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Now that you’ve been using the Shut Up. Ride. Repeat!™ training regimen for a little while and you’ve witnessed firsthand how amazingly well it works, we’re going to apply it to other areas of your life and achieve life-changing results. Hold on to your friggin’ cycling socks!

To review, the Shut Up. Ride. Repeat!™ training regimen can be summarized by the following simple steps:

  1. Shut Up.
  2. Ride.
  3. Repeat!

Now let’s do a little thought experiment as they say in psycho-babble speak. Let’s just pretend for a moment that we had other life goals that weren’t related to bikes and bike riding. I know, crazy right? But humor me. This is deep.

For example, let’s assume that in order to ride every day—see what I did there?—you need to be able to retire. Just for the record, that’s totally cray-cray but whatever. 🙄 Remember, this is just a thought experiment. And in order to retire you need more money. Okay, so what if we substituted saving for riding? Again, cray-cray but whatever. But check it out:

  1. Shut Up.
  2. Save.
  3. Repeat!

Boom! You’re saving money and before you know it you’re retired. Way to go! Let’s ride!

Okay, let’s try another one. Let’s say that in order to ride more you need to be able to spend less time on your garden. Simple. We substitute gardening for riding and presto!

  1. Shut Up.
  2. Garden.
  3. Repeat!

Boom! Before you know it you’re a Master Gardener and your plants just do whatever you say. Way to go! Let’s ride!

Okay, now you try it. Here, I’ll get you started:

  1. Shut Up.
  2. _______.
  3. Repeat!

BOOM goes the dynamite! Look at you go! You are now on your way to a richer, more fulfilling life. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. The Rolling Stones gather. ¡No mas!

¡De nada!

Vacay (Week 3)

Vacay, definitely not stay-cay. Time to take a little vacation from the rain. Go on holiday as the Brits say. My wife and I and our three boxers are hitching up the trailer and headed to the desert southwest. The first couple rides of the week will just be more of the same here at home, but then I should have a nice change of scenery to share. But first we have to get everything cleaned and packed and then haul the trailer up and over the Sierras before the next storm arrives mid-week. 🙂

Rides of Week 3

DateLocationDistanceAscent (day / total / avg)BikeBuddies/Notes
Jan 15, 2017Cool, CA9.29 miles1,227' / 19,503' / 1,300'Cannondale Trail SL 29 singlespeedsolo, pavement, dry but cold, fixed shoe w/ zip ties for now. 😜
Jan 16, 2017Cool, CA8.68 miles1,206' / 20,709' / 1,294'Cannondale Trail SL 29 singlespeedsolo, pavement, dry, cold
Jan 17, 2017
Jan 18, 2017
Jan 19, 2017
Jan 20, 2017
Jan 21, 2017


Welcome to the third step of the Shut Up. Ride. Repeat!™ training regimen. Congratulations on making it this far! As mentioned in the previous posts, the primary steps can be summarized by:

  1. Shut Up.
  2. Ride.
  3. Repeat!

So, today we’ll just be discussing “Repeat!”

If you search the interwebs for “shut up and ride” you will get many results (Tip: I think they call them “hits” in interweb speak). However, all these hits 🙄 fall short because they leave out the vital third step. There is good reason why this is the only step with an exclamation point! This step is where the Shut Up. Ride. Repeat!™ training regimen really kicks into gear, baby!

If you only complete the first two steps (Shut Up. and Ride.), that’s not really a training regimen. So, we’ve established that it’s necessary to repeat. Good. I’m glad we’re all on the same page.

However, the frequency is also important here. For example, if you only complete the first two steps (Shut Up. and Ride.) weekly, that wouldn’t be much of a training regimen either, would it? No, no, and no.

Some of you are wondering—yes, I can hear you thinking—if it’s okay to ride just two or three times per week. After all, three times per week is still pretty good and it’s much better than just once per week, right? Wrong. Back to step one with you. Shut Up. I do the thinking around here. You just lurk in the comments section, remember?

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Frequency. Thanks.

Look, I know you. You’re not that different from me. You’re not very good at doing something two or three times per week. You tell yourself that you won’t ride today for whatever reason—insert whiny voice here—and that it’s okay because it’s still early in the week so you’ve still got plenty of time to get those three rides in. Then tomorrow it rains. And the day after that you have “commitments” that you can’t break. 🙄 Do you hear yourself? Do you see what you’re doing? You’re undermining your training regimen. There are no short cuts. Although there are plenty of reasons not to ride, there can be no excuses.

Every day you must Shut Up.

Every day you must Ride.

Every day you must Repeat! Every day you must Repeat! 😉

Why are you still reading? Shut Up. Ride. Repeat!


Welcome to the second step of the Shut Up. Ride. Repeat!™ training regimen. As mentioned in the previous posts, the primary steps can be summarized by:

  1. Shut Up.
  2. Ride.
  3. Repeat!

So, today we’ll just be discussing “Ride.” Some of you eager beavers may already be jumping ahead and asking questions such as:

  • Ride what?
  • Ride where?
  • How far?
  • How fast?

or, even worse:

  • What should my cadence be?
  • What should my heart rate be?
  • What should my VO2 max be?
  • What if my bike is broken?
  • What is the meaning of life?

If you’re asking yourself any of these questions, then you need to go back and review step one: Shut Up.

Nonetheless, purely as an intellectual exercise, let’s discuss some of these fateful questions. After all, it’s not enough to keep your body in shape. Your mind must be chiseled as well. And it’s not like you’re really going to stop reading and ride right now anyway.

  • Ride what? A bike, duh.
  • Ride where? Anywhere. The journey is the destination.
  • How far? As far as you can.
  • How fast? As fast as you can.
  • What should my cadence be? Somewhere between zero and two hundred.
  • What should my heart rate be? Resting, 42. Riding, only slightly higher.
  • What should my VO2 max be? Shut Up.
  • What if my bike is broken? Fix it, dumb ass.
  • What is the meaning of life? 42.

Now that we’ve sharpened the ol’ noggin’ a little, it’s time to get to it.

Ride. Just f___ing ride. 🙄 The journey is the destination. The destination is the journey. Ride, and the answers to all of your questions will become clear, my young Padawan.

Shut Up.

Welcome to the first step of the Shut Up. Ride. Repeat!™ training regimen. As mentioned in the introductory post, the primary steps can be summarized by:

  1. Shut Up.
  2. Ride.
  3. Repeat!

So, today we’ll just be discussing “Shut Up.” This could be be interpreted in many ways and, just for the record, I probably mean it in all of those ways. Let’s do a little brainstorming, or free association as the hipsters might call it. Let’s just list some things that come to mind when we say “Shut Up.”

  • Shut Your Pie Hole!
  • Stop Making Excuses!
  • Stop Whining!
  • Harden The F___ Up!
  • Can You Please Talk About Something Other Than Bikes or Bike Riding?! (this will often come from someone whom you might refer to as a “significant other”)

Let’s address each of these individually.

Shut Your Pie Hole!

What do we mean when we say this? Well, we mean shut your mouth of course but that’s obvious. However, we must occasionally open our mouths to consume fuel for riding (often referred to as food) and to stay hydrated (often referred to as beer). So we don’t literally mean never open your mouth. That would kill you, and then we’d all miss your trollsome interweb comments. So what we really mean is Stop Talking. You’ll learn more when you stop talking and listen for a change. Your significant other has told you this, like ten thousand times, but you’re always too busy talking to have heard it. Shut Up!!

Stop Making Excuses! (Stop Whining!)

Okay, we’re really getting to the heart of the matter here, aren’t we? If you’re an apt pupil you might argue that Stop Making Excuses! and Stop Whining! are pretty synonymous in the common lexicon. And you would be correct in my opinion. Therefore, we’ll address them both in this section.

Anyone reading about a training regimen—that would be you, my friend— should be aware that training regimens exist in a world where people need help keeping to such a regimen. Why? Because life gets in the way. It really does. I understand. I have a life. Okay, well, that might be an exaggeration. But I know people who have lives. And I listen to them when I’m not too busy talking.

What they say is that life gets in the way. They’re not wrong. They’re just, you know, wrong. The list of excuses is long: spouse, work, kids, school, pets, emergencies, etc. However, allow me to differentiate between reasons and excuses. There are lots of reasons why we can’t ride on any given day and, frankly many of them are pretty darn good reasons. But the difference between reasons and excuses is that reasons don’t excuse us from doing something we’ve committed to doing.

In other words, life only gets in the way if you let it. I can’t give you discipline. I can only tell you what to do. Shut Up. Ride. Repeat!™

Harden The F___ Up! (HTFU)

No, you! If you participate in many bike forums, you may be familiar with the abbreviation HTFU. This is what the insensitive riders will tell you. They don’t have all of the same responsibilities as you, and therefore they don’t understand the reasons that you put forth for not being able to ride. But I understand. I’m here for you, brothers and sisters. So let’s take their insensitivity, or perhaps it’s even anger (as to what they’re angry at, you might have to consult a different blog), and let’s focus that energy into discipline. Ignore the naysayers. They don’t understand you like I do. But you still have to ride every f___ing day, so harden the f___ up!!

Can You Talk About Something Other Than Bikes or Riding?

No. Get over it. Note: There is absolutely nothing wrong with this socially insensitive approach if you don’t mind being alone (forever).

For the rest of us, yes, Shut Up does mean that we occasionally have to talk about something other than bikes and bike riding. Or better yet, just stop talking and listen for a change. You’ll learn more when your lips aren’t moving. Shut up.

Shut Up. Ride. Repeat!™

Rock OnAs part of my Ride 365 goal, I’m developing a new training regimen. It’s called Shut Up. Ride. Repeat!™ Although this state-of-the-art training regimen is much more complex than might be inferred from its simple name, it essentially has three parts:

  1. Shut Up.
  2. Ride.
  3. Repeat!

The nuances of each part will be further explained in subsequent posts. Stay tuned.

100 Vertical Miles

As long as I’m riding 365 days in a row, why not add a total ascent goal? One hundred vertical miles sounds like a nice round number. Let’s see:

5,280 feet per mile x 100 miles = 528,000 feet

528,000 feet / 52 weeks = 10,154 feet per week

528,000 feet / 365 days = 1,447 feet per day

Hmmm. That’s actually do-able. Although, nine days in I’m already behind (I’ve climbed 11,509 feet in 9 days = almost 1,279 feet per day) but the year is still very young so I have lots of time to catch up. 😜

So, I’ve added total ascent and average daily ascent to my tables of daily rides to help me catch up and then (hopefully) stay caught up.

Atmospheric River (Week 2)

“Atmospheric River” isn’t really a term that you want to see in the weather forecast when you’ve made a commitment to ride your bike every day. 🙄 At least it’s a warm rain (so far). The following quote is from weatherwest.com:

One-two (three?) atmospheric river punch will deliver copious precipitation

A series of extremely moist Pacific storm systems will take aim at California this week. The first of these is already bringing increasingly heavy rain (and mountain snow) along with gusty winds to much of northern California. … The second storm is (by far) the one of greatest concern, as it will take the form a moisture-laden and slow-moving atmospheric river. While the details with this second system are still somewhat uncertain, virtually all numerical forecast models are painting a very broad area of extremely high precipitation totals over the next 6-7 days across the entire Sierra Nevada mountain chain…

Sounds like it’s going to be a challenging week of riding. We’re getting so much rain that I’ll need to stick to pavement for the foreseeable future too. Riding trails anytime soon would be too harsh on the trails.

All data below was collected by my Garmin Edge 20 (highly recommended). BTW, some of you might be asking yourself what’s the point of including the bike in the table if it’s always the same bike. Fair question. 😉 It wasn’t intended to be the same bike every day. I have a second singlespeed mountain bike, a Merlin XLM, that I’ve been intending to convert back to a geared bike but the process hasn’t gone very smoothly. See my Rejuvenation post for details. I also have a crappy old road bike but that undoubtedly needs even more work than the Merlin.

Rides of Week 2

DateLocationDistanceAscent (day / total / avg)BikeBuddies/Notes
Jan 8, 2017Cool, CA8.5 miles875' / 9,965' / 1,245'Cannondale Trail SL 29 singlespeedsolo, pavement, hard rain, wettest day yet
Jan 9, 2017Cool, CA10.88 miles1,544' / 11,509' / 1,278'Cannondale Trail SL 29 singlespeedsolo, pavement, break in the rain
Jan 10, 2017Cool, CA8.56 miles1,184' / 12,693' / 1,269'Cannondale Trail SL 29 singlespeedsolo, pavement, steady rain & wind
Jan 11, 2017Cool, CA11.84 miles1,612' / 14,305' / 1,300'Cannondale Trail SL 29 singlespeedsolo, pavement, break in the rain, cold, carpal tunnel bothering me 🙁
Jan 12, 2017Cool, CA9.33 miles1,246' / 15,551' / 1,296'Cannondale Trail SL 29 singlespeedsolo, pavement, light rain
Jan 13, 2017Cool, CA11.3 miles1,520' / 17,071' / 1,313'Cannondale Trail SL 29 singlespeedsolo, pavement, sun 🌞
Jan 14, 2017Cool, CA9.68 miles1,205' / 18,276' / 1,305'Cannondale Trail SL 29 singlespeedsolo, pavement, sun, but sole of shoe coming off (see pic below)
Total70.09 miles (week) / 138.43 (total)9,186' (week) / 18,276' (total)

broken shoe

So Far, So Good (Week 1)

The year started off cold and very wet here in northern California. Below is the data for ride #1 on New Year’s Day, followed by a summary of the week’s rides. All data was collected by my Garmin Edge 20 (highly recommended).

Tip: To see more details for the New Year’s Day ride, click on the ride name to open Garmin Connect in a new tab.

Rides of Week 1

DateLocationDistanceAscent (day / total / avg)BikeBuddies/Notes
Jan 1, 2017Cronan Ranch, Pilot Hill, CA12.32 miles1,768' / 1,768' / 1,768'Cannondale Trail SL 29 singlespeedMike & Dawn
Jan 2, 2017Cool, CA9.21 miles1,148' / 2,916' / 1,458'Cannondale Trail SL 29 singlespeedsolo, pavement, between snow squalls
Jan 3, 2017Cool, CA8.61 miles1,239' / 4,155' / 1,385'Cannondale Trail SL 29 singlespeedsolo, pavement, light rain
Jan 4, 2017Cool, CA10.9 miles1,533' / 5,688' / 1,422'Cannondale Trail SL 29 singlespeedsolo, pavement, rain & fog
Jan 5, 2017Cool, CA9.3 miles1,253' / 6,941' / 1,388'Cannondale Trail SL 29 singlespeedsolo, pavement, break in the rain 🙂
Jan 6, 2017Cool, CA8.54 miles911' / 7,852' / 1,309'Cannondale Trail SL 29 singlespeedsolo, pavement, the calm before the storm
Jan 7, 2017Cool, CA9.46 miles1,238' / 9,090' / 1,299'Cannondale Trail SL 29 singlespeedsolo, pavement, light to medium rain, after sunset with Vis 360+
Total68.34 miles9,090'

Wet Weather Riding

Riding your bike in wet weather can be fun, but you and your bike do need to be prepared. For you, that’s mostly just a matter of having and wearing the correct clothing. If you haven’t already read it, please refer to my Cold Weather Riding article for a thorough discussion of the appropriate clothing.

For your bike, there are some things you can add that can make wet weather riding much more comfortable and/or much more safe.

Headlights and Taillights

Rain is often accompanied by fog, which means drastically reduced visibility. While it’s bad enough that you can’t see your next turn coming up, it’s even worse that the drivers of cars and trucks can’t see you. Reflectors can help, but lights are much better. To be as safe as possible, you should have at least one headlight and at least one taillight. One product I love, because it combines both a headlight and taillight, is the Light and Motion Vis 360+ helmet light.

What’s so brilliant about it (get it? brilliant? sorry 🙁 ) is that the battery pack mounts to the rear of your helmet and has a built-in taillight. If you’re only going to have one light, this is the one you should have. BTW, they make a 360 version as well as the 360+ and the difference is that the 360+ provides a separate on/off switch for the taillight. That’s a nice feature if you want to ride trails at night because you can be sure there won’t be cars on the trails and turning off the taillight allows the battery to last a little longer.

What’s better than a headlight and a taillight? More than one, of course. For increased visibility, additional lights are worth the money. In addition to the Vis 360+, I also ride with a Light & Motion Imjin 800 front bike light mounted to my handlebars. Not only does this make me much more visible in traffic, but the combination of a helmet-mounted light plus a handlebar-mounted light gives me illumination everywhere I need it. The latter is particularly critical for trail riding at night.

A buddy of mine, Rich, takes it even further by adding a Light & Motion Vis 180 rear bike light to his bike. So when he’s commuting to/from work, he has two front-facing headlights and two rear-facing taillights. Wise man. Safety first. 🙂


If you’ve ever ridden a bike without fenders in the rain, you know how uncomfortable it can be. Water coming off the rear tire paints a wet and dirty skunk strip across your back, and water coming off the front tire does the same thing to your face. 😳 Inexpensive fenders can solve this problem.

Because they have to be the correct width and also have the correct arc, fenders tend to be specific based on bike type (e.g., road, mountain, commuter) and also wheel size. My current favorite brand of fender is SKS because they make a quality line of products that is available in a wide array of models to accommodate virtually every bike. For example, on my primary go-to bike, a singlespeed 29er (for a discussion of mountain bike wheel sizes, see Mountain Bike Wheel Size), I have the SKS Shockblade II 29er front fender and the SKS X-Blade 29er Seatpost rear fender.

Cold Weather Riding

You don’t need to hang up your bike when the weather turns cold, but you do need to be prepared. That means layering. Layering your clothing is the best way to remain comfortable during virtually any outdoor activity. One of the biggest advantages of layering is that the use of multiple layers allows you to make quick adjustments based on your activity level and/or changes in the weather. You just add or remove layers as necessary.

Generally speaking, there are three primary layers, each of which serves a different function. The base layer (the innermost layer, against your skin) provides moisture management. The middle layer, or insulating layer, provides insulation to keep you warm. The outer layer, often referred to as the shell layer, provides protection from the elements.

Base Layer

The base layer is all about moisture management. Keeping your skin relatively  dry is critical to help your body maintain a cool temperature in hot weather and avoid hypothermia in cold weather. Therefore, the base layer needs to move moisture away from your skin, whether that moisture is from perspiration, rain or snow.

Among knowledgeable outdoor enthusiasts there is an expression that should be taken to heart: Cotton kills. Cotton doesn’t wick moisture away from your skin, so it can leave you chilled. T-shirts are great for hanging around inside after your ride, but don’t risk hypothermia. Don’t wear cotton during any athletic outdoor activity.

So if I can’t wear cotton, what should I wear? I’m glad you asked. 😉 Your base layer should be made of either merino wool or a synthetic fabric designed to wick moisture away from your skin. These fabrics disperse the moisture on the outer surface of the fabric where it can evaporate. The number of such fabrics on the market is too large to list here, but this week alone (in pursuit of my Ride 365 goal) I’ve worn base layers that included synthetic layers from REI and Patagonia and merino wool from Icebreaker.

Base layers are available in different weights, such as lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight (sometimes referred to as expedition weight). As you get into the heaviest base layers, there is some crossover between the base layer and the insulating layer. For that reason, I think your best bet is to always have a lightweight or midweight base layer next to your skin because if you’re only wearing a heavyweight base layer you can’t really shed a thin layer if necessary.

Okay, now for a slight exception to the rules stated above. For most cycling, while I do wear a traditional base layer on my upper body, I generally don’t wear a traditional base layer on my legs because cycling keeps the legs pretty darn active. In weather that might be considered merely cool, I tend to still wear shorts. But in weather that might be considered cold—at least for cycling and by northern California standards 😉 —I like to wear tights that combine elements of the base and insulating layers (and even the shell layer to some extent). The ones I have and recommend are Pearl Izumi AmFIB tights, and I’ve been wearing them every day this week because daytime temps have been in the 40s.

Middle Layer

While the base layer is all about moisture management, the middle layer is all about temperature management. The middle layer, or insulating layer, helps you retain heat by trapping air close to your body.

The most effective, and therefore popular, fabrics are merino wool or synthetic fleece (goose down is great for very cold and dry conditions, but generally not for cycling). As is the case with base layer products, insulating products also tend to come in lightweight, midweight, and expedition-weight. The lightweight insulating layers are best for aerobic activity (like cycling) or mild climates. The midweight insulating layers are best for moderate activity or climates. And the expedition-weight insulating layers are best for low activity or cold climates.

Numerous companies also make fleece garments that are highly wind-resistant by incorporating a membrane that is not supposed to affect breathability. However, in my personal experience, I have found that these windproof fleece garments generally do not breathe quite as well as the fleece garments without a wind-blocking membrane. Admittedly, it’s been a few years since I purchased a wind-resistant fleece garment and technology improves at a rapid pace, so I expect that today’s state-of-the-art wind-resistant fleeces are better than those of just a few years ago.

Okay, now for more exceptions to the rules. Cycling is such an aerobic activity that I generally don’t wear a true insulating layer except when the temperature approaches freezing or colder. For example, virtually every day this week it’s been in the low- to mid-40s here and instead of a true insulating layer I’ve just been wearing a second base layer to add just enough warmth. A couple of days I think I was out with just two lightweight base layers and a lightweight shell, and the other days one lightweight base layer, one midweight base layer, and a lightweight shell or rain jacket.

Shell Layer

The shell layer provides protection from the elements (i.e., wind, rain or snow). Shells can be grouped into several categories:

  • Waterproof/breathable shells
  • Water-resistant/breathable shells
  • Soft shells
  • Waterproof/non-breathable shells
  • Insulated shells

Although not all of these categories of shells are directly applicable to cycling, it’s still worth understanding the array of choices out there for outdoor activities in general.

Waterproof/breathable shells

Shell jackets that are truly waterproof and still breathable rank among the most versatile garments for virtually any outdoor activity. As such, they are ideal for wet, cool conditions. As a former (amateur) mountaineer, mountaineering jackets immediately spring to mind. The best performing shells in this category employ high-tech membranes such as Gore-Tex, although a more economical approach is to coat the fabric with a compound that produces similar results.

Water-resistant/breathable shells

Shells that are merely water-resistant, rather than waterproof, are an excellent compromise for high activity levels (e.g., cycling) and light precipitation. They are also considerably less expensive than their waterproof/breathable counterparts.

Soft shells

Soft shells generally emphasize breathability over water resistance. Many soft shells combine features of both the insulating layer and the shell layer. They often incorporate stretch fabric for increased mobility during highly aerobic activities, and are available in mild weather or cold weather versions.

Waterproof/non-breathable shells

Waterproof/non-breathable shells are a very affordable choice but are obviously not a great choice for aerobic activity because they don’t breathe. They can be okay for easy cycling but even moderate activity will make you feel swampy inside a non-breathable shell.

Insulated shells

Insulated shells obviously combine the insulating layer and shell layer into a single garment. While that can be convenient for cold and wet conditions, it effectively eliminates the versatility of keeping the layers separate.

So, what do I wear when cycling? If it’s going to be dry (or possibly even a light shower, but not persistent rain), I generally just wear a very lightweight uncoated nylon (but cycling-specific) shell that provides wind protection and some level of water-resistance. If the forecast is such that I’m confident I’m going to get rained on, then I wear a breathable shell that is at least water-resistant if not waterproof. My lightweight cycling shell is an older Pearl Izumi jacket that probably isn’t very water-resistant anymore, and my more waterproof jacket (which also isn’t really waterproof anymore) is a Novara jacket (Novara is REI‘s cycling brand). If I was going to buy a new cycling jacket today I might get one with a hood, like the Pearl Izumi MTB WRX Jacket.


Your hands, feet and head require additional protection.


Your hands are a place where layering doesn’t work as well, or at least isn’t as convenient. Therefore, I think it’s best to have several pairs of gloves that provide a variety of insulation and waterproofness. For cool weather riding, you can probably get by with any pair of long-fingered cycling gloves. But for cold weather, you’ll want some gloves that are insulated and/or waterproof. For example, if you peruse the variety of Pearl Izumi cycling gloves, you’ll see everything from lightweight gloves to waterproof gloves to insulated “lobster” gloves (they resemble a lobster claw because they have combined forefinger/middle finger and ring finger/little finger to maximize protection from the cold while still providing the dexterity necessary to control a bicycle).


Your feet are a little tricky when it comes to cycling for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that, while your legs are doing a great deal of work, your feet aren’t doing nearly as much. Using your muscles generates heat and helps to keep your legs warm but your feet don’t get much warming benefit in that regard. The second reason is that most experienced cyclists use clipless pedals that allow the shoe to clip directly into the pedal. (Q: If they clip in, what are they called clipless? A: The term clipless refers to the fact that they don’t require toe clips that go over the toe of the shoe. Toe clips used to be the default way to secure the shoe to the pedal, prior to the introduction of clipless pedals.)

Due to the second reason, most cyclists are disinclined to just use some kind of traditional warm footwear such as insulated boots because they don’t have the cleats on the bottom that connect with clipless pedals. If you have adequate insulating layers on the rest of your body, you’ll often be able to just use your normal cycling shoes for cool weather riding and even cold weather riding to some extent. But if the temperature drops enough, you’ll almost certainly want to cover your cycling shoes with some cycling shoe covers. If you use clipless pedals, you need cycling-specific shoe covers because they have to have holes in the soles to allow the cleats (which are attached to the shoes) to connect to the pedals.


For your head, it’s important to have a layer under your helmet that is wind-resistant and water-resistant. Dedicated helmet liners such as the Pearl Izumi Barrier Skull Cap are ideal, but you can also get by with almost any thin hat if it’s tight fitting and made of merino wool or a wicking synthetic fiber. Wearing a base layer with a built-in hood can work too. While a hood can provide a little more warmth because it covers the entire back of your neck, hoods can also provide a little less peripheral vision than a hat. Needless to say, if you’re riding anywhere with significant car traffic, anything that reduces your peripheral vision should be avoided. However, I’ve found that the front edges of a hood can easily be held back by my helmet straps and/or eyeglasses and therefore I personally don’t feel that riding with a hood has compromised my peripheral vision.

In a word, no. The cheapest bike you can find will be at a big box store and it won’t perform very well or last very long. So the next question is: Should I buy the cheapest bike that is recommended on Cheap Bikes? Maybe, but not necessarily. It depends how much you intend to use it.

One of the primary things that differentiates the cheapest bikes we recommend with those that are a little more expensive are the components, which is just bike lingo for parts. Paying a little more gets you better components (e.g., better brakes, derailleurs that shift more smoothly and consistently, etc.). Better components provide better performance and, often, require less maintenance too. Better components will generally also last longer.

One strategy that many people employ is to buy an intermediate-priced bike and then upgrade components as they wear out. Honestly, that’s a pretty reasonable strategy. The only downside is that, for a while at least, you have to live with the lower performance and higher maintenance that comes with less expensive components. If you’re only riding occasionally, the reduced performance might not be a big deal.

Let’s say, however, that you’re looking for a commuter bike and plan to ride to work or school every day. Or you’re setting a goal of riding frequently for fitness. In those cases, I’d strongly recommend that you spend a little more up front so that you’re not making as much of a compromise when it comes to performance. For those type of circumstances, gravitating toward the more expensive bikes recommended here would make a lot of sense. Those bikes are very good quality but still represent an excellent value.

T Minus One Day

T Minus One Day. 365 consecutive days of riding starts tomorrow.

Didn’t get the geared mountain bike ready, didn’t tune my road bike, didn’t finish the first section of my trail.

Forecast for the first week is wet and cold. 🙄 Yay. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Regardless, I’m looking forward to spending more time in the saddle. 🙂

P.S. Happy New Year!

Burn Day

I finally got around to burning some of the slash pile. Got rid of a little less than half of it in three hours. Maybe I can knock out the rest in a 4 or 5 hour session sometime soon.

burning slash

Burning slash, assisted by my dad, Ranger (foreground) and our five sheep (two can be seen behind the truck)


Although the title of this post was primarily intended to refer to the rejuvenation of an old bike, it may also be apropos of my own rejuvenation that should result from riding much more than in recent years. 🙂 As I mentioned in my last trail building post (The First Rides, Part Deux), my attempt to assess the rideability of my trail in the uphill direction was an utter failure since I couldn’t ride a single turn uphill on my singlespeed. So, since it will be good to have a geared mountain bike for my Ride 365 goal anyway, today I started converting my old Merlin XLM back into a geared bike.

For now I’m just going to go with a 1 x 9 drivetrain using parts from an old full-suspension bike that I cracked several years ago (and that my buddies had fondly dubbed the Pumpkin Pig because it was bright orange and ridiculously heavy).

Session 1:

  • Removed the singlespeed chain from the Merlin
  • Removed the singlespeed cog and spacers from the Merlin’s rear hub and installed the 9-speed cassette from the Pig, after fighting to get the cassette off the Pig’s rear wheel for what seemed like half an hour.
  • Installed the Pig’s old 9-speed rear derailleur on the Merlin
  • I couldn’t figure out how to get the shifter cable out of the Pig’s old thumb shifter (I was mostly a Grip Shift guy) so I opened up the thumb shifter and now it’s not working right. 😳

Session 2:

  • Took the thumb shifter apart again, found the problem, and now it’s working again 🙂
  • Installed the Pig’s old 9-speed chain on the Merlin
  • Unfortunately, it appears that my 5-bolt 94 mm BCD Surly stainless steel chainring isn’t quite compatible with a 9-speed chain. Surly’s website says “Our 94bcd … chainrings are made with a 2.2-2.3mm thick stock plate and work best with 5-8 speed chains. Many folks are using these on 9 speed drivetrains but this can often results in a “tight fit” right out of the box (This will loosen up and shifting should improve after the chain breaks in).” However, I’m not sure how I’m supposed break the chain in because the extra chain associated with a derailleur combined with the derailleur spring allows the chain to keep getting sucked up around the chainring. I can see how it would break in if there was no “extra chain” (i.e., singlespeed or internally-geared hub) but that doesn’t help me in the short term. Grrrr.
  • Ordered a new 5-bolt 94 mm BCD chainring that should be compatible with the 9-speed chain but that won’t be here until next week. 🙁

January 5, 2017 update:

Chainring for Merlin arrived a day or two ago and I just got around to trying to install it. Friggin’ thing doesn’t clear the wide part at the base of my old White Industries crank arms. WTF?! Maybe that’s what I get for buying a cheap part. Maybe I’m back to using the Surly chainring and going 8-speed instead of 9-speed. But that means buying a new 8-speed cassette and shifter instead of using the ones from the Pig. Grrr.

So still no geared bike. 🙁

The First Rides, Part Deux

As I indicated near the end of my last trail building post (Pythagoras of Samos), I decided that before I finish hatching a plan for the uphill section I should really ride the first eight turns in both directions to determine if my recently modified turns are truly rideable in both directions and, if so, if the larger radius turns are easier or harder to climb than the smaller radius turns. So, after a few days off, I raked the leaves off the trail (it’s not benched yet, so I need all the traction I can get) and I rode the first eight turns in both directions.

Devastatingly, I couldn’t ride a single turn uphill 🙁  For the last several months I’ve really been spending the vast majority of my free time working on my trail, to the exclusion of riding. So perhaps my fitness is just lacking. Trying to ride up the turns on my singlespeed probably doesn’t help either, although I am primarily a singlespeeder these days and the intent is to have a trail that can be ridden on a singlespeed in either direction. Unfortunately, I don’t currently have a geared mountain bike, although I do have an old Merlin XLM that is currently set up as a singlespeed but that I’ve been planning to convert back to a geared bike for some time now. I guess there’s no time like the present. It will be good to have a geared mountain bike for my Ride 365 goal anyway. Stay tuned for The First Rides, Part  III.

T Minus One Week

T Minus One Week. One week from today the madness begins.

Am I ready? Is my trail ready? No, and no. But being prepared is overrated. I’ll regain my fitness as I go, and having my own trail to ride would be a luxury but is not a necessity. Bring it.

P.S. Merry Christmas! 🙂


Pythagoras of Samos

Even though I’m trying to build a trail that is singlespeed friendly in both directions, I still think of it as a longer “downhill” section followed by a shorter “uphill” section. The downhill has eight turns and the uphill currently only has two. However, as I mentioned in my last two trail building posts (Dialing in the Flow and Eight Out of Ten), I wasn’t very thoughtful when I went about laying out the last couple of (uphill) turns so I knew that I’d probably have to reroute those and quite possibly turn the two turns into three or four.

So this week, after doing a little more tree pruning to clear the trail corridor for the (recently modified) first eight turns and dragging a couple of bundles of branches to the burn pile, I finally started flagging turn #9 (the first “uphill” turn). I obviously had a general area where I thought the center of the turn should be but I was having trouble deciding on both the exact location for the center of the turn and the radius of the turn. A big part of the problem was that I thought the climb might be too much vertical for just two turns, while three turns would leave me going in the wrong direction, and I wasn’t sure I had enough space for four turns.

I wandered back and forth and up and down the slope, trying to avoid the sections still covered in poison oak, while attempting to visualize the best locations for either two or four turns. I finally decided that I probably do need to turn the two uphill turns into four if I can fit four turns on this relatively small hillside. At this point I was frustrated by my lack of progress and I’d more or less used up the available daylight anyway.


Geeking out with Pythagoras of Samos

So, I went inside, poured a beer and started sketching four turns out on paper to see how small a space I could fit them into. One beer led to another and before I knew it I was doing trigonometry and algebra. Apparently the saying is true. Once an engineer, always an engineer. 😉

The next day I flagged out the (very) tentative center of four uphill turns based on the math. However, to make a long story only slightly shorter, I ultimately decided that before I finish flagging out the uphill section I really need to ride the first eight turns several times in both directions to determine if my recently modified turns are truly rideable in both directions and, if so, if the larger radius turns are easier or harder to climb than the smaller radius turns. Damn, all that math for almost nuthin’.

Today, a few days after my detour into math land, I pulled more poison oak in the trail corridor of first eight turns. Now I just need to rake leaves off the trail (it’s not benched yet, so I need all the traction I can get) and then I’ll be able to ride those eight turns in both directions and hatch a plan for the uphill section. Unfortunately, with the holidays and some rain, I feel like I’m starting to fall behind schedule in order to have this section of trail (both downhill and uphill) ready by the first of the year for my Ride 365 goal. 🙁

Preventing Flat Tires

Okay, this post should probably be titled “Minimizing Flat Tires” because, regardless of how many of these tips and tricks you follow, you’re probably still going to get the occasional flat tire. Nonetheless, there are numerous things you can do to significantly reduce the frequency of flats. The primary methods of minimizing flats are through basic tire care and maintaining proper tire pressure (of course), using puncture-resistant tires and tubes, using tire liners, or using tube sealants.

Tire Care and Pressure

Fortunately, tires don’t require much care. However, you should periodically examine your tire tread and sidewalls for excessive wear or damage and replace any tires that are deficient. While you’re examining the tires, also look for and remove any small objects that might be embedded in the tread. Such items can slowly work their way through the tire and eventually cause a puncture even if they don’t cause an immediate flat.

Regarding tire pressure, make sure you’re in the sweet spot. Tires are only rated for a certain pressure range. Over-inflation can not only cause a blow-out which can be extremely dangerous, but tires that are extremely hard are generally also more prone to being punctured. On the other end of the spectrum, under-inflation can lead to pinch flats that occur when you hit a bump (pothole, curb, rock, whatever) and your under-inflated tire compresses all the way to the rim. This creates two small holes in the tube that resembles a snake bite. Therefore, the term “snake bite” is synonymous with pinch flat in the cycling lexicon.

Puncture-resistant Tires and Tubes

There are now a plethora of puncture-resistant tires and tubes on the market. The puncture-resistant tubes are essentially just thicker rubber, but the puncture-resistant tires take things to the next level. Some of these tires just have thicker tread and others incorporate tougher materials such as Kevlar. There are even some tires, such as the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, that incorporate an extra-thick puncture protection belt.

One disadvantage of puncture-resistant tires and tubes is that they are relatively heavy compared to standard tires and tubes, and that can reduce pedaling efficiency. But for non-competitive applications such as commuting, puncture-resistant tires and tubes can be an excellent choice.

Tire Liners

Tire liners are thin strips of plastic that are placed between the tube and the tire in order to significantly reduce the likelihood of punctures from glass, thorns, or other sharp objects. They work pretty well but they add more weight to the wheel than some people care for. But if you live in an area with lots of thorns or broken glass on roads, tire liners could be worthwhile.

Tube Sealants

Sealants are squeezed into the tube through the valve stem, and then the sealant actually plugs punctures as they happen if the hole is relatively small. There are a couple of different kinds of sealant that are designed to work for the different tube types (i.e., Presta or Schrader), so you need to make sure you get the right kind. Depending on the sealant type, a separate injector may also need to be purchased. It’s also possible to buy tubes that come with sealant already installed, but they tend to be a little more expensive than buying tubes and sealant separately, especially if you have several bikes on which you want to use sealant.

Eight out of Ten

Eight out of ten turns modified, that is. 🙂 I’m just plugging away, probably averaging a little more than an hour a day and four or five days per week. Flag a circle, adjust the center and/or radius, rinse and repeat until I’ve got it dialed, rake the trail, and move on to the next turn.

Modified turn

Modified entrance to modified turn (old path can be seen in the foreground)

Another big advantage of making the turns into perfect circles (or parts thereof) is that it will go a long way toward making trail maintenance trivial. For example, in the turn I modified today I had originally made the first part of the turn as a shallower arc (longer radius) and the second part a steeper arc (shorter radius), just because I didn’t measure it out. While it still would have been completely navigable on a mountain bike, even at decent speed, that transition from one part of the turn to the next would have required changing the angle of the front tire obviously, which would have caused some side slip and erosion there, especially considering it’s location in the downhill half of the turn. By making the turns very circular, I should be able to spend my trail building time creating new trails or technical trail features rather than just maintaining the turns. 🙂

As I mentioned in my previous post (Dialing in the Flow), I wasn’t very thoughtful when I went about laying out the last two turns. Therefore it’s possible, if not likely, that the last section will have to be completely rerouted and, in the process, two turns may become three or four, or even more if I (have to) reroute drastically. So 8 out of 10 turns modified may become 8 out of 12, give or take. Regardless, with a little less than three weeks to go before my crazy Ride 365 goal officially gets underway, I’m feeling pretty good about the progress on the trail. However, one downside of that riding goal is that it’ll definitely cut into my trail building time. 🙁