Thursday, September 22, 2016

Time To Ride Gravel

Europa Cycle's own Lauren on the left riding with two of our customers.
here at Europa Cycle & Ski we like to explore all manner of fun and adventure on our bicycles. Paved trails in Waterloo and Cedar Falls, plus the surrounding area, add up to 100 miles or so. These are probably the most used and obvious of the ways one can do bicycling in the Cedar Valley. We also have our mountain biking opportunities. Places like George Wyth State Park and up at Ingawanis Woodlands, not to mention the Green Belt and some other areas where dirt ribbons can be ridden and explored. That's all really great stuff, but did you know that there is a cycling opportunity right at your fingertips that most rarely consider and that there are more miles of this than anything else in the Cedar Valley? Well, let me tell you about gravel roads then.

Gravel roads? Who'd want to bicycle on gravel roads? 

Fair enough question, but when you consider the opportunities to do gravel road cycling around here, and what the benefits are, you may end up thinking, "Why not bicycle on gravel roads!

Iowa has somewhere around 70,000 miles of gravel and dirt roads, at least one third more miles than we have of pavement. Of course, we all know how stressful and dangerous riding on even the secondary paved roads can be, and highways are usually out of the question. Really, how many miles we can safely use versus gravel and dirt roads is probably more like one half as many paved roads or less.  The cool thing is that out in the country, on gravel, there are barely any worries at all. On many a 40+ miler I have done over the years, it is rare to see over five automobiles during a single ride, and many times we never see any cars or trucks! Plus, these vehicles often are slower, make way for you, and the drivers actually wave hello!

I know! Amazing, right? 

You can enjoy the beauty of Iowa at bicycle speed in the country.
 The gravel roads can reveal Iowa's beauty and splendor like no paved road can. Check out the miles of wild flowers in the ditches during Spring, Summer, and Fall, or surprise a pheasant, quail, or grouse while cruising a gravel road. See quaint Iowa farms, homes, rural churches, and even a marina in the middle of nowhere! You'll never know what you can find out there in the country that you'd never see from your car.

Here at Europa Cycle and Ski, we're "gravel experts". Many of us enjoy riding gravel. Europa Cycle and Ski is also the birthplace of Trans Iowa, the 300+ mile long ultra-distance gravel road race now in its 13th year. In fact, the whole "gravel bike' scene can trace its existence in modern times back to Trans Iowa. Europa is also home to Guitar Ted,otherwise known as Mark Stevenson, who is part owner of, the first calendar of gravel road events in the nation, and a site where reviews, a forum, and more exist to support the gravel and back road scene in America and abroad.

So yeah......we know about riding gravel roads. 

Gravel road riding is fun, adventurous, and quite the experience and it is readily available to you in the Cedar Valley. You should check it out. For more on routes, gear, and bicycles good for your gravel road experience, look us up at the shop. And check out one of our latest rides in this report here. 


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Salsa Cycles Demo August 15th

Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles
Model year 2017 bikes have been released by Salsa Cycles for our viewing pleasure, and many of you have seen these bikes splashed all over the innergoogles. Okay, so when could you actually see one of these unicorns? 

Well, as it turns out, you can not only see one, or many other 2017 Salsa Cycles models, you could ride them. 

That's right, Salsa Cycles has a demo van stuffed with new 2017 bikes and it is showing up at George Wyth State Park between 4:00pm and 7:00pm at the "turn around" at the end of Wyth Road at the Josh Higgins Shelter/Lodge site. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Europa Cycle & Ski at 319-277-0734. Business hours at the shop are as follows: Mon-Fri: 9:00am - 8:00pm, Saturday: 9:00am -5:00pm, and Sunday:12:00 noon - 5:00pm.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Crazy Daze

Ask about special pricing on some cool fat bikes!!
Often times in smaller cities they have what we used to call, "Crazy Daze", or maybe "Sidewalk Sale" days, where merchants would slash pricing during the Summer months for one day to move old inventory. Well, at Europa Cycle & Ski, we have some bikes we need to move. Prices will never be better on items like these, (limited to in store stock), so get yerself on in to find out what great deals are to be had. I cannot even list the prices here, but if you want to know, give us a call at 319-277-0734. There are some fat bikes, a few nice road bikes, and maybe an odd deal here or there, but ya gotta call. Business hours are Weekdays: 9am-8pm, Saturday 9am -5pm, and Sunday Noon to five.

The next crazy thing coming up is Saddledrive, which is when we will find out what Salsa Cycles has cooked up new for 2017 and beyond. I know there will be a fat bike introduction, some "plus" bike madness, and more. But if you want to know the coolest thing about these new bikes, well, read on....

Europa Cycles will be welcoming Salsa Cycles' demo truck on August 15th at Geo Wyth State Park, and guess what? That truck will be stuffed with the newest bicycles for you to try out. Look for a more detailed announcement coming soon!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tire Air Pressure Settings For The 21st Century

 Recently new research by several independent sources has shown that, in all likelihood, your ideas about what is "right" for air pressure is wrong in terms of your bicycle. There is also a long history of repair related to poor air pressure maintenance that could easily be rectified by doing a couple of simple things. The long and short of it is this: Your tire air pressure is probably too high or too low.

Too High: There has been a lot of research recently that points to how tire air pressures for road cyclists is affecting the rolling resistance and ride quality of their bicycles. Traditionally, the recreational cyclist has assumed that a higher pressure, or shall we say highest pressure allowable, is going to yield the lowest rolling resistance and thus, the fastest, less energy sapping ride. This has been proven to be far from the truth in reality.

Research recently published on the Silca site suggests that what we assumed about bicycle tire air pressure is all wrong. Read it starting HERE. There are about ten entries in all, and it is pretty technical, thick reading, so this may not be for everybody, but if you demand "science" then this is for you.

The short version is that while there is no "right" air pressure, there are wrong choices, and it would appear that by going to the highest allowable air pressure settings riders are actually increasing rolling resistance, work load, and lowering speeds by a dramatic amount. Conversely, low air pressures, (those just below what many would consider rideable), seem to have a less deleterious effect than previously thought, and in many cases actually will increase not only speed, but comfort levels while simultaneously reducing work load. There is much more to it than this, but there are the main talking points so far.

Too Low: On the other end of the scale we are seeing a lot of riders that do not understand tire air pressure maintenance. They typically are running far too low on air pressure and usually end up causing themselves pinch flats as a result. In the Europa repair area, we see more failures due to pinch flats than we do punctures from foreign objects. Far more pinch flats and they are almost always caused by folks that do not maintain air pressure settings on a regular basis, or know that they even need to do this.

Tubes, found in most bicycles today despite all you hear about tubeless tires, are bladders that reside inside the casing of your tire and are typically made from butyl rubber. These tubes used to be pretty thick walled back 50 years ago, and required little air pressure maintenance. This was because the thicker tube was more resistant to the passage of air molecules through its walls. The downside was that these tubes were heavy. Really heavy!

Today tubes are much lighter, and the wall thicknesses of inner tubes are really thin these days. This allows for an easier escape for air molecules. This results in as much as a 10% decrease in tire pressure in a 24 hour period on a high pressure road tire. Hybrid bike tires lose pressure at a slower rate, but they still will end up flat after several months of no air pressure maintenance. We recommend the following:
  • Road tires from 23mm-30mm (typically run from 90psi to 110 psi) Check pressure before every ride!
  • Hybrid/Gravel Road/Dual Sport tires from 30mm-45mm (typically from 30psi to 80psi) Check pressure every other ride and at least once a week.
  • Mountain Bike from 2" to 3" wide (typically from 15psi to 30psi) Check once a week minimum.
  • Fat Bike from 3" to 5" tires (typically run from zero to 20psi) Check once a week minimum. 
  • It is best to check any bicycle tire before every ride for proper air pressure!
This may seem like nit-picking, but tire pressure is one of the single most effective ways to tune your bicycle to operate at its highest potential. This gives you the power to be in control of how easy, fun, and safe your bicycle can be, Neglect air pressure maintenance and proper use and you will be working harder, have less comfort, and suffer more failures than you need to.

The choice is yours.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Salsa Cycles Marrakesh: Adventure Machine!

The flat bar version of the Marrakesh
Salsa Cycles surprised many by introducing a new, touring specific bike, in two formats, dubbed the Marrakesh. This is kind of a first, as far as I am aware, that a bicycle company would give you the opportunity to choose drop bars or flat bars and make the geometry work in the best possible way for either choice.

Okay, so there is a lot going on here. Let's break this down into what the differences really are. Make no mistake here folks- both bikes, the drop and flat bar versions- are COMPLETELY different in fit and feel. 

So, how can that be, really? Well, it is quite simple to just say the following, which best describes what Salsa did, in my own words: The drop bar bike is a traditional, drop bar, touring specific fit. If you are used to Trek 720's and 520's, Surly Long Haul Truckers, or Cannondale T-800's or any of their old touring bikes, you will completely understand the drop bar version of the Marrakesh. It fits the mold of the predecessors quite nicely.

The flat bar Marrrakesh, however, is a completely different animal. It doesn't fit like the same sized drop bar Marrakesh at all. We compared the flat and drop bar bikes, and if you simply cross from one size to Salsa's same size on another, the top tube of the flat bar Marrakesh is much longer. We measured a full 1 1/2" between Larges. That's a lot of front/center difference!

I didn't quite have the rack leveled here yet, but this is the drop bar Marrakesh.
In our estimation, and again- these are my own words- the flat bar Marrakesh fits best if you size it like a mountain bike. I ended up fitting best on the Medium versus how most 29"ers are Larges that fit me best. I'm a bit over 6', by the way, with a 34" "cycling inseam". So, if you've got a hankering for a flat bar Marrakesh, be prepared to look at a size smaller than you might typically take. The front/centers are long on these, and the top tube lengths are more like a mountain bike's.

So- why have both types of Marrakesh models? I think this is a fair question, and I would answer it as follows- Many folks don't use drop bars, don't like them, or if they do have them, wish they were higher and maybe would never venture to using drops at all. The flat bar Marrakesh is definitely for them. If you have shorter legs/longer torso, the flat bar version may fit you perfectly. If you want swept back bars, higher rise bars, or- and this would be my choice- Jones type bars, the flat bar Marrakesh would be great. Finally, if you want to go into rougher terrain, get the flat bar one. Here's why......

We mounted Panaracer Driver Pro 2.1" 29"er tires on one of our display Marrakesh flat bar bikes, and they fit beautifully. If you want a gravel going, dirt road going, fire road tackling touring bike, the flat bar Marrakesh would be great with 2.0" and maybe some versions of other 2.1"er 29"er treads. Oh yeah.......the drop bar Marrakesh has the same clearances. 

You can also check out the sturdy rack, spoke holder, bottle mounts, front fork with Three Pack bosses, fender mounts, and kickstand plate. Every Marrakesh has those and a beautiful Brooks B-17 saddle. The drive train is smartly spec'ed and there are disc brakes, good, solid wheel spec choices, and sharp, understated graphics. There are even constellations on the top tube to inspire a little navigation by the stars!

Come check out our selection of Marrakesh bikes soon!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Want A Great Deal On A Fat Bike?

Waiting for you......
We've got an overage of 2015 fat bikes and we need to move these down the road, or trail, or.....wherever you want to ride. Fat bikes are great training aids for Winter, great, stable mountain bikes, and super-capable sand, snow, and mud bikes. They can take you where other bikes cannot, or won't without a lot of hassles.

Hunters, explorers, and those who like to get off the beaten path are tailor made for fat bikes. Is this describing you? Think you cannot afford a quality fat bike? Well, now you can.

Get in while we have the bikes to deal on. While we cannot publish the prices that we would sell these for, it is definitely "deal time". Come see for yourself before they are all gone. This won't happen again in this area, so don't wait. Seriously. It's crazy deal time at Europa Cycle & Ski on fat bikes.

Don't say I didn't tell ya........

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Salsa Cycles Warbird Tiagra: Quick Impressions

I test rode this 56cm Salsa Cycles Warbird
NOTE: this previously appeared on Guitar Ted Productions blog 9-22-15: 

NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned..... 

Today I'm going to offer some of my opinions on the Salsa Cycles Warbird Tiagra model. Long time readers will remember my take on the original Warbirds, seen HERE, and I will refer back to those thoughts for these impressions on the new Warbird.

Secondly, I am going to copy and paste a paragraph here which I wrote in those initial impressions back in 2012, which is as relevant today as it was back then:

"This is not a review: I don't believe that ride tests, demos, or whatever you want to call them are in any way, shape, or form a "review" of a bicycle or component. This is merely more of an impression of mine regarding this Warbird rig. Want a review? See the guy that has ridden the bike in the heat of a race, or done significant time with a component for a long time, (my thinking is more than a couple months), and get his take. Obviously, there are very few that can say this about a Warbird now, and they are all Salsa Cycles sponsored riders and employees. (Not that they wouldn't know, but.....) I don't typically ever do a review here. I will give my opinion though. You may find something different, but be that as it may...."

Okay? So on with the impressions....

The rig I rode yesterday is a stock, 56cm Warbird Tiagra model with test ride pedals installed. It is for sale on the floor of the shop I work at, Europa Cycle & Ski. I did this test ride for a potential customer, who wanted my opinion on it. I figured I may as well share my opinion on it here as well. This is purely my opinion and that's all. Read into this what you will........

Salsa Cycles did a complete, ground up redesign of the Warbird and the crowning jewel of that design, if you will, is their "Class 5 VRS" feature. This "Class 5" part refers to the typical gravel size on Mid-West gravel roads and the "VRS" part stands for "Vibration Reduction System". Salsa's engineers used accelorometers to discern how much vibration was being damped along the way during the design phase and what they came up with was actually more compliant than the titanium frame they used to have. The new, aluminum frame tested out 6% better in terms of damped vibrations than the old titanium frame, and while no figures were given for how much better it is than the old aluminum Warbird, I can tell you it is much, much more smooth. That old aluminum frame was not a nice riding frame. Very stiff!

So, I took the new Warbird out for an hour on various surfaces ranging from smooth tarmac to heaved pavement, busted up pavement, sandy tracks, gravel, and dirt. I only missed getting into more "typical" gravel which abounds around here only because this is a new bike, and I didn't want to risk chipping the frame up. I climbed steep hills, bombed down a couple, and ground out some fast paced miles as well, just to get an overall feel for the rig.

The tires were aired to 40psi rear and 38psi front. The stock tires are 35mm Schwalbe Sammy Slicks and this was my first introduction to them. They were tubed, of course. Off I went, and my immediate thought was that the Class 5 VRS system has something to it for sure. This bike is so much smoother than the original aluminum Warbird frame it isn't even comparable. Okay, great so far. Now off to zip around on some gravel and busted up pavement. Hmm.... A concern came up when diving around some quick corners. I felt something give in the rear. Was it the tires on the narrow-ish WTB SX-17 rims? Maybe it was the 28 hole spoke lacing? Perhaps it was due to the Class 5 VRS stays? Hard to say in a quick, hour long ride, but I felt this a couple of other times, so something needed looking into there. 

 Okay, who makes swervy moves in gravel races or rides, right? I went onward, and as things got bumpier, it was apparent that the Class 5 VRS deal is the real deal. My only observation was that if you hit a sharp edged bump, it would rebound you out of the saddle. Pretty dramatically at times. I also felt that while the back end was working, the rest of the bike was more, well.......not as smooth. I don't want to say it was harsh, but the front end wasn't in concert with the rear end. That said, this is the best riding aluminum bike I've tried. 

It climbs well, and the Tiagra shifters and derailleurs were snapping off shifts just fine. Gearing was great. But I couldn't get away from the feeling that something was off......draggy, if you will. I'm blaming these unfamiliar Schwalbe tires for that. I rechecked the bike afterward and all was well mechanically, so I feel it was those Sammy Slicks. Perhaps a bit different pressure would have made them come alive, but alas! I had no time to mess with that. 

The fit was "okay" for what I would have considered a too small of a size up front. I would use a set back post here and maybe a hair higher handle bar position, but it wasn't bad, really, for a guy that normally rides 58's. Of course, those Cowbell handle bars were perfect, and the WTB Silverado saddle wasn't too bad. I could tweak this out, if it were mine, and make it mine, but given the choice, I'd likely opt for the 58cm for my 6'1" frame. I always seem to be a "tweener" in Salsa's sizing! 

I compared and contrasted with my steel Raleigh Tamland.

After my quick hour long ride, I went back over the same ground with my Raleigh Tamland Two. I wanted to see how the smoother Warbird was in contrast to a fine steel tube set, like the Reynolds 631 that the Tamland is built with. 

What I found out was that the feel of both bikes is very similar, but certain nuances stood out quite plainly. The aluminum had a "higher frequency buzz" that I could feel easily through the handle bars and the saddle. The steel, while also vibrating, was a "rounder, lower frequency" feel. It was "quieter" versus the Warbirds "nervous" jittering which maybe makes the Warbird "feel faster", but that's all that is. Feelings that I have that others may not. Read into that what you will. 

The biggest difference was how the Tamland handled bigger depressions and sharper hits. It was definitely rounding those off, and not "bucking back" at me like the Warbird did. Yes- the Tamland is set up with bigger tires, but I tried to compensate somewhat by using 50psi front and rear. I think in terms of "smoothness", the Tamland was edging out the Warbird aluminum frame, but the differences are much, much closer than they were with the older Warbird design. 

Final Thoughts: Again, the Warbird Tiagra ride was a short one, but a telling one. I would have enjoyed being able to tweak this bike out, put wider rims on it, bigger tires, and have a correct fit, not one that is "close". I think the Schwalbe Sammy Slicks needed attention, and maybe the wheels are a bit flexy on this spec level, but otherwise this bike is a solid choice for gravel racing. Versatility isn't in its wheelhouse. Meaning that if you want racks, fenders, the ability to commute with bags, or do light touring, this isn't the bicycle for that. However; that isn't the main focus of the Warbird's misson, and Salsa Cycles has set this bike up with a singular focus: Go fast on any surface for a long way, if you want. In that light, they have succeeded.