Archive | A Day in the Life RSS for this section

Ride Leader: June 2014 Chainrings


A friend stopped by the shop last week near the end of a multi-hour ride, and looked like a piece of toast that had been left in the toaster too long. The hot afternoon temps had taken him completely by surprise, and he found himself unable to drink fast enough or find enough shady spots. Woefully unprepared for the early June sun (and after topping off his bottles at the shop), he limped home, licking his wounds, wondering what he could have done better to anticipate the heat. The answer? EVERYTHING.

From lack of sunscreen and adequate fluids to a poor choice of clothing, this veteran rider admitted to making what could be called a cavalcade of rookie mistakes that led to an uncomfortable day in the drink

There’s always an upside to reading about the mistakes of others: You can learn what NOT to do and how to avoid the same mistakes yourself.

Read forward in this month’s space as we devote an entire issue of CHAINRINGS to beating the heat—where to ride (WASHCO Ride of the Month), what to remember (research from the scientists), info and deals on our sports nutrition products, and more on how to keep your cool when the thermometer is blowing its top.

Thanks, as always, for your continued support.

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


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

Ride Leader Notes: December 2013 Chainrings

A Season of Giving

As cyclists, we usually ask ourselves how we can get more: More speed. More time on our bikes. More bike for the dollar. And so on.

But when was the last time we asked ourselves how we could GIVE more? Specifically, how can we, as cyclists, make a difference in another person’s life? Here are a few ideas to ponder.

  • Ride in (or make a donation to) a charity ride. Multiple non-profit organizations hold rides in the local area that raise critical funds. Find a cause you’d like to support and turn the cranks!gift giving
  • Drive your car with an extra eye out for cyclists, and remind others to do the same. Give riders extra room to help keep people more comfortable riding their bikes on the roads.
  • Encourage your friends and family members to ride bikes as part of a healthy exercise routine. Introduce kids to cycling at an early age, which can help combat childhood obesity and sets the stage for a life of positive habits.
  • Support a cause such as Bikes Belong, World Bike Relief, or Yield to Life.
  • Share your favorite training or commuting routes with others, even if they’re your “secret” route!
  • Encourage everyone to wear a good bike helmet…and better yet, give one as a holiday gift to someone who needs a little encouragement to ride more often.
  • Finally, ask yourself how you can be an instrument of change by using your bicycle. Get creative!

In this season of giving, I hope we have helped give you inspiration, motivation, and everything you need to make your life as a cyclist more rewarding. The entire staff of Sunset Cycles thanks you for your continued support and patronage throughout the year. Please visit us at the store this month if you need a new bike, a holiday gift, or just a cycling-friendly ear to bend.

Happy holidays!


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

Waterhouse Regional Trail Preview: December 2013 Chainrings

Spanning nearly 10 miles from north to south, the expanded Waterhouse Trail is scheduled to open in its entirety next Spring (2014). What exactly is the Waterhouse Trail? Where is it? Why is this new trail so exciting? Sunset Cycles did a reconnaissance trip to give you an exclusive preview.

At the northern end of the trail near NW Laidlaw

When various construction projects (spearheaded by the Tualatin Hills Park and Rec District, a.k.a. “THPRD”) along this route are finished, cyclists, runners, and hikers will have a 10-mile trail that stretches from the Bethany area southward to the Murray Hill area south of SW Scholls Ferry Road. The trail promises a great thoroughfare through a densely populated section of our region, offering access that previously was missing and a (mostly) car-free way to enjoy the outdoors.

Bronson Creek bridge construction. Bridge footings visible.

Trail User Beware…

In full disclosure, there are numerous potential pitfalls and hazards to be aware of: In its current condition, the trail is interrupted by many road crossings and has sections where navigation is confusing. Additionally, parts of the trail are missing curb cuts, so to avoid bunny hopping the curb, riders must traverse down a sidewalk to the closest driveway, cross the road, and ride back on the opposite sidewalk to continue!

Bridge between Laidlaw and West Union

Bridge between Laidlaw and West Union

Additionally, there are many safety considerations. Many of the neighborhood road crossings don’t have stop or warning signs, and traffic calming devices such as speed bumps and crosswalks are absent. Young riders in particular might be tempted to cross the streets without looking for auto traffic, creating a potential nightmare.

From a navigation standpoint, a major detour in the NW Bronson/Bethany/Cornell/158th area puts riders on busy surface streets before reconnecting with the trail off NW Waterhouse Ave. Here, artificial wood surfaces were iced over during our ride and made travel in the saddle impossible.

Ramp construction south of Laidlaw

Ramp construction south of Laidlaw

Further south, trail users are directed into the Tualatin Hills Nature Park, which includes the use of narrow, winding multi-use paths (some made of wood) that can be extremely slippery in cold or wet conditions. Exiting the park heading south, a lack of clear signage makes picking up the trail south of TV Highway a bit perplexing.

Our scouting trip…

We began from the northern end of the new trail, which starts essentially at the Pirate Park, a children’s park, approximately ½ mile north of NW Laidlaw near NW Energia Street. The first construction project (a large ramp) we encountered came just south of Laidlaw. The area here is very scenic and features a massive bridge which spans a creek.

South of West Union is where we encountered the lack of curb cuts and warning signs, but the area from here to Sunset Highway is quite scenic and relatively quiet. Another major bridge construction over Bronson Creek is underway.

After the icy pathways south of Cornell, we enjoyed a gently winding section that stretches to Baseline, where a new trail section and (another!) new bridge are being completed. From Baseline to the Nature Park, a new wide trail section is very welcoming.

Pathways south of Cornell

Pathways south of Cornell

After winding through the paths of the Nature Park, we lost the trail briefly before linking up again near TV Highway. Two blocks south, the trail heads east for a bit before turning south again. From this point, navigation is a breeze, with clear signage and good sight lines. Two major climbs (with peaks at SW Davis and another near SW Flagstone) punctuate the journey.

Looking north toward TV Hwy.

Looking north toward TV Hwy.

Signage south of TV Hwy

Signage south of TV Hwy

Rolling hills and great vistas of the entire valley can be enjoyed at various points in this southern section of the trail. From Farmington Road south to Weir, the trail heads due South, then turns Southeast, eventually crossing Scholls Ferry and terminating at SW Barrows Road.

Ramp to the top

Ramp to the top

The Bottom Line…

With the above caveats to be addressed by THPRD (better signage, curb cuts, traffic calming, non-slip surfaces), this trail will make a GREAT addition to our region. The magnitude of a few of the construction projects we encountered were mind-blowing—the size of a bridge needed, for example, to span a 6-inch section of drainage pipe adjacent to the Sunset Golf Center at Jenkins Road. The cost of that one project alone could fund incredible signage and curb cuts for the entire trail, with plenty left over for other improvements.

[UPDATE (12/5/2013): THPRD emphasizes that the following portions of the trail are CLOSED to use until next year: 

  • NW Argyle Way south to NW Countryridge Drive
  • NW Joscelyn Street south to NW Bronson Road
  • SW Baseline Road south to Merlo Road & SW 158th Avenue –ed.]

It’s not a trail for your club training ride or a peloton of any size. We’d suggest it for solo riders or groups of four or less, with ample patience on board to handle the nuances of a multi-use trail.

Another vista

Another vista

But make no mistake about it: The Waterhouse Trail represents a watershed moment for outdoor activities in Washington County, including cycling. Kudos to THPRD for the vision and follow through. We can’t wait until Spring for an uninterrupted tour of the trail!tour23

Here’s a link to a map from THPRD showing much of the trail
Click HERE for the next article in this month’s Chainrings: 12 Days of Christmas

Shop News: December 2013 Chainrings

kid bikes

Get the inside scoop before we shout it from the rooftops! Saving big on little bikes, Christmas hours, and a custom bike fitting special.

Save big on little bikes

Only FIVE MORE DAYS to save big on little bikes: Through December 8th, take 10% of the purchase of any kids’ bike. Get your shopping done early for the youngsters and save some holiday cash at the same time!

Christmas hours

Christmas Eve: 9am – 2pm
Christmas Day: CLOSED

Fitting Special Reminder

Sore knees, a creaky back, and tight hips: Any one of these can be due to an ill-fitting bike. Cure your riding position blues with a special deal on a custom bike fit courtesy of our pro fitter Matt. Just $99 (regularly $200) in the store through December 22nd. Click HERE for more on our fitting process.fittingpromo

Joy Ride=0% interest

Free is a very good price—especially when it comes to paying interest. A partnership between Specialized Bikes and GE Capital now puts a 12-month, zero interest purchase deal in reach for any bike ($700 and up) purchased now through the end of the year. Ask us for more details.

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