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Answer Products PINK ProTaper XC Flat Handlebar: On Review

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I’m a color freak. Ask anyone that I’ve built a bike for, I love things to compliment, match and fit pieces together well.  Colored housing, grips, zip ties and spacers – they all matter for the end product.   For women especially, wanting to ride a bike is almost as important as how well the bike rides.  While walking the grounds of the 2011 Sea Otter Classic I spied color, ProTaper XC colored handlebars from Answer to be exact.  There aren’t enough bike components made in green, and we all know my love of pink.

Answer ProTaper XC MTB Handlebar

Answer Products ProTaper Handlebar

I was caught taking photos by one of the Answer guys, I inquired if they were making a flat bar in pink.  29ers ride very well with flat bars… The nice guy said “Yes, yes I do! How about you check out the matching gloves?”

How could I turn this nice guy down?  White gloves, pink accents, and a clean subtle feel to the palm.   The graphics on the handlebar and gloves are matching, the main graphics will be hidden under a grip other than the very prominent brand and model logo’s displayed in the middle of the stem.

Answer Pink Handlebar and Gloves

The gloves have been used daily for riding and a couple times for wrenching, they work perfectly so far.  Longer term I’ll document the fit and a full 360º of the glove as well.  The handlebar will be installed this week and tested for fit, weight and awesome color flare!

This product was given to me at no charge for reviewing.  I was not paid or bribed to give this review and it will have my honest opinion or thoughts through out.

Motivational Monday with Rebecca Rusch

0 Rebecca Rusch

A Monday morning tradition that we are starting to keep you motivated and to be striving for your goals even during a hard week or long hours at work.   Do you know someone that motivates and inspires you?  Send us your answers and photo to girly@BikeShopGirl.com

I can’t say enough great things abouthttp://rebeccarusch.com/.   In years past I’ve had the honor to be in her pit as a mechanic, get a pat on the back at a race and more than that she’s always that constant voice in the back of my head on hard rides and long races.

Rebecca Rusch

1. What’s your name and location?

Rebecca Rusch, Ketchum ID (AKA Sun Valley)

2. What type of cycling do you enjoy?

Endurance mountain biking, but I also ride ‘cross, road, pump track, super D and townie/commuter.

3. What is your first cycling memory?

Ripping my purple banana seat Huffy down the brick street in front of my house. We lived on a quiet street on a hill and our house was near the top. Rolling down without pedaling was pure freedom, but I also kind of liked turning around and working hard to get back up so I could do it again. I guess that was my first type of “training” and the realization that it was rewarding to “earn your turns” so to speak.

4. Who in the current cycling industry inspires you, and better yet WHY?

Marla Streb. Hands down. She has handled a very long term racing and cycling career with such passion and grace and has done pretty much EVERYTHING. She started mountain biking at 28 after leaving her job in molecular biology AIDS research. Since then she paved the way for women in downhill by earning multiple national titles, world cup podiums and a SS world champ title. She’s also competitive in endurance races like La Ruta. She’s a Mom of 2, manages trail building projects in South America, she’s written two books, lived on a sailboat and manages the Luna women’s cycling team. She just announced her 2011 return to racing and will also be coaching ride clinics this year and just launched the opening of a bike cafe called Handle Bar in Baltimore. On top of all of that, she’s super friendly, funny and just the kind of person you want to hang out with. I just hope I don’t have to race against her this year!

5. What was your best moment on a bike in 2010?

Winning the 2010 Leadville Trail 100 and breaking the long standing women’s course record. The beauty of that day is that I worked hard all season for that one event and, like magic the training, dedication, equipment all aligned perfectly on that specific day. Peaking perfectly and having a race unfold as you visualize it is an elusive, slippery goal to grasp at. More times than not, things don’t go as planned. This time it did and I was elated with my performance and thankful to the team of people who helped me pull it off. It’s a day I won’t forget.

6. In the next year, what are your goals with cycling and pushing yourself forward in 2011?

The #1 race goal is to try to defend my Leadville Trail 100 title for a 3rd time. It has never been done and my training plan is built 100% around this goal.

However, I also have some new projects that I’m super excited about. I have designed the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour for 2011 that will include various mtb events for women and girls. The events are all different, including a women’s only mountain bike race in Colorado (Bike Beti Bash), a high school girls race team in my home town (Wheel Girls), and the first event of the year, SRAM Ladies Lounge at Sea Otter! I will also hopefully be showing the 2010 Race Across the Sky Leadville 100 film in various locations as IMBA fundraisers. I love racing and have no intention of stopping anytime soon, but I also love to share my experience with other riders and help people find out how great riding a bike is! These extra projects are all just a natural progression in my own education and riding experience.

First Impressions: 2011 Specialized Myka Expert Women’s 29er

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For the past month the women behind Bike Shop Girl have been test riding the 2011 Specialized Myka Expert 29er. Getting our own first hand impressions of how Specialized does women’s 29ers. Along the way this has also allowed us to try out the Specialized 29er tires, Specialized Riva saddle and Rock Shox “Specialized Womens Tuned” fork.

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Camelbak Octane 18X Hydration Backpack Preview

0 Camelbak Octane 18X Preview

Camelbak Octane 18X Preview
MSRP: $99.00
Water Capacity: 100oz
Size: Expanded 20L, Closed 16L
Weight: 1LB

Details from Camelbak

The CamelBak Octane 18X weighs in at just a pound and with 18L of fully expanded cargo capacity, this pack is perfect for 3+ hours of nonstop action. The Octane 18X features an independent suspension, easy to reach stash pockets, a harness pocket and an expandable cargo pocket so you can comfortably carry everything you need which moving fast. Great for extended trail runs or adventure races. The CamelBak Octane 18X also includes the new 100 oz. Antidote reservoir which has a quick-snap cap that tightens in a quarter turn and a quick-disconnect tube system.

Video Preview from Camelbak of the Octane 18x

Initial Thoughts and Feelings

I try to use water bottles as much as possible.  Too much weight on my back can kill me on hard and fast rides.  When I venture further away from the car or house, I need to carry things.  If it is to be more of a boy scout with things to fix trail side or more water and food for longer rides.    In the past I have used bags from Camelbak (the Lobo), Deuter, Osprey Packs and more .   Several of these will have final reviews posted in the coming months as well!  I have always wanted something lighter, and Camelbak seems to have delivered that.

The material of the bag reminds me of a parachute.  The zipper in the center helps keep things nice and tight when I don’t have a jacket or extra clothes in the bag.  My only concern is the lack of support on the bag.  It literally can be rolled up (without the reservoir) and put in a large jersey pocket.

Full review after Sea Otter

I will be taking the Octane 18x with me to Sea Otter and will be able to provide a full review after I abuse it a bit more in the heat and sand!

Charlotte Cycling Classic: NODA-Freedom Park-NODA

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Let’s see if I can convince my GF to do this on Saturday…

From 36th Street Racing:

On Saturday August 18th, at the crack of 11AM Noda-Freedom Park-Noda, the premiere “one day classic” comes to Charlotte and Dolce Vita Wines! Event Starts in the Historic North Charlotte Neighborhood (NoDa). We will race a “tortuous” route through the notorious Charlotte Hinterland to Freedom Park and back.

We ask everyone to read and revere “Rule Five”. This family friendly ride is not for the faint of heart. The organizers have scoured the Charlotte roads and have found multiple “Cols” “Bergs” and “Pave” sections, including the world famous “Greenway”.

Registration opens at 10 am with start at 11am. A $10 entree Fee gets you a feed at the halfway point and lunch at the finish. There will be Music and awards ceremony at the finish.

Motivational Monday with Wendy Davis

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Motivational Monday, a Monday tradition at Bike Shop Girl, my goal to keep you motivated and to be striving on the bike even during a hard week or long hours at work. Are you a woman that bicycles? Fill out this easy form and be part of our motivational movement!

What’s your name and location?

Wendy Davis in great Missouri

What type of cycling do you enjoy?

mountain, single-speed, gravel, cross, road

What is your first cycling memory?

June 16 2007 was my first mountain bike ride as an adult. I pedaled 1.5 miles and launched myself over a cliff. A visit to the ER confirmed a broken elbow. In that short time I found my destiny. I fell in love with mountain biking that day.

Who inspires you to ride, and better yet WHY?

I ride to inspire others to ride. I want people to see that if I can do it, so can they. The bike has made me happier and healthier. I keep riding because it makes me a better human.

What has been your best moment on the bike so far this year?

Racing at Sea Otter courtesy of Airborne Bicycles and crushing gravel at the Dirty Kanza 200

Tell us all about your bikes

2009 Specialized hard-tail singlespeed
2011 Kona Jake the Snake
2011 Airborne Goblin

Read more about Wendy over at her blog!

Race Report : Southern Cross 2011

1 George Berger at Southern Cross

George Berger, the first member of the new em:pwr cycling team.  He’s on his way to be a good cyclist…well, a good shortish, stoutish, strongish mid-40′s Flemish ‘cross racer.  George resides in Davidson, NC with wife and daughter.

George Berger at Southern Cross

Southern Cross 2011, at Dahlonega Georgia’s Montaluce Winery; the first race of the American Ultra CX Championship Series

I’ve never raced an endurance cyclocross event before; and, frankly, even though I’ve raced both cyclocross and mountain bike, this was going to be something decidedly different…tough, hilly, non-American type (grass crit) cyclocross course at the start and again at the end with some HUGE run-ups; a few miles of paved county road after that; gravel/chert/pumice fire road; STEEP and LONG rocky dirt fire road (if you could call it that); and screamin’ fast descents on those same fire roads. At the call-ups, co-organizer Eddie O’Dea said it best: “this is not a CX race; it’s not short and painful, it’s gonna be long and painful. So try to finish—it’s an enduuuuurance race, not a sprint race.”

Goals for the Southern Cross

My goals were right in line with that: 1) to finish the race; 2) to have some fun doing it; and 3) to use it to judge my early season fitness in this, my first year back to cycling after a layoff of over 10 years (I’m now 9 months into it, have lost over 15 lbs., and although I have a long way further to go, I’m getting there).

I signed up for the 40+ Citizen Race—the shorter version, which was only 30-something miles—20 miles shorter than the full Pro/1/2/3/4 race, with one or two fewer steep climbs. First time in this type of racing, and me still a ‘stout’ and older guy, it wasn’t my purpose to kill myself. There were a few people I knew—I finally met Namrita and Eddie O’Dea, the race promoters from Atlanta’s 55nine Performance (two really nice folks, and whom I knew only from Facebook at that point); and Stephanie Cole from Charlotte, who I met at last January’s Greensboro Cyclocross race, who came down. She was also racing the Citizen race, and I saw later finished with a really good time! I met a few guys (from upstate New York, for God’s sake!) when I was pre-riding the course on Friday afternoon, and more at Dahlonega Wheelworks—a really FANTASTIC bike shop where Jon and Zack fixed me up after a little mechanical snafu, and hooked me up with a free High Life while we talked. Oh, and BTW—they’re wheelbuilders to the stars, so I’m thinking about having them do some 29er wheels for me later this year.

As I said, the start was a hilly, off-camber cyclocross course in tough, high grass that hadn’t been ridden much; not much of a problem, but at the end of it was a very steep, 300-foot “run-up” that even Namrita described before the race as a ‘trudge-up.’ Overcoming hyperventilation at the top was the critical element there, so I’m glad I did it on Friday and knew about it beforehand. Then we left the winery development and headed out for a few miles of paved county roads before heading into the gravel and dirt fire road. Catching someone’s wheel to draft was pretty critical in this early section, getting as much speed on the CX bike as you could while conserving as much energy as possible.

The climbs started with a few miles of decent rollers, trending uphill, but a lot of fun since even with a CX cassette I was able to climb with some of the faster male 29er riders. But then the real climb started…the slog up Winding Stair, a 9-mile steep climb up some of the worst fire track I’ve been on…soft, powdery pumice on top of unpacked mountain sandstone gravel and loose stones. You could call it double-track, but when we witnessed a full-on endure motorcycle spin out at only 10 mph and crash on an uphill section, you knew it wasn’t easy to get traction. I’ll admit it—I walked the steeper pitches since I just didn’t have the gears to spin, nor the tires to get any traction. My Maxxis Raze clinchers were great for most of the race, but not enough read knob or width for this climb. Strangely, I found that I was hiking it faster than some of the other racers were riding it. Reaching the top of Winding Stair Gap and stopping at the aid station for more water for the CamelBack was a relief…looking around off the top of the ridge, it was an absolutely beautiful day…but after a couple minutes, a picture, the water and a ClifBlock for some energy, I was off again.

When you go up, you gotta come down. And the back side of Winding Stair was the best part of the whole race for me. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to be a bigger guy who can still pick a fast line while gravity does most of the work. Eddie had warned the racers beforehand that the roads were open to vehicle traffic, and that there were a lot of blind curves…but still, it’s fun to bomb downhill! So, knowing my health and disability insurance were pretty good, I took off from the top and tried to catch some of the folks who I’d had to let go on the climb. In the drops, I clocked over 42mph on the rutted clay or relatively hard-packed long gravel downhill, passed one guy on a 29er like he was standing still, and…just as soon as I hit the bottom, pinch-flatted going over a rutted section. Big bummer. Fixing it (only losing a few places) I started back up again; this time, the climb up Sassafras Mountain didn’t seem as bad (after Winding Gap, not much could), and there was another long flying downhill section that I had a white-knuckle blast on, making up another place and seeing lost water bottles all over the road from where they’d been shaken loose from their cages.

At the bottom, I was all by myself from then until almost the end, and found myself back on pavement at the ranger station…a long stretch of pretty, rolling county road, then some steep little paved hills with about five or six miles left brought us back up into the Montaluce property and the course went back into the cyclocross course again. There was nobody in sight behind me, and I was almost catching a younger guy that I’d been trading places with throughout the race; but another super-steep and long “run-up” caught me instead. I’d just been passed by the leader of the ‘full’ race, and we started up the hill together…except he didn’t dismount. Holy S*it, I thought—he’s gonna try to ride it!?! I was so shocked (this guy had some serious legs and stamina to do this) that when I got up to the top a good bit later after hooting for him spinning up the whole damn thing, I almost crashed…chain suck city. I lost all my momentum, had to get off and fix that, and just couldn’t get back into the rhythm.

The last mile or so inside the winery property was a mix of CX course and paved road hill climb; not that hard, but by that point I’d pretty much left it all out there already, and just couldn’t catch up to that one guy at the end. The finish was through a chute right at the food tent, with a picture for everyone. I was pretty spent, but nothing that a couple cans of (real) Coke and a couple of bottles of water couldn’t help. I finished in 17th place overall in the Citizen race, and 10th in the 40+ category, at 3:06:49.

Who knew!?! I coulda been a little faster if I’d been in better shape and could have pedaled more of the hills (especially that second big climb), and hadn’t had the two mechanicals. But the race could not have been more fun.  Next year, I’m gonna do it again, and will probably change a couple things on the bike… It was easy to see that the 29ers had the advantage going uphill, but the CX bikes had a huge overall advantage (at least with the course conditions as they were—fast and mostly dry). So a cassette change (maybe to a 12-32), and some wider tires to get more uphill traction and downhill flat protection, and I think we’d have a winner setup. I’ll be doing the Three Peaks USA in September (a Pirate Race Productions event by Andrew Stackhouse), so we’ll see how that works out.

Rear View Mirror

The wrap-up? I could have finished the longer race, but it woulda been far less pretty at the end. So my fitness was ok, but not great—I’m still fat and mostly old; comparatively, anyway. But I finished what I’d started, and had a lot of fun doing it. The first time doing anything is always tough because of the unexpected, and I can’t wait to do it again next year. I couldn’t stay for the after-party and awards (and raffle…bummer), but had to head back to NC so I could put my daughter to bed. Four hours later, a beer down the hatch, and I was ready to sleep like a baby, too. And here it is, Monday, and I’m ready to get back on the bike for a little lunchtime spin.

2011 Raleigh Clubman Bicycle: Full Review

6 2010 Raleigh Clubman Review

Raleigh Clubman Steel Bicycle

MSRP: $1150

Main Features: Tiagra 9speed, full fenders, Brooks Swift leather saddle, Lezyne pump

Other Notes: I reviewed a 2010 model, the only changes to the 2011 are the paint (now green) and the wheels from my understanding are now 32h instead of 28

Over the past year I have been able to review a ton of great product.  A product that I started to review for Commute By Bike and was put on hold during my fear of riding on the road is the Raleigh Clubman.  As this bike is one of my reliable and one of the most eye catching frames in my fleet I want to make sure to give it a full review for all those interested or looking at purchasing one.

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