CHAINRINGS – Sunset Cycles Monthly Newsletter


RIDE LEADER NOTES – It’s Easy Being Green By Roger Colwell, Owner.
WRENCH BENCH – Chain Stretch & Drivetrain Wear
TURNING THE CRANKS – Holiday Survival Guide
GEARHEAD – A new 29er and some great gloves
TEAM NOTES – Cyclocross, Florida-style.
UPCOMING EVENTS – Holiday sale!
SURVEY – What are your December cycling plans?

It’s Easy Being Green

by Roger Colwell

Most of us employed in the cycling world pinch ourselves regularly to ensure we’re not dreaming. For most part, people that ride bikes find it exhilarating and nothing short of pure fun. I have the privilege of helping people find their “inner kid-ness” and have a lot of fun in the process. What could be better?

Bicycling is a $6 billion/year business, and in spite of having just over 4,000 storefronts nationwide, IBD’s (Independent Bicycle Dealers, aka “mom and pop shops”) capture nearly half of the dollars spent within the industry while only selling 14% of the units. This is primarily due to IBD’s selling higher priced and higher quality products than online and big-box stores. Why is this important to understand?

Unlike department stores, we service what we sell and we want you–our customers–to be happy, long after your bicycle purchase. We strive to cultivate repeat, loyal customers and build a trusting relationship with each and every one of you, which isn’t all that different than your auto mechanic or dentist. It’s a job made much easier if we sell quality over quantity. Simply put, the higher quality stuff just works better, lasts longer, and is easier to fix if it breaks!

Those of us working in IBD’s pride ourselves as an environmentally-friendly (a.k.a. “green”) industry. I’ve thought long and hard about this and asked myself, “Is the bicycle industry really all that green?” I think that the answer is both “yes” and “no.”

The yes part of the equation is easy: Cycling gets people out of their cars, thus consuming less fuel and reducing air pollution, two very positive outcomes. But producing a bicycle requires raw materials and the consumption of precious resources. Over 18 million bicycles are sold in this country each and every year. That’s a huge number! Is this an indication of the healthiness and “green-ness” of the industry? Not necessarily. Rather, I think it is indicative and symptomatic of how much of a “throw away” society we truly are. The majority of the bikes sold through mass merchants are of the throw away variety–the “one and done” bike. Generally speaking, a bike purchased from an IBD is going to last much longer than one purchased from a mass merchant. For example, it’s not uncommon for us to perform tuneups on 20-30-year old Specialized Rockhoppers–they just keep going and going. I passed my 15-year old Specialized Crosstrail on to my son-in-law, who in turn passed it to my other son-in-law. With a little regular maintenance, it’s still a great bike today.

In a nutshell, when purchasing a bicycle, consider buying it from your local independent bike shop. You will feel better about your purchase for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it will be just a little bit greener.

Drivetrain Love

Last month we touched on proper chain maintenance and described some of the recommended lubes. This month, we’ll discuss drive train wear.

Is your shifting not as crisp as it once was? Do you get a slipping feeling in some gear combinations? Both can be symptoms of a worn drive train. There are a couple of different ways to you can monitor your chain, cassette, and chain-rings’ wear to determine if it’s time to replace some parts.

1. Mileage: When you drop off your bike at Sunset Cycles, we’ll ask you how many miles have you ridden since your last tuneup. We do this to glean a little information about the overall condition of the drive-train. As a general rule, we recommend replacing road bike chains every 1,500 miles and cassettes (cogs) every 3,000 miles. Although there are lots of chain sizes, types, qualities and brands available (8sp, 9sp,10sp,11sp, Shimano, SRAM, Campy etc.) which can help determine the durability, we find that the 1,500 mile chain replacement mileage target ensures the best cassette life, overall performance and best bang for the buck. Riding a worn chain too long may prematurely wear out the cassette. This is bad because the cassette is anywhere from 2-3 times more expensive than the chain. Also, mountain bikes require more frequent replacement (as much as ½ of the road miles), since wider gearing, increased shifting, and extreme riding conditions put more strain on the drive train.

2. Season: If you ride all year long, this one is easy; install a new chain going into winter and a new cassette and chain when the riding season begins in the spring. A quiet drive train, coupled with flawless shifting, makes those long rides much more enjoyable. This holds true for mountain bikes as well due to the elements discussed above.

3. Measurement: The common wrench bench phrase “chain stretch” is actually an indication of “chain wear.” Chain wear leads to a higher likelihood of chain breakage and increased wear on the cassette and chain-rings. Most bike mechanics, ours included, use a handy dandy little tool called a “chain checker tool” (points for creativity?) that gives insight into the overall condition of your chain. If you own one of these, start by checking the measurement on the brand new chain to establish a baseline chain reading from which you can gauge how much chain wear is occurring as your chain ages. Depending upon how much you ride, check for stretch every few weeks. The more you ride, the more often you should check. The “chain checker” can measure stretch, but will not indicate the amount of side to side play that will inevitably develop over time. Grasp the chain between the thumb and index finger with both hands and try wiggling the chain from side to side. Lots of movement in the chain = wear. Unlike linear chain stretch that reveals itself in your chain jumping from gear to gear, side-to-side manifests as slow down shifting.

Stop by the shop and have us take a look. As long as we’re not engrossed in watching reruns of The OC, we’ll be happy to give you some insight into the condition of your steed’s drive-train.

Holiday Survival Guide

Holiday parties. Family gatherings. Extra helpings every where you turn. December a traditional month of excess…except excess caloric burn, that is. It can be tough even for the strongest-willed to resist the magnetic pull of holiday feasts.

While his “primal” eating and lifestyle advice might be controversial to some readers, but health and wellness guru Mark Sisson always has something interesting to say…regardless of whether you agree or disagree with his philosophy. In that spirit, here’s a link to Mark’s “Healthy Holiday Survival Guide” that might give you food for thought and help you ride past the multitudes of temptations that will inevitably come your way this month.


Each month in CHAINRINGS, Sunset Cycles previews another great Washington County bike ride. With the varied terrain available in our area, each ride is certain to be a winner.

Note that our new ride rating category is pretty simple, ranging from one CHAINRING (easiest) to five CHAINRINGS (most challenging). Here’s the criteria:

One chainring: Flat ride, minimal climbing
Two chainrings: Rolling hills, short climbs
Three chainrings: Moderate hills, possibly some short, steep climbs
Four chainrings: Challenging terrain with numerous, longer climbs
Five chainrings: Very difficult terrain with numerous, steep, long climbs

This month’s ride: The Bald Peak Burner

Moderate in length (31.6 miles), this loop is sure to burn the extra holiday calories. It conveniently starts and finishes at our Beaverton (Scholls Ferry Rd.) store. There aren’t too many turns, so your focus can be on the scenery and the steep 1300 ft., 4-mile climb of Bald Peak Road. Don’t miss the Bald Peak Scenic Viewpoint near mile 15 of the ride for some great views on clear days. Here’s the basic cue sheet:

Start: Sunset Cycles NW (16305 SW Barrows Road, Suite 200, Beaverton, OR 97007)
Go East on Scholls.
Go North on SW Clark Hill Rd.
Turn LEFT onto SW Tile Flat Rd.
Turn LEFT onto SW Farmington Rd. (Hwy. 10)
Turn LEFT onto SW Hillsboro Hwy.
Turn RIGHT onto SW Bald Peak Rd. and continue for approx. 9 miles.
Veer LEFT onto NE Mountaintop Rd and continue for approx. 3 miles.
Turn LEFT onto  SW Hillsboro Hwy. which becomes SW Scholls Ferry Rd. and brings you back to Sunset Cycles.



Two items to bring to your attention this month. First, a few weeks ago on our blog we profiled Specialized’s new 29er Camber Comp Carbon, a delicious mountain bike that we’ll be carrying in both Sunset Cycles stores. Here’s a link to the video of this bike in action.

Next, here is a little review that one of the Sunset Cycles team guys, John Weathers, wrote on his latest experience with a pair of Specialized Radiant long-fingered gloves:

“I picked up a set of Specialized Radiant gloves at the shop the other day. Yesterday I used them for the first time. With the temp around 42 degrees, my hands were toasty warm for three hours of gravel road riding, including two long descents. I wish I could have said the same for my toes! The fit is very good — a bit stiffer than normal gloves but not too bulky. They claim to be 100% waterproof — if that ends up being the case, these will definitely be my go-to, tough-day gloves and the best winter gloves I have ever owned.”

Sunset’s owner Roger agrees with John, and offers this on another model of Specialized’s gloves, the Deflect:

“I broke out my new pair of Specialized Deflect gloves just the other day. Thought I’d see how they performed at 48 degrees. Although I was only out for just under an hour, the Deflects kept my hands and finger tips toasty. Unlike the waterproof Radiant (which I also own), these will be my every day commute glove for those 40-55 degree non-rainy days, as they only claim to be wind resistant. Loved the ease of being able to reach the brake and shift levers, the thin gel in the palms felt just right coming in handy for longer rides, and the reflectivity on the back of the hand adds to the safety as aspect.”


From one of our team riders who flew south for a weather break earlier this winter…
Cyclocross events are normally held towards the end of the year and those of us in the Pacific NW embrace the ridiculousness of racing in the rain, mud and cold.

In Florida, some things are just easier. Today, in Tampa, Florida, we had clear blue skies, no mud, and no rain; but still had a fun day of cyclocross racing. The organizers did a surprising job of creating challenges from a race venue that at first look didn’t seem to include anything more challenging than avoiding sunburn. There was a fairly rideable sand pit, a few off camber corners that I really liked, and several high speed sweeper corners with trees on the outside edges to keep your attention.

I ended up in 2nd place out of about a dozen in my group. Connie took a picture of the the awards, but she also took this photo of the women’s awards.  I’m not sure, but this may be part of her plan to get some of our riding friends from Portland to come here for a bit of winter training.


Along with our friends from Yelp!, Sunset Cycles is participating in a shop local pledge day, this Saturday, December 10th. Sunset will be donating 10% of all purchases made on that day to the Pixie Project, an organization that supports animal shelters. Please stop by on Saturday and turn your bike buying experience into one that supports this worthy cause.

From December 10th until Christmas Eve, catch the holiday spirit with a special 16% discount on all Specialized kid bikes, including the popular Hotrock and Hotwalk models, which range in size from 12 to 24 inches.

Please note that both Sunset Cycles stores will close at 12:00 noon on December 24th so our employees can spend the holiday watching bowl games, nursing mugs of egg nog, and staring in awe at our cousin Bill’s hideously ugly Christmas sweater.


Speak, oh ye denizens of the Sunset Cycles world! Give us your opinions on this month’s question…

Dark, cold, and wet. That’s not a description of the hottest Hollywood actor or a pint of stout, but rather how we define December in Portland. But enough about the weather. Do you have specific holiday cycling plans? Tell us!


About sunsetpdx

Bicycle Shop Owner

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