How Can I Upgrade My Bike? (And How We Can Help)

We see a wide spectrum of bikes in the shop. Anything from full carbon race bikes worth thousands of dollars to 70’s cruisers with mostly sentimental value. Because we do repairs, usually people bring their bike in because something has gone wrong. Often they ask “how can I upgrade my bike?” Whether you’re looking for speed, reliability or style, we often want more bike in our bike.

How Can I Upgrade My Bike Cost Effectively?

The most affordable and effective upgrade you can give your bike is proper maintenance. It doesn’t matter if your bike is super light, if the chain is rusted and the tires are flat. Regular cleaning and fixing can also help you identify problems while they are still fixable. A good example is replacing your chain when it is worn. If you wait too long to replace it, an old chain can actually wear out the rest of your drive train. This means a new chain wouldn’t “fit” the wear pattern of your old chainrings and you’ll have to replace the entire system to get your shifting back to what it used to be.

One of the cheapest upgrades you can get is a set of new tires. A flat tire turns your bike into little more than a clunky accessory. Quality tires can reduce your encounters with this inconvenience substantially. I ride Schwalbe Marathon tires, which we carry in the shop. Many times I only notice a patch of glass after its too late to avoid and I ride right over it. With good tires, I roll right over these inevitable obstacles, unscathed. Higher quality tires can also help you grip the road during wet Portland winters.

A few other little upgrades that go a long way are your handlebars and saddle. If you are splendidly comfortable on your bike, great! If not, simple adjustments could turn your bike from a pain machine to a joy to ride. I’ve met a lot of people that suffer through uncomfortable saddles or poorly adjusted handlebars simply because they did not realize another way was possible.

Upgrading vs Getting a New Bike

Many people ask for advice on what I would upgrade if it was my bike. Sometimes, I hate to say it, but you’d be better of just getting a new bike altogether. Thrift store bikes are often donated because the owner calculated it was cheaper to donate than fix. Box store bikes are usually designed to be flashy and as cheap as possible. It entirely depends on what kind of riding you’re doing. Not everybody needs a sleek bike with electronic shifting that weighs as much as a sneeze. On the other hand, not everybody can tolerate a 50lb rust bucket that breaks every two or three blocks.

The key is to be honest with yourself about how you use your bike. If you commute in the rain everyday, it probably doesn’t make sense to spend hundreds of dollars on replacing your old steel rims and squeaky old components on your $40 Goodwill bike. You’d be better off spending that money on a new bike altogether. Even the most basic of modern bikes tend to perform better than any bike from the Cold War  you’re bound to salvage from a garage sale.

So if you’re wondering “do I need to upgrade my bike, buy a new bike, or just adjust a few things?” come by the shop. We’re more than happy to help you improve your ride experience.

What type of bike light should I buy?

What type of bike light should I buy?

A savior. A cost. A helper. A hassle. In a bike-able city like Portland, it is important that we are able to see the road in front of us with enough lighting while responsibly allowing cars to identify us in the dark of night. Where some opt to take the risk as a creature of the night, this lightless lack of illumination loses in the long-run. Between the dangers of the dimly lit roads and the risk of receiving a fine up to $75.00 as a class D driving infraction, it is decidedly better to purchase yourself a bicycle headlight. But… What type of bike light should I buy? We’re here to help you decide the best bike lights for you!

Analyzing the Options

Well, first let’s understand the difference between battery powered versus USB rechargeable powered lights. In terms of cost, battery powered lights will almost always come at a lower price. Battery powered lights tend to emit fewer lumens (lumens will be the main factor when it comes to light options throughout this post). Lumen is the unit used to measure the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source as related to the human eye’s sensitivity to wavelengths. When traveling at night in well lit areas the lower lumens with a battery powered light may suffice. Using batteries also allows the ability to carry spare when you run out of juice should the situation arise.

When opting for USB rechargeable lights, you won’t be able to throw in these spare batteries, but the benefits are quite overwhelming. With USB charge, lights are capable of emitting a much higher amount of lumens. With more lumens, there will be more options of places to safely travel by bicycle. The batteries are also rechargeable. When the time comes, as opposed to needing a new set of batteries, the USB plug will be able to give you the kick you need without the extra charge, paying off the extra cost of selecting USB.

In order to provide insight toward bike light preferences I asked some of my co-workers what their preferences are:

Quoc – Mechanic

“As a commuter traveling to and from Hillsboro, I use a USB rechargeable light with 300 lumens but I plan to upgrade to a 450 lumen soon. 450 is probably best for price point and also gives you more comfort in terms of safety when traveling in different parts of the city. Without cost consideration I’d even say push up toward 750-1000 range. At the end of the day whatever makes you feel safest as an unprotected cyclist on the road. When I’m biking home listening to David Bowie, more lumens means more safety. No need to be a “Rebel, Rebel.”

Shop Choice- Cygolite Streak 450 Headlight

Cygolite Streak 450 on bike

Frederick – Tour Guide

“1000? That’s a lot. Lights on cars only hit 700 on their low beams. You’d certainly be making yourself known out there in the roads. I had a 300 but when it ran out of batteries I just stopped buying new ones. Now I use a small blinker that works just fine for me as I only really bike within the city at night time. I think 250 lumens is about all I’d need as a commuter here, but definitely with a USB rechargeable. It’s nice to have a battery powered set for back up, especially during the winter. During my time in Tanzania, I didn’t have easy access to power outlets. With this luxury in the United States, I find it better to recharge rather than purchasing new batteries on a bi-weekly basis.

Shop Choice- Cygolite Dart 210 Headlight

Cygolite Dart 210 on bike

Jesse (me) – Tour Guide

“Yeah. Definitely USB is the way to go personally. I think if I wasn’t a regular commuter batteries would be perfect for the occasional night time ride. As it is, I like to have options with my lighting as I never know where I’ll end up on my bike. So pushing up toward 800 lumens is totally feasible to me. Additionally, I’ve had 2 headlights stolen off my bike since I’ve moved to Portland. This is due to both my ignorance and my frustration in taking bike lights off and putting them on. For me, it’s important that my light can easily slide on and off so it becomes a simple habit for me to practice.”

For more info on how to avoid bike accessory theft, check out this article.

Shop Choice- Urban 800 Headlight

Urban 800 on bike

In summary, as regular commuters with daily access to USB chargers, USB rechargeable lights have more benefits. Your lumen choice, however, comes down to preference. I hope this article can help you answer the question what type of bike light should I buy? Remember, with greater lumens comes greater cost. With greater lumens comes greater possibility.

Bike Food Part 1 : How to Make Your Ride Delicious

If you’ve ridden a bike much, you may have noticed there are few kitchens on the side of the road. You also may have noticed you are hungry. You are not alone. But with a some preparation, a positive spirit and burritos, you’ll find there is bike food out there suitable for all cyclists.

Bike Food

I always carry at least a granola bar in my saddle bag. “Bonking,” or running out of energy on a bike ride, is at best an avoidable bummer. At worst, it can be a health hazard, especially if you are far from civilization or riding in cold weather. Fueling your ride can be either a chore or a delicious picnic. It’s easy to find a place to get food in a city like Portland where food trucks are around every corner! But when traveling longer distances, a little planning and attitude makes all the difference.

Your body does require more calories and electrolytes while exercising, but don’t be intimidated by sports food marketing. “Electrolytes” is basically just another way to say “salt”. Calories and electrolytes exist in literally all food. This is what makes it food. Over my experience on longer rides and tours, I’ve found a few favorite foods that fit well in a jersey pocket or saddle bag and add to the pleasure of riding a bike. Then again, everything tastes better after a long bike ride.

Burrito!

A perfect pocket-sized sandwich. I used to have a shirt that said “53 miles per burrito,” which is pretty accurate. The real advantage of this food is the near ubiquity of taco trucks in some parts.  Many times have I been saved from hunger by some middle-of-nowhere taqueria. Remember to bring some cash when you ride, if you dream of burritos.

Trail Mix!

I guess on a bike it would technically be a “road mix,” but the principle remains the same. You can make it as fancy or cheap as you’d like, but I like to buy a bunch of ingredients in bulk and mix them into bags to take with me. Here is a rough recipe I like:

Harmonious Pairs

Snacks don’t have to be complex. Some of the most satisfying road foods I kept going back to were pairs of things that go together. This is partly because its easier to find just two things at a random convenience store in the middle of nowhere. But also you don’t want to spend all your time planning food when you could be riding. Here are a few of the pairs I kept going back to on longer rides:Apple and Nut ButterHummus and chips

Beverage

Water is the best beverage, but sometimes you want something else. You can get fancy powders that magic your water into a smoothie or a sports drink. I prefer to use a little lemon juice or hibiscus mixed with honey, or even coconut water. On long trips with friends, I like to hide a bottle of beer in my pannier. When you arrive at your destination everyone is tired, but a little surprise at the end can turn “ugh, what a ride…” into “wow, what a ride!”

Bike food is important for the mind, body and spirit. As important as it is to take care of your bike, it’s probably more important to take care of yourself! Put the right things in your body and you’ll get the best out of your bike and yourself! Stay tuned for more bike food tips in part 2 and part 3.

Closed for the Holidays!

Dear friends!

As we approach this holiday season we will be closed on December 24th – 26th and again on December 31st – January 1st. Thanks for stopping in for bike mechanic work, accessories, rentals, tours and our new Sock Hop business which is now open via the interwebs! Make sure to come in before for that last minute gift (or after if you forgot some people). Our socks make the perfect present for family, friends or yourself!

Happy Holidays!

The Cycle Portland Staff

Keep Hope Alive in Winter: Actually Prepare

Step 2: Actually Prepare for Winter. Suddenly Commuting isn’t so Hard!

Obvious in retrospect, but when I was in college I rode my carbon race bike (my only bike for a while) everywhere. There was no room for fenders in this SUPERFAST frame, so I would show up everywhere very wet. Now that I am older and (a bit) wiser, I realize that there is no gear more stylish than the crinkly clothes that go “swshswshswsh” because you can shed them like a wet snake skin when you arrive at your destination. The trick is you have to cover actually every part of yourself. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize, but this means jacket, pants, boots, gloves, and a hood or hat. If you want to commute like a professional, here are some recommendations from our staff with over 5 years of Portland commuting experience…

 

Lights

The #1 essential you should always shoot for is a spectacular pair of lights. Lights are good to have through all seasons, but especially so when the days are darker and shorter. I usually carry one high quality, USB rechargeable set, and one cheaper, disposable battery set as a back-up. The higher quality lights will be on my bike, with the back-up set in my bag. Be sure to remove lights from your bike when you lock it up, as these tend to be thief-bait. My favorite lights in general, and that we carry in the shop, are by Light & Motion.

Light & Motion Urban 650 Headlamp
Light & Motion Urban 650 Headlamp

Pictured above is the Urban 650 at $80. I’ve had this light since I started commuting 5 years ago and it still works fantastically. Cheaper lights I’ve bought have had a much shorter lifespan. We carry a variety of Light & Motion lights up to 800. The Urban 350 is fantastic for city riding, especially if your commute is already lit. If you’re like me, and have very dark commutes with no lamps, the 650 is a good go-to.

 

Raingear

The first thing you want to do before you ride is check the weather report. What’s today’s high/low? What are the chances of precipitation by the hour? I like to think of “percent chance” of rain as actually being “percent volume”. But most telling: How many centimeters or inches is it supposed to rain today?

That last question helps me really decide how much gear I need each day. For example, if it’s going to rain 0.3in or more in one day I will definitely grab my pair of rain pants and rain boots. Here’s how I personally categorize rainfall/day:

 

Other Gear

Fenders are essential, unless you are a fan of mud stripes down your back. Depending on your commuting situation, you may also consider upgrading to all-weather brake pads, upgrading to wider tires with more grip, or covering your bike up if you park it outside to prevent excess wear. Come by the shop and we’ll be more than happy to help you get set up for year-round riding and turn that frowny commute upside-down. Plus, if you come in before December 31st, all our accessories are 25% off, so you’ll save on your lights, fenders and other gear!

 

 

Keep Hope Alive in Winter: Plan Your Next Tour

If you moved to Portland a few months ago, you may have thought you were moving to a land of eternal summer. Just look at all the yards growing banana plants and the abundance of patio seating! Now that the weight of your misunderstanding is sinking in, you may be looking for ways to keep  hope alive through the long drizzle season. A cyclist does not run on burritos alone, after all. Here we will encourage you through the winter time by planning for your next tour.

Banana Plant

Step 1: Believe Summer Will Return

Don’t get your head in the clouds, summer doesn’t have clouds. Instead, spend your indoor-time dreaming of all the bike tours you will embark on next year. Weekend tours can be planned fairly spur of the moment.  Maybe a jaunt to L.L.Stub Steward State Park (The Banks-Veronia Trail goes straight through it)? Or perhaps a loop around the Columbia Gorge (Ainsworth State Park has a spacious bike-camping field)? Longer tours might require a winter of planning.

I did not plan much for my tour into California. While it mostly worked out in the end, you might benefit from spending your pent-up energy planning more obsessively than I did. I left Olympia, WA with no destination except “South.” I took the carbon road bike I raced in college, since that was the only bike I had. As I pulled into the campground I intended to stay on the first evening of my tour, I went over a speed bump and my rack fell off. Don’t try to tour with a carbon seatpost and a clamp-on rack! I was then told the campground was closed. So I carried all my gear on my head while I looked for a bridge to sleep under until it was light enough to hitchhike to the nearest town. The next day I bought an aluminum seatpost.

So Plan Your Tour

You can spend a whole winter deciding on a destination, but the journey itself is really the important part. Highway 101 is an ideal touring route. It has abundant views, quaint seaside towns and world-class parks. Some 800 miles later, I ended up in Yolo County in a town of about 150 people. I spent the winter on a family farm/goat dairy and eating the most delicious oranges and pomegranates I ever had.

Welcome to Yolo

If you’d like some help dreaming up your next bike tour, why not stop by the shop for some tea? From our combined wealth of experience, we can suggest routes through the San Juan Islands, Glacier National Park, across India, and beyond. You might just keep the drizzle from seeping into your spleen (well known organ of hope).

 

Coming next: “Step 2: Actually Prepare for Winter.”

“What to do in Portland,” put Cycle Portland Bike Tours and Rental on your list!

Here at Cycle Portland, we love to share a local’s perspective with Portland’s visitors. But even more than that, we love to get people on bikes and out riding! Laura Chubb’s article, “What to do in Portland, From Microbreweries to Third Wave Coffee,” covers all of your Portland essentials. From taking a bike tour around downtown, to window shopping, to the food cart scene, Laura’s list featured on the Independent is an excellent place to start when planning your trip to the Pacific Northwest!

Cycle Portland Bike Tours & Rentals specializes in putting together fun, creative rides that are great for people looking to explore Portland, OR by bike!

Sign up for Laura’s Essential Portland Tour here! Happy riding!