Friday, 22 November 2013

Oct 5 Day bike packing tour 7th - 11th , 2013

Oct 5 Day bike packing tour 7th - 11th , 2013, a set on Flickr.

Now that winter has started here its nice to look back when the days were hotter, my last tour for this year into Fukushima and back in fantastic hot weather - Yes you can tour on a single speed 29 inch MTB fully loaded ? 

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Pedals - Flat or SPD ?

Well as a cyclist now for many years I have used a variety of pedals & shoes over the years , some were great others were downright painful. So back in the late 1980s when I started cycling , flat pedals with toe clips were the norm, road bikes had clip in pedal systems but most mountain bikers like myself favored the basic Shimano XT grade pedals or something of similar quality with plastic toe clips and straps. There were not many options in the early days of mountain biking for shoes and at that time there were no Shimano pedal and shoe combinations designed for mountain biking. Riders did fine with toe clips in sneakers or a rugged outdoor type shoe, then suddenly there were options to ride clipped in with a basic MTB shoe and pedal - just like the roadies !. Fast forward to today and there is a massive range of pedals from various makers available , from tiny little pedals e.g Crank Brothers eggbeaters , to lightweight carbon, plastic , titanium etc.

Pictured below are a few photos of pedal systems - these happen to be Shimano products but many makers offer a similar selection in the same style.

Pictured above is the most popular type of pedal system, the pedal tension is adjustable to allow for beginners to clip in easily and you can use either side , but you can only use it with a cycling shoe with the cleat fitting attached to the sole of you shoe.

Another type of pedal offers the rider the choice of either using a cycling shoe with a cleat or regular shoes. The multi purpose pedal - regular shoes to ride to work in and cycling shoes for your weekend rides etc.

The last pedal is the flat pedal, you can use this type of pedal in boots, outdoor sneakers etc and it has plenty of grip thanks to its adjustable pins.

So which type of pedal is best ?, that really depends on the type of riding you regularly do , most racers prefer the SPD type system as it looks your feet securely  to the pedal and are often very lightweight. Some downhill and free ride cyclists prefer a flat pedal as it gives you the option of quickly putting your foot down when needed. Our course your pedal choice dictates what type of shoes you will need to wear. As for shoes well they come in a wide variety of prices, colors and styles. If you have wide feet you will need to hunt out some of the companies that offer a wide fitting cycle shoe , not that many options but you can find them. Also spd type shoes with cleats attached are not very comfortable off the bike as they are designed manly just for cycling not walking, but recently some makers are improving shoes so that you can walk around comfortably as well. Now if you use flat pedals like myself you have a vast array of options from sneakers, purpose outdoor shoes with super grippy soles these type of shoes are basically a hiking shoe, built tough, maybe made of goretex with hard wearing soles. Just buy a pair that you are comfortable walking around in, my current cycle footwear is a pair of North Face goretex trail running shoes . Fantastic at keeping your feet dry on a daily commute and grippy enough even in wet weather.

Pictured above is a typical pair of cycle shoes with two velcro straps and a ratchet type strap and holes in the base of the sole to attach your cleat system to lock into your shoes. 

The above shoe is actually marketed towards rock climbers or hikers looking for a solid approach shoe, it is made of leather and rubber with a wide foot bed and a vibram sole. This type of shoe works well with a flat platform type pedal and offers the rider greater comfort on and off the bike. 

So folks there it is the basic over view of pedal and shoe types , think about what type of cycling you like to do and go to your nearest bicycle shop and try on a variety of shoes and check out the pedal selection available . If for any reason you want to use flat pedals once again visit your local bike shop as flat pedals also come in a wide variety of prices, at present I am using a flat pedal from the BMX brand Odyssey the model of the pedal is called the twisted PC and for a cheap plastic pedal these are very well made and not expensive to replace if worn out. As for shoes for flat pedals go visit your nearest sports shop or outdoor store and find something that is comfortable for walking as it will be fine for cycling as well. 

Happy Cycling    

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Cycle Mode 2013

Well I know its a bit late , but my part time staff member Brian & I attended the bicycle trade show held on the 2nd, 3rd & 4th of Nov . The show is called Cycle Mode and is held at the huge Makuhari Messe event center which by train is one stop past Disney Land , We both took off early on the 2nd of Nov on a bullet train bound for Tokyo station and then transferred to another line out to Makuhari to the event center. I do not bother to go to this trade show every year, as yearly there are not so many changes to be seen in the industry but every two years I feel its worthwhile attending to check out new products and innovations that may be of interest to our shop.  On arriving in Tokyo we were lucky enough to spot the new bullet train due to depart on the same platform which is pictured below.

Cycle Mode itself was split into two main halls with the first hall mainly covering road bicycle brands from Europe and accessories related to either road cycling or triathlon. Most of the big names were there showing of the latest in carbon fiber lightweight bicycles and by mid afternoon the area was packed with people test riding their dream bike on the large indoor circuit. Unfortunately I was far too busy meeting with our suppliers and checking out new models that I did not have time for any test rides , but I did take a lot of photos instead.

The other hall contained some of the brands I sell such as Surly, Salsa and Kona so it was nice to be able to check out their range , photograph some of the more popular models and speak to my sales reps re when particular models would arrive in Japan for sale. As once the bicycle companies update their websites with the photos and sometimes the prices of the 2014 models I often get people coming into the shop asking when they will be available for sale. Some of the new 2014 models are already on the shop floor , but others will not arrive until early 2014 . And as Niigata is usually covered in snow and low temps until late April often some of the more popular models are either sold out or there is low stock. Many riders in Niigata do not think about buying a new bike until May at the earliest when they should be buying it as soon as it comes on sale and storing it until the winter is finished. For people living on the other side of Japan can cycle all year round due to the lack of snow. 

As I am a Surly & more recently a Salsa dealer we can now obtain a fantastic selection of fat bikes from both makers either in chromoly , Alloy , titanium or now even carbon fiber !. Niigata is the perfect place for fat bikes as we get a lot of snow and already this year I have sold quite a few to local riders looking for a winter challenge. As for me I really love the Salsa El Mariachi with its sliding drop outs, which makes it a fantastic fully geared 29 or a very capable single speed. I thought I might have seen more fat bikes and bike packing equipment , but I guess that will take a bit longer to catch on here compared to say the USA where it is very popular.  

Monday, 4 November 2013

Gear review - Outdoor research Reveal Jacket

Well after tonight's ride home in  torrential rain and a pretty awesome lightening show , I thought I would write a review on my recently acquired Outdoor research Reveal jacket. Being an all season cyclist it means I ride the 8kms into work in all manner of weather , heavy rain, snow, wind you name it and Niigata City gets it and rain is one thing we get a lot of so I need to carry a good water proof jacket everyday. After my Ground Effect storm trooper jacket started leaking as it was almost 3 years old, by the way that is also an awesome water proof jacket from the gang at Ground Effect who are based in Christchurch , New Zealand . So I decided to try another brand and this time it was Outdoor Research, the USA based company has been around for a long time and they know how to turn out good quality gear at affordable prices. Below is a picture of the jacket taken from the Outdoor Research website.

The jacket pictured above is identical to mine and will keep you 100% dry even in heavy rain as was proved this evening whilst riding home from work. It can be packed down quite small by stuffing the jacket into the left hand pocket and the two front side pockets are handy for holding smaller items you need to get easily. e.g keys, wallet and a phone. The hood fits under a bicycle helmet fine and neck area is lined with a fine fleece. One great feature of this jacket is the full length side vents so you can easily adjust it to suit almost any weather. This is advertised as both a cycling and hiking jacket and works really well. It does not have the traditional style whale tail of many cycling jackets but is long enough whilst bent over cycling. In all its a great jacket for the price and is available in a wide variety of colors and sizes.