Bike Review: Specialized Ruze (Good 1st Mountain Bike?)

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Let’s address one thing at the onset: $1,000 is a lot of money for someone’s first mountain bike. When customers enter my shop seeking their first mountain bike, I generally guide them to a bike that doesn’t exceed $600. That’s not to say they wouldn’t appreciate a higher end bike once on the trail, but it may give them the impression that cycling is an out-of-budget hobby.
My wife Monica has been hinting that she wants a mountain bike for the past couple of months. She has minimal experience on a bicycle. I had refurbished a 1970’s Peugeot Mixte, mainly because she loves the urban style of the bike, but the overall handling and geometry of the bike has left her wondering if there is more to cycling.
When deciding on which bike to purchase for her, there were some key factors that I needed to consider. My main focus was picking a bike that gave her confidence. Knowing that old school 27″ tires felt wobbly and unstable to her, I knew that a plus size tire would be a great foundation. My second point of focus was safety. I knew I wanted her bicycle to be equipped with hydraulic disc brakes as they harness sufficient stopping power without demanding as much hand power from the rider. Oh yeah, there was one other thing that was imperative on this bike: it had to have pink in as many places as possible.
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I had my shopping list. I started eliminating options and the choice became clear pretty quick. The Specialized Ruze comes stock with plus size tires (27.5×2.8 rear, 27.5×3.0 front),
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hydraulic disc brakes from Tektro,
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and, most importantly, the graphite color option has pink highlights on the frame.
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I was able to get all of the important factors covered under one bike. However, there are some features on this bike that fall in line with other beginner mountain bikes. The wheels aren’t tubeless compatible. The SR Suntour XCM fork is a coil fork that lacks range of adjustment and pays a weight penalty when compared to an air fork. That said, this bike is plenty capable for XC and Trail riding.
One feature that I overlooked was a 1×10 drivetrain.
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Without a front derailleur, Monica has less shifting options to consider when riding and will be able to focus on the trail ahead.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time breaking down the components on this bike as my main argument is based around the Specialized Ruze being a good option as a beginner’s mountain bike. Yes, the price is high. But so is the performance. And, even though there are cheaper options out there, I feel confident that she will feel confident. That in itself if priceless.
I can say for certain that this is a great mountain for a beginner. It has plenty of features that make for a fun and stable cycling experience.

Nebo Cryket

Nebo is a company that seems to be growing pretty fast. You may recognize their very popular Big Larry work light that has found its home in most auto shops. Though we use the Big Larry daily at my bicycle shop, it is a bit cumbersome for portable/packable use.
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Needing a light to throw in my bikepacking rig, I ordered the Cryket from Nebo.

The Cryket is a compact, LED light that swivels 90º.
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The light is constructed from aluminum that is water/impact resistant. The base is magnetic and offers convenience when working on a car or around a shop. Attached to the light is a steel belt clip.
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There are three light settings on the Cryket:
LED spot light (250 lumens)
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COB flood light (240 lumens)
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COB green light  (30 lumens)
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COB, or Chips On Board LED, “improves lumen-per-watt ratios in comparison to other LED technologies.” Found out more info by clicking here.

The light runs on 4, AAA batteries that are included with purchase.
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According to Nebo, expected battery life is as follows:
3.5 hours-LED spot light (250 lumens)
2.75 hours-COB flood light (240 lumens)
6.5 hours-COB green light  (30 lumens)

For the reasonable price of $24.99, this light is well worth checking out.

Though our bike shop carries Nebo, they aren’t available through any bicycle distributors. Call your LBS first, if not available, you can order them directly from Nebo by clicking here.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any questions/comments, please post them below.

🙂

New content.

Some of us are always late to the party. Here it is, 2017, and I just now purchased my first action camera (the GoPro Hero 5 Black).

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I’m not yet certain how this camera will benefit/change justinvelo.com

I just hope to utilize this camera to bring you guys a new medium of entertainment and information on my site.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions or requests for what you would like to see from this new camera.

🙂

Bikepacking Chapter I: Specialized Burra Burra Bags + Salsa Anything Cage

Now that I have my bikepacking rig, I decided to take advantage of the new bag lineup from Specialized.
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The Burra Burra lineup offers adventurists multiple options ranging from a toptube bag all the way to a pizza delivery bag. Although I found many different definitions of the word “burra,” I am most fond of this one: A small village in the isle of Shetland. Associated with drugs and alcoholics. Many people from Burra are complete arseholes. Let’s proceed with the assumption that Specialized had that definition in mind when naming these bags.
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In the summer of 2018, my son will be 3-years-old. I have plans on taking him on overnight bikepacking trips so this summer will serve as a dry run to work out all the kinks. To carry our shelter, the Specialized Handlebar Stabilizer should get the job done.
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If not running a sleeping bag/ sleeping pad, Specialized offers a Drypack in two different sizes (13 liters and 23 liters). For drop bars, use the 13 liter Drypack.
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The Stabilizer mounts to both 31.8 and 25.4 handlebars using secure, aluminum mounts. There are also urethane-coated straps that run over the handlebar and under the fork crown for added security. However, the straps have proved to be difficult to cinch up tightly for an extended amount of time.
Handlebar Stabilizer Harness: $90.00
13 Liter Drypack: $40.00
23 Liter Drypack: $45.00
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The Burra Burra Stuffpack and Stuffcage may be my favorite item in the new lineup. The bags and cages are well designed and make any drop bar bike look a lot tougher.
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The Stuffpack has a listed capacity of 1 liter and fits a 1 liter Nalgene perfectly. I had originally planned on storing a Jetboil Flash stove inside the Stuffpack but the bag diameter was too small.
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The stuff cage is versatile. It can mount to a 2-bolt or 3-bolt system and offers 4 slots for straps.
Stuffpack: $40.00
Stuffcage: $30.00
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While in the cockpit, it is worth considering a bag that makes essentials easy to access. The Top Tube Pack has a listed capacity of .75 liters and is built around two compartments.
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The Top Tube Pack is great for snacks, phones, and keys.
Top Tube Pack: $50.00
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The Burra Burra Stabilizer Seatpack may end up being the most popular item in the new lineup. The pack comes in two different sizes (10 & 20) to accommodate different frame sizes and tire clearances.
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The Seatpack has an extending roll top that offers added storage.
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With added weight and more leverage from an extended roll top, steatpacks tend to sway and move while riding. Specialized has added an aluminum stabilizer arm to counteract the pack movement.
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Once extended, the rider has access to a daisy chain.
Burra Burra Stabilizer Seatpack 10: $130.00
Burra Burra Stabilizer Seatpack 20: $140.00
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As mentioned earlier, my Jetboil Flash didn’t fit in the Stuffpack. I decided to order the Salsa Anything Cage HD and mount it on my downtube. The stove fits with room to spare and should work out great.
Salsa Anything Cage HD: $35.00

The stove is currently the only piece of equipment I have purchased for bikepacking. Though I’m comfortable in the world of cycling, I am completely in the dark when it comes to backpacking.

If you guys have any recommendations, please leave a comment below. Your knowledge is invaluable to me.

Review: Royal Racing Matrix Jacket

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I’ve been on the hunt for a lightweight, hooded riding jacket for a while now. I have struggled justifying the cost of some larger company’s jackets that retail between $400-$500. When I ran across the Matrix jacket by Royal Racing with a list price of $140, I knew my search had ended.
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Offered in two different colors, the Matrix jacket brings style and function to the trail.
The jacket is non-insulated and requires some layering in really cold conditions. During Spring, Summer, and Fall, I imagine this jacket will be great with only a base layer underneath.
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With a waterproof and breathability rating of 10,000, the Matrix performs well in light rain and average snow conditions.
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Royal Racing claims that the fitting of the Matrix ranges from regular to loose. They also recommend sizing up if riders plan on wearing body armor. I usually fall in-between medium and large with most companies. I ordered the medium jacket and found the overall fit to be very comfortable.
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The Matrix includes an i Port pocket for electronic devices that has internal routing for earbuds.
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The hood on the Matrix is adjustable and large enough to fit over an open-face helmet.
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I would recommend this jacket to anyone on a budget who is looking for a quality shell with a rider-inspired design. Make sure to hit up your local bike shop and let them know the Matrix is available through QBP.

Have you found the perfect trail jacket? Leave a comment below and let me know all about it 🙂

 

E-Bikes: Progress Meets Hostility.

*For the purpose of this article, “E-Bike” refers to a non-throttle, pedal-assist bicycle.

E-Bikes may be the most controversial topic in cycling since Lance was first accused of doping. That may seem like somewhat of a false equivalency, but to many cyclists, both topics have one thing in common: CHEATING. The rapid increase of E-Bikes has sparked a lot of heated discussion in the industry. Many riders feel that E-Bikes offer an unfair advantage to other riders and shouldn’t be allowed to share the same trails. Other people view E-Bikes as motorcycles in disguise, and since they are just motorcycles, shouldn’t be allowed to share the same trails. Where is this bicycle segregation coming from?
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Even at my bike shop, located in an area where E-Bikes haven’t really hit the riding scene, we are having daily discussions about them with customers. There are shops now, often in urban settings, that exclusively sell E-Bikes. The demand for this technology is clearly there. So why are so many cyclists passionately opposed to the idea of E-Bikes? To some extent, the answer is in the question. The most negative opinions about E-Bikes come from longtime cyclists. People I talk to that are new to the sport of mountain biking have a much more open mind about the idea. That’s not to say that longtime cyclists are wrong. They have spent decades in the saddle and have developed their own justified ideas of what mountain biking should be.
A regular customer at my shop told me a story yesterday that blew my mind. He owns a hardtail fat bike. Since purchasing his fat bike, he has outfitted it with a large frame pack. He was recently riding a popular trail in our area when he was stopped by another rider. The rider looked at his frame pack and began lecturing him that E-Bikes didn’t belong on the trail. The customer made light-hearted efforts to explain that it was a frame pack full of food and clothing but the cyclist who had stopped him refused to listen. This particular situation is rare. However, it was very unsettling. After hearing that story, I knew it was time to get on here and try to open a discussion with you guys and see where everyone stands on the topic of E-Bikes. Let’s first go over the two most common arguments I hear around my shop.
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E-Bikes are just a new way to cheat.
It’s a common complaint I hear about E-Bikes. I think it has some truth depending on the scenario. If someone is sneaking an E-Bike, whether road or mountain, into a race, then yes we can all agree that it’s cheating. But if someone is taking an E-Bike out for some recreational fun, I don’t see an issue. One could make the argument that the rider is cheating his/her personal fitness, but that’s a conscious decision that person has the right to make. I took a Specialized Levo FSR Expert out for a ride this morning. In certain areas where I would normally be gassed, I felt strong. In what would normally take me a couple of hours to complete, I did in just over an hour. I had fun the entire time and never felt as if I was cheating myself or anyone else around me. If I was on my personal bike and someone passed me on an E-Bike, I would greet them and wish them a happy ride. That’s the type of attitude I would like to see cyclists carry towards E-Bikes, even if they’re purists. If you have moral objections to E-Bikes, use the proper outlets to express them rather than confronting riders on the trail (e.g. writing a letter to the National Parks Service or Bureau of Land Management voicing your concern).

E-Bikes are just motorcycles in disguise.
Let’s refer back to my opening statement: “E-Bike” refers to a non-throttle, pedal-assist bicycle. There is a vast variety of E-Bikes on the market. Some even have throttles and high-wattage motors capable of speeds over 50mph. Those bikes aren’t the focus of this article. Instead, I am referring to bikes similar to the Specialized Levo. This type of E-Bike has a pedal assist motor that only engages when the rider is pedaling. The more physical effort put into the system, the more output the motor will produce. The pedal assist won’t engage until the rider is moving just under 2mph. The pedal assist automatically turns off once the rider hits a speed of 15-20mph depending on location of purchase (USA/Canada). So is an E-Bike just a clever way of selling motorcycles? A quick search for the definition of a motorcycle produced this result:
mo·tor·cy·cle
ˈmōdərˌsīk(ə)l/

noun
noun: motorcycle; plural noun: motorcycles
1. a two-wheeled vehicle that is powered by a motor and has no pedals.
The obvious discrepancy in this comparison comes down to the pedals. By this definition, E-Bikes are not motorcycles. They also lack any characteristics one would look for in a motorcycle. I believe cyclists are running into a mental block at the mere mention of a motor. I think it is unfair to conflate non-throttle, pedal-assist bicycles with those stocked with throttles and motors capable of reaching 50mph without pedaling.

To wrap my opinions up, I will mention a couple examples as to why I support E-Bikes on the trail. I recently spoke to a couple that love to mountain bike but have reached an age where traditional cycling is taking a toll on their bodies. They love the sport and E-Bikes may extend their ability to ride for many more years. The couple isn’t looking for an over-powering motor, just the opportunity to continue their passion. I’ve also heard of several riders who have physical ailments that have left them with very low lung capacity. E-Bikes have allowed these riders to stay on the trail and continue riding. I find it very difficult to protest E-Bikes when some people benefit so much from them. The rhetoric surrounding E-Bikes is becoming increasingly hostile. I hope this article provides some insight to why E-Bikes aren’t as evil as they’re being portrayed.

Please share your opinions below. Did I nail anything in this article? Is there anything I should reconsider my position on? Let me know, I’m interested to see what you guys think.

As always, thanks so much for taking the time to check out my content. I hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any comments/questions that you don’t want to post publicly, email me at justinchiazza@gmail.com

Bike Review: 2017 Specialized Sequoia Expert

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As bicycle companies continue to release 2017 model lines, there are some categories that have found a much larger presence in the industry. Many companies are eager to push their version of an adventure road bike. The exciting thing about adventure road bikes is that the term is relatively new so companies are free to get creative with their designs. There aren’t concrete rules about what an adventure bike should be. Instead, there are vague and general concepts that customers are looking for. These concepts are slowly molding this genre into something that will likely become more solidified in the future.
Knowing that the definition of “adventure bike” is somewhat in the making, we have to ask the question, “what is an adventure bike?”sequoia-12
I’ve come up the analogy that an adventure bike is the Crossover SUV of bicycles; a comfortable roadster with some off-road capability. An adventure road bike isn’t going win a criterium. It also isn’t going to shed mud while quickly maneuvering its way through a cross race either. However, it will get you anywhere you need to go on the road and offer the opportunity to explore some dirt roads/trails, all while hauling a large amount of gear on the frame.
As I evolve as a cyclist, I am more intrigued by large-tired road bikes. I have been happily running 700x35mm tires on my Surly Cross Check. Although 35mm wide tires may sound large, I have been wanting something larger for a while now. I tell you this as somewhat of a confession: if companies keep putting fatter tires on their road bikes, I will keep buying them! That said, let’s talk about the Specialized Sequoia.
The Sequoia was the fist bicycle that Specialized ever released way back in 1974.
It eventually went away and returned in 2004 with this incarnation:
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Remember when high-end bicycles had triples? Yeah, that was a thing. The 2004 Sequoia was upright, lightweight, and a pretty solid bike. I know because I sold them when they were new, and I now work on them as aged and often worn-out bikes. The Sequoia hung around for a handful of years before being pushed aside by the Specialized Secteur in 2010. Now, after another  stay in bicycle purgatory, the Sequoia is back!
In once sense, the Sequoia returned to its 1970’s roots with a steel frame. That’s just about the only comparison that can be made. The new Sequoia is so radically different from its predecessors that it might as well have a different name.

Okay, enough background. Let’s talk about the 2017 Specialized Sequoia Expert.
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The frame is made from Specialized’s Premium Cr-Mo steel. To draw comparison, the Sequoia geometry is more compact and slack with a longer wheelbase than the Specialized Roubaix.
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To bring down the weight while sticking with the theme of soft-riding, the bike is stocked with a Specialized FACT carbon fork. Remember, this is an adventure road bike so the frame and fork have plenty of mounts for cages, racks, fenders, and whatever else you may need to get the job done.
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The components on the Sequoia Expert are a hodgepodge of different companies. This is mainly due to the lack of options within one company to achieve the goals of this bike. A broad overview of the components are a 1×11 drivetrain, hydraulic disc brakes, capable tires, and a cherry on top carbon crankset. To put all of these key components on this bicycle, Specialized pulled parts from a litter of companies.
sequoiaThe shifters and rear derailleur are from Sram’s Force series while the brake calipers are from their Rival series. The shifting is smooth, consistent, and was a pleasure to setup.
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Mixed with the Sram shift levers and derailleur is a Shimano XT 11-42 cassette. It’s the same cassette I use on my mountain bike and I love it.
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On to the brake calipers.  I am somewhat of a fanboy when it comes to Shimano brakes and my initial feeling towards these Sram brakes is somewhat skeptical. I struggled getting these calipers aligned properly, a recurring issue I notice when repairing Sram brakes on the clock. However, I’m trying to approach these with an open mind and hopefully they will surprise me and I will give you guys an enthusiastic update in the future!
sequoia-91x drivetrains are on the rise. I’m noticing more mountain bikes around $1,000 that are equipped with a single chainring. I think 1x drivetrains are a big positive for mountain biking. So how about on a road bike? The Sequoia Expert is stocked with an FSA SL-K Light carbon crankset that is equipped with a Sram XX1 42t chainring. That gives this bike a 1:1 gear ratio in the granny gear. Tying the drivetrain together is the KMC X11SL chain. I haven’t had the chance to take this bike on a serious climb yet so I won’t make a statement on the 1x road configuration. How about you guys? Have you had a chance to climb a 1x road bike? What did you think about it? Please leave a comment below, I’m interested to know what you think.
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Let’s move on to the wheels. The hubs and rims are labeled as Specialized Adventure Gear Cruzero. I’ll sit on that for a while and try to figure out what that means. I do know that the wheels are decent. Not overly impressive, but decent. The double-wall alloy rims are wide, allowing for these large 700×42 Specialized Sawtooth. I converted this bike to tubeless straight out of the box. Although the tires are 2Bliss ready, the rims are not. There are small holes drilled on the inside of rim. Unfortunately the holes are set on the sides of the interior walls of the rim. Using 24mm tubeless tape, I put one strip down the middle and then followed up with two strips on opposite sides to ensure that the sealant couldn’t find its way to the holes. The conversion worked but wasn’t the friendliest process. I’ve been running these tires at a low pressure (50 psi) and they feel absolutely great. Cracks in the road are completely devoured by the large volume of the Sawtooth tire.
sequoia-11As far as the cockpit is concerned, Specialized put some nice detail on this bike. Equipped with a Specialized CG-R carbon seatpost, the rider gets 18mm of lightweight, vertical compliance. *CG-R is only offered on the Expert level.
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The handlebars offer a comfortable 15mm of rise while the drops open up outward for a nice, open position. The Specialized Phenom saddle and bar tape each have a canvas finish. Both components look really nice on this bike and compliment the overall toughness and utility of the Sequoia Elite.
sequoia-5What’s next? This bike is ready to go right out of the box. The only big plan I have for my new Sequoia Expert is to load it up with cargo. Specialized has a new line of adventure gear that includes large saddle bags, frame packs, and stuff packs to mount to the fork.Their new line will compete with companies like Salsa.
sequoia-15With pedals and the tubeless conversion, I weighed this bike at 24 lbs.

The 2017 Specialized Sequoia Experts retails at $3500

I hope you enjoyed this review.

If you have any questions/comments please leave them below or email me at justinchiazza@gmail.com

 

Crane E-NE Copper Bell

untitledI have been searching for a copper bell that accommodates a 31.8mm handlebar diameter since I built up my Surly Cross Check. I finally found one that I am very happy with. Priced around $22.00, the E-NE by Crane sounds as beautiful as it looks.
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The above picture explains how the bell is mounted.
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Mounting this bell is relatively easy and should only take a few moments to install.
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Have you found a bell that you swear by? Please share in the comment section below 🙂

10 Songs That Belong on Your Cycling Playlist.

There are few things in this world that are more liberating than riding a bicycle. Mix in the right song, and a bike ride can become an out-of-body experience.
As my interest in bicycles evolves, so does my interest in music. I thought it would be fun to share some songs that I consider a must-have whenever I hop on the saddle.
Some of these songs have been out for a few years but hopefully you’ll find at least one that you haven’t heard.

Matches by Wildlife
Suicide Saturday by Hippo Campus

Go Outside by Cults
Money by The Drums
Get Me Golden by Terraplane Sun
West Coast by Coconut Records
Ooh La by The Kooks
Jesus Christ by Brand New
Let’s Go by Matt and Kim
Purist by Last Dinosaurs

I hope you enjoyed my list. Leave a comment letting me know what songs you love to pedal to!