Bikes, Components and Accessories to Consider for the Subaru Elephant Rock Cycling Festival

Jared P 2016Our 2016 Subaru Elephant Rock Ambassador Jared Picune is an avid cyclist and athlete.  Jared writes an informative blog about choosing the right cycling equipment for optimal comfort and performance.

Cycling is no doubt a equipment heavy sport. Despite the obvious need for a bike, there are numerous accessories which play an essential role. As a self-admitted gear head, I’ve played with many of these accessories over the years. I found many to be useful, some to be just plain fun and others completely mandatory.

A ride like the Subaru Elephant Rock Cycling Festival is full of rolling hills and beautiful views. No matter what distance you choose to ride, you’ll be in for a treat. This will be my third year riding. I’m opting for the century ride as I love longer distances. But there needs to be a lot of thought about what equipment to use for the big ride.

Lets start by looking at the most important item, the bike. Chances are you already have a bike, but is it ready to take on ERock?

I’ll be using a road bike for many reasons. I feel the most important aspect of riding is comfort, because if you’re not comfortable, you’re not enjoying yourself. Road bike a designed to be light, move fast and have geometry that fit your body well. With a properly fitted road bike you should be able to ride for hours without any discomfort.

Looking beyond equipment, we need to prepare our bodies for the ride with training. I think it’s important to use the same equipment in training as on the day of the big ride. This is for a few reasons. First you’ll be very familiar with how this work and feel. Also you’ll know how your body feeling using the equipment and finally you’ll know if there are any repairs or adjustments that need to be made before the ride. Although a word of caution:  Don’t make last minute changes; make sure you get a chance to ride and test them out beforehand.

IMG_4556Lets dive in and take a closer look at come of the components that make up the bike. The drive train is going to keep you moving, so you want to make sure that it’s functioning properly, lubricated and you are able to change gears without any issues. Your chain can wear and might need to be replaced. There are tools to measure this, or bring your ride into your local shop to have them take a look.

Cables are another important part of the bike. They can stretch over time and may function differently. Since they control your shifting and braking it’s important to keep an eye on them, too. Minor adjustments can be made to tighten or loosen your cables right on your bike, but from time to time your may need to replace them as well.

The saddle is an important item that many of us may never consider changing. But the reality is it’s going to have contact with some of the most sensitive parts of the body. Since we are all unique having a saddle that fits our shape is very important. You might be surprised to find that some of the most comfortable saddles may have no padding at all!

Which brings me to cycling shorts. We’ll take a step away from the bike for a moment and discuss these. Don’t be turned off by spandex, the right shorts make riding wonderful. If you are going to splurge on any single item, these are where to spend your money. There are many different types of cycling shorts, and it’s your preference as to which to use. I prefer bibs, but they can also be tricky to get out of. I recommend trying on several pairs to see which fit you best. The chamois or padding inside is very important for comfort; high quality makes a big difference here.

And while we’re on the topic, lets talk about chamois cream. A plentiful layer of this magical cream will keep your rear from chafing and comfortable for the ride. Don’t be afraid to pick up some individual packets to apply mid ride. You’ll be thanking me later.

Okay, lets get back to the bike. The next thing to look at is the tires. There are a couple things to note here. First inspect the tires for wear, you want them to look round and not have any flat spots. If they have a noticeable flat spot, they may need to be replaced. Also inspect your tires to make sure they’re free of thorns, glass, metal or any other foreign object suck in them. You’d be surprised what you might pick up.

IMG_3890When getting new tires for your road bike you have may options to choose from. This depends on how you ride. I’d consult your bike shop for customized advice. Personally I like to ride a 25mm tire. I like the Specialized Roubaix as it’s a fast tire with some flat protection and a slight amount of tread.

Next you need to have some tubes. It’s a good idea to have 2 spares, but I like to keep four in the hopper just so I’m covered. Stuff two into a saddle back along with some tire levers and a couple CO2 cartridges. CO2 is an amazing way to quickly inflate your tire.  Just remember that it’s thinner than air, so it will leak slowly. It should get you to your destination, but drain your tire and pump it back up when you get home.

A good pump is a very important piece of equipment, too. Get a high quality pump with a PSI gauge so you know how much pressure you are putting into your tire. Each tire should have recommendations on the side. It will give you a range, you can base this on your preference.

We can’t forget pedals and shoes. After all, this the essential contact with the bike that is going to make us move. I’m going to recommend clipless pedals. While this isn’t a necessity, there are many benefits. There is some debate wither these are more efficient or not. Regardless, keeping your feet in place helps, and feels more efficient to me. Cycling shoes also help distribute power. “Clipping in” can be a bit scary but with a little practice anyone can become a pro.

So that sorts out most of the gear for the bike, now lets get back to dress. A jersey is another important garment you should wear. Designed to fit you while you ride and with convenient pockets in the pack to store whatever your heart desires. Luckily there is an Elephant Rock jersey you can pickup for the ride.

Cycling gloves:   I consider these a must, but again, it’s your preference. They are padded to help dampen vibrations and pressure points in your hands. They are also great to wipe sweat off your head.

IMG_4523Don’t forget about the sunglasses. Colorado is known for it’s sunny days, so you can pretty much be assured the ride will be sunny. While there are many cycling specific sunglasses out there I would just wear a pair that are comfortable to you.

So a helmet is not just a smart decision, it’s mandatory to ride. There are many different type of helmets and they can get rather pricey. Get a proper fitting helmet with good ventilation. It should be light and comfortable. And of course the brighter the color the better, or at least it will help your friends find you on the ride.

Socks! You want to keep your feet dry and comfortable. There are many different styles of socks, and many different types of cycling specific varieties. Again I recommend something comfortable and lightweight. You’ll probably want to kick off your shoes and explore the expo at the end of the ride so you might consider a darker colors that will not show all those grass stains.

Now lets get to the fun stuff! Tech. Wow there are so many options and services out there. I’m going to tell you what I use and why. But the good news is you can get most features in a phone app. One big recommendation, GPS uses a lot of battery, so bring a backup battery to make sure you have juice for the day.

Strava is the Facebook of cycling, and running for that matter. If your ride isn’t on Strava it’s like it didn’t happen. What’s great about Strava is they have their own app that will track your rides for you. But it also integrates with may other systems so you can sync your rides.

To track my rides I use a Garmin. I used to use my iPhone, but upgraded last season. The Garmin is a dedicated bike computer that give me many more features than I could get on my phone. Also I don’t have to worry about battery life for long rides and the mounting and viewing options are much better. This way I don’t have to worry about my phone dying while I’m out on a ride.

Since I also participate in triathlons, I have more options with other Garmin devices to help track running and swimming. While Garmin is not an inexpensive solution, it’s one that just works.

So what am I tracking with the Garmin? Lots of things. Speed, Cadence, Temperature, Elevation and Power. While I’m not always paying attention to every metric, it’s nice to have them recorded because I can always go back and evaluate. For example I can see just how my ride was for last year’s Elephant Rock to compare this years effort.

While you don’t have to be fancy and have a lot of tech to enjoy yourself out there, I think there are a few things that are worthwhile to have. It’s nice to know your distance. A basic bike computer will do, but I highly recommend you at least use a phone app like Strava so you can track your rides.

At the end of the day you can go crazy with all sorts of gear, much like I do. And there is nothing wrong with that. We can’t forget what makes cycling so great though, just getting out and doing it. So no matter what equipment you bring to the Elephant Rock Ride, just remember to have fun!