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Preview of Louisville 2013–Cyclocross World Championships

0 Female cyclocross rider in Georgia.  Photo by Nathan Bolster.

A guest post from Laura Colbert of Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA

Normally, I’ve just started making my weekend plans by this time in the week, but I’ve had this weekend planned for months…maybe longer.  This weekend I’ll be traveling to Louisville, KY for the UCI Cyclocross World Championships!  So stoked right now!

This weekend in Louisville is sure to be amazing for several reasons:

1. It’s the first time that the CX World Championships has been held outside of Europe.  Last year, UCI gave Louisville a practice run with the Master’s World Championships.  The masters returned to Louisville again this year and brought the rest of the World Championship events with them.  The first time for anything is fun and challenging and special.  This weekend will set the bar for US-hosted world CX events.  If it goes well, maybe the World Championships will come back to the US.  If it doesn’t, you can bet that Europe will be hosting all the major CX races for years to come.

2.  It’s taking place in Louisville’s Eva Bandman Park.  Bandman Park is the only park in the U.S. that is specifically dedicated to the sport of cyclocross, which means that the course should be great.  If you want to preview the course, check out this guy’s blog.  If you want to know what cyclists and officials think about the course, Velo News has a great article with thoughts from a lot of the top cyclists that have ridden it.  If this weekend goes well, maybe other cities will consider building their own cyclocross specific venues.

3.  European-style excitement about cyclocross!  The event organizers say that they’re expecting 5000-6000 people to attend each day of the event.  In addition to massive crowds, I fully expect that we’ll see some amazingly ridiculous cheering and fanaticism.  Cyclocross is not exactly America’s national pass time, so American cyclocross events don’t often elicit the same enthusiasm that they do in Europe.  That will not be case this weekend.  The U.S.’s biggest cyclocross fans will be out in full force, with some back up from European visitors and guests from around the world.  Expect awesome crowds, creative fans (I bet we’ll see some face/body paint despite the cold temperatures), and lots of noise.

4.  The possibility of home court victories for the American cyclists!  If you’re not familiar with the US’s world champion roster, check out USA Cycling’s report and 22-person roster here.  I do not usually shine with national pride, but I inexplicably swell with patriotism during sporting events.  I can’t help it.  The world championships are here, at home, and may never return to US soil.  Our American cyclists have to make the most of this moment and capture some podium spots.  Win on their home court.  Prove to the Europeans that America can produce cyclocross champions.  Velo News has a good analysis the American chances of winning this weekend.

If you have a weekend with few plans and live in any state that borders Kentucky (or are otherwise reasonably close), you should cancel your plans and make your way to Louisville.  If you aren’t able to make it this weekend, no worries.  CX Magazine is live streaming the event right here.  Also, check the Louisville 2013 Facebook page for updates.

I’m going to be taking lots of pictures, checking out the course, pits, and venue, and talking to as many cyclists and spectators as I can.  Next week, I’ll be reporting back about the weekend and the races.  Leave a comment if you want me to try to chat with a specific cyclist, or get a picture of a particular part of the course, or whatever.  I’ll do my best.

Photo credit to Nathan Bolster of Bolster Photography.

Bike Shop Build: Mountain Goat FKR

0 Mountain Goat FKR

The thoughts and details during a bike build are what make a great bike shop a resource and a dream factory for bicycle geeks like myself. These custom bike builds are what keep me inspired and excited to continue to work within the industry.

Mountain Goat FKR from First Flight Bikes in Statesville, NC

Photo Credit: Jeff Archer

Trail Review: Coldwater Mountain, Anniston, AL

4 SDC10047

A guest post by Laura Colbert of Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA

Since Monday was a federal holiday, it was one of the rare days when both my partner, Chris, and I have the same day off of work.  After a week’s worth of rain in Atlanta, we needed some outside play time, so no idea seemed better than a day on our mountain bikes.  Chris had been talking about these new trails in Alabama for a while, so we decided to head west to check them out.  I have to admit, I was skeptical about driving to Alabama to go mountain biking.  Living in Atlanta, we usually head north to Tennessee and the Carolinas for the best trails.  Alabama didn’t seem like an intuitive place to go for awesome trail riding.

All of the reviews that I found of the Coldwater Mountain trail mentioned a 1.5 mile beginner and a 9 mile intermediate loop; however, when we arrived at the trail head we heard from some locals that they had recently added an optional loop off of the beginner loop, adding another couple of miles.  Starting from the parking lot, we descended immediately at that great angle that looks flat but is just downhill enough to make you feel extra fast.  The trail builders didn’t hesitate about including jump opportunities from the start, so be ready as soon as you clip in/put your feet on the pedals.  After about a mile , the trail splits 3 directions (from left to right): beginner loop extension (new), intermediate loop, beginner loop.  We went left and continued our jumpy, smooth descent, with the added benefit of some wide, easy berms.  So fun and so fast!  When the downhill ended (as it inevitably does…), the uphill was pretty reasonable.  It didn’t take too long to get back to the gravel parking lot.  Total extended beginner loop–a fast, fun 2.5ish miles.

SDC10031

After getting some directions from a local dad with a lot of unsolicited advice, we headed out for loop on the longer intermediate loop.  We began with the same quick descent as before, but this time took the middle fork.  We descended a bit more and then began the 6 mile climb that you’ll find mentioned in almost every online review of this trail.  I have a habit of getting grumpy during long uphills, so needless to say, I was not happy by uphill mile 4 or 5; however, now that I’m not looking ahead at more uphill trail and breathing hard while trying to drink water, I would like to note that the climb wasn’t hard.  It’s just looong….  I think most people who have some time in a mountain bike saddle will be able to find the right gear and spin it to the top.  There’s nothing too technical to get in the way, just a lot of pedal strokes.  When you do get to the top of the mountain, you ride through a section of flat baby-head rock before getting to this sign:

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and this sign:

SDC10045

Then the descent starts. :D  The descent splits not too long after it starts: left–intermediate, right–most difficult.  I chose to go right, knowing that Chris had probably made that same decision 30-seconds before me.  I was a bit nervous at first to pick this option, but it turned out it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. There  were no sudden drops, no rock sections, no roots or generally sketchy sections. There were jump opportunities from beginning to end of the 3-plus mile descent.  As a girl who is just beginning to get comfortable jumping, I stayed on the ground most of the time, but the trail flowed well, whether grounded or airborne.  The most difficult part of the “Most Difficult” trail was just knowing what speed was right for me going over the manmade jumps and berms.

Unfortunately, this downhill doesn’t spill right out into the parking lot, so we did find ourselves about 2 miles from the parking lot with another long uphill to climb.  It takes away a little of that 3 mile downhill buzz, but definitely not all.  After climbing back to the parking lot, Chris and I unloaded our water and snack supplies and did one more fast lap–just the extended beginners loop–to finish off the day.

SDC10042

While writing this review, it took a lot of effort not to overuse the word “fun”, but if asked to summarize these trails in one word, “fun” is exactly what I would say.  Coldwater Mountain is a great place to be if you want to spend some time jumping and riding around berms, but it’s also built so that it’s fun if your jumping skills are limited/non-existant.  The fun to work ratio is pretty spot on.  I wouldn’t go to Coldwater Mountain to hone my technical skills, but I will be back when I need a fun, fast day on a mountain bike that I know I’ll feel good about.

The other thing I really liked about our visit to Coldwater Mountain is that there was a great mix of skill levels and types of riders on the trail.  We saw families with kids on scoot bikes on the beginner trail.  We saw overweight adult dudes trying to get back in shape by riding the extended beginner trail.  We ran into guys who ride trails multiple times per week.  Most impressively, there were many more women of varying abilities than I usually see on our trail rides.  It really seems like NEABASORBA, and Alabama’s Forever Wild organizations have done a great job of promoting this trail system and including the community in its development.  Even after a bunch of fun jumps and long downhills, the different trail users might have been my favorite part of our visit.

I’ve read that the goal is to make the Coldwater Mountain trail system the next mountain bike mecca in the southeast.  The plan is that within about 5 years, the current 15 miles or so will expand to 60 miles.  Sure enough, we saw evidence of construction and heard from locals that more miles are already in progress.  You can bet that if the remaining 45 miles of trails are as fun as the first 15, I’ll definitely be back.

Bonus feature of Anniston, AL: It’s home to the U.S.’s tallest chair, formerly the tallest in the world.

Preview: Chrome Niko Camera Bag

0 Chrome Niko Camera Pack

Chrome has launched a big brother to their Niko Messenger Camera Bag.

Meet the Niko Camera Pack

The Niko pack was designed and built for day shooting and travel with a tough weatherproof denier nylon outer shell and military grade truck tarpaulin liner. It has a fully customizable interior compartment for lenses and flashes and multiple pockets for cable and gear storage. Other features include quick access top loading compartment for items like a windbreaker or phone, a padded laptop compartment that fits up to 15” Macbook Pro, front Velcro straps for securing a tripod or skateboard, and side access u-lock holster.

Features:

  • MSRp: $180
  • Fully weather resistant Video/DSLR camera pack with PU coated zipper
  • Large zip around opening and customizable main compartment for organizing lenses, flash and other equipment
  • Padded laptop compartment fits up to Macbook Pro 15
  • Quick access top-loading camera compartment
  • Front velcro straps secure large tripod or skateboard
  • Side access U-Lock Holster

See more on Chrome’s website

 

Bike Shop Builds: Surly Troll

1 Bike Shop Build Surly Troll

The thoughts and details during a bike build are what make a great bike shop a resource and a dream factory for bicycle geeks like myself. These custom bike builds are what keep me inspired and excited to continue to work within the industry. Few more bike profiles over yonder.

Surly Troll from Ride a Bike in Lincolnton, NC

Take your spare parts bin and turn it into a functional drop bar multipurpose bike!

Photo Credit: Brantley Smith

All City Cycles Ladies Clothing

0 All City Ladies Clothing

All City Cycles, one of the awesome brands I represent, and a group of cool kids, have released some new clothes for us bike geeks out there. See the full line up on the All City website.

Race Report: Atlanta AlleyCross

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A guest blog from Laura Colbert of Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA.

Saturday was a beautiful day in Atlanta, one of those occasional Southern winter days when it feels like spring–the opposite of what cyclocross weather should be.  Other parts of the country have muddy, sloppy, cold cyclocross races.  In Georgia, the weather always seems to provide us with boring, but beautiful race days.  This pattern held true for Saturday’s 4th Annual AlleyCross race.  It was 70 degrees and sunny, the kind of weather that’s perfectly suited for looking cute while riding your city commuter, but not so much for cyclocross.  Luckily the 2 days before the race had been pretty rainy, so the course was sufficiently sloppy, even if the weather was behaving itself.

AlleyCross is organized by No Hipster Left Behind and is a fun combination of cyclocross and alley cat races.

The event started with mandatory parade lap to familiarize everyone with the route.  That turned out to be fortunate, because it took the better part of an hour to complete (8.5 mile route…so slow) and included a couple wrecks.  Parade laps are not usually that eventful.  However, the extra time also gave us spectators plenty of opportunity to find a good spot for photos and get a head start on beer drinking.  When the racers returned from the parade lap, they left their bikes at the mouth of an alley and were sent down a gravel hill for a Le Mans start.

AlleyCross

The race consisted of two laps along the 8.5 mile race course, and it started and ended at Loose Nuts Cycles.  The route sent cyclists through city parks, gravel and cobblestone alleys, grass run-ups, the relatively new Atlanta Beltline, and regular city streets.  There were several notable obstacles/stops along the way:

  1. The cobblestone alley—I’ve ridden and run up and down this hill.  It’s steep and cobblestone-y, and there’s no visibility to check for cars at the bottom of the alley.  One Saturday, it was also extra slippery from the previous days’ rain.  It’s no joke.Atlanta AlleyCross
  2. The whiskey stop—Down an alley in Grant Park, the racers had a choice: 1. Take a whiskey shot and be on your way; 2. Shoulder your bike and run through a 30-second pine straw section.  I know which choice I would have taken… (whiskey!)

Atlanta AlleyCross

            3.  Barriers—traditional cyclocross barriers (made out of PVC instead of wood planks
4. The Beltline—a neutral zone for the race.  Racers were not allowed to attack in this section.  The Beltline is full of children on bicycles, dogs on and off leashes, roller bladers, skateboarders, and a woman who walks her dog while playing violin.  Even if it wasn’t against the rules, the Beltline is so crowded on nice days that usually it takes most of a cyclist’s attention to just avoid hitting anyone.

The race brought out a great mix of people–serious cyclocross racers, cyclists who have never raced before, and everyone in between.  The 49 race entrants (including 6 women) showed up in everything from full race kits to jeans and tshirts. The spectators were just as diverse–Grant Park and Inman Park residents, other cyclists, friends of cyclists, and future cyclists.

Atlanta AlleyCross

The race went smoothly for the most part, with relatively little drama (only one emergency room visit).   There were comments from experienced riders and new racers alike about how challenging the course was.  It was a well-designed course that really pushed everyone. Even cyclists who just rode the parade route commented on how much effort the route required. Race organizer, Dustin Morado said, “After organizing most of the city races in Atlanta for the last year and a half it was so rewarding to see so many people come out to really push themselves, go fast, and get competitive.”

At the end of the 2 laps, Gary Gomez (male winner), Elizabeth Lee (female winner) and Tim Barrett (single speed winner) beat out everyone else to earn the $40 payout for first place. (Second and third places earned $30 and $10 respectively in all categories.)  Their success was celebrated by everyone by emptying a keg’s worth of Fat Tire beer cans (Thanks Chip!) and then floating another keg in addition.  Needless to say, at the end of the day, lots of bicycle fun was had and everyone needed a beer recovery nap.

Atlanta AlleyCross

Luckily we don’t have to wait too long for another great event like this.  Here are the next race events from the  two race organizers.:

Kyle is running another, easier alleycross in March alongside SoPo’s BHBP 9 weekend.
NHLB will be hosting a fixed course road race in April.
Photo credit to Wil Hughes.  Thanks to Dustin of NHLB for providing me with some extra details about the race.

Preview: SRAM XX1 MTB Drivetrain

10 SRAM XX1 Review

When my work started “pre-selling” the new XX1 group I knew this is what I had to have for my new hardtail race machine. Not only is it the latest and greatest, which doesn’t always appeal to me on my own bikes, it was very tested and several pro racers I know whispered in my ear that it REALLY was the bee’s knees.

Setup of XX1 Reviewed

MSRP: $1450
Shifter: Trigger shifter
Cranks: 175m, 32t, 168 Q
Cassette: 42 x 10 (with 11 speeds!)

Benefits of SRAM XX1

Rear Derailleur – Redesign of the rear derailleur. With an offset of the upper pulley, larger pulleys and a “straight parallelogram” that takes away ghost shifting and making it easier to shift. This derailleur also has the Type 2 clutch which keeps your derailleur from bouncing when you’re going down hill.

Chain- I can’t even begin to explain the chain, so I’ll show a photo!

XX1 Chain

Cassette- 10x42t. The cassette also has larger gaps to clean out better.

Cassette body- due to the size of the cassette going down to 10t, you have to get a new freehub called XD. I picked up a set of SRAM Rise 60 wheels (preview to come at a later date) and had to do a freehub swap. Super painless, and the freehub feels awesome. I haven’t had it on technical uphills to test out the engagement, but it feels good at most the trails I ride. A bit of a warning that there isn’t a ton of selection yet on freehub bodies.

Shifters- One shifter, pick your poison, either Grip Shift or Trigger. (I went with trigger, long term when I build up an all mountain bike I’ll switch the trigger to it and get Grip Shift for the race bike.)

Learn more “tech” stuff from SRAM by clicking here.

 

Initial Impressions

Pimp. I’m a bit biased as I’ve always preferred how SRAM shifts. I’ve ridden XX, I’ve ridden XO and XTR. This by far takes the cake. The range I get out of the rear cassette is amazing. There is no cross chaining and it performs perfectly throughout the range.

My crank setup is a 32t chainring with 168 Q-Factor (going to be the most popular option.) I plan on picking up a 36t chainring closer to XC season but right now on the road I spin out the 32×10 at roughly 27mph. Your speeds my vary and my legs can only spin so fast! The biggest reason I want to go up on a chainring is so that I’m using the middle of the cassette more. Currently when hitting the few off-road intervals I’ve had in the off season I have been riding lower in my cassette, which (in my experience) wears out parts faster. PLUS, I like to have more wrap on my cassette when going down hill so my derailleur /chain are under tension a bit more. Yes, you can tell me that is what the Type 2 derailleur does but I still like what I know has worked for years.

Conclusion

If you are in the market for new parts, building up a new bike or simply like the best. I would recommend giving this a spin, if you can find it. As a rep my bike is always in my car, and most shops that I have visited have NOT seen XX1 themselves. At least not mounted on a bike that can be test ridden. The first group sets have been out in the market for a few weeks (I believe the started shipping the beginning of December.) I’ve seen some Specialized S-Works coming out of the box with XX1 too. Give it a couple months for more shipments to come from SRAM and I’m sure it will be more readily available at your favorite bike shop. If you see me, you can take mine for a spin, BUT not moments before a race, just a warning.

$1450 is a pretty penny for a drivetrain only setup, if you are looking to take yourself and bike to the next level you won’t regret it with this.

Once I need to replace my chain I will chime back in with a full review of wear and long term thoughts.

Disclaimer: I purchased this drivetrain out of my own wallet. This wasn’t given to me, and my opinions will always be honest.

Bike Shop Build: Parlee CX

0 Bike Shop Build: Parlee CX

The thoughts and details during a bike build are what make a great bike shop a resource and a dream factory for bicycle geeks like myself. These custom bike builds are what keep me inspired and excited to continue to work within the industry. Few more bike profiles over yonder.

 

Parlee CX from Reality Bikes in Cumming, GA

 Photo credit: Duncan McGuire