10 Sep 2014

A crash course in helmet replacement.

No Comments Bontrager

Heads up: this post contains an explicit number of puns. 

Over the years, we’ve collected a small collection of cracked, ugly, laughable, and scary helmets people have left with us after buying a new one. I hung them all up in the Ride Away Room the other day and it got me thinking.

I often say “Helmets are more comfortable and less ugly than they have every been.” I believe that statement, even though some companies insist on developing newer and uglier options all the time. This post is not about whether or not you should wear a helmet, this is about whether or not you should get a new helmet.

The answer is generally “yes”, and not just because we sell them.

The myths around helmet lifespans vary, but the generally accepted lifespan is five years. It has been rumored that UV rays break down the styrofoam, or your sweat erodes away the adhesives (gross), or the foam “off-gases”. These are all myths. It boils down to the simple fact that after 5 years of regular use, most manufacturers cannot guarantee the helmet will do what it has to do when it has to do it. Five years of tossing it in the car, dropping it after a hard ride, throwing it at farm dogs, and letting the kids play with it can take its toll. Here are some other yes or no questions to help you determine whether you’re in the market:

Do you dislike wearing your helmet?
Is your helmet uncomfortable?
Do you have the same helmet your parents gave you when you were 6?
Do you have to use foam padding you bought at a craft store to make it fit right?
Have you dropped your helmet a number of times?
Have you hit your helmet in a crash?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it’s time for a new helmet.

If you answered “yes” to that last question, you might be in luck!

A friend of NCC recently took a spill and brought in his cracked helmet for replacement. He wasn’t happy about having to replace it, but he was happy the helmet did its job. The conversation about “crash replacement policies” that ensued with the group of people present was interesting. Some people thought you get a 50% discount, some thought 25%, some thought 100%. 

Every brand handles crash replacement differently. Our friend, we’ll call him Leo, had a Lazer 02 helmet; one of our best-sellers. Lazer’s policy is a 25% discount on a new helmet if the helmet is crashed during the original owner. You don’t have to buy the same model, but you do have to buy another Lazer, and it has to go through the bike shop. He took the opportunity to upgrade to an even better Lazer model.

We sell Lazer and Bontrager helmets. Bontrager’s Crash Replacement Policy is even better! If in the first year of ownership the helmet is cracked as a result of a crash, Bontrager will replace it for FREE. See!

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I think both companies are pretty cool for offering these programs. You might ask yourself “Well, why don’t I just take a hammer to my helmet every so often so I can get a discount or a free replacement?” To which we would answer, “Because you’re not a jerk.”

Bontrager and Lazer both offer full lines of helmets for all styles of riders. We also have access to Giro and Kask helmets (upon request). Bontrager makes our best seller, the Quantum, and our lightest helmet, the Velocis.


The Bontrager Quantum

There is some incredible technology coming along for bike helmets, and we’re eagerly hoping people will embrace them enough for us to bring them in. Before I share some of those new technologies, let me make clear that all of our helmets meet or surpass the current SPSC and Snell standards and these new concepts are simply offering added protection and connectivity.

One new technology that is being made available in some helmets is MIPS technology. MIPS is a system designed to reduce the chances of concussion by addressing rotational impact. Lazer features MIPS on select Beam, Helium, and Nut’z (youth) models. EC0600

Connectivity is turning heads in the helmet field, too. Lazer is offering their Genesis helmet with an integrated heart-rate monitor called Lifebeam. And while we don’t have these integrated in our helmets, we think the ICEdot technology is pretty smart.  You can affix the ICEdot to any helmet, sync it up, and in the occasion of a crash, it will alert your emergency contacts of your location.

If you want to get ahead of the curve and replace your helmet for any reason, we’re offering a 20% off special on any instock Bontrager and Lazer helmets. Both companies feature great fit systems, comfortable padding, good ventilation, and surpass current testing standards. Simply mention this post to get the discount.


09 Aug 2014

Put a lid on it

No Comments Uncategorized

We found a huge stash of bottle caps in the basement, so we made the most of it.

10448236_10202450970580253_8272921725305647316_nThese are free in the Ride Away Room, so if your dishwasher has devoured your caps, stop in and stock up.


01 Aug 2014

Saddledrive 2014 – Super Duper Salsa Bucksaw Surly Ice Cream Truck Salsa Blackborow Carbon Stuff Review!

No Comments All-City, fatbike, Karate Monkey, Mukluk, New Stuff, pugsley, Salsa, snowbike, Surly, Uncategorized

Saddledrive is an industry event hosted by Quality Bicycle Products near their Western HQ in Ogden, UT. I’ve posted up about it for the last few years, and each year is unique. It’s been an exciting time to be partner with the Q brands, which include Surly, Salsa, All-City, Cogburn, and Lazer. They’ve been incredible to work with because at the heart of it, QBP values relationship as a foundation for good business. That’s the way we believe it should be done, so our business comes pretty naturally with them.

The Rendezvous
QBP was kind enough to bring me in a day early to participate in what they’ve entitled the “Indie Sessions”. The Indie Sessions are a day or afternoon of topical seminars or discussions with a core group of ~25 unique independent bike retailers from all over the country. It’s become an inspirational rendezvous of creative, passionate, and brilliant people doing very different things. I love hashing out ideas with those folks. Trading stories makes us all realize we’re not alone.

We also have the presence of Q’s deeply knowledgeable key staff there, too. Over breakfast one morning, Lori Richman, Director of Organization Development at Q, told me an incredible fact about bike shops our size that brought me more comfort than any other piece of information during the whole trip.

This year more than other years, it was the reunion aspect that I found most energizing. There’s definitely a community of retailers working together to make the whole experience better for cyclists. Seeing them all a few times each year helps give me perspective on our shop and feel connected to what’s going on in their shops. This is very rewarding to me. It’s also de facto gathering of post NCC crewfolk as well. I was able to catch up with Phil Brown, now at Elevation Cycles in Denver, and Tyler McKellar, now at Loose Nuts in Atlanta.

Oh yeah, the bikes!
This year Salsa and Surly had a ton of exciting things to unveil and it took dedication to get on them all over the course of two demo days. It was hard work… every bit of it.

Some of the riding I even had to do with old and dear friends.

It was horrible.

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Here are the bikes I rode, and I am going to review them all.


Mukluk 2 w/Bluto
Carbon Spearfish
Carbon Horsetheif

Ice Cream Truck Ops
Ice Cream Truck
Karate Monkey Ops

Macho King

The very first bike I rode was the very last bike I wanted to like, let alone stock and carry in our store. The Surly Ice Cream Truck was introduced in February and struck me as a great solution to a problem we simply didn’t have in our market. The ICT is a redesign on Surly’s fatbike geometry to make it a more trail-specific ride. It is built on a symmetrical 5” tire platform featuring a 190mm rear-end and an extra wide press-fit bottom bracket shell. I’ll keep the nerdspeak to a minimum, but those are important differentiators for the ICT. I jumped on the ICT Ops build; a sleeker (ha, sleeker), more economical version built up with 4” tires and thumb shifters.

And I absolutely loved it. I didn’t want to, but I did.

Since I’ve been to Saddledrive a few times, I had expected my first ride to be a slog regardless of bike choice. Snowbasin resort hovers around 8000’ above sea level (which is about 7300’ higher than ol’ DeKalb), so the elevation, the travel, and the fact that IT’S A MOUNTAIN usually take some getting used to. I was grinning before I even exited the demo area. I couldn’t believe it. I rode a couple loops I was more familiar with and more than once I looked down to make sure I was really on the ICT Ops. It felt like a straight-up mountain bike. No, better than that. It was shocking. It was heavy. It was steel. But it was so spry!

Here’s a bad picture of it:

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Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops

I rode the standard Ice Cream Truck later in the day and it was, again, impressive.

It rode better than any 5” bike I’d ever ridden. I rode the new Salsa Blackborough soon afterwards to give them a close comparison and they both rode great. You’re still throwing a ton of momentum around with those 5” tires, but the handling is greatly improved with these new geometries.

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Salsa Blackborow, Blakkboreaux, Blackboroughood


The reason I didn’t want to like the ICT’s, or the Blackborow, or the Mukluk 2 with suspension, OR the Bucksaw) is that our shop is in ILLINOIS. Specificially, one of the flattest parts of Illinois. And having better trail-riding fatbikes isn’t something we need, necessarily. It makes my job harder! It’s hard to keep up with so much innovation, and I was hoping (in vain), that I wouldn’t notice the changes and stick to our steadfast selection of Pugs, Muks, Beargrease, and a few others. But those guys up there at Surly and Salsa are maniacs at designing great trail bikes.

Every year we ride up to the Ogden Overlook and do the full Sardine Loop with a few friends and this year I rode the Mukluk 2 with the Bluto fork on it. Even a year ago, I wouldn’t have chosen that bike for that job given the other choices at my disposal. I would have chosen a 29er hardtail or maybe even a full-sus Salsa. But this year I was having so much fun on the new fatbikes that I decided to see what the Bluto was all about. The trails were downright powdery in places, so I enjoyed the extra purchase with the tires. The climbing on the Muk was surprisingly good. I say surprising because the geo didn’t change, but the whole bike felt better. Bombing down the mountain on that bike was a riot. Again, I was hesitant to see the need for the Bluto (in IL), but it was super fun to let it rip.

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Salsa Mukluk 2 – so good looking in the sun!

The Big Boi
The Salsa Bucksaw was probably the most anticipated bike at the show, so it took some favors to actually get on it (I couldn’t  stand in line very long when there were so many other great bikes to ride). I was able to jump on that for my last run of the event. It wasn’t a long ride, but it was enough. It’s a beast. It’s so much fun. I thought the introduction of the Split Pivot design on the Spearfish and Horsethief took both those bikes from “excellent” to “stellar”, but I think the benefit of the Split Pivot is more apparent on the Bucksaw than any other bike I’ve ridden. After riding all sorts of fatbikes up there for a couple days, I could immediately tell the difference braking into the turns. The SP diminished the skittering and bouncing I’d gotten used to on the other bikes. I lack a fluency in mountain-bike, so the way I judge a bike is by the amount of work it does for me; by the level of confidence I can ride it without thinking. The Bucksaw flattened the mountain in front of my eyes… and I can ride flat pretty well. I don’t think we’ll be stocking these in big numbers, but I wish upon a start that we get some pre-orders. I want to see these bikes come through NCC.

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Salsa Bucksaw

On that note, we’re working to create a pre-order package for a few of these bikes which may include certain benefits, freebies, favors, and handmade, personalized effects.

Now, I know I said I’d review all the bikes on that list above, but I didn’t say I’d review them all here. I mean, I can’t just give away all that perspective for free on the internet. How else could I lure you into the store to hear them in person over a cup of good coffee?

If you have any questions on those, come and see us!

We can trade stories.


Ok, one more story.

We rode up to the Outlook another time and had limited time so we just went up and back down quick. I was riding with Phil and Gavin from Elevation Cycles (real mountain bikers) and Tom Swallow from Swallow Bicycle Works in Ohio. On the climb up, I was telling Tom how DeKalb has zero mountain biking and that, to ride any kind of trail we had to drive for 45 minutes at least. He was incredulous. We made it up to the lookout, high-fived, and then headed back down. I was behind Phil and Gavin, in front of Tom. At one point, Tom said “How can you ride down so fast (if you don’t ride trail often)?” I think he meant it as a compliment. I took it as a compliment. I should have taken it as a warning. I was following Gavin on a Krampus and he was kicking up quite the dust cloud. Overconfident and blinded, I hit a loose corner pretty hot and literally ate dirt. My face landed directly in the dust (not too hard, but hard enough). I distinctly remember by beard sensing the earth and then my lips kissing the ground. I got up quick and kept riding, but I was a sight. I had been sweating, so when I tumbled, I picked up a nice coating of dirt, so there’s was no hiding the fact that I went down.

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Okay. Now it’s your turn. What’s your story?



02 Jul 2014

Made in ‘Merica Month! Get your MUSA bike now.

No Comments Uncategorized

It’s no secret that we love well-built American bikes. This month, in honor of American traditions of craftsmanship and capitalism, we’re offering up to $500 off and free assembly on all MUSA bikes and frames ordered within the month of July.


Choose from carbon, steel, and titanium options from Trek, Moots, Waterford, Gunnar, and Chicago’s very own Humble Frameworks. Stop in to discuss model, size, components and lead time soon. Maybe be the first to order the new Trek Emonde, the lightest production road bike on the market!





13 Jun 2014

Friday the 13th H.Y.S.T.: Lazer, Bontrager, Nathan, Cycloc, EID, and Electra

No Comments Uncategorized

At NCC, we have a problem.

We have a problem of bringing in way more cool things than we can tell you about unless you stop in the store. We’d like to change that – please stop into the store everyday. Thanks.

We know that’s not a reality, really, so we’re going to start a regular series of posts called “H.Y.S.T.” posts. H.Y.S.T. stands for Have You Seen This? (or Those, or Them, or That thar). The posts will consist of new items in the store we think are pretty cool. They might be big or small, fancy or basic, but they’ll all be new.

Today, we’ll start with something fancy.


Check out the new Lazer Z1 (top) and Bontrager Velocis (bottom) helmets – the lightest, most ventilated options on the market today.  These are the first arrivals.

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No matter what time of year it is, having an insulated bottle is a good idea. These new Fire and Ice bottles from Nathan Sports are a great idea. They are insulated, reflective, and easy to use. How is one bottle easier to use than another? These have a no-slip cap, so you can open and close it with wet hands. And it has a wider poppet so you can more water at once. That’s how it’s easier.

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Next up is another smart solution product – the Cycloc Wrap. It’s a rubber leg band (protecting your pants from the chain), a useful accessory strap for keeping things on your bike rack, and a very handy bungee strap for keeping wheels in line when they’re on your car rack. They come in a handful of colors. Smart stuff.

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When you’re on a ride with friends, it’s never a bad idea to tell them who to contact if there was an emergency. The EID system is by far the most simple and economical solution we’ve seen. The tags are cheap and can attach to a seatbag or jersey very unobtrusively. Load your emergency info (contacts, medical info, bike information, etc) into your free EID account and then anytime the QR code is scanned, it accesses the information. They are available as wristbands, tags, and they’ll have stickers for bikes soon. Easy.

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The last little fun thing today is truly a plain product. It’s boring. But it’s so straightforward and useful that we had to share it. Electra has a number of small bags, clutches and satchels that affix to the handlebars. They pop off easy and can be toted around. This one happens to be a great size for everyday adventures. And compared to the more industrial options on the hbar bag market – this one is a steal.

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That’s it! That’s a HYST post. Now you can CABT.