Department Store vs. Bike Shop


Department Store vs. Bike Shop

You see the deals all the time... A kids' bike for $75, an adult mountain bike for $150, a Fat Bike for $200?! The Department Store bike prices seem too good to be true.

If you are looking for a bike that will work properly, not fall apart, not need a ton of maintenance, and fit you properly, that Department Store bike really is too good to be true.

Why you should avoid Department Store Bicycles:


  • Assembly

    • Department Store Bikes are not assembled properly

      • Unlike Bike Shops, Department Stores do not have a Bicycle Mechanic/Bike Specialist assembling bicycles and putting them through a safety checkover with proper tools

    • Brakes are one of the most common parts of department store bikes to be improperly assembled


  • Department store bikes are not built to last. Estimates on the life of department store bikes is about a year (if you are lucky) - and this short lifespan isn’t because “kids are rough on their bikes.” Cheap parts and improper assembly mean a bike will not handle the stress of being used.

  • Bicycles from Bike Shops can, quite possibly, last a lifetime. The extensive research and technology that goes into making a bike industry bicycle is done because these companies want to make bikes that will last, be safe, be fun, and so you can have the best ride possible.


  • Many Bike Shops offer the chance to trade in bicycles for a new size bike (handy for growing kids) or for a new bike upgrade

    • Try to bring a Department Store bike in for Trade-in, and a bike shop will not take it

  • Department Store bikes are not priced cheaply because it's a bigger store that is selling them. Why are they priced so low?

    • These bikes are made from cheap materials and come with cheap parts


  • There is no “one size fits all” bicycle.

    • Department store bikes come in this “one size fits all” status - or their size is based off of the size of the wheel rather than the size of the bike.

      • All humans are not the same size. Shoes are not “one size fits all,” so why would bikes be that way?

      • An adult bicycle should not be sized based off of the diameter of the wheel. Just because the bike looks like it has big wheels does not mean that the frame of the bicycle is the proper size for you

    • Ex: A Specialized Rockhopper (sold at Rocktown Bicycles) is available in 5 Sizes: XS, S, M, L, & XL

      • The wheel size stays the same - 29”

      • There are 5 sizes to accomodate for the fact that human size is variable

Ride quality

  • If you have never had the chance to check out a Bike Shop, we encourage you to do so. We are sure you will be quite surprised by how different a Bike Shop bicycle will feel from a Department Store bike.

    • A Bike Shop will size you to the bike that works for you, this alone will make your ride feel better

    • A Bike Shop bicycle is made of much more quality material, and is specifically designed for the task you want it to do (commute, road ride, mountain bike, etc.)

      • These bikes will feel so much smoother and comfortable than any department store bike out there

What is a 'Bike Brand' Bicycle?

  • Any bicycle sold at a dedicated/specialty bike shop

    • Department stores do not sell the same line of bikes that bike shops carry


Whatever your reason may be for riding a bicycle, whether it be a commute or a Sunday ride in the park, a safe, properly functioning, and dependable bike is what you should have. 


Cold Weather Gear


Cold Weather Gear

The cooler temps are here, which can sometimes lead to confusion about what to wear for your next ride. Here are some helpful tips to keep you from getting too cold or too hot next time you roll out the door!



Road bike Geometry, "Endurance" vs. "Race" and Ride Impressions and Preferences

We ride a lot of different bikes in the shop world: our personal fleet (which seems to always be changing), test ride bikes at demo events, and customer bikes after a repair. There are different sizes, fit characteristics, and handling. Even in a category defined as 'road' we have endurance, race, gravel, cx race, touring, light touring, and some others (singlespeed cross' anyone?).

I want to cut through the fit differences and what makes bikes handle differently, as well as some key points I think are very important to overall ride enjoyment.

Lately, endurance road bikes have been so very popular. Due to some more favorable handling characteristics, better ride quality on our variable surfaces, and geometry that works, or is set up for what most folks would prefer, we see a lot of this type of bike today. The flip-side to that is that pretty much any bike in the correct size for the rider, can be set up in the position that the rider prefers. So even though we see bikes on the shop floor that may be more comfortable by default to most folks, they can still be set up more aggressively for the rider looking for that position, but perhaps wanting the handling, vibration absorbing properties, or tire clearance of the endurance model.

Kelly doodle :)

To clarify what we're talking about I want to describe the two most important numbers to bike fit, stack and reach. Stack is the distance from the front axle to the lowest point that a stem (the part that holds on the handlebar) can sit and determines the front end height of the bike. Reach is the distance horizontally from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of the headtube (see illustration). This determines the distance from where the rider is sitting to the handlebar. The reason reach is a much better number to use than top tube length, or horizontal top tube length, is because it is based off of the distance that the rider is offset from the crank, no matter what the seat tube angle.

The stack height is important because it sets the range in which the handlebar height can be easily adjusted. Sometimes people can think that it isn't possible to get a Roubaix or Diverge handlebar low enough, or a Tarmac handlebar high enough, even though they like the ride characteristics of that particular bike. This is not the case at all. These bikes can be set to accommodate most riders, as long as they are on the correct size frame, which is why it is really important to have a bike fit properly!

The driving forces for how a particular bike handles are a little more complicated than stack and reach, but I will cover the basics. The headtube/steering tube angle, fork offset, and chainstay length all contribute to the handling, with an honorable mention to reach again. The chainstay is the tube that connects the bottom bracket and rear axle on the frame (see illustration). For a while chainstays had been growing in length, especially when the 29er mountain bikes were new to the scene. To fit the larger wheel and tire, manufacturers were lengthening the chainstays and making the headtubes steeper to make up for the sluggish handling the early 29ers exhibited. As companies were finding value in creating shorter stays, they were able to decrease the steering angle again and create stable, yet snappy bikes. Reach comes into play is when a longer top tube is employed in conjunction with a shorter stem. This will make the handling snappier, yet still have the same headtube angle, which is handy for keeping the wheelbase as short as possible (so you can steer around things well). Fork offset is a little more complicated. Fork offset is the distance that the hub axle is offset from the center of the steering axis. Small changes here can make huge differences in the bike's demeanor. Some companies also use this to eek out a bit more foot clearance for small riders. More offset will decrease the 'trail' of the bike and less offset will increase trail. This changes how the bike reacts to your steering input. It can be similarly altered with headtube angle, but offset will change how the steering feels as you turn the handlebar more.

I use mountain bikes as examples as they have seen the biggest changes lately, but gravel bikes have evolved from the cyclocross bikes we were all using in the past to get road bikes with increased tire clearance. The cyclocross bikes weren't bad for most of our purposes, but they also had higher bottom brackets, different steering angles, fork offset, and stack heights than most riders would want, along with longer chainstays. Many gravel bikes now have road geometry with massive tire clearance, which is more fun on out pavement, gravel, and forest roads!

All of these differences may seem overwhelming, but it ends up being a good thing with all of the choices we have today, as riders can get the exact bike they want, instead of endlessly trying to make another style suit their purpose. We love talking about all of the possibilities and differences with folks everyday, so please stop by if you want to learn more!



My Favorite Sport of the Fall Season


My Favorite Sport of the Fall Season

I competed in my first cyclocross race on a whim. In December of 2013, Chris mentioned that this event called Capital Cross was happening just outside of DC, and that even though I didn't own a cyclocross bike, I could do it on my mountain bike. I was super stoked to try something new.

My first CX race was quite snowy!

A few days before the race, it became obvious that a snow storm was heading our way. But the race was still going on, and so long as the roads weren't shut down, I was going!

Many, many inches of snow fell as we made our way up to Reston, arriving at the venue with only 25 minutes to spare until my start time!

I was a bit nervous when I noticed I was the only woman there on a mountain bike, but that all disappeared once we started. It was clear, given the weather, the ground conditions, and the layout of the course, that having a mountain bike was an advantage for the day. What was also awesome about being on the mountain bike was how many more people were cheering for me, because of my bike. People were shouting, "YEAH, mountain biker!" I was hooked.

The heckling and cheering at cyclocross races is awesome. I think it's one of the things that I like most about these events.

Cyclocross courses are short; I think the longest course I've ever been on was just 1.8 miles. You ride laps on this course for a certain allotment of time, and within the course are obstacles you can jump over with your bike, or hop off your bike and run over. With the race area being so small (relatively), you end up with a ton of people being able to cheer on racers almost everywhere on the course. "Heckling" is more about fun creative cheering than anything else. Everyone on the sidelines is so amped, and there's so much energy, and sometimes there are costumes, or beer handups (for the age appropriate) or snack hand-ups....

Cyclocross is a species of its own in the cycling event world, and I love it. I love the varied terrain, ride in the mud no matter what, pedal as hard as you can for an hour race scene.

Cyclocross is also one of the most welcoming race atmospheres I've ever been a part of. I think it's played a huge part in increasing the number of women that ride bikes and race, and I think it's helped cycling communities and groups band together to put on a good time in their home town. I know that's been the goal for the Rocktown Cyclocross Festival that we've put on the last few years. Come have fun, race, heckle, and hang out with a bunch of friends that ride bikes! The Rocktown Cyclocross Festival will be September 17th, this year. I know registration is up, and more details will be announced as we get closer to race date. I hope to see you all out there!

- Kelly

All smiles at Rocktown CX 2015 :)


2017 Stumpjumper FSR Pro Carbon


2017 Stumpjumper FSR Pro Carbon


I guess I've technically been mountain biking for 5 years now. Looking back at where I started to where I am now in ability level sometimes astounds me and fills me with pride, and other times it frustrates me; I've felt like I should be better than I am.
A lot of this has come down to confidence. The mountain bike I started on in 2012, and the bikes I've been riding in the years after that did not necessarily encourage my more cautious trailside demeanor to try bigger moves and faster speeds.

This past August, not owning a mountain bike at the time, I was borrowing one of the shop's mountain bikes with only a bit of travel; preparing myself to use this in the Shenandoah Mountain 100. One day, while out on the trails, my frustration with the combination of my riding style and the bike's riding style came to a head.

In that moment, I decided: "I am not riding this in the 100."

Thus, the 2017 Stumpjumper FSR Pro Carbon 29 entered my life. I think my second ride on this bike was actually the SM100. Let's just say this bike is so fast, it really surprised me how quickly I was going down the mountains, without even trying. It felt like my riding had gone to 11.


Our shop always keeps one in stock as a demo bike. Over the summer, it was available for me to ride on a day I decided to poach a stage at the always awesome Tour de Burg. We rode Death Star and Pond Knob. Both awesome descents. Both with climbing to reach each trail head. The Stumpjumper FSR performs well in climbing and descending. The riding here is technical both up and down; a bike that does well in both categories, and does not weigh a ton, is pretty much a requirement for overall enjoyment.

A lot of people I interact with here in the shop are usually surprised to hear that our bike of choice is the Stumpjumper FSR. It has 150mm travel in the front and 135mm in the back; specs that would normally make a person wary of using it for an all-purpose mountain bike. But, Specialized has made the geometry of this bike so that its travel doesn't get in the way of performance. I have yet to find a bike that feels as efficient and fun as the Stumpjumper FSR for the trails here.

My Pro Carbon Stumpy came stock with an Ohlins STX single tube air shock. This shock features high and low speed compression adjustment as well as the traditional low speed rebound adjust. It also has an extra-volume reservoir, resulting in more control and plushness.

This shock feels AMAZING. The STX is very tunable to the rider that will be using it; adjustment is available in high and low speed compression, as well as rebound.

The shock also utilizes the "autosag" that is seen on other Specialized mountain bikes. Autosag makes achieving proper air pressure in the shock a breeze. Below, you'll find a small description of the Ohlins shock that will go into more detail.

This bike also comes stock with a Rock Shox Pike (a great fork). But, with what we had heard about the collaboration of Specialized and Ohlins in creating a new mtb fork, Chris thought I should maybe change out the stock fork. So when we put the order through for my bike, we put one other item on the order - an Ohlins RXF 34 29er Fork.

The RXF "was designed to be the gold standard in front-end suspension." My own personal impression? It's pretty golden. Rolling through rocks, drops, and any type of terrain thrown my way, this fork feels smooth as butter.

Having both Ohlins front and back suspension on the Stumpjumper is incredible. With all of its available tuning adjustments this bike feels like it was made specificaly for me.


Illustration by Kelly

The RXF 34 and 36 Shocks are unique in that they have a completely new damper setup. The TTX damper in this fork is a twin tube design. This allows the rider to make adjustments to low and high speed compression independently from rebound adjustment. Thus, less air pressure is needed in the system, which also means the overall feel of the suspension is smoother, and the seals will last longer.

Low speed compression adjusts how the bike will feel when pedaling over small bumps and/or uphill. The low speed dial is the blue dial on top of the high speed compression dial. There are 5 clicks of adjustment here.

High speed compression comes into play for bigger, faster hits. It has 3 clicks of adjustment with the last click basically locking the fork out. This is the black dial that sits on top of the fork, directly under the blue low speed compression dial.

Rebound Adjusmtent is the gold dial found on the bottom of the fork. There are 25 clicks of adjustment, allowing for quite a broad range in damping. This is nice because it is an adjustment that can be very finely tuned to the rider.

Illustration by Kelly

The RXF 34 and 36 use a 3 Chamber Air Spring. It is an enclosed system with a Main Chamber, a Negative Chamber, and a Ramp-up Chamber. Air is pumped into the Main Chamber and the Ramp-up Chamber with pressure based on rider weight. The Ramp-up Chamber is found on the bottom of the fork, opposite the rebound adjust dial.

The Ramp-up Chamber is also a unique feature from Ohlins. It takes the place of spacer tokens that other forks utilize to change the spring compression curve - giving the rider infinite adjustment, and a suspension that is perfectly tuned to them.

One of my favorite specs of these forks is the One-piece Steer Crown Unit. In this unit there is no press-fit between the crown and steer tube, and it has a built in crown race. This eliminates any possibility of creaking and increases stiffness in the unit, offering a much improved riding experience. Ohlins claims it's 34mm chassis meets or exceeds other companies (ahem Rockshox) 35mm platforms and is on par with other's 36mm setups. It's difficult to objectivly quantify this outside of a lab, but I haven't ridden any fork that feels as smooth under load.


Illustration by: Kelly

The Ohlins STX22 Air Shock offers the same performance as Ohlins' TTX Downhill Shock, minus the coil spring. This saves weight - the TTX weighs 450g plus the Spring, where the STX22 weighs in at 390g. This is the first time Ohlins has created an airsprung damper for mountain bikes. When Specialized and Ohlins started their shock collaboration, Ohlins brought its damper expertise and Specialized brought its AutoSag system to the project.

To set up the shock air pressure, use the schrader valve on the right side of the shock to pump it up to 250psi, make sure the lockout or high speed compression is all the way open (soft), press the autosag valve on the left side (while rider is sitting on bike), and cycle the shock twice. The AutoSag system should put the shock at the perfect air pressure based off of the rider's weight. Then adjust compression and rebound accordingly.

The STX22 has Low Speed Rebound, Low Speed Compression, and High Speed Compression adjustments available to the rider. The Low Speed Compression (9 clicks) is the blue dial found on top of the black High Speed Compression dial (3 clicks). Low Speed Rebound (6 clicks) is the gold dial found towards the back of the shock.

The shock is able have either a progressive compression curve or a linear compression curve based on the number of volume reducers used by the rider. 


The Stumpjumper FSR is an trail-eating machine.

It is FUN! I race on it, I take it to the bike park, and I joyride it on every trail available. It does everything I could want a bike to do.

Our overall goal, when figuring out what bike is best for an individual, is based off of, "What do you like to do, and what do you hope to do?" My hope, when getting the Stumpy was that it would help me gain confidence on the trails. It's done that, tenfold. This bike feels unstoppable and I feel pretty close to invincible.

Kelly's Stumpjumper FSR Pro Carbon 29 Setup:

  • Frame: Fact 11 Carbon front and rear triangles
  • Drivetrain: SRAM X1 Eagle
  • Cassette: SRAM XG-1295, 12speed 10-50t
  • Brakes: SRAM Guide RS; 200mm rotor front, 180mm rotor back
  • Handlebar: Specialized Trail 25mm rise, 750mm, ESI Pink Chunky grips
  • Seatpost: Command Post IRcc, 12 position micro-height adjustable
  • Wheels: Stan's NoTubes Arch MK3
  • Tires: Ground Control 2.3 Front, Renegade 2.3 Rear
  • Fork: Ohlins RXF 34 29er

Some of My favorite Rides on this bike

*All Ohlins illustrations are by Kelly.*



Wheel Thoughts, Evaluations.

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Wheel Thoughts, Evaluations.

We spend a lot of time at the shop discussing wheel choices, and trying to find the best combinations of a rim, spokes, and hubs for riders other than ourselves as well. 

Wheels are often much more than the sum of their parts. Knowing how a particular hub builds to a rim model, how equal the tension ends up being on both sides of the wheel, as well as how stiff the wheel feels are important factors. The other factors (still important) being dent resistance, hub engagement, hub service life, weight, spoke strength (both in building and abrasion resistance when contacting nature directly) parts availability, and the ability to adapt to newer standards all come into play. 

At the shop, we usually talk with a customer for some time to figure out what they want and need out of their wheels, and build from there. I have a strong preference towards DT Swiss, as their parts just work, and speaking with them in Colorado is always an enlightening and fun time. 

Luckily for us, Specialized builds many of their wheels around DT Swiss hubs, or DT hub internals. My favorite type of pre-built wheelset is one that uses hub drillings that aren't impossible to find, regular spokes, (straight pull or j-bend) steel, with a 1.8 or 2.0 threaded end), and a 2:1 lacing ratio or some other way of keeping the drive and non-drive tensions equal or close to it.

The 2:1 style of lacing is very effective because most wheels today have what is called dish. Dish is another way of describing the hub offset compared to the rim. This is because of disc brakes and the freehub body. To create a dishless wheel our hubs would have to be considerably wider than would make sense with modern bike geometries. What a 2:1 pattern does is put 2 spokes on the driveside to 1 on the non-driveside. Because the driveside spokes are shorter, they often hold much more of the load than the non-drive. What we then end up with is a 32 spoke wheel in which the 16 driveside spokes are supporting much more than the 16 non-drive spokes. One way to get around this is to shorten the non-drive spokes and use fewer of them, thus creating a wheel with 24 or 28 spokes that has a much more evenly distributed load.

Another helpful way to do this is to use a hub with offset flanges, or asymmetrical flanges, and a rim with asymmetrical drilling. These are all ways to use fewer spokes, or get more strength out of the build. Some hubs are notoriously uneven tension builds (older Powertap and current Shimano road hubs come to mind).

Wheels get most of their strength from the rim itself, with the spokes playing a supporting role. If one builds a wheel with a flimsy rim and heavy, strong spokes it will hold up for a time, but the spokes will fail more quickly, and the rim will dent and bend more easily than a comparably weighted wheelset with lighter spokes and a heavier rim. This is due to the Fatigue Limit of the components. Steel (and titanium) spokes for example, can withstand a theoretically infinite number of cycles if the cycle is kept under a certain deflection or amplitude. Every wheel flexes as it rolls with a rider, and is subject to additional forces when the rider pedals or turns the bicycle. If the wheel is under-built for the application, the spokes will be subject to far more deflection and will result in breaking of the spokes; often many break within a few hundred miles of each other because they have all reached their fatigue limit at relatively the same time.

We see similar failures with aluminum spokes, but often much sooner as aluminum spokes lack the elasticity and fatigue life of steel and titanium spokes. The aluminum alloys used in spokes will fail eventually no matter how little deflection they come under, and the lifespan shortens as the deflection becomes greater, as seen with a detensioned wheel or a wheel that is under-built for the use. Aluminum has benefits as well, though, and forged aluminum spokes can also help with reliability, helping to create a stiff, strong spoke. Both aluminum and titanium, great materials for so many applications on the bike and beyond, are less than ideal for spokes because of the nature of wheels. Steel and carbon make great spoke materials with the latter not being used much due to cost and complexity. Titanium alloys generally have a lower stiffness and the fatigue limitation of aluminum alloys create issues as well.

There is a lot more that I won't go into here about how heat treating, forging, and shaping processes greatly affect how these materials are used to achieve very specific component specific goals, but that would be a huge article in itself.

It's interesting to see how different riders test the limits of their wheels too. Some people manage to hit spokes a lot, resulting in failure due to abrasion from rocks and such. Some dent the rims from running low pressure, others ride through (all the mud water?) a lot of water and mud with the result of hub bearings needing frequent attention.

So along with my preferences:

DT 350 hubs- These things use the Star Ratchet design, have the best sealing of any hub I've ever used (same for any other DT) standard beaings, build well tensioned wheels, are available in like 100 different types, and they are light too! The one drawback is that DT is still putting Star Ratchet in them with 20 degree engagement, which isn't what most riders want nowadays. The good news is 10 degree and 6.7 degree upgrade kits are available for $100

DT Rims- Good tubeless bead, asymmetrical offerings, welded offerings (stronger than other methods of construction) and many different widths. Quality control has always been good.

WTB Rims- Good tubeless bead, asymmetrical offerings, great choices for Harrisonburg riding and great pricing. Quality Control has always been good.

Stan's No Tubes Rims- Lacking in Quality Control in years past, the new, welded rims seem to have bumped up Stan's game big time. Prices are close to the DT options so difficult decision with the Stan's.

Spokes and nipples: This is pretty open as DT, Sapim, and Wheelsmith make some great stuff. Options include sweet anodized nipples and ones that make it easier to true the wheel.

The 2 wheelsets we've been really liking lately are the Roval Traverse, which come stock on many of our bikes and are a $600 set. They use a less expensive DT hub internal with 15 degree engagement, and easily convertible parts. 30mm internal rim width, and DT revolution straight pull spokes built with a 2:1 front and equal tension rear design. It's a light trail wheelset that we've had a lot of success with. Some folks have broken spokes from abrasion but that's to be expected and will happen with most spokes if they encounter those types of impact.

The other is our demo wheelsets (we have them in boost and non-boost). The boost set is currently on our Stumpjumper FSR demo bike. These have DT 350 74 point (6.7 degree engagement) and carbon 30mm internal rims. They are really stiff, and really light at 1,550g. 

Compared to the Control SL wheels on my Epic the Traverse SL are 7mm wider and noticeably stiffer. It is difficult to discern whether stiffness comes from the rim being wider and better supporting the tire, or just a beefier build; but they feel great. The resins used in the Traverse and Control carbon wheels are also more impact resistant over the Control SL rim. Not that I've had any issues with some hard hits on the Control SL, but it gives an extra piece of mind for folks.

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Attending United Bicycle Institute


Attending United Bicycle Institute

This past Fall, I had the opportunity to apply for a Women's Mechanic Scholarship presented by Quality Bicycle Parts (QBP) and supported through other various sponsors. The Mechanic Scholarship was for a women's only 10 day class on Professional Mechanic Repair and Shop Operation at United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, Oregon. In early January, I found out I had been chosen as one of sixteen women to attend the class!

I began my journey to Oregon early; the day before we started class. Three flights in a row will leave a person feeling quite tired, so I was stoked that most of the other women attending the class were already at the hostel we were staying in and were kind enough to share some food (and wine) when I showed up.

Each day of class provided a new topic to learn and work with in hands-on scenarios. Our first 5 days were as follows:

  1. Measuring Tools, Torque, & Wheel Components
  2. Wheel Building & Wheel repair (this was may favorite day of all of the classes)
  3. Repair Stands, Tires & Tubes, Bottom Brackets, & Cranks
  4. Chainrings, Chains, Freehubs, Freewheels, Cassettes, & Gearing
  5. Derailleurs, Shift Levers, Cables, & Housing

Click on the pictures below to see what the first half of my week at UBI was like!

Within the 10 days of classes, we had a weekend between the first 5 and second 5 days to do some exploring. That Saturday, QBP covered the cost of mountain bike rentals for those of us that wanted to hit the trails (14 out of the 16 joined in on that!!!). What an awesome time that was! A lot of the women had never been on a mountain ride before. It was so much fun riding with them and seeing the excitement factor go up as they experienced a new way to ride bikes. The trails were great! I had been itching so hard to get out and ride, and this day did not disappoint. That night we were treated to a dinner at a local brewery with two employees of QBP and the UBI staff.

I enjoyed those trails so much that on Sunday I did a 10mile run up that same mountain and back down the trails.

After an awesome weekend getting to play outside all day, my brain was reset and ready to take on more bike information! The second set of 5 days of classes went as such:

6. Rim Brakes

7. Hydraulic Brakes & Suspension Service

8. Headsets & Frame Construction

9. Bike Overhaul Day

10. Shop Operation & Written Test

My favorite day of this week was Hydraulic Brakes and Suspension Service day. We were lucky enough to have guest instructor, Sara Jarrell, from SRAM, teach us an Avid brake bleed and Rock Shox suspension service. It was great to hear about her time in the bike industry and her experience with SRAM. 

The last two days were for our "final exams". Thursday was completing a bike overhaul, which started with completely disassembling and cleaning the bike, and then putting it back together with proper grease, torque spec, cable routing, etc.

The last day was a written exam on all of the information we had learned in the last 9 days. It was fairly intense and not so much about having that information memorized, but knowing how to use your resources (that your shop usually has) to solve a bike mechanic issue. I don't know if I passed this test, yet. I will hopefully find out in the next week or so.

After we were all finished, it was amazing to realize all that we had learned and accomplished in just 10 days. The experience as a whole showed me how big the bicycle world is. I met and worked with talented, strong, independent women from all over the country. Thanks to them, our two instructors, everyone at UBI, and QBP, I am returning to my position here at Rocktown with newfound ability and confidence. 


Gravelocity 2017: New roads, great gravel, awesome people

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Gravelocity 2017: New roads, great gravel, awesome people

Yesterday I ventured down to Roanoke for a grassroots event: Gravelocity. According to their Facebook page, "This event is the brainchild of endurance athlete Brian Lang, and each route was expertly hand crafted by Kyle Inman and Jeff Cheng."

There were three route options to choose from:

As I really was not feeling like getting up in the dark only to be darked on while on the bike (the 94 mile loop recommended lights for riding in the dark), I opted for the 50 mile route, which started at a nice normal time of 10am. This route was also said to include 1,804m (5,918ft) of climbing. Many awesome dirt roads, amazing climbs and descents were promised, and I was looking forward to riding somewhere new.

Just after our first big climb up to the Parkway (around 20miles into the ride) a large group of us hung out for some snacking and socializing. It was then that Jeff asked me if I'd like to take part in a "bonus loop." I said, "Yes!" of course. So we spent a little extra time riding north on the parkway in order to drop into another valley by way of AWESOME gravels before rejoining the course to once again climb gnarly dirt up to the Parkway and head to the finish

View from the Blue Ridge Parkway

I don't think my bike set up could have been any better for this ride. I ran my lovely blueberry Crux Pro with a 1.8 Sworks Renegade in the front and one of the new Specilaized 42c Sawtooth tires on the back. These tires ripped through the gravel so well! On one of the gravel descents (in the bonus loop portion of the ride), I hit over 43mph, without trying. The bike just handled so well and the tires gave the confidence necessary to lay off the brakes and get a little dirty in the switchbacks. You can click through the gallery below to get a closer look at my set up. Gearing was 50/34 up front and 11-28 in the back. PSI in the front tire was 50, and 60 in the back. Tires can be set up tubeless, I was just lazy and didn't feel like doing the setup for it. Haha.

Having fun going up the first climb

I would say that gravel/dirt roads made up 75-80% of this ride, and they were absolutely AMAZING! Some would call those roads "messed up," but that only ups the fun factor. The challenges of handling technical terrain were not only limited to the climbing portions, but also applied to descending. In fact, some of the descents were gnarlier than the climbs. The biggest climbs of the day were forest access roads that lead up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. They were bumpy, wet, loose, and steep in a lot of places. If you've ridden the Big Bear Loop, just outside of Harrisonburg here, I would compare the terrain of the last descent from the Parkway to the ridge portion of Long Run Rd in that loop. It was sick! Total mileage was 63.1 with 6,989ft of elevation.

I'm really happy I ventured down there to take part in this ride. Everyone was in good spirits, and the roads only got bettered as the mileage increased. I definitely recommend joining in one of these rides if you ever get the chance.


Here's a link to a virtual tour of the ride by

And here's a link to view my ride on STRAVA

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First ride in H-burg! 2017 Roubaix Expert UDi2


First ride in H-burg! 2017 Roubaix Expert UDi2

Rider and reviewer: Wes

For frame of reference, I've ridden, trained, and raced two different Specialized Tarmacs over a period of 4 years (I was on a Scott Addict and a Trek Madone prior to that). I've also been on a Specialized Diverge Comp over the last year (ridden concurrently with my Tarmac).

Photo by: Wes

Initial Impressions:
When the pavement is perfect, the new Roubaix rides just like a Tarmac. The rougher the roads become, the more the Roubaix shows its powers. You'll see a rough section coming and prepare yourself as you would on a regular road bike, but then you hit that section and it's smooth as butter.
The Future Shock works. No, you will not notice bobbing unless you are intentionally playing with it. You'll only notice it doing its job.
The new Roubaix is lighter and stiffer with better power transfer and responsiveness than the previous Roubaix models. In the men's model, the head tube matches that of the Tarmac. The ride is perfect. The longer you ride, the more it shines. It is a Rider First frame, just like the Tarmac.
As compared to riding the Tarmac, in terms of smoothness, suspension, and control: 25c tires feel like 28s, 28c tires feel like 32s, and 32c tires feel like... I don't know because I haven't tried them, yet. There's (officially) room for 32c tires and maybe a bit more in actuality. So you get the perks of the next size tire up without whatever penalty in rotational weight there may be.
There is no equal to this bike in the offerings from the other major manufacturers. Specialized nailed this rig. It's like the Tarmac and the Diverge had a baby, so I've sold the Diverge, and I'm selling the Tarmac... And I'll be left with one bike to rule them all.

Photos by: Kelly


Roval CLX 32 Wheelset Long Term Review/Alpine Loop Grand Fondo


Roval CLX 32 Wheelset Long Term Review/Alpine Loop Grand Fondo

A few months ago, just before the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, our first of the 2017 road demo wheelsets arrived. Having had the Fondo in my sights for some time I was excited to get some super light wheels in to ride over all the hills. My current wheelset was something I built myself with some parts available. It is a 1430g set of aluminum rims, and some run of the mill hubs that are nice, but I notice some flexing when I lay a bit more into them. 

The CLX 32 wheels in comparison, were slightly lighter, at 1340g for the set, but weight was the smallest difference that I noticed. The 32mm deep wheels have a wide shape to them with an internal rim width of 21.7mm. My alloy wheels are much narrower at 16mm. These wheels were claiming to be more aero than the previous Specialized race wheels, the CLX 40, which are deeper (and weigh more). Having been the first wheelset to my knowledge that has been fully developed in the Win Tunnel, the expectations were high.

After mounting my 24mm Turbo Cotton tires up, I got out on them and did some big rides. It was apparent immediately that the wheels were faster. It's so difficult to discern where speed is coming from. The wheels are lighter, and much stiffer, with a great tire profile, but I would say the aerodynamics were the most noticeable upgrade from my alloy wheels. Up above 20mph are where they really feel much faster. 

This was all before I mounted the 26c Turbo Cotton tires up. Wanting wider tires, especially for the Fondo, where one of the timed sections is incredibly rough, and knowing that these wheels were actually designed to be fastest with 26c tires, my well worn 24c Cotton tires were replaced with their 26c brethren. I use Vittoria latex tubes. They are proven to roll faster in addition to smoother. Latex tubes are a bit more expensive and require pumping every ride, but I haven't had more flats with them. I threw the 26s on the bike a few days out from the Fondo and only had a few short rides on them, but what a difference 2mm makes. They were significantly smoother and had me super stoked for Sunday.

The Fondo itself went great. With three climbs timed, 11,000 feet of climbing overall, and 107 miles of sweet riding in Virginia and West Virginia, it was sublime. Having ran an aid station for the previous 3 years I hadn't actually ever done the Fondo. What a stellar event.

Riding with Kelly, Ryan, Jeremiah, and a few other friends during the day was super fun. The scenery back in West Virginia is so good, especially around when the Fondo happens. If you haven't done this ride yet, or one of the other loops offered, you owe it to yourself to do it. The full Alpine Loop ride is worth the extra training miles!

I know that equipment is only part of our sport, but it is a big part. I ended up taking the overall KOM competition this year, I think I got Jeremiah by 9 seconds or so! I've continued to put miles on the CLX wheels (now I have 32c tubeless Roubaix tires on them) and have yet to have a problem. We are also waiting on the disc version of these wheels to come in for demo. Look for them on our new Roubaix demo bike!



Cross is Boss


Cross is Boss

Ryan and I traveled to Richmond Sunday to race the VCU Cross race at City Stadium. I have raced VCU cross for several years and despite the non-typical venue, I have always enjoyed the race. Only cyclocross can re-purpose a historic football stadium into a fun course filled with concrete, gravel and grass.

After a week off to recover from a cold, I was not sure what to expect, but I had a good start and slotted in directly behind friend/rival Jimmy Deaton for a couple of laps. I took over for a few laps and Jimmy and I worked through lapped traffic and built up a good lead. My plan was to lead the final lap forcing Jimmy to come around me, but an untimely slide out had us swap positions heading into the final lap. It took a lot of effort to hang on, but we hit the finish stretch together with Jimmy leading. I was hoping to have the legs to contest the sprint, but with my heart rate pegged, I was not able to respond for the final sprint. All in all, I am happy for second and motivated to try again next week to finally make it on the top step this year.

No trip to City Stadium would be complete without the 3 block ride over to the heart of Carrytown. Carrytown is a very cool section of Richmond that is filled with dozens of great shops and restaurants. Ryan and I had a great gyro from Greek on Cary and spent some time checking out a fellow Specialized dealer, Carrytown Bicycles.

If cross racing looks like fun, stop in the shop ask us some questions. We would love to help get you to your first race.





Massanutten Bike Park!


Massanutten Bike Park!

This past Sunday, I was given the opportunity for a "last-hoorah" day of riding at the brand new Massanutten Mountain Bike Park. As I hadn't been able to get out to it since the park opened in July, I was super stoked to hit these trails!

All of the advanced trails are accessed by lifts to the top of the mountain. It was quite enjoyable in almost 80 degree weather with sunny skies and the leaves peaking to their best color!

Views from the lift

Being new to the downhill park scene, I took my time down the first few runs of both Creamy and Crunchy. There are 4 advanced trails there right now; World Cup and All or Nutten are definitely the higher-tech trails, while Creamy and Crunchy give the options of jumping or working on super tight 180-berms with a few rocky sections scattered throughout. I opted out of doing the other two trails for the day as I was feeling a bit rusty (pretty much hadn't touched my mountain bike since the Shenandoah Mountain 100) and didn't feel like risking injury. I was also having a blast just working on improving each of my runs down those 2 trails!

Ryan and Adam both joined for the day, and we also got to ride with Lindsey (she works at the park) for a bit. It was awesome to see so many people we knew from town or other bike events out there! One woman who was visiting the resort to see the beautiful leaves even asked, "Why are there so many bikers?! Are you all part of a club or something?" This interaction was taking place while we were passing each other on the lift, so my only response could be "Yeah! We're part of this bike coalition in Harrisonburg!" 

View from the very tippy-top of Massanutten

The energy throughout the day was happy and chill. I never felt pressure to push myself into anything I would be super uncomfortable with, but also felt comfortable enough to push my usual boundaries. By the end of the day, catching air and speeding down the trails and through those tight berms was less scary and more fun.

We were there ALL day. By 4:15pm Ryan and I called it quits. Our quads were tired and our index fingers/hands were starting to give out on us. With 9 runs in for us and 11 runs for Adam, I would definitely called it a successful day. It was also great to test out how my new Stumpjumper Pro Carbon 29 would perform on park trails - oh my gosh this bike was a party!

The bike park season is closing now, so it was nice to be able to finish it off on such a beautiful day. I'm already looking forward to when it opens next year! Can't wait to get that season pass! :)