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I’ll admit it. I’m a little jealous that Seattle gets a Snowpocalypse before Chicago does. I take pride in my city’s brutal winters. So now that Seattle has had its fun it’s finally Chicago’s turn to play in the snow. And while Fritz may happily snip zip ties off his bike now that things are back to normal over there I’ve got three inches of snow on the ground and more on the way. In a matter of days the plows will shove all the snow in the valuable lanes of pavement I like to ride in, and soon after that all that snow will be compacted into something far more slippery than snow. So, sure, Seattle gets “battered” once or twice every year, but what about real winter?
What about many sub zero days, lots of scorching cold winds, the possibility of frost bite, snow, ice, more snow, more ice, and the inevitable lake effect misery that is the reality for all us crazy Midwestern winter riders? What good is a bike commute if every time I swerve to avoid a collapsed catch basin or perilous pot hole, I lose traction and end up a pile of painful person underneath my bike? Anyone who has attempted to ride down the lakeshore path will know what it’s like to see the sheen of a vast expanse of ice ahead. When I was younger and I rode my 1977 Trek TX550 through such conditions, I just barreled through and braced for what I knew was going to be a couple of very uncomfortable moments. But that was back when I trusted my patellae wouldn’t shatter upon impact, before I had any sort of thoughts that some injuries are more than just annoying to walk away from and some pain is too great to ignore.
Anyway, what do we do about the dangers of an entire winter of ice and snow?
The Answer is studded tires.
These are the Schwalbe Marathon Winters I like to use. (and that’s Chris in the background)
These things are great. Greater, I might argue, than the zip tie snow chains. And I might argue this because, well, I’m a bit too classy to be uglifying my stately Dutch bike with silly little zip ties. (Kudos to you, Fritz, for choosing such a bright and safe color for your snow chains. Safety first!) Seriously though, if you plan on riding through an entire winter, the studs will save you just when you need saving.
Remember when Fritz boasted of his uncanny placement of the zip ties so that they bit into the ice while cornering? That’s the whole idea behind the placement of the carbide studs in the Schwalbe Marathon Winters. The studs are arranged so that when running at full pressure your tires will primarily be making contact with the road right in the middle, on the rubber. When you start cornering, the studs will do their job. Of course, when the roads do get totally nasty, and the ice and hard pack snow is everywhere, you might just want to lower the pressure and let the carbide studs do their thing all the time. With the increases contact area of a soft tire, the studs give you way more traction.
With 240 metal studs on 700cc tire I feel secure on my ride no matter what I roll over, I’ll keep my wheels underneath me. They also have the Schwalbe standard reflective strip on the side wall which makes me feel not only bijster (very) European but also bijster visible. It’s true. You will sound like a swarm of bees when pedaling along dry clean pavement. But the advantage when you need it is well worth the noise. And when you arrive to work, or the bar, or back home again all in one piece, everyone will be very happy to see you. We’ve got the tires in stock now, and we’ll get just about any size you need. Heck, I’ll even put them on free of charge. That’s how much I care about your safety.
With 240 metal studs on 700cc tire I feel secure on my ride no matter what I roll over, I’ll keep my wheels underneath me. They also have the Schwalbe standard reflective strip on the side wall which makes me feel not only bijster (very) European but also bijster visible.
It’s true. You will sound like a swarm of bees when pedaling along dry clean pavement. But the advantage when you need it is well worth the noise. And when you arrive to work, or the bar, or back home again all in one piece, everyone will be very happy to see you.
We’ve got the tires in stock now, and we’ll get just about any size you need. Heck, I’ll even put them on free of charge. That’s how much I care about your safety.
It occurs to me that while we clearly know who Dave and Fritz are, and we have recently had the opportunity to “Meet Alex”, the fine readers of the Dutch Bike blog really don’t have any idea who Vince is. And I think that’s crazy. I mean, here we are bringing Dutch Bike to all the fine citizens of the greater Chicagoland Metropolitan area and we don’t even have a picture on our blog. Madness, I tell you. Madness.
So let me begin with a little introduction. Six years ago, I squeezed into my first set of Pearl Izumi bibs and cycling jersey and set out for a long bike ride. That, more or less, took me to cycling adventures around the world, and a nomadic life of bikes, spandex, clipless pedals and highly offensive yet scientifically proven foods. A year ago I woke up and after looking through a communal kitchen for a clean mug and eating another Cliff Bar breakfast, I decided it was back to Chicago for me. So I packed my suitcase, shipped my bike back to my parent’s house and headed to the uncertainty of a life in one place.
I used to dress like this every day.
Back in Chicago I discovered something funny. My life no longer revolved around going really fast on a bike. I needed to carry stuff, wear normal clothes and get around town in a less sweat inducing manner. So my road bike became useless. I had a mountain bike. But something about Chicago, perhaps the paved roads, perhaps the bike lanes, or perhaps the fact that the only topography is formed by steel and glass structures told me a bike built for rugged terrain might be a bit pointless.
Somewhat serendipitously, as I meandered through the streets of Lincoln Park, I found Dutch Bike. And as I ogled the fine bikes in the Chicago showroom I got to talking with Stephan and discovered that not only did I love the bikes, but I also loved the idea. Everything sort of just made sense. So I bought a Transport, started borrowing the Bakfiets and eventually landed a pretty sweet gig in the shop. Now I look more like this. Actually I look just like this. Come on in to the shop and say hello.
Now I look more like this.
Actually I look just like this.
Come on in to the shop and say hello.
We've been repairing, maintaining, and upgrading all types of bikes here at Dutch Bike since day one, because while we love the somewhat exotic (here in the US, at least) mechanical aspects of the bikes we import, one of our core beliefs is that the best bike is the bike that you ride, whatever it is. Whether we're installing custom fenders on your 90's Bianchi racer or overhauling your 1976 Schwinn cruiser, we love keeping bikes on the road.
Particularly in the past two or three years, I've seen a massive upswing in the numbers of bikes being brought out of storage, bought used, or restored for everyday use. All types of reasons – economic, practical, or ethical – bring these faithful steeds back into harness, but my favorite of all is that it just seems to have become cool. With increasing numbers of bicycles on the road – many of them seeing their second tour of duty – every shop is seeing an increase in repair traffic and, more relevantly, more people are becoming acquainted with the world of bike repair.
For many, getting a bike repaired can be even more intimidating than “taking the car in.” I will be the first to admit that bicycle service shops do not have a stellar reputation for friendliness or customer service, and even though a bike is less complex than a car it can still be an opaque and mysterious opponent when it's not working properly. For these very good reasons, a large number of my service customers don't come to the shop for anything as specific as wheel truing or derailleur hanger alignment, but rather for a general tune-up. It might be every few hundred miles or every few years, depending on where and how you ride, how your bike is designed, and how it's stored and cared for. Whether your mechanic calls it a “tune-up” or a “general service” or a “maintenance package,” the basic idea is the same: make my bike work so I can keep riding it. You drop your tired, creaky steed at the shop, and a day or two later you pick it up shiny and ready for another ride. What actually happens to the bike, though?
As you've seen in previous posts, I enjoy few things more than deflating the fear and mystery around the technical side of bicycles, and so today we'll walk through exactly what goes on during a tune-up. Different tune-ups will include a variety of different operations (wheel truing, adjustment, part replacement, etc.), and different shops will provide a sometimes bewildering variety of options and levels of detail. The tune-up you'll see here is our “Comprehensive,” usually best for older bikes or commuters with medium to high mileage. If the bike requires less I'll suggest a less in-depth “Standard” or “Basic,” or simply perform a few adjustments a la carte.
First, I'll remove the wheels to make cleaning the bike easier and because I'll be working on them individually later. I'll spray and wipe down the frame and components with a weak cleaning solution (I like Simple Green), because it's much more pleasant to work on a clean bike.
Now for the wheels: cleaning first, then truing and balancing spoke tension.
Next I'll open the hubs to check the bearings and inject fresh grease. When I put them back together, I'll be sure to adjust them so that they'll spin smoothly when they're installed.
Back on the bike, I'll do the same to the headset and bottom bracket bearings if they can be serviced. Before I reinstall the wheels, I'll sand and pick debris out of the brake pads for stronger and quieter braking.
Now that the pads are clean and grippy, I'll adjust the pad position and spring tension of the brakes so they'll work powerfully, quietly, and drag-free.
With the brakes “dialed,” I'll move on to the derailleurs; adjusting the cable tension and limit screws, and the position of the derailleurs themselves to optimize the speed, smoothness, and above all the accuracy of each gear change.
Finally, I'll check the tire inflation and take the bike for a test ride to make sure everything is working perfectly!
As you can see, there's no mystery and no magic here, but the proper tune-up should have your bike riding like new – or at least close to it – and keep you going for plenty of rides. Having your bike tuned may not be the most glamorous, but the cumulative positive effects of a smoothly functioning bike can be far-reaching!
Welcome to the Dutch Bike Café!
This is Brian, the lead Barista at the new Dutch Bike Café that is located right in the heart of old Ballard in the Dutch Bike Co. Take a break from shopping for your Workcycle or a Bakfiets and check out our new coffee locale! I’m excited to let you know about the refined focus on coffee and espresso in our warm and inviting new café.
We are using locally roasted Lighthouse Coffee, and getting compliments and winning loyal regulars right from the start. The espresso profile is rich and warm with lingering notes of cocoa and a dry finish, much like a good red wine. To showcase the fresh roasted beans we are offering great drinks like the macchiato: which is espresso with a touch of steamed milk. We call it “the world’s tiniest latte." The doppio -- simply a double shot of espresso in a cute little cup & saucer -- is another great way to savor the flavor of the espresso. If you’re a traditionalist we have piping hot French press coffee all-day for your “drip coffee” experience.
Pair any of our great espresso drinks -- like the cinnamon and vanilla infused cappuccino -- with a lunch sandwich hot from the grill or one of Julie’s famous Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies and you are in for a tasty and enjoyable treat!
Plenty of folks are stopping in for a cup of morning joe and a breakfast sandwich. We also see a lot of you swinging in with your bikes for a tune-up and to test ride the great selection of bikes at the shop and to have a latte with friends.
Stay tuned for more updates on our fabulous baked goods, ice cream sandwiches, and espresso delights!