10 Reasons Fall Bicycle Riding is Sweeter than Christmas Morning

Riding a bicycle in the Fall (or Autumn to some) is probably one of the best, if not the best, time to ride. Disagree? Well, let me give you 10 reasons Fall bicycle riding is sweeter than Christmas morning. Yes, it truly is. In no particular order of course.

  1. It’s not so freaking hot! Really. If you live in Ohio, summers can be sweltering. Ask my quads about how they like to lock up in intersections forcing me to stutter pedal just so I can fall down in the grass.
  2. The changing of the colors of the leaves. It’s cliche, I know. Countless calendars have been made on the subject. Children have destroyed hours of hard labor by parents trying to tidy up the yard. But it’s amazing to look at.
  3. Pumpkin spice foods and beverages. This is more of a personal thing, but I look forward to having pumpkin in everything. Makes the post-ride nosh kinda one flavor only.
  4. Cyclocross. Crossin’ bikes, enough said.
  5. Slower pace. At least for most. Racing season is mostly over (except for us crazy ‘cross kids), so it’s time to relax. Enjoy that ride and turn off or remove that Garmin!
  6. Kids are in school. You can go ride while their minds are filled with knowledge.
  7. Bike sales. A lot of shops are getting the new models, so some have sales this time of year. Just don’t tell the significant other how much you paid. Leave no paper trail.
  8. Halloween. There is nothing more fun than dressing up in a costume and riding a bike. Check out the local ‘cross race, or start your own ride. Plus, you need to burn off all that sugar anyway.
  9. Gravel grinding. For some reason, this is seen as a Fall thing. Not sure why. But it’s another excuse to get another bike.
  10. It’s fun! I mean, it’s riding a bike. Duh.

 

The Minimization of the Bicycle Mechanic

“You make it look easy,” I hear it all the time in the shop. It’s right up there with “It costs that much to fix that?!” That last remark is usually accompanied by an incredulous look. I for one, am tired of the minimization of the bicycle mechanic.

Yes, I do make it look easy, the same way a mathematician makes solving a complex equation look easy. That ease comes with years of experience. In my case 20 some-odd years of experience. Despite my young looks, I have been doing this a long time. I can do most repairs with my eyes closed (and if you watch me, I sometimes tune a rear derailleur without looking at it, just using my ears). I’ll admit, fixing a bike isn’t hard,¬†when you know how. Why do people forget that? I don’t attempt to fix space rockets, cars, or brain tumors. But put a bicycle in my hands, and with my experience, I will make it work. Experience counts for a lot, and experience is what I have. I’m glad customers think I am some magical human being capable of whispering to bicycles and curing their ails, but in reality, I have just been slinging¬†wrenches for a very long time.

So why question the price? Oh yeah, because it is “just a bicycle.” Look at that last paragraph again and read how many years of experience I have. Read it again. One more time so that it is etched in your brain. Two decades if you’re still unsure. I have fixed more bikes of all types than you can possibly imagine. There is a bike encyclopedia in my head. That is what you are paying for. Granted, you go to some shops and there is a mechanic who has been working on bikes for two months and still has a hard time getting an inner tube out of the cardboard box prison it’s stuck in, but some mechanics have been doing this a long time. You are paying for my expertise, and the fact that the odds are I will get your bike fixed. I don’t get all bikes fixed. There are still some things that defy all bike normalcies, but I do get most of them.

Bicycle mechanics aren’t all college flunkies, or high school kids who like to ride. Some of us take pride in our work. I take so much pride that I try to make sure that my shop operates at a professional level, worthy of the skills that my mechanics and I possess. If you’ve had a bad experience at a bicycle service center, shop around. There is bound to be a shop with a mechanic who has been doing this a long time. Don’t be afraid to ask for that guy/gal. As for the surly mechanics, well, there’s not much I can do about that.

 

Back on the Riding Horse, Which Happens to be a Surly Pugsley

Surly Pugsley

I’ve long considered a fat bike. The first time I rode one, I couldn’t stop smiling. The last time I was grinning this stupidly, I was probably 10 years old. As I grew older, bicycles became a more serious affair. Sure, I laughed and had fun, but to smile uncontrollably on a bicycle was rare. As of late, a neck problem has put a serious damper on my riding, making it not only uncomfortable, but not very much fun. I was offered a trade for my Litespeed L3, so I took it after convincing my wife it was a good idea. So now, I am back on the riding horse in the form of a Grassy Green Surly Pugsley.

The original idea was to sell the Litespeed and buy a proper mountain bike. As per my personality, I researched the crap out of mountain bikes. The shop I work at sells Giants and Felts, so I was trying to decide between 27.5″ and 29ers. I settled on 27.5″ full suspension from Giant, the Trance to be more specific. Riding one just harkens back to my downhill days. I was watching all sorts of videos on enduro racing. I thought I knew what I wanted, and my course was set. Then the neck pain started to happen.

I usually get upper back/neck pain early in the season when I have been off the bike for a while. But this was a pain that prevented me from turning my head to the right, and kept me from being able to lift my head up to look ahead. Not a good thing when commuting or just riding on the road in groups. I thought the race geometry of the Litespeed didn’t help, hence the decision to sell. Then I rode the cyclocross bikes, and the same thing happened, though the pain took a little longer to manifest, and went away quicker post-ride. I figured an upright mountain bike was the solution.

Enter the Pugsley. I have always loved fat bikes since building up a Fatback fat bike for a customer and riding it through the snow. I couldn’t get anyone to purchase the Litespeed. A buddy of mine, who is a die hard roadie, had a Surly Pugsley chilling in his garage. He offered a trade. After a snub from the wife. I rode the CX bikes several more times before I had to ask her for the okay on the trade due to the neck pain. I made the trade, and promptly rode to and from work the next day. 40 miles total. Neck was a little sore during the ride, but I was also wearing a backpack. However, I could still turn my head to the right. Post-ride, the soreness subsided far more quicker than after riding my drop bar bicycles.

Being comfortable on the bike is paramount. Riding a bicycle should be an enjoyable affair. The Surly Pugsley has brought back that enjoyment as well as a smile to my face.