Saturday, August 30, 2008

What Kind Of Bike Should I Buy?

If you were paying attention I bought a bike about three months ago. My bike budget is zero, so the question here really isn't about me. In one week I was asked that by two neighbors and two co-workers. It seems like a get this question at least once every couple of weeks. I figure it must be gas prices. Even better, that question gives me a reason to write a new post.

It's not what, but where that counts the most...
The first thing I tell anyone asking about buying a new bike is that the best choice they can make is to go to their Local Bike Shop (LBS). There are a number of advantages to buying from your LBS rather than a department or discount store:
  • Qualified sales staff - if you ask them your question they should ask about the way you plan to ride and can match you to the right bike.
  • The bikes are higher quality, even at the bottom end of the catalog.
  • The bikes have been properly assembled by qualified mechanics.
  • Service is available after the sale, usually for free for a year or at a steep discount.
  • Usually any accessories you buy with the bike will be discounted.
What are you going to use it for?
Before you head to the LBS you should have a good idea of how and where you are going to ride your fancy new bike. Most people who are buying a first bike are looking to:
  • Ride around the neighborhood for fitness and fun
  • Ride parkways and paths (remember a car carrier to get the bike to the parkway if you live more than a couple miles away)
  • Ride in a charity ride like an MS-150 or a Tour de Cure
  • Replace local/short car trips and errands with bike trips
  • Commute to work
You should figure out what you think will be your primary use and then your top secondary uses. With the broad range of bicycles available you should be able to find something suitable within your price range. Sometimes the only thing that would need to change for one use to another would be accessories. For example if you want to ride paths and do charity rides but think you may also want to commute or run errands you may want to consider a rack and fenders.

The Test Ride
For most of the uses listed above, a bike in the 'cross' (not cyclocross), 'comfort' or 'hybrid' categories would be perfectly suitable. The key is to take as long a test ride as the store will let you. Bring your helmet, and wear the clothing you will normally wear when riding for your primary use. You want to make sure you are comfortable on the bike. Go back to the shop and have it adjusted and try again if something doesn't feel right.

Other Categories
The uses above are what most people list when they say they want to buy a first bike. There are other uses, and a lot of other categories. You may want to do technical or long distance mountain bike rides where a full-suspension bike would be appropriate. You may want to commute only, and might have a fairly flat route to work, in which case a trendy single-speed may be just the ticket.

The key is to tell the worker at your LBS what you want to do, listen to their suggestions, and try several models before you buy.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

On Top Of Utah - The Videos

My little Sanyo camera also takes videos. The actual quality is much higher than what you get when you post to YouTube, the these will give you an idea of beautiful area we backpacked in.

The view from our campsite. It was kind of early, so when I get the camera pointed east there is a pretty serious exposure problem...

The view from the top of Kings Peak. I think I was suffering from oxygen debt when I narrated the view from the peak. What I called Yellowstone Basin is actually Painter Basin, and the basin I didn't know the name of is the Yellowstone River Drainage.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

On Top Of Utah - Kings Peak

Brennan and I capped off our summer with a fantastic 3-day backpacking trip to Kings Peak; the highest point in Utah.

We started at the Henry's Fork Trailhead at about 11:00 AM on Monday. We proceeded to put in an 8 hour day of backpacking, hiking about 12 miles and over Gunsight Pass into Painter Lakes Basin.

This was the view outside our tent the next morning.

On Tuesday we hiked up to Anderson Pass, and then started the 0.8 mile boulder scramble to the top of the peak. I had figured we could make that portion of the hike in about an hour, but in the end I think it took us closer to two hours.

There were a number of people up on top when we got there, so we asked a volunteer to snap this picture for us.

We only stayed on top for a few minutes. Recognizing that the east face was really not that much steeper than the north ridge, we made a bee line down the east face and back to the meadow below the peak. I think that saved us about an hour of hiking time.

We got back to our campsite at about 4:00 PM, so we decided to pack everything up and head back into Henry's Fork Basin. We went back over Gunsight Pass and headed north for Dollar Lake. We camped about 1/2 a mile to the south east of the lake.

Neither of us slept well that night, so we were up by 6:00; packed and on the trail by 7:00. By 11:30 we were back at the trailhead and looking forward to lunch at the Pizza Hut in Mountain View, WY.

More Pictures

You can visit my Flickr Page for more pictures from this trip, including a critter, some wildflowers, and an unusually happy teenager.

Lessons Learned
We really hiked in an aggressive manner, putting in long days. If you have 4 or 5 days I would recommend spending the first night in Henry's Fork Basin, then crossing the pass on the second day and camping in Painter Lakes Basin. In fact, there are a number of pretty and secluded lakes in Henry's Fork Basin so you could spend several days there prior to crossing over. A key advantage of taking extra days would be that you would be better acclimatized when you actually attempt the peak.

There are a couple of short-cut routes to the base of the peak. In fact our campsite sat near a spring on one of the longer short-cuts. Most of the shortcuts involve significant boulder hopping or scree slope navigation. I am not sure that the savings in distance equal any savings in time unless you have experience navigating that kind of terrain.