Wednesday, July 11, 2018

You Get More Than You Pay For

I have a co-worker, and he and I often joke about customers that grouse about paying retail, paying for good labor, or just paying anything period. We say that, "Yeah, we're here to rip you off and send you out there with substandard repairs. We are EVIL!"

And we do that because, of course, that is so patently false that it is humorous to us shop mechanics. We don't try to "screw" anyone over. We really don't.

In fact, as today's Tweet from a fellow mechanic in a Kansas City shop illustrates, we actually do things to your bicycles you don't ask for or even know about because, well.......we are mechanics. It actually pains me to hear a squeaky chain. Really, it does, so if you have a flat repair and your chain is squeaky, guess what? I probably lubed it for you. I cannot count how many times I've made free head set adjustments when the customer never asked for that. Truing wheels? All the time when it comes to brake adjustments, because,well.......I am a mechanic. 

Look, if we actually charged for everything we did, you would be livid. Really. You have zero idea how many freebies we throw out there as mechanics, and the upshot is, we really shouldn't be doing these things we do for free. 

But we cannot help it,because we are mechanics. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Tales From The Bike Shop Series

Like a snowy commute in mid-April, this blog has been cold too long!
First off, I apologize for the lack of posts on this blog. However; in the interim silence, I have discovered a new purpose for this blog and it will be updated more regularly now.

The idea is to give some space to issues regarding navigating the current retail marketplace as it pertains to the "Local Bike Shop", or "LBS".

I'll be giving my takes on how current retail practices and those of the disruptive, "internet" based commerce are affecting the consumer's experience from a "real world" perspective. Not some talking head's opinion of what is going to happen to retail, but what actually is happening in current retail in bike shops. 

So, hang on as I delve into big issues and small. I'll have some views from the shop floor and tales of  the industry at large. I hope that it proves to be an interesting change in direction here.

Stay tuned............................

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Commuter Tips

I commute all year long, but many of you will just be getting started soon.
The weather is turning early this year and cyclists have already been out in droves over the past weekend. While we may see a dip back to Winter-ish conditions, they are sure not to last long. March is nigh and the days grow longer.....

So, I decided to list some early season tips for commuting to help get you started in 2017. These may also work for anyone that is just getting their bike out for the year as well.
  • Check Your Bike: You haven't ridden in more than a few weeks? Months? Then you need to air up your tires, dust off the bike entirely, and check to see if your chain feels wet with lube. If it doesn't- lube your chain before you ride and let it sit 24hrs before use. Lubing a chain just before a ride doesn't do anything but make your frame messy and throw lube off the chain. Just exactly what you don't want to do. 
  • Test Ride Your Bike: Don't wait till the morning of your first commute or the final minutes leading up to that first big ride to realize that your bicycle needs work. Take it for a short ride, shift through ALL of the gears, and test the brakes. If anything seems out of sorts, bring in your bike to Europa Cycle & Ski for your tune up.  
  • Watch For Early Season Debris: Since you last rode your bicycle in the Fall, all kinds of garbage has collected on the streets. Sand is the worst of these things. Heading into corners, be aware that traction will be compromised. Also- bits of car plastic broken off in fender benders, from car valances and rocker panels, glass, and all sorts of sharp objects are in the gutters mixed in with that sand. Beware of running through this stuff because it is easy to flat this time of year until we get that "gully washer" rain or the street sweepers come out. 
  • Make Sure You Can Be Seen! Bontrager and several other cycling brands are doing scientific research which is showing that daytime flashers and wearing brightly colored and reflective bits on our moving parts is the best way to be seen by motorists. So, get a front and rear flashing light, and consider wearing reflective ankle bands or brightly colored bits on your legs. I've been wearing bright orange bands, brightly colored bandanas, or reflective ankle bands for years, and with the lights, you get a lot more respect from cars out there. 
  • Research Your Route: make sure that you are using the lowest traffic count roads that you can. These will not be the ones you would use in your car going to work, typically. Make an adventure out of looking into a route by trying it out on a weekend or another time when you don't have to actually use it for getting to work. The pressure will be off to make time and you can critically analyze your route to tweak it out to be the safest and most effective cycling route possible for your needs. 
Any questions? Call me up at Europa and ask for Guitar Ted. I'd be glad to help out, or anyone else there could answer a question as well.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

RAGBRAI Overnight Towns Announced

Image courtesy of Bike Iowa
Saturday the RAGBRAI overnight towns were introduced as a part of the Iowa Bicycle Expo. The annual ride is coming up on its 45th edition and will have a Northerly track this time which means pretty flat until you get into the last day.

The overnights are as follows:
  • Orange City
  • Spencer
  • Algona
  • Clear Lake
  • Charles City
  • Cresco
  • Waukon
  • Lansing
 Please see BIKE IOWA for more details.

We expect that along with the easier route, that the proximity of the route to Waterloo will amp up interest in doing RAGBRAI this year over last. With that in mind, you should get your rig in NOW and have it tuned up. Beat the rush and all that, don't cha know.

So here is a bit of mechanic insider info for you. Many folks wait to get their bikes tuned up right before the event so that (a) they have a "fresh tune up", or (b) "insure themselves" against failures. Okay, let's take "a" first.....

If your bicycle gets an early Spring tune up, and you train on it, assuming you weren't on the verge of wearing out parts and opted not to replace them, your bicycle tune up will still be "fresh". A good, thorough bicycle tune up done by a professional will be good for a season of use, barring unforseen issues like crashes, getting hit, or what have you, which leads me to.......

"b"- There are NO GUARANTEES that you will not have a flat tire, broken spoke, bad shifting due to someone inadvertently hitting your rear derailleur, or some other malady. Most RAGBRAI issues that occur happen NOT because you did not get a tune up just before RAGBRAI, but because something happened to your bike ON RAGBRAI. So, if you think, "I got a tune up a few days before RAGBRAI, so I am good.", well that won't stop most of the failures that happen on RAGBRAI from happening. The most common of which are flat tires and broken spokes, by the way.

So, if you want to relieve some stress just before RAGBRAI, have that bicycle tuned up now. That'll be one less thing on your list, and barring the unforeseen, you should be good to go for the event.

Stop in and see us now before the end of January for some really good tune up pricing.

Note: The "unofficial blog of Europa Cycle And Ski" reflects information that you cannot get anywhere else about Europa Cycle and Ski- not even from Europa's own social media channels. So stay tuned here for the best info you can get anywhere on Europa. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Flash Sale Saturday

Join us for bagels & bicycles this Saturday from 9:00am - noon. The entire store will be on sale!

There are big savings on some models we've had for a while that need to find their "forever homes". If you've ever wanted a cool road bike, touring rig, or fat bike, we've got some crazy deals waiting, but this is only for three hours this coming Saturday. 

We will also have clothing deals, accessory deals, and more. So much there is to little room to write about it all here.   

Plus, ask about our service specials we are running for the month of November.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Bikepacking/Endurance Seminar This Saturday!

The cycling phenomenon called "bikepacking" may be something you've heard about, but do not quite understand. Is it something for you? Well, this weekend at Ingawanis Woodlands at their Eagle Lodge, you can come for free and find out. There will be cyclists there with set ups on their bikes showing what the concept is and answering any questions you may have.

Bikepacking doesn't have to be all about some far flung adventure in some exotic place. You could use the concepts for going on a picnic, for example, and haul it all on your bicycle to George Wyth. Or you might even use some of these concepts to camp by bicycle, or even use the ideas for a RAGBRAI trip.

There will also be some talk about how to ride and use the extensive network of gravel roads in Iowa. The types of bicycles used, techniques for riding, and more will be discussed. The venue is at Ingawanis Woodland, a Bremer County park. To get there take County Road C-50 from Janesville toward Denver and turn Left/North on Hawthorne Avenue. (Gravel road) Proceed North until you reach the wooded area at the top of a hill. Look for a driveway to the left #2588. If you go downhill and to the right you went too far!

We'll be there from 4:00pm Saturday until 7:00pm with the bikes and experts talking about bikepacking and gravel road riding. There will be chili and a campfire. Feel free to bring a beverage and a lawn chair. Camping over night in tents is also optional. Keep in mind that Ingawanis Woodland is a primitive site and that there are no amenities.

Hope to see ya there!
It is easy to access this area by C50.  Take county road C50 from Janesville toward Denver and turn north on Hawthorne Ave.  You will find a hidden driveway (2588) that takes you in to Eagle Lodge. There is a second parking lot that is always open on 260th. - See more at:
It is easy to access this area by C50.  Take county road C50 from Janesville toward Denver and turn north on Hawthorne Ave.  You will find a hidden driveway (2588) that takes you in to Eagle Lodge. There is a second parking lot that is always open on 260th. - See more at:
It is easy to access this area by C50.  Take county road C50 from Janesville toward Denver and turn north on Hawthorne Ave.  You will find a hidden driveway (2588) that takes you in to Eagle Lodge. There is a second parking lot that is always open on 260th. - See more at:

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.