Thursday, August 8, 2013

Real Bikes Englewood is Now Selling Fixies

Simplicity is a beautiful thing. When it comes to rides there is nothing simpler or more elegant than a fixed gear bike or "Fixie." A standard fixie has a high tensile steel frame, 3 piece cranks, at least one brake and a flip flop hub. These are street bikes that can be used for commuter or training purposes, they are low cost (About $325.) and they are a blast to ride.

I decided to give one a try at my local shop Real Bikes Englewood. "One thing you have to keep in mind," noted Melody Vasbinder, who owns the store with her husband Gary, "You can't stop pedaling. You can speed up and you can slow down but you can't freewheel." This becomes clear the moment you put a foot down on the pedal but once you start moving the appeal of these bikes quickly becomes apparent.

There is no hesitation when you turn the pedals on a fixie. The power of each pedal stroke is directly transferred to the rear wheel propelling you forward. Your speed can pick up very quickly. Your legs are always responsible for controlling the speed of your cadence without rest so they get twice the workout.

After a short ride I was already getting used to using my legs to slow the bike and using the brake to bring it to a full stop. It does take a little practice to feel secure in your ability to control starts and stops but with it comes a new confidence in your bike handling abilities.

The brand they are now selling at Real Bikes Englewood is one that has fully embraced the fixie culture. They are called Pure Fix Cycles and they have a complete line of bikes that each have their own name and story. The Pure Fix website is complete with videos about sizing, safety and basic repairs. You can even purchase frames and parts that glow in the dark.

You could use the website to order one but like Gary says, "You'd still have to receive it and assemble it which would end up costing more than if you just order it through us and we put it together for you." The website claims that  the bikes are 90% assembled but tell that to someone, like myself, who doesn't have the right tools.

Still not sure about the fixed wheel? Just want a inexpensive bike to ride around town? No problem. These fixies all come with a flip flop hub which means all you have to do is turn around the rear tire and now you have a singlespeed. In this format you can coast all you want.

How popular are these fixies? "We had a Glow in the Dark one in here last week and it sold so fast that I never got the chance to ride it," said Melody who finally rode one on a fixies only 30 mile group ride. These Pure Fix bikes are colorful, fun to ride and priced to sell. They are in stock right now at Real Bikes Englewood. Come by today and give one a try.

 Click here to see Alex's complete library

Sunday, August 4, 2013

2013 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR EVO

No trip to Winter Park, Colorado would be complete without a bike test. Luckily the people from Specialized were on hand doing demos of the 2013 line and they were kind enough to lend me a helmet as I took out a 2013 Stumpjumper FSR EVO. Since I already used my lift ticket for some downhill fun the day before then I would have start at the bottom of the mountain to do a little exploring.

Right from the start I was amazed by how light this bike was. You could curl it with one hand. I'm assuming it was the carbon version but I do know that it had been modified from its original set-up. Instead of the 2 by 10 gearing it had a single sprocket and the forks had the black coating now becoming popular with Enduro cyclists.

I took off down a dirt road and decided to kick this off with a technical climb into the woods. Right off the bat I was impressed. I had come down this two way trail the day before and found it to be challenging on the descent but now I was raging up it with barely a sweat. It seemed like a magic trick, it was just too easy.

Reaching the top I stopped and turned around. I had previously ridden a Specialized Demo 8 on this trail and wanted see how the Stumpjumper compared. Dropping the adjustable seat post (Which takes some getting used to) I started charging the rocks. Maybe it was because I was already comfortable on this particular section or maybe I had lowered by expectations because I was unfairly comparing 200mm to 150mm but the ride was quick, smooth and fast all the way back to the dirt road.

Clearly I needed a tougher challenge. After spending a couple miles on the roads I found a steep, unmarked trail. Progressively shifting down to the lowest gear I made it up the first section but had to give my Florida lungs a break as I had not yet acclimated to the altitude. The second even steeper part of the trail forced me to get off and push. If anything was going to limit this test it would be my breathing, not the bike.

At the top another trail crossed over so I picked the outward direction and started riding. It reached a peak soon after and what laid out ahead of me was a very long, smooth descent with mild twists, small wooden bridges and light rock gardens. I decided to shred. The beefy Specialized tires (Butcher and Purgatory) worked flawlessly with the Fox Float and Talas suspension system to absorb anything in my path without losing momentum. If not for a time limit on my test, I would have rode all the way to Fraser.

The most interesting part came on the way back. Instead of short steep climbs I had a long, slow incline. This is where the weird hits the dirt. The best climbing MTB that I have ever test ridden was the 2011 Scott Spark 20, it was a marvel for its time. I'm happy to report that the Stumpjumper EVO despite its intended geometry with a slacker head tube and lower bottom bracket, is my new favorite climbing machine.

I started pedaling up and shifting down but I never needed to reach that bottom gear. It ate up rocks and roots like before but each time I thought I might have to stop, there was a little more movement available that allowed me to keep going. It almost felt like someone was pushing me, as if a heavy tailwind snuck between the trees for a light assist.

Granted the EVO has all of the most expensive gizmos and gadgets but so do other bikes. What matters here is that it was all working together to provide a superior ride. Every bike company likes to use the term "All around" but Specialized actually got it right. I would be comfortable taking this down any DH beginner trail as well as some intermediates. I would be equally comfortable entering it into a cross country race.

The Stumpjumpers start at $3,000. which is understandably a sticking point for buyers and the Expert Carbon EVO goes for more than $6,000.. I probably won't ever be able to buy one but technology trickles down. In five years this brilliant configuration of geometry, suspension and parts will drop in price and you never know where you might find one.

 Click here to see Alex's complete library

Friday, August 2, 2013

Colorado Freeride Festival (Part 5 of 5)

The final event of the Colorado Freeride Festival was the Intergalactic Pond Crossing. This is a contest for only the greats, partaken by men and women of superior skill and daring. The riders must be willing to don a lifejacket and before a crowd of onlookers balance across an 8 inch wide floating bridge over a freezing pond. Few will make it to the other side but those who do will earn prizes equal to their greatness.

Ok, I'm being a little sarcastic but the pond crossing really is a fun event. After a full weekend of hardcore racing this is where everyone has one last chance to gather, cheer and laugh. 

With an open sign up process the riders ranged from 10 year old kids to top professionals like Jerome Clementz, Ben Cruz, Jeff Lenosky and Tracy Moseley. Regardless of their accomplishments on the dirt, this challenge was the ultimate equalizer for all participants.

The race started at 3 pm just after the rain subsided and even though the crowd was a bit smaller (Due to the 10 am check-out time) they still had plenty of spirit. Over the course of the next hour we were witness to the hilarity of countless crossing attempts on all sizes of bikes. The entertainment value alone would have been worth a ticket price but like most great things in life, admission was free.

Terri and I took pictures from both sides of the pond and tried hard to hold our cameras steady despite the desire to laugh uncontrollably. We got pictures of every rider who competed. These pictures are posted on Facebook so feel free to tag yourself or others. 

No report on the Colorado Freeride Festival would be complete without making mention of our favorite bars and eateries. Terri and I went to great pains to make sure that you know where to get the good beer. We spent a large chunk of money on trying every restaurant and digging through all the stores. Here are our favorites.

Top 3 Favorite Restaurants

1. Cheeky Monk - This Belgian beer cafe has the best selection of food and drinks. Terri raved about the St. Bernardus Beer and their Cowboy Burger. I melted over the Left Handed Milky Nitro and the Chicken Pita. We loved everything, the seating, food, drinks, ambiance you name it.

2. Lime: An American Cantina - Lime is delicious Mexican food with a decent mix of brews. The real appeal of Lima is more about the atmosphere. A flatscreen behind the bar played the film "Where the Trail Ends" as killer music buzzed our ears and groups of riders crowded into the booths and tables. If you want to bump into Mountain Bike royalty, this is the place to hang out.

3. Doc's Roadhouse - Doc's has moderate food and good drinks but it is in the perfect location, right in front of the lifts. I lucked out on drinks, my Belgian Fat Tire and and Summer Shandy were both stupendous. Terri tried a refreshing Watermelon Cooler that was designed by one of the barkeeps.

As the last patrons on Sunday night we missed out on the staple side dish as they had run out of french fries. We opted for the trail named burgers -Rainmaker and Trestle Burger. Both were fair in flavor though I admit to wimping out on taking the full explosion that comes from the Trestle burger's fried jalapenos.

Granted we tried other places but not everyone gets to make the list. There was one evening where we were exhausted and just spent the night eating Empire pizza in our room. Not a bad option when you are low on cash. However we were not the only ones running low. I spoke to a local who told me that the resort was overwhelmed by the size of the crowds. The Trestle Bike Park Facebook page indicated 4,000 visitors over the weekend, wow!

We registered for the whole weekend and were glad to get that extra night. After 5 pm on Sunday the Winter Park village was like a ghost town. The biggest benefit was that we finally got a chance to enjoy our outdoor hot tub. What better way to end a vacation than by sitting in 100 degree water during 50 degree weather under a sky full of stars. Visiting this festival was one of my personal dreams and I can tell you without hesitation that I was not disappointed.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Colorado Freeride Festival (Part 4 of 5)

The schedule for the 2013 Colorado Freeride Festival had an action packed variety of contests. While there was something for everyone's taste many of the races were overlapping so you did have to choose what you were going to watch and perhaps overlook something else. 

The easiest to watch was the Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour Slopestyle contest. This Gold level event took place within eye shot of the Festivillage so it was easy to know when the action was buzzing. In addition the hill alongside the jump course allows for seating that makes almost every inch visible without having to move but this was one performance you did not want to miss.

This year's course was designed by Tom Hay and New Zealand freerider Kelly McGarry. Easily noticeable for his long scraggly blonde hair and height (Over 6 feet tall), Kelly helped develop a slopestyle course that allowed the riders to go all out on nearly every jump. In cases like this where a rider tweaks the course it usually benefits them on race day but Kelly lucked out.

Terri and I bumped into him on Saturday morning at the Coffee & Tea Market were we were all having breakfast. He seemed a little bummed about his placing during qualifications where he landed as third alternate. "The only way I could make the finals is if three riders crashed into each other at the same time." He was joking of course but clearly he had hoped for a better score. "I'm happy that everyone is enjoying the course, it makes for a good show."

On that note he was surely right. The crowd that amassed to watch the finals was nearly twice the size as last year. They came to see some amazing tricks and that is what they got.

2013 was the year of the European invasion. Since the beginning Freeride has been dominated by Canadians like Brandon Semenuk, Ryan Berrecloth and Brett Rheeder but at Winter Park - 7 of the top 10 came from across the pond. The only North Americans to make the list were Tyler McCaul, Boston's Nicholi Rogatkin and Ontario prodigy Brayden Barret-Hay.

If you tried to judge the competition by what happened during the qualification round you would have been way off the mark. Qualifying in first place with a nearly flawless run was Canada's Anthony Messere. This 17 year old has been pushing the limits all year and it looked like he was lined up to land on the podium. However, a difficult crash during the finals put an end to this year's hopes.

Terri and I took hundreds of pictures from both the qualifying round and Finals. These pics are posted on Facebook so feel free to tag yourself or others. Enjoy!

So who stole the show? I could write it all down in detail but that would ruin the fun. Jeff Harper put the entire finals on Youtube for everyone to watch. It's almost as good as seeing it live - check it out.

Moving on to the Enduro. This was the one I was looking forward to and I have to say it was pretty hard for an audience to watch and follow. The first ever World Enduro Series race to take place in America set all kinds of records. It was the largest Enduro in the states, it had over 210 competitors from 12 countries including more than 100 professionals. It took place over the course of three days with five different stages that carried the racers all over the mountain.

The challenge for the racers was to avoid the rain and keep from running out of breath on the long courses. The weather did have a hand in altering the schedule when lighting hit the Zephyr Express lift causing it to be shut down for the remainder of the weekend.

The racers were clearly enjoying themselves and the change in atmosphere though some struggled with the altitude. Favorites like World Series leaders Jerome Clementz and Nicolas Vouilloz showed why they remain at the top of the list while Colorado locals used the home advantage to give them a run for their money.

On the ladies side it was all about reigning champion Tracy Moseley of Great Britain. With four wins in a row her dominance in this series is indisputable. She was followed closely by Caroline Ann Chausson and Anneke Beerten. Much like the Slopestyle, the Enduro race also finished with an all European podium.

During the earlier stages Terri took pictures on as many parts of the mountain as she could reach. On Sunday we both took to the trails and got hundreds of photos of the riders in full flight. Then the cold Colorado rain started to fall. We had to escape the mountain but all of our pics are posted on Facebook so feel free to tag yourself and others.

As with the Slopestyle it is also better to watch the Enduro highlights than read about them. Orpheus Productions put together a fantastic video of the action including interviews with the big players - Check it out.

Also you can continue reading this story by checking out Part 5.