Bike Barn manager Mary Halfmann has been at the store since 1987. She says bikes today are more user-friendly, more comfortable, last longer and work better than they used to. “I can’t believe what we used to ride back in the day—it’s a good thing we were young.”
Mary says, compared to today’s bikes “we had no clue.” Bicycles have improved ergonomics and use lighter, stronger frame materials to make bikes more comfortable and fun to ride.
Back when bikes were heavier and less comfortable, Mary raced road bikes, mountain bikes, entered triathlons, and trained people for triathlons. She is a founding member of the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona (MBAA) and served on the board for 14 years.
Mary’s advice for cyclists: Make sure you’re riding a bike that fits and is suited to your kind of riding and the dynamics of your body as you ride. A custom bike fitting ensures riders are comfortable and get the most from their bikes. Mary is trained by Trek and Specialized to be an expert bike fitter.
Howard has 20+ years in automotive repair and five years working on bikes. “With bikes, you can’t always see what the problem is, but you can tell what the problem is by how it feels,” he says. Bike repair demands more manual dexterity than with cars.
Howard’s advice for cyclists: “Everyone should know how to change a flat instead of having to walk two miles (or more) home.”
Know what size tire and tube you need for your bike since there are so many different sizes. Look at the tire sidewall to read the width (25mm, 36mm, 2.1-inches, etc.) and size (700c, 26 inches or 29inches, etc.).
Howard would like to organize a self-supported four-day ride from Phoenix to Las Vegas to benefit Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Diesel, a new mechanic at Bike Barn, started cycling in the baby seat on the back of his dad’s Raleigh. His rides now are often solo affairs like the recent nine-hour adventure in the Mazatzal Mountains that finished in the dark with one light out and the other nearly drained. It was rough going on singletrack “that was way overgrown and eroded. Like pushing my bike up a ditch,” Diesel says. One unexpected bonus was during the slog, he found a nicely chiseled arrowhead.
To prepare for his adventures Diesel is true to his Boy Scout background and the scout motto “Be prepared.” He spends as much time beforehand with Google maps and online mapping sites planning his routes as he does riding them. Diesel says you can never have enough water though there is a hazard of exhausting yourself when you carry too much on the bike. He suggests shorter rides to find the right combination of food, water and gear before attempting epic rides.
Before he came to Arizona, Diesel worked in Charleston, South Carolina where there was very little cycling infrastructure so he wants to explore as much of Arizona as he can. He often takes his gravel bike out on exploratory rides and if the roads or trails are too rough he’ll come back on his mountain bike. He’s tackled much of the Maricopa Trail that, when completed, will be 315 miles and circumnavigate the valley through various federal, state and locally administered land to connect the Maricopa County Park System.
Diesel has many years as a swimming coach and the food and beverage industry. And yes, he looks like Vin Diesel, so much so that when the “Fast and the Furious” movies came out he was often mistaken for him.
Born in Tempe, Hubert has 25+ years in the bike industry as a mechanic and raced BMX bikes for 20 years. As a child, he was mechanically inclined and liked taking things apart to see how they worked. He still prefers the older, vintage bikes for their elegant simplicity and the fact that many of the parts could be disassembled and fixed. “Everything, like old friction shifters, was repairable,” he says.
As a BMX racer, the races are short, maybe 40 seconds, intense and the bikes are very simple, without suspension or multiple gears. Hubert says the only way to get faster on the BMX bike is to ride more because, he says, “BMX is racing, all skill and conditioning, with no mechanical difference to make riders faster.”
He also feels “Kids should be out riding bikes rather than inside playing video games.” He’d like to see kids ride bikes to school. “If you happen to drive by a grade school, there are five bikes in the bike racks and 100 cars picking up kids from school,” he says. When Hubert he was a kid he says it was the other way around.
New mountain bikes are more sophisticated mechanically and designed o help riders get over obstacles, but Hubert believes its still important to develop those riding skills to further take advantage of the advanced designs of modern bikes.
Kevin has worked as a bike mechanic for 12-13 years but has only been a cyclist for the last year or so he has worked at Bike Barn. He worked in Charleston, South Carolina, along with another Bike Barn wrench, Diesel, where there were few riding opportunities. Since he’s been at the Barn he’s acquired a Specialized AWOL adventure bike, a Specialized Stumpjumper 6Fattie mountain bike and most recently a Specialized Roubaix road bike.
Kevin says the perspective from the bike saddle gives him personal experience on the bike to relate to riders and more thoroughly advise customers looking for the perfect bike, accessory or repair. He recently completed the Epic Rides Tour of the White Mountains in Pinetop-Lakeside after honing his mountain biking skills on trails around the valley.
His most valued riding tip: When going down loose, rocky terrain, stay off the front brake. During a pre-ride of the Tour of the White Mountains, he grabbed the front brake too hard going through a rocky section and went over the handlebars. Falling is educational and he’s learned a lot since acquiring his Stumpjumper.
Kevin says the best way to learn new skills is by riding with other riders and hear about their experiences as well as have other people to socialize with on the trail. He adds, “It’s way more fun to ride with a group.”