December 2016 - BICYCLING
Stay in Shape and Get Ready for Next Season
By Dave Kraus
It’s a beautiful, sunny afternoon as you pedal down the deserted country road, past fields of flowers with the warm breeze brushing against your bare legs. You have a tailwind, and you think of riding all afternoon just because it’s all so perfect.
Then the alarm goes off. You hit the snooze button, climb out of bed, and squint groggily through the blinds at the street outside. It is pitch dark at 7am, the trees are bare, the thermometer reads 31 degrees . . . and it’s snowing. Sigh.
As Christmas approaches, there may be three months of winter ahead, but there’s still plenty that the avid cyclist can do to get ready for next season and stay in shape over the winter.
When most riders hear “off-season tune-up” they probably think of their bike. But winter is a great time to also get a professional bike fit, says Kenny Boettger, manager at Placid Planet Bicycles in Lake Placid. (placidplanet.com) “It’s a great time to do it because your body can get used to it while you’re riding your trainer. You can adapt your muscles.”
Kenny adds that any kind of continuing joint or muscle pain – not just fatigue – is a good sign that you need a fitting. “If you’re feeling pain, something is wrong.” Placid Planet has three certified fitters on staff, and a one- to two-hour fitting costs $150. Many dealers in the upstate area also offer detailed fitting services.
Winter is also the perfect time to get a head start on a bike tune-up, according to Steve Fairchild, the manager of Grey Ghost Bicycles in Glens Falls. (greyghostbicycles.com) “Bring your bike in now because we’re at our slowest time, so we can get it done, Steve says. “If you bring your bike in the first warm week of April and think you’re going to get it back in two days, then you’re mistaken.”
Grey Ghost will do a total strip down tune-up for $199 plus parts, totally disassembling the bike and then reassembling, replacing anything that’s needed. Grey Ghost and most other shops also have varying degrees of tune-up services at a variety of price points.
Tim Bonnier, owner of Tomhannock Bicycles on Route 7 in Johnsonville, east of Troy, (tomhannockbicycles.com) agrees that a tune-up is vital, but adds that proper bike storage is also a must. Whether in your basement or garage, cover your bike to protect it from condensation. “It’s amazing how much condensation can attach to different parts,” Tim said, who added that garage storage in particular can be a rust producer, with salt and snow covered cars constantly providing fresh moisture.
Kenny also adds that it’s important to transport your bike to the store for a tune-up inside your car. Bring it home on an outside rack and it can get covered with salty water and dirt, undoing everything you just paid for.
For riders who want to get outdoors and are looking for something new, a fat bike can be just the ticket. The bikes with plus-sized, low-pressure tires mated to a mountain bike frame allow riding on soft unstable terrain, such as snow, sand, bogs and mud. The most important thing is dressing right so you’re comfortable.
At Spa City Bicycleworks in Saratoga Springs (spacitybicycleworks.com), owner Tone Ferradino states, “We like fat biking mostly because it’s off-road and in the woods, which is nicer than being on the road – you get your bike wet but not all grimy.” Plus, “Long, slow rides help keep your fitness base and that’s a lot more fun than riding indoors for three hours.”
Rick Chiasson, owner of Rick’s Bike Shop in Glens Falls (ricksbikeshop.com) says that his store has been selling an increasing number of fat bikes to riders who would not normally venture out in the winter. “It extends your season – and some people buy them for their go-to bike. They’re very comfortable, they have crazy amounts of traction, and they’re very stable.”
At High Peaks Cyclery in Lake Placid (highpeakscyclery.com), owners Brian and Karen Delaney offer fat bike rentals and demos, and they’ll guide you to area trails to ride. “Our headlamp night tours have been very popular and we’re offering new fat bike tours,” says Brian.
Tim’s store also sells and rents fat bikes, and he agrees that “it’s a great opportunity to get out there and brave the winter temps. You can get onto the ice, purchase studded tires, and get into the snow and mud. It will allow you to ride in many more scenarios than your normal mountain bike.”
If you’re looking for a way to safely stay in shape indoors over the winter – or for a gift for the avid rider in your life – a stationary trainer offers a way to ride your regular bike without going outside. Most attach to the rear wheel and use the existing tire resting on a roller to add resistance. Types include wind, magnetic and fluid, and the new generation of computer-based devices can add an additional level of challenge.
“It’s a good, safe activity, and you don’t have to struggle as hard to get in shape in the spring,” says Rick, who also recommends buying a trainer-specific rear tire with special rubber that won’t shred under the heat and pressure that a trainer roller can produce. Kenny at Placid Planet agrees that a basic fluid trainer, which generates the least noise, can be a big help in staying in shape over the winter.
Speaking of gifts for cyclists, all six stores consulted for this story have gift certificates in any denomination that will let cyclists choose their own gift, and each manager had their own idea for just the right gift. “Everybody needs a new pair of gloves because they get gross,” said Steve at Grey Ghost. He also recommended a new helmet every five years. “It’s your head – it’s an expensive thing to replace!”
Kenny suggested that “people tend to skimp when they buy their own bike shorts and they will be really grateful for new ones.” Rick suggested that consumables like tires, tubes, degreaser, and chain lube are always appreciated, and Tim observed that every cyclist needs – but usually doesn’t want to buy – a good chain cleaning tool.
Finally, for the novice outdoor winter cyclist, all six pros agreed that layering, lights, and common sense are the winter rider’s best weapons for getting a good workout without paying the price.
Rick pointed out that dressing with a wicking and insulating layer underneath and windproof material over it is vitally important, beyond protecting your extremities. “Keep your trunk warm or else you won’t be able to keep your hands and feet warm.”
Tone adds, “The most important thing is dressing properly for winter rides; if you’re comfortable you can ride any bike.” Spa City offers fat bike rentals and you can demo anything on the floor.
“Traffic doesn’t expect to see you out there, so we strongly recommend bright LED lights both front and back,” Tim said. “Don’t ever ride with any precipitation on the roadway if you have a regular road bike. You also always have to be aware of the additional sand in the intersections, and the salt, and be aware of melting run-off from any snow along the shoulders. Any of those can wreak havoc.”
Steve agreed that drivers can be surprised by riders in bad conditions, and that it’s important to be alert to avoid ice and other hazards, and use the proper equipment such as studded tires to keep a safety margin. “I don’t care if you have the widest tires in the works – if you hit glare ice they don’t work.”
Dave Kraus (email@example.com) of Schenectady is a longtime area cyclist, photographer and writer who desperately wants a fat bike, just in case you are wondering what to get him for Christmas. Visit his website at krausgrafik.com.