The holidays are here – let’s talk nutrition!

As the holidays approach, there is one thing that we are all thinking about – nutrition. More specifically, we want to know how to maintain the great results we had from a summer of exciting cycling adventures!

As some of you know, I regularly attend Fit Body Boot Camp in Burbank, California. In addition to getting a great workout, the owner provides fantastic nutritional advice. Here is a link to his article on quitting junk food. Let me know what you think.

Choosing the Right Recumbent

So you’ve finally decided to start looking at recumbents. Perhaps your back or neck hurt when you ride, or you are tired of numb hands and groin while cycling. You might have been recommended to us from your chiropractor due to overall back issues or you are concerned about your balance as you get a little older. Whatever the reason, a recumbent is a great way to get all of the benefits of cycling without the pain. Unfortunately, choosing the right one can be a somewhat challenging task.

We’ve put this series of articles together to help the new rider make an informed decision before purchasing. First, though, we have a couple of recommendations:

  • Nothing beats a test ride. You can look at specifications on-line, you can talk to other owners, but ultimately each recumbent fits a bit differently and you should try to test a few different models before making a decision.
  • There are no recumbents that do everything well. Just as you would not expect your beach cruiser to double as a touring bike, your ultra-fast sport recumbent is probably not going to be your best commuter bike.
  • Buy from a recumbent specialist. What do we mean by this? Any shop can order a “recumbent” from Sun Bicycles and call themselves a recumbent shop. We recommend that you go to a shop that carries a minimum of 2-3 brands of recumbents and has a history in the recumbent industry. These bikes are definitely specialized and you will appreciate a shop that knows how to work on them and make sure they are set up correctly.
  • If there are no local shops available, be willing to travel. If you are going to invest thousands of dollars in your purchase, don’t you owe it to yourself to  make sure you are getting the right bike? Our shop is located a few miles from Bob Hope Airport in Los Angeles and there are a few different hotels in the area that we can recommend. Make a weekend out of it and spend some time exploring Los Angeles!

So let’s start by exploring the different kinds of recumbents available.

Short Wheelbase Recumbents

Two HP Velotechnik Grasshoppers cruising the river

Short wheelbase recumbents are more compact and easier to transport than other recumbents. They easily fit on most traditional bicycle racks, and are shorter for transporting inside a vehicle. Like all bikes, they come in a variety of types. Are you looking for the ultimate touring bike with full suspension and the ability to carry cargo? Look no further than an HP Velotechnik Streetmachine GTe or Grasshopper Fx. Are you looking for a sporty road bike capable of knocking out a club century ride with the A group? A Bacchetta Carbon Aero 3.0, Corsa or Carbent HPV Raven may be in your future. Do you really just want to cruise around in comfort to enjoy the local bike paths and beach? The Bacchetta Giro or Barcroft Ti Virginia is the perfect bike for you.

Boarding the train for an Alaskan adventure!

Long Wheelbase Recumbents

Pamela’s Bella, courtesy of the Bacchetta Blog

Long wheelbase recumbents are less popular than their short wheelbase brethren, but it isn’t due to comfort. The Bacchetta Bella cruises in style with a lower seat and pedal position for easy starts and stops. Unfortunately, they are more difficult to transport due to their size.

Trikes

Trikes are the most popular choice in recumbents. Ease-of-use and stability are cited as the most common reasons that customers gravitate towards them. Like other types of recumbents, there are trikes for every style of riding. If you are looking for a folding trike that is easier to transport, ICE, HP Velotechnik, Terratrike and Catrike all produce fantastic trikes that fold up to fit in the back of your SUV or truck. For sport riding, the Catrike 700 and ICE VTX are fast and comfortable. Are you really just looking forward to relaxing rides along the beach? The Catrike Villager, Sun EcoTad,  and Terratrike Rambler  or Gran Tourismo provide exceptional riding and value. 

So now it’s up to you. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a private, one-on-one appointment, give us a call! Let us help you build your dream bike.

Everything you needed to know about hardshell seats. Part 1

Almost every week I know I can count on two things: Someone is going to ask me about seat sizing and I will see a rider on a hardshell seat that is too small for them.

Fit on a hardshell seat is a very personal preference. Most performance riders love the feel of a fully supportive seat behind them. If you are one of them, then read on! This article is for you.

There are a variety of seats on the market today. We build our own Carbent HPV seats in-house and they are based on the Velokraft seats of old. Bacchetta supplies a seat that has the same shape but slightly different sizing. HP Velotechnik’s BodyLink seat is the only adjustable hardshell seat on the market. Finally, ICE makes a beautiful seat designed specifically for trike use.

Inside the Airpro Seat – day 1 from ICE Trikes on Vimeo.

(The process we use to build our seats in-house is almost identical, but we vacuum bag the pieces to get rid of excess epoxy.)

In terms of fitting, the general guideline is that when the pad is on the seat, the top of the seat should sit right at the base of your neck. Note, the seat pad needs to be installed. So, changing your seat pad can also change the fitting of your seat. For example, if you are ordering a Carbent HPV seat and plan on using the basic foam pad, we will suggest a seat size that is one size larger than if you are using a Ventisit pad.

Bacchetta seats are approximately 1/2 size smaller than the Carbent HPV seats, and are available in medium and large. The Carbent HPV seats are available in medium, large and extra large. So, between the two brands, we can supply five lengths of seats in half-sizes.

The ICE seat has a similar size to the Carbent HPV seat, but in has built-in wings to provide lateral support for trike riders. Unfortunately, the ICE seat will not work on other brands as some of their mounting hardware is built into the seat and is not removeable.

The beauty of the BodyLink seat is that it is adjustable. So, one size fits 95% of the riders out there! The BodyLink seat uses three supporting points that are built into the HP Velotechnik seat. It may work on other bikes, but we haven’t tried to know for sure.

Recumbent Cycle Con 2017

If you haven’t heard, Recumbent Cycle Con will be happening next weekend in Philadelphia. I will be attending to check out the latest and greatest in the recumbent industry. If you are attending and would like to meet up, please let me know. It is still unclear what the final list of exhibitors will look like, but I am looking forward to connecting with the folks from HP Velotechnik, ICE, AZUB, Terratrike, Bacchetta, ATOC, Bentrideronline and the Laid Back Bike Report (this will be my first time meeting Gary in person!).

I’m also looking forward to exploring Philadelphia a bit as I’ve never been there.

Electric Assist Trikes in the Recumbent World, Part I

My first experience with electric assist was somewhat of an epiphany. At the Recumbent Cycle-Con in Pomona, California in 2013, HP Velotechnik was showing their new Scorpion FS26 S-Pedelec. This trike has a fully-integrated 500w electric assist system by GoSwiss Drive built into the bike. I was ambivalent – I have two legs that work quite well – why would I need electric assist? Then I took it for a spin!

That trike came back to the shop with me. The switch had been flipped in my head and I realized that e-assist didn’t mean you wouldn’t get a workout, it just meant you could go farther and faster. I spent the next year putting 1100 miles on that trike in a variety of settings and loved every mile of it!

At Bent Up Cycles, we now offer three different e-assist systems to meet the needs of all different types of customers. Shown is the Scorpion FS26 S-Pedelec, a Catrike 559 with an Ecospeed kit, and an HP Velotechnik Gekko with a Falco system. I would like to spend the next three posts highlighting each of them and then end with a wrap-up comparison of all three.

Before I do, I think it is important for people to understand how e-assist systems work. The biggest question we get is “how many miles can it go?” The best article I have read on this subject makes Watts, Amps, and Voltage really easy to understand. Ultimately, nobody can tell you how far you will go because the human engine and terrain will differ with every rider. But understanding the basic math behind each system can give you valuable data in making your choice.

The HP Velotechnik Scorpion FS26 S-Pedelec is built on the chassis of the Scorpion FS26, the most popular trike made by the company. It incorporates a GoSwiss Drive rear hub motor with a 500W, BMZ 36v Li-Ion 558Wh battery, controller with a color display and easy-to-use controls, a USB port for charging small devices, front and rear lights and regenerative braking. A second battery can be purchased and it easily mounts on the left side of the bike. On their current 2nd generation system, the battery does not need to be moved when changing batteries – you can easily reach under the seat, disconnect the cable from one battery and connect it to the other.

The ride of this trike is sublime – the full suspension soaks up all of the bumps, the seat is exceptionally comfortable and available in five different varieties, and the build-quality and component specifications are exceptional.

I rode this trike everywhere! With five levels of assist, it could provide just a touch of assistance at level one to a full-throttle sports-car feel at level five! The hub has some drag to it, so you will want to always run it at level one to make up for this drag. In level five, I had no problem accelerating and maintaining the top speed of about 28mph. This trike allows you to become traffic, and it needs to be ridden accordingly.

The trike had no problem climbing hills and I frequently rode it to meetings knowing that I would not show up all sweaty. The only downside I found was the linked front brakes and large rear wheel did not handle technical descents on bad roads well. The large wheel skipped around when hitting repeated bumps, and I couldn’t modulate the brakes well in turns because they were linked. In fact, I had to take my left hand off the brake lever to ensure that I did not hit the rear brake, causing an accident. Due to German law, the trike is not available with independent front brakes, but we frequently swap out the brakes for Shimano XT (but you lose the brake light).

We have been an HP Velotechnik dealer for 13 years. Anyone who knows me knows that I love their bikes and trikes! So I am delighted that they were the first company to turn me on to the e-assist trike world with another wonderful product!

WHAT’S IN YOUR TOOL KIT?

Everyone on the internet wants to tell you what you
should include in your tool kit.  From chain
breakers to spoke tools, they will have you loaded down with enough tools and
gear to start your own repair shop. Unless you know how to use all of those
tools, however, or even whether they are useful on your particular bike, you’re
going to wind up with a ton of dead weight. Literally. There are a few things
everyone should consider when amassing their kit:

LENGTH OF
YOUR RIDE

Depending on the length of your ride and the locale in
which you’re riding it, you may or may not need a buncha stuff in your would-be
tool kit.  The tools needed on a commute
through an urban area will vary drastically from the tools needed on a
long-distance rural tour.  If I get a
flat on my way to Target or on my way to work, I’d much rather grab a bus or
train and continue my journey than sit on a curb along a busy roadway sweating
and swearing while fixing the flat. This means that I don’t carry an extra
tube, pump and whatever other “essential” tools around with me at all times
while I run errands.  If I’m going out
for a leisure ride on a Sunday morning, however, I will most certainly bring
and tube and pump so I can keep on keepin’ on.
            Touring
is a whole different beast altogether. Depending on where you’re riding, you
may not see a bike shop or even a gas station with air for a hundred or more
miles at a time.  This means that you
will need to be prepared for anything.  Spokes
break.  Inevitably, it will always be a
drive-side spoke that breaks and you will have to remove your cassette to gain
access to the spoke holes.  This problem/procedure
alone requires a slew of parts and tools that you would never ever bother to
carry in your day-to-day zipping around.

KNOW YOUR
BIKE, KNOW YOUR TOOLS

So you’ve done your research and your shopping and
have a kickass and appropriate kit for the riding you do.  You read the reviews, you compared features
and prices, and you spent the extra money to get the good stuff, but can you
use it? A beautiful high-polished Lezyne pump won’t do you an ounce of good (or
a pound of pressure for that matter) if you haven’t learned the difference
between a “presta” and “schrader” valve. Practice with your new tools in the
safety of your own driveway or living room. 
Don’t be afraid to ask your local bike shop how to use the stuff they’re
selling you.  If you’re just a little
rusty, you can count on YouTube to have a tutorial for just about anything you
can think of.  Still not sure? Shoot me
an email or give me a call. Really.
Getting a flat is a real bummer.  Standing on the bike path waving your
pump/chainbreaker/arms around, waiting for a Good Samaritan to pull over and
help you is an even bigger bummer.  One
of the best feelings, other than the wind in your (helmeted) hair, is the
feeling of successfully navigating a technical problemo and getting back on
your bike and back on the road.

UNCOMMON TOOLS
For the most part, bikes are all pretty similar. Almost
everyone should carry a patch kit and a multi-tool.  For those of us with uncommon or
unconventional bikes, there may be some specific tools that you’ll need but generally
won’t be part of most people’s kits.  I
have a travel bike with S&S couplers, for example. To loosen or tighten
them, a special spanner is required.  This
is a tool that I would never expect anyone else to carry, but is pretty
essential to my bike.  Older American bikes
may not always use metric or hex fasteners. 
This means that the rider may want to add couple of odd-ball things to
their loadout. With carbon fiber and/or high-end bikes, it may be imperative to
make sure something is tightened to a specific torque value.  Torque wrenches are available in preset values
and are fairly inexpensive.  I have a Thomson
stem on my travel bike (which is occasionally taken apart) that specifies a
torque value of 5 newton meters, so I carry a 5Nm Torque Key for just that
purpose.

Charging your S-Pedelec batteries

We frequently get questions about charging and battery life of the GoSwiss systems on the HP Velotechnik bikes and trikes. To help with your questions, here is the latest information I have received from HP Velotechnik:

In terms of warantee, GoSwiss guarantees you will get at least 500 cycles to a 70% remainder of original capacity. Cycles are always calculated using full charging cycles.

Partial charging can cause problems with the battery and may cause the system to loose capacity at an unusually high rate. Fortunately, there is an easy fix – run the battery down to the point where it
shuts down while driving. At this point, using the lights is no good and actually
somewhat dangerous as the remaining charge then really is at the limit
before the (battery) system shuts down.
 

Once the battery has gone into safe sleep mode it should be charged
without interruption for at least 6 – 8 hours once. That actually is
called a learning cycle and should restore full capacity. If it doesn’t
do it straight away, it may take a second charge with the battery being
awakened (as it ALWAYS should) by quickly pushing the test button before
attaching the charging plug (note, this refers to the newer batteries that require the wake up if left unused for a week or more).
 

Top up trickle charging is something many people tend to do supposedly
“to be on the safe side” in regard to range. But they are killing their
batteries that way. Actually running it down until it shuts off is
healthy and necessary from time to time. It is a pedelec system after
all, i.e. can be purely pedal driven as well.

If you are concerned about your system, please take your trike to your local HP Velotechnik dealer for a diagnostic check. First generation S-Pedelec systems require a special cable to run the software (your dealer may or may not have it). the second generation system uses a male/male USB plug.

Smoothies and integrity

It’s been awhile since I posted anything here, and I thought I would take things in a different direction as I return to writing.

I had an interesting experience yesterday. I was finishing up a ride in the 95 degree heat and thought I would stop at a relatively new smoothie shop on my route for a refreshing, cold snack. While tasty, the shop was very expensive…I posted my thoughts on Yelp and got a response from the owner:

“Dana,

Thanks for the review. Our smoothies and juices are prepared and
produced with the highest integrity. We use raw, organic all natural
produce, spring water (rather than purified tap), and glass bottles (as
opposed to plastic). We constantly work on efforts to pass along savings
to our customers. Check out our deals/coupons on our
website/social media.

Please come back in, and before ordering we would be happy to serve you
up some samples on us to make sure you purchase a product you can enjoy.
Thanks again”

My immediate thought was “this is a bunch of marketing BS…how do you prepare a smoothie with integrity? Is there anything other than all-natural produce?”  I shared my thoughts with him, and we proceeded to have a nice conversation small-business-owner to small-business-owner. As we spoke, it slowly emerged in my mind that perhaps my customers don’t know what I mean when I say I run a business with integrity.  I am now going to spell it out:

For me, running a business with integrity comes down to four essential values.  The first is how do you treat your employees.  From day one, my staff have always been paid a liveable wage, with paid vacation, holidays and sick time.  What is liveable, though? According to Federal standards, the poverty line for a family of four is $23,850.  I don’t need to read any studies,though, to know that someone needs significantly more than that to live alone in Los Angeles, let alone raise a family of four! Several sources suggest that $40,000 is the minimum amount that a family needs to pay modest rent and be able to eat. So, rather than focusing on how little I can pay my staff, I have done some research to find out the cost of living for someone in Los Angeles, and make sure that my lowest paid staff are making more than this.

Integrity also includes where we source our materials. In the manufacturing chain, it can be pretty difficult to determine where everything is coming from, but if at all possible, we source from local manufacturers.  Our in-house bags are made in Santa Barbara, our tubes for Carbent are made in Utah, and many of our accessories are made by small manufacturers on the West Coast.

For all of us here, integrity has to do with how we treat our environment. We all ride our bikes to work. There are no paper cups here…yes, washing dishes is more tedious but wouldn’t you rather have your fresh cup of coffee in a real coffee cup? Customers enjoy the fresh fruit we have for snacking on – it comes from local farmers and is seasonal and organic.  We use cloth towels instead of paper towels.  Finally, our trash company ensures us that they separate recyclables when they collect the garbage.

Lastly, integrity is defined by how we do our daily work. We believe that the final product you receive should be perfect in every way. We use torque wrenches when working on your bike and don’t count on parts being assembled correctly from the manufacturer, we have redundant systems in place to make sure that your bike or trike is set up correctly before you pick it up. Yes, sometimes we make mistakes, but rather than try to hide them, we accept that we are not perfect and do what we can to make things right. Finally, we hope that you leave here feeling appreciated. All of the above is meaningless unless you enjoy coming here and keep coming back!

Wine and Waves 400k

I was really looking forward to this adventure!  I rode this course back in 2011 and thoroughly enjoyed it.  In fact, reading over my blog post from that ride, it felt like I had almost the same ride this year, but without the knee pain.  After the first 80 miles of climbing, the course is incredibly recumbent-friendly with great winds and rolling terrain.

I drove up to SLO early on Friday to deliver a trike and have dinner with my wife’s aunt and uncle.  Stu and Janie are very active with the SLO Bicycle Club and were busy getting ready to help with the Wildflower Century the next day.  We enjoyed catching up and yakking, and I took off early to get to bed.

The ride started at 6am and 11 of us immediately started climbing the Cuesta Grade, a 1200 foot, 5ish mile climb out of SLO.  I was the second-to-last rider to the top…take it easy, we still have 240 miles to go…  The ride through Atascadero, Templeton, Paso Robles to San Miguel was just as good as always.  I enjoyed catching up a bit with Nicole and learning about her new training business, the scenery was fantastic…it was a great start to the morning.

I don’t get up to Paso Robles much, but when I do, I love to ride through the wineries in the hills to the west.  Chimney Rock Road is wonderful and the climbing just didn’t seem that difficult this time around.  It was warming up and pretty soon I was down to shorts and jersey.

Here, I start to rain praises on our wonderful ride coordinator, Vicky, but then get quickly distracted.  You can see what my true priorities are…

It warmed up a bit as I hit Highway 46, but with only about 8 miles to ride to the coast, it was bearable.  The descent off the top of the 46 was rather uneventful.  In fact, it seemed like the wind was trying to push me back up the mountain!  Soon enough, I arrived in an overcast Cambria.  There were now only three riders ahead of me and I took about 20 minutes to get some food and apply more sunscreen.

Nicole and Rob left about 10 minutes ahead of me, but I fully expected to catch them on the 22 mile stretch to Ragged Point.  The headwind can get pretty fierce, and it’s really important to keep your mind occupied on anything but the wind.  About five miles out of Ragged Point, I caught Nicole and Rob.  As I rode by, I called out “Just think about the killer tailwind on the way back!”  Rob responded, “I tend to be rather pessimistic when it comes to winds…”  “Oh, come on, Rob!  Then think about sex!”  At which point, Nicole interjected, “I tend to be rather pessimistic when it comes to sex…”  I almost fell off my bike laughing and smiled for the next few miles as we climbed into Ragged Point for a snack.

The ride back from Ragged Point to Cambria was fast.  What took two hours in one direction took a hair over an hour in the other.  Sweet!  Rather than stopping in Cambria, I continued on down Hwy 1 toward Cayucos and ultimately SLO.

(a side note, it was really nice doing this course in late April rather than early March as it was still light out when I arrived at the dinner control at mile 174)

I should have read my 2011 report before starting the ride, because I over-ate, again, at the dinner stop.  I bid a fond farewell to Vicky.  She rolled her eyes in disbelief when I told her I would be back in about six hours…  For an hour or so, while heading down to Guadelupe, I was definitely overstuffed and sleepy.  By the time I got to Santa Maria, though, I was back to my perky self.  At this point, there was only one rider, Steve, ahead of me.  I drank a hot chocolate and filled a water bottle with Coke and headed off into the streets at 10:45 on a Saturday night.  With all the partiers cruising Main Street, I couldn’t get out of town quick enough!

Bull Canyon was a fast climb and the route continued along for six miles until the wonderful five mile descent back down into Avila Beach.  Woo hoo!  At this point, I was hours ahead of my time from 2011 and feeling great.  As I started up the gentle climb towards Orcutt Road, I saw Steve (who else would be lit up like a Christmas tree on a bike on the side of the road after midnight?).  As I passed him, I decided to make it stick.

The plan…two miles to the steep section at the Orcutt Rd. turnoff.  I can easily hold him off until then.  Even if he catches me on the climb, there is no way he will keep up with me on the 12 mile descent back into SLO.

Steve catches me at the turn as we have to stop to read the info control sign posted there.  We start the short, steep climb.  He gets a little ahead of me, but I stay with him.  We start bombing down the other side and I easily roll away from him.  BUMP, clatter, clatter,clatter…just lost my tail light to a pot hole!  Steve passes me as I stop to grab my back up.

When randonneuring, it is really important that you keep your bags organized.  When it is cold and dark on a lonely road somewhere, that last thing you want to do is have to dig through your bags (with gloves on) looking for a tail light that seems to have disappeared in the mass of clothing and food.  Fortunately, I knew exactly which pouch contained the back up, and spent more time trying to attach it (with gloves on and no light) then actually finding it.

I worked my way down the descent and finally caught and passed Steve for the last time about five miles from the finish.  I cruised in with a finish time of 19:26, and much to my own disbelief, finished the last 75 mile loop in well under six hours.  Another great 400k on the books!