The wheel market has exploded with the vengeance of the mosquito population at a stagnant pond in the Deep South during a drought-plagued summer. We’ve been overrun with wheels, much the way I just overran my good sense and your patience in that last sentence.
Doubt that? Nearly every company that used to offer wheel components—DT, Campagnolo, Mavic, Shimano, American Classic, Chris King and Ambrosio for starters—now offers complete wheels. There are some notable exceptions, such as Wheelsmith and Sapim, who have elected to stick with spokes and nipples, and Phil Wood (hubs), but the vast majority of companies that produced components that I used to build wheels from now offer complete wheelsets.
By a certain sort of math, you could make an argument that expansion brought about a tripling of the wheel market. The result has changed what it means to purchase a high-end wheelset. Given the incredible number of poorly built handmade wheels I saw over the years (How many racers did I see not finish a race because their wheels didn’t hold up?), this isn’t a bad thing … on one level. On another, it can be terrible at times.
Gone is the conversation between the budding racer and the sage mechanic. I’ve been on both sides of that conversation and the chance to learn about or to teach lacing patterns or the value of equal spoke tension is a chance for someone to become a more knowledgeable, more engaged cyclist. Those conversations and choices were substantive. Clydesdales need to be steered away from alloy nipples just as bantam weight climbers ought to be steered to butted spokes. On group rides these days, so often I hear guys discussing wheel choices based on color.
Recently overheard: “I went with the American Classics because the white matched my frame.”
I’ve tried a number of aftermarket wheelsets with Campy freehubs. In both 10- and 11-speed configurations a great many of them have a problem that I consider colossal, but I rarely hear anyone complain.
That problem? Rear derailleur spoke clearance.
If I hear the rear derailleur cage tick, tick, ticking against the spokes when I’m climbing, I’m concerned. It is the bicycle equivalent of driving to Dubuque with the idiot light on. And the people who do complain about this? They are the ones who had exactly this problem—undiagnosed by their shop mechanic—stood up and flexed the wheel enough to catch the cage, sheer the carbon fiber scissors through wrapping paper and destroy the rear derailleur, the wheel and the derailleur hanger, if not the frame along the way.
I’ve encountered this problem on more wheels than I ought. A healthy supply of 1mm spacers hasn’t corrected the problem for most of the wheels, either. One can ask the question of whether the problem is with the wheels or the derailleur, but because Campagnolo and Fulcrum wheels never have this problem—proving that it is possible to make wheels that don’t suffer this incompatibility—I lay the blame with the wheel makers.
A good review of a set of wheels really ought to be based on qualities of superior distinction, such as multiplying your power output or a freehub that dispenses cash when you hit 500 watts. Congratulating a set of wheels for competency is a bit like giving a kid AP credit for reading Harry Potter.
Regardless, the starting point for this review is the fact that the spokes of the Torelli Bormio Ceramic Ultra-Lites don’t rub on a Campy rear derailleur cage. This one feature makes them worth considering if you’re looking for a set of Campy-compatible wheels. Is that enough to warrant purchasing them? Not by a long shot.
In fact, my biggest single wheel pet peeve is trueness—actually lack thereof. I monitor wheels as I review them to see how they are holding up. Within the first 200 miles of riding these wheels I had to perform a slight truing of the rear wheel, tightening two spokes that had de-tensioned slightly. I’ve done nothing since.
Last fall I rode Levi Leipheimer’s King Ridge Gran Fondo. For those of you who recall my ride report of the event, you may recall some grumbling about a record number of flats I experienced that day. These were the wheels I was using. The reason for the trouble was a rim strip issue.
When I returned from the ride I e-mailed Todd, the owner at Torelli, and told him about the trouble. He was on the phone to me within the minute I hit the ‘send’ button. When I saw the “Torelli” on the caller ID, I thought it was just a weird coincidence.
He asked me what color the rim strips were. When I told him they were yellow, he told me to throw them in the trash, that those were early production and had caused problems and had been since replaced with different rim strips that wouldn’t move. I’d have some new ones the next day. And I did.
Every dealer that received wheels with the yellow rim strips have been shipped the red rim strips I received.
Since receiving the new rim strips, I haven’t had a single flat and that’s even while running the paper-thin Specialized open tubulars (whose ride continues to grow on me). I remain deeply suspicious of mylar, plastic and all manner of rim strips that are anything other than Velox for one simple reason: Velox rim strips have adhesive on the bottom. Granted, it doesn’t have the sticky factor of Chinese rice, but it really doesn’t need much to just not move.
Okay, so lets move on to the bullet points featured in the marketing literature. The rims have a claimed weight of 380 grams. The front wheel has 20 spokes, the rear 24 spokes. The front is radially laced, the rear features radial lacing on the non-drive side and two-cross on the drive side. The stainless steel J-bend Sandvik spokes are bladed (0.9mm x 2.2mm) for increased aerodynamic efficiency and easy replacement.
Torelli claims they weigh 1380g for the pair—that’s with rim strips and a Shimano freehub. I have yet to review a set of wheels that weighs within 10g of the advertised weight, but these were pretty close; they came in at 1412g. I attribute the difference to the Campy freehub, but that’s just a wild assertion of the same general vicinity as most stories in the National Enquirer. I haven’t weighed the two freehub bodies. I really don’t know. At all.
The rear wheel contains six ceramic bearings and inside the freehub is a needle bearing to reduce freehub drag while descending, of which, it does an admirable job. Spin the rear wheel up with the bike in the stand and once you let go of the pedal it moves no further. It’s also remarkably quiet when freewheeling, which is a quality I associate with low drag and stealthy approaches, both of which I find handy.
Compared to many wheels in this weight range the Bormio Ceramic Ultra-Lites are surprisingly stiff laterally. Certainly there are stiffer wheels out there, but stiff isn’t really the selling point on these wheels. Their weight, incredibly low rolling resistance due to the ceramic bearings and machined aluminum braking surfaces, all for a suggested retail of $650 is why you buy these wheels.
Who doesn’t want raceable weight and low-drag bearings in an everyday wheelset?
Torelli does suggest a 180-lb. weight limit for users, but I suspect that at that weight (or more) you would be inclined to seek out a stiffer wheel regardless.
A great set of wheels really isn’t about the graphics (which on these aren’t exactly going to win any design awards—but can’t anyone get graphics right on a set of wheels anymore without sacrificing function?); it ought to be about bringing the various elements together to make a wheel set perfectly suited to its intended purpose.
In the last year I’ve tried six different aftermarket (non-Campy/Fulcrum) wheel sets meant to work with Campy. Considering functionality, weight and price, these are the best of the bunch.
Time is to a cyclist what bricks are to a mason. It is both the forest and the trees. We slice it by the season, the day, the hour, the effort. Because the lengths of rides can vary so much, it’s not enough to acknowledge the number of days we ride in a week. Six days of one-hour rides bears little in common with five days of three-hour rides.
Time is the barometer all bodies can read. No matter what you’re counting—how long the effort, the number of days since your last ride—your body knows the truth like no yardstick can. So it should be no surprise that we can use time to couch our aspirations as well.
Because fatigue accumulates in the legs like interest on a credit card with a balance, we must plan our riding if we hope to get more than about eight or 10 hours of training per week. And that seems to be the dividing point for this week’s FGR. Most of you who responded are simply trying fit the rides in, however, whenever, wherever possible.
While it sounds like few of you are getting as many miles as you’d like, most of you seem to have made peace with the many requirements of your lives—careers, children, marriage, some priorities are just that, priorities. More than a few of you are getting the bulk of your miles either on a trainer or by commuting.
A surprising number of you are riding four to six days per week. That fact speaks to the mindset of a cyclist. Each new day is another chance to ride, seized or not.
Unfortunately, very few of you who responded are getting more than a dozen hours of training per week. I suspect there are more of you who do, but I also suspect you’re too tired to write much.
For my part, following a dismal year last year marked by a wrecked neck, the addition of a bowling ball to my midsection and a 50 percent increase to my home’s population, I’ve managed to carve out a shelf in my crowded commitments just for training. My mileage is up, the highest it’s been in some years, and I’ll be ready for each of this season’s rendezvous. It’s not always easy to keep up the effort, but my riding feeds my writing, and without it, I’m not worth much as a blogger or a freelancer.
The revelation in the comments was how little spring has influenced your riding. It’s as if the change in seasons has yet to be recorded. And for those of you who ride trainers or at the edges of the day, the warmth the spring sun brings has yet to pay you any dividends. Here’s to hoping that as summer approaches you are afforded the opportunity to ride in the heat of the day, and to spend more of your days turning pedals just for the sake of it.
Gus_C summed it up best when he said, “I do what I like, kid’s healthy, wife is pretty and bike is delish.”
Does it really get better than that?
RKP: Tell us about the WorkCycles bike design? What’s unique?
Well, we make a lot of bikes for many different purposes so it’s hard to talk about THE WorkCycles design. Instead I’ll tell you about the Fr8 (pronounced “Freight”), a bike that typifies WorkCycles’ design philosophy. The Fr8 is actually not a single bike but a modular system of parts that can be combined to create a range of heavy-duty bikes suitable for many applications from internal transport in factories to carrying three kids and groceries. The design is clean, all business and timeless; this is a vehicle to rely on daily, not a personal statement. What’s unique is the focus on getting it all right: the ergonomics to fit riders of all shapes and sizes and the steering geometry tuned to ride confidently with enormous loads. We make sure that critical elements such as child seats and parking stands fit and work properly. Most of this is invisible and makes for really boring ad copy but it does actually enhance the experience of cycling.
RKP: By the way, what’s with the name “WorkCycles”? I thought working in this industry was supposed to be fun and NOT work.
Who said work isn’t fun? Studies have consistently demonstrated that people derive the most enjoyment and satisfaction in their lives from their work. The same can be true in cycling; Powering and steering a heavily loaded bike is fun and satisfying if the bike rides efficiently and handles predictably. But WorkCycles began by selling bikes for industry internationally and it’s still a large part of our business, thus the origin of the name.
RKP: So you do the designing of WorkCycles bikes, but do you actually build, cut and shape the tubing, lugs on all of your bikes too? Does it vary from bike to bike or are there stylistic elements people can find running through all your bikes?
I design frames, forks, front and rear carriers, parking stands and some special parts such as chain-cases, cargo boxes, handlebars, lids child carriers etc. For some other parts such as fenders, rims, spokes and tires we have made special versions made to our specs. For example we have rims made from an extrusion meant for downhill and BMX, rolled in 28″, with stainless ferrules for 12 and 13 gauge spokes. The parts existed but not in this combination. Now we have the most abuse-proof, trouble-free city bikes wheels on the planet … and they’re actually lighter than the stainless steel rims we were using before.
WorkCycles bikes are assembled in two Dutch factories, from parts sourced all over the world. Frames are made in Holland, Belgium, Taiwan and China, and then painted in Holland or Belgium. Rims, carriers, some saddles and lights are Dutch made. Fenders come from Italy. Spokes are from Belgium. Taillights and handlebars come from Germany. Shimano hubs and brakes come from Singapore. Quite a few of the simpler components come from Taiwan and China of course.
Stylistic elements? Dude, WorkCycles are the fine tools or tractors of the bicycle world. They’re not really “styled” like carbon racing bikes with fancy curves and graphics nor are they designed for obsessive bike purists like “porteurs” or handmade retro-grouch non-racers. Building bikes isn’t about beautifully cut lugs or sleek seat clusters for us.
Our bikes are stylistically conservative and usually almost all black because it never goes out of style and it’s easy to repair. We like lugs but many of our bikes have tubing and geometry for which lugs aren’t available. We generally use fat tires because they ride well with heavy loads and protect the rims from riders who can’t be bothered to pump their tires up.
RKP: The Dutch are the tallest people in the world. Do you find it a welcome relief when a “short” American (at 6’3”) comes in and starts asking about a custom bike fit? When fitting a customer for a bike, how do you usually work?
Custom bike fit? Again, these are utility bikes. They’re designed to fit many riders with few frame sizes and minimal adjustment. You’re not sitting on them for hours at a time and you ride in street clothes and various shoes so adjusting them to the millimeter is pointless. Many of our bikes are used by more than one rider, for example a family or a factory where dozens of workers share the same fleet of bikes. But don’t take that to mean that we don’t care about the ergonomics of cycling. In fact we believe very strongly in making bikes that are comfortable and pleasant to ride, but we’re just realistic about the precision appropriate for different types of bikes.
RKP: Is there a correlation between the height of the Dutch and the cheese here? If so, which cheese makes them the tallest?
I’ve often wondered about why the Dutch are so much taller than even the people of neighboring countries with what we’d assume to be similar genetic stock. We figure it’s either the flatness of the terrain or lack of sun that causes people to sprout up toward the sky… or the enormous quantities of dairy products they eat here. It might not be the cheese though, as the dairy section in a Dutch supermarket has a mind-boggling collection of cheeses, yogurts, buttermilks and other products familiar only to the locals.
As an American, this concept was completely foreign to me before I came to Amsterdam. I’ve moved apartments twice using one of these tractors! And it’s a fixed gear. Who would have thought someone was actually making bikes like this?
RKP: Let’s talk about the WorkCycles ride. Would you say your all your bikes have a consistent ride that is your signature, or does it really just come down to ease-of-use and utility or is all about toodling around enjoying the fresh air?
Yes, all of the above, thanks. I’m a firm believer that all kinds of bikes should be a pleasure to ride. Even the simple city bike or heavy load transporter should be well balanced, handle neutrally and simply disappear beneath you. I’ve spent far too much time on perfectly sorted road, track and mountain bikes (and plenty that weren’t) to accept that utility bikes should be any less carefully engineered. Unfortunately most of the city/utility bikes on the market aren’t designed by enthusiasts and it shows: inappropriate steering geometry, too steep seat tubes, uncomfortable handlebar bends… I could go on for hours.
That’s only the geometry element but bikes for daily transportation are actually much more complicated than bikes for recreational use. WorkCycles produces bikes complete with all the gear you need to ride year-round in a northern climate in normal clothes, carrying whatever stuff you might need to bring along: fenders, full-coverage chain cases, integrated lighting with hub dynamo and wiring through the frame and fork, front and rear carriers, locks, stable parking stands… and it all has to fit and work properly together, and with a broad range of third party accessories such as child seats.
RKP: Who does your paint? What’s your pricing like on the bikes?
WorkCycles frames, carriers, fenders and other parts are painted by an industrial coating firm in the Netherlands and a Belgian powder coater who does actually specialize in bikes. Both of these firms do ridiculously tough paint with zinc-based primer layers to prevent rust even under the worst conditions. The Fr8 and our heaviest duty bikes are actually first zinc-phosphated and then primed inside and out with a very special, underwater, anodic process called KTL. Then they get the color powder coat. The emphasis here is clearly on toughness and corrosion resistance, not the perfect, gorgeous, fluid colors of an American custom painter such as Joe Bell. That would be a waste on a bike that’s going to live the life of an outdoor dog.
RKP: Educate some of Red Kite Prayer‘s readers here for a moment. What exactly is a bakfiets?
Bakfiets is a compound word; “bak” means tray, box or bucket and the latter two are etymologically related. “Fiets” mean bicycle. Thus “bakfiets” is a box or tray bicycle. Say “bakfiets” to the Dutch and they generally think of huge, fixed-gear trikes with hardwood boxes between the front wheels as have been used here for 100 years. Elsewhere bakfiets has come to refer to mom’s long wheelbase two-wheeler for carrying kids as a result of the success of the Bakfiets.nl Cargobike and the dozens of bikes it has “inspired”.
RKP: What keeps the work fresh for you, gets you up in the morning (or out in the evening) and excited to build and design?
These days I spend more time designing and building the company and all the things that help it run smoothly than the bikes themselves. I delegate everything possible to employees but WorkCycles consistently grows more than 20% each year. The challenge is to have the people, infrastructure and systems in place in time to maintain or improve the quality of service. We do screw up sometimes but all in all we’ve generally improved even as we’ve grown. It all seems like it happens in slow motion to me but when I stop to look at what we’ve accomplished in just a few years I’m rather surprised. It’s mostly this sense of progress that motivates me, but also that I just enjoy the daily work: helping employees develop, talking with customers… and yes, designing and developing bikes.
RKP: What’s your life away from work like? Are you racing or do you have outside interests?
Most of my non-work time is with my family and our friends. I quit racing about 15 years ago but I still ride as much as possible, often with my wife and 19 month old son. The road cycling in Holland is great: quiet, safe, beautiful roads along rivers, through farmland and old villages. You just have to accept the wind and frequent lousy weather.
RKP: What’s your favorite bike to ride in Amsterdam’s Jordaan, where your shop is located? Why?
I guess my favorite city bike is whatever city bike I’m currently riding. I use my own bikes for product testing so every few months I change the hubs, handlebars, child seat, frame or something. I don’t get too attached to these bikes since they just feel like loaners. Right now I’m riding a prototype of the WorkCycles Gr8. It’s a lighter, less over the top version of our popular Fr8 and it’s probably the sweetest riding city bike I’ve ever had. But it’s also built with weird test parts such as a special folding, 2-leg parking stand, pre-production Sturmey Archer hubs and a strange front child seat from OGK in Japan .
RKP: What’s next for you and WorkCycles? Where do you see yourself and the company and your bikes in, say, five years?
What WorkCycles will do in the long term depends how the bicycle industry reacts. If building quality, thoughtfully designed, practical bikes becomes normal practice then perhaps WorkCycles’ role as a bike maker has been fulfilled. In that case we’ll focus more on special components and subassemblies to make better utility bikes. But after 32 years around the bike industry I suspect that in a few years we’ll only see many more bikes that are only silhouettes of real utility bikes while missing their point entirely.
Regardless, WorkCycles will just keep growing at our current pace. A new factory to build our bikes is now being completed here in the Netherlands. At full capacity, we should be able to produce close to 10,000 bikes per year there at the same level of quality as now. That seems high enough to aim for now.
Photos courtesy WorkCycles
By almost any ordinary definition the season is spring. The Spring Classics have begun. Spring training is on the minds of cyclists and baseball fans alike. Some schools are on Spring Break. Snow has stopped falling in most states and most European countries.
Not that it’s necessarily warm, mind you, but the weather is cooperative enough in theory to allow most cyclists to train. Now’s the time when many cyclists are trying to build or complete their base miles for the season.
You’ve been at this a long time and know that there’s more to logging base miles than just decent weather. Work, children, better halves, any of these can derail a three-hour ride faster than instant coffee.
That said, we know your heart. We know you want to be out there. So tell us, just how cooperative has your life been? How many hours a week have you been able to train on average?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
While the rest of the cycling world was shaving milligrams off the latest carbon fiber frame and reducing aerodynamic drag to save a few nanoseconds, one bike builder in Amsterdam was focused on the practical and utilitarian aspects of bicycles: What is the best way to transport yourself, your kids and maybe even some cargo around?
Henry Cutler needed a way to get to his favorite cheese shop and local brewery and stock up on life’s finer pleasures. And while he was at it, he figured, the bikes should be a pleasure to ride, even if they lead the “life of an outdoor dog” in this rainy northern European city.
Fast, light, milligram and nanosecond are not in Henry’s vocabulary. And, you wouldn’t really expect that to be the case for a guy building bikes for commuters, bombproof industrial tractor tricycles for factories and “bakfietsen” suitable for carrying a half-dozen kids to day-care.
I had the unique opportunity to sit down and chat with Henry, owner of WorkCycles ( http://www.workcycles.com ). He’s on a mission to make bicycles do what bicycles were first meant to do: transport you from one place to another, day or night, rain or shine. And maybe even carry a 250 kilogram load or two while they’re at it.
RKP: How and when did you get started building bikes?
My dad had a well-equipped workshop and when I was maybe nine or ten I began scavenging the trash of local bike shops, dragging home mangled Schwinns and Raleighs. They’d crush the rear triangles to make them unrideable so I used the jack from my parents’ car and 2×4′s to realign them. Rusty parts sometimes had to be sawed, hammered and vise-gripped out before they could be replaced etc. “Glenn’s Complete Bicycle Manual” (complete with photos of young cyclists proudly posing with Richard Nixon) was my bible. I still have it so if I ever need to overhaul a two-speed Bendix Yellow Band hub I’ll be prepared.
At 12 I began working weekends at a local bike shop. I was hired mostly to clean and retrieve bikes from the constantly flooded basement but they found that I was handy and set me to work repairing bikes and building wheels. I learned a lot from this brilliantly mechanical black guy named Paul there who I totally idolized. He taught me to true wheels not only by twisting spoke nipples but also straightening the rim with a hammer and a door jamb. But I guess I was in awe of him because he could and did build anything: cheap and crazy fast cars and motorcycles, rocket propelled bombs… you name it.
RKP: You’re an American, living in Amsterdam. What’s that all about?
I live here because I can. Amsterdam is a beautiful city with a relaxed pace, a highly diverse population and a million other things I like. But mostly I like it because it’s the undisputed cycling capitol of the world. Amsterdam, like other Dutch cities, was only able to maintain its charm, history, quiet neighborhoods in the center and incredible density and compactness because most people ride bicycles instead of driving automobiles.
It’s also the ideal place to run a company designing and building transportation bicycles. WorkCycles has two shops where we sell and rent bikes to the public and these are the toughest bicycle testing facilities possible. This is really only possible in Amsterdam where almost a million people cycle an average of several kilometers per day, often with (adult or child) passengers, year-round, day and night, in all weather conditions, maybe drunk or stoned. Most of these bikes are stored outdoors, adding nicely to that challenge.
You might be able to fit (and move) a house in this trike’s box. It’s actually designed as a promotion bike: Step 1) Ride to location. Step 2) Park trike. Step 3) Open up tables and create a workspace. Step 4) Start your product promotion and campaigning. It even comes with an umbrella holder.
RKP: Cycling is a way of life here. I can’t imagine living here without a bike. One of the Amsterdam Facts websites tells me there are 600,000 bikes in this city. Amazing isn’t it? How do we export this idea to America?
Actually I’ve read several times that there are more bikes than people both in Amsterdam and the Netherlands . I seem to recall a figure of about 1,000,000 bikes for the 750,000 Amsterdam inhabitants. In any case, cycling is certainly THE way to get around the city and more than half of all trips in the entire city are made by bike. In the city center something like 70% of all trips are made by bike. Only a couple other cities in the world (all in the Netherlands ) rival this level of cycling. Groningen in the north is much higher but it’s a much smaller city.
The only way for cycling to achieve such popularity is for it to be so pleasant, safe and convenient that everybody from kids to elderly people ride bikes daily. Therein lies the great challenge of exporting cycling Dutch style: The city planning and infrastructure in most Dutch cities is amazingly bicycle-oriented and this took decades to build in cities that were always pretty good for cycling. It’s not at all just about bike lanes. It’s about discouraging auto use, keeping auto traffic on specific routes, traffic calming, bike parking facilities, education and many other factors.
Exporting that amazing, Dutch experience of riding your simple bike through the city center along quiet streets or flowing with the rush hour bicycle traffic is a chicken/egg dilemma. It’s been widely demonstrated here and in Copenhagen where “bike-ification” began much later, that the masses simply won’t ride bikes for transportation until it’s the most convenient, pleasant, fastest, cheapest way to get around. Until then urban cycling is the domain of young warriors and grizzled pioneers. But achieving the political and bureaucratic power and funding to create that cycling infrastructure requires broad support… from regular folks, retirees, small business owners, parents, captains of industry etc. It’s just going to be a slow process rebuilding the world’s cities to better suit the needs of real people, especially the more recently “developed” cities that were built from the ground up with personal automobiles as the primary means of transport. Unfortunately it has to begin with intrepid bike warriors fighting the tide and danger.
RKP: So, are you trying to start a revolution, one bike at a time? (ie. one less car, a lifestyle change, less petrol consumption, a simpler life etc.)
No, WorkCycles just builds bikes; beautiful, practical, durable bikes that make cycling a more attractive means of transport.
RKP: Would you consider building bikes a craft akin to making a fine cheese like a tasty Dutch Gouda or like brewing a fine Belgian trappist ale?
I’ve never made cheese or brewed beer but I can imagine there are some similarities. Like cheese and beer our bikes are built in small-scale mass production. It’d be inefficient to make one wheel of cheese or one bottle of beer and the same is true for bikes. WorkCycles are tools for daily use and abuse and we avoid building bikes as objects of obsession. We work with trusted components, often without name-brand status. We let fads in materials, colors and bike categories come and go. Our finishes are chosen primarily for durability and corrosion resistance.
RKP: By the way, what is your favorite cheese? Favorite beer? Why? Where can I find those in Amsterdam?
There’s a great cheese shop in the Marnixstraat called Fromagerie Kef where they sell all kinds of hand-crafted cheeses from throughout the Netherlands, France , Italy and Spain . I’ve bought many yummy cheeses there but I never remember their names.
My favorite beer choice has as much to do with fine memories of rock climbing trips in Freyr, Belgium as the beer itself. It’s called Ciney Bruin and it is a very tasty, dark trappist ale. There are probably twenty other monasteries that make equally good beer but this one happened to be near our climbing crag. I think the “Bier Koning” in the Damstraat sells Ciney. But every beer lover in Amsterdam needs to know Brouwerij Het Ij next to the windmill in Oost.
RKP: Do you ever work in a material other than steel? What do you think of this new-fangled technology called “carbon fiber”? I hear it’s lighter than steel.
I’m not hung up on one material or another, but steel is generally the best choice for WorkCycles frames; Steel is very tolerant of imperfect manufacturing, has a near infinite fatigue life, fails gracefully and can be re-aligned after an accident or just to install a hub with a different axle length. City and transport bikes get abused in all sorts of ways that make aluminium and carbon impractical: locks bang on frames, they fall over periodically, child seats and other accessories get clamped on crudely, a bent crank or wheel will rub on a chainstay. The resulting scratches and dings will kill an aluminium or carbon bike but steel will only get uglier.
We also use a lot of stainless steel parts for much the same reason as steel frames: handlebars, stems, fenders and stays, all nuts and bolts, spokes etc. The stainless is not only corrosion resistant, it’s also very tough and nearly impossible to break.
RKP: Do carbon fiber and other technologies scare old-school guys like you? Why or why not?
Scary? Why? It’s just a composite material and a manufacturing process. I raced on a carbon Kestrel for years and it was the best riding bike I ever owned. I even crashed it a few times and it never seemed the worse for wear. Of course that frame was hand made in the U.S. by a team who really knew what they were doing and it was only a little lighter than contemporary steel frames. It was torsionally stiffer and more comfortable, though.
Now, 15 years later carbon bikes and parts are secretively made in huge quantities in Chinese factories. They vary in design and quality from meticulously engineered, high end models to generic crap sold with various names stuck on. Some of these frames and parts are so light and either inadequately engineered or incorrectly manufactured that they fail in normal use. An acquaintance of mine nearly died when a carbon fork broke during a decent in the Alps. Now THAT scares old-skool guys like me.
Photos courtesy WorkCycles
When I found out that the Z1 frame was tipping the scales at 900g, I knew I wanted to review one. My first trip out on one came in borrowing one belonging to one of Felt’s staffers. In two rides I knew I needed to experience more.
I arranged for a frameset rather than complete bike. I had a Campy group sort of lying around waiting to go on a bike. Doing reviews this way cuts the expense for a bike company pretty radically and while I had done this on a number of occasions previously, that’s not quite what I did here. Spoiler alert: I bought the frameset.
With that out of the way, here’s why: When it comes to my views on frame geometry, high performance carbon fiber construction and weight, the Z1 comes very close to everything I want in a bike. Traditionally, my preferences have been for relatively low weight, a longish wheelbase, a tad more trail and good torsional stiffness. I also like a low bottom bracket, but as far as production frames go, that’s just a pipe dream on my part thanks to the CPSC. The Z, like all Felt road frames, has a 27cm-high BB.
As I see it, you have several alternatives. You can buy a heavier frame that will offer more impact/crash resistance. It may handle better, or it may not. It may have a superior road feel, or it may not. You can buy a frame with a lower BB, but it won’t be as light. Of course, you can choose to purchase a frame with a shorter wheelbase and less trail and those bikes abound.
My preferences aside, in absolute terms, the Felt Z1 is a remarkable and rare bicycle. To my knowledge, it is the only grand touring frame that tips the scale at less than 1kg in a 56cm frame. Even the Cervelo RS weighs more than 1kg. And while weight isn’t everything, the bike’s weight comes with an important corollary. To be that light, the frame must employ a fairly ambitious blend of intermediate, high, and ultra-high modulus carbon fiber. This blend allows for exceptionally thin-walled tubes. As a result, the Z1 has a road feel that imparts much greater sensitivity than competitive models. As much as I like the Roubaix, the Z1 has a far superior road feel.
Among cycling cognoscenti there’s a certain mistrust of bike reviews. The joke goes, “and they said it was torsionally stiff and vertically compliant.” I think the reason these assessments don’t pass the BS meter is simple. Anyone who rode steel from the Columbus SL/Reynolds 531 era knows a thing or two about vertical compliance. And if you ever rode one of the bonded aluminum Alan or Guerciotti frames, then you know a lot about vertical compliance. Today’s top-shelf carbon fiber frames are stiffer than those old frames in every single dimension. Where they really differ is in the severity of road vibration they transmit. An equally stiff frame made from steel transmits more road vibration. What gets called “compliance” by most cyclists is really just vibration damping and the beauty of carbon fiber is that some carbon fiber frame have the ability to damp a broad spectrum of vibration so that the sensation isn’t so much wet blanket, but rather volume lowered. Kind of the opposite of the amp in “This Is Spinal Tap.”
Look, this one is turned down to five.
That said, there’s also some suspicion for the notion of torsional stiffness. To this I cry foul. When I began reviewing bikes I would spend some time making sure the shifting was adjusted perfectly to eliminate the ability of componentry to color my opinion of the frame building. It was only fair.
Next, I would take the bikes out and after I was warmed up I would do a few sprints in the 53×19 (assuming the cassette was a 12-23). On most frames, I could make the outer plate of the front derailleur rub against the chain. This was my standard litmus test for bottom bracket stiffness. On those occasions in which it didn’t rub, I knew I was dealing with a bike with a really stiff bottom bracket.
That didn’t happen much.
But bottom bracket flex isn’t the whole story. Not even most of it. Once manufacturers had largely addressed BB flex a whole new issue emerged: torsional flex. The issue is familiar to avid tandem riders. Those who rode tandem back in the days of small-diameter steel-tubed tandems will remember a phenomenon referred to as “lash.” Frame twist could be so pronounced as to cause the tandem to steer in one direction or another, making handling unpredictable. Compounding matters, wheels have gotten more flexible. Some 16- and 18-spoke wheels flex like the BB used to.
Carbon fiber frames still run the gamut on flex, mostly due to their forks. Some are sheetrock stiff while others are as flexible as bamboo shoots. Sit on the top tube of a bike and twist the handlebar and you’ll be surprised how often you’ll feel the bar twist slightly and the front wheel stand firm as the fork gives.
The fork on the Z1 is the same as Felt’s F1 with two minor changes. The dropouts are made from aluminum for increased durability while they are shaped slightly differently, giving the fork 50mm of offset. The steerer, the layup of the blades, all that is exactly the same.
This idea of creating exactly the same bike in two categories is significant to me. One thing I heard consistently from women when we reviewed bikes at Asphalt was that any time a bike was offered specifically to women it almost always featured either a watered down frame or parts pick. I knew a number of successful professionals who happened to be women and they felt consistently insulted by the fact that most of the time they couldn’t buy a bike made specifically for women that would also include a top-of-the-line parts pick of Record or Dura-Ace.
So one of my bigger pet peeves is an indication by a bike company that only racers will have reason to buy an ultra-light bike with Super Record or Dura-Ace. Honestly, how many people who are racing out can both afford Super Record and would choose to race it given how much of it is likely to disintegrate in a crash?
The carbon fiber blend that gives Felt’s F1 such a distinctive feel is present in the Z1 as well as their women’s frame, the ZW1. The ZW is essentially just Felt’s Z geometry in women’s sizing.
Back to that whole flex issue. Builders who chose to builde with Columbus tubing back in the 1980s had to choose on what size frames they would begin to blend Columbus’ heavier SP tube set in order to offset the stiffness loss of the larger frame sizes. It was not uncommon to find a 56cm frame built entirely from SL while the 58cm frame featured an SP down tube for some additional stiffness while the 60cm frame would be built entirely from SP. Well carbon fiber allows you to tailor each frame’s material usage to get exactly the right flex pattern.
Because there is no limiter forced by the raw materials, Felt changes the amount of material in each frame size of the F, Z and ZW bikes. Because the ZW bikes are the smallest frames intended for riders likely to be a bit lighter, the ZW1 is actually Felt’s lightest carbon fiber frame, weighing roughly 800 grams in its smallest size.
Why do this? Imagine having the ability to create frames that offer the same flex pattern in every size. Imagine knowing that your riding experience is the same as someone four inches taller … or shorter.
When shopping for bikes, fitting is the crapshoot. Until you take a serious look at the geometry, there’s no way to know if you can fit on a given bike. Between the Z-series frames and the ZW-series (women’s) frames, the Z is available in nine sizes. From smallest to largest, the top tube lengths are as follows: 49.7, 51.5, 52.5 and 54.5, for the women’s bikes and 52.5, 54.5, 56, 57.5 and 59.5cm for the men’s bikes. I could easily have ridden the 57.5cm top tube bike, but selected the 56 due to the length of the head tube and my desire to keep the bar relatively low, while avoiding the change in handling brought about by using a really short stem.
With only five sizes for the men’s bikes there are definitely some holes in the sizing run that could be problematic for some riders. The 1.5cm jumps aren’t too bad (or uncommon), but the 2cm jumps between the 52.5cm and 54.5cm top tube bikes could pose a fitting issue, as could the 2cm jump between the 57.5cm and 59.5cm top tube bikes.
Let’s talk absolutes. I’ve ridden frames stiffer than the Z1. I’ve not ridden one lighter in a 56cm frame—my frame weighed in at 908g. It’s in a dead heat with the best frames I’ve ridden in terms of ride quality. It retails for $2599, about $200 more than Cervelo’s RS and $100 less than Specialized’s Roubaix SL2.
By creating two bikes so very similar in so many aspects, the folks at Felt brought focus to a point that doesn’t get much attention these days: geometry. At the end of the day, the only meaningful differences between the F1 and Z1 are how they handle.
The Z1 reminds me of nothing so much as the Italian road bikes I often reviewed a dozen years ago. It’s calm in a straight line, turns in easily and is responsive in a sprint.
It was at the Markleeville Death Ride nearly Lake Tahoe that I had a revelatory experience. Descending Carson Pass in a painful hail storm (I know, that’s redundant) I began to catch a 3-series Beamer at 40 mph. I couldn’t see much other than the yellow lines to my left and the white line on my right and yet I felt calm and secure. The Z1 was rock solid.
The bike’s only weakness emerges at truly high speeds. I’ve found that once I’m above 45 mph the front end starts to get a little loose, twitchy. I haven’t experienced anything as bad as a speed wobble at those high speeds, but the bike’s unperturbable nature begins to falter. In the grand scheme that’s happened fewer than 10 times and I have more than 2000 miles on this frame.
The bike industry is full of good, if ordinary, bikes. There are a number of impressive bikes as well. There are a handful of truly extraordinary bikes. The shame is that Felt’s Z1 could easily be lost among not the ordinary, but the impressive. It’s far more than that.
(A quick note on bike scores: I’ve decided I’m going to score bikes a little more stringently than I did in some of my previous reviews. I’ve revised those scores down and scores in the future will reflect that as well.)
Felt Z1: 95 points
When Felt Bicycles came back from the brink of extinction a few years back I took note. Jim Felt had been a motorcycle race mechanic for a great many big names in motocross, names like Johnny “O-show” O’Mara. He was a good fabricator and had a creative mind.
And then he got interested in triathlon.
It turns out, some of the riders he worked with were starting to do tri’s to stay fit. He started doing them as well and noticed a funny thing. He couldn’t get the triathlon bars low enough to get a truly flat back while riding a properly sized frame.
So he built a few bike frames. They were notable for quick handling and very, very short head tubes. Head tubes that in some instances measured less than 10cm. Riding a Felt was the only way to guarantee your position was as aerodynamic as possible, relative to the time. And the proof was, as they say, in the puddin’. Big names, names like Paula Newby-Fraser began to win on Felts.
In 1996 I spent a week on a Felt. Manufactured by Answer Products in Valencia, Calif., through a licensing agreement with Jim Felt, the frame was TIG-welded from 7000-series aluminum, which needed no heat-treating, thereby dropping manufacturing costs dramatically and increasing the chances that the frame was properly aligned. Back then, Answer employed a number of manufacturing staffers who were part of the ‘90s aerospace diaspora. At the time, I lived in Valencia and rode on a regular basis with a half dozen of them. A few of them told me that if they couldn’t make $60k working in aerospace, then working on bikes was at least cool.
The aerospace bit wouldn’t be important were it not for the fact that their experience made the bikes damn good. The welding was exquisite and alignment superior to any other aluminum bike I’d seen at the time.
Back to that Felt I rode in ’96. This was the same bike Chris Horner won Athens Twilight on and a career making stage at the Tour DuPont in a two-up sprint against the more experienced U.S. Postal rider, Nate Reiss; ’96 would prove to be Reiss’ last season with Postal. Oops.
The bike I rode was unlike any bike I had ever ridden. It was unusually lively for aluminum, as stiff as any Klein I had ever ridden and carried exquisite grace of a filet knife. It scared the shit out of me.
Then Answer went through what we’ll term a transition. In 2000 the new management decided to get out of the business of road bikes and cut Felt loose.
It turns out this was the best thing that could have happened to Jim Felt and his brand.
Bill Duehring, a former VP with GT and all-around industry lifer, had partnered with Michael Müllmann, the owner of one of Europe’s most successful distributors, Sport Import, and the two wanted to start a bike company. The three decided to team up and together they forged a formidable partnership. Felt was known for his ideas about frame and tubing design. Duehring was known for impeccably spec’d bikes at great price points and Müllmann had access to capital and distribution channels.
It was this incarnation of Felt that loaned me a road bike to review when I published Asphalt. Ron Peterson, the editor who reviewed the bike, lauded it for the feel of the butted Easton Scandium tubing and the handling which he adored for crit racing.
At the next Interbike the company showed off its first carbon bike, the F1. A quick look at the tube shapes told me it wasn’t an open-mold design with their decals. It was their own design, engineered in-house. The F1 was essentially the company’s long-admired road bike geometry in carbon form.
In 2007 the company introduced a new road bike model, the Z1. Like the F, the Z was offered at a number of price points, but the Z1 was notable because it used the same blend of ultra-high, high and intermediate modulus carbon fibers as the F1. The similarities ended there.
The Z-series bikes are grand touring bikes. Compared to the F-series bikes, they are built around longer head tubes (not hard to do), slacker head tube angles and more fork rake. They also get longer chainstays. The slackish head tube angle, generous fork rake and longish chainstays gave the bike a longer wheelbase while maintaining the same weight distribution between front and rear wheels as the F-series bikes.
It’s easy to be cynical and just say Felt was aping what Specialized did with the Roubaix, but there are a few differences worth noting. First, the bottom bracket is a bit higher on the Z than on the Roubaix. Next, the Z doesn’t use the Zertz vibration dampers—Felt’s head of engineering, Jeff Soucek, says he doesn’t believe they do anything to help the ride quality of the bike; I’ve argued the point with him, but that’s a different story. Third, as mentioned previously, Felt specs exactly the same blend of carbon fibers in the Z1 that goes into the flagship F1 model. My 56cm Z1 frame weighed in at 906 grams (g).
Lots of companies will talk a good sub-kilo game, but far fewer are doing it than you might think. I watched a 52cm Trek Madone—minus seat mast—tip the scales at 1133g. I haven’t had a chance to weigh a Specialized Roubaix SL2, which would be the frame analogous to the Z1, but when I asked a Specialized representative what it weighed I was told “around a kilo.” I take that to mean north of a kilo, because if it was consistently less than a kilo, that feature would be touted like the cup size of a porn star, I expect.
Let’s talk competitive models for a moment. I have to volunteer that I have some trouble taking a bike company seriously if they don’t offer a grand touring model. Now, in the case of a company such as Seven Cycles that builds bikes to suit the rider, there’s no need to offer a specific model for one geometry, but production-oriented companies are another story. Trek’s got the Pilot, Cannondale the Synapse, Cervelo the RS, Bianchi the Infinito and Giant the Defy. Interestingly, Scott claims to offer two “performance” oriented models “more relaxed geometry. Those two models, the CR1 and the Speedster are more relaxed in marketing copy alone. They have the same BB drop (6.7cm) same chainstay length (40.5cm) and same head tube angle (73 degrees for the large size) as their racing model, the Addict. Indeed, the CR1 became “relaxed” when they introduced the Addict. Perhaps they were referring to the fact that the head tube is a massive 2cm longer on the CR1 and Speedster than on the Addict. Whatever.
The vast majority of these bikes feature a watered-down carbon fiber blend (compared to flagship models) and a component spec that says century riders won’t notice an extra three or four pounds. Anyone who thinks only fast racer types will spend big bucks on a bike have completely misread the bike market. Completely.
Next: Part II
The first two hundred kilometers of the Milan – San Remo one day classic played out like a group ride with triathletes in it. The pace it’s a little too high. It’s a little more competitive than it needs to be. And all the dudes are tragically skinny.
Sure, the first two hundred k’s include a climb of the Passo del Turchino, but everyone’s fresh still at that point, and it’s too early to attack and expect to win. In this year’s versions, when the peloton hit Le Mánie at 204k things were still together, but the legs were beginning to go dead, what with the rain and the mud and another 94k to pedal.
By the time they hit the Cipressa and then the Poggio the form riders who were thinking about attacking were too frightened to risk too much. Guys were getting spit out the back like froth behind a motor boat. No one had fresh legs at that point, and Stefano Garzelli road on the front and off into the red, until a bunch sprint was all but guaranteed.
From there it really looked like Tom Boonen, the most named pre-race favorite, was in good position to take the win, but old man Oscar Freire beat him by two bike lengths to join Fausto Coppi and Roger de Vlaeminck as a three time winner of the longest one day bike race on the pro calendar.
No one on the RKP Group Ride picked Freire. We had lots of Boonens, some Petacchis, a Pozzato or two, a few picking Boasson-Hagen, a Chavanel, a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker. But no Freire. Yours truly probably came closest by picking “an experienced sprinter,” but that’s really more begging the question than picking the winner, isn’t it?
Your thoughts on the race? Do share.
The ongoing parade of new bike and gear reviews have, at times, had the ability to overwhelm the reviews written on those products we ought to remember. I began thinking about the cycling experiences that profoundly changed my perception of bicycles, shaping what I believed a bicycle could be, and the experiences one could enjoy on one.
I’ve assembled a series of vignettes of different experiences and recounted the bike I was riding at the time. Many of these moments have in common the fact that I was descending, but that isn’t the story for each of these experiences, which is why this is more than a compendium of going downhill.
1. Test ride, Miele Team
I bought a used Miele Team based on a single test ride. I wore Teva sandles and my mechanic’s apron, but by the time I made the second right turn on my brief (five minutes—tops) test ride, my brain was screaming ‘holy cow.’ Relative to the experiences I’d had on road bikes up to that time this was more lively and electric. It was as if I’d spent a lifetime eating tree bark and had just been introduced to M&Ms.
It’s still hard to say exactly what was so special about the bike, but I can share the following details. The frame was handbuilt by Miele’s expat builder, Giuseppe Ferrara (Miele was a Canadian company). It was equipped with Campy Super Record and that was my first ride on Super Record. The wheels were tubulars and though I was familiar with the ride of tuburlars, the wheels were lightweight and easy to accelerate. The bike was part of a limited run produced in 1984 identical to the bikes made for the Canadian National Team that competed at the ’84 Olympics in Los Angeles. Steve Bauer would go on to win a Silver Medal on just such a bike.
2. Mont Ventoux, Seven Cycles Axiom
In 2001, after riding the Seven for some four years, that I had an experience that was nearly religious. I was descending the north side of Mont Ventoux toward the town of Malaucene. There’s a long—5k—section of road that features only the slightest of bends and averages more than eight percent. During that drop, my speed never dropped below 51 mph. I know that you can go faster on a bike, that many people have gone a good deal faster on a bike. What I found remarkable on this ride was how calm the bike remained at this speed. Because I was at such a high speed for such a long time, I had time to think about the lethality of any screw-up I might commit, about how relaxed the bike was—specifically how the front end wasn’t getting loose—and how the bike’s relaxed demeanor allowed me to stay loose and even enjoy an existential meditation about cycling at armor piercing speeds.
As I began entering the sharper turns, switchbacks and even steeper drops, I was able to stay focused and enjoy the ride. It was a thrilling descent I would love to have repeated the moment I reached bottom.
3. Sierra, Moser Leader AX
Early every spring there is a road race in the western Sierra called the Pine Flat Road Race. In 1998 conditions were cold and wet. Cold to the tune of not quite 50 degrees at the start and wet on the order of light rain that became driving within the hour. That day I made the mistake of wearing knee warmers rather than using embrocation and the knee warmers soaked up enough water that they tried to scoot down my leg. The leg grippers ended up chafing my skin so badly I was raw to the point of bleeding at the end of the race. The howls from the shower caused my roommate to ask if I was okay.
Late in the race is a significant climb followed by a bombs-away descent. The bike I brought to race was the Moser Leader AX I was reviewing. It had an insanely low bottom bracket—26.2mm—and was built from a steep tube set that was as stiff as Al Gore. I made it over the top of the climb a few minutes off the leaders and with three riders hot on the chase. I picked off two riders on the descent which I conducted with no brakes in driving rain. I couldn’t see anyone chasing me by the time I reached the bottom.
4. Los Angeles, Merlin Extralight ‘Cross
I spent one season riding a Merlin Extralight ‘Cross bike in the Urban Cyclocross series. The tubing was not particularly large in diameter and the wall thickness was miniscule. There were times when riding the bike felt a bit like I was pedaling a hammock.
What I came to realize was that it was possible to become accustomed to riding an especially flexible frame without the experience being alarming. You simply get used to it. I’m sure Sean Kelly could share a thing or two about this experience. For all that its handling wasn’t, pedaling in the saddle over rough ground was noticeably less jarring than on the steel bike I’d been riding.
5. Vercors, Eddy Merckx Alu Road
The Eddy Merckx Alu Road is far from my favorite bike. Out of the saddle, hands on the hoods, the bike was great fun. On rough roads, I got rattled like I was a maraca in the hands of Carlos Santana’s percussionist. It was despite this quality that I learned an important lesson: Trust the bike.
I was on an Erickson Cycle Tours trip through the Alps. We were on the southernmost portion of the trip, riding through a mountainous area that wasn’t technically the Alps. Just south of Grenoble is an area called the Vercors. Several thousand feet above Grenoble is the town of Villard de Lans, which has hosted the starts and finishes of several Tour de France stages. I was engaged in chasing James, a former Cat. 1 racer, and Stella, a Masters’ World Record Holder in speed skiing. She had managed to control a set of skis at better than 145 mph.
They would sprint down descents, accelerating toward switchbacks long after I thought braking was the reasonable choice. Unlike Formula 1, where they tell you not to let the driver ahead of you drive your car, I didn’t brake until I saw either Stella or James get closer to me. Very often I was braking after the braking bumps had begun. The sensation of braking so late was adrenal and I would arrive at the bottom of descents close on their wheels and with my heart rate knocking on my threshold. To this day I’m not sure I’ve descended with as much abandon.
6. Pyrenees, Serotta Ottrott
Reader lobbying encouraged Serotta to loan me an Ottrott for a review at Asphalt. I quickly grew to love the bike and valued its calm demeanor on twisty descents in Malibu and Palos Verdes. I attributed its character to a few important details. First, the bottom bracket was the lowest of any bike I’d ever ridden, some 26.0cm. The wheelbase was on the longish side relative to most bikes that size and then there was the fork. The Serotta F1 fork may not have been light and may have used intermediate modulus carbon fiber by the pound, but they managed to build a fork that felt so smooth you’d swear it featured suspension. My one and only criticism of that bike was its weight. My 58.5cm top tube frame weighed 3 lbs., 6 oz. By comparison, my all-ti Seven Cycles Axiom was built six years earlier and weighed 3 oz. less. If this bike had been even the slightest nick under 3 lbs., I would have called it the greatest frame of all time.
I called the folks at Serotta to see if they’d allow me to take it with me on a trip to the Pyrenees; they agreed. On descents that undulated, heaved, bumped and knocked, the Ottrot performed like a Swiss banker—with calm, unperturbed assurance. That’s not to say I didn’t encounter some descents that made me nervous. The west side of the Col de Marie Blanque made me wonder how bantamweight Spanish climbers on the ONCE team made it down that descent on aluminum Giants. I just couldn’t fathom how they managed, not without the benefit of daily training on a mechanical bull.
The Ottrott confirmed to me beyond doubt that bikes with lower bottom brackets perform better on descents. That’s not to say you can’t get downhill on a bike with a high-ish bottom bracket, such as that of the 27.2cm-high Specialized Tarmac, but if you want a bike that is as Braman bull relaxed and Olympic gymnast nimble, a bike with a low bottom bracket will give you what you seek. And so far as I know, Serotta is the only builder doing anything approximating production work with a bottom bracket that low.
It’s an interesting grab-bag of bikes. Some are favorites, some not, but each was memorable for one reason or another. I think most bikes give us teachable moments; it’s up to us to pay attention.
What? A Group Ride on a Thursday? Well, yes. I promised when the Het Nieuwsblad Group Ride went off a few short hours before the race itself got underway that I’d do a better job as the season went on. So here we are, all standing around the parking lot, unexpectedly, pulling up our warmers and sucking on our water bottles and waiting for someone, anyone, to head out.
Rather predictably, this week’s topic of discussion will be the 300k ‘classicisima’ Milan – San Remo. This is the sprinters’ classic and one of the monuments of the sport. You know. It’s important.
And accordingly, the list of favorites is as long as your arm, which is a curt way of saying there is no favorite. Last year Mark Cavendish shocked the cycling world by dragging himself over the races many climbs in good enough working order to win the sprint at the end. It was an announcement that the one-trick pony had added another trick, a really good one.
But, Young Cav has crashed on the final stage of Tirreno – Adriatico, and, if we’re clinical about this, he hasn’t really seemed to round into form just yet, so those who might otherwise say he’s the man to beat are keeping their powder dry at the moment.
So who else is in it to win it? Well, the list takes in a selection of the peloton‘s strong men and sprinters. It looks something like this: Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Juan-Antonio Flecha and Edvald Boasson-Hagen (both Sky), Tyler Farrar (Garmin), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Philipe Gilbert (Omega Pharma Lotto), Filippo Pozzato (Katusha). And those are just the light colored horses. There are dark ones, too.
I won’t even break this down and tell you why each of these riders can win. These folks have already done it.
What I will do is ask you who YOU think will win it and why? Two weeks ago, frequent commenter Champs called Paris-Nice, but really, picking Contador isn’t a very risky maneuver, is it Champs?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International