Archive | January 2014

Ride Leader Notes: January 2014 Chainrings

Little Things Make a Big Difference

Recent dry weather offered yours truly plenty of riding opportunities, and the return of the rain reminded me just how dependent our sport is on the weather. Precipitation changes everything.

Isn’t that a metaphor for much of life’s experiences? The little things—a few raindrops, a smile, a kind (or nasty) word—make the biggest differences in our day-to-day existence.


Little things make a big difference in commerce, too. We remember the waitress who is extra attentive to our needs. We appreciate a helpful customer service rep who quickly straightens out a billing mess or errant shipment. And in a retail store, it’s the clerk with knowledge, courtesy, speedy service that keeps customers coming back for more.

We’re proud to say that Sunset Cycles strives for 100% customer satisfaction every time the door swings open and brings us a new or returning guest. But just because we strive for something doesn’t mean we always hit the mark. Everybody has a bad day from time to time, including the folks at your friendly neighborhood bike shop.

Our goal in 2014 is to minimize your inconveniences and maximize your comfort. We want every minute you spend in our business to be a positive part of your day. Cycling is a pastime, a hobby, and a diversion from the ordinary. It shouldn’t have to feel burdensome or inconvenient in any way.

We are here to make your cycling experience—from beginning to end—more enjoyable. We’ll provide the products, service, and advice to help you do just that. While we can’t turn the cranks for you, we can make sure they turn more smoothly with every revolution. Have suggestions on how we can better assist you? Please let us know!

Thanks for putting your trust in us throughout the last 12 months. We look forward to serving you BETTER over the next 12.


Click HERE for the next article in this month’s Chainrings: WASHCO Ride of the Month


WASHCO Ride of the Month: January 2014 Chainrings

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

Our ride rating category is 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

The Big Year

This month’s ride: The Big Year


You can produce your own version of the comedic bird watching movie, “The Big Year,” starting with this ride to Sauvie Island. Long-known for its bird watching opportunities, Sauvie showcases ample wildlife on the wing all year long. In the winter, waterfowl are particularly abundant. Look for Bald eagles, too, as they feast upon weaker prey, along with Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, Peregrine Falcons, Merlin, and Rough-legged Hawks.

This ride bleeds out of WASHCO and into that other county, but we won’t begrudge the Multnomahs for their scenic byways. Note that this 36-miler extracts a heavy toll in the price of some big climbs, but we think it’s well worth the price.

View details for the entire route HERE

Click HERE for the next article in this month’s Chainrings: John vs. California

John vs. California: January 2014 Chainrings

[ed note: Shop foreman John made a recent trip south for some technical training at Specialized. Here’s his VERY entertaining story…]

It wasn’t Disneyland, but it could have been. Our arrival entailed as much pomp and circumstance as any trip to Walt’s favorite theme park, facilitated by limousine vans and continental breakfasts, all arguably outside the deserving of the rag tag bike shop dwellers that we were.  Amid unseasonably cold weather, our eclectic crew rode through the non-descript streets of California, our stomachs stuffed, wondering what our next 72 hours would hold at this unseen fantasy factory. As we pulled into the parking lot of our destination there were no waving movie characters to be found. Instead, we were greeted by dusty, stickered Subarus toting bike racks, and in lieu of firework shows and fantastical blue steeples, we were welcomed at the front door by a bold, glossy, red “S.”  It may as well have stood for “SWEET!” given the number of my compatriots who muttered the word as we shuffled into the modern lobby of the big silver building we were still estimating the size of.  Through the duration of our trip, that word never left our mouths: “sweet…”

We were here, at the Specialized Bicycles world headquarters in Morgan Hill, California.

Morgan Hill, for many, is a bedroom community that feeds the collegiate centers of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz, Silicon Valley hubs like Cupertino and Palo Alto, and a bit over an hour to the northwest, San Francisco. Amid the predictable features of northern California sprawl, sat, inescapably, the dusty and broad hillsides that yield some of the world’s favorite avocados and wines. Rolling and vast, many of our group found the terrain to have been largely understated in the bike shop lore preceding their plane flights here. These hills are ripe for ripping on a bicycle. And it was hardly just our group that recognized the beautiful terrain.

Those intimate with mountain biking history will recall this region to be the birthplace of mountain biking: from the “clunkers” of the late 60’s and early 70’s, to some of the first large-production runs of the famous Specialized Rockhoppers. The grandfathers of contemporary off-road biking (Breezer, Fischer, Ritchey, Sinyard, et al.) saw exactly what our group of wide eyed tourists did. Vast, winding, warm hills, peppered with technical rocks and plentiful switchbacks remind any rider that there is no coincidence in the roots Specialized holds here. The company’s presence and impact on an otherwise sleepy burb are notable, as passing bicyclists not sporting equipment bearing the familiar Specialized bicycle names of “Stumpjumper” or “Tarmac” garnered sideways looks, and a few muttered jokes from even our group of out-of-towners.

While our assembly of industry vets was not slow to provide wise-cracks at others’ expense (you expected otherwise?) we weren’t exactly gathered for a convention of bike shop snark. We had flown from all corners of the U.S. to participate in a variety of Specialized Bike Components University (SBCU) classes. While some sat in lecture with sports scientists from the Colorado College of Medicine waxing physiological in Body Geometry Fit classes, others explored shopable, on-site build-outs of storefronts, learning about retail sales and visual merchandising. I was there for the Technical Service class where we were granted access to industry leading tools, tech, and experts. Conducted in a sterile, though stocked, room of suspension forks, carbon fiber wheels, and electronically shifting bikes, the Tech class was all business. This didn’t stop us from taking a few minutes to nerd out on arrival.

Don’t let me understate that.

We really nerded out.

specialized frames

Our carbon fiber friends for the day. There were many more where these came from.

By the time we mopped up our drool it was time to begin bleeding the latest Sram Red road disc brakes. Subsequently we set in on Magura and Avid brake systems, and the next day disemboweled some Fox Float forks. By the final day we were adjusting Shimano’s electronic Di2 shifting components via both firmware and software. Yawns, laughs, and the occasional push-up at the expense of a dropped tool were shared among the class comprised of many midwesterners, Californians, Texans, and the odd Floridian.

Regional ties and talents were better displayed on the daily bike rides than in the classroom as it became quickly apparent whose backyards featured technical hill climbs and who erred to the flat, paved stuff back home. To the delight and relief of all, we were granted a shot at all disciplines across our three day stay as we rode the finest offerings of Specialized’s cyclocross, road, and mountain bikes during the famous Specialized campus lunch rides.

Our first day we sought dirt trails to see exactly what the new Sram hydraulic road calipers could do mounted to the latest cyclocross builds (ridden pre-recall). No one was let down. The Crux Pro Race models we demoed were more than up to our hard stops and rapid, if not squirrely, steering demands. They were showcased in an impromptu lap race we held in a large clearing of a pathway as rollers, berms, and harsh ascents were easily tamed on fine carbon fiber, balanced geometry and fantastic shifting.

Our experiences on the road ride proved no departure from the giddiness and simultaneous ease we’d felt riding the ‘cross bikes the day before. My Roubaix Pro slurped up road vibration so well I found myself seeking cracks and inconsistencies in the pavement to enjoy the forgiveness rarely afforded to my aluminum-accommodated behind. The hydraulic rim brakes modulated so well I would’ve believed there were disc rotors on my wheels. Reports from my classmates shined, too. The Venges sliced air in crosswind and headwind alike, and the Cannondale faithful who’d yet to sample the Tarmacs were forever converted from that day forward. Climbs were lively among all, and our descents a tad too brave.

california cover shot

Not bad…right? The top of our steep ascent in brisk conditions nearing dawn. PDX pal Brett Fleming is in this photo on the right.

This confidence would betray some (read: me), as our final day of riding featured an extended, and technical mountain bike ride that bore more “baby heads” than most maternity wards. Technical lines were the theme of the day and I was found wanting in my attempts to pursue others through rocky ascents and tricky switchbacks astride the S-Works Enduro 29er. Familiarizing my rapidly tenderizing hips and thighs with the high side of mountain banks and boulders while mountain bike riders the world-over cringed, I kept myself in the mix with a healthy blend of hustle and “point and shoot” line taking that was forgiven with my remarkable 160mm travel Rock Shox Pike and 29er Captain tires run at 8 PSI. At around 28 pounds and decidedly slacker in geometry than other members of its MTB family, the Enduro eagerly dug in for dusty climbs that might have phased me on even some cross country bikes. My panting prayers of thanks for the Sram XX1 42 tooth rear cog were rewarded by the bike gods who granted me a speedy final ascent up a steep peak boasting some famous Strava alumni.

Though hardly a winner of any such ascent over my stay, I certainly felt like one. The SBCU team went to great lengths to leave each of the class visitors imbued with a sense of achievement and awe. During our stay we were treated to a tour of the in-house museum hosting one of the very first Rockhoppers and even the toy room of design guru David Egger filled with improbable, impractical, and wildly imaginative bikes that bore semblance to anything from Flinstone Era mountain bikes to Ford GT cars. Between chef-prepared lunches and Specialized comped beers at night, we found ourselves on a particularly memorable tour through the deceivingly large headquarters. Breezing by enough product mockups and industrial sketches to keep my design-inclined self occupied for the day, our tour concluded with a happenstance encounter with the owner of the international company: a cordial, maybe frazzled, Mike Sinyard. Gracious enough to lend a moment he replied to a question from a group member who asked what the most challenging part of his work was. Without flinching he replied,

“Nothing. It’s all easy when you love bikes.”

And while our retention for suspension rebound curves and familiarity with the intricacies of hydraulic calipers had been deeply instilled over our 3 day technical course, it was that quote that we all took special care to etch in memory. That, was, after all, the heart of it. We were all there because we loved bikes and for the many of us visiting, we left loving them just a little bit more.


Almost a week after first passing under the glossy “S” adorning the headquarters in Morgan Hill, my roommate asked me how my trip was. My reply was easy:


Click HERE for the next article in this month’s Chainrings: Shop News

Shop News: January 2014 Chainrings

Tech Tuesday

wheels2 Join us TONIGHT for our monthly technical series. The topic: What’s Up with Wheels? (5:30-6:30 pm)

Get the 411 on how wheels work. We’ll cover truing, composition, construction, clincher vs. tubular vs. tubeless, basic repairs and products, and much more.

Click HERE for the next article in this month’s Chainrings: Local Focus

Local Focus: January 2014 Chainrings

RAD Finishes

Bicycle Painting & Restoration


For over two decades, North Portland’s Rad Finishes has been transforming rusted heaps of bicycles into fine works of art.

Based on the belief that a custom painted bike is a better bike, Gene Powell wet sprays a durable coating on the frame, adding details by hand later if necessary. With a career that began at age 15 in his dad’s downtown Portland bike shop, Powell has the background necessary to gently care for your ride.

While we’ve got plenty of beautiful new bikes in the shop waiting for a home, give Gene a call if your vintage ride could use some TLC.

Click HERE for the next article in this month’s Chainrings: Team News

Team News: January 2014 Chainrings

We did a quick poll of a few of the Sunset Team riders, who shared their 2014 riding goals with us. Enjoy your voyeuristic side as you get some insights into one of Portland’s best cycling teams!

Dan L:

My plan for the 2014 season is much like John W’s¸ do the HC 100.  Now many of you might say I have no business doing that race which I would probably agree with you. But If I always listened to everyone I would never have any “fun”.  Don’t know much about this discipline other than the last 100 mile single track race snapped my bike frame, chipped my front tooth, shattered my helmet and almost took my head off. I finished really ugly.  But it was dark so no biggie. 5 yrs is just enough time for the scars to heal and the wife to forget the meat face I brought home that night. For training I plan on riding the bike a lot, hitting the Mt bike race schedule pretty hard as well as taking a lesson from the Jeff and John show: Hit the Wilson river trail regularly.  Also I pledge to try not to suck Andy and Robs wheel as much and lose 15 more lbs of the reserve tank (my Clyde status will still be maintained even at that weight).  My aim is much lower than John’s though.  I hope I make the finish line without having to stoop and puke, under my own power, with a shred of dignity.  That said I would rather finish ugly than DNF.

John W:

I’m looking for the best form I have had in three years.  I plan to get there by riding my bike a whole bunch, mostly chasing Jeff, and doing silly gym classes that give old people core strength and ‘explosive’ power.  I would like to turn that form into getting some wins in the 35+ Cat 1 MTB category this Spring/Summer.  And I would like to finish the HC 100 with a half full water bottle and food in my stomach.

As a team and individual goal, I’d also like to add 1 or 2 team members in my neck of the woods — currently talking to a nice guy who lives in my neighborhood who has shown an unnatural desire to climb hills as fast as possible no matter how much it hurts him.

Paul G:

Wow…John in his best form in 3 years? I guess catching John won’t be one of my goals. However, my goal is similar. After a couple years of broken bones and missing CX season, I too would like to my form of 3 years ago. I’m hoping to get back to the top end of the Cat 2 MTB master category (flirt with the Cat 1 upgrade again) and carry enough form into CX to be competitive in the Cat B Masters again.

I wouldn’t say it’s a goal, but like every year I’m toying with the idea of doing some early season road races…although having a teammate join me would make it more likely.

Russell W:

Paul, Your goal looks exactly like my goal. I would love to get some miles in and be there with you for some road races and Mountain.  If you are Cat 4 Masters we could race together and see what happens. I was hoping for Cat3 again but realize my fitness is not there.  I am sticking to inside the gym right now with the flying and travel and home life but maybe I can line up some ride time with you to see where I sit with your fitness.  Really it’s more like hang at the back and hope to not get dropped but I will stay away from that negative thinking this early in the year.

John,  I’m in your neck of the woods but every time I ride with you I cry.

Shooting for Top 15% in Cat 4 Master road and Top 20% in Cat 2 Master MTB. Working on being competitive again while balancing life!

Michael K:

My plans are similar, but a little bit different 😉

I want to get back into 24hr races so my race agenda includes Race Across Oregon and Ring of Fire 24hr as my two biggest road racing events. My training plan includes a few centuries to get back into shape for long distance. I’ll probably race a few road races in the early season too and then focus on getting ready for my first CX season in the fall. Weekend shop rides are a given 😉 My last license was Cat 2 so I’ll probably race the same Cat again…

Kyle R:

My goal is hear music playing, in my soul, as I juggle my family (beautiful wife and handsome teenage daughters) and my racing hobby.  No mixing running and cycling this year, except for the Hagg Lake Xterra. Racing as much as I can, all 4 seasons, with better results because I won’t be healing.

Click HERE for the next article in this month’s Chainrings: Survey

Survey: January 2014 Chainrings