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Seeing Double: The New Santa Cruz Hightower 27.5+ and 29’r

February 8, 2016

Many of us over at Bicycle Sport Shop were left wondering what, if anything, would replace the long-lived (and loved) Tallboy LT that suddenly disappeared from their website some months ago. Rumors circulated between shop employees and customers, but no one had any definitive answers. Kudos to everyone over at Santa Cruz for keeping this under wraps so well, because you had us all fooled! On February 2, Santa Cruz unveiled the Hightower, a 135mm rear travel transformer of a mountain bike, with the ability to adjust its geometry with the simple flip of a chip.

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The ever-increasing number of Plus Bikes, like the Specialized Stumper Jumper FSR 6fatty, leaves frame manufacturers in the tough spot of producing both 27.5+ and 29’r options to accommodate the varying styles and preferences of the mountain bike community. Santa Cruz saw the demand for a bike that could fit both wheel options and hit the drawing board. They spent many hours testing and tweaking their designs to offer up a bike that truly can do it all.

Santa Cruz unveiled the 27.5+ and 29’r options that both come with 135mm rear travel, Boost 15 x 110mm spacing in the front/12 x 148mm in the rear, and internally routed cables (except the rear brake line). The suspension platform is built on Santa Cruz’s incredibly efficient VPP, or Virtual Pivot Point design. So regardless of what wheel size you opt for, rest assured that when you when mash the pedals, VPP will propel you down the trail with no loss in power. The 150mm dropper post will give you confidence to drop the seat and throw your weight over the rear of the bike when flying downhill, or keeping it out of the way as you punch up a technical climb.

Now, here’s where we get into the technical stuff (get your protractors and rulers). The 29’r comes out of the box with the fork set up with 140mm of travel, a 67° headtube angle, and 337mm BB height. The toggle chip, an eccentric piece of aluminum that connects the upper link to the frame, is set in the low position for the 29’r. But say you want to finally give the Plus-sized world a go for your next trip to Angel Fire or the Rockies. We can ignore the n+1 equation, get a set of 27.5+ Boost wheels, and make some minor adjusts to the bike by flipping the toggle chip. This slackens the head tube angle to 66.8° and drops the BB by a 2mm. To fully optimize the bike, Santa Cruz recommends your local bike shop change the internal air shaft in the fork to increase the travel to 150mm.

This however, is only a suggestion. The beauty of the Hightower is its ability to adapt to what you want. Many of the loyal Santa Cruz fans here at the shop want to swap wheel sizes in a matter of minutes, not the hour or so it can take to change out the air shaft.

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Pete, one of our employees at the warehouse and previous owner of the Tallboy and Tallboy LT, says, “If I were buying the bike I’d get the 27.5+ model. The plus tires stick like Velcro on the slippery sections of the trail, and that extra travel gives me the confidence skip over the ledges rather than roll down them. If I’m heading to a trail that’s a little more mellow, I’d swap out the set of wheels, flip the chip and keep the extra travel up front.”

Eric Clifton, assistant manager at Lamar and Austin High mountain bike team coach, shared his opinion with me (and his desire to purchase one). “The fork has a service interval of around 50 hours. After 6 weeks or so of riding I’ll rebuild my front suspension and swap out the air shaft, flip the toggle chip, and throw on my other set of Boost wheels”.

Each wheel size not only provides you with the best wheel for the terrain, but also allows you to hone various skill sets. Want to boost your confidence and technique hitting a technical Greenbelt descent? Throw on the 27.5+ tires hit the trail! When it’s time to service the fork, change the suspension to 140mm and put on those 29’r wheels and take on some single track!

I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these. The upcoming Santa Cruz demo on March 5th will have the 27.5+ and 29’r Hightower models, along with the other tried and true models. If you don’t want to wait, Bicycle Sport Shop has a limited number of early release Hightowers in stock. Call ahead and come down for a test ride!

Support Bike Austin and Maybe Win a New Fairdale!

December 10, 2015

From our good friends at Bike Austin! Join now and have a chance to win a new Fairdale Weekender Archer!

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This sweet Fairdale Weekender Archer could be yours! Donate today

People like you make bicycling in Austin great.  You volunteer to lead our group rides, you show up to important public meetings to push for more bike lanes and you teach the next generation of bicyclists how to navigate our streets safely on two wheels. But most importantly, you ride. Whether it’s a century in the Hill Country or a 5 minute ride with your kids to school, you’re demonstrating the power of bicycling to transform our city.

Now we’re asking you to help us take bicycling in Austin to the next level. Make a donation of $100 or more to Bike Austin today, and you’ll be entered to win a brand new Fairdale Weekender Archer bike (retail $880).

Make a tax-deductible donation to Bike Austin’s Education Fund

-or-

Make a non-tax deductible donation to Bike Austin’s Advocacy Fund

Our vision–that every Austinite, regardless of their age or comfort on a bike can safely ride in their neighborhood, to the grocery store, to work or to school–is achievable. Our volunteers are proving that we can transform some of Austin’s biggest streets, like 51st Street, Riverside Drive, or Pleasant Valley Road with the protected bike lanes needed to keep our kids safe on two wheels. But we need your help to grow our advocacy, education programs, and rides to even more neighborhoods in 2016.

Please make a donation today.

PS – Every donation up to $5,000 made between now and December 31 will be matched dollar for dollar by Bicycle Sport Shop! Whatever you can give–$10, $20–will have twice the impact. Donate today.

Ridden & Reviewed: Specialized Command Post IRcc

December 2, 2015

More and more, we’re seeing mountain bikes come equipped with dropper posts–seat posts that allow a change in height via a remote control button mounted on the bike’s handlebar. Not too terribly long ago, dropper posts were a curiosity, and one that didn’t work too well at that. But times–particularly in cycling equipment–change quickly, and dropper posts are nearly as ubiquitous as 29″ wheels on cross country rigs and discs brakes on, well, everything.

To get the low down on the best dropper posts out there, we sat down with the Lamar store’s service manager James Mullins.

Specialized Command Post dropper post 6Fattie

Newer MTBs like the Specialized women’s 6Fattie offering, the Fuze, come with dropper posts.

“The whole reason to run a dropper post on your bike,” says James, “is because it removes the need for the rider to make awkward body movements to navigate difficult terrain. Instead of using body english to get out of the way of a rigid seat post as you ride a rocky descent, the dropper post simply gets out of the rider’s way.”

When it comes to technical descents or tight, turn-strewn trails, as James explains it, a dropper post allows a rider to lower their center of gravity by lowering their saddle on the fly, and then as the trail smooths out, return the saddle to it’s proper height for maximum pedaling efficiency.

Specialized Command Post dropper post

The Specialized Command Post is the go-to dropper for shop staff.

“I’ll be honest, I never used it when I first got it,” says James. “Well, I would use it at red lights so I could easily put my feet down as I waited to continue my ride to the trail or over to the shop,” he says with a laugh. “Then one day, I was on the trial and came upon a tight, high-speed turn, hit the button and dropped the saddle, and had the ‘eureka’ moment. Now I’m on the trial and I’m looking for areas where it might be useful,” explains James.

KS Suspension LEV dropper post

The KS LEV is another option, but being a bit more expensive and a little less serviceable has it waning in popularity compared to the Specialized Command Post.

James and other MTB-riding staff members generally see folks interested in two posts. One is from KS Suspension–The LEV–and the other is the increasingly popular Specialized Command Post IRcc. “From an operational point of view, they work the same way,” explains James. “A remote switch on the bar activates a cable that when the rider’s weight is on the saddle lowers it a given amount, and then when the button is activated again without the rider seated, raises the saddle back up to a pre-determined height.”

What sets the Specialized apart is two things–price and serviceability. “The Specialized is becoming more popular because of it’s price, for sure,” says James.” At $349.99 it’s less than the KS Suspension LEV, which sells for $439.99. “But there are loads of times where folks pay more for clearly better equipment, so it’s not just price,” notes James. The Specialized Command Post is fully serviceable in shop. Like a suspension fork or a rear shock, a dropper post needs regular maintenance for proper operations. “Specialized has really upped their game here with a recommended service interval of 70 hours of use and parts that are readily available. No more sending your dropper post off for routine care,” James says with a wide grin.

As we walk the sales floor it’s amazing just how many bikes come with a dropper post. “Nearly all of the Specialized MTB’s seem to come with them, certainly the higher-end full suspensions bikes, the new 6Fattie bikes, and even the Epic,” says James. “Every trail rider can benefit from a dropper post in that it makes the ride experience that much better and lets cyclists concentrate on finding and holding clean lines.”

That’s something we’d raise a seat post to and cheers.

6Fattie MTB Fun For Kids

November 27, 2015

Specialized is no stranger to innovative kids bikes. Just like their wildly popular Hotwalk, which has become a perennial go-to for toddlers learning to ride, the Big S has a new rig for riders in the junior field—the Riprock.

The Riprock comes in 20” and 24” wheel sizes and offers big fun in the form of uber fat 2.8” tires that will have young riders rolling up and over challenging, chunky terrain they come across and having more fun than you can shake a suspension fork at.

Like the adult 6Fattie MTBs, the Riprock is built for fun.

Like the adult 6Fattie MTBs, the Riprock is built for fun.

Just like with mom or dad’s 6Fattie mountain bike, the Riprock is all about confidence inspiring control, a plush ride, and all-conquering traction. The fat tires and the comfort and control they provide make the Riprock a bike every rider, regardless of their age, dreams about—freedom, exploring, having fun with buddies, and getting out there and getting after it.

Along with the new 2.8” tire width found on the Riprock, the rest of the bike is dialed for real riders, like the 6Fattie adult bikes so many of us at the shop love. Thoughtful geometry keeps the bike predictable and fun to ride with a low standover height, a suspension fork adds to the confidence inspiring control offered by the wide tires, and 1X drivetrains and disc breaks makes for easy shifting and plenty of stopping power.

The Riprock lineup comes in girls and boys versions and a bevy of colors.

The Riprock lineup comes in girls and boys versions and a bevy of colors.

The Riprock 24” comes in three models starting with the basic Riprock, which has cable-activated disc breaks, The Riprock Comp, which adds a hydraulic lockout to the fork for easier climbing prowess and hydraulic discs, and the RipRock Expert, which runs Shimano’s Deore hydraulic discs and features upgraded drivetrain components as well.

The Riprock 20” retails for $449.99, and the 24” wheeled models are $499.99 for the base model, $749.99 for the Comp, and $999.99 for the Expert. For both the kid that loves to ride and those that want to love riding, the Riprock is an excellent choice, especially if mom, dad, or an older sibling are looking for a trail buddy to explore with.

Canned Food Drive Ride A Success

November 24, 2015

This past weekend, thirty smiling, excited, and kind-hearted riders joined us and Easton Park, Bicycle Sport Shop Cycling Club’s Premiere Corporate Sponsor for 2016, for our first Canned Food Drive Ride. Young and old, roadies and mountain bikers, guys and gals, all joined in as we rode to make a difference in our community by supporting those in need of a little help this holiday season.

The ride to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas was cool and clear.

The ride to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas was cool and clear.

We collected nonperishable food items at all three of our stores and employees, customers, and friends made contributions large and small to the cause. On Friday, November 20, we gathered all the donations from the Research and Parmer stores and sent them to Lamar for the next day’s big ride.

Despite Saturday’s hefty winds and early clouds, the sun came out and a good group–including many of our Cycling Club members—-loaded messenger bags, backpacks, panniers, baskets, racks and trailers with all of the donated items to transfer them to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas by bike. As we prepared to embark on our delivery, Therapy Coffee was on hand to keep us warm with their delicious espresso and coffee drinks.

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Riders unload bags and bikes with all the generously donated items.

The ride from the Lamar store to the food bank was 7 miles of talking, laughing, and smiles. Even with cool temps, spirits were warm as everyone pedaled up Congress. Once at the food bank, we unloaded the donations and the CAFBT staff set to quantifying all the food generously donated over the previous weeks—435 pounds, which equals 363 meals for Central Texans in need. Simply amazing!

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Professor Al holds the receipt–435 pounds of donated food!

The ride back—right into a stiff north wind—was at least downhill and everyone made it back to Lamar for some breakfast goodies and a sense of satisfaction from a job well done. Everyone had great fun, all the better as it was for a great cause.

We’re so pleased that so many customers, employees, and friends were all there to lend a hand. There was even a couple who had never done an organized ride—this was their first one! We’re also excited that folks from Easton Park were involved in making the event a success. Easton Park’s Lifestyle Director, Amy Vleck, said “[t]oday was a blast, and I am so glad I got to participate! I’m very excited Easton Park is partnering with the Bicycle Sport Shop and looking forward to what else we’ll plan for 2016!“ We can’t wait either.

Thank you to everyone that played a role in making the Canned Food Drive Ride such a hit.

Mopac Mobility Bridge Update

November 12, 2015

Here’s the latest on the Mopac Mobility Bridge. When this is complete it’s going to change the way folks ride to and from southwest Austin!

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Brighter is Better–Be Seen and be Safe

November 5, 2015

There’s more to consider when riding in low light conditions than simply outfitting yourself or your bike with lights, and that’s how visible both your body and your bike may be. Whether it’s dawn or dusk, nighttime, or just a grey, cloudy day, being seen on the bike is imperative to help ensure your safety. Yes, great light options are a big part of the puzzle. But there are other options—for both on the body and on the bike—so that you can be seen and be safe as the days get shorter.

The cycling industry has come a long way when it comes to on the body visibility, and aren’t we jumping for joy that solid chartreuse jerseys are no longer de rigueur for being seen on the bike. Reflective clothing elements like hi-viz stitching, eye-popping piping, and light the night fabrics are leading the way in keeping you seen and safe yet stylish, and Castelli’s Mortirolo Reflex jacket  ($239.99) is a great example of that. It’s no secret we love Castelli and that we’re particularly fond of their cool weather gear. The Mortirolo Reflex jacket is an amazing piece that features a full reflective shoulder panel and lower back, with Windstopper and zippered chest vents on the front. It’s the ideal piece for chilly early morning rides.

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Castelli does cold weather gear right. And the addition of large swaths of reflective materials is welcome.

Hi-viz colors are still utilized in cycling clothing. After all, the goal is to be seen. But clothing makers are adding features to the typically fuddy-duddy, old school offerings one thinks of when you think hi-viz kit. Endura’s Luminite2 jacket for men and women ($154.99) sports the traditional hi-viz yellow with large, reflective designs. But the cherry on top that we’re most excited about is the built-in LED light in the back pocket. Pure genius.

Endura's integrated light is a simple solution. Never forget your tail light again.

Endura’s integrated light is a simple solution. Never forget your tail light again.

Visibility isn’t just limited to your torso though. Just as higher mounted lights increase the odds of being seen, you can run Specialized’s Echelon2 helmet ($69.99) which features reflective elements on the back of your head. For your feet, Specialized offers the highly anticipated Body Geometry equipped Recon Mixed shoe ($224.99) creates moving heel reflectivity that’s more likely to catch the eye of other road users.

Two of our favorite clothing vendors offer tried and true hi-viz pieces that are sure to make you stand out in a crowd. Pearl Izumi’s ever-popular Elite hi-viz yellow/green jersey ($99.99) is a cycling wardrobe staple, as is the Specialized Deflect jacket ($129.99) offered in a stunning electric orange that won’t be missed. Not only does the Deflect come in a great color, it has 3M reflective laminate, and is wind and water resistant, yet breathable for our sometimes cold but clammy winter riding conditions.

Bridging the gap from body visibility to bike visibility is Chrome Industry’s Night Series bags. We have a selection of the Bravo ($179.99) and Yalta backpacks ($139.99) and the Mini Metro ($159.99) and Citizen messenger bags ($179.99) that all feature highly reflective materials and elements to really add a large swath of reflectivity to your ride.

We're big on reflective elements that don't appear reflective during the day. Like those seen on Chrome's night series bags.

We’re big on reflective elements that don’t appear reflective during the day. Like those seen on Chrome’s night series bags.

On the bike, again, aside from great lights, there are intelligent items like Continental’s City Ride II ($19.99 to $24.99) with reflective sidewalls, Thule’s super Shield pannier bags with reflective elements for your bike’s racks ($129.99 to $149.99) as well as Bontrager’s Shopper pannier ($49.99) option. And just to bring out the kid in us all, RydeSafe’s reflective stickers in various colors and designs ($9.99) and Nathan’s reflective tape ($8.99) are great options to add some flare and safety to your bike.

Who doesn't love stickers?! Rydesafe's come in assorted shapes and colors.

Who doesn’t love stickers?! Rydesafe’s come in assorted shapes and colors.

Last but not least, the reason we can be out there in the first place are the bikes themselves, and some of them are getting the hi-viz treatment too. Trek has a number of models out that feature their “seeglass” paint. The paint’s effect in the day is a particular sparkle but at night the bikes become highly reflecative. These bikes—like Trek’s 7.2 FX and 7.3 FX hybrid models as well as their Silque SLX road bike and Skye 26 mountain bike—are great looking and great for being seen—at any time of day!

Come into the shop and into the light with some great visibility options and keep the ride going all fall.

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