton routinely cranks along at 28mph on flats and exceeds 50mph on mountainous downhills. At these speeds, where riders are separated by mere inches, crashes happen quickly and with catastrophic results. Bicycles that become entangled in these crashes have been pushed past their usable limit, and even if they appear intact on the surface the materials are often fatigued to a point where they may fail soon after.

Tour De France Dropout Rates

Image courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

Indeed, many riders in this year’s Tour dropped out because of serious injuries brought about by crashes. Also worth noting is that while the 2014 dropout rate may seem high, the number of riders quitting the Tour has been on a consistent downward trend in almost every decade since 1934. Conversely, rider speeds have been steadily increasing since the Tour’s inception in 1903 when the average speed was a mere 16mph. To summarize, riders are riding faster than ever on more advanced bikes, with a higher overall completion rate.

Carbon has been used in production bicycles for over 20 years and if properly maintained and cared for, is just as viable a frame material as steel or aluminum. Since cycling (particularly racing) can be an inherently dangerous sport, all riders should examine their equipment regularly regardless of material and replace any parts that are worn or damaged.

In closing, we must also note that all carbon fiber is not created equal. There are fringe manufacturers who produce parts that are dangerously light and known for failing. Hyper exotic parts ship with rider weight limits because of their extremely light nature. Knockoff parts that emulate those provided by reputable manufacturers are often for sale on Ebay. Do your homework, purchase appropriate equipment from reputable suppliers and inspect it regularly to check for problems.

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Hidden Mountain Bike Gems of the Hudson Valley

July 22nd, 2014

Planning a mountain bike ride in the Hudson Valley? Stewart State Forest, Lippman Park, Jockey Hill, 909 – these are all major trailheads with dozens of miles of riding and you’ll have a great time at any of them. But how about something a little less familiar? Take a trip off the beaten path and explore these lesser known riding spots, right here in the Hudson Valley. They’re smaller, but easily accessed and while they’re not big enough to spend the whole day there, they’re perfect for a quick spin or a ride after work.

Franny Reese Park

Franny Reese State Park is a small piece of property tucked behind the Mid Hudson Bridge on the Highland side of the Hudson River. There are only a few miles of trails but they’re exciting and fresh, offering a mix of smooth and fast with short technical sections thrown in for good measure. Access the trails from Johnson-Iorio Memorial Park past the Walkway Over The Hudson entrance on Haviland Road. Hike-a-bike down the staircase, pass under the bridge and hit the trails (access is also available from Mack’s Lane off Route 9). Ride the yellow trail to the blue trail which affords a phenomenal view of the Hudson River, then proceed to the longer white loop which passes numerous old ruins. Franny Reese is operated by Scenic Hudson, which has done incredible things for trail access and advocacy in our area.

Mid-Hudson Bridge Franny Reese State Park

View of the Mid-Hudson Bridge over the Hudson River as seen from the Franny Reese lookout.

Franny Reese Park Mountain Bike Trails 1 Franny Reese Park Mountain Bike Trails 2   Franny Reese Park Mountain Bike Trail Ruins Shaupeneak Ridge Another Scenic Hudson Park,  Shaupeneak Ridge sits farther north in the town of Esopus. Shaupeneak has more trails, but they are considerably more technical and not for the faint of heart. Those who brave the rocks and roots are rewarded with secluded wooded trails and gorgeous views. Shaupeneak can be easily accessed from Route 9 on Old Post Road (lower lot, better for hiking) or on Popletown Road (upper lot, better for mountain biking). The red and blue trails are more mellow while the orange trail is more difficult and the green trail is by far the most technical (trail map). The white trail is a very technical uphill, but a great ride headed down (please be courteous to other trail users). Shaupeneak Ridge Park Trailhead

Shaupeneak Ridge Park Mountain Bike Trails 1

Jurassic Park singletrack at Shaupeneak Ridge.

Shaupeneak Ridge Park Hudson River Overlook

Riders are rewarded with spectacular views.

Shaupeneak Ridge Park Scenic Hudson Technical Mountain Bike Trails

Don’t be fooled, Shaupeneak’s trails are not for the faint of heart.

Vassar Farms

Vassar Farms is the outlier in this list. It’s been around for ages and people have been riding there for years. Nevertheless, it falls into the same category of easily accessed smaller parks with true mountain bike singletrack. Vassar Farms is best accessed from Hooker Avenue in Poughkeepsie at the intersection of Raymond Avenue near Vassar College. Mostly flat, Vassar has one real climb while the rest of the trails are relatively mellow, twisty singletrack. Check the trail map for route ideas and note that not all trails are open to bikes. Vassar Farms Mountain Bike Trail Singletrack Vassar Farms Mountain Bike Singletrack Vassar Farms SingletrackDon’t have a bike? Stop by the bike shop and take out one of our awesome Specialized mountain bike rentals. Looking for more mellow rides? Explore our area’s rail trails and state parks.

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650b Mountain Bike Wheels: Technological Advancement or Marketing Gimmick?

June 13th, 2014

Specialized Pitch 650b mountain bike

The New 650b Specialized Pitch

Specialized has just released several new 2015 models, including a 650b-wheeled mountain bike called the Pitch. With that being said, are there any real performance gains behind the new wheelsize or is it just a gimmick to make more sales?

Log on to forums like MTBR or Pinkbike and you’ll read hundreds of posts bemoaning the loss of the 26″ wheel size and declaring that 650b is a marketing gimmick crafted by the bike industry to sell more stuff. You’ll also read posts from hundreds of riders who’ve just converted to the “Goldilocks” wheel size. So which is it? Let’s check some facts and then attempt to speculate.

Marketing

Is 650b an effort to sell more stuff? Of course it is. The entire bike industry spends an awful lot of time thinking of ways to sell more product. For the vast majority of us, riding bikes is a leisure activity. We don’t need a new bike, we don’t need lighter handlebars, we don’t need an extra 10mm of fork travel. We buy these things because we want them. And despite the fact that our current bikes are perfectly good, we’ll always drool over a bike that’s newer and better. The industry would be foolish not to recognize this and capitalize on it.

Mountain Bike Marketing Department

Typical marketing department at a bike company.

That being said, some comments would lead you to believe that the marketing departments of bike companies are board rooms full of fat men in suits smoking cigars and trying to think of the next way they can screw the consumer to make a buck. That simply isn’t accurate. Sure, companies like Specialized, Trek, Cannondale and Giant have large marketing departments and have a big advertising budget. Every business has acquisition costs and for manufacturers of that magnitude, they are high. Realize too that a ton of marketing money is spent in ways that benefit riders (bike parks, events, races, etc.) In general, the people that work in the industry are riders too and their focus is to make better stuff, because better stuff sells.

 

 

Sales

Right now 650b mountain bikes are selling. Not just selling, but selling like hotcakes. In a thread on the MTBR forums John Pentecost, International Sales Manager for Yeti Cycles, claimed that Yeti’s 27.5″ wheeled bikes were outselling their 26ers at a ratio of 50 to 1. I’ll repeat that: 50 to 1. With statistics like that, any bike company would be foolish not to increase sales 5000% by offering a 650b model. The buying public has spoken with their wallets and 650b is the size they want.

He needs a bigger wheelsize like 650b

This guy clearly has the wrong wheelsize

“The Butt Test”

Saddle time and the butt test are what really matter. Santa Cruz claims that they test rode prototypes with both wheelsizes back to back and didn’t notice any substantial difference. They suspected that 650b would sell better, so that’s what they went with. The key factor to keep in mind is that the bikes certainly won’t ride poorly. Worst case scenario, there’s no noticeable difference from a 26″ bike and that won’t necessarily deter riders from buying one, if they’re already in the market for a new bike.

 

Numbers and Statistics

Anecdotal evidence aside, is there a quantifiable performance benefit? Let’s look at some numbers and dispel some myths. While “650b” may be confusing to consumers, the alternative is downright misleading. 27.5″ would indicate that the wheel size is smack dab in the middle of 26″ and 29″ which is not true. Let’s compare the effective rim diameter (ERD) of the three wheel sizes.

Mountain Bike Wheel Size Diameter Comparison

26″         559mm     (100%)

650b     584mm     (104.5%)

29″         622mm     (111.3%)

 

As you can see, a 650b rim is 4.5% larger than a 26er. Compare that to a 29er wheel which is 11.3% larger and 650b is not the Goldilocks wheelsize that some would suggest. Secondly, these calculations only take into account rim diameter and do not factor in variations in tire size, sidewall height or rim width. A 26″ wheel with a large tire can come very close to the overall diameter of a 27.5″ wheel with a slightly smaller tire. 29ers still have a significant size advantage over both wheelsizes, regardless of tire size.

The 650b Trend

So how did we get here? 650b has gone from niche fringe category to unbelievably popular in less than a year. Compared to the ten plus years it took 29ers to become truly mainstream, that’s unheard of. Consumers claim that they’re buying 650b because the 26″ option is gone and it’s being forced upon them. Manufacturers claim that consumer demand has driven the development of the wheel size. It’s truly a chicken-or-the-egg scenario and there’s no definitive answer.

I hypothesize it’s a combination of both. In this fast paced industry where developments occur rapidly and components can become outdated in a calendar year, consumers are tired and leery of investing in products that they suspect won’t be supported in the near future. They’re looking at the writing on the wall for 26″ wheels and spending their money on what they think will be the most future-proof.

Some hypothesize that to avoid more lost opportunities, bike companies have decided to jump on the 650b bandwagon early. A lot of manufacturers played the wait-and-see game with the 29″ wheelsize and lost out on potential sales because they had no bikes to offer and were late to market.

 

 Conclusion

Let’s just ride our bikes, OK?

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Take A Rental Bike And Enjoy These Great New Paltz Rides

May 30th, 2014

After what some have speculated would be the winter that never ends, spring is finally here in New Paltz. Trails are clear, the foliage is back on the trees and it’s a great time to go for a ride. Our fleet of rental bikes is ready and waiting for scenic trips to Minnewaska and Mohonk, or even the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail located a mere 100 feet from the shop.

Planning a trip to the area and looking to rent a bike? Here’s what you need to know:

The Bikes

New Paltz Rail Trail Bike Rental

Our stellar rental fleet

Our rental bikes are awesome! We rent Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc 29er mountain bikes that are great for the trails around here and have proven to be very popular. Big volume tires and suspension forks provide comfort and traction, hydraulic disc brakes let you stop on a dime and  aluminum frames keep the whole package lightweight. Each rental includes a helmet and we have a limited supply of bike locks and bike racks that we include on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

Where Should I Ride?

That’s the million dollar question but the short answer is: anywhere. There are incredible views at every turn and you really can’t go wrong.

Minnewaska & Mohonk

Minnewaska Castle Point

Minnewaska State Park’s carriage trails.

 

Minnewaska State Park is a popular destination because of its beauty and variety of activities. Minnewaska has a few dozen miles of carriage roads and trails with phenomenal views around every corner. Many of the trails contain uphill segments – so be prepared for that – but the vistas are well worth the effort.

Lake Minnewaska beach

The beach at Lake Minnewaska

Plus, you can jump in the water and go swimming in Lake Minnewaska and Lake Awosting during beach season which runs June to August. Mohonk Preserve is similarly exciting and offers even more miles of gorgeous wooded trails through the expansive forests of the Shawangunk ridge.

Wallkill Valley Rail Trail

Wallkill Valley Rail Trail Sign

 

Wallkill Valley Rail Trail Rosendale Trestle

The Rosendale Trestle on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail

The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail is a re-purposed railroad bed stretching from Gardiner to Rosendale. Starting from New Paltz you can head south through luscious apple orchards and farm meadows until you reach the endpoint at Denniston Road. Alternatively, most visitors will opt for the northern route which crosses the Rosendale Railroad bridge, a trestle that stands some 200 feet above the valley below. Past the trestle you can continue on to the newly completed section at the old Williams Lake resort which passes numerous caves and rock features.

Walkway Over The Hudson/Hudson Valley Rail Trail/Dutchess Rail Trail

Walkway Over The Hudson

The western entrance to Walkway Over The Hudson

For those seeking more even terrain, the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and Walkway Over The Hudson are excellent choices. Starting at Tony Williams Park in Highland (less than 15 minutes from the bike shop), the Hudson Valley Rail meanders for four paved miles until it it reaches the Walkway Over The Hudson State Park. The Walkway is an 19th-century railroad bridge converted pedestrian path that spans 1.3 miles over the Hudson River, bridging Highland to Poughkeepsie.

Poughkeepsie Waterfront

The Poughkeepsie Waterfront

The Walkway offers views of the hills of the Hudson Valley, plus the Mid-Hudson bridge and Poughkeepsie waterfront. Past the Walkway, ambitious riders can continue on the Dutchess Rail Trail which extends another 13 miles southeast to its terminus at Daddy O’s restaurant in Hopewell Junction. The combined 18 miles of paved rail trails offers riders an unparalleled riding experience with very minimal elevation gain.

 

For rental rates and policies, please check our rentals page. Our 18 rental bikes can be reserved in advance by contacting the shop at 255-3859. Call and make your reservation today!

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Learn How to Fix A Flat Tire and Lube Your Chain with Bicycle Depot

May 9th, 2014

How To Fix a Flat Tire and Lube Your Chain with Bicycle Depot

For National Bike Month, we wanted to contribute something to the local cycling community. Very often customers ask us if we do any classes or clinics on bike repair or maintenance and the answer is generally no. That’s mostly because a good event requires a lot of preparation and during the peak cycling season we’re very busy with sales and repairs. That being said, there’s no better time than the month of May to host an event like this, so we’re going to seize the day and offer a free clinic on how to fix a flat tire and lube your chain.

We’ll cover the steps from start to finish, starting with removing the wheel from the bike, identifying what caused the flat, inflating the tire and every step in between. We’ll also show you how to properly lubricate your chain, explain the different types of chain lubes and tell you how often your chain needs a lubing.

Why flat tires and chain lubing? Well, these are the most common and simple tasks that every bike rider should know how to perform. They’re critical to keeping your bike happy, making it last a long time and getting the most enjoyment and performance out of your ride. While there are dozens of online instructions, videos and books explaining how to do this, sometime’s it’s easier to see someone do it – plus you’ll have the ability to ask questions afterwards.

Free?

You betcha!

What’s the catch?

There isn’t one! We like to be involved in the community and offering this event free of charge is our way of paying it forward. That being said, we will offer the tools needed to maintain your bike at a discounted price (for attendees, at the event only). On top of that, you’ll get to meet local riders of all skill levels and maybe find someone new to ride with!

I’m still not convinced. Fine. We’ll have free pizza. Is that enough to get you to come?

The clinic is Thursday May 29th, 6pm at the bike shop (15 Main Street, New Paltz, NY). Questions? Call us at 255-3859 or post them to the event’s Facebook page. If you’re on Facebook, please RSVP there (so we know how many pizzas to get).

 

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