Latest news, thoughts and other musings
Latest news, reviews, thoughts and other musings
Here is where you will read about new product reviews, industry news and other things we are involved with in the Tucson cycling community.
How important is it to support your local bike ride?
Living in Tucson we are spoiled with the amazing weather and bike infrastructure we can enjoy pretty much 365 days a year. There are numerous clubs and teams in town who put on organized and unofficial rides most days of the week. The biggest ride of course is the El Tour de Tucson each November. Going into it’s 4oth year, El tour is one of the largest organized cycling events in the country. Some however, question why they should pay to ride roads they can ride any day they want. The answer is not as simple as you might think.
Organized rides have come and gone in our area. Tour of the Tucson Mountains, Ride for the Children, Tour de Cure, M.S. 150, Tour de Mesa, Tour de Scottsdale and probably a few others. El Tour de Tucson almost did not survive, but that was more of an operational issue than anything. Back in 1982 El Tour started as both a Perimeter cycling event, and a charity ride. Since its inception, local charities have raised over $110 million dollars through El Tour. But that is not where the impact ends.
It is estimated that cycling has an overall impact of $80 plus million dollars annually on the Tucson economy. People come from all over to ride our roads and events, stay in hotels, eat at local restaurants, buy souvenirs and so on. But again the impact does not end there. With recent changes to the route for El Tour, the county has invested millions of dollars to improve and repair roads that are used by the event. Roads that were in desperate need of repair, but not slated until several years down the line.
The popularity of cycling helped Pima county move forward with the Loop system of trails. Over 135 miles of multi-use path. An infrastructure named the top trail system in the country 2 years in a row by USA Today. The muti-use designation means it is not just for cycling. You will find runners, walkers, dog walkers, sometimes horse riders, roller skaters and families enjoying the ability to be away from cars.
As mentioned previously, El Tour has raised over $110 million for charities. Last year alone, it was between 5 and 6 million locally. There are many charities that use El tour as a main fundraising campaign, or as a marketing campaign to make the community aware of their mission. By adding in a 5K run this year, even more people can help raise funds for every non-profit that is participating.
2 years ago, El Tour and Tucson Bikes for Change started raising funds to provide bikes to children who are underserved in our communities. That year 50 bikes and helmets were given away. In 2022, 560 bikes, helmets and locks were given out and for 2023 the number looks to be well over 1,500 bikes, helmets, lights and locks to be given away. For many of the recipients it will be their first bike ever! By working with the Boys and Girls clubs of Southern Arizona, Save our City and other religious organizations El tour, and everyone who donates will be making a huge impact on our community.
You see, it is not really about the ride or race if that is how you view it. It is about the impact the event has on our community. It is a celebration of Tucson, of one of our largest draws. Along with the Loop, this year El Tour was named the number 1 cycling road event in the country by USA Today. Expectations are that there will be more than the 7000 riders who participated last year. There are many famous cyclists who come to participate in the event because it really is that good.
So the next time someone says, it’s too expensive to ride, or it’s really not worth it, look beyond the miles on the bike. Look at what a single event has done for the community. Look at how much more can be achieved by simply supporting one of the oldest and best cycling events in the country.
There are of course ways to participate without riding. You can make a donation to someone’s charity of choice. You can donate to the bikes for change initiative. You can help put bikes together to be distributed, or you can volunteer to help during El Tour.
It is hard to imagine what would happen if an event like El Tour went away, what negative impact it would have on the community now and in the future. So when someone asks why they should participate in a local cycling event, remind them that the event is more than what it seems on the surface.
Tips to beat the summer heat.
It feels like it has taken a long time for the heat to show up but now that it is here, relatively speaking, we would like to remind you how to stay safe.
Hopefully it goes without saying but hydrate more than normal. So many people don’t want to carry water or extra water while riding or even walking. We always recommend having two bottles on every ride. One with water and one with hydration mix to put the nutrients back into your system.
If you have light or sensitive skin, you know how quickly the sun can do damage. For those lucky enough not to have those issues, it is still important to put on sunscreen or cover up exposed skin. You might not know it, but lots of people get burned through their jerseys because they are lightweight for summer. Be sure to play safe.
It’s not just our bodies that we need to take extra care of during the summer months. Your bike might require some extra protection as well. Tires will wear faster in the summer as the rubber heats up and is more pliable. What was a small cut might be an issue on a long hot ride. Be sure to check not only the tread, but your sidewalls as well for signs it might be time to replace the tires.
If you are running tubeless tires, you most likely will need to refresh your sealant more frequently. In the winter you can go 3 or so months but we recommend 1.5 to 2 months to ensure you have enough.
Ride early or ride late. Sure this seems like a no brainer but it is always amazing to see people out in the 105+ heat. Some say, I like the heat, or it doesn’t bother me. The reality is your heart is working overtime to keep you going during efforts in the heat. Since the sweat is gone before you know it is coming out, it is easy for the body to overheat. If you ever feel light headed, or have a sudden issue with your vision be sure to stop, find some shade or A/C and get some fluids in you. Pro-tip, if you stop at a gas station, go inside the beer cooler for a quick cool down.
Yes, there are bikes to buy and some might be on sale.
For 3 years we have been talking about supply chains and shortages. In 2023 what you are going to see is something we have not seen in a while, bikes on sale. While there are still shortages in some things and longer time frames than pre-pandemic to get certain items, many bike brands are well stocked with bikes. Some a little too well stocked.
The bike industry for years has operated on the same principle as cars. The “new model year” would be released in August or September with bikes arriving anywhere from October to December. That meant that shops who had the “old” version were forced to put them on sale as must go items. There are still a few brands who follow this model, but many are going to a yearlong platform and in many cases, a bike that does not really change other than color from year to year. The bikes are now considered current platform or current model. Changes to frames and platforms are usually on a 3 to 5 year cycle so all that is changing is color and component. What does this mean to the average consumer? Really it means you are getting the latest and greatest the brand has to offer, and you don’t have to worry about having bike envy every year. If you are worried about buying something that might become old or obsolete, be sure to check with the shop as they will know the timeframe for major changes.
So, the question remains, will there be a lot of sales? Yes and no. There are already sales going on for older stock which is primarily going to be bikes that a brand is really over inventoried on or just totally misread the demand for. You will also find discounts on bikes that are the extreme sizes, small and XL although much more so in the XL range. The reality is that consumers should not wait for discounted sales or closeout models as there just won’t be the options as in the past. It is never good to just irrationally jump into buying, especially as this can be a major investment for some, but don’t wait too long to make the decision.
What can you expect to see at Bicycle Ranch Tucson? We do have a few bikes that will be discounted like the Cannondale SuperSix Evo’s we have in stock as there is a model change and new bikes on the way. You might find closeout discounts listed on the Giant, Liv and Cannondale sites as well on a few bikes that can be ordered. What you will see soon are some sales on things like helmets, shoes, sunglasses, clothing and other accessories. These items have been back to easily available for some time and in some cases, we got too much of what we had on backorder all at once.
Hopefully the days of waiting 6 months to a year for jus the right bike are behind us and if it is time for a new bike, you can find the one you love.
Where do things in the bike world stand?
Since the start of the supply chain issues I have tried to update you, our customers as changes were happening. I would like to be able to tell you everything is better now, but we are not quite there. Currently there are a lot more options for bikes of all kinds and price points available, but not in all sizes and or levels.
Our main brands, Giant, Liv and Cannondale all have online options to find bikes, purchase them and have them sent to our shop to be built and delivered to you with all the same benefits of picking it off the floor. The plus is you can do it anytime day or night once your decision is made. Because bikes that were ordered close to if not longer than a year ago are showing up, some of them are getting placed on these websites so that customers only can order them. This helps prevent mega shops from buying up all the inventory. If you have been waiting and looking, come see us and we can help show you what is available.
The better news is that come January of 2023 we should see even better availability as manufactures have adjusted and are back to being more or less on track with production. There are some exciting new products coming to market. Better bikes, better components, better price points and better colors. No matter where you fall in the spectrum of cycling, it is going to be a good year.
Participation in cycling continues to increase with more alternative options like gravel bikes and of course E-bikes of all styles. It has never been easier to find a way to get out and ride than it is today.
We look forward to continuing to help our customers, old and new experience the joy of cycling. At Bicycle Ranch Tucson, we are committed to helping riders of all ages and abilities continue to, Pedal On!!
Are cycling shoes something you need?
When it comes to cycling shoes, there are a lot of options out there. Prices range from $60 to $500 plus. But just like bikes, there is no one right shoe for every person. Hopefully I can break down some of the uncertainty, shed light on the right style and price range to fit your cycling habits.
The first consideration is if you plan to “clip in,” a system that attaches your shoe to the pedal, or run flat pedals. There is still the option of “old school” toe clips but in general it is accepted that these are actually harder and more dangerous to get in and out of when used properly. Since a Flat shoe will work on these there is no additional information needed.
Starting with the clip in shoe, there are two categories, road and mountain style. The road style shoe is a much stiffer sole shoe and the cleats which lock into the pedals are on the outside of the sole. This is generally what most enthusiast will wear while road cycling. They can be a little clumsy to walk in at first, but after a while it is not really a noticeable thing.
The mountain style shoe will look similar to the road version, but will have a sole that has raised rubberized or plastic raised tread. The cleats that go on this type of shoe go in-between the treads so it is a more walkable shoe. Generally speaking, these are also more flexible in the front of the shoe to allow for walking, or hike a bike off road should you need to, yet they are still stiff enough to effectively ride in.
The flat shoe option is one that many people ride on mountain bikes so there is no hinderance to stepping down quickly or being able to jump off the bike if needed. This generally consists of a rubber or Vibram sole which is very grippy and the sole itself is much stiffer than the average athletic shoe.
So which is the right shoe for you? If you are a casual rider, a bit of exercise, some family fun and want the ability to hop on anytime you like, then the flat shoe is best for you. Yes, you could ride in your existing sneakers or other shoes, but if you have any soreness or numbness in your feet, then the shoe is too soft for the pressure you are putting on it. If you are not into finding a cycling specific shoe, then I suggest a trail running shoe which has a stiffer sole, narrower base and works much like a flat cycling shoe will.
Road cyclists who are doing 20 or more miles on a consistent basis really should consider a clip in shoe. Not only do you have better contact and control with the bike, but you going to have your feet and body alignment in the proper place all the time. Although this is only accomplished if you have been properly fit to your bike and shoes. The wrong cleat placement can lead to a whole list of ailments and pain. As mentioned, you can go with either a road specific shoe, or mountain style depending again on your desire for walkability, dual-sided pedals and ease of entry.
For those going off-road which we must now include gravel riding, the mountain shoe with raised grips on the sole is a must. You will have traction, and the cleat is protected.
Once you have decided on the right style of shoes you have to decide what to spend. Like everything in cycling, you can spend a little, or you can spend what seems like way too much. Most cycling shoes these days are going to start at the $75-$135 range. This will depend on the type of closure system and materials in the shoe. A good cycling shoe is going to cost between $150 and $270. What I consider to be higher end shoes will go anywhere from $300 to $500 or more. When thinking about cycling shoes it is important to remember they will last many seasons, depending on your amount of riding. For the average person if taken care of, a pair of shoes will last at least 3 – 5 years. Many people wear them longer than that, but like all shoes once they start losing their form and support, it is time to change them. So why would anyone spend $500 on a pair of shoes to ride a bike? I always break it down this way. If your feet are uncomfortable, you will not want to ride. The person spending this much is usually someone who rides over 4,000 miles a year. That is can be a lot of time on the bike. Still sound like a lot? Well, if you are or were a serious runner, the average running shoe lasts about 6 months. Today a good running shoe cost anywhere from $150 to $300. That means the average runner will spend more in two years time than the average cyclists will. Good cycling shoes are an investment that will A, be more comfortable and B can really give you an added performance level because they are a stiffer shoe which transfers more power each pedal stroke.
When deciding on the shoe to buy it is important to go back to the basics. What kind of bike do you ride, how long do you ride and what is the goal with your riding. Once you have these decided, it really comes down to fit and comfort. There are many more topics that can lead us down the rabbit hole, how wide you need, low or high arch etc. but that can all be remedied by visiting us and trying on shoes. Every brand fits a little different so your size might vary depending on the shoe manufacturer.
Sometimes you just have to come in, touch and feel the shoes, try them on and as always, pick the ones that look (and feel) the best to you.
What should I wear to ride in?
One of the biggest hang ups new cyclists have is what to wear. For most people the first thing that comes to mind is having to squeeze into tight fitting shorts and jersey that are little more than underwear, showing off all your curves, good or bad to the world. Well, I am here to tell you that is not the way it has to be.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Yes, cycling clothing for many recreational riders, enthusiasts and fanatics are the tight pants and shorts. In America, we call them uniforms when it is other sports, but in cycling it is called a Kit. The shorts are meant to be tight because they provide compression to the muscles to aid in blood flow and reduce lactic acid build up which causes cramps. The padding in the seat is to keep the sit bones from being sore for those long rides. Shorts range in price from as low as $50 to as high as $500 for a pair of bibs, basically same short but an overalls style to keep things from moving around. Yes, there is a difference that can, for the most part justify the price differential. The big thing is not to go cheap on shorts as they can bunch up, be loose or have bad seams that can rub you raw and really ruin your day.
I don’t advocate that every rider needs to wear tight fitting shorts. There is a great alternative for those who are doing more relaxed riding no matter the style of bike. These are shorts that look like everyday baggy fitting shorts, but with a little more stretch to the material, and most importantly they have a liner inside, usually one that is removable, that has the chamois’ or padded part in it. This liner is a tight-fitting piece of clothing but from the outside the shorts look normal. Most of these style shorts have pockets as well.
No matter which option of short is right for you, the one thing to remember is with a liner or tight cycling short, you do not wear anything beneath it! So yes, you are riding around in your underwear. This might seem strange to some but again if you have another material underneath that gets sweaty or has a different texture, it will cause a whole lot of chaffing that will make you want to give up the bike forever!!
Jerseys/ shirts are even more complex. Again, the enthusiast is going to opt for the super tight-fitting jersey, trying to reduce as much wind drag as possible. But even with a cycling jersey there are different fits. There is the race fit, which is super tight. There is a standard fit which is form fitting but a little more relaxed in the shoulders and back, and the relaxed or Fondo fit. This type of jersey is for those who don’t like tight clingy, confining jerseys, but wants the look and practicality of a cycling jersey. Most all of these fits come with pockets in the back where a rider can store phones, food, energy chews etc. Access to these pockets while riding is a challenge for some so you have to see what works best for you and what you are going to put in these pockets. Just like other sports, it is very common to see people wearing the jersey of their favorite team or shop, and since these usually come in all styles and sizes, everyone can show their support.
For mountain bikers, it is more common to see them wearing a looser fitting jersey that is more like a T-shirt. Since many carry a hydration pack on their back, there is no need for pockets on the jersey, and wind resistance is not as much of a factor so loose, airy is good. Many of these are made of some sort of Dry-fit material to wick moisture away. If you are a casual rider these might be the perfect style for you.
So why not just a T-shirt? Good question. There is not a wrong or right answer to this one, as I said at the beginning, it is all about your riding style and comfort. Not everyone needs to look like they are competing with the Pro’s to ride a bike. There is no rule that says you have to dress a certain way to enjoy cycling. Although I highly recommend a helmet for all cycling because you only get one head, and you just never know what is going to cause you to fall.
So go out and ride around in whatever you want. Sometimes it is not how fast you go, but how good you feel and don’t let anyone tell you different.
Two years into the Covid-19 supply chain issues.
Like most of the world, the bicycle industry has been forever changed but the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the things that have affected the industry are hard to deal with, but some have been very positive.
Everyone by now knows the story about demand and supply chain issues, but what are the long-term changes in the world of bikes? As a retailer our greatest challenge is now trying to forecast and predict what our customers are going to want, not in 6 months, but in a year. To be able to try to meet demand, bicycle manufactures are asking for orders for future years, even if they can not tell us exact specifications or even colors. While we can look at historical data and know what types of bikes we sell the most, it is hard to know what the market will support in terms of price point and changing trends. In the past two years like everything else, prices have increased due to shipping costs and limited resources. For some people this means not being able to get what they want, or spending more to get it. But is that stopping people from buying bikes?
The short answer is no, people are still getting out and riding, enjoying everything cycling has to offer. There has been a huge increase in participation or use of bicycles. We see it more in recreational use, commuting and enthusiast activities. When gyms shut down during the first part of the pandemic, people turned to outdoor activities and they seem to enjoy it.
We have seen a huge increase in the E-bike market. This of course has caused quite a debate with pros and cons on both sides, but it is getting more people outside and active. Some say they are cheaters, while I maintain they are enablers. So many people otherwise would not have the ability to get out and ride. Sure, some people lean more towards the assist vs the actual physical use but many bikes are only assisted when you are active so you are doing the work, just not suffering as much. I would no sooner tell someone they should not be using an assist than I would to tell someone what type of food they should eat to be healthy.
Another huge change in the industry has been more online purchasing ability. The internet has allowed some companies to provide a direct-to-consumer model, but many are adopting a consumer to retailer approach which ensures a bike is properly assembled and there is still a local shop connection for the consumer to rely on for all their other needs. With supply so low, this has actually been working in the favor of small and local shops. In the past all bikes sitting in the warehouses were able to be ordered by whichever shop has the money to get them and the room to keep them. Often times this excluded shops, and consumers from being able to get certain bikes. Now as companies hold back inventory and have it only available online, a consumer anywhere can order a bike that is available but not at a local shop. We have seen a huge explosion of this system and it has been great for us, our customers and the manufacture to get bikes in our market.
While frustrating on many levels, we know that our industry is constantly in a state of flux and always adapting to changes in production and supply chains. What we have shifted to the past two years has become the new normal, but for how long?