Monday, 31 May 2010

The Privilege

Having never made it to be being a Pro journalist, only a temporary paid amateur, I still consider it to be a great privilege when a supplier asks you to review his/their product. Knowing a few journalists I think I am in many ways in a better position, as what started out as a passion has become work, whereas for me it is still a hobby and I am not bound by keeping publishers/advertisers happy (hence why no adverts on the site). Commercially it doesn't make great sense to promote it through my little site so I am humbled each time, as they must like what I am doing.

So I have a lot of stuff to write up, so I am going to try in the 33 days between now and then when the Tour starts to catch up on a few. I'll be honest, and I will try to be balanced and at the heart of it a couple of important questions will need to be answered.

  • Does it represent GVFM, although this is in many ways based on your situation and opinion it will be in my thoughs.
  • Could I use this product at Flanders. As I love the cobbles, I still think that this is the ultimate test of kit, more so that Roubaix as it has flat, ascents and descents all of which provide their own challenges.
  • Would I use it in a Sportive. Similar question to Flanders but not everything is going to hit that hard mark.
  • Is it PRO. I like Pro things, but because it has pro endorsement it actually doesn't mean it's practical for us everyday folks without a service course or Pro Mechanic.
So enjoy the next period, it may have a slightly different flavour to usual.
Rich :-)*

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Giro, the Lunacy and Fair Play

This Giro has entered the realms of truly epic, combining images and stages of races past. I thought that this kind of racing had long died out in the 80's. Maybe this is why the old footage still rings a bell in most cycling fans heart. Although drugs where used back in the day the level of sophistication just wasn't present as it has been over the last 10-20 years.

As many will know I am no advocate for using PED's, and for me it's on many levels. Fair Play is one, I like to think that victories won on a level playing field would be exciting as those fueled by the latest lab wonder chemical. It's funny that the UCI use the 'Fair Play' argument when it comes to bikes and equipment to justify, in some cases, some bloody stupid rules rather than focusing on the greater problem within. The UCI needs to address the real issues and although the 'you should be able to buy this bike at a store rule' is as crazy as turning a blind eye to the special preparation required for grueling events like this years Giro. And don't get me started on the 6.8 kg rule, in this modern age it is absurd where bikes are being built (with all the same concerns for rider safety and durability) which land well below the 6.8 kg rule only then to have weights added to hit the ruling. This proves the machines meet the requirements except on that one level. Why must progress stop and science continue, where ultimately the rider is in more danger from PED's than the bicycle. As a weight/power ratio it is unfair than a 190cm rider is allowed to ride the same as someone in the 175cm region.

But back to the Giro and the Lunacy that has been for the armchair DS's a marvel to watch. The stages and the succession of them have been brutal. Yesterday, Stage 19, comes across as a march of the mad, a throw back to the original forays into the mountains, with many saying it couldn't (or shouldn't) be done. Today, Stage 20, again is another crazy stage which could change the overall lead again. I am sure that the TV audience figures must be on an all time high, for what is the most beautiful of Grand Tours. My question is because it is so hard, are we encouraging the thing that we are trying to remove from the sport.

As most TV coverage, and lets face it this is the future revenue growth for the sport, only focuses on the final 100-60 km it bodes the question should races be shorter? Does Flanders or a Grand Tour stage really ever need to be 260 km long. Could the change in a course dictate the outcome in a different way other than length. I think nobody would say that the Mountian Time Trail was any less tough by being short, but it was as close as ridiculous as a stage should every be for a PRO.

I am hoping that as the weeks spread into months that the course organisers don't get bit on the bum in the regards to positive tests from athletes. I would like to think that this may be a turning point and we can start to see Grand Tours won by clean athletes, but I feel that until we take a real view on what an athlete can do under those circumstances it still may be a little while off when the physical demands outstrip the human capabilities.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Back in Black

It's been great to be back on the bike again after sporadic spells of commuting in only one day at a time. Lots of reasons, which are either too boring or too long to go into. So to my commute. Well its a 15 mile each way trip, and after day 3 (with 90 miles in the bag) my legs said NO. I'm pleased that I did now, and feel ready and up for it once again.

Commuting in Summer feels like a daily treat as you can pack away the trusty Winter steed and roll on some dark carbon hussy, yes I'm 'Back in Black'. It seems harsh, unkind and almost disrespectful to quickly garage the Winter bike after the long and (generally) flawless service it has offered. More due to being forced into the situation I have had to use the 'Winter Bike' longer into Spring than planned. It made the need/desire/lust to be on a light Summer steed even stronger as the weight which seems to go unnoticed in Winter stick out like a sore thumb come Spring. Very much like when you arrive at your first race/fondo over weight, the desire to be lean, clean and mean burns hard.

So yes I'm approaching June heavier than last year, but the flame of requiring more saddle time seems to be burning stronger than for a long time. A Sportive (although I prefer the word Grand Fondo) looms on Sunday, but I think it'll be the short route. June will provide it's own challenges as I am down to ride the Castelli 24 Hour Crit race. I think this will be a unique experience, and although I will be way out of my comfort zone I'll give it my best shot. July looks like the Grand Fondo Pinarello is on the cards, which I am looking forward to.

So I'd better keep the miles up, as the time will quickly be upon me and the mountains of Italy will stare me in the face.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Cervelo Project California - Press release

The R5ca frame showcasing Cervélo's Project California - research, development and manufacturing facility
26-May-2010 - Anaheim, California: Cervélo is pleased to announce the new R5ca road frame, the frame showcasing Project California, Cervélo’s research and development facility. The R5ca is also produced at the Project California facility.

Knowledge driven, not product driven
“We set-up the Project California facility in late-2007 to expand and enhance our capabilities in design and manufacturing of complex carbon structures, predominantly frames,” said Gerard Vroomen, Cervélo co-founder. “It is knowledge-driven, not product-driven.”

“The facility enables us to set up new production techniques, build and test prototypes and refine layup designs all in one location. This reduces our development time substantially and also allows more opportunities for product experimentation. In addition it provides much better protection for our intellectual property.”

New ways of looking at design problems
“Project California has provided us with a new way of looking at things,” said Phil White, Cervélo co-founder. “It’s given us the opportunity to see what we can do and how to apply this knowledge to our entire product line. To that goal we have been focusing on improving our lab tests to better reflect reality. The bike industry shows an increased emphasis on lab tests (especially in marketing). But if the tests do not reflect the real world, they are meaningless.”

By using a real-life testing model, Cervélo discovered that the lab assumptions, about where each tube on a bike frame carries the most pressure during certain ride conditions are not always correct.

To counter this, Cervélo created a “strain gauge bike” that measures the load and flex in various areas of the bike when ridden. They then compared the real ride data they collected with standard lab tests and determined that they needed to re-engineer their frames to meet real world needs.

Cervélo also learned how to improve their design process and production techniques with new layup design & ply analysis software.

R5ca Cervélo’s new R5ca frame showcases the result of the research and development processes developed at Project California and incorporates many of the layup and manufacturing learnings, including:
• Bottom Bracket Design (see BBright presentation).
• Updated geometry including Zero offset seattube (see R5ca Geometry presentation)
• Headtube bearing size.
• Details:
– BB cable guides
– Rear derailleur hanger
– Front derailleur mount
– Seattube collar

My Thoughts:

It's difficult not to be impressed by the weight of the frame, and I am no weight weenie. The question that crosses my mind in WHY, when he UCI stick to the 6.8 kg rule, what benefits does the rider get? The obvious place where this massive reduction in weight is a benefit is going up hill. But as Merckx famously said "what's the point in a bike being quick uphill if you lose all the time on the downhill?", and of course he is right. I am sure that the real benefits will come in the replacements for the R and S series bikes which are in principal 5 year old designs.

Hopefully how the bike handles (with the added UCI weights) still ends up being the experience they (the engineers) where looking for. As bikes can drop below the 6.8 kg barrier with some ease, the questions that always never gets an answer is 1. Why do the UCI not review this rule? and the other 2. Why do manufacturers still want to make lighter and lighter bikes, when the PRO's can't use them, but us mere mortals can. 

Friday, 14 May 2010

Ibis Hakkalugi, the Noddy Bike King

Ibis Hakkalugi.

Years and years ago I wanted a steel one, but I could never afford it. The nearest I got was having a catalogue. I saw a MTB once or twice in London & was very impressed with the level of detail. Ok the new version isn't steel but it takes the legendary geometry and applied it to a modern material. I'm no retro grouch and appreciate modern steel as much as I do carbon. I think the fact it's a lot easier to make in carbon is why many manufactures choose this root, combined with the weight advantage and how you can manipulate it. Building in steel is labour intensive and to be honest the list of great framebuilders is few and far between. But I'm not going to lamnet on the benefits & negatives of each process and material. All I know is that I want one of these, even in Phlegmish Yellow.

The Art  of a great cyclocross bike is that it should feel part of you, an extension of your body. And this may be true for any bike, but due to the nature and activity of the cross bike that it must flow when riding and carrying the machine it is even more applicable. I like having a cross bike for what I call (although I didn't coin the phrase, cheers Ade) Noddy Riding. This to me this is the perfect mix of where road meets off road, and  where the two meet in perfect harmony like the waves slowly making their way up a beach. I love this kind of riding, darting between forest and trail and back onto tarmac again.

Bizarrely cross is the most accessable type of racing, and maybe the safest. Slow speeds (compared to Road or dry Summer MTB courses), a strong family atmosphere and a short circuit all provide the right environment to learn the skills which can be transferred into Road or Mountainbike racing at a later date. I think that the duration of 45-60 minutes is also about perfect, and maybe that's why Crit racing and MTB series like Beastway have been so popular over the years.

Thanks to SRAM you can have a pretty kick arse bike with Rival on it, and it's not going to cost the earth, well kind of (I know it's not cheap). Rival makes a lot of sense as if you trash a part of it then it doesn't cost a small Kings ransom to replace. Also on a weight weenies front it's not so bad, especially as for many months of the year it could be covered in crap.

So yes a Noddy Cross Bike is on the list for sure.

Cyclocross, Andy Wardman, Velo Club Moulin

Local trails ala cx from Andy Wardman on Vimeo.

I've watched this a couple of times today and it is truly stunning. He's a great bike handler for sure and the trails look awesome. He is a Velo Club Moulin rider and they have one of the nicest Team kits out there. Watch this, then watch it again. It's a great piece of work, chapeau chap.

Colnago, Mapei and other Italian things

I have never owned one, but I have ridden a few. Would the magic still be there without the badge, yes from a ride point of view (as I have ridden bikes that have copied their geometry) but the passion that goes with that name would be lacking from how it was built. I asked Johan Museeuw which where the best bikes he rode when he was a PRO, and the first name that came out of his lips was Colnago, the second Time. I asked him about his own bikes and he said that the geometry pays homage to the Colnago mark as he thought it offered the best balance of everything required to make a bike handle, climb and sprint well. I had a blast on Johans bike and was stunned how well the Flax works and the geometry felt.

Back to Colnago. On the road the major victories have dried up since the wonderful Mapie Team withdrew it's sponsorship. Rabobank never seemed to be able to create the magic that Mapei did with the bikes.

The institute still exists today and works with athletes to help them get the best out of whatever sport they compete in. There is a book which I think currently is only available in Italian, but I hope I am wrong. Shame there is no IBSN on it as I'd be able to check it out.

And so onto one of my other favourite Italian things, Coffee. I am by no means an expert but I like an Italian Cappacino (UK can't make one to touch it) and frankly at around a euro a pop for an expensive one feels like a steel compared to popping into any of the mass market establishments that adorn the high street. I really like lavazza coffee as I'm not really into super strong bitter coffee but I like a smooth brew. I was checking out there website and they have some great images on there from Calendars over the years, some really nice arty shots.

The Bicycles are the Music

In the modern day era, the commentator feels the need to talk, here listen to the bicycles telling their own story.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Gravel Metric

It looks like a little old ride happening in the States on the weekend of the 30th. Looks cool and I wish that more people would organise fun stuff like this in the UK. Go here to gravel metric to find out all about it, and if anyone reading this rides it I'd love to have a report back from you telling all.

Plan de Corones Giro de Italia 2008

Was it crazy or a moment of pure genius? You can decide for yourself by watching these clips.

And to watch Contadore dance on the pedals you'll have to go to the page here as it has been disabled, probably as a request from Eurosport. I am not a big Alberto fan but I have to doff my cap to the finest climber since Pantani. I expect him to dominate the Tour in July, but enjoy him scaling the crazy heights on this climb. As a rider he actually fits more into the Charlie Gaul mode as he uses small gears (when required) and can just dance away on the steepest climbs.

Maybe it is days like this that makes the Giro better than the Tour. They seem more able to take risks, to try the silly and add some interest to a race. Maybe it's the love of opera, the drama of an Italian meal or the fact that they just don't care, it creates some memorable moments.

The Chancers

This one goes to the Chancers

You have to love the fact that the peloton never caught them and that Pineau, Fouchard and Arashiro NEVER gave up. Chapeau guys. I hope the radio ban creates more racing like this.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Brabanste Pijl - In photos and a few words

Sram Force is good enough for the AN Post Team. As light as Dura Ace but way cheaper it's not a cop out and it enables the Teams without Thousands of Euros budgets to compete.

Museeuw may have long retired from the racing scene, but his bikes are now used on the roads he made his name on. Flax Carbon is comfy and stiff and is ideal for the cobbles.

Cervelo, although only Pro Continental, are one of the big boys and looking at their kit they have all of the toys to play with.

I really liked the little beads hanging off the saddle rails. Not sure what the story is behind them, but I'd love to know, no matter

I am a sucker for a Ridley. I think that having owned one they ride great and have a look all of their own. The new colour scheme is to my liking and they really stand out. They are built for the tough roads of Belgium and beyond.

Milram are another Team who have some nice toys to play with. The hi-light no doubt being the Lightweight wheels, which are really something else. I am sure that when they can't use them in races it must make them a little less happy.

Last minute tinkering by a Milram Mechanic. Not sure if anything was really wrong, or if he was just doing it to calm a riders nerves. Nice tool kit though.

I apologise that the photo isn't great on the saddle and you can't see the decal properly. But Danny Pate was using a Arione Tri saddle. Same cool shape with a little more comfort thrown in, good call.

I'm not the worlds biggest carbon bottle cage fan, but these from Arundel are really nice, a bit like the ones from Zipp. The Zipp ones are a bit easier to get hold of outside the USA.

Mr Meyer in his dashing white.

A fan bags a signature, happy days.

This was just off the roadside, a think some sort of priest box. I think its really pretty.

The Pros hitting a corner hard and fast.

The Pave is what adds another element to what makes Belgium special and its races extra tough.

This was at the finish. Few finished as the course was tough, but being circuits it allowed them to get off much easier than in the middle of knowhere.

Nico is nicknamed 'Rambo' and for good reasson as I think he was made out of granite. We where told he'd had a crash a few days before. A couple of days later I found out he'd cracked a vertabrae, which is pretty impressive as he was in the escape group for over 100km.

The Pro photographers waiting at the finish.
It seems funny after seeing the Garmin boys on Mavic wheels after being on Zipp for so long. I like the Mavic wheels especially as I have a habit of wrecking alloy freehubs on more exotic brands.

This was close to Waterloo. The peloton was closing down fast on the escape group and the speed was damn fast. They split over the roundabout and I chose the right, which ended up being the wrong side as most riders when on my left. (pic left)

I'm in the Team car at this point. Going round in the car just went to prove how tough that circuit was. Very lumpy, which never truly comes over when you are watching on TV.(pic above right) I'd really like to ride this circuit and if I could manage five circuits like the Pros did I'd be super happy.

The AN Post team at the start. The weather was around 21c, so much nicer than two weeks previous when I was there for the Tour of Flanders.

Oh so pretty, but I hate that long winded graphic down the seatstay. Not sure why they think they need to do this. The bikes are cool and don't really need a lot of marketing to attract a bunch of customers, just better availability. Although I'd like it with Sram or Shimano better.

Even the valve extension shows its battle scars. Cole wheels are still pretty rare on any Pro bike.

The AR, it looks more like a weapon than a bike. Riders mainly chose the F series (which I love) but it must be nice to be able to ride the bike that suits you the best.


Steve Cozza (above) is a super nice guy and I managed to exchange a few words. I wished him the best for the day and would love to have a beer with him some day.

Some of the Garmin team where using these Prototype Vittoria tyres. Not sure what was different about them but they looked a lot like regular CX tyres. They also bore a stricking resemblance to the new Vredestein tyres. Be interesting to see what they are like when they come to the market.


The K-Edge chain catcher has become increasingly popular in the the peloton. It looks far nicer than the custom ones that the mechanics have been making for years. I think I'd like to get one on the next bike, if only just to look Pro. 

It's as if Tyler's reading my blog

Well I'm chuffed that he has bagged his 2nd Grand Tour stage but just as I proclaim him to be a better prospect as a Classics rider he goes to win. It was a messy stage today and with a combination of luck, raw speed and continued confidence he won by a good bike length. Nice, enjoy a beer tonight.

I've decided I'll be writing on Simon's blog through the Giro, so if you want to keep up with my ramblings on this head over to la gazzetta della bici. Anything none Giro related is likely to be on here.