It’s been written that this isn’t an age for creeds. I’m not one to argue with that view. However, for most of us cycling isn’t so much a sport as it is a belief. What we take from cycling, from the fitness gained to victories earned, can be summed up as lessons. We’ve learned things, things that influence how we see the world.
The central truth of cycling in my life has been that in suffering on the bike, I’ve gained insights that have informed me, taught me about the world in ways I could never have guessed, nor even wanted. While the Zen koan “knowledge is pain” is beyond true, it doesn’t speak to the journeys we make, either literally on the bike, or metaphorically through the bike. ‘To suffer is to learn’ is the simplest, most direct recognition I can make for what cycling has given me.
So why not have it on a T-shirt?
One of the unanticipated dividends of starting a blog has been the opportunity to explore fun projects with an extraordinarily gifted graphic designer. The upshot is getting to commission some of the coolest items I’ve enjoyed as a cyclist. Joe Yule at Stage One Sports is simply the best graphic designer I’ve worked with—and I’ve worked with some good ones. He’s responsible for everything from the RKP logo to the kit and, of course, our popular Roubaix T-shirt.
I just asked him to make a shirt he’d like to wear.
“So I have this friend who might like to join the ride,” he said.
This is the sort of thing I hear regularly, and I always say, “All are welcome”
“Yeah, well, the thing is, he doesn’t have a road bike. He has sort of a hybrid-y, commuter thing he rides, but he’s pretty strong, and I just didn’t know whether you thought that was a bad idea or not.”
And I said, “All are welcome. If he can hang, he can hang.”
I haven’t been organizing this particular ride very long, maybe six months. We started as three, all dads from my kids’ school, lighting out at 6 a.m. on Saturdays., riding 40-60 miles, and trying to be home before the cartoons end and the coffee goes cold.
In the beginning it was very straight forward. The three of us were pretty equal and very laid back. We talked a lot and rode not very hard, except when we felt like it. You can imagine that this sort of thing is very appealing to men of a certain age, passionate enough to get out of bed at 6 a.m., but daddy-tired after a long week. In short order there were four of us, then five, then seven.
Very quickly a group ride takes on a culture and tone, and mostly guys know well enough to invite only those who are looking for that sort of a ride. Mostly.
What I learned a long time ago, from organizing group rides and pick up soccer games, is that you can’t try to control the group dynamic. Any attempt to mold and shape such a thing invariably leads to failure, frustration and less fun. Rather, these things have a very Darwinian arc, constantly evolving, adapting and producing newer, better groups. Mostly.
So this guys shows up on his commuter bike. Flat bars. Fenders. One inch tires. And we roll out from the coffee shop, and he’s hanging in just fine, but then it’s early. The group is rolling pretty hard. Maybe a few are testing the guy, seeing if he’s serious and if he’s going to make it.
It’s not until the hills come about 20 miles in that he starts to drop off the back. I go back and pace him a bit, give him some advice about climbing at his own pace, getting back on on the descents, following wheels as much as possible. He’s a nice guy. He’s listening. He’s suffering. I respect that.
He doesn’t fit in at all. We’re all in lycra with tippy-tappy shoes. We’re on race horses. He’s wearing baggies, like a mountain biker, and his bike is, at best, a trail pony. But I don’t like to tell people they can’t ride with us. I like to let them decide. Is it too hard for him? Is being paced back to the group and told how to ride embarrassing? Does he feel out of place? These are not my questions to answer. They’re his.
My job is to give him enough information to make an informed decision, and while I don’t really love dropping back on every incline to drag guys back into the fold, there is something rewarding about it. I’m repaying the guys who let me ride their wheels, who told me not to overlap wheels and taught me how to up-shift before climbing out of the saddle. This is the group dynamic. Circle of life. Hakuna Matata.
I try to see it this way: If I ride hard, on the front, I will enjoy myself. If I’m not strong, and I follow wheels, I will enjoy myself. And, if I play sweeper, and dangle off the back to keep the dots connected, I will enjoy myself. Even though I organize it, the ride is not mine. It belongs to the group. We’re better when we ride together, and it’s very gratifying to see new guys come in and integrate themselves, have fun. It’s one more smiling face, at the coffee shop, at 6 a.m.
In the early 1990s, I could count on one hand the number of helmets that fit me. Actually, I didn’t need all of my hand. I only needed two fingers. Even among those two, one fit better and it also stayed in place better. This wasn’t a matter of comfort; back then there were serious issues to just getting a helmet to stay put.
A lot has changed since then. I can wear more brands and all of those helmets not only fit better, they stay in place. However, that doesn’t mean I can wear just any helmet. I’d look like a fool if I wore the new Catlike helmet because my name doesn’t have an “X” in it and my blood doesn’t run Basque orange. There’s also something vaguely crab-like in appearance that makes it rather unsettling. Style issues aside, though I love the look of Bell helmets, and they fit comfortably on my head, I haven’t been able to wear one in years because the fit is so deep that the helmet hits any eyewear I don. I couldn’t wear Specialized helmets for the entire 1990s.
Giro is the only brand of helmet I’ve been able to wear without fail for the last 20 years. It’s an interesting distinction. That said, I’ve had my favorites among their helmets. The Helios (circa 1996) was the first helmet that I thought was so attractive that it constituted a style improvement over the bare head. That was also the helmet that first introduced Giro’s Roc Loc, a device that has been copied in one form or another by every other helmet manufacturer. The Roc Loc was the first device to wrap around the occipital lobe, that bump at the back of your head and it spawned an industry-wide A ha!
And while I liked the helmets that followed the Helios, it was the Pneumo that I thought significantly improved the look of a helmet and also happened to improve fit. Models that followed added carbon fiber and in a twist you won’t encounter anywhere else—I can guarantee it—the folks at Giro admit that while it increased their helmets’ strength, it also increased their weight.
Consider that the Giro Ionos—still one of the most popular helmets around—weighs in at 285 grams (if you wear the small size, that is). We’d have killed for a helmet that comfortable, stylish, light and safe in 1991, right? In an effort to remove as much weight as possible from the helmet, without rendering it unsafe, Giro introduced the Prolight.
While I don’t have sales figures (and it seemed impolitic to ask), there seemed to be some pushback on this product from the helmet-buying public based on comments I saw on the Interwebs. Some were worried that the Prolight, which lacked the Roll Cage, didn’t offer the same level of protection as the Ionos, while others complained that it wasn’t as well ventilated. Perhaps it’s enough to note that I see many more Ionos helmets on the road than I do Prolights. That the Ionos seemed to remain more popular than the Prolight is surprising given that the Prolight was 104g lighter. That’s a noticeable chunk of weight.
So this spring Giro introduced the Aeon. To say it splits the difference between the Prolight and Ionos is an oversimplification, but that’s its DNA in a nutshell. The Roll Cage is back and the vents are much larger than those found on the Prolight. The stripped down Roc Loc found on the Prolight is replaced by the Roc Loc 5, arguably Giro’s easiest-to-adjust version of the device so far. It’s as minimal in execution as it is comfortable in fit.
The carbon fiber found in the Ionos? Also gone. Only someone working for a helmet maker can tell you, “Carbon fiber is heavy,” and say it with a straight face. And while the Aeon may split the difference in design cues between the two helmets, I’m told the Aeon provides the same level of ventilation as the Ionos. Maybe the Aeon’s tag line should be “all the air at two-thirds the weight.”
After riding in this helmet for several months I can say it feels like the least helmet I’ve ever worn. It weighs a mere 207g (again, I wear a small); that’s only 26g more than the Prolight, so yet another way it didn’t just split the difference is in weight. Perhaps a better way to describe the Aeon is to call it the best of both worlds.
It’s also, to me at least, the best-looking helmet I’ve seen or worn since the Pneumo. Key in this regard is that the helmet can’t position too much mass above the top of the head. The helmets with the best visual proportions have been those that minimized the amount of helmet above the head and instead concentrated more mass around the head. Visually, the effect is exactly the opposite of a stocking cap.
Part of the key to the Aeon’s ventilation has less to do with the number and size of holes in the helmet than it does the amount of helmet that actually contacts the head. Look inside the helmet and there aren’t many pads and the pads that do exist don’t rest on much. This helmet come closer to giving me the perception that I’m not wearing a helmet than any other; it’s the particular combination of ventilation and low weight that result in the less-than-a-cycling-cap perception I’ve experienced.
Smaller buckles and Tri Loc adjusters help with the perception that there is less helmet, but not as much as the thinner webbing. This is the same webbing that was used on the Prolight and at the end of a long day it may get a bit crusty, but it doesn’t hold as much water, nor does it get as stiff.
As to the all-important question of how well it functions as a glorified eyewear perch, I can say it scored well with this judge. I’ve tried Oakley (Radar and Jawbones), Giro’s unfortunately discontinued Havik IIs, Smith Pivlocks and Spy Alphas. They all fit well in the third vent up. People wearing other sizes may have a different experience; I can foresee that folks wearing the large may not enjoy as much success.
Is $250 a lot to spend on a single-serving item? I don’t think so. I’ve always been protective of my head and combining great protection with a piece of apparel that makes me look more fashionable rather than less so is easily worth an upcharge. That it comes in eight finishes in the year of its introduction just increases its appeal.
The Aeon does beg a question: With a helmet this light, this well ventilated and this attractive available, what could possess anyone to argue against their use?
Top image: John Pierce, Photosport International
The silly season is upon us, and, with the demise of HTC-Highroad, there are a lot of top riders on the market. The merger of QuickStep with Omega Pharma and the start up of the Australian GreenEdge project will also shuffle the pack. And of course, there is the normal, seasonal activity on top of all that.
One move that is sure to create waves is Thor Hushovd’s switch from Garmin-Cervelo to BMC. Hushovd, who absolutely killed it at the Tour de France this summer, was not happy with how G-C managed his spring classics campaign. He believes he’ll get better support and higher priority at BMC. More money probably helps, too.
As a result of Hushovd’s announcement, Garmin manager Jonathan Vaughters promptly excluded the Norwegian from his team’s roster for the Vuelta a España. This makes perfect sense as the Garmin-Cervelos will need all the points they can get for returning riders, in order to maintain their WorldTour placing. Deploying departing riders isn’t very useful to managers in the current pro set up. It’s better for Vaughters to key on Tyler Farrar, who is staying, in grand tour sprints. That Hushovd evinced surprise over losing his Vuelta spot is silly.
One has to wonder the wisdom of Hushovd’s move, though, given that Cadel Evans has already told BMC boss Jim Ochowicz point blank that he doesn’t want Hushovd at the 2012 Tour de France. Freelancers need not apply. If the god of thunder knew that going in, it says something about his commitment to winning Paris-Roubaix, and may indicate BMC’s resolve to support him there.
Another big move is in the offing for Philippe Gilbert, the world’s number one rider. He has been linked with both the new, Belgian super squad and BMC, though where he would fit in with the latter is hard to see, given his large salary and the amount of support he would need to achieve his spring (and fall) targets. Gilbert is running out of things to accomplish. Milan-San Remo and/or one of the cobbled classics must be on his list, but that level of ambition requires ambitious support. With the reported salary of Hushovd being $2.5M euro, it seems likely that BMC—despite its well-deep pockets—was angling for either Hushovd or Gilbert, but not both.
Finally, there is the curious case of Mark Cavendish. In my mind, you can reasonably ask whether the Manxman’s departure from HTC-Highroad preceded or precipitated the end of HTC’s sponsorship of the team. Regardless, now, he’s moving on, and he’s doing it without his lead out man Mark Renshaw, who has already signed with Rabobank in an effort to move from second fiddle to first violin. If Cavendish goes to Sky, as has been rumored, who will comprise his new lead out? There will be more money and a home-based team, but Sky will have the same problem with Cav that BMC might have with both Hushovd. Too many stars, not enough water carriers.
That brings us to our question. Which of these riders will land well, and which will be disappointed in 2012? The motivation to move from one team to another lives somewhere at the nexus of greed, ego and ambition. Getting the balance right is key to success, as long as you measure success by wins. So, who is getting it right? And whose pride goeth before a fall?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
I recently completed a feature that will run in Issue 6 of peloton magazine about New England. While I could have devoted a good 2000 words to all the great racers who cut their teeth there or on all the cycling writers who came from the region—there was a time when most bike magazine editors either hailed from or lived in Vermont or Massachusetts—I focused on the bike companies based there.
It had been a while since I’d visited the subject, more than 10 years if the truth is told, and as I dug down I realized there was more going on than I realized. It became so complicated that I decided to create a little family tree to remind me the begat, begat, begat sequence of the companies.
Some, like Pedro’s and Parlee didn’t have their genesis in other companies. Others, such as Serotta and 333Fab aren’t New England companies, but their relationship to the patriarch of the industry couldn’t be denied. This family tree isn’t particularly scientific, and certainly not to scale, but it speaks to what I most like about the region.
My time there left a mark. To the degree that I’ve got any entrepreneurial spirit, I think it was incubated while working for a number of small companies. From Richard Fries’ Ride Magazine to an upstart Apple retailer, I saw people go out on their own time and again. For me, it rubbed off from just being around them. There are those figures who cultivate that individuality; Rob Vandermark seems to be doing a lot of that at Seven Cycles, whether intentionally or not.
Part of the story this doesn’t tell, though, is the way that Richard Sachs has mentored dozens of new builders. Some of it has been indirect, as through his prolific writing about his brand and the craft of building. Some has been direct, in the form of offering concrete advice to up-and-comers.
The tragedy in this story is the demise of Fat City Cycles; it was Chris Chance who really began the scene from which all this grew.
There have been plenty of rounds of musical chairs. Parlee and Pedro’s have even picked up people who have done stints at other area bike companies. In that regard, the bike biz in New England is different from we see in California, where bigger players dominate and after a few years in the biz you stop being surprised to see an old friend in a jersey. And maybe that’s the difference, those smaller companies give employees a real window into what entrepreneurship is.
The story of the ’86 Tour de France has been told a thousand times. The conventional version runs like this: In ’85 Bernard Hinault was in the yellow jersey but hurting in a big way. His young teammate Greg LeMond was strong, and capable of winning the jersey for La Vie Claire. As the Badger was nearing retirement (and equaling the TdF wins of Anquetil and Merckx), Hinault asked LeMond to help him win, with the promise that he would turn around and help LeMond to the maillot jaune in ’86. A year later, le Blaireau seemed to have forgotten his promise, attacking LeMond mercilessly and forcing the young American to compete not only with the other contenders, but also with his team captain, all the way to Paris.
In this version of the story, Hinault is the big, bad wolf, and LeMond is Little Red Riding Hood. Hinault, the deceiver, and LeMond the nearly devoured.
Richard Moore’s excellent new book Slaying the Badger reexamines the mythology of this great race, attempting to shed new light on the motivations of these two great riders and what really happened on the roads of France in the summer of ’86. What helps set Moore’s book apart is the array of characters he brings to the story. La Vie Claire directeurs sportif Paul Köchli and Maurice Le Guilloux give first hand accounts, not only of the in-race dynamic, but also of the unique pressures on their two star riders. Super domestiques Andy Hampsten and Steve Bauer add anecdotal information as well, and it all combines to make a thrilling read of a story whose ending you already know.
Of course, the difficult part of telling such a tale is maintaining enough narrative tension to keep the reader interested, so Moore resists the common trope that Hinault is simply a silver-backed gorilla among men, unable to capitulate to any competitor, even a friendly one. He further makes room for Hinault’s ambivalence toward his American protegé by bringing in French media reports from the time, reports that show the immense pressure on Hinault to take a record sixth Tour, and the antipathy the French public felt toward the Yankee usurper.
Not to be counted out either is La Vie Claire owner Bernard Tapie, a man of legendary charisma and ambiguous moral fiber. Tapie wants to take credit for everything and nothing. He is pulling all the strings and flying off in a private jet, influencing decisions and making grand pronouncements, quite often with no basis in reality.
Perhaps the most interesting character though, is Köchli, the Swiss manager of the team. Köchli has this reputation as a mad professor of cycling, viewed by many as a genius, and the book is littered with disquisitions by this enigmatic man outlining his psychological profiles of the athletes at his command, and his very strange take on race tactics.
What comes through in the end is that, for all the ’86 Tour reads like a modern, black-and-white morality play, what really transpired was more of a perfect storm of grayness. Hinault never even countenances the idea that he wasn’t supporting LeMond. Köchli never names the team leader. LeMond likes and respects Hinault, but remains steadfastly convinced the Frenchman is out to get him. The French La Vie Claire riders ride for the Badger, their master. The North Americans ride for LeMond. The peloton and its protagonists shift alliances back and forth. It is the opacity of the situation, which, going on and on, day after day, stage after stage, creates this magnificent drama.
It makes for a pretty great summer read, no matter whose side of the story you’re buying. Hinault remains, 25 years later, his irascible self, and Moore’s interviews with le Blaireau evince only subtle differences in his version of events. In one-on-ones with the American, LeMond has enough distance to laugh about what must have been the most difficult time of his difficult career, and the others, Tapie and Köchli, are preserved like insects in amber, curiosities from a different time in pro cycling.
Whether you know the story or not, Slaying the Badger is a worthy addition to any cycling library.
Top image: John Pierce, Photosport International
HTC is pulling out of pro racing, mergers promise to reduce the number of ProTour teams surviving into 2011, Alberto Contador continues to ride with a CAS-sized question mark over his head, and Lance Armstrong, the ghost of cycling past, waits to find out whether he’ll be indicted by the US government. But screw it, it’s always darkest before the dawn. You’ve got to stay on the sunny side. Accentuate the positive. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Etc. Etc.
This has been a GREAT year for racing, beginning with the Spring Classics, continuing through the Giro and culminating with the just finished Tour de France. If you have not enjoyed this season, it is likely you don’t care for bike racing. You should take up the harp or explore your interest in paragliding.
Having just won the Tour, Cadel Evans is a strong candidate for rider of the year. He dazzled last season, while wearing the rainbow stripes of World Champion, and that gave him a measure of popularity he hadn’t enjoyed previously. He won Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Romandie before claiming his first maillot jaune at 34.
Thor Hushovd started slowly, and though his marking of Fabian Cancellara clearly led to Johan van Summeren’s big win at Paris-Roubaix, the norseman was vocally upset that Garmin-Cervelo wasn’t planning more races around his burgeoning talent. As this year’s wearer of the rainbow stripes however, Hushovd absolutely lit up the first week of the Tour, spending eight days in the yellow jersey and generally getting to display his class on the very biggest stage cycling offers.
Of course, any discussion of 2011 has to include Philippe Gilbert. To wit, Gilbert has won: Ster-Elektrotour, the Tour of Belgium, the Belgian road championship, Liége-Bastogne-Liége, Amstel Gold, La Fléche Wallonne, Montepaschi Strade Bianchi, Brabantse Pijl, stages at the Tour de France, Tirreno-Adriatico, and the Tour of the Algarve, and stood third on the podium at Milan-San Remo. Dude. Wins. Everything.
And, now that you’ve read this far, you’re probably thinking I’m going to ask who the rider of the season has been up to this point. Wrong. Gilbert wins it going away (as usual). No. The question is, who has anything left for the end of the year? Evans can certainly be competitive in those Fall Classics that have, over the last few years, been the meat and potatoes of Gilbert’s palmares. Hushovd will surely notch some more wins before the leaves drop.
The question is: Which of these three will win more this year? Where? And why?
So HTC-Highroad is no more. Technically, that’s not quite accurate; the team will come to an end with the close of this season. But it feels like the team might as well be mothballed now. Any wins that come will carry a certain lame duck pointlessness as they won’t have the ability to attract a sponsor or serve as confirmation that an incoming sponsor made a good choice.
How bad is Bob Stapleton’s inability to find a new title sponsor for his program? It’s the worst thing that will happen to cycling this year, perhaps for years to come. Here’s why: There’s not a single doping revelation that can confirm potential sponsors’ worst fears about the sport the way the dissolution of this team does.
We’ve already had the Tour de France champion test positive twice in the last five years. Stapleton’s failure to secure a sponsor is directly due to that. In a conference call with journalists, Stapleton admitted that doping scandals were a topic of conversation in “every negotiation.”
Compounding matters was Stapleton’s refusal to be confined to irrelevance by racing on a shrunken budget while battling Sky and Katusha—teams that each have an estimated annual budget of $20 million. After all, if part of your raison d’etre is to lead the sport into a new, cleaner era characterized by better management, you can’t do that from the back of the bus.
The end of HTC-Highroad is the corollary to the Leopard-Trek dilemma. It proves (at least for the court of public opinion) that doping is what prevented Brian Nygaard’s formation from landing a real title sponsor (or co-sponsor, for that matter). Worse, the fact that Katusha, Sky and Leopard are funded by ultra-rich businessmen who could use the tax write-off makes the sport that much less relevant. It could be argued that BMC is no better given that few people seem to believe that BMC is selling enough bikes that Andy Rihs could fund the team exclusively out of the operating capital of that one company.
If bicycle teams become the playthings of oligarchs, it will be hard to sell the public on the idea that the sport carries the moral mantle of doping-free athletic achievement. There is a general perception that billionaires play by a different set of rules than the rest of us, and the recent phone-hacking scandal in London that brought down Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World and killed his play to become majority owner of bSkyb is all the proof many people need to come to the conclusion that cycling lacks a moral compass. After all, if Murdoch’s businesses will run roughshod over the most basic elements of privacy, why would anyone think his cycling team is any more ethical?
I’ve met a number of principled people in cycling. I’ve met plenty of truly ethical people in the sport as well. I don’t think I’ve ever met a smarter, more decent person in cycling than Bob Stapleton. I’ve met no one with higher aspirations for helping the sport to function in a cleaner, more transparent manner—in other words, to be its best—than Stapleton. He brought credibility that simply can’t be purchased elsewhere and served as the ever-reasonable counterbalance to the ill-considered pronouncements of the UCI. He was a sort of sanity constant.
As I mentioned before, losing Stapleton and his team isn’t just the worst thing that will happen in cycling this year. It’s the worst thing that will happen in cycling for years to come. If the sport can’t keep a man universally respected and admired, then it will be no better than the cesspool of politics because it may only draw people we’d rather not have dinner with, figures like Bernard “Dr. Mabuse” Sainz.
Sainz’ nickname comes from the Fritz Lang film of the same name. The film was a commentary on post World War I German society, a time of amoral criminality. Dr. Mabuse, “the gambler,” was a megalomaniac who ruled—via hypnosis—an organized crime syndicate of counterfeiters, thieves and murderers. I can’t think of an uglier thing for cycling to be compared.
We’ve lived through that once, or something thereabouts. If the riders don’t get the idea that they need to clean up their acts, there won’t be a sport left to employ them. But we can’t place all the responsibility on the riders. The UCI has an obligation to make sure that testing is performed in a rigorous manner and justice handed out promptly and equally. Until John Q. Public sense we’ve turned that corner, it will be hard to attract leaders like Stapleton and sponsors like HTC.
RKP isn’t really a news site, so the announcement that Amgen has renewed its contract with AEG Sports to continue its sponsorship of the Amgen Tour of California might seem odd material for a post. The reason it’s here is because this isn’t your garden-variety cycling news. This is big.
I confess, for weeks, more than a month, in fact, I’ve been writing the obituary for the Amgen Tour of California. I thought an announcement notifying cycling fans of the race’s demise was a formality, so the news that the company has renewed isn’t just a pleasant little news brief. This is big.
So why was I so down on the future of the Tour of California? Let me count the reasons.
- In the United States, races have a terrible history of folding after a sponsor’s contract is up. The Coors Classic folded up shop following the 1988 race after the race’s contract with Coors ended. Race director Michael Aisner approached Nuprin and Dodge, both of whom agreed to sponsor the race only to decline involvement at the 11th hour. The Tour de Georgia was notable for the fact that it’s the only major U.S. stage race that managed to sign three different title sponsors—Dodge, Ford and AT&T.
- Losing a race director has had dire consequences for races. When Mike Plant left the Tour DuPont at the end of the 1996 edition, the prospective next sponsor (DuPont’s contract was up) didn’t have much confidence in the new race director and ultimately the race couldn’t secure a new sponsor.
- The 2011 edition of the Amgen Tour of California got off to a rocky start with a stage cancellation and the start of a stage moved. Sponsors don’t like to see their events not happen as planned.
- The 2010 and 2011 editions of the race were upstaged by doping revelations that cast cycling in an unusually negative light. Landis’ and Hamilton’s revelations made much bigger news than the typical positive test. Who wants to spend millions to sponsor an ugly press conference?
- The economy still sucks. It’s why there’s no Tour of Missouri and no Tour de Georgia. Finding sponsorship money is as unlikely as winning the lottery two days in a row.
In the U.S., races come to an end. That’s the unfortunate reality. But these next two years could be key for the event’s longevity; it’s up to AEG to use the time to court (and land) a new sponsor. Make no mistake, this news is huge.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
A trick steel frame demands certain details. A high-end group. A matching set of top-shelf bar, stem and seatpost. Tubulars or super-trick clinchers—none of this training-grade stuff. Tape is a tougher call. There’s no way I’m going back to celo-tape, no matter how old-school PRO it is, but honestly, foam tape looks a bit, well, wrong.
Richard Sachs has figured this out for us. Embossed leather tape. How he crossed paths with Australian Mick Peel of Busyman Cycles who crafted the tape is a story for another post, but let’s just say this was a marriage made in heaven. Peel is an extraordinarily gifted leather worker. You absolutely must check out his site to see examples of his other work. The saddles he has done are beyond trick.
Peel made an embossing tool featuring the Sachs logo and pressed it into exquisite leather. While it is available in a natural brown leather, the red and white versions are what caught my eye. And though the embossing looks soup bowl deep, Richard says that by the time you pull it tight, the RS logo smooths out some; a good wrap yields a more subtle appearance.
Peel didn’t make loads of this and Richard isn’t certain how long it will be before Peel relents to do another run of such repetitive work. Put another way, if you like it, act now. It’s not cheap, but it’s so cool it will look killer even on bikes that don’t bear the Sachs logo.
Years ago, a custom leather shop in Northampton, Massachusetts, recovered a Flite saddle I’d worn out. The leather and the glue they used were so superior to the original that the saddle stayed in use for another four years, until I finally crashed badly enough to bend both ti rails. I suspect this leather tape will enjoy and even longer life.
Admit it, this is the first bar tape you’ve ever coveted. It is for me.