Category Archives: News

Different Strokes: Cyclocross

Different Strokes is a blog post series focusing on almost all the different ways you can bike.  The goal of these posts is two-fold: 1) to educate readers on different styles of road biking, mountain biking, and everything in between 2) to inspire our readers to try something new, explore, and have an adventure! As always, ‘run what ya brung.’  There are no specific skills necessary to explore or try something new, nor should feel the need to purchase a fancy-schmancy new bike. 

Shorter days and the rolling in of crisp, autumn air mean many things to many different people.  Sure, it’s sweaters, boots and pumpkin spice lattes for most, but for those that are gluttons for punishment, it means cyclocross season is here again.

The origin of cyclocross (or CX) is varied.  Some list Belgium as the originating country, while others pay homage to France.  Either way, CX is believed to have started sometime around 1900 in Europe as a way to keep cyclists in shape during the off-season of the fall and winter months.  French army privateer Daniel Gousseau is credited as the Father of Cyclocross, organizing the first French National Championship in 1902.  Now, over 100 years later, CX has grown into a discipline of cycling all on its own with athletes dedicated solely to the sport.

Soponistas and friends at a CX race in 2013.

Soponistas and friends at a CX race in 2013.

What Is It?

Think of it as a bicycle obstacle course.  CX races are usually made on short courses, 1.5-2 miles in length.  These courses can be made virtually anywhere, such as local parks and greenspaces, which make them an ideal outing for spectators and hecklers.  Courses are made of grass, paved concrete, gravel and dirt roads, singletrack trails through the woods, mud pits, hurdles, and just about any other thing you can think of.  In any one race, you’ll have to tackle all these mixed surfaces, plus dismount your bike and carry it through the obstacles that are impossible to ride.  It’s road biking mixed with mountain biking, mixed with an obstacle course all in one short, intense, gut-it-out course.

Click the image to expand.

Click the image to expand.

How It Works

Because the races are short, a venue can host several races in one day.  Typically, races are 60 minutes or less, and racers try to get in as many laps as possible in their allotted time.  For instance, let’s say a race is 30 minutes long.  Racer A completes 3 laps before the 30 minutes are up and Racer B only completes 2 laps.  Racer A wins.  In the event that Racer A and Racer B both complete 3 laps in 30 minutes, the winner would be whoever completed the laps in the shortest amount of time.

CX races work differently by state.  For a full description of length of races and categories in Georgia, please click here.  Basically, though, you have men’s categories 1-5, with 5 being beginner and 1 being professional.  Women’s categories are 1-4, with 4 being beginner and 1 being professional.  The beginner categories will race for 30 minutes, while the upper level 1-2 categories will race for 45-60 minutes.  Depending on how many people enter the race, multiple categories may run at the same time.  There are also master’s categories for people over the age of 35 and 45, and even a single speed category.  It is entirely possible to race two or three times in a single day.

The Bike

The bike you use during cyclocross will depend on a couple of different things such the course, the weather, or what you have lying around at home.  If a course has more singletrack trails or thick muddy areas, you might prefer a mountain bike.  If a course has more concrete or is very dry, you might want to use a road bike.  There are three different variations of what you can do:

An actual cyclocross bike:  It looks like a road bike at first glance, complete with drop bars and skinnier tires.  Give it a closer look and you’ll find those tires are usually knobby and a little wider than your typical road racing bike.  These knobby tires are essential for gripping dirt and mud.  The second major difference is the brakes.  CX bikes usually have cantilever brakes or disc brakes for mud clearance.  Traditional road bike brakes run the risk of getting gunked up with mud during a race.  There are a few smaller, less noticeable differences in a CX bike such as a higher bottom bracket and lower gearing (somewhere between a road bike and a mountain bike).

A mountain bike:  Mountain bikes are a great option for your first CX race.  They already have the knobby tires you need and are built for handling things off road.  The only down side is they tend to be heavier when lifting over obstacles, so you might want to do a few curls and warm up those little-used arm muscles.  When using your mountain bike during a cx race, be sure to take off your water bottle cage and bar ends.  If possible, lock out your suspension so you’re not bouncing around everywhere (it will slow you down).  If you’re a good enough mechanic, you can even swap out your front fork with a rigid one just for the day.

A road bike: Pay attention to the weather when using a road bike.  If it’s wet and muddy, your road bike isn’t going to be a very good option.  However, if it’s dry, go for it!  Throw on some knobby tires for better grip and you’re good to go.  Use the lower gears to get better handling.


Have fun!  That’s the point, right? Sure, some people get really into it, but try not to take it too seriously.

Practice! Definitely practice your mounts and dismounts before the race.  On the day of the race, get there early so you can pre-ride the course.  That way you’ll know where the trouble spots are.

Take the hand-ups!  Or not.  Depends on how well you can stomach beer and cookies while grinding it out.


Open CX practice this Sunday, Sept. 20 at 9 a.m. at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers.  Meet people and get a taste of what CX is all about.  More details.

Georgia Cyclocross: Races, info, etc.

Cyclocross Magazine’s Noob Section

How to dismount, Bicycling Magazine

Sopo Cyclocross Memories: Fixing up a Big-Box Bike

Search the Sopo archives for cyclocross!

Throwback Thursday: The Mural

mural eav

This mural was painted on the wall inside our original location (other than Jay’s living room) in East Atlanta Village.  It was painted by our friends from the East Atlanta Kids Club. #tbt

Sopo is Hiring! Volunteer Coordinator Needed

Sopo Bicycle Cooperative Volunteer Coordinator
Employment Status: Part time (15-20 hours/week)
Reports to: Board of Directors, HR Committee
Work Schedule: Flexible hours, Evening & Weekend Intensive
Compensation: $20/hour

Position Summary
The Volunteer Coordinator’s overarching responsibilities are centered around the recruitment, training, cultivation, stewardship, placing and retention of volunteers for the Sopo Shop, special events, and other Sopo related activities.  The Volunteer Coordinator is also responsible for maintaining a volunteer roster and recording shop usage statistics. While most duties are expected to be performed off-site, the Volunteer Coordinator is required to attend Sopo’s monthly general meeting every third Monday, the volunteer orientation every fourth Monday, and should have a flexible evening and weekend schedule.


  • Develops and implements methods for coordination and retention of volunteers;
  • Maintains volunteer sign-in book, volunteer newsletter, volunteer information database (contact, skills, commitment, etc.), and additional volunteer signage at the shop;
  • Ensures all programs are fully staffed with volunteers: Open Shop Hours, Gateway Program, Summer Youth program, Charity Bikes, Bike 101 classes, etc.;
  • Publicizes volunteer needs for special events;
  • Organizes and supervises volunteers for special events (i.e., Artbikes, BHBP);
  • Recruits and screens volunteers for appropriate role placement;
  • Identifies key volunteer roles and places volunteers in these roles;
  • Identifies strong volunteers for shop manager role and other roles;
  • Organizes and facilitates monthly new volunteer orientations;
  • Provides leadership in volunteer skills development including ongoing training in bike mechanics and other shop skills, Bikes 201, Volunteer Orientation 2.0;
  • Maintains regular and timely communication with volunteers and Board of Directors;
  • Develops and hosts volunteer appreciation activities
  • Screening (interviews, required background checks, etc.) and matching volunteers to organizational needs and opportunities
  • Training and orientation for volunteers
  • Scheduling and supervision of volunteers
  • Volunteer recognition
  • Assessing organizational need and capacity for volunteers
  • Creating volunteer program materials (policies and procedures, applications, volunteer agreements, orientation handbooks
  • Database management and tracking of volunteer statistics


Required Skills and Experience


  • 2 years of significant volunteer experience at Sopo (or other local bike advocacy org.)
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Experience in personnel management
  • Deep commitment to Sopo’s values
  • Bilingual Spanish/English is a plus
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Detail-oriented and organized
  • Ability to work both independently and as a member of a larger staff team
  • Familiar with diverse technologies and software (this is especially important at organizations that use the Internet to recruit and/or communicate with volunteers)
  • Ability to connect with diverse types of organizations: schools, businesses, government, faith organizations, etc.
  • Knowledge of volunteerism and volunteer management practices
  • Public speaking/Facilitation skills
  • Marketing/Public Relations


Interested applicants should submit a resume with cover letter to The deadline to apply is October 1, 2015.  Please do not check on the status of an application prior to that time.

Sopo Bicycle Cooperative provides equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, gender, sexuality, national origin, age, disability or genetics. In addition to federal law requirements, Sopo Bicycle Cooperative complies with applicable state and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment in every location in which the company has facilities. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation and training.

Sopo Bicycle Cooperative expressly prohibits any form of workplace harassment based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, genetic information, disability, or veteran status.


Different Strokes: Downhill Mountain Biking

Different Strokes is a blog post series focusing on almost all the different ways you can bike.  The goal of these posts is two-fold: 1) to educate readers on different styles of road biking, mountain biking, and everything in between 2) to inspire our readers to try something new, explore, and have an adventure! As always, ‘run what ya brung.’  There are no specific skills necessary to explore or try something new, nor should feel the need to purchase a fancy-schmancy new bike. 

If you crave speed, seemingly impossible obstacles, and defying gravity, then downhill mountain biking is for you.

Downhill mountain biking is really mountain biking in its original, purest form.  Mountain biking started in the early 1970s by teenagers and young adults in Marin County, California.  Many of these young guys were cycling enthusiasts and worked in local bike shops.  Having a thirst for adventure, they took old “paper boy” or balloon tire bicycles from the 1930s and 1940s and decided to bomb down the forest service roads of Mt. Tamalpais.  They would walk their bikes to the top of a forest service road and race to the bottom of the hill.  Of course, these old, single speed bikes with coaster brakes (deemed “Klunkers”) weren’t made for this purpose and would break often.  Being the constant tinkerers that they were, the early inventors would fabricate parts that they found worked better on Klunkers, such as cantilever brakes, flatter handlebars, and eventually suspension to absorb shock.  You might even recognize the names of some of these early tinkerers such as Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Keith Bontrager, and Tom Ritchey. (source: Marin Museum of Bicycling)

By the mid 1980s, mountain biking reached global popularity and manufacturers were producing bikes especially for the sport.  But people weren’t just climbing forest service roads and racing each other downhill, they were riding everywhere they could.

As the sport of mountain biking developed, several subcategories emerged.  Cross country (XC)/trail riding is arguably the most popular and what most riders do on a daily or weekly basis.  If you’re on any of the trails in the parks around Atlanta, you are most likely trail riding.  These bikes are usually hardtails (suspension in the front fork only) but some nowadays can even be full suspension (suspension in both the front and the rear). Then of course, there are smaller disciplines such as dirt jumping (using mounds of dirt specially to launch yourself into the air) and the newest discipline that has taken the mountain biking world by storm, enduro (think of it as “all mountain,” very similar to trail riding, but you would definitely prefer to have a full suspension bike as there are more technical features).  With so many disciplines, it is entirely possible to be riding XC and “all mountain” on the same trail, at the same time, then go ride “freeriding” without switching bikes.

So What Is It?
Downhill mountain biking is exactly as it sounds.  You basically try to go down a hill as fast as you can on your mountain bike, just like those guys did in Marin in the 70s.  As bike technology progressed, so did the skills and trails people built for mountain biking.  Today’s downhill mountain biking takes place on trails specifically built for mountain biking rather than gravel or dirt roads.  The trails have technical features and obstacles such as berms, jumps, drops, rocks, and even really big tree roots you must navigate.  The idea is to run the course as fast as you can while navigating all these features.

DH trail features

Examples of downhill trail features. Click the photo to expand.


The Bike
Downhill specific mountain bikes are usually very heavy full suspension bikes designed to help you ride these features and absorb bumps without damaging you or your bike.  These bikes usually have the most play in suspension, usually 7-8 inches (or about 180-220 mm).  Wider tires with more grip are essential for not slipping on the technical terrain.  Other key features of a downhill bike include larger brake rotors for ultimate stopping power and a smaller head tube angle that allows for more slack in the top tube so the bike is free to move beneath you.

MTB differences

Differences between mountain bikes. Click the photo to expand.


Tips and Where To Go
When first trying downhill (DH), go slow and roll your way through the trail, noting the big rocks you need to go around (or over if you wish), the drops that are there, and the jumps.  Get to know the trail and its features before going faster.  After you roll through the features slowly, go back to the top and try the same trail again, remembering where the challenging spots are.  The best body position is standing up off the saddle, with your weight over your rear tire.  This will keep you from flying you’re your handlebars.  Part of the fun of DH is getting better at tackling features.  Also, safety gear is no joke.  A full face helmet is usually recommended, along with elbow and knee pads.  Mountain biking is fun but it CAN be dangerous.

Part of the fun of mountain biking in general is enjoying nature and seeing new places.  Hardly any metropolis, Atlanta included, has mountain biking trails, so you’ll need to get out of the city a little bit.  The closest downhill specific trails near Atlanta is Big Creek Park in Roswell.  Big Creek has it all from beginner trails to advanced freeride trails, to dirt jumps and a pump track.  Safety gear is of course recommended, but you definitely don’t have to have a downhill specific bike to enjoy these trails.  There are also several other mountain bike parks in the southeast that either shuttle you to the top of the hill using trucks or ski lifts.  These type of parks usually charge a fee for the lift or shuttle service, but as a trade-off you don’t have to pedal uphill!

Singletracks-mountain bike related news, articles, and trails nearby

PinkBike– Downhill/freeride mountain articles and videos

Klunkerz: A Film about Mountain Biking
Available to rent on Amazon. 


Don’t forget to check out Sopo’s new VINE!  Recently posted are some Vines from the RAMBO Big Creek DH Time Trial #3, held on Wednesday, August 26.

Sopo Gem: Ross Hi-Tech Mt. Whitney

A piece of mountain bike history is in the shop!  Behold, the Ross Mt. Whitney.  Read up on this bike, as well as the history of Ross Bicycles at the Museum of Mountain Bike Art and Technology, located in Statesville, NC.

Ross1 Ross2


Nice Rack!

Atlanta has some unique bicycle parking.  These are two of my personal favorites, both hailing from Avondale Estates.

This one is outside Pallookaville, the best corndog joint this side of the midway.  The rack features an ice cream cone, fries, milkshake, and of course, a corndog.  I believe an employee custom made it.





This rack is outside Second Life Thrift Store, a thrift store that helps local animal rescue.  This rack offers up a nontraditional answer to the age old question, “what do I do with all these extra golf clubs and skis?”


Is your business or organization in need of bike parking?  We offer it!  Check out our program here or contact us at



The kestrel…who will take it home?


This gem has been in the shop for quite some time.  Stop by our front space, check it out, and marvel at it.  Try not to drool, please.

Throwback Thursday: That time we were on WABE’s Atlanta Sounds

Came across this gem the other day.  Enjoy!


Sopo manager goes international

dub rides paris

If you’ve ever been in Sopo on a Tuesday night, then you’ve seen Dub.

What you probably didn’t know about our beloved Tuesday night manager is that over the past several months he’s been sweating, training, and working his saddle off to ride in Paris-Brest-Paris, one of the world’s oldest cycling events.

Paris-Brest-Paris is an amateur randonneur “race.” Participants get 90 hours to ride 600 km, from Paris to Brest, and 600km back, for a total of 1200 km (or 750 miles). Time is only recorded in the case of hours and everyone’s considered a winner as long as they complete the challenge in the allotted time. Paris-Brest-Paris only occurs once every four years and participants must qualify for it by doing other sanctioned randonneurs.

The event kicked off this past Sunday, August 16 and ends Thursday, August 20. That means Dub is en route! Keep track of him by following his Facebook page. If you’re feeling charitable, donate to his Go Fund Me campaign to help him offset the costs of traveling (he is, after all, representing the ATL in France on his own dime).

Of course, you could also track him on the official Paris-Brest-Paris website. That is, if you can solve one of Sopo’s greatest mysteries: What is Dub’s real name?

Weekend Bike Happenings

bike e card

If there’s one thing we love about Atlanta, there’s always plenty of things going on.  Everywhere you turn there’s festivals, events, art, concerts, sports, literature, history and everything in between.

Especially in a town that might not seem very bike-friendly to the outsider, there’s almost always something bike related to do.  This weekend is particularly jam-packed with bike events for everyone.

Friday, August 14
The Mobile Social, 7 p.m., Woodruff Park
Join the monthly casual, no-drop ride.  This month’s ride is themed around Business+Bikes.  Click here for more information about the ride. 

Saturday, August 15
EAV Criterium
Why should you care about this race?  Crits are fun to watch because they’re short and fast, but it makes it all worth the while when it’s in a cool place.  East Atlanta Village is easily reachable by bike and there’s plenty of local eateries that cater to cyclists.  Probably the best thing about this race though is the FREE community race wedged in between the pro races.  More information here.

Sunday, August 16
Little Bellas and Prissy Tomboy Mountain Bike Clinic for Girls
4-6 p.m., Blankets Creek MTB Trails, Woodstock

Little Bellas, a nonprofit building confidence for girls ages 7-14, is starting a new chapter in Georgia.  Join them on Sunday to get a taste of what mountain biking is all about at their FREE clinic.  More information here.

Grant Park Criterium
It’s a classic.  It’s in our backyard.  It’s super fun.

grant park crit