Let Me Tell You About “My Guy”

Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly
Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

I’m suffering with pain in my back.

I have been dealing with this pain for longer than I care to remember.

Or at least trying to deal with it.

And recently it was diagnosed as a pinched nerve in my neck, which considering what I have gone through to get this diagnosis is fairly encouraging news.

This pain has caused the first hour of my rides to be almost unbearable, as pain stabs into my shoulders, my arm tingles and it feels like someone is dancing the boogie woogie on my chest.

I have tried to suffer in silence, but when everyone rides away from me or when I just flat out refuse to ride with my friends … I end up having to explain.

And this is when it happens.

I’ve found out every single person I know who rides a bike has a guy.

“You’ve gotta see my guy.”

“Go. Try my massage therapist. She is the best.”

“My rolfer is amazing.”

“You should check out my yogi.”

“I swear my acupuncturist changed my life.”

“This guy, this fucking guy, is a life saver.”

“This pilates instructor in the neighborhood really dialed me in.”

“My guy understands the human body better than anyone I have ever met.”

“You should totally go to my chiropractor. She is the bomb.”

I find this incredibly annoying, but also super interesting.

Like all my friends who have succeeded I, too, want to find my guy.

I have tried acupuncture, chiropracty, rolfing, massage, self-massage, and as many home remedies I could stomach. I have read books on chronic pain and core training. I have tried heat and ice and ice and heat. And I have even tried whisky, like in the old western movies.

But, I have yet to stumble upon “my guy.”

I have heard enough tales woven by my friends about how they too did extensive and exhausting searches for a cure for their pain and then one day wandered into some yoga class or asian herb shop or new age chocolate/stone massage seance treatment center in search of a cure. And there, out of thin air, appeared their “guy.”

Recently, I have done the unthinkable, I have actually gone to see a doctor. And the doctor has told me my years of carrying camera bags and cameras, mixed with my years of riding a bicycle has caused my shoulder blades to separate. She has suggested I need to unstretch out my back, build my shoulder muscle back up and slowly pull my shoulder blades back together. She suggests I need to work on counter-balancing the stretching bicycling has caused with good old-fashioned, focused hard work.

And here I was just hoping to find “my guy” and have him or her tweak my little toe and make the pain go away.

Instead, I have started with a series of exercises, paying constant attention to my posture and how I carry my bags and being consistent.

The hard work has begun, but the search has not halted.

I’m not giving up on the “my guy” theory.

So, when I tell you about my back, feel free to tell me about your guy.


These Walkable Cleats Will Have You Striding Like a Boss

Speedplay Zero Aero Walkable Cleats. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly
Speedplay Zero Aero Walkable Cleats. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

I’m clamoring down the stairs, both in an attempt to get out of the rain and to hopefully grab the BART train I can just hear pulling into the station below.

Normally, I would be sporting a pair of MTB shoes and my beloved Shimano SPDs, but today I’m “testing” the new Speedplay Zero Aero Walkable cleats.

I had given up on Speedplay pedals a number of years ago, both because I was having trouble with initial setup—mostly my fault—and because I was tired of skating all over the place on their crazy, raised, oddly shaped cleats.

I had a couple of friends who used to carry the Speedplay pedal cleat covers in their back pockets and swore it was totally worth it. They loved their Speedplay pedals for their lightweight, tensionless float, impressive adjustability and dual-sided entry. But the thought of having to carry cleat covers with me every ride, let alone remembering to put them on at the coffee shop had me looking elsewhere for my pedal fix.

Speedplay Zero Aero Walkable Cleats. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly
Speedplay Zero Aero Walkable Cleats. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

Now I was trouncing down those stairs, across the platform and onto my train without a single misstep. The new(ish) Walkable Cleats have solved the ice-rink feeling of the original Speedplay cleats and after a little tweaking from my fit expert I have finally fallen in love with Speedplay pedals.

I still won’t be packing the Cleat Buddies in my jersey pocket, but for my more finicky friends, they come with the cleats if you are this type of rider.


This Lezyne GPS Is Like Crack for GPS Data Junkies

Lezyne GPS. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly
Lezyne GPS. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

Remember the days when the purple route line was just a highlighter stripe on a paper Michelin map? My old Polar CS200 had everything I needed before the days of GPS cycling. Then a particular company got us hooked on the GPS crack. And we all dropped a carbon wheelset’s worth of cash to see a grainy picture on our stems of the next 2.0 miles of our rides. Then topo maps. Gradients. Road databases. So much data—Rand-McNally right there under our sweat-dripping noses. You want data? You gotta pay for it. Until now.

Enter the Lezyne GPS. If you can still call a device that tracks your location on the surface of the earth from over 13,000 miles away “minimalist,” this is the embodiment. So is the price tag. Ranging from Mini to Power to Super GPS, Lezyne leaves off the map, but maximizes function and value. Want numbers? They have all the numbers you need.

Speed, time, elevation, time of day, lap splits, plus you can Bluetooth or ANT in your heart rate, speed, cadence, and power meters to bike-nerd it all out. On the Super GPS you can even Bluetooth in your phone and get text, email, and call alerts. Is your jersey pocket vibrating because Junior’s school office is calling or because work is saying “Lunch is over”? No need to guess. They have their own GPS Ally app for iOS and Android, plus they can auto-sync to the ubiquitous Strava for the ultimate social bike-geek data experience. But wait, it gets better. I have used the Super GPS for a whole month before recharging the battery. Watts for days.

So, what is wrong with the unit? Small stuff. You can only sync one activity at a time. No problem if you are always connected. If you go off the data grid for an epic week, well, you will have to take a few extra minutes uploading each gnar ride individually. The other downside? The bluetooth phone connection is somewhat finicky when switching between devices. I ran the Lezyne for a week on my phone connection with no problems. Then I let my wife try it out for a while. Getting it to switch between hers and my phone for alerts was a little trying and cumbersome, so, stick with what works first for you out of the box.

Bottom line, if you want to experience your ride and see the map later, look no further. Even if you have to adhere to a Zone-3 Over/Under 1 minute ON 1 minute OFF regiment, ” target=”_blank”>Lezyne still has you dialed. Look at the rocks now and the map later. Enjoy your ride. Outside is Free.

Editor’s Note: Lezyne responded to our article with a couple of tips on pairing.

Try these in this order:
Make sure the device has the latest firmware: http://www.lezyne.com/gpsroot/gps_downloads.php
With the Super GPS plugged in, delete the “settings.fit” file from the device. This will reset any screen customization, but reset all connections too. We’ve found this to help when pairing to a new phone.
Make sure the phone has the latest Ally app update, and unpair any existing Lezyne GPS devices in the phone’s bluetooth setting. Then toggle the Bluetooth off and on.
Then, try pairing to the Super GPS through the phone’s Bluetooth settings, rather than through the Lezyne App

I know this sounds like a lot of effort, but it’s really the nature of Bluetooth. It will become more reliable and robust over time, however.


Rapha Climber’s Shoes Are The Kicks You’ve Been Looking For

Rapha Climber's shoes. Photo: Colin O'Brien/Element.ly
Rapha Climber’s shoes. Photo: Colin O’Brien/Element.ly

I’m vain. You are too. Admit it. You don’t like it when someone compliments your bike or your kit? You lie. Cyclists are the peacocks of the sporting world.

From my first ride with Rapha’s Climber’s shoes, I was in love, because my buddy noticed them immediately. Sure, they performed well too, but I was expecting that. Anyone making high-end cycling products that don’t work flawlessly in 2016 should be ashamed of themselves. We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to functionality. When it comes to fashion, however, it can often be slim pickings.

Designed in conjunction with Giro, they combine the latest technology from the American shoe and helmet maker—such as the uber-stiff EC90 SLXII sole—with classic looks that match right up with the Rapha aesthetic. The perforated body is a nod to shoes of yesteryear, while the simple velcro straps provide a nice, uncluttered appearance on top.

Rapha Climber's shoes. Photo: Colin O'Brien/Element.ly
Rapha Climber’s shoes. Photo: Colin O’Brien/Element.ly

The British brand’s minimalist offering differs significantly from their GT model, providing a pared back option for the rider looking for a fast, comfortable, good-looking shoe without any bells or whistles. The Climber model weighs in at 215g compared to the 320g GT version, and comes with three velcro straps instead of the ratchet or wire closure systems popular with other manufacturers.

They don’t look very “technical”—industry speak for designed in the dark—but they’ll perform with the best of ’em. Nothing fancy, nothing loud, just comfortable kicks you can put on and forget about. Some people might like something flashier, and that’s fine. If you like metallic colored shoes covered in flags and logos, go for it. Whatever floats your boat. But for yours truly, these were just the ticket. Understated, functional and lightweight—the holy trinity of desirable characteristics for any (wannabe) stylish cyclist. Now if only it were warm enough to take these pesky shoe-covers off.


Snuggle Into These Winter Sockies to Keep Your Feet Warm and Dry

Gore-Tex socks. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly
Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

I love my Gore-Tex socks. I have been wearing them in the rain. And in the cold. And in the cold rain. And my feet have never been cold or wet.

Well, there was that one time I got caught in the rain. The water ran down my legs and into these socks, but even though my feet were riding in a pool of water, my toes still never actually got cold. It was like a little hot tub in there.

Yes, my feet do have a tendency to sweat in them on the warmer rainy rides and I would guess in snowy conditions this could create a problem on really long rides. But, I am sticking with what I said before. I love these socks.

They are waterproof, windproof, breathable and have a touch of reflective material. If you ride in the cold and rain, do not delay, get some sockies for you toesies.


These Ibex El Fito Knickers Are Magic

The Ibex El Fito knickers. Photo: Kip Malone/Element.ly
The Ibex El Fito knickers. Photo: Kip Malone/Element.ly.

As the snow starts to fly and temps continue to drop like Jeb Bush’s poll numbers, I find myself re-learning how to dress for winter on the bike. While the time tested mantra of layer layer layer is always in season, one piece of kit has changed how I look at the short days and long sleeves of winter.

The Ibex El Fito knickers are almost always codling my backsides in the cold season, not just because they are warm, but because they are as adaptable as a politician in New Hampshire. They are a blend of Merino wool, Spandex and Clima-wool softshell material, and this combo keeps the legs warm while wicking moisture and allowing freedom of movement. From 30º up to 60º, they simply disappear, regardless of the conditions. Below 30º or in the wet, a baggy short worn over keeps things cozy down into the teens. Wool is magic.

The Ibex El Fito knickers. Photo: Kip Malone/Element.ly
The Ibex El Fito knickers. Photo: Kip Malone/Element.ly.

The chamois on the El Fito is a mixed bag and a mixed blessing. It too is made from a wool blend, meaning it doesn’t stink after a one-hour ride, and can be worn a few times between washings if you’re ok with that sort of thing. Unfortunately, the chamois just isn’t as comfortable as many high end shorts, and after four or five hours in the saddle, distress signals begin arriving from below. Following the advice of some friends, I took a seam ripper and carefully removed the chamois from one pair and simply wear my shorts of choice under the Ibex on long rides.

The El Fitos come in both a bib and plain knicker ($145/$185), I own both and am looking forward to plenty of riding this El Nino winter.


Rapha Classic: Sunglasses That You Can Wear On and Off the Bike

Rapha Classic sunglasses. Photo: Colin O'Brien/Element.ly
Rapha Classic sunglasses. Photo: Colin O’Brien/Element.ly.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now. These shades have handmade Italian frames and Carl Zeiss lenses, wrapped up in a sexy Rapha package. They were never going to be cheap.

But then, that’s ok, because if we’re honest, nothing is cheap these days. Especially not the pretty stuff. And if you go for the pink lens version–the only choice, if you ask this guy–you’ll have a nice rose-tinted outlook on the world that should distract you from your empty wallet.

Designed with a classic aesthetic and available in three colours–brown, black and the left-field grey/pink–the Rapha Classic range is inspired by sunglasses of old, but updated enough to function perfectly in today’s peloton.

Rapha Classic sunglasses. Photo: Colin O'Brien/Element.ly
Photo: Colin O’Brien/Element.ly.

The Carl Zeiss lenses are deep and curved, offering good coverage, and are coated with some things with complicated names that prevent fogging and smudges and offer 100% UV protection. The acetate/wire frame is made by Mazzucchelli, a firm outside of Milan with more than 160 years experience in the plastics industry. The design is robust and comes with well-placed, discrete rubber grips to stop slippage.

Rapha’s little foray into eyewear are a well-made, understated option for anyone looking for some premium shades. They won’t be to everyone’s taste because they’re not quite sporty enough for the try-hard weekend warrior, and unlike a lot of the competition, they don’t come with interchangeable lenses.

In the pro column, the build-quality is second-to-none and the understated design is stylish enough to wear off the bike without drawing any disapproving glances. And for those of us who’ve always thought we looked like tools wearing aggressively outdoorsy sunglasses, they’re a must have.


The Castelli Tempesta Line Has Us Singing “Rain, Rain Come and Play …”

The Castelli Tempesta jacket. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly
The Castelli Tempesta jacket. Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly.

As I sit here in my not-so-cozy office and listen to the rain pelt against the roof with wild abandon I am reminded of the days when rain was a legitimate reason to ride the trainer.

Yes, this is another one of those ol’ man tale of the days before indoor plumbing and this fancy thing called eeeelectricity. Well, not that far back, but well before the days of windproof, waterproof materials.

We grew up wearing cotton on our feet, hands and legs. When it rained or snowed we were soaked to the bone and freezing. If you were lucky enough to get some wool socks you were the cat’s pajamas. We still used phrases like “the cat’s pajamas.”

And no matter how hard we tried to get our boots and mittens next to the radiator, we almost always had to pull them back on wet for the bus ride home.

End of history lesson.

Now the number of choices for winter and rain gear is nothing short of miraculous and I’m going to share of few of may favorites for 2016 in the coming weeks.
First up is the Castelli Tempesta line, including the dreamy Tempesta Race Jacket.

This jacket is not only prepared to keep you dry, with its waterproof taped seems and water blocking zipper, but it is stuffable, easily spotted in the dark hours of winter, and race cut. No more flapping, stiff, garbage bag style rain protection.

Throw in a couple of rear pockets and a butt flap and this jacket is ready for you to either start your day in the rain or stuff it in your pocket as the perfect insurance plan.

The Tempesta lineup also includes a pair of 3/4 pants which are everything you want and nothing you don’t.

One the best parts about such amazing rain gear is you never have to worry about putting on wet kit, just shake the shake Tempesta jacket and pants out and out the door you go … rain or shine.


Review: Your Rear Will Love This Fabric Cell Elite Saddle

Elemently_FabricCell

Fabric Cell Elite saddle in Blue. The translucent top just glows in the light. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

Elemently_FabricCell

A durable polyurethane top, the hex-shaped air cell core, and a flexible nylon base that makes up the Fabric Cell Elite Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

Elemently_FabricCell

At 155mm at its widest, the Cell Elite has plenty of cushy real estate for your rear. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

Elemently_FabricCell

The top view of the Fabric Cell Elite Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

At first glance, the Fabric Cell Elite looks like a normal saddle with a bright-colored top. Well, it’s much more than that. And if you’ve never heard of Fabric, you should.

Launched in 2014 by the founder behind the hugely popular UK brand Charge Bikes, Fabric has in a short time brought on quite a few innovative products: The striking carbon ALM saddle designed in collaboration with Airbus, the Chamber multi-tool, and the cageless water bottle system. The Fabric guys are obviously onto something.

The Cell, in true Fabric fashion, is not your ordinary comfort saddle. No gel, no cutouts, no crazy amount of padding.

Beneath that opaque waterproof cover is a trick air-cell that acts as an air spring just like those neon Nike Air Max 95s you wanted so bad when you were young. Unlike the pressurized air cell in running shoes where an unfortunate puncture will spell it’s premature demise, the Cell’s airsprung will not be affected even if its polyurethane top is punctured or torn. ‘Cause you know, stuff happens.

A durable polyurethane top, the hex-shaped air cell core, and a flexible nylon base that makes up the Fabric Cell Elite Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly
A durable polyurethane top, the hex-shaped air cell core, and a flexible nylon base that makes up the Fabric Cell Elite. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

My first ride on the saddle was during a wet cyclocross race (tells you how much I love the saddle that came with the bike) and my initial thought was it’s one bitchin’ saddle. I was a bit skeptical on the effectiveness of the air cell core and that slight noise it made when I squeezed it with my hands. However, I never heard a thing when I was out on rides. And the air cell? It works. Not only does it act as a nice landing during my remounts, but the top has just the right amount of grip even in the rain. One extra credit for the Cell’s nylon base is that it makes post ride clean up a whole lot faster. Just rinse and repeat.

It’s been a month since the Cell was bolted onto my bike and it’s such a comfortable ride it’s staying on there. Its generous 155mm-wide platform reminded me of the old WTB SST (with a different cushion feel, of course.) Oh, and it’s a unique looking saddle that’s not black or white (Fabric does offer a black and opaque top).

At 354 grams, The Cell elite is not going to win a weightweenie contest; it’s not what it’s designed for. It’s one heck of a saddle for all it’s intended purpose, though. Super comfortable, a clean look, plus the price is right at around $65 with 6 different color ways to match your steed.


Carla McCord at Pivot Cycles Takes Your Fun Budget Seriously

Carla McCord of Pivot Cycles. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

Carla McCord is a veteran of the cycling industry. Now the marketing manager at Pivot Cycle, she’s been a bike shop salesperson, a mechanic, and a graphic designer. She was even there when the first woman-specific Terry saddle was introduced (more on that in a bit.)

Named one of the 50 Most Influential Women in the Industry by Bicycle Retailer and Industry News in 2014, Carla has been helping various companies in marketing and communicating products to customers. Call it the bridge between you and [insert your favorite bike company here]. Sounds easy right? Well, it’s easier said than done really, as you’ll read in the following interview.

On top of it all, Carla is one of the nicest and hardest working people I’ve had a chance to meet since I’ve started shooting/writing cycling stuff. Oh, and I hear she’s blazing fast on the bike, too.

So what do you really do for work?

Well, the official title is the marketing manager for Pivot Cycles. The unofficial title would be more interesting. You know, it’s a funny combo, marketing is a lot of things to a lot of people and I think there’s an impression out there that you’ll spend a lot of time bro-ing down … I joke about it all the time that I am at these events just to give free stuff and hangout.

And the reality is that is actually a very tiny part of it. The biggest part is you’re trying to think about what is it you do and how that is going to be interesting to people. You’ll spend a lot of time strategizing, you’ll spend a lot of time planning one year, two years down the road. I am in a really privileged place in a sense that my job is to essentially make people happy.

It’s a huge responsibility. We think about this, the stuff we make at Pivot, these bikes, when someone decides to buy one of our bikes and that’s going to be the thing they ride. For most people that is a significant thing—that’s going to be their fun budget for a while. So it’s a huge responsibility to make sure we communicate in a way they get the real one, it fits them perfectly, it’s set up perfectly so that six months from now, heck, we’re responsible for their fun. They believe our stuff is going to help them to go out and to enjoy the trails, the mountains, the desert and we‘ve got to make sure we hold up to our end of the bargain. So we work really hard to do that.

Were you always in marketing?

Oh gosh that’s the funny one. I have a painting degree. I have a BFA from the University of Washington and I was really serious about it for a while. And then I realized I can pay my bills if I’m employed. At the same time I had worked my way through college at bike shops as a mechanic and salesperson.

The wrenching was an accident. And honestly I wasn’t that great of a wrench. Though if you’ve got a 20 year-old, one-inch-threaded-everything beater old road bike and a campy tool set, I can fix the hell out of that bike. Since then, there are other mechanics that are better than I am.

But I was actually really good at helping people find things and helping people solve their problems. I started working at bike shops pretty much exactly the same time the first women’s saddle was introduced. It was about ’91-’92.

Georgena Terry should be in the cycling hall of fame for that saddle. It really was that one product. For years it was like you had to know that in order to make your saddle comfortable as a woman means you go to the bike shop, borrow the dremel tool and dremel out the plastic in the inside of the nose of the saddle. For beginner cyclists, that was completely inaccessible. They didn’t even know what to ask.

Being a woman in a bike shop in the ’90s was really, really rare. I happened to work at a woman-owned bike shop in Seattle so it was even more rare. I learned a lot of cool stuff about how to talk to different demographics of people not as demographics, and that’s one of the things that was really important.

How many golf balls can you fit in a school bus?

I’ll just guess: 567,000

Uphill or downhill?

Downhill.

First thing you’d do as a captain of a pirate ship?

I’d probably make sure everybody has really frilly blouses because I want a really picture-esque pirate ship that’s aesthetically pleasing. I would design the pirate ship experience to make it visually impressive.

A friend’s coming over, what would you cook them for dinner?

That’s pretty easy. That’s all about getting some really good Mexican food going. That is just my home food. Awesome guacs, good skirt steak, and some homemade tortilla if I am really adventurous but honestly my tortillas are really bad. More guac because I am an avocado addict. I used to live in LA and that is definitely something I miss about LA, just the nonstop availability of a Mexican butcher shop.

Describe your idea of a perfect holiday.

I am kind of a sit in one place kind of person so when I go on vacation what I like to do is to find a spot and basically live there as long as I can. Honestly my vacation I usually try to turn into something I can also get a little work in so I can stay for a month. The cool thing about that is you get to know the local restaurants, bakeries, the food, the people and you’ll start to see the stuff you don’t see otherwise. Always got to have a bike on hand cause you’ll see so many more things on bike than by car. I walk everywhere, always with a loved one, so I’d definitely go with my husband Cam … and our baby on the way … it’ll be a family vacation.

Carla McCord of Pivot Cycles. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

If you were a stalker would you be good at it?

Yeah I’d be awesome at it actually. I am really good at getting information. It’s part of being a good marketing manager. You have to be able to do your research, to do your Google things. You’ve got to be able to come up with ideas and figure things from what you find, so I think I’ll be pretty kickass at it.

Most embarrassing story?

I don’t know. I got myself tangled up with some packing tape this morning.

Chosen superpower?

I’d like to be a Google billionaire so I can give all my money away to all the schools. I think it’s something that’s really important that we don’t do enough of.

Choose a car, any car, to represent yourself.

Exactly the car I drive. It’s a Subaru Outback with all kinds of things attached to it. It’s got a rooftop box, a Thule rack, and special shocks so I can run a 4 banger Thule rack and not bottom out my rear suspension.

It’s filled with Border Collie hair at all times. You can’t get into my car without getting coated in dog hair because I always have a dog. There’s probably one snow shoe and some camping gear.

If you were an animal in the wild, what would you be?

Ravens, because they’re super smart. They remember everything and they know you. If you’ve got local ravens they see you. They’re gorgeous that there are lot of beautiful colors in their feathers. Ravens just seem like they kind of have it together. They’re always out there doing interesting raven stuff that they seem they’re smart enough that they have plans.

Any advice for those looking into breaking into this sport industry?

You can’t just think it’s a bro thing. And by bro I mean all these folks want to come in thinking it’s super easy, fun time thing that they get to be a cool guy.

I spend a lot of time in front of Excel, work really hard, think a lot about what I am doing and I also have a lot of folks who work really hard around me. It’s awesome and I try to be respectful of that.

At the same time, it’s a small industry and the most important thing is to have integrity around what you do because if you don’t, man, first of all, what are you doing for yourself, and in the end, that’ll come back to you six months or six years down the road. Somebody’s going to remember and you’ll see the same people over and over. It’s important that you treat them all very well.