Since Johann van Summeren hoisted the winner’s cobble in the Roubaix velodrome on Sunday, much has been made of Garmin-Cervelo’s tactical approach to the problem that is Fabian Cancellara. Garmin team manager Jonathan Vaughters said well in advance of the race that the key to beating the big, strong Swiss is to attack with your whole team, to be involved in every phase of the race and to isolate him from his teammates. Obviously, that approach paid dividends in the North of France.
Much less has been made of Leopard-Trek’s tactical failings. When you have the strongest rider in the race (and will anyone argue that Cancellara is not head and shoulders above the rest?), your entire strategy should revolve around protecting him, keeping him out of the wind, covering breakaways, etc. The failure to win in either Flanders or Roubaix was not a result of Cancellara not being strong enough, but rather a product of Leopard-Trek’s complete inability to support their leader.
At Roubaix, the Leopards deployed Stuart O’Grady, himself a former winner, as their top liuetenant, and O’Grady did his job until a puncture with 50kms to go shook him out of the favorite’s group. From then on Cancellara was on his own while Garmin-Cervelo had four riders either with Cancellara or up the road. It was one-on-four, and Spartacus was still strong enough to take second place.
It’s fairly inexcusable to squander a talent like Cancellara’s. Looking down the Leopard-Trek roster though, you have to ask, who exactly, beyond O’Grady was the team counting on to do the Swiss’ dirty work?
In the schism that split the Schleck brothers from SaxoBank and Bjarne Riis, the main players initially were the Schlecks and Alberto Contador. It is unclear, to this writer, which happened first, the Schleck’s planning to leave, or Riis planning to bring in the Spaniard. Regardless, the symmetry of those moves seems to have worked fine for both SaxoBank and Leopard-Trek. Each has a grand tour contender and supporting cast built for putting that contender on the podium.
But where a squad like Garmin-Cervelo or even the new version of SaxoBank-Sungard have filled out their teams with guys who are useful in one day races, Leopard-Trek brought Cancellara over without ever securing him the help he would need to achieve his goals. The Swiss strongman has spoken of his desire to help the Schleck’s win the Tour de France, but what have you heard his teammate’s wanting on his behalf?
The tactical error, the one that seems to have cost Cancellara his shot at repeating the Flanders/Roubaix double this season, wasn’t his decision to sit up with 25kms to go on the road to Roubaix or his failure to see the threat Nick Nuyens posed at Flanders. Rather, it was his decision to leave a team with the talent and tactical nous to win a monument, and join a team whose vision was too narrowly focused to bring success to the strongest rider in today’s peloton.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
We are fortunate, here at RKP, to have access to the panoply of great photos being shot from roadside in Europe by John Pierce. This batch came in shortly after the race, and provides ample illustration of how, even on a beautiful spring day, Paris-Roubaix can be a brutal and punishing race not for the faint of heart or backside.
The large breakaway group in another dusty section of pavé. Spare a thought for the poor, Mavic neutral service moto, soaking up all those bumps to tend to mechanicals in stretches team cars are not allowed to follow.
Johan van Summeren throwing his wobbly victory salute, quite possibly the single greatest moment he will ever have on a bicycle. The lanky Belgian doubled down by asking his girlfriend to marry him, shortly after spraying the Roubaix crowd with valedictory champagne.
A close-up of van Summeren, exhausted after pushing off the front and time-trialing to the finish, a worthy victor. You can nearly make out the smear of Belgian toothpaste (dust) that coats his weary smile.
Garmin-Cervelo’s bruised, battered and filthy Tyler Farrar looking far from triumphant at the finish in Roubaix. Farrar hit the deck at the Scheldeprijs just a few days before Paris-Roubaix, and then had his day in France ended prematurely by a further crash.
Images: John Pierce, Photosport International
What a difference a year can make. The second edition of the Gran Fondo Colnago San Diego was the wettest ride of my entire life. Almost six hours of nonstop rain. This year we had blue skies, warm temperatures and smiling people. And Ferraris. Actually, we had Ferraris last year, but I was closer to them this time.
The businesses that comprise San Diego’s Little Italy have shown great support for the event; some even had custom kits made up just for the event. And with the nicer weather, I didn’t see anyone heading back to their hotel before the start.
I’m pleased to report that the national anthem was performed admirably, but the music that had me most excited came from these three little pipes here.
I had hoped we would have the Ferraris and Ducattis lead us for the entire ride, but that wasn’t to be. We did, however, enjoy a smoother start with enough controlled intersections to get us through the first 10 miles or so, just enough to get us most of the way out of San Diego and into the ‘burbs.
This is an expression I did not see last year. A lead group quickly formed at the front and two or three riders punched on each hill. While the pace at the front was firm, it wasn’t unreasonable. I’ve said it before: One of my favorite features of gran fondos is the way a mass-start sorts the riders. There were a number of bandit starters, but we rolled by them quickly enough that they rarely tried to jump in. I spent the entire day with capable riders who knew how to conduct themselves in a pack.
Conditions were breezy for most of the day and most climbs felt a bit more difficult than their actual pitch due to the wind. I’m currently suffering from a pinched nerve that limits my ability to go hard, so I backed off on the hills. Over the top, there were always a few strong riders to regroup with.
This is Tim—the man formerly known as Masiguy—Jackson. I’ve known Tim for years but have never encountered an opportunity to spend more than about 20 minutes with him. Interbike will do that. Though Tim started his racing career as a beanpole climber, he discovered the track some years back and underwent the most amazing metamorphosis; he became a sprinter. He also put on 60 pounds. Riding behind him was a bit like sitting in the middle of the pack. He punched such a big hole in the air that I barely had to pedal. I spent most of the day with him.
I began calling Tim “The Mop” for the way he would pick up riders as we rolled. One cyclist who hitched on to our group was riding a very beat steel bike with a cobbled set of components. He had the look of a new rider who was going to be in the sport for good. Unfortunately, his chain broke and while one of the rest stop mechanics fixed it in a flash, no sooner did we head out from the stop than he dropped off with more problems. A shame.
This is how I’ll remember our ride. A firm tempo, interrupted with a few leisurely stops. This is what living is all about.
The San Diego Custom Bicycle Show took place this past weekend, still in San Diego (might explain the name) but in a new location, historic Golden Hall, which has been played by the likes of The Who, The Rolling Stones and even The Clash. Nearly 40 different builders attended, joined by another 26 industry exhibitors. With the new location the extra space created an impression that the show was a bit smaller than years past, even though the overall number of exhibitors was up.
I attended Friday and Saturday and while I expected overall attendance to be thin on Friday, I was shocked that foot traffic didn’t increase a lot on Saturday. I like this show a lot. It has a loose, relaxed feel to it, compared to the frenetic pace of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, which is really just due to the increased number of exhibitors and attendees—nothing wrong with that. The thing about the San Diego show is that it’s possible to have a half-hour conversation with a personal frame building hero. Of course, if more people attended, those conversation would be shorter, but if that’s what’s necessary to keep the thing going, I’m okay with that.
Greg Townsend of Townsend Cycles is a Los Angeles-based builder who is doing some terrific work. I loved these half lugs on this track bike. He’s got a great sense of the history and tradition of frame building.
NAHBS is expensive enough now that some builders told me they flat-out can’t afford to attend, which is a shame. The upshot is that there were builders, many very fine ones, in fact, who exhibited at SDCBS who didn’t go to NAHBS, which took care of the one criticism I heard from friends who had decided not to go—they were afraid they’d see stuff they had already seen in Austin. The overlap in bikes was tiny.
The SDCBS gave me an opportunity to spend some quality time talking with builders not only about building, but family, where cycling fits in their world and what they do when they aren’t either building or riding bikes.
Jeff Tiedeken of Monkey Likes Shiny was the most original thinker present and knows how to start a party. Jeff doesn’t work with bikes too often; most of his work is for outfits like NASA, that like to keep him quiet about his contributions.
Eric Estlund of Winter Bicycles is fond of bi-laminate work. This head-tube cutout was gorgeous. The bi-laminate approach gives him the opportunity to show off his fillet brazing as well as his ability to cut lugs.
Last year Bruce Gordon showed off a carbon bike with ti lugs he built with Mike Lopez. This is #2 of 2. I dare anyone to try to find prettier work that has been performed in titanium. The tapered point kills me.
I shot hundreds of images. I’ll add a photo gallery soon.
I watched yesterday’s Paris-Roubaix twice. There were so many pivotal moments, I needed the second viewing to make sure I’d seen what I thought I’d seen. To my eye, it looked as though with 30kms to go and the gap to the breakaway plummeting, Fabian Cancellara sat up and decided to have a chat with his team car. At that juncture the gap was 25 seconds. When the big Swiss decided, in concert with his director, to put his head down again and ride on, the gap was back up to 1 minute 10 seconds.
I don’t know for certain what Cancellara wanted to talk about, but I would guess he was concerned that, in bridging up to the break, he would merely be towing his companions, Thor Hushovd and Alessandro Ballan, up to their teammates in the lead group, thus burning all his matches to double the strength of his opponents.
Sitting at home, I was finding it very hard to believe that Garmin-Cervelo’s endgame was to sacrifice Hushovd’s chances to give Johan van Summeren a shot at victory in the velodrome, but that’s exactly what happened. Shortly after Cancellara’s team meeting, van Summeren attacked the lead group, forced a gap and rode solo to victory.
Behind him, Cancellara seemed to have resigned himself to defeat until a frantic, late attack saw him dash to the front of the race, albeit behind van Summeren, and snatch 2nd place from a small group of breakaway survivors. Ballan settled for 6th, Hushovd for 8th.
In effect, Garmin-Cervelo won this race when they were able to put van Summeren in the break and keep Hushovd on Cancellara’s wheel. From the time Cancellara forced a selection from the chase group, a move that eliminated everyone but Hushovd and Ballan, he was stuck. He couldn’t bridge for fear of linking his opponents to strong teammates, and he couldn’t sit in and draft, because Leopard-Trek had no one in the break. This was the triumph of tactics (and luck) over pure strength.
All of this sells short the effort van Summeren made to take the biggest win of his career. From a lead bunch that contained experienced powerhouses like Lars Bak, Lars Boom, and Gregory Rast, finding the strength and resolve to attack and win off the front was nothing short of breath-taking. Van Summeren found himself in a break full of top lieutenants and showed that, on a team that boasts Hushovd, Tyler Farrar and Heinrich Haussler, he was more than worthy of being promoted to captain.
Some other observations, it must have broken Hushovd’s heart to think he had the legs to stick with Cancellara all day, the strength to outsprint the Swiss, but had to sit-in and slow his roll to allow a teammate to win. He gave up his chance at winning Paris-Roubaix in the world champion’s rainbow stripes to watch a teammate climb to the top of the podium. Bittersweet.
Maarten Tjallingii? Rabobank? 3rd Place? Yeah, that happened.
Ballan must be the big loser here. He showed guts to fight his way back up to Hushovd and Cancellara when they’d dropped him, but his teammate in the break, Manuel Quinziato, didn’t justify Ballan’s sacrifice in sitting on the Leopard-Trek rider. Ballan made the same sacrifice as Hushovd and took 6th place for his trouble.
Next to Ballan, crying in the corner, you’d probably find QuickStep’s dynamic duo of Tom Boonen and Sylvain Chavanel. Both of them found it necessary to kiss the pavement multiple times, the former crashing out altogether, the latter finishing in 38th, next to his brother Sébastian. Consolingly, Chavanel did get an inspiring cameo on TV, fighting back from his crash, bloody and torn. That shot is sure to make it into race promos for years to come.
Speaking of broken hearts, if you’d told me two weeks ago that Belgians would win in both Flanders and Roubaix, and that neither of them would be named Gilbert or Boonen, and that neither of them would come from teams based in Belgium, I’d have chuckled. Nuyens and van Summeren are top pros, for sure, but nobody saw these results coming. Nobody.
A final note for the DNFs. This year’s list of non-finishers includes a lot of big names: Stuart O’Grady, Roger Hammond, Heinrich Haussler, Geraint Thomas, Matt Goss, Mark Cavendish, Tom Boonen, Pippo Pozzato, Leif Hoste, Bjorn Leukemans, Allan Davis and virtually all of Movistar and Euskaltel (each team finished one rider).
Thanks also to the guys at Pavé who allowed me to join in on their Live Chat of the race. It was a lot of fun, and I hope some of you got to chime in.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Either my embrocation is tingling in places I didn’t apply it, or I’m really, really excited for Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. Watching last week’s Tour of Flanders reminded me (as if I needed reminding) just what’s so special about one-day races in April, and this week we get to see perhaps the most brutal race of the season.
Where Flanders is long and winding and roll-y and technical, lending itself to all sorts of tactical scheming (see: Nuyens, Nick), Roubaix is a race of pure attrition. There is one tactic, stay upright and on the front.
A quick review of the favorites looks much like last week’s Flanders preview. Fabian Cancellara and Stuart O’Grady from LeOpard-Trek. Nick “Nothing to See Here” Nuyens from SaxoBank-Sungard. Thor Hushovd, Tyler Farrar, Heinrich Haussler and Roger Hammond from Garmin-Cervelo. Tom Boonen and Sylvain Chavanel from QuickStep. Big George Hincapie from BMC. Juan Antonio Flecha, Geraint Thomas and Matt Hayman from Team Sky. Bjorn Leukemans from Vacansoleil. Matt Goss and Bernhard Eisel from HTC-Columbia. Peter Sagan from Liquigas.
In the category of likely winners, we can only include Cancellara, Hushovd, Boonen and Flecha. However, if Flanders taught us anything last week, it’s that “likely” isn’t nearly as powerful a modifier when applied to the winners of bike races as it is to the possibility of having to work at a job you hate for the rest of your working days.
Some of the riders in my list need certain, specific scenarios to play out for them to have any chance, but in this race, anything is possible. For example, Stuart O’Grady, who has won this race before, will be riding for Cancellara. If Cancellara’s legs are bad or some mechanical takes him out of contention, O’Grady has the power and experience to be Leopard-Trek’s man on the line.
Similarly, Hushovd should be Garmin-Cervelo’s ace, but he was crap last week, where Farrar seemed strong. Of course, Farrar went down in a heap in the bunch sprint at Scheldeprijs on Wednesday, so he’s carrying some damage. This team needs a win badly, and, depending on the situation on Heinrich Haussler has been no where recently, but with question marks over team leadership, Garmin could opt for any of these guys, or even Roger Hammond who is massively experienced and perfectly suited to the horrible terrain this race takes in.
While Flecha remains Team Sky’s top guy, anyone who watched Geraint Thomas pounding away on the front for his captain last week knows the young Welshman is strong enough to make his own race. Matt Hayman also has the characteristics of a Roubaix winner, big, strong, indifferent to pain.
Tom Boonen and Quick Step took a lot of flack for only finishing 2nd and 4th in Flanders. While Sylvain Chavanel has the build to do well in the Belgian race, he’s probably not a big enough brute to challenge in the North of France. But then, who saw him finishing ahead of Boonen AND Cancellara in the Ronde?
I’ll not waste a lot more pixels on the rest of the contenders. There seem to be a lot of folks who want (and still believe) Hincapie can win this race. I’m not one of them, but that doesn’t mean much. Bjorn Leukemans won’t win it either, except that he’s a sneaky bastard who is always there or thereabouts.
This is your preview. We picked Paris-Roubaix winners last week on the Group Ride, but you have more information now. You’ve seen all the horses run. Pick again. Can Cancellara come back? Will Boonen have the gas without Chavanel up the road? Have we missed someone you think has a legitimate (or sentimental) shot at hoisting that giant cobble trophy in the velodrome at Roubaix?
I will be joining the fine fellows at Pavé for their Feed Zone Live Chat, starting around 7am EDT Sunday. We’ll have the Sporza internet feed dialed up, the coffee brewed and the wise cracks flowing like champagne off the podium steps, so please do join us. It’s sure to be a (metric) ton of fun.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
I’ve been wearing these for more than a year and can say they are holding up exceedingly well. We have two each of Large and XXL and one pair of XL. If you have any additional questions, just drop us a note in the comments.
They are going for $95 plus shipping. Check ‘em out here.
This week I got a visit from Zipp’s head of marketing and media relations. He stopped by with examples of their new designs, in particular, the new Firecrest 808s and the carbon clincher 404s, which also benefit from Zipp’s new Firecrest rim shape.
You’ll find below this post my belated review of the previous iteration of the 404 in tubular form. It is unequivocally the fastest wheel I had ever ridden. Well, it used to be. I’ve ridden the 808 and it, well, I’ll get to that.
Deep-section carbon fiber wheels all have a “V” shape in cross section, that is, except for Zipps. The 404s I’ve been riding employ a hybrid-toroidal shape that makes them both faster and easier to handle. The new Firecrest shape doesn’t really look fast when viewed in cross-section. It looks rather fat and not exactly fast. Looks are often deceiving.
Not only is the Firecrest shape faster, it adds stability in a cross wind and increases rim strength for impact over rough road (or pavé). The most surprising aspect of the Firecrest shape is how Zipp engineers were able to tune the shape in the 404 and 808 so that the center of pressure, that is, the focal point of a cross-wind’s pressure on the rim was not only near the steering axis, but slightly behind it. The thrust here is that a cross wind from the rider’s left didn’t push the rider to the right, but rather ever-so-slightly steered the rider left and into the wind, making these wheels stunningly stable in a cross wind. To ride the 808′s stability in a cross wind is to know the meaning of unlikely.
Total claimed weight on the 808s is 1519g. That said, there’s a fair amount of carbon that constitutes rotating mass. Even though the wheel is reasonably light, I wondered just how easy it would be to accelerate. What surprised me was they were as easy to accelerate as any of my lightweight clinchers.
The wide rim bed (25.94mm front and 26.24mm rear) gave the tires an ideal platform to retain their true tubular shape. Cornering on a twisting descent on the 808s was Cirque du Soleil-nimble. Brake response was decidedly even and smooth, but one small word of warning: This rim shape is very wide. Brake set up and brake shoe position are such that you won’t be able to swap other wheels in or out for the 808s without taking some time to adjust both the brake and the brake shoes.
This was but one ride and Zipp has more patented and trademarked technologies that I’ll go into later when I’ve had a chance to ride these wheels in greater depth. My initial sense is that the new 808s are the fastest wheels I’ve ever ridden by a couple of country miles.
Author’s note: I began a review of the Zipp 404s in late 2009. Along the way, I ran into a few issues with the wheel and took my time getting answers and assistance from Zipp. My mistake. Within days of being ready to run the review, Zipp announced the new Firecrest rims as well as other changes to the design of the 404s, including a new all-carbon clincher. I shelved the review until I rode the new Firecrest 808s this week and realized I needed to post this review as a prelude to what I’d say about Zipp wheels in the future.—Padraig
My experience with Zipp products goes back 15 years. In 1996 I rode a set of Zipp 440s, which are analogous to today’s 404s. They were ungodly stiff, had the menacing sound of a carnivorous machine and a fiberglass braking surface. The Dura-Ace brake pads bit down as if the bike was equipped with disc brakes; I actually slid forward on my saddle the first time I hit the brakes. I hated the brake response so much it clouded my opinion of the bike they were on; I plain didn’t like riding the wheels, no matter how aerodynamic they were.
A few months later I had the pleasure of reviewing the Zipp 530s, which were essentially the same wheel in clincher form with an aluminum braking surface. When I say pleasure, I mean that I loved the wheels so thoroughly I didn’t want to send them back. Yes, they were heavier than the 440s, but a less-than-1600g set of aerodynamic clinchers was all-but unknown in 1996. The combination of unchanged brake response, decreased weight (relative to other clinchers), the ease of changing flats with clinchers and improved aerodynamics struck me as the proverbial unbeatable combination.
In my review I noted that I weighed the wheels without skewers, tires, tubes and cassette. The accompanying reviews in our roundup of carbon fiber wheels didn’t note that and as a result, Zipp’s founder, Andy Ording, got the idea that readers would believe that only his wheels had be weighed that way, potentially creating the impression that Zipp wheels were heavier relative to the competitors’ wheels. His follow-up phone call resulted in an extra body cavity for me. With friends like me, he reasoned, he didn’t need competitors.
I’m not sure anyone came to the conclusion he feared; it required a leap of illogic more cynical than most bike geeks would make. Regardless, the call left a lasting impression. While I felt badly that he believed my review resulted in a less favorable presentation than I intended, I was more impressed by his passion. Ording was a guy who simply wouldn’t tolerate being outdone.
Wind tunnel testing and composites engineering are present-tense advertising bywords. You’ll find them in copy from Specialized, Cervelo, Felt … and Zipp. However, those were bywords common to Zipp (and almost no one else other than Kestrel) in the 1990s. So long as Ording had any say in it, there would be no wheels lighter and more aerodynamic than Zipps.
We’ve all heard of the now-famous Kona Count. Every manufacturer goes to Ironman Hawaii and counts just how many athletes have spent their kids’ college tuition on their gear. Kona is the canary in the coalmine of triathlete purchase trends. Spinergy, once one of the most popular brands among triathletes, now has a less than 1 percent share of the wheels at Kona. And Zipp? More athletes purchase their wheels than all other brands added together.
There’s a reason why an amateur athlete will spend more than two grand on a set of wheels: They are fast. Damn fast. In a sport full of agonizing decisions, Zipp is the no-brainer answer to fast wheels.
For me, it had been a while since I last rode a set of Zipp wheels for more than a day or two. I had a few days on a set of 202s and they were sweet enough to fill my head with thoughts of larceny, but it had been nearly ten years since I’d last done a dozen rides or more on a set.
The 404s I’ve been riding were the latest and greatest for 2010: ABLC dimpling to make them slice through the wind faster than a speeding golf ball, tubular construction for the lowest possible weight, Carbon Bridge technology and the VCLC system to increase impact resistance while cutting vibration transmission. They also roll on ceramic bearings. Prior to glue, tires, skewers and cassette, the wheels weighed a measly 1238 grams. I’ve had meals that weighed more than that.
If we take Zipp at their word that they have devoted more than 100 hours of wind tunnel time to the 404, testing its response to the wind blowing from 0 to 30 degrees (broken down in five-degree increments—that’s seven different angles), that’s six figures of development cost right there. If there is a more thoroughly researched wheel on the market, I’d like to hear about it.
In riding, several details of my experience made the bulk of my verdict about the wheels. The critical factors were speed, weight, braking performance and even sound.
Speed: There’s no way to tell where the increased speed due to aerodynamic factors stops and reduced friction from the ceramic bearings starts. The combination of the two made the 404s quite noticeably the fastest wheel I’ve ever ridden. Cynics, take note; my assertion isn’t just lacey language. While I could do nothing to override my impression of instant adrenal power, I have several objective factors to back up my impression. I made a habit of taking my HR up to 155 on these wheels and with other wheels. I consistently rode 1-2 mph faster with the 404s. Even more apparent was the way the wheels rolled when coasting; when coming up to turns in a group I found myself needing to brake earlier and sometimes more firmly than usual because I was running up on the rider in front of me. Add up the reduced rolling resistance of the clinchers, the improved aerodynamics of the rim and the reduced friction from the ceramic bearings and these wheels just rolled and rolled.
Weight: As I mentioned, my set of wheels with no skewers, tires, valve extenders or cassette weighed just 1238g. Lighter wheels exist, but the combination of F1 aerodynamics for high speed and ballet dancer weight for long climbs makes me think I can eat the cake I keep.
Braking performance: Using the Swiss Stop-made Zipp brake pads, I found the brake performance to be the most even of any carbon fiber wheel I’ve ridden. On every other wheel I’ve ridden the pads will grip more firmly on one part of the rim. This inconsistent brake response is disconcerting and has the ability to cause heat buildup at that point on the rim. I’ll address that particular problem—and its ramifications—in another post.
Sound: Some bikes sound as cool as they look. The 404s are the only set of wheels in the sub-60mm rim category that impart some of the sound of a disc wheel. The white noise whoosh a disc makes has always given me an electric surge and the 404s include a dash of it, kinda like the packages of hot sauce you get with your burrito.
Okay, now for the downside. No, I’m not talking about the $2285 price tag of the tubulars with ceramic bearings, I’m talking about the aspects of these wheels that weren’t grand-slam perfect. These wheels are so close to ideal, both you and the folks at Zipp deserve to hear about the wheels’ few blemishes.
Rim balance: With the aluminum (not brass) valve extenders attached to the tires’ valves, I experienced a noticeable weight imbalance. Out on the road, a noticeable pulsing feel emerged at speeds above 30 mph. It was a little disconcerting on descents. Even when I added wheel magnets to opposite spokes, I couldn’t completely overcome the weight imbalance; the valve extender always spun to the bottom of the wheel when the bike was in the stand. When I asked the folks at Zipp about the phenomenon, they said they had two choices and they chose the lighter wheel and believe their customers prefer it that way.
Spoke tension: I had two spokes on the rear wheel detension to a significant degree within the first 400 miles of riding. I don’t know the cause, but I suspect the spoke tension was not ultra-consistent around the wheel. After so many flawless miles on Easton wheels, I have come to expect wheels that stay true over a longer term. Proper spoke prep and even tension shouldn’t be an issue with these wheels, but I was able to correct it without rebuilding the wheel.
Creaking: I had a devil of a time tracing creaks in both the front and rear wheels. They creaked from the first mile. Getting this corrected took months of fiddling.
The Zipp 404 is the best all-around wheel I have ever ridden. Full stop. The technical term for this is funfunfunfunfun. These wheels are a benchmark by which I can measure all others, the Muhammed Ali of wheels. Perhaps this is the assessment Ording had hoped for all those years ago.
Because I am a cyclist I have dirty hands. I can’t be bothered to pull on latex gloves before I commence to wrenching, and it seems no matter how much degreaser I work through my oily digits, I still end up with every crack and crevice of my winter-blanched skin outlined in black. I do the best I can to hide this at business meetings, but in the end, who cares? I am a cyclist.
Because I am a cyclist I don’t smell that great. To shower as prodigiously as I ride would leave me in a more or less permanent state of prunishness, which, on balance, would be slightly less attractive than my persistent odor.
Because I am a cyclist, I know things about materials science and nutrition and psychology.
Because I am a cyclist I perceive the distances between things differently than other people. I think more about effort than parking. When someone refers to a hill as steep, I know exactly how steep it is. I am fully topographic.
Because I am a cyclist I am keenly attuned to the weather. I know which way the wind blows. I understand the dew point and its implications for perspiration, hydration and recovery. I know when the snow will fly and how deep I can let it get before escape (from work) becomes impracticable. I understand how wet “really wet” is, and know that I can clean the road grime from my calves in the sink, as long as I get to work before most everyone else.
Because I am a cyclist I watch sporting events on crappy internet feeds from foreign lands, in languages I can’t speak. I look forward to races that most of my friends haven’t heard of, in cities approximately 0.1% of Americans could find on a map.
Because I am a cyclist I know that when I am suffering I am learning things about nutrition, psychology, weather and most importantly, about myself, that I could not learn without smelling bad, having dirty hands, being dry, in a car, on the couch, in front of a baseball game.
That’s just how it is. When you are a cyclist.