We decided to do some year-end awards here at RKP, but because we don’t see much point in awarding someone “best Danish single-speed cyclocrosser with no ink”, we figured we’d give some nods to those people, events and moments most memorable. And to add to the fun, we invited Whit Yost and Jeremy Rauch from Pavé to join in the fun.
So here we go:
Rider of the Year—Despite not notching a win another monument this spring, by virtue of the fact that Fabian Cancellara finished on the podium in Milan-San Remo (2nd), Ronde van Vlaanderen (3rd) and Paris-Roubaix (2nd), he proved to be the strongest rider in this year’s spring campaign. That Cancellara was chased as if an attack from him was everyone else’s ticket to glory was unseemly. It appeared—given those who latched onto his wheel—he was chased less to prevent him winning than as a springboard to anyone else’s.
Most Valuable (Non) Player—This has to go to Francesco Moser for doing more to liven up this year’s Tour de France short of any rider other than Thomas Voeckler. By instructing the Schlecks on how to win at bike racing, Moser inspired Andy Schleck to take the single most interesting flyer at this year’s Tour. Frankly, it did much to illustrate the criticism that due to radios riders no longer know how to ride tactically. The greater lesson is just how the greats were. How about a mentoring program for today’s GC riders? The racing might get more interesting if we dusted off more GC champions from the ‘70s and ‘80s.
The We-Don’t-Know-What-to-Call-It Award—Thor Hushovd has easily been the peloton’s biggest crybaby for the last two seasons. Of his seemingly endless skills—honestly, has anyone else delivered more unexpected and surprising wins?—diplomacy isn’t one. He may be the only guy who could teach Bradley Wiggins a thing or two about badmouthing a previous team. That said, his cunning has proven he is more than worthy of both protection and a free hand. Maybe we should call this one the Wild Card Award. You just never know with this guy.
The Mad Ambition Award—This goes to Jim Ochowicz and the rest of the management at Team BMC. On one hand, they are geniuses for vaulting BMC to the top of the pops in just two years. Their ability to sign riders of real quality was confirmed in a royal flush back in July when Cadel Evans finally won the Tour de France. So how they managed to court and sign both Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd can’t simply be magic; it’s more like sorcery. Evans was on record saying anyone on his Tour team (and it is his Tour team) won’t freelance, won’t go for stage wins and will bury himself for the team. Somehow Gilbert and Hushovd—who between them took three stages of this year’s Tour—claimed they were okay with that. We also give this the Most Likely to End in Tears Award.
The Most Coveted Award—This has to go to Zipp for the new Firecrest 303. There’s not another set of wheels I’ve heard spoken of with a more covetous tone than the redesigned Firecrest 303. Lighter than a supermodel’s brain, more aerodynamic than a Cessna and more durable than any aluminum rim you’re riding, the only question is who doesn’t want this wheel.
The Relief Award—Bike fans breathed a collective sigh of relief with the announcement that Campagnolo will finally begin selling its long-awaited electronic group, EPS. Though we heard that the Italian maker was working on this group back in 2002, Shimano came to market with Di2 a full two years ahead of Campagnolo. This is quite a contrast from the introduction of index shifting and integrated control levers. Shimano’s stuff may have worked better in both instances, but at least Campy had a ready response. The good news is that EPS seems to be kink-free, so this year you’ll be able to enjoy electronic shifting and 11-speeds all in the same group.
Worst News of the Year Award—The demise of HTC-Highroad. To have Bob Stapleton depart cycling is the worst news the sport will get for a long, long time.
The Textbook Courage Award—If you needed any proof of the talent at Andy Schleck’s disposal, his attack on Stage 18 from Pinerolo to the Galibier in this year’s Tour de France showed exactly what the young and often hapless Luxembourger is capable of. Down on GC and running out of road, Schleck had to do SOMETHING. What he did was one of the most courageous and awe-inspiring attacks we’ve seen this decade. First, Leopard – Trek put Joost Posthuma and Maxime Monfort into the break. Then, Schleck attacked with 60km to go, took a gap, stretched it to two minutes and then latched onto Posthuma and Monfort to stretch his lead, ending just 15 seconds out of yellow, as Tommy Voekler buried himself on the imposing slopes of the Galibier. This is the racing fans have always wanted from Schleck, but he has seldom delivered. Cautious to a fault, on this day Schleck was a legend.
The Have No Cake and Fail to Eat It Either Award—I, for one, thought it was a good idea for Zdenek Stybar to try his luck on the road, especially with a Classics-oriented squad like QuickStep. Unfortunately, Stybie flopped in his first season and has now relinquished his dominance of the Euro Cyclocross World Cup Series to Kevin Pauwels. What’s the Flemish for “Oops?”
The Straight Face Award—It’s been 18 months since Alberto Contador tested positive at the Tour de France. The saga of inaction since then is well-documented. Under WADA guidelines, it doesn’t matter how or why the “adverse analytical finding” came about, the rider should be suspended, and yet Contador has argued, with a straight face, that he deserves to ride, and UCI head Pat McQuaid has gone on as if the fleet Spaniard isn’t receiving preferential treatment. If we say up is down long enough, will we all learn to fly?
The Ricco Suave Award—This award is reserved for dopers who approach the rank stupidity of Ricardo Ricco in their efforts to cover their tracks and/or protest their innocence. This year’s award goes to Ezequiel Mosquera. After a positive test for hydroxyethyl starch at the 2010 Vuelta, at which he was runner-up, Mosquera cried foul. But the test for hydroxyethyl starch has been around a long time, and that substance’s use as a masking agent for doping products is well-documented. Compounding Mosquera’s guilt, one of his Xacobeo-Galicia teammates, David Garcia, also tested positive for the same substance at the same race. The Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) rewarded Mosquera’s cheating with a two year ban ON TOP of the 14 months he’s already been off the bike. The rider has said he’ll retire. Don’t do us any favors Ezequiel.
Cyclist of the year—All new cyclists. They may be annoyances right now. They might reduce our cool, bad-boy cred. They may do stupid things in the road, at lights, on the trail, etc. But they’re making the world a better place for us. Growing the sport makes the roads safer, will eventually make the public more sympathetic, and some day, some of them will be giving us their draft as they pummel us in their wake. Cycling is growing so much that some places, like New York City, are experiencing a backlash. I think the backlash will be shortlived. We’re going to win and all new cyclists are helping.
The “Why Would Anyone Need X” award:
This year saw a number of new technical innovations: some good, some bad, but all the victim of some variant of the pace-line putdown “Why would anyone need <insert component here>”. The list of what would surely be past winners is long and filled with the things we take for granted today, and would surely include clipless pedals (“Too dangerous in a crash!”), index shifting (“I don’t need click-shifting to find my gear!”), Di2 (“If I wanted to play video games, I’d just stay home and play Nintendo!”) and 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and yes, 12 speed rear clusters (“Why would anyone need more than 5/6/7/8/9/10/11 speeds?”).
2011′s award, based on the seemingly never discussions on the topic, goes to disc brakes in cyclocross. With a battle cry of “if they were good enough for De Vlaeminck*, they’re good enough to me”, the canti-devoted dismissed the disc as unnecessary – too heavy, too powerful, not hydraulic, and just plain pointless. It’s true that the disc options when using brifters are incomplete; quality cable actuated brakes like those from Avid aren’t quite as effortless as hydraulics, and the mechanical/hydraulic adapters look like a mechanical in the making. That said, any mountain biker will tell you there’s no denying the performance of discs in the muck. Wet or dry, discs just work. It’ll take a few years for vendors to come up with ideal, rather than adapted solutions to discs in cyclocross. But when they do, I suspect the naysayers will see their benefits and at the very least, wish they were on discs too. Hey, give me hydraulic brifters, and I just might be willing to move off this 9 speed setup – because really, more than 9 speeds is silly, but disc brakes are awesome.
The shut-up and ride award—By now, we’ve all seen the video of Juan Antonio Flecha and Johnny Hoogerland getting whacked by the errant media car in Stage 9 of this year’s Tour de France. Both men suffered injuries that would have sent most of us crawling into an ambulance or at least the broom wagon. What was impressive, though, is that both of them got up, finished the stage and then made it all the way to Paris nearly two weeks later. It’s a story worth bringing up next time one of your non-cycling friends tries to tell you that American football players are the toughest athletes on the planet.
The great French hope—It was fun to watch Thomas Voeckler reprise his 2004 role as the beloved – but doomed – defender of the yellow jersey. (Voeckler actually earned the jersey as part of the aforementioned break from which Hoogerland and Flecha were taken out.) Voeckler is now 32 and his years may be numbered. It was inspiring to see the entire Europcar squad rise to the occasion and protect the jersey for 10 stages … all the way up to stage 19 when another member of the team earned the spotlight and maybe even signaled the start of what would be a welcomed renaissance in French cycling. Pierre Rolland showed more than a flash of brilliance on the slopes of l’Alpe d’Huez, out-classing Samuel Sánchez and Alberto Contador atop that storied climb. Not only did he win the stage, he grabbed the best young rider’s white jersey for good and finished the Tour in 11th on GC. Like another promising young rider in the season’s final grand tour, you have to wonder what this guy could have accomplished had he not been saddled with domestique duties for most of the race.
Maybe, just maybe, we will see an end to the French drought at the Tour, a race the hosts haven’t won since 1985.
Out of Africa―Having grown up in in Kenya and South Africa, Chris Froome showed he was more than able to meet the challenges of the European peloton in this year’s Vuelta a España. Froome finished second in the Vuelta and one can only imagine how the 26-year-old Team Sky rider would have fared had he not been obligated to ride in support of Bradley Wiggins at critical moments in that grand tour. As is the case with Rolland, I’m looking forward to seeing Froome ride without other obligations holding him back.
The No-Man-Is-an-Island Award―This last one is purely personal. Not to beat a dead horse, but I’ve hit a few rough spots over the past few months. Had you told me in January that things would have taken the turn they did in July, I would have predicted that I would just curl up in a ball and stay in bed. The darn thing, though, is that there are folks out there who just wouldn’t let that happen. Anything that I’ve accomplished or anything positive that has happened to me over the past months is purely due to the fact that people have been generous and spectacular. I have to extend my thanks to a host of people, including the gang over at NYVeloCity.com, their readers, the folks who follow me at LiveUpdateGuy.com, countless friends and family and, of course, those responsible for my new home here at Red Kite Prayer. I can’t even begin to count the ways that I have reason to be thankful. All of you gave real meaning to the words “cycling community.”
Most Disappointingly Successful Stage Race-Winning Strategy—Thanks to victories by Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, and Juan José Cobo in this season’s grand tours, it was easy to overlook a rather unexciting “trend” in the art of winning stage races. Of the eleven non-grand tour stage races on the 2011 World Tour, eight had at least one time trial. Of those eight, seven were won by men who took either only the time trial or no stage wins at all, a race-winning strategy calling to mind Miguel Indurain.
Take Bradley Wiggins for example. The Brit from Team Sky won the Criterium du Dauphiné—without winning a single stage. The same can be said of RadioShack’s Levi Leipheimer at the Tour de Suisse. Both riders used top rides in individual time trials as the foundations of their victories then simply hung-on for dear life in the mountains. Of course, both victories were well deserved—after all, consistency goes a long way—but race fans can’t be blamed for wanting to see a bit more aggression from their champions. At least Germany’s Tony Martin actually won stages (both time trials, though) at Paris-Nice and the Tour of Beijing for HTC-HighRoad on his way to taking both overall victories.
What does it all mean? Not much, perhaps. But it could inspire more time trialists to find some climbing legs for a week every now and again. Or maybe a few of the sport’s aggressive riders might find themselves spending some time in the wind tunnel or behind a motor scooter, doing their best to defeat the sport’s Martin’s, Wiggo’s, and Leipheimer’s at their own game.
Then again, this is professional cycling—there are no style points. Victories bring contracts and unless your name is Thomas Voeckler, no one cares about how much excitement you generate in losing. We need to give credit where credit is due, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.
There is nothing actually very special about the end of the year. The moon has completed yet another revolution of our green planet, true, but it does that all the time. We humans who track our whereabouts in time by the movement of the celestial bodies have simply decided this is the end. We’ve come around the sun again. We made it! Except, quite where the beginning and end of that orbit are is pretty subjective.
Nonetheless, in our tiny, human way we mark the passage with all sorts of big talk. We do year-end awards (look for ours soon), stories-of-the-year stories. We make lists. Even though time marches on, and the borders are arbitrary, we do this.
And so you have been reading all sorts of retrospectives of 2011, many of which mention names like Gilbert, Cavendish, Evans, Contador and Schleck. Those guys all had big years. I know. I watched. On TV.
Too some extent, the riders in the pro peloton are no more real than the characters in my wife’s favorite television programs. Our paths don’t cross. I don’t know them in anything more than a two-dimensional way.
What is far more tangible for me is MY cycling year, not theirs. This year I rode D2R2 for the first time, bought my first new mountain bike in 15 years, started a new Saturday morning group ride, showed my son proper wheelie technique, bought my wife her first road bike, and took a job, a full-time job, in the cycling industry.
Those were the top stories of 2011 for me. This week’s Group Ride, the last ride of the year, asks the question: What were the top stories of YOUR cycling year?
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After months of searching for a job in my field, I finally got an offer. I accepted, even though it was across the country. I emptied my bank account, loaded up a U-Haul truck with my personal possessions — mostly bikes and books — and made the big move from my home in Atlanta to Northern California.
In Missouri, I got pulled over by a local sheriff’s deputy who said I had a brake light out. (I later checked the lights and they were working .) I am not one to play the “race card,” but I think you should know that I am a black man in my late 20s with dreads.
Anyway, the deputy got pretty worked up when he saw the big wad of cash (I think it was around $2,000) in my wallet when I pulled out my license. He got really aggressive and demanded that I let him search the truck. At first, I said “no,” but he told me he could confiscate my cash as “suspected drug proceeds” and that things would go much more quickly if I cooperated. I just wanted to get back on the road and I finally agreed and let him search.
It didn’t go fast and he unpacked the entire load in the back of the truck. And, no, he didn’t find anything. Not only did I have to repack the contents, but while he was digging through my stuff, he scratched the finish on my Colnago and dropped a heavy box of books on one of my racing wheels. Dammit! A Zipp 404 isn’t cheap and I had to get the wheel repaired to replace spokes. The rim survived, but I don’t think he cared. Can I bill the department for the damage to my wheel and frame? I get pissed off every time I get on my bike and see that ugly scratch on the top tube.
First, let me say that answering your question in a column on a cycling site is something of a stretch, but your situation is one that has long bothered me and the fact that you are a bike racer gives me enough of a hook to rant on the subject.
Second, congratulations on the new job. In this economy, that’s a big score, even if it required a cross-country move.
Now to your summary question: Can you bill the sheriff’s department for the damage to your wheel and frame? Sadly, the most practical answer is “no.” Sure, you could simply send an invoice, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for them to pay it. You could ramp up the effort by hiring an attorney in Missouri, but that would probably cost you more than the repairs and there is no guarantee of success. Unfortunately, you may have to chalk this one up to experience.
Had I been able to speak with you in advance of your trip, I would have probably suggested that you keep your life savings in the bank, use a debit card to pay expenses and transfer the balance to a new bank upon your arrival. Then, I would have suggested that you politely hold to the “never consent” rule and never willingly approve a policeman’s request to search your vehicle.
Your description of the stop gets to one of my biggest pet peeves, namely B.S. police stops based solely on vague and arbitrary profiles of suspected drug couriers. Your experience is a lot more common than you might suspect. The bottom line is that local police departments have discovered a gravy train by engaging in what are essentially random searches of vehicles in order to take advantage of an interpretation of federal law that allows them to keep a portion of assets they seize if they can show that those assets are derived from the illegal trade in drugs.
And, if history is any indicator, the standard of proof is pretty low. While the law puts the burden of proof on the police to show that forfeited assets were used in or derived from the profits of a drug transaction, the reality is that the owner of a seized asset often has to prove that it wasn’t involved in the drug trade.
Those seizures can be substantial. The cumulative amounts of cash and assets seized by local authorities have recently bumped up near the $2 billion mark each year. Some departments along known drug routes can get the majority of their budgets from asset forfeiture.
In one sense, you’re lucky in that the deputy didn’t grab your cash and force you into a court fight to get it back. So maybe — just maybe — as a purely practical matter, you might have been right in consenting to the search. But that, too, gets under my skin.
The fact that you later found your tail lights to be functioning properly just means that the very basis of this stop smells. I suspect the deputy was grasping at straws, based on some general profile he or his department had cooked up. I once heard an interview with a cop who said that full compliance with traffic rules was enough to raise suspicion in his mind because it was indicative of a driver’s paranoia. Huh?
My guess is that the stop may have been based more on the fact that you were driving a rental truck than it was your race. Of course, the fact that you are an African-American with dreadlocks probably didn’t dissuade him from pulling you over, either.
Justifying a search
There are two standards that police have to meet in order to conduct searches. First, an officer has to have a “reasonable suspicion” that you are or are about to be engaged in a criminal act, in order to detain you and do a cursory search for weapons.
Reasonable suspicion, however, doesn’t mean a general hunch or a guess … even if you fit within their “profile” of a courier. Reasonable suspicion requires a set of specific and “articulable facts” that when viewed by a “reasonable officer” would lead one to the conclusion that a suspect was engaged in criminal activity.
Reasonable suspicion, however, does not constitute grounds for a full-on search of your vehicle. For that, he needs “probable cause,” a set of facts that requires a higher standard of evidence. If a cop can articulate that reasonable suspicion, he can do things like frisk you for weapons, or bring a drug-sniffing dog to your car and do a walk-around of the vehicle to see if the dog “alerts.” If the dog indicates the presence of drugs, the cop may be in a position to claim that probable cause exists for a search.
The whole probable cause question reminds me of a story … so forgive me if I digress for a moment.
Back in law school, I took a class in criminal procedure. My professor was talking about justifications for stops and whether those could be used for a full-on search of a vehicle. As a hypothetical, he asked whether a car traveling down the Interstate at 85 mph provided an officer with enough reason to conduct a search.
No one in the class answered, so he repeated the question. “Does traveling down the Interstate at 85 miles an hour give an officer probable cause to conduct a search of your vehicle for drugs?”
Silence. So again, he posed the question.
Finally, my study partner, an African-American with a long, long set of dreadlocks, leaned back in his chair, grinned and said “85? Noooo … but thirty-five? Probably so.”
That pesky Fourth Amendment
Of course, absent probable cause, the easiest way for a cop to get past the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures is to get you to consent to a search.
Often, the officer will suggest to you that you’re simply better off allowing him to search, because it’s a sign that you have nothing to hide. This is also where the officer has to be careful. If he intimidates you into consenting to a search, there is a good chance a court will throw out any evidence collected.
I, quite frankly, think the deputy’s threat to take your money constitutes intimidation and, even if he had found something, the evidence should have been suppressed. But, again, that takes time and money to accomplish.
My standard advice to people is to never, ever, ever consent to a search. You are not better off cooperating and the cop will never cut you a break simply because you did. Even if he goes ahead and conducts the search without your permission, you’re better off, because you can at least challenge his basis for the search.
For example, let’s imagine that the last renter of that U-Haul was a total stoner. Let’s say he had smoked his way across the country and reached his destination so blitzed that he forgot the pound of high grade sinsemilla stashed under the passenger seat. For purposes of our hypothetical, let’s forget that the deputy in your case had intimidated you into consenting to a search. Had you, out of the goodness of your heart, consented and the former renter’s reefer been discovered, you would be – to use the applicable legal terminology – “totally screwed.” At that point, no cop would cut you slack.
I do not normally do commercial endorsements in this column. Indeed, I have been known to do quite the opposite and deconstruct commercial claims to the point of showing that they are utter horse pucky. That said, I am going to recommend something produced by a Washington, D.C., non-profit called “Flex Your Rights.”
FYR has produced two rather valuable DVDs: “10 Rules for Dealing with Police” and “Busted: The Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters.” Searching around their site, you will even run across an endorsement from yours truly. It wasn’t hyperbole when I said that my income as a lawyer would have been halved in 2011 had most of my criminal clients seen this thing before they were pulled over.
My son is a 17-year-old honor student, an athlete and a regular volunteer at local charities. He’s an all-around good kid and I have every reason to trust that he is a law-abiding citizen. Nonetheless, I bought him both DVDs, largely because of the car he drives. Yup, his van looks like it had been painted by the Freak Brothers. It’s so much of a cop magnet that we jokingly call it “The ProbableCauseMobile.” His personal choice of color scheme should not subject him to arbitrary stops. In the event it does, he should know what his rights are, don’t you think?
Ultimately, you got through the thing okay. It could have been worse. I concede that broken spokes and a scratch on your Colnago are both bad, but fighting for compensation will probably cost you more than it’s worth. Sure, send them a bill, but don’t count on seeing a check any time soon.
Good luck in the new job, be careful out there … and, relying on that oft-used phrase from the ’80s, “just say no.”
The Explainer is now a weekly feature on Red Kite Prayer. If you have a question related to the sport of cycling, doping or the legal issues faced by cyclists of all stripes, feel free to send it directly to The Explainer at Charles@Pelkey.com. PLEASE NOTE: Understand that reading the information contained here does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Charles Pelkey. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained therein without first seeking the advice of qualified legal counsel licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
My favorite bikes are of a piece. They’ve got sharp handling. They have enough stiffness in torsion that when I stand up at the foot of a short hill they yield the sense that not a watt is wasted in flex. They also impart a tactile sense of the road surface. That’s not to say bikes that fall outside that particular style are bad, but if I’m plunking my money down, that’s what I want out of the experience.
It’s fair to ask why and the why is rooted in my sense of a good time. My favorite rides are 70- to 90-miles long and head north to Malibu. Generally two ascents, but sometimes three. And on the descents I do all I can to brake not at all. That’s really only possible on four of the descents in Malibu. On the others I’m late and hard and for that reason I want maximum feedback from the road. I want to know as clearly as possible what those tires are doing.
As I see it, the difference between a bike like the Tarmac SL3 and, say, a Time VRS is the difference in feel at the steering wheel between a BMW 3-series and a Lexus IS. Time works to dampen vibration and shield the rider from as much high-frequency vibration as possible. This is no sport-tuned suspension.
The R3 offered a similar sense of road feel to the Tarmac, though not quite so crisp. I can’t say exactly what factors contributed to the difference, but the fact that the frame was painted played into it. What we’re talking about here is a very minor difference.
That I liked the handling is no real surprise. In my size, the bike has the same head angle (73.5 degrees) and fork rake (43mm) as the Tarmac, resulting in the same trail, 5.59cm. BB drop is almost identical. Same for the front center and top tube length. The chainstays on the R3 are 2mm shorter (40.5cm) and the head tube is 6mm shorter (19.9cm). These bikes, at least in my size are virtually identical. Little wonder I liked the handling and could rail descents on this even if I’d just switched back to the R3 after I’d spent a week on the Tarmac. The biggest difference between the two bikes in my size was the longer head tube (6mm longer) on the Tarmac SL3 (though 1cm shorter on the SL4).
As you continue to examine the geometry of the R3, the similarities to the Tarmac continue. The R3 is made in six sizes, just like the Tarmac. The top tube lengths are within a half centimeter of the nearest size of the Tarmac.
The point here isn’t to say, “See, the Tarmac is a great bike, so the R3 is a great bike.” Rather, if you’ve been interested in an R3 and haven’t been able to ride one, because the geometries are so similar, a ride on a Tarmac will give you a feel for both the sizing and handling of an R3. Honest to blob, I’ve never switched between two bikes so seamlessly. It’s enough to make me think there’s industrial espionage going on between the two companies. Okay, not really.
Cervelo lists the sizes for the R3 as 48, 51, 54, 56, 58 and 61cm. The jumps in top tube length run mostly 15 or 16mm. The biggest jump is the 17mm spread from the 53.1cm top tube on the 51cm frame and the 54.8cm top tube on the 54cm frame. I’m in the camp that believes very few people really need a custom frame and while I love custom stuff, frames as advanced as the R3 simply aren’t available in custom, are they?
Each size of the R3 features a 73-degree seat tube angle and 40.5cm chainstays. I’m sorry, but using one mold for the rear end of every frame strikes me as a bit lazy. I am suspicious that this approach could cause some problems for riders who might be considering the 48 or the 61.
When I was in high school and really sucking at math, my parents hired a tutor for me; he taught me a lesson that helped me pass Algebra II and remains useful today. I’m more grateful for the latter than the former. He taught me that once I thought I had the solution to a problem to plug in some huge variables and the answer should pass the sniff test if I had the equation right. If it was wrong, it would look wrong right away. I’ve found it’s much the same way with bikes.
After spending more than a month on the R3 I had an opportunity to get on a friend’s SLC-SL for a ride around the block. His was a 56, so it was a bit smaller, but it was the perfect opportunity to remind me just how stiff the rear end of a carbon fiber bike can be. The rear end of the SLC-SL was the ridiculous variable that illustrated the point.
I’ve been on a mechanical bull and that was a good deal gentler (and funnier) than the SLC-SL. Look, I know that experienced cyclists are exceedingly skeptical of the “torsionally stiff, vertically compliant” claim that is as standard equipment to the bike review as the water bottle cage is to the bike. That said, those crazy small seatstays on the R3 have a distinct effect on the bike’s ride.
I’m aware that if I write that those stays absorb shock two things happen. First, I’ve said something that simply isn’t accurate. Second, you head for rec.bicycles.gassbag to flame me for saying something so stupid. But the simple fact is, riding an R3 isn’t like riding some other bikes out there. Lacking a better, more objective term, I’m going with “gentler.”
Okay, so I should mention BB Right and the Rotor Crank used with the frame. I was suspicious that I’d notice the odd Q-factor, but I didn’t. I flat-out don’t like the asymmetrical design, but that’s a bias, nothing more, nothing less. It’s like looking at a slug. It gives me the creeps, but for no truly objective reason. I don’t like that you are limited in your choice of cranks, but this was a 15-lb. bike, so it’s not like I can complain that the Rotor crank turned a vesper into brick. I’ve encountered riders with short-ish legs who have Q-factor issues if their feet move too far apart. I wonder if this could be a problem for some riders, but as for me and my 32-inch inseam, I didn’t have a single issue. I didn’t notice a thing as I was riding. Guess I need to shut up about that.
Perhaps a bit more worth discussing is the fact that Cervelo just entered a financing arrangement with Pon Holdings BV. Pon is a gigantic Dutch conglomerate with some 11,000 employees and owns Derby Cycle, which includes Raleigh, Univega and Kalkhoff brands. The financing came with a string—should Cervelo ever sell, Pon has an exclusive option to purchase the company. It’s basically a right of first-refusal. It’s possible this is fallout from the drain the Cervelo Test Team put on the company. Or it could be an infusion of horsepower that could transform the company for the better. Time will definitely tell.
Here’s what amazes me. Whenever I talk to Phil White at Cervelo (all five times), he wants to talk about the company’s aero designs. I really can’t get him to show any excitement about the R3. WTF? One could be forgiven for getting the impression that the company is less than bullish on anything non-aero. It’s strange. The R3 is better than most of the bikes I’ve ever ridden.
And that, dear reader, is why I keep reviewing bikes. The chance to get on a new bike and be surprised, to be enchanted, to feel that holy whoosh and be transported back to when I was six and tearing down the sidewalk with no assistance, that, that right there, that opportunity to make cycling fresh is why a new bike is a legitimate purchase.
If you were a pro cyclist, you’d probably have some mixed feelings about the holiday season. The late fall and early winter represent rest time. You can eat some food. You can leave the bike in the garage. You can see your family and friends. The holidays are the culmination of that well-earned rest.
What comes next is training camp.
The Tour Down Under is nigh. Oman and Qatar will follow. These are races that serve as showcases for new talent or simple opportunities for veterans to reaffirm their talent. Maybe they’re coming back from injury. Maybe they just want to remind everyone they haven’t retired yet.
The journalists will begin warming up again, too. You’ll start seeing stories about racers who had bad 2011s, and how they’re completely rejuvenated and ready to go for 2012. Reshuffled teams will all be on the press offensive, singing songs of harmony and united purpose. It’s all so glow-y and optimistic.
I have spent this “off season” (like much of cyclo-manity) sucked into cyclocross. There was a bandwagon. I hopped on. It was a fun ride.
But now I find my mind turning to the road season ahead. What can we expect from Mark Cavendish in the World Champion’s jersey? From Team Sky with Wiggins and Cavendish and Chris Froome and Flecha and Gerraint Thomas and Edvald Boasson-Hagen? How will the team chemistry play out at BMC with Hushovd and Gilbert and Evans all tugging at the reins? What of Radio Shack-Nissan-Trek-Leopard-Schleck? And then there’s the Belgian super squad Omega Pharma Quickstep, now with 100% more Leipheimer.
This week’s Group Ride shifts focus back to the road. What are you most looking forward to about the 2012 road season? What storyline are you most interested in? What surprises do we have in store?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
I just wanted to give you a personal update on how things are going here at LiveUpdateGuy.com.
As most of you know, I was diagnosed with cancer last July (right around the end of the Tour de France, for those who use the grand tours as a marker on the calendar). My doctors took a very professional – and aggressive – approach to the problem and I was in surgery for the first of three operations within days of the diagnosis. Then came what was supposed to be a 20-week regimen of chemo therapy, using a toxic combination of three drugs.
Read the rest here.
The world changed when the bike industry moved to carbon fiber for fabricating most high-end bicycle frames. The shifts were myriad. Many of the bigger companies began employing engineers for the first time ever. Most of the bigger companies either started producing what was effectively their own tubing for the first time or had someone else produce tubing for them, to their spec. The way marketing materials were written changed as they sought to attempt to both hide what materials they used even as they tried to pitch the objective advantage their materials offered the buyer.
It was a helluva change.
Think back. For those of you who went through a steel frame or three before buying a first carbon fiber frame, you’ll recall that bike companies, as well as small framebuilders, all touted just whose tubing they used. So much so, they put a sticker on the seat tube announcing just what they used. It was anything other than a secret.
How companies like Trek, Specialized, Felt, Zipp and others deal with their materials is very different. They effectively create their own alloy by buying carbon fiber from different mills and blending it within their frames as they see fit. To make matters worse, when you try to talk to the folks charged with media relations, one will talk about sourcing from Toray (one of the big mills), while another will talk about modulus and tell you the source doesn’t matter, while another will say modulus doesn’t matter, compaction and resin are the issues. It’s maddening.
Without the benefit of that tubing sticker, bike companies go to great lengths to check out the work of their competitors. They have two primary tools at their disposal. The first is the saw. They will cut frames apart to see what’s inside. They can get a look at exactly what fibers are being used. The other method involves baking. A frame can be put in an oven and baked apart; all you have to do is exceed the resin’s cure temperature. What it yields is a bunch of sheets of carbon fiber. You can see the exact shape and position of ever sheet used. Unfortunately, this method of investigation comes with a downside. You can’t tell what any of the sheets of fiber were; there’s no telling if they were intermediate modulus, high modulus or ultra-high modulus.
I’ve long admired Cervelo’s work, even if I have found some of their designs less than attractive, or comfortable. The SLC-SL remains one of the most unpleasant to ride bikes I’ve ever swung a leg over. But with a pair of Zipps, it was a very fast bike. I found myself constantly scrubbing speed inside the group. What was more impressive about the bike was its torsional stiffness. The bike, despite its aerodynamic-profile tubes, didn’t twist to any appreciable degree. I’ve been on many similarly shaped frames that would twist under a hard acceleration even while firmly ensconced in the saddle.
What elevated my regard for Cervelo’s work a few years ago came not from anything their PR people told me, not from a big win aboard one of their bikes and certainly not from some bike magazine review. An engineer for one of their competitors had baked apart a frame and told me of the sophisticated layup they were using. That there were places where he’d have loved to know what fiber they were using to achieve the stiffness and strength they managed at the bottom bracket. The frame was too light, too stiff and too strong to make the answer easy or obvious.
This guy was unimpressed with some of the work he was seeing from the big three. He talked about how you’d see stacks of fiber maybe five or 10 sheets thick grabbed and placed. Maybe with decent care, maybe not. In his view it was the downside of having to achieve the production numbers they needed. He said with Cervelo you could tell that each sheet was placed individually. You can’t make frames as quickly that way, he told me. But they break less often and usually offer the rider better quality and improved stiffness because the sheets are perfectly oriented for their intended role.
The conversation (actually, I’ve had a similar conversation with two other engineers not employed by the Canadians) made me sit up and take note of Cervelo in a fresh way. It also gave me a new perspective on my previous experience with the SLC-SL. Maybe some of that incredible stiffness was due to great care. Huh.
Since then, I’ve ridden every Cervelo I can get my hands on. I’ve had a day on the S5 (I wrote about that here) and a couple of days on the old R3 SL. This spring Cervelo sent me the new R3. I rode it through the spring, summer and into the fall.
I didn’t want to send it back.
Tomorrow: Part II
I’m at home. On the couch. The kids are in bed. The wife is watching TV. I’m combing through eBay’s endless stupidity for things I don’t need and probably won’t buy. I find something amazing, an old, Italian, pantographed stem. I turn the lap top, present it to the wife like a cat bringing a dead mouse to its owner. She snickers and shakes her head. “What is wrong with you?” she laughs.
This happens more than I’d like to admit.
The other day I was reading about the French classical pianist Hélène Grimaud. Among today’s classical musicians, Grimaud is known as one “who does not fetishize refinement.” The phrase stuck with me.
How often do we do this on Planet Bicycle? I spend half my life devoted to gazing longingly at pictures of finely honed machinery and/or debating the merits of a thing that varies by millimeters from another thing. If you’ve ever uttered the phrase, even quietly to yourself, “Oooh, annodized!” you’re guilty, too. If you’ve ever justified your component preferences with the phrase, “…but, it’s Italian!” you’re guilty, too.
Oh, face it. You read RKP. You’re guilty.
This level of fawning gawpery requires a cognitive leap I don’t all the way understand even though I do it every day. Rather than appreciating a thing for what it can and will do out on the road or trail, I somehow divorce the thing from its use, shine it up bright and then place it high on a pedestal.
When we imbue inanimate objects with mystical qualities, a Mavic derailleur, Campy Delta Brakes, an old steel Merckx, is it because those things are particularly good at their jobs, or because we need something to pour our excess passion into? Is it because we can’t always be pedaling? Do we just need a totem, something to carry the meaning of cycling for us?
This is fetishizing refinement.
Andy Goldsworthy makes sculptures out of things he finds out in the world. Leaves, branches, stone, water. The books that document his various projects are among my prized possessions. There are also documentaries that feature his work and include commentary by the man himself, describing his motivations and approach. They are awful. They ruin it for me. The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club.
Once a thing becomes too precious, in my mind, the soul runs right out of it, like a pretty piano piece executed with machine-like precision, a pile of stone, precariously balanced against a steady wind, or an intricately carved lug that won’t hold a tube. At some point, cycling stops being cycling. It becomes so self-reflective, so fetishized, it’s inert.
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I need to level with you. I take a very skeptical view of most arm/leg/knee warmers. Even though I wear arm warmers for a good nine months of each year (people have no clue how cool the South Bay is), my standards are almost unreasonably high. I’m almost as likely to toss a new pair of arm warmers as I am to wear them. Almost.
The way I see it, I’m not being unreasonable. I just have a basic expectation. Arm warmers have a single mission: to stay in place so they may keep my arms warm. Same goes for leg and knee warmers. If they don’t stay in place then they can’t keep you warm, ergo, they haven’t fulfilled their mission. When I first entered cycling, I didn’t see anyone but PROs wear them. Then I saw a friend with a set. He safety pinned them to his jersey sleeves.
Let’s try that again: My buddy took safety pins and attached them to the ends of his jersey’s short sleeves to hold his arm warmers in place.
That’s a function fail. It’s a design fail. It’s a fashion fail. It’s more kinds of fail than I have the energy (though I certainly have more than enough space) to enumerate here. I rather instantly came to the conclusion that anything so poorly designed didn’t deserve to ride my skin. Then I became the dedicated cycling clothing guy for a bike magazine. I’ve worn dozens of different arm, leg and knee warmers over the years. I was required to try stuff I detested. Mercifully, I ended up only writing about the stuff that measured up.
Here are the most common fails. With arm warmers, length is usually the big one. Arm warmers that are too short make your upper arms and shoulders cold. Occaionally, I’ll run across a set made with Roubaix Lycra that isn’t stretchy enough. Pulling them on is a bit like getting a bone out of a dog’s mouth—surprisingly difficult and not without risks. Making them ultra-tight as a means to combat having them slip down is tantamount to setting fire to your checkbook to keep your spending down. Sometimes arm warmers are cut on too much of a taper, so by the time you find one that will fit your wrists, they are too loose on your upper arms. So they slip down.
With knee warmers length is an issue again. They need to be long so they can ride high on your thigh and still cover your calves. This, because most folks don’t own thermal bibs, so you want that Roubaix Lycra covering as much of your thigh as possible. This, by the way, is yet another reason to shave the whole of your leg. Having the leg grippers of a pair of knee or leg warmers pulling on hair is as much fun as being one half of a girl fight. And again, some Roubaix Lycras aren’t stretchy enough. The problem usually comes down to using material that is stretchy enough for thermal bibs, and because there’s lots more material in thermal bibs than there is in knee warmers, the smaller garment requires stretchier material. And for some, there’s a real challenge to finding a gripper elastic that won’t irritate the skin.
Leg warmers have the aforementioned challenges regarding the stretchiness of the material and even, sometimes, length. The bigger, more frequent issue has to do with zipper placement and taper. Years ago I recall seeing Axel Merckx in the start village of the Tour DuPont. He had leg warmers on. They looked like the most ridiculous bell bottoms ever imagined. Unless you played for George Clinton, and then they would have been money. Merckx’ calves were tiny, but the problem was that his ankles had been crafted from No. 2 pencils. Even zipped up, his leg warmers could have been caught by the chain and sucked through his drivetrain with the gleeful destruction of a Great White Shark feasting on whole chickens.
Could that be right? Ah, we’ll never know. He took the leg warmers off before the start of the stage.
So at some point I should probably mention Hincapie’s new stuff. I say let’s go for it. Okay, so the basics: The warmers are available in three colors—black, red and white. Length on the arm, knee and leg warmers is good. The arm warmers run from wrist almost to mid-bicep; they are roughly as long as some of the other big brands I’ve worn, though a bit shorter than my faves. They are different from some in that they are cut from two pieces of fabric—not one—to create a bend at the elbow. The knee and leg warmers are right in line lengthwise with some of the big brands like Giordana. And the ankles on the leg warmers? Cut on a nice taper so they don’t flair out like some pants. That the zipper on the leg warmers is red is an attractive detail. Another nice detail is that the zipper locks. I’ve noticed that I have to pull these leg warmers up exceedingly high to keep the bottom of the zipper above my cuboid bone (that bump on the outside of your ankle), which will just push it open if it isn’t flipped up in the locked position.
The warmers are all cut from Hincapie’s BodE Thermal Loft fabric. It’s unusually soft and seems to feature more loft than some materials I’ve worn, and it’s very stretchy so it’s easy to pull on. The Hincapie logo transferred onto the warmers is reflective because, Lord knows, half the time you’re wearing this stuff you’d have to shoot at F2.8 to get a properly exposed image.
All that stuff is nice, but not terribly different from stuff by competitors. Here’s why I bothered: Hincapie placed grippers on both the inside for against your skin and the outside to grab fabric. It’s a classic “D’oh!” innovation. That is, the fact that nobody did it before now made me go “D’oh!” when I pulled these out of the package. I didn’t need the fact sheet to clue me in on their purpose. In the image above the gray grippers at the top of the warmers are against your skin, while the red grippers hang on to your clothing. And both the knee and leg warmers are given grippers on the lower hems to keep them from riding up. These might be the most budge-proof warmers I’ve worn.
All that’s well and good, but this may be their best feature: Suggested retails for the arm, knee and leg warmers are $29.99, $39.99 and $49.99 respectively. In the past, I’ve spent more for less.
When I was a kid and I’d go grocery shopping with my mom, she’d drop me off in the cereal aisle. Just leave me there. I’d begin inventorying just which cereals had prizes that week. I’d cull all those with prizes and then begin the process of eliminating the most obviously lousy prizes. Invariably, I’d get the candidates down to three or four and reach near-paralysis. My mother would return to the aisle with a cart stacked our family’s coming week of meals. And she’d force a choice pronto.
Had my mother been involved in this, we’d have announced a winner a week ago.
I plead innocence. There were a dozen stellar names, at minimum. Sure, with some 80 entries we were able to eliminate a couple dozen the moment they arrived. But even among those we knew weren’t quite right, we were fascinated by the diversity of ideas. Those that spoke to the larger implication of the blog’s name were surprisingly gratifying—for instance the “Call to (Red Kite) Prayer” or “Red Kite Pull and Be Forgiven.” I mean, it didn’t seem like we could call the event that, but I loved the ideas.
The ones we struggled most to eliminate were the names that played on the racing traditions that inspire us. Entries that included words and phrases like “flamme rouge,” “ronde” and “flyer” were all instant finalists. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for “rouleur.” I keep expecting to see a trademark sign next to it when used by the folks at Rapha. They’ve done a remarkable job of making that term part of their brand. Nice job on that.
As it happens, one of the very first ideas I fired off to Robot was the Red Kite Rendezvous. I could easily have gone with that, but my gut told me that a tweak was out there, something better, something richer and that we ought to use the opportunity to give you readers a voice and some ownership in this.
What we arrived at nods to the RKP brand, is universal enough that it isn’t limited to just the geography of New England, conjures European racing and conveys the fun of a get-together, all in just three words.
Thanks to “A Stray Velo” for giving us: The Red Kite Rondezvous. For his efforts he gets a “Suffer” T-shirt, an RKP cycling cap and a discount on the Rondezvous, should he choose to attend. (I’m guessing on the whole “he” thing. I’ve no idea.)
We’ll be using this name for years to come.
As to the event this name will grace? We’ve nailed down most of the details and will be making an announcement shortly. Expect to see something the first week of the new year.