Continental Tires, keeping the rubber side down

Written by Dan Bandurka, Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs Racer

What a year! 2013 was only my second year on a mountain bike after a decade long hiatus, and did it feel great! I wanted to make the most of it, so I made a point of scheduling rides on trails I hadn’t visited before, of working to improve my fitness, and of making a few key component upgrades to my bike while staying within a limited budget.

One of the component upgrades I made this year was by necessity – tires. Like so many aspects of bikes today, tires have improved dramatically by incorporating a range of technologies that weren’t readily available a decade or two ago. For example, the ability to run your tires without tubes and rubber compounds designed specifically for the terrain you ride. Having now put about 1000kms on these tires, I thought it would be helpful sharing my experience.

Most of my riding is done on cross-country trails in Southern Ontario, which for those unfamiliar readers, is generally composed of hard-packed soils, exposed tree roots and small rocks. Accordingly, I purchased a set of Continental Race Kings 29 x 2.2 Protection. These tires feature a puncture protection layer in the casing both to prevent pinch flats if you run tubes and to make the tire tubeless ready. They also feature Continental’s BlackChili Compound rubber, which improves grip while reducing rolling resistance. The tread pattern is a directional, tightly arranged set of triangular shaped blocks with a low and round profile. For most Ontario trails, this tire appeared to offer everything I needed.

Yet, I also knew that I would occasionally encounter mud and wet weather, loose rocky conditions, and simply more aggressive trails. Therefore, I decided I would also purchase a secondary tire – the Continental X-Kings 29 x 2.2 Protection. Like the Race Kings, the X-Kings feature the Protection casing, the BlackChili Compound rubber, a directional tread and a round profile. The primary difference is that the X-Kings have medium spaced square block treads with a moderate height, which enables the X-Kings to succeed in a wide range of trail conditions.

Now, with the technical information out of the way, let me share my thoughts on these tires. The Race Kings are fast! I have been regularly impressed how much faster my bike will roll versus similar bikes with different tires. The moment I first noticed this was on a mid-season club ride when I was coasting on a double track trail with a slight downward elevation. Side-by-side with other riders, my bike would seemingly gain speed and hold momentum whereas others required rider effort. Yet, they’re also fast because they offer predictable traction. In the corners, I found I could lean as aggressively as I needed they would hold the line. And, if I pushed too hard and they started to slide, they would drift slowly and reconnect without any surprises. I found myself cornering with more confidence as a result. Climbing and descending, the Race Kings always seemed to find grip.

Yet, as great as the Race Kings are in my opinion, they aren’t perfect. In particular, their performance in mud can be a little like trying to ride on ice. Although this surprised me at first, it really shouldn’t have. Consider the tires on your vehicle and the performance improvement a winter tire can make in the winter compared to a summer or an all season tire. Analogously, the Race Kings are great in dry conditions, but are rarely the best tire when conditions are wet. Continental doesn’t hide this fact and, after I tried pushing these limits, I was glad I picked up the X-Kings as my secondary tire.

I had the chance to ride the X-Kings on a very wide range of conditions recently, and they excel where the Race Kings suffer. I participated in the cross-country race at the Bells Beer Copper Harbor Trails Festival this year, which unfortunately coincided with a substantial rain storm. The trail conditions were muddy, rocky, slippery, fast and generally dangerous. In this context, you’d expect most tires to struggle a little, but not the X-Kings. Muddy off-camber single track with exposed roots: the X-Kings didn’t miss a beat. Enduro descents with sharp rocks, large drop-offs and skinny wooden bridges: I had to push very hard before I came close to reaching the limits of the X-Kings. In fact, they saved me from more than one mistake. I also rode the X-Kings in moderately dry conditions and, although they didn’t roll as quickly as the Race Kings, were still very smooth and fast in the dry.

In summary, my upgrade to the Continental Race Kings and X-Kings was one of the best setup decisions I made this year. I’d recommend most Ontario riders maintain two sets of tires – in the same way I recommend two sets of tires for your car, summer and winter. If you prefer the simplicity of a single tire setup, the Race Kings will likely be the better tire in most trail conditions, while the X-Kings will be a good tire on your average ride and a great tire when you need it most.

See you on the trails!
Dan

From Spreadsheet to Trail… to Race Course!

Written by Larry Woo, Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs Racer, MTB Squad.

Firstly, let’s get the confessions out of the way… I, Larry Woo, am a cycling gearhead junky, always have been always will be. I love the mechanics of how a bicycle works and especially the sum of the parts that make it up. Along those lines, I find myself never staying satisfied too long bike before I start looking at removing parts that I felt should’ve been there in the first place.

So over the years I have put together many bikes, seen many trends, and experienced bad purchasing decisions that didn’t translate well when ridden. So my goal for my latest build was a mountain bike (singlespeed and/or geared) that would be showroom quality and perform brilliantly on the trail and race course. The voyage of completing my spreadsheet build was just as entertaining with great debates and suggestions from friends and staff at Duke’s Cycle.

With their help, here’s highlights of the build.

  • Frameset: Kona Raijin Titanium Frameset (made by Lynskey Performance)
  • Fork: Cannondale Carbon Lefty XLR (using Cannondale’s LeftyforAll kit)
  • Crankset: Cannondale Hollowgram SiSL
  • Chain: SRAM XX1
  • Wheels: Stan’s ZTR Race Gold 29er
  • Pedals: Crankbrothers Eggbeater 11’s
  • Brakes: Shimano XTR
  • Handlebar: Enve Carbon Sweep Bar
  • Stem: Enve Carbon Stem
  • Saddle: Fizik Tundra
  • Seatpost: Cannondale Carbon SAVE seatpost

The result…?

Woohoo! This bike build is fast, comfortable, and responsive. The sum of the, best of breed, parts did indeed deliver. The bike is light, rolls fast, and eats roots and rocks without sending soul destroying shockwaves to the rider. I look at it as the allstar team of mountain bike gear all on my new ride. I look forward to completing the race season on my new steed, turning heads, and having indepth discussions in the parking lot about the build with the other gearheads.

Editor’s Note: In the debut race of the new “KonaLinksyDale,” Larry ended up with an impressive third place finish at the Sudbury Canada Cup, Ontario Cup #4. Proof positive that this is one fast ride.

Photo Credit: Stuart Murray (stumurray.com)

Cannondale F29 Carbon 3 – First Impressions

Written by Bevin Reith, Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs Race Team.

A 2013 Lefty equipped Cannondale F29 Carbon 3 joined my family of bikes this spring just in time for the riding and racing season to start. After a week on the bike and 4 fun trail rides here are my first impressions.

The greater stability and traction inherent in 29er wheels is the most significant change from the 26 inch platform I was riding last year. Combined with the small bump compliance and steering precision for which the Lefty fork has received accolades since its introduction, this is a platform which absolutely rails corners. Get over the front wheel in attack position and the bike goes exactly where you’re looking. Confidence inspiring and fun for fast flowing singletrack.

The switch from a full squish 26″ trailbike to a 29er hardtail had me worried about my ability to handle rougher terrain. I was shown some new trails in the Don Valley network consisting of rough trail with lots of climbing, descending and tight switchbacks. The larger wheels allowed me to maintain momentum over the rough stuff and the tight wheelbase tracked the switchbacks just as effectively as the smaller wheeled bike. The rear wheel tracked terrain and found traction well enough that I didn’t miss the mountain goat climbing of the dwlink equipped bike and I appreciated the greater power transfer efficiency of the hardtail when the climbs opened up.

For the vast majority of Ontario terrain that I have sampled over the years Cannondale appears to have the perfect recipe. I’ll be taking the Mojo to BCBR in July but for the rest of my trail riding and racing this year I anticipate I’ll be having fun on the Flash.

With Enve… How much fun do you want to have?

Written by Mark Brusso, Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs Team Director & Racer [MTB & Cyclocross]

Cyclocross season is now fully upon us. For 2012 I wanted to try something different. I was looking to step out of the realm of aluminum a little further and see what carbon in the cockpit was all about. I was also looking to dedicate a full set of wheels to file treads for those days where the course was high and dry, and the lower profile tire would roll with the greatest of ease.

So I decided to get an order in with Duke’s Cycle on a set of Enve Classic 25 tubular wheels, with an Enve 110 mm road stem and an Enve compact road bar. It was the best decision I made in terms of upgrading my Cannondale Super X. Those three components made a HUGE improvement in the ride of my cross bike. So much, it felt like I wasn’t even making that foreign feeling transition over from the mountain bike.

Enve lets you customize a special order wheelset, almost any way you want offering choices from premium hub manufacturers such as Chris King and DT Swiss. I decided to go with the DT Swiss 180 Carbon Ceramics as I’ve been running DT Swiss for years on my Mountain Bikes, and I am fully sold on the brand in terms of performance, reliability and serviceability. Out of the box, the wheels came straight and true as an arrow and required no truing and have stayed that way after several races this season.

The Classic 25 wheels exceeded my expectations in terms of stiffness and feel. I knew I would be making a great investment with them, alreading being spoiled all season on the Enve 29XC wheels on my Flash 29er. Enve is doing a lot of things right these days, and they are known for certain features such as their bladder-less rim construction, unidirectional carbon materials, and pre-molded spoke holes. Every little detail is taken care of and it all adds up to one smooth rolling, light and snappy set of wheels. The fact the raw carbon rims look great with the white hubs is icing on the cake.

And the stem and handlebar? I never knew upgrading to carbon in that area would make such a difference in the ride. All the harshness and bumpiness that cross is known for was dampened down to a pleasant plush ride. It was like adding suspension on the front. The bar’s integrated plugs are very very clean looking and the cable routing grooves make cabling easy and neat. Matte black on matte black always looks great, and it matches the wheels perfectly. If you have the opportunity to make an upgrade, and want to try something that will perform above and beyond the norm, my suggestion is to try an Enve product.

No matter what area of your bike it goes on, you will see and feel an improvement in both looks and performance. You’ve just got to ask yourself… “How much fun do you want to have?”

Upgrade of the Year

Written by Barry Cox, Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs Team Member

So…as my first season as a member of the Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs  Mountainbike Race Team draws to a close, I find myself looking back over a great year of riding and thinking about what worked, and what didn’t.  I, like everyone else on the team, had the privilege of being sponsored by some great organizations, and using some great products.  My Continental X-King tires kept my bike on the trail.  My Giro Xar helmet kept my noggin safe from harm, my Oakley Racing Jackets helped me see what I was doing, and my Egg Beaters [pedals] and Sidi Dominators [shoes] put every bit of the meagre power I generated on the trail.

But the best piece of sponsor gear?   The one that made my feel the best when I was riding?   The one that made me go the fastest?   The one that got me noticed?  That’s easy.  My LapDogs race kit, courtesy of Sugoi.

We’re talking Sugoi RS bibs and jersey here.  The best bike shorts and jersey I have ever owned.  Period.   Every race, every club ride, this is what I wore.  And at the end of the season, it looks good as new.  More importantly, it’s comfortable.  If you’re going to spend a long day In the saddle, the last thing you want is kit that doesn’t fit properly, or even worse, chafes or rubs in places that should not ever  be mentioned on this blog.  I wore my Sugoi team shorts and jersey for the Spring Epic 8, which I rode solo, and for a 225km club ride I led called the Tour de Caffeine, and had zero issues, while looking darn good in the process.

And that’s the most important thing about my team kit.  It just plain looks good.  Credit for this goes to Dukes’ very own Michael Cranwell. Mike, in a past life, was a graphic artist.  While we’re all very glad he found his true calling as Dukes’ general manager, and the LapDogs president, he also happens to know a thing or two about making stuff look good.  Mike’s eye catching and unique design is the icing on the cake, and the perfect complement to the great functionality of this apparel.

Bottom line:  when I put my Sugoi Team Kit on, it just makes me feel fast.   And if I feel fast, I ride my bike fast.  That is why joining the Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs Mountainbike Race Team, and having the privilege of wearing this kit, is the best upgrade I made this year.

But even better, my team kit is going to perfectly match the Cannondale Flash 2 carbon 29er I just ordered for next season….

Oakley… Style, performance and function.

Written by Giordano Piccolotto, Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs Race Team Member (he’s the guy seen above on the right)

Oakley, the name is synonymous with quality athletic eyewear. I remember being a kid and seeing Andre Agassi with those original Oakley sunglasses and thinking they were the coolest looking shades around. Well Oakley has never deviated from it stylish roots and continues to this day to deliver awesome looking glasses that are still top notch when it come to athletic design as well.

This year the Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDog Race Team has been lucky enough to partner with Oakley, something that a lot of us were excited about. I chose to go with the “Racing Jacket”, renamed this year from “Jawbone”. A few of the racers received their orders in time for this year’s Ontario Cup Provincial Championships. I was one of them and looked forward to seeing how they preformed. I’ll skip to the conclusion now.

I was impressed.

I’ll let you know I’m a new user of contact lenses and I am still getting used to them so my eyes are prone to feeling dry. A cyclist’s glasses are used as much for keeping the wind out of their eyes as the sun. Compounded with the issue of contact lenses drying out in the wind I was curious to see how the Oakleys would fare. They didn’t disappoint. Even with the vented lenses I found them keeping almost all the wind out and a great deal of water too. I forgot to mention the Provincial Race this year was nothing short of epic, taking place during a lightning ridden, torrential downpour. Add in a big climb and a long, fast descent in the wind and you’ve got the ultimate testing ground for cycling eyewear.

With the race starting in the bright sun I found that the lenses did a great job of keeping the sun’s glare to a minimum while adding a lot of contrast, impressively so. Note; I was using the VR28 Blue Iridium lenses. Once the rain started it came down hard. I was surprised at how well the Oakleys kept the water out, not that I thought they would fail, I just didn’t think any glasses would help through that kind of rain.

The Oakleys performed better than expected. At certain points they did become unusable though, the water whipping off riders wheels as we descended coupled with what was coming down from the sky rendered me sightless at times, I don’t blame the glasses though, that’s all on Mother Nature. I seriously doubt anything would have been able to cut through all that rain and splash. All of this being said, the water was not entering my eyes at all, something I was certain would eventually happen. I should also point out that Oakley sells a hydrophobic coating that can be applied to their lenses. I didn’t have a chance to try this out but I’m betting that it would have proved useful.

So far the glasses have done really well on all fronts; great light reduction and contrast, superb protection from the wind, and better than expected performance in the rain. I’m happy. Then there are the little things. They’re feather light, not that it really matters in the end, but you don’t even feel them when you have them on, and that’s not an exaggeration, it’s actually kind of cool. The material used for the frame constructions is pretty incredible too; it’s super pliable and bends back into shape immediately. The arms snap off to ensure that they won’t break and are easily snapped back into place. And all of the rubber nose and ear pieces are made of a special compound that becomes stickier when it comes into contact with sweat. Oakley has been really thorough in its design process. Everything is well thought out and very functional with all the details being paid attention too. On top of this, they’ve made the glasses totally customizable. You can pop out your current “O” icons and pop in a different colour. And the lenses are completely interchangeable; one of the main features of the “Racing Jacket”, and it’s very easy to do (they come with two lenses btw). You can switch out your ear socks for new ones if they wear out or if you just want a new style. I’ve already started adding splashes of white to my glasses and think they look even better than they did before.

All in all I’m seriously impressed with these glasses on all fronts. Oakleys may be a bit pricey but after wearing mine for the last few days I’d be willing to pay for them over again.

Chapeaux Oakley.

Photo credit: Peter Kraiker, Studio f-Stop

Cannondale Flash Ultimate, a Racer’s choice.

Written by Mark Brusso, Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs Team Director and Racer.

Since joining the LapDogs Cycling Club back in the spring of 2008 I have been fortunate to be introduced to Cannondale bicycles through Duke’s Cycle. I credit Michael Cranwell for getting me hooked from the start as I noticed he and other racers back in the race team’s early days were racing on them.

Cannondale is my brand, and for a reason. They design with the rider, and function in mind.

When other bike manufacturers are spending time putting gimmicky twists, curves and non functional aesthetic features into bike design, Cannondale is innovating and improving on already fantastic technology. They are constantly refining and improving their processes. They are making bikes stiffer, lighter, stronger, and more efficient. Their technology and innovation is truly light years ahead of other bike manufacturers. Their frame designs are minimalist, but are also some of the most beautiful looking frames in the industry.

My review is on the new Flash 29er Ultimate, which I am currently racing for the 2012 Season.

The Flash 29er Ultimate is a pure race bike, and it is meant to be ridden hard and pushed to the limit.

This year, the Ultimate build features some of the absolute best of the best components available on the market. A full SRAM XX drivetrain including the XX World Cup edition brakes and ENVE Composites wheels and bar. SRAM XX just works, plain and simple, and it works with a bang. The shifting is very aggressive and fast. SRAM is known for this, and the XX is no exception, as both the front and rear derailleurs are equipped with very powerful springs, so shifting is always crisp and precise. The ENVE wheels are super stiff, and roll incredibly well, and look great paired with the white DT Swiss Aerolite spokes. I’ve always loved the DT swiss hubs as they are extremely smooth and easily serviced. The 240 hub on the rear wheel is a workhorse, and I know from experience in racing the 190s from my Flash 26′er, that the star ratchet design is bomb proof. It was nice to have the new Racing Ralph 425 HS tires spec’d on this bike, as they are new, and an improvement on the old Racing Ralph design. As usual, the Racing Ralph is one of the best race tires out there, and is known for it’s smooth rolling resistance, and incredible grip due to the EVO rubber compound technology found in the tires.

Another amazing component of this bike is the S.A.V.E seatpost which is critical in this hardtail’s setup. The deflection of the S.A.V.E is absolutely amazing and is one of the best features on the bike. The S.A.V.E really smooths out the ride, and it’s benefit can only be realized when you jump on a Flash paired with one. It is like having a little bit of suspension on the rear of the bike, without paying the price for weight, and the inefficiency of a soft tail on climbs.

Last but not least, the Lefty Fork. Not just any any Lefty – The Lefty Carbon 29er XLR. The Lefty, in my opinion really is the benchmark of suspension in the bike world. My first two mountain bikes had conventional suspension, and when I purchased my first Cannondale in 2009 (A Scalpel Team), my eyes were opened to a whole new world of what suspension can do. The Lefty is point and shoot.. A punchy climb full of roots? Aim your steering uphill right at those roots, and the Lefty will eat them for breakfast. It will handle corners and descents and washboard double track better than anything out there. The only way to understand it, is to try one and see for yourself. The Ultimate this year comes with a remote lockout which is essential to maximize your climbing efficiency. I use mine all the time, and it is a great feature.

The Ultimate 29′er gets 6 out of 5 stars because it exceeded all my expectations. When I decided to enter the world of 29 inch wheels I was glad I made my decision in choosing this bike.

Bike Fit = Comfort, Power & Performance

Written by Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs Racer and Club Member, Dr. Kate Morgan

Suffering through 5 hours of the 8-hour with a sore back taught me one thing: the importance of bike fit. Over the few weeks leading up to the race I had started a dangerous game of putting my saddle ever higher and higher to gain precious climbing power that I felt was getting more elusive as we got into the O-Cup season. Although my climbing got faster, my back started to complain. Loudly. Especially my QL muscles (quadratus lumborum is pictured below for those who are interested).

No foam roller or tennis ball self-massage could get out the kinks.

So, I bit the bullet and decided to have a bike fit done by Michael Cranwell at Dukes. I had invested in my dream bike, the previous summer and had bought a new Crank Brothers Cobalt 11 carbon flat bar that I was itching to try out and I wanted to get it all just right. Enter Michael with his goniometer, laser level and experience.

I can’t remember how long he spent with me, but it was a long time. He put my saddle back down to where I had started, moved my cleats, moved the saddle on the rails, fitted the new bar, measured the steam and voila… my back was finally quiet.

Through the most technical and bumpy course of the season at Hardwood, my back didn’t even enter my mind. I’ve never been so happy. Plus, I came second! This fit was the best value for money I can imagine.

I encourage you all to see Michael and his magic tools.

Editor’s note: To make a bike fit appointment at Duke’s Cycle, please got to the online Bike Fit Request Form.

Once you’ve worn SIDI’s there is No Going Back

Review written by Derrick Cho, member of the 2012 Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs Race Team, MTB Squad.

Having owned a pair of Dragons a few years back I’ve been racing in the Bontrager RXL Mountain shoes for the last two seasons, because well frankly I got a deal on them when I bought my Trek Top Fuel. While the RXL’s are fine shoes, comfortable and a nice fit, they were ready for replacement at the start of this season.

Thanks to the great sponsor opportunity we have with the Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs Race Team, I was able to get into a pair of new SIDI Dragon’s this season. As soon as I got onto the trails and put them through a few O-Cups I knew there was no going back. The close fit, comfort and seamless power transfer to the pedals are all hallmarks of SIDI’s design, attention to detail and devotion to the quality of their products.

With (2) SIDI’s in the house, one for indoor training (Dominator), one for racing (Dragon), I’m a happy SIDI boy. Welcome back, SIDI.