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Revised Resolutions: Try Cyclocross This Fall! Our 2018-19 Development Season in Pictures

Revised Resolutions: Try Cyclocross This Fall! Our 2018-19 Development Season in Pictures

The 2019 World Cyclocross Championships are wrapping up its final day today, so we at Jalapeno Cycling are looking back at our 2018-19 season with our development team. We wanted to congratulate all of our athletes on a great year!

We’ve had a great year of personal and team successes, and more importantly, loads of fun. It was a muddy season, and for everyone who has muscled through the year, here’s to a mix of dry and wet races next season!

Never tried cyclocross before, and live in the NJ/NYC area? Consider marking in Jalapeno Cycling’s Cyclocross Development Team as the New Year’s Resolution you don’t have to start until the late summer! Every year, Jalapeno Cycling takes riders with little to no experience, and guides them through a season by preparing everyone with fitness training and cyclocross-specific techniques.


Buying a Bike: A Custom-Built Bike Might Be More Affordable in the Long Run

Buying a Bike: A Custom-Built Bike Might Be More Affordable in the Long Run

At Jalapeno Cycling, we get many people inquiring about performance-oriented bicycles and wanting to explore their choices. Not long into the conversation, I bring up the option of a custom build, and usually people give me a look like I’m intentionally trying to blast past their budget, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Almost all of the companies we work with offer frame sets, and three of them, Van Dessel, Sage Titanium, and Von Hof Cycles, allow customers to customize most of the components in their builds. While these builds have a slightly higher upfront price tag on them (usually adding $50 to $250 to the overall price of a full build), we have found that our customers usually break even or more often do better when you add in the unseen costs of buying a fully stocked bike.

Let’s back up a bit. I’m not out to put down every aspect of bikes fully stocked with parts from original part manufacturers (you may already know or have seen the term OEM used before) or in-house brands. I think at this point almost everyone realizes that the purchasing power of the biggest companies is leaps and bounds better than an individual: the Shimano Ultegra shifters that come stock on a bike don’t just seem less expensive than that single set of replacement shifters someone might buy after a crash, they actually are less expensive. OEM-stocked bikes allow plenty of customers component options that they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

This system is nearly perfect when the parts work as intended for almost everyone. It works fine, but not great, when the parts work for only some riders, but are not expensive to change out for an equivocal part. The real problem arrives when bikes come with expensive stock parts that don’t work for the rider.

What do I mean when the parts don’t work for the rider? When our resident pro coach, Kathryn Cumming, fits riders, she hears common surprises. People can’t believe how much of a difference a set of 165mm cranks feel compared to 170mm cranks, how much a stem with a slightly different angle relieves the pressure off their shoulders, or how much a different saddle works better with their sit bones. These are not just nit-picks to make a ride marginally better: these are often changes that offer a completely improved riding experience. Replacing these parts in order to create the perfect ride often means having to spend beyond the original budget, which is never a fun surprise.

It’s understandable why this problem exists in the first place. So much of marketing in the road performance bicycle industry is dedicated to the price and total weight of the bike (note: not frame weight). This makes sense for the consumer. It is incredibly easy for anyone to measure the “value” of bikes side by side using these readily understood factors.

The unfortunate byproduct of OEM-stocked bikes is that companies have a huge incentive to put the exact same equipment on many of their builds. I’m flipping through companies as I write this, looking at how ubiquitous 100mm stems with a 7 degree rise are, same for 420mm drop handlebars, 172.5mm crank arms, and 20mm offset seatposts. I remember five or six years ago when it was practically impossible to walk into a road-focused shop without seeing a Fizik Arione saddle on plenty of the flagship models.

You end up with situations like Kate had with one of her first ’cross bikes. She was able to buy a Ridley X-Fire at a massively discounted price, and thankfully, she understood the potential problems and budgeted accordingly, but she ended up needing to change the handlebars, stem, seatpost, wheels, tires, cassette, and saddle. Had this been an unexpected cost, her budget may not have allowed her to make these changes.

All too often we see riders come to us after buying a bike based around frame size alone and complaining about discomfort. Because their biggest draw to purchasing the bike in the first place was due to it being a 15lbs. bike that just managed to fit into their budget, they are forced to make a decision: buy equivocal parts at a big expense, or throw on heavier equipment, or bear a bad fit (the second of the three choices is the typical decision).

The big argument against me is a common phrase in the bike industry, these companies are putting together builds that work for 80% of all riders. In my experience, a far more correct version of this phrase is that these OEM builds are bearable for 80% of riders and unbearable for the other 20%. Our bodies are so dynamically different than one another that the chances that a pre-built bike works like the perfect ride it was designed to be is slim.

So to put it another way, when I am investing in a high-performance bike that goes for $3000-$5000+, the last thing that I want to say is that I can tolerate the cranks and the saddle is bearable. At that price, I want to ride a bike that was designed for me.

Imperfect, high end, stock builds are not a problem that will be going away soon. Integrated stems and handlebars are growing in popularity with stock applications on road, triathlon, gravel, and cyclocross bikes. While features like these help bring down the weight, they also drastically decrease the already small chance that the build works for your position.

The best solution, of course, is to preempt that bike purchase with a fit. A reputable fitter will offer solutions that might even extend beyond what the bike shop offers, discovering a brand that happens to hit all of your ideal marks and position for that better OEM price. In the worst case, the fitter can preemptively point out concerns with a stocked bike, and give you a better understanding of how your budget can get you the best bike for your body.

Race Report and Power File: Jalapeno Cycling's First 2018-19 Cyclocross Race at Go Cross

Race Report and Power File: Jalapeno Cycling's First 2018-19 Cyclocross Race at Go Cross

The cyclocross season began last weekend in Roanoke, Virginia, at the GoCross Cyclocross race. Saturday saw a nice muddy course while heat and humidity reigned on Sunday. You can see Kathryn Cumming's race data file here, showing that the GoCross was a course defined by loads of consistent pedaling and little recovery. Kate's heart rate spiked at 192 bpm by lap two and held above her usual race average. Be sure to stay tuned for more race reports and power files as the season continues!

by Kathryn Cumming

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

As the season opener approaches, there is always a sense of uncertainty. It’s easy to second guess the work you did in the off season. 

I have very rarely started the season off with my best results. It seems to take me a few races to find my sharpness. To counteract this in the past, I have managed to hit training races before the UCI season kicks off, but with a crazy August schedule, this year was all about fun in Roanoke. I knew I worked hard and was stronger and more skilled than this time last year, so the plan was to enjoy racing the course. 

The course was fast and flowy. It was easy to carry speed through everything, meaning attacks would be necessary for gaps to stick. 

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

I decided to lower expectations during my start on Saturday, when I missed my pedal and briefly took a break by sitting on my top tube. While it looked a bit ridiculous, this was my biggest victory of the weekend: I was able to recover quickly and pick up a bunch of spots by the time I was up the first climb. I actually found myself in a better position after the first few corners than in many past races. Some of the training was paying off.

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

I jumped on some fast wheels and fought to stay near the big, strung out group of leaders. In doing so, I tested and exceeded my limits, sliding out a few times around corners. At this point, despite my hammering, the gaps remained and I entered that dark but oddly energizing place where you see how how much you can keep pushing. This tunnel vision can be invigorating as you test both your physical and mental abilities. 

After almost four solo laps, I crossed the line in 9th.

As I met Andrew and my parents (who are amazing and traveled all the way from Michigan) after the finish, I could do nothing more than smile and lay down. I rode as hard as I could and my heart rate data very much confirms this (you know I like data!). There are obviously ways to improve, but if there weren’t, I wouldn’t continue racing every weekend.

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

Sunday was a different story. Temperatures were brutal and my body just didn’t respond the way I wanted. I was trading places with a few women and on about the third lap, I put in a dig to try and solidify the gap. This spike in my heart rate put me into the red and I just couldn’t recover. I was squirting water on myself, but started getting goosebumps and chills. At this point, the lights went out and I was done. I had to pull out of the race.

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

A DNF always leaves you questioning yourself, but Andrew and my parents were there to tell me I made the right decision. For me, conditions were getting dangerous and as much as I love racing, it wasn’t worth the risk. Friends at the race and at home offered words of support that have me feeling as positive as ever about the cycling community. Every cyclocross race will have ups and downs and I’m so lucky to have a support structure that allows me to keep the right perspective.

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

Overall, the speed of the races was fierce and it was difficult to recover from mistakes. This is so awesome for the women’s field! The competition makes everyone better, improves the atmosphere at races, and also means more women are putting time and energy into cyclocross. I am pumped to start my season off with a top ten and some UCI points and am excited to continue challenging myself in this elite field.

Sage Titanium Bicycles Gets Spicy for 2018, Sponsors Jalapeno Cycling's Kathryn Cumming

Sage Titanium Bicycles Gets Spicy for 2018, Sponsors Jalapeno Cycling's Kathryn Cumming

Jalapeno Cycling's Co-Founder and Team Captain, Kathryn Cumming, has been busy preparing for her cyclocross season and getting the new development team ready for the fun that awaits them. One of the worst kept secrets around the shop for the 2018-19 season is that she will be riding the smooth but stiff titanium cyclocross rigs from Sage Titanium. She is looking forward to putting her leg over the Sage and getting her season underway!

by Kathryn Cumming


If you’ve spent any time at the shop or have gone riding with me, you know I haven’t kept this a secret (I hate surprises), but it’s official: I’m going to be riding Sage Titanium bikes this cross season!

I can’t believe I get to race these dream bikes! The Sage PDXCX is the best cross bike I have ever ridden. The ride is smooth but snappy. The bike eats up bumps and tracks well through rough terrain, while still accelerating quickly. The high bottom bracket allows for constant hammering of the pedals over cyclocross specific terrain and the aggressive geometry plays nicely into attacking out of the saddle. Not to mention, the frames look fierce and are light and durable (remember, I break a lot of stuff).


I am very cautious when partnering with sponsors. Product support makes life easier and it’s always cool to announce partners, but I will only partner with brands I completely believe in; the products have to be something we can stand behind and recommend at Jalapeno Cycling and our brand values must be aligned. Between the awesome bikes and great people who are committed to cyclocross, it was an easy decision to partner with Sage!

My 2018-19 cyclocross season will include a mix of UCI races, local races, and hopefully a World Cup or two. As a shop owner and coach, the US World Cups are difficult to attend; they occur during a busy time at Jalapeno Cycling and the locations are too far for a day trip. Instead, we will be focusing on East Coast UCI races and jumping in the local scene on off weekends. The grassroots scene around the mid-Atlantic is booming. We plan to take part in this and hopefully bring some of that energy to our local New Jersey series too.


Once the cold weather leads to quieter weekends around the shop, if the opportunity arises, I will definitely get to the start line of a European World Cup.

My season will kickoff on September 1-2 in Roanoke, VA for the Deschutes Brewery’s GO Cross for the UCI C2 events. The Labor Day holiday makes it the perfect weekend for us to take a trip.

As lame as it sounds, my goal is just to have a great time out on the course! Racing cross is a blast, and I think we all race better when we are enjoying ourselves. Cross is an outlet, and while I love a good result (who doesn’t), I never want racing to become a source of stress or worry in my life. That’s not to say I haven’t been training hard. The year has been full of intervals, long days in the saddle, skills, and fun on the trails. 

I’m getting excited just writing this - let’s get the season going!


Looking to follow Jalapeno Cycling's adventures in the upcoming season? You can sign up for our newsletter here. If you are drooling over Kate's new race machine, be sure to check out the full titanium collection over at Sage Titanium!

Want to Try Cyclocross (Or Know a Friend Who Should Try It)? Applications for the Development Program Are Open NOW!

Want to Try Cyclocross (Or Know a Friend Who Should Try It)? Applications for the Development Program Are Open NOW!


What is the Jalapeno Cycling Cyclocross Development Program?

Jalapeno Cycling is a shop committed to growing cyclocross. Last year was the flagship year of our cyclocross development program, where we taught riders the skills and hosted training to set goals and have fun.

If you have never raced a cyclocross race, but want a cycling challenge, this program is PERFECT for you! We are open to accepting riders with a little experience, provided they have not raced more than four races. Why do we set this limitation? First, Kathryn Cumming, New Jersey’s top cyclocross rider, tailor makes the program for beginners to familiarize themselves with the early techniques needed to start having fun. We’re not going to be going over the far more advanced stuff! Second, instead of looking to put our jerseys on the podium, we’re more looking to grow cyclocross in the area!

We have five major goals for the program:

  1. Discover self-motivated people who have either never tried cyclocross, or those who have only raced less than five races.

  2. Prepare the development riders ahead of the season, giving them the tools they will need to both safely navigate cyclocross courses and have the most fun possible.

  3. Have all members of the team compete in six different local races during the season, helping to grow the sport in New Jersey.

  4. Help grow a community of cyclists who cheer on each other’s accomplishments.

  5. Develop a competitive but respectful spirit against other development programs.

What are we looking for?

In return for months of training and coaching, applicants will be required not only to commit to their own season, but those of their fellow devo teammates. Cyclocross is a fun discipline, but it can also be a very tough challenge on the motivation, which is doubled by the days getting darker and colder. We ask that you see your first season fully out, both for yourself and the support of your teammates.

You will be required to have a bike for the season. This can be a dedicated cyclocross bike or a mountain bike. Loaner bikes from your friends for the season are acceptable, provided that it will be 100% guaranteed available to you for all practice and race days.

Practice will be held twice a week before the season begins; a hard indoor training session in the morning during the weekday, and an outdoor skills practice in the morning on Sunday. Both of these sessions, but especially the indoor class, will become increasingly challenging as the season approaches. Riders who miss more than two training sessions may be asked to leave the program at directors' discretion.

If you are interested in the program, be sure to stay apply here!


For the Love of Type B-Personality Races: Virginia’s Monster Cross

For the Love of Type B-Personality Races: Virginia’s Monster Cross

February is outdoor cycling’s worst month, at least if you live north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Sure, cyclocross often gets its big World Championship race, followed by a few swan song events, but that’s Europe. In the United States, UCI caliber events are done and dusted in early January. For the first time in five years, Kate and I sat out the National Championships, which meant that we haven’t touched a race course since New York City’s Rainey Park.

Most years, I’m able to wait until my early March Birthday to get back into racing, often with crit events like Grant’s Tomb or the Branch Brook Park Series. But two months away from racing left us a little more champing at the bit for the start of 2018. So we decided to break tradition and find something competitive.

Cue the Monster Cross Race.

Every February, the Richmond area of Virginia holds a 50-mile gravel race, complete with closed crossings, pavement stretches, loose singletrack, and loads of fire roads. Coupled with a predicted 55 degree day, it was a hard race to pass up, especially now that Haymarket put the Monster Cross Race at the start of their new Mid-Atlantic Champions Series. Gravel in February is a new concept for both Kate and I, and so we wrote a race report on our experiences of the race below.

Andrew’s Race Report:

One of my biggest concerns leading up to this event was that unlike Kate, my outdoor rides had been practically non-existent since the cyclocross season ended. Now don’t get me wrong, my indoor training has probably never been so consistent during this time of year, but most of it is building a base for the New York City Triathlon. Loads of on the bike rides have been on my road bike, pin-pointing zones to the exact percentage: exactly the stuff you expect from a Type-A Personality bike racer in the NYC area.

The week before, I hopped on my Cross Bike and hit the trails as hard as I could. The day after, by body, and especially my quads, ached in ways I had long forgot about.

I realized my hyper-forward time trial position, complete with an ISM saddle and aero bars, was significantly different than my cyclocross bike. So in a moment of slight recklessness, I swapped the saddle and put on an absurdly aggressive stem to get me close enough to the position I had been riding in. If that wasn’t enough, I opted to run 40psi in my LAS tubulars, easily twice what I usually ride on cyclocross courses.

In short, I was really putting all my eggs in the basket that the course was well-packet and tame as I saw on the prior year race videos.

The starting grid gave me a little pause, though. At least half the hundreds of riders were on mountain bikes, and many of those on gravel bikes were rocking 38-40c tubeless tires. It was way too late to change my setup at this point, and I mentally prepared myself for a long walk in the worst case. I made a comment about having to drive through a five-hour snowstorm the night before, and a rider behind me, with a thick, Virginian accent, was in disbelief that I drove all the way from Northern New Jersey for this “little thing.”

In East Coast cyclocross races, starting grids are organized with Newtonian precision according to series, crossresults, or UCI points. In gravel racing, it is more like kindergarteners rushing forward to a nondescript start line all at once, vaguely organizing themselves by class color. In a way this has always been bizarre to me, as being at the front of a gravel race is almost as important. Sure, you don’t have to weave through riders in tight sections, but on fast roads and trails, the leaders’ group and drafting comes into play in ways that it never will on a cyclocross course. I started alongside Kate in the fourth row, and after a slightly chaotic start and a crash of younger riders on an early bridge, I realized I was now chasing rather than with the lead group.

I don’t think I could have ended up riding with a better group of racers on the first 25 mile lap. While I was pulling at the front of this chasing group for over 90% of the time, the riders were pretty cool to let me stay upfront in the tighter sections and get rad across the entire width of the course even though they could have nailed those turns on their wider tires a bit faster. I kept getting the best feedback from the back, such as “right hairpin turn coming up,” or “sharp rocks in this creek,” and I happily hammered at the front in the flats, doing what I could to keep everyone in hopeful contention.

Closer to the end of the first lap, I heard a cheering section tell us that we were a full seven minutes back on the leaders. Since I was going beyond my 50-mile limit 25 miles in, I knew there wasn’t a chance I’d bridge up to those front guys.

In the final 1.5 miles or the lap, the course became far more wicked, to the point that any mountain bikers who were able to linger in groups had a bit of an advantage at the end of the race. In this section, my upper body started feeling the effects of that high tire pressure and body position that allowed me to efficiently nail the hard packed dirt and pavement earlier.

I lost about twenty seconds on the group I was with through this section, and tried to make up for it after crossing the lap. I could still see them ahead of me for most of the rolling hills, but I lost sight of them at the worst possible time. In a pavement straightaway, I caught a race sign that stated “right ahead” followed by a cone. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember this turn on the last lap, but considering that I couldn’t see those guys either, led me to believe that I had to make the corner.

All of these thoughts didn’t happen in a split second either. I was standing at that corner like a chump for a short bit before darting to the woods. There were tire tracks… but not many. There were trails… but way too many leaves considering several hundred riders were passing through here. And I realized almost a mile in that it had been a wrong turn. Yea, I swore a little and was frustrated by getting lost on the course. By the time I got back, I still couldn’t see anyone in either direction: another common sight in gravel racing.

Below me, my cycling computer was tallying up the extra distance I had ridden along with the time, which was creeping by much slower than the last lap. I decided I had enough of the digital mockery for now and to get into the spirit of Gravel racing by switching the computer off.

Between the unyielding accordion of the start and not having dedicated, bright race tape to mark every centimeter of the course, gravel racing is a far cry from cyclocross, but in a way, there is something liberating about it that cyclocross, criterium, or triathlon events don’t have.

Gravel racing isn’t a game of perfection or inches.

More pre-race prep goes into attempting to control the uncontrollables, such as mechanicals and flats, than warming up on a trainer or dialing in the corners in a pre-lap. Sometime on the course, you will be on the wrong bike. Gravel bikes won’t be able to jet through a fast, root-laden descent as well as mountain bikes, and mountain bikes will feel like they’re slogging up a climb. Gravel teaches you to make peace with that.

I ended up taking a 28th place finish, far from the top ten I was secretly hoping for. Still, the Monster Cross course was able to give me personal achievements I could celebrate: chasing the leaders well on the first lap, and tearing through the last two miles really well on equipment not suited for it, passing a few more tentative riders in the process.

More importantly, it was the first time in a while where I just unplugged myself from the raw data of winter training and just got a good opportunity to literally get lost in the woods for while.

Kate’s Race Report:

Bike: VonHof Steel ACX with 42t chainring and 11-36 cassette
Tires: Challenge Chicane Tubular @ 35 psi
Nutrition: Infinit GO FAR (2 bottles)

The mass start of gravel races is something I haven't quite figured out, but I've blown up chasing some of the men enough times in the past that I decided to play it conservative and avoid bonking early. Sunday's race mantra was pretty much "don't bonk, fuel now, don't bonk". As a cross racer, I'm not used to fueling during races and I find I have to really make myself grab a bottle.

The start proved chaotic as expected, but after about the first three miles, everyone settled in to their own race pace. I had no idea where I was in the field, but figured I came for a fun ride and a solid workout, so I just needed to get after it. I started moving up on the climbs but struggled early with the loose descents. It's been a while since I bombed a fire road on 33mm file treads. This saw me trading spots every few minutes with some racers on mountain bikes - I would hit the climb hard and they would pass me again on the way down.

It can be ideal to start riding with a group and share the workload, but I  wasn't ready to give up my control of the pace.

Riding my own race was proving to be a good idea as we hit an extended section of pavement around mile 10. My legs felt strong and the file treads were flying. I decided to go hard here to gap a woman I had been riding with, but apparently I went a little too hard and messed up the course directions. After seeing a sign that said "Right Turn" and an orange cone at a trailhead, I turned on to the trail and continued attacking. After a half mile or so, everything seemed oddly quiet. Fortunately the woman behind me gave a shout and we both turned around (apologies to her for leading her off course, she was a good sport about it). I guess the orange cone was blocking the trail. Back to the pavement we went to resume our chase.

At this point I was even more clueless about my standing in the field and kept reminding myself that it's February and you came for a good ride. Going hard for the entire race and trying to improve my descending became the only objective. I started working my way back into the field, finding myself moving through groups, bumping into friends along the way, and enjoying the exchange of friendly words with fellow racers. My predominantly solo effort continued and I was able to appreciate the awesome course the promoter created.

The last five miles required that I use every gear choice and cadence possible to avoid cramping. My power meter became a great reference to keep me from soft pedaling. Some of the cruelest climbs on course were saved for the end of the lap. The support and encouragement from lapped riders as I attempted to get out of the saddle to give an extra push really made a difference.

I crossed the line after about three hours and fifteen minutes of racing, completely depleted and satisfied with my day on the bike. It was enough for fifth place. Andrew was waiting, equally exhausted but also pleased with his ride. We both felt better about our mental state as well when we learned we had taken the same detour. Who can complain about more miles on a beautiful day though?!

One of my favorite aspects of gravel racing compared to road racing is the all-out racing from the start. Generally in a road race, you have to play the tactics game and there's often even a neutral start. I love that gravel racing is on from the whistle, allowing me to truly see the capability of my legs and mind. The roadies are as strong (if not stronger) and wiser (I hate playing chess with them), but I enjoy the simple, physical efforts of gravel racing.

I'm a sucker for these unsanctioned, low barrier events. The racing is challenging and competitive, but in different ways for all participants. There is a shared camaraderie between pros looking to test their legs for prize money and first timers hoping to finish the course on an old bike they found in the garage. Words of encouragement are shared all over the course, assistance is offered by way of pulls, mechanical help, and nutritionals, and conversations are had between athletes who would not normally interact. We are all equally drained from our effort at the end and everyone appears more relaxed in their raw, depleted state. Recovery drinks are traded for fried chicken and beer, stories of triumphs and mishaps on the trail are exchanged, and then we head our separate ways, knowing we have a home in the cycling community.


Jalapeno Cycling is a Cyclocross/Gravel Faux Pro Racing Team, with a bike shop located in Bloomfield, New Jersey. You can follow them on Instagram or Facebook, as well as sign up for their weekly newsletter about Cyclocross and Gravel events here.

Six Big Mistakes When Building a New Bike

Six Big Mistakes When Building a New Bike

Here at Jalapeno Cycling, we get a lot of requests from people who want us to build their bike from a direct-to-customer internet dealer. While we do sell new bikes from plenty of great brands, we are happy to build up a bike, new or used, that you bought online.

Sometimes, however, we are the second option after a frustrating DIY out of the box. We get this as well. Far too many online bike companies suggesting that their bikes come 85-90% assembled, or even worse, suggest that building a bike up is just a 15-20 minute project. In the best case, people were just frustrated with the project. In the worst case, a component was destroyed during the building process, and the customer needs a solution.

We really hate giving people bad news, so we wanted to walk through six of the most common problems that we see come into the door, and the best way you can avoid them when doing your own build at home. This is far from a comprehensive list or guide to building a bike, and (while we're admittedly biased) we need to throw out the disclaimer that most bikes bought directly or online should be built by an experienced mechanic.

The following is merely the six problems we often see in DIY builds that lead to injury or expensive repairs. If you have questions about things that are not covered in this guide, such as properly installing your front wheel or adjusting your brakes, please consult a professional.

1) Ignoring damage and defects to the bike.

Before picking up a single tool, every amatuer and professional bike builder must inspect the frame and parts for damage, even if the box it was shipped in looks immaculate. In general, you are looking for cracks in the frame or clear damage to the parts. While sometimes chips or wear in the paint on the frame are easily-spotted indications, but you can’t depend on paint to spot a defect. For metal frames like steel, aluminum, and titanium, you should give extra attention to the welds. For carbon fiber, you need to be even more meticulous. Microcracks in carbon fiber can be small enough to be measured in millimeters, but they can cause a catastrophic failure that will end a ride pretty quick. Discovering a defective or damaged-in-transit frame before you build the bike up can be an easy way to avoid a costly internet investment.

In a similar way, you’ll want to inspect parts for dings and nicks. Having said that, for almost every bike we pull out of a box, we do anticipate minor damage to parts that we will have to repair while we’re building up the bike. You can expect that the wheels might be out of true, the rotors are slightly bent, or the derailleur hanger was bent out of alignment.

2) Poorly Installed Pedals

Mis-threaded pedals are easily the most common mistake we see, and unfortunately, it can be a costly goof up. When installing the pedals, use a waterproof grease on the threads, and then install the pedals at least ⅔ the way into the crankarms by hand. If you feel resistance, the kind where you feel like you need a tool to install the pedals, you are likely cross-threading the pedals. This will result in those threads failing, with the spindles falling out of the cranks anywhere from the first ride to a year down the road.

Sometimes these threads can be repaired, but in some cases, this means that you have to buy a crank arm or a full crankset for the bike. Rarely will a company warranty a bike if you cross thread the pedals during installation.

When installing pedals, you want to hold on to the pedal spindle with your hand, and rotate the cranks backwards. If the pedal will not thread, you may be trying to install the wrong pedal on the wrong side (pedals are right and left specific).

When installing pedals, you want to hold on to the pedal spindle with your hand, and rotate the cranks backwards. If the pedal will not thread, you may be trying to install the wrong pedal on the wrong side (pedals are right and left specific).

3) Backwards Fork

Forks are usually packed backwards in shipping containers to keep the packing boxes as small as possible. With extremely rare exceptions (that are usually found on aero and time trial bikes) rim brakes should face forward, while disc brakes should be on the non-driveside (the opposite side of your gears).

If you’ve built the bike up, and find that the tire is slamming into the bike frame, or that the tire is hitting your shoe when you are turning the bike, you may have installed the fork incorrectly.

Most bikes and frames come out of a box in this position, but you shouldn't leave the fork like this. It will make steering the bike difficult, if not impossible!

Most bikes and frames come out of a box in this position, but you shouldn't leave the fork like this. It will make steering the bike difficult, if not impossible!

4) Poorly Adjusted Limit Screws

Your derailleurs (the components that shift the gears) are limited in range by a pair of screws called limit screws. In the thousands of bikes I have assembled in my career, I have only seen four bikes come out of the box with perfectly adjusted limit screws, so chances are that the four limit screws (five if you count the b-limit screw) on the bike you bought direct are not in the correct position.

Unfortunately, dialing these in correctly does take plenty of experience. For a bad case situation with the front derailleur, your chain will continue to pop off your chainrings to the outside or inside. Worst case situation with the rear derailleur, and you’re talking about damaging the frame and/or shifting your rear derailleur into your wheel. Be sure to brush up on getting these correctly set up (during the second class of Jalapeno Cycling’s free mechanic’s clinics, we give our students some major pointers in dialing in derailleurs). If you are in doubt, it is better to slightly run the screws tight than loose. Better yet, if you don’t feel comfortable with this project, this might be one step that you should pay a mechanic to walk you through.

These are the limit screws on your rear derailleur. If they are too loose, they can send the chain into your frame or the derailleur into the wheel.

These are the limit screws on your rear derailleur. If they are too loose, they can send the chain into your frame or the derailleur into the wheel.

5) Loose Saddle, Stem, Handlebars and Seatpost

We see loose saddles all the time on new bikes that come in. There are bolts that tighten the clamps to your saddle rails, keeping it in place. It is common for many amateur builders to do a fine job with getting close to the proper torque with the seatpost clamp, but since most saddles come with the seatpost installed on the box, we’re guessing that many folks think that those rail bolts are properly torqued. This is rarely the case, and forgetting to tighten these to spec can result in really bad accidents (think of your saddle falling backwards or forwards while riding down your local hill).

On the topic of seatposts and saddles, be sure to apply a fine layer of waterproof grease on the inside of your seat tube before inserting the seatpost (only if your bike has a metal seatpost and a frame). While the results are not as dangerous as a loose saddle, installing a seatpost dry into your frame and leaving it in place for a season is almost a guarantee that your seatpost is going to rust in place. Usually, riders don’t notice what they did wrong until they lend the bike to someone else, or try and sell the bike to a person with a different leg length.

While a less common problem that we see, be sure to tighten the stem and handlebars to the proper torque as well. Under no circumstances should the stem, handlebars, saddle, or seatpost be able to pivot or turn under force (you’ll need to keep the front wheel set in place, possibly with your legs, in order to test the bolts on the stem).

Most budget-minded bikes come with this type of rail clamp, which needs to be tightened. Other models may have one or two allen-key bolts that you will need to properly torque.

Most budget-minded bikes come with this type of rail clamp, which needs to be tightened. Other models may have one or two allen-key bolts that you will need to properly torque.

6) Tangled Cable Housing

When you are looking at the front of the bike, the order of the cables should go as follows (from the furthest outside to the closest to your headtube): 1) Front brake cable housing, 2) Rear brake cable housing, 3) Front derailleur housing, and 4) Rear derailleur housing. As with a few other items on this list, there are exceptions to this rule.

This isn’t just a matter of good looks. When a boxed bike arrives, and the handlebar is installed with twisted cable housing, the bike typically has a much harder time turning, and usually the shifting and braking feels really sloppy.

The proper, untangled layout of cables. You can see where they cross each other near that front reflector.

The proper, untangled layout of cables. You can see where they cross each other near that front reflector.

The above six steps might take you 15-30 minutes to complete. Now, a complete build by a professional mechanic usually takes about 70-100 minutes.

What’s the difference? Proper shifting, braking, lubricating and other adjusting that we didn't get into in this six step checklist. As we state on our bike build up page, "We must take off and reinstall the cranks, straighten the derailleur hanger, inspect and true the wheels, inspect and adjust the headset, install the stem to the correct torque, grease all of the threads and parts that can bond, adjust the brake calipers, pads, and if applicable, straighten the rotors. We fine tune the brakes and shifting just before our last safety check on all the parts."

If your DIY build has left you frustrated, or the bike just doesn't want to seem like it can be dialed in, you may want to take it to your local shop. Usually their full build will get a bike riding as if it is worth a few hundred dollars more.


It’s Just a Ride in The Park: Why You Should Try Cyclocross in Words and Photos

It’s Just a Ride in The Park: Why You Should Try Cyclocross in Words and Photos

It has been three days since Jalapeno Cycling released our announcement for two development teams (a men’s and women’s) geared for riders who have never raced cyclocross before, and we’ve already got a great group of people from New Jersey and New York City (and even well beyond) who have filled out the application. I’ve spent the last few days chatting with local folks from running groups, roll-out bike clubs, women’s cycling groups, and a triathlon club to drum up interest. In a lot of cases, I get both excitement as well as a quick follow up of “OH DAMN, I couldn’t do something like that.”

To me this is a strange reaction, but I’ve been racing cyclocross for a good while now. During the offseason, I proudly compete in 10K runs and triathlons. Both cyclocross and these running events are some of the safer forms of competitions. Certainly you might find someone getting medical attention in both places, but due to the low speed of these competitions, injury through falling is just not common place. And yet, cyclocross is seen as an X Games worthy endeavor while some people see a January Resolution Run as a harmless way to sweat out their New Year's hangover.

I have griped enough on how cyclocross promoters, racers, and spectators have a tendency to push and promote the crashing that happens on courses or sections that amateurs are not even allowed to race on. Instead, today I want to focus on what I think runners and triathletes are usually doing right, and how cyclocross can fit into this picture.

Before, during, and after, the focus in triathlons and running events is personal achievement. Whether you get in the top 10%, beat your old time, land on the podium, or just want to finish the race, the focus is on preparation, training, willpower, and accomplishment. (Even a quick search of crash reels in running usually showcase someone falling, getting back up, and finishing the race in first against all odds). As far as disciplines that play out in a similar way, the only thing that even comes close to cyclocross in this regard is perhaps gravel racing.

So if you are looking to give yourself a challenge, why bother with cyclocross when you already are engaged in a safe athletic competition? Here's why...

1) Every cyclocross course and venue is drastically different. Some courses are in an open field without a hint of shade in sight. Others are winding through nothing but trees. Some have steep climbs you have to run up, and others have thick grass you have to try and push through. Every course gives you a different mental challenge. You can’t just expect to show up and systematically count your splits. The more you try and shut your brain off and muscle your way through something, usually the harder you are making the race for yourself.

And because cyclocross is becoming global, the more you seek out adventure, the more you’re rewarded. From the dry earth of Colorado races, to the bogs of the Northwest, to the city parks of the lower Mid-Atlantic, to the epic coastal scenery of New England, the challenges only get better, and I’ve only touched on one country.

2) Cyclocross is a game of do-overs. Preparing months for an event only to come down with the flu the day before a race is heart breaking, or perhaps you had a mechanical that you had to get off your bike and fix, or a shoe lace that broke. These problems are not so drastic in cyclocross. Usually there is two races at the same venue every weekend, so a bad Saturday can be followed by a personal best on Sunday. If you’re lucky enough to live in the NYC area, you can practically find several different cyclocross races every weekend from September to November and still race into December.

This do-over idea can even be applied to a more micro level! The length of every course is different, but you’ll likely be racing between three to six laps when you start racing for the first time. If a corner, or a run up, or some other feature trips you up on one lap, it can be your next challenge for perfection on the following lap. If you want it, cyclocross can be a game of chasing perfection.

3) Breaks up your winter perfectly. Enough said. Cyclocross is the reason I look forward to the waning daylight instead of dread base mile time in the basement.

4) You are always fighting for something. No matter whether you’re avoiding being lapped at the back of the race, or you’re vying for a top ten, there is always something to fight for during the 30-40 minutes you are out there. With the advent of, you can even track the other riders who are very close in ability to you in order to paint a friendly target on a rival’s back for the next event.

5) Cyclocross is a social sport. Racing is only part of the fun. After you are done, it’s time to pull up a chair and see how the more experienced racers take turns and features. Cheering and friendly heckling is all par for the course in one of the most fun disciplines to see play out.

Still wondering if cyclocross is safe enough for you? Rather than focus on some of the hardest pro features that you won’t see unless you are an elite racer, I wanted to show off an honest look at the spirit of cyclocross in pictures. If you enjoy them, consider putting your name in the running for our development team before July 25th

When You're Only Chasing Watts, It's Easy to Forget About the Rest

When You're Only Chasing Watts, It's Easy to Forget About the Rest

Usually around this time of year, I like to enter a mountain bike race and a criterium, partly to celebrate my birthday, partly to see exactly how much the offseason treated me.

This year started a little differently, but taught me a sharp lesson that I needed to remember. I decided to enter this year’s MTBNJ single track race with my cyclocross bike. Before you scoff, I should mention that I had good cause to think this was a sane idea. Firstly, several years ago, Kate completely handled the course on her ‘cross bike. Secondly, plenty of riders were reporting that I’d be able to manage the course with no problem.

Jalapeno Cycling getting in the drops on one of the lighter sections of the course (photo by Tony Utitus)

Jalapeno Cycling getting in the drops on one of the lighter sections of the course (photo by Tony Utitus)

This weekend, the course was rerouted into Allamuchy’s low-line: an area filled with rock gardens aplenty. After a soft pre-ride, I realized that while I wouldn’t destroy my bike, this race for me was going to be a game of track-standing finesse. The race itself went as much as expected, and I was pretty liberal in swinging off to the side of the course to let anyone lapping me pass right on by.

With the exception of three very stupid line choices during the course of the hour, I actually felt like I rode the course well considering I was on 32mm tires, and while I never had a perfect lap that strung everything together, I was able to ride every part that the track offered. But I knew I could have ridden it much faster, even with the same bike.

It wasn’t the tire pressure, and it wasn’t my lungs; my limiting factor was 100% my upper body.

Riding rough single track on a fully rigid, thin-tire bike meant I had to be out of the saddle over 90% of the race, and that my arms, shoulders, core, and back had to be extremely active. Not even a lap into the course, and I felt my lower back straining against me as I tried throwing my front wheel over rocks the size of barriers. My legs felt really good, but I knew they were taking on a load of my upper body weight that could have instead been stabilized by a strong core.

In other words, my training from Cyclocross Nationals to single track had been a little too one-dimensional, focusing exclusively on how many watts my legs and lungs could crank out, and not enough on the rest of the body.

Now I know that most of you are never going to find yourself in a single track race on a cyclocross bike, but in reality, these were just exaggerated symptoms for weaknesses found in all kinds of riding. How often on a long ride are we over-adjusting our positions to compensate for a weak lower back? How often are we putting loads of pressure on our hands and arms during a ride because our weak core muscles are forcing other muscles to take on more of the load?

While two weeks ago, Kate Cumming detailed out attacking aches and pains with training exercises focused on the glutes, I asked her if she had a few key exercises she also did to build strength for a big ride. She had a small list, but emphasized two workouts that could help all cyclists become more efficient:

1) Deadlift: This exercise should be approached with caution. While it is one of the most beneficial for cyclists, if completed incorrectly, it can strain the lower back. Deadlifts can be completed with a barbell, dumbbells or kettlebells; however, as the weight you lift increases, a barbell will be most beneficial. At heavy weights, dumbbells will be too cumbersome and/or not available in heavy enough weights for you to complete the exercise.

Begin with feet about hip width apart and barbell centered over feet. Flex the knees and sit the hips back, hinging forward at the waist to grab the bar with an alternating grip. Ensure your back stays flat and you are not arching or rounding. Exhale and push through your heels to begin lifting the bar. As the bar passes your knees, drive your hips forward towards the bar and engage your upper back (shoulder blade area) to come to an upright standing position. Inhale and return the bar to the ground in a controlled manner by reversing your movement.

If completing this exercise with dumbbells, begin standing holding the dumbbells in front of your quads. Inhale and slide the dumbbells down the front of your legs to approximately the middle of your shin by flexing the knees and sitting the hips back. Ensure that the back stays flat. Then exhale and push through your heels and drive your hips forward to return to an upright position.

2) Ab Rollout: Similarly to a deadlift, ease your way into the ab rollout. The ab rollout can also be completed with a variety of different equipment, from an ab wheel to sliders to a weighted Olympic barbell.

Begin kneeling with the barbell in front of you and your hands on the bar approximately shoulder width apart. Slowly roll the barbell forward, extending your body into a straight position. Only extend as far as you can without your hips sagging or lower back arching (think plank position). At your most extended point, pull from your abs to drive the barbell back towards your body.

To progress this exercise, complete from your feet rather than kneeling.

Looking to keep up to date with the latest blogs and news from Jalapeno Cycling? Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get our cycling tips delivered right to your mailbox. Also, if you are looking to prevent those aches and pains of constant sitting, be sure to sign up for our Strength Training, Off-The-Bike Classes, with more info to be found here.

Come Test Your "Tour of Flanders" Legs at Jalapeno Cycling on April 2nd, Win Great Prizes

Come Test Your "Tour of Flanders" Legs at Jalapeno Cycling on April 2nd, Win Great Prizes

The Tour of Flanders is one of the major classic races, and this year marks its 101st run. In our last newsletter, we said Jalapeno Cycling would be streaming many of the Spring Classics live in our shop, but for the Tour of Flanders, we are taking it a big step further.

Starting at 7:00 AM on April 2nd, and lasting through the race coverage, Jalapeno Cycling will be having a contest for everyone to simulate riding one of the iconic course sections.

The Rules for the Faux Pro Competitors:

1) Claim your free spot to compete on (We are maxing out with 16 total riders for this event, so we are expecting the spots to fill up FAST.

2) Either reserve one of Kate or Andrew's Von Hof bikes by emailing us, or bring your own mountain, road, or cyclocross bike.

3) Show up at least 20 minutes before your slot and ride your heart out.

The Rules for Spectators:

1) Cheer on the Men's and Women's Pros on our TVs.

2) Cheer on the Faux Pros in the back attempting to race on the same grade hills as the pros.

3) Don't throw beer or cobblestones at the riders.

What to Know:

1) Entering the Tour of Flanders challenge is free, but you will need to sign up to do it in order to claim your trainer spot.

2) The competition is over distance. Everyone will be riding the same length of the course. This means that your ride could be anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes depending on your ability.

3) While we are not yet disclosing what section of the course we are using until the week before, you can expect that there will be at least one serious grade. April 2nd is not the day to bring a bike with zero climbing gears.

4) Don't schedule a time that interferes with the Pro Tour's finishes if you want to see the live finish. Currently, the wise UCI predictors say that the Pro Women's Race will finish around 8:50 AM EST and the Pro Men's Race will finish around 10:30 AM EST in the fastest case scenario.


-Both the male and female rider with the best time will get one of Jalapeno Cycling's custom #RideSpicy Pactimo kits (a $160 value per winner!)

-The rider who comes closest to the average finishing time (note: not the median rider, but the average time) will score one of our custom Faux Pro caps made by Rothera Cycling.

Please be one of these 12 types of bike customer


Please be one of these 12 types of bike customer

Yesterday, Bike Radar published an article offering advice on how to avoid being one of 12 customers that bike shops dread. Judging by the sheer volume of replies in the comment section, it appears as if the average bike shop customer was taken aback by some of the suggestions, and to be honest, we were too. We've listed their 12 "bad" customer types, and why we'd love to work with them.

1. The know it all (keep on knowing it all, and let us in on your secrets)

Sure, it might be kind of weird to quiz us Jeopardy style, but we have less than zero problems with a customer who wants to tell us about technology they are familiar with. Bike shop employees live and breathe bikes full time, but they are not always able to read every new article on emerging technology or have an encyclopedic understanding of all the Schwinn and Raleigh standards from the 20th century. There's a difference between knowing more than a customer and knowing everything more than a customer. The former is likely, the latter is doubtful. Customers should expect to share their passion of a subject with an interested listener.

2. Bringing in a filthy bike (pffft, you should see OUR bikes after a race)

Perhaps it's harder to inspect a bike for micro-cracks or properly adjust cables and threads when a bike is dirty. On the other hand, I've had to repair a bike knee-deep in a muddy cyclocross pit within three minutes. Having some road debris on the back of a seat tube isn't something I'll be up in arms about.

Customers should expect the offer of a bike clean for a price, but should also be treated like a rad rider they are for going on an adventure in the first place

3. The JRA Rider (Sometimes bad stuff does happen to good people)

So obviously fabricating a story will likely get called out by most wrenches, but that doesn't equate to having a "Just Riding Along" story. I'm still amazed at the time my chainstays snapped on my old carbon road bike when I was doing sprint intervals in the park. Just because someone was Just Riding Along doesn't mean it didn't happen.

A customer should expect someone to give an assessment of moving forward, not eye rolling for using a J.R.A. story.

4. 5. 6. 9. Wanting stuff for free, Showroom shopper, Internet parts customer, the haggler (Play with those market forces, baby!)

Why did I group these four customers together? Because in many ways, they are one and the same. Look, the onus is fully on the bike shop, not the customer, for this one. If you have great salespeople and not great mechanics, people will more likely pay full price for a part and haggle down to near free labor. As a customer, I happily pay a premium for good work.

As for internet sales, I really can't get angry at a customer for something I do all the time. Online retailers often have parts that wholesalers are out of stock in, so it's far more than just a matter of saving $4-6 bucks. Sure a shop needs to prioritize making money, but in today's market, there really isn't room for the words "good luck finding someone to install that internet part," because chances are, they will without luck.

7. Poor mechanic (Be excited for trying)

OK, so bicycles are FAR more complicated than online retailers let on. Building a bike is never just a matter of installing handlebars and throwing on the front wheel like plenty of companies suggest. Still, it is within every bike shop employee's power to give a customer a non-condescending explanation of what a good job looks like, and what the full labor entails. A good mechanic will leave a customer thinking "Woah, there's no way someone could afford to build a bike for a customer for ONLY $20!"

8. Leaves it to the last minute (People gotta work)

Look, life gets in the way. Kate once got a dress hemmed the day before a wedding she was a bridesmaid in. The tailor bailed her out rather than shaming her, and now you better believe she's a loyal customer.

10. Truth deniers (We all are)

Again, repeating my point from customer number one: Bike shops are not the gatekeepers of all divine bike knowledge. I have always wished I could be the cycling equivalent of Merlin from "The Sword and the Stone" with a mad wizard laboratory that contained every facet of bike knowledge past, present, and future. That's unrealistic. Practically every customer has the ability to bring something from the table that a shop employee can hear out.

11. I'll just leave it here for repairs... (And thanks for choosing us)

Wait, I know I'm originally from the Motor City, but do all of you call your auto mechanic ahead of time to schedule an oil change? Because I sure don't. A bike shop may not have time to work on a bike in the near future, but it does have time to give any bike a free estimate within a matter of hours and a time frame when the work can be completed.

12. The one that never picks up their bike (wait, you didn't know it was done?)

I'll admit it. This is the number on this list that I agree most with Bike Radar on, if only because I have a soft spot for lonely bikes that want to be ridden. On the other hand, the problem of lingering bikes is usually another example of the onus being on the bike shop. I have literally worked for shops that thought it was okay to not call a customer when the work was done because the work was finished in the same time as the estimate. Of course a shop will have a pileup of finished bikes in that case! Like any relationship, things happen to flow smoother when the lines of communication are open.

Again, the problem here is not the customers. It's the shop not adapting to their customers' needs. Sure, a retail shop is about making money to pay their employees, but that can easily be done without crossing arms and rolling eyes. Setting up an equation where the staff wants to problem solve, the culture is great, and the love of cycling is obvious will result in a place where those 12 customers will be some of your best.


Free Classes After the Grand Opening Party

Free Classes After the Grand Opening Party

Last week, Kate and I broke the news that we will be opening a bike shop in Bloomfield New Jersey. Both of us will be working there around the clock, with Kate focusing on bringing her decade of training experience leading small-batch exercise classes, and me using my equally long experience as a mechanic servicing and upgrading bikes.

But there is so much more to the shop than just those two facets, and to be honest, a blog can’t express everything that Jalapeno Cycling can provide its clients.

That’s one reason why we are really excited for the Grand Opening on February 4th, 2017, to show you what your new neighborhood cycling hangout is about rather than just tell you. This is also the reason why we are also offering a major incentive for people to try us out.

We mentioned that we would be offering up to six free classes for anyone who came to our Grand Opening Party, and today, I wanted to detail what that would look like.

Kate is crafting together a week-by-week schedule, built by a top-level cyclist for a very broad range of developing cyclists, from beginner to elite. The on-the-bike classes use power meter-based training to hone in every client’s ride, and classes range from high intensity workouts to base building sessions.

But cycling workouts are not all a developing cyclist needs. Kate will also be offering off-the-bike strength and core classes, as well as stretching and recovery classes, throughout the weeks.

During the time between February 6 and March 20, anyone who comes to our Grand Opening Party will be able to slot in a two week period of their choice where you can take up to four on-the-bike classes and two off-the-bike classes, completely free of charge.

February can be a tough month for cyclists. However, we are designing these classes to have the comradery and motivation that you can’t find alone on the trainer, with intelligent cyclist-centered workouts that you don’t find in a spin bike studio. We’re hoping to make your February a little more cheerful, starting with great Opening Party vibes on February 4th!

You can RSVP you’re coming on our Facebook event page, or reach out to us directly at and (Or you could just be the savvy, under-the-radar kind of person that shows up at the last minute and surprises everyone. We’d still be stoked either way.) Hope to see you then!