Dear Mr. Pelkey,
I’ve been a follower of LUG, RKP and the social media cycling community for a while, now.
I am really happy about the recent events in pro cycling. Success and openness of Garmin, support for Paul Kimmage and, of course, the USADA report and consequences.
My huge concern is that those running the sport, Hein and Pat, will remain and we risk having the situation of 1998/1999 repeat – big scandal followed by business as usual. UCI leadership has no credibility, is incompetent and very probably corrupt.
Is the UCI election process capable of bringing change? Is there a way for grass roots activists to make a difference?
An Explainer to give us a little hope would be good, really frightened that this opportunity could be missed.
I have to agree with your assessment of the opportunity we lost in 1998 and ’99. I was among those who were convinced that the Festina Scandal of the ’98 Tour had finally proved that the cost of cheating would exceed the benefits and that riders, teams and officials would realize that it wasn’t worth the risk. Well, I was disabused of that Pollyannaish notion by the middle of the ’99 Tour.
This year has presented us with an even bigger opportunity. We have compelling evidence to suggest that not only did the sport not get cleaned up after Festina, it got worse. It appears that there is also enough evidence to suggest that the UCI was, at best, willfully ignorant of those developments or, at worst, complicit. As a result, it’s time for the two most visible and influential leaders at the UCI – Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen – to step down for the good of the sport.
Former – and now “honorary” – president, Verbruggen, has always struck me as having something of a Machiavellian streak, the sort that is intent upon working his way up the hierarchy not just of the UCI, but of the International Olympic Committee. He’s always struck me as one of the “Lords of the Rings,” described in Vyv Simson’s 1992 book.
I have to say that I actually like the current president, Pat McQuaid. He’s personable, bright and he seems to love the sport. Unfortunately, he and Verbruggen – whether by acts of commission or omission – have become part of the problem. Both really should resign from their respective positions and from the management committee for the good of the sport of cycling. But that ain’t gonna happen. And laudable as they might be, reform efforts face an uphill battle, largely because the organization is structured in a way to discourage genuine reform by limiting real power to a very, very small group of entrenched “leaders.” Here’s why:
The antithesis of democracy
First let’s have a look at the election process you asked about. There are two organizations that exercise control over the UCI. Those are the Congress and the Management Committee. Along with the president and vice presidents, the system is truly and example of how power in the organization is progressively distilled into the hands of fewer and fewer and fewer people.
The Congress is, according to the Constitution of the UCI, the “general meeting of members and the highest authority of the UCI.” But what does that mean? Are you, for example, one of those “members?”
Well, not exactly. Let’s assume that you hold a license to race bikes; one issued to you by your national governing body, which is USA Cycling. For purposes of this Congress, that doesn’t make you a “member” under the definition of the UCI Constitution. For purposes of this Congress, the members are the 171 national federations affiliated with the UCI. Member federations may be represented at the Congress by a delegation of not more than three persons.
Article 28 of the UCI Constitution requires that the statutory Congress be held at least annually, although exceptional circumstances could justify an emergency meeting. So, let’s imagine that all 171 member federations send three delegates to the Congress and those 513 representatives of the world cycling community assemble for the mandated annual convention. What do they get to do there?
They can talk to each other. They can listen to speeches. They can pick up gift packs of swag. Oh, and they can vote, right?
Well, not exactly. Let me explain.
Article 29 of the UCI Constitution grants broad authority to the Congress:
1. The Congress shall have the following exclusive powers and duties:
a) Alteration of the Constitution and dissolution of the association;
b) To transfer the registered office of the UCI to another country;
c) Admission, expulsion and suspension of federations, without prejudice to Article 46, d;
d) Setting the annual amount of contributions on a proposal from the Management
e) Election of the President of the UCI and of nine other members of the Management
f) Dismissal of the members of the Management Committee of the UCI;
g) Appointment of the public auditor, on a proposal from the Management Committee and his
2. In addition, the Congress shall each year decide on:
a) the management report of the Management Committee;
b) the auditor’s report on the accounts;
c) the annual accounts of the previous year;
d) the budget for the following year.
So we have up to 513 members of the global cycling community who wield considerable power, right?
Article 36 of the Constitution limits voting rights to just 42 delegates. Those delegates are selected to represent their respective Continental Federations and are distributed in accordance with the following formula:
- Africa: 7 delegates
- America: 9 delegates
- Asia: 9 delegates
- Europe: 14 delegates
- Oceania: 3 delegates
It is those 42 delegates who get to vote on important issues and, more critically, select the president and 10 of the fifteen members of the Management Committee, which, according to the Constitution, is “vested with the most extensive powers as regards the management of the UCI and the regulation of cycling sports.” It’s where the real power in the UCI sits.
As I said, the power is increasingly distilled into the hands of smaller and smaller groups of people. Who are those 15? The Management Committee is composed of the President of the UCI and nine other members elected by the Congress. Of those ten elected members, at least seven have to belong to European federations. They are then joined by the presidents of the five Continental Federations.
In his day, Verbruggen worked that Management Committee like it was an extension of his own personality. He pretty much ran the show and hand-picked McQuaid to be his successor. I am not under the impression that McQuaid exercises as much power as did Verbruggen, but do keep in mind that Verbruggen remains involved in the Management Committee in his capacity as “honorary president.” It’s a non-voting position, but given that Verbruggen is also a vice-president in the IOC, he continues to wield power and influence in the UCI in general and the Management Committee in particular.
It is, by any definition, an old boys club and the old boys want to keep it that way.
Is there a way to change it? It may require a bit of creativity and, as Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein, it will require us to “follow the money.”
Time for reform?
After the USADA document dump in the Armstrong case, we suddenly had an opportunity to attack the way this sport is managed. The revelations were serious enough to even give the UCI, McQuaid and Verbruggen pause to reconsider their lawsuit against Irish journalist Paul Kimmage … at least until an “independent commission” completed a report as to the UCI’s involvement in the scandal.
That independent commission turned out to be structured quite like a normal three-member Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) panel. This one will be led by British appeals judge, Phillip Otton, and will include Australian lawyer Malcolm Holmes and British Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson. The three will meet in April to review evidence and then issue a report by June.
I’ll take a wait-and-see approach with regard to the panel’s independence. Superficially, it looks like a good group. Meanwhile, we won’t see much internal action from the UCI until that report is issued in June.
There is an admirable grass-roots effort underway right now, though. Following the whole Armstrong kerfuffle, Australian clothing entrepreneur Jamie Fuller started Change Cycling Now and the group organized a summit conference in London earlier this month. They are calling for a host of reforms, including the removal the UCI’s authority to administer its anti-doping enforcement and place it into the hands of a truly independent agency. (Do recall that is the model used in the U.S. and is likely the only reason we saw the Armstrong case pursued as it was.)
There were some heavy hitters involved, too, including Kimmage, his friend and colleague, David Walsh, the head of the Association of Professional Cyclists, Gianni Bugno, anti-doping expert Michael Ashenden, Garmin’s Jonathan Vaughters and the only American to win the Tour de France, Greg LeMond.
It may be a good sign that Johan Bruyneel referred to the meeting as “a bunch of douches.” Looking beyond that flash of Bruyneel’s rhetorical brilliance, it is important to remember that the quality of a man – or of an organization – can best be judged not only by the quality of their friends but also by the quality of their enemies. If you’re pissing off Johan Bruyneel these days, you’re probably doing something right. (Note to Johan: Take a cue from that Lance guy. Twitter is not your friend.)
It may well be the start of something good. Indeed, LeMond – who, by the way, is the only American to win the Tour de France (did I already mention that?) – said he was ready to run for the post of UCI president. Frankly, I can’t think of anyone better qualified than LeMond, who, by the way, is the only American to have won the Tour de France.
It will be an uphill battle, though. Again, think back to those 42 voting members of the UCI Congress. We’re not talking about a cadre of committed reformers when we mention those 42. The odds are good that these are people with the same set of skewed priorities and ingrained conflicts-of-interest that caused the problem in the first place.
As I mentioned, it may be time for us to “follow the money,” and come at the UCI from the financial side. It’s time to organize and, yes, even boycott, sponsors whose support is critical to the UCI.
According to its annual financial report, the UCI’s “resources consist of contributions, sponsorship and royalties generated by sports activities.” Indeed, those sponsorships are the biggest single item in the governing body’s list of receivables each year.
Those sponsors include such notable companies as Shimano, Santini, Tissot, Skoda and Swatch. Let those sponsors know that their support of the UCI as it currently stands is not something that necessarily endears you to their product. Don’t necessarily boycott them yet, but do encourage them to use their influence to force reform within an organization that has failed to live up to its obligation.
Yes, we can push for change, but it ain’t gonna be easy.
The Explainer is 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.
But my cycling, almost all of it, has more to do with whos than whats or whys.
There were two incredibly cool older kids, teenagers, in the neighborhood I first rode a bike in, Scott and Jamie. Both of them could ride a wheelie the length of our street. They built a crappy wooden bridge to ford the stream that separated our block from the small patch of woods behind, and the trails they cut in between the pines. They were early heroes. Everything they did, I wanted to do. They made bikes cool.
As an adult, I was shown the ropes of road riding by my friend Nancy, who had nearly supported herself, in the ’80s, by winning all the local crits and surviving on free bikes, ramen and broccoli. She’s the one who taught me to ride in a paceline, how to shift when climbing, how to dress, eat and suffer on a bike.
After years of riding and commuting and really integrating the bike into every aspect of my life, along came Padraig, who not only gave me the opportunity to write about bikes for a much larger audience, but also showed me how deep you can really go with cycling. He helped me jump into the industry. He became a friend and a mentor. And another inspiration.
Just yesterday, my friends Joe and Dan dragged me out for a pre-work ride in the freezing-ass-cold. It was a relatively short one, but still more than I had done for a few weeks, and it lifted my mood in that way that riding a bike with friends does.
These are just a few of my whos, the ones who spring readily to mind. This week’s Group Ride asks who are the characters who brought you into cycling? What did they say/do/show that jumped you into the gang? How did they inspire you?
Let’s start with an audacious premise, that just by virtue of the fact that you are reading these words, you are fast. I know. I know. “Bullshit,” you think to yourself. But maybe it’s true, last week’s post not withstanding.
These things can be self-fulfilling, the placebo that cures what ails you.
Allow me to perform the trick of the medium, the palm-reader or the gazer into crystal balls. Dim the lights. Put your credit card on the table.
You ride a bike. Oh yes, the low-hanging fruit. The obvious. But don’t you see we’re already more than half-way there. Because not only do you a ride a bike, but you ride a bike often, some might even say regularly. Wait. Wait. It’s more than that. You actually define yourself, sketch the outlines of your deep and true and core identity, in relation to the bike.
You are a cyclist, but you are more. You are a committed cyclist. In the back of your mind, at some point, you have assigned yourself a sub-identity within the cycloverse. You are a climber (grimpeur) or a rouleur. Maybe a sprinter or a randonneur. It doesn’t matter, because you know which one you are, and you know which one you are because you’ve tried to be at least one of the others and found it didn’t suit you.
How am I doing? Uncanny, right? Look, every Robot with a neon sign out front isn’t a charlatan. Some of us have true mystical powers. We see things. We know.
And so you ride. You ride a lot. Maybe you ride through the winter, or maybe you take an off-season. It doesn’t matter. Even if you use the term “winter weight” un-ironically, you remain a cyclist, and you know, even as you shovel another forkful of cake into your gaping maw, that you will return to the bike. You have faith that it will set you free from these days of excess, the license you’ve given to your id, that rotten son-of-a-bitch who doesn’t care a whit how (not) fast you are in the spring.
It’s all alright, because you’re a cyclist.
And now we circle back to our premise that you are fast. “Pfffffttt!!” you think again, “Have you met me?” And yes, I have. I know you. You’re that guy who rides a bike, by virtue of which, you are fast.
No, you are not fast relative to Steve. Fucking Steve whose muscle-y ass you’ve had to follow over hill and goddamned dale all summer long. Steve, who once won things and knows how much his wheels weigh. Steve, who, despite being faster and fitter and better adjusted than you are, is actually an alright guy, and let’s be honest, if it wasn’t for Steve, we probably wouldn’t ride as much as we do. Let’s not murder Steve, just because he’s fast. There are better ways to bend the curve of velocity back toward our own very human capabilities.
Go to the grocery store. Never mind a cart. You don’t need a cart. And forget the basket. Put it down. Just walk the aisles. Up. Down. Frozen foods. The chip aisle. Even allow yourself to wander into produce. It doesn’t matter. Have a look around. Count the number of shoppers you couldn’t beat in a two-up, town-line sprint. KAPOW! You’re fast.
Oh, but it gets better.
Leave the store. Go home. Wait for your favorite band to come to town. I know. I know. It’s been a long time. How long? Since college? Yeah. It happens. We all get busy, lose track, get older, get lame, forget what it’s like to stand for two hours or more on a concrete floor drinking beer from a cup and shouting to maintain a conversation while the sound guy juices the room with some techno crap cooked up by a Scandinavian teen that he pulled off Youtube that morning.
But now you’re at the show. As is every other adult for whom this band was significant back in the ’90s, ’80s, ’70s, ’60s. Now we’re not looking at a random sampling of grocery purchasers, i.e. regular humans. Now we’re looking at your cohort, folks your age who are steeped in the same zeitgeist(s) that produced you in all your cyclorific majesty.
How about now? Anyone here you couldn’t beat to the top of a 9% incline of 1km or more? I am assuming your favorite band isn’t that bunch of dudes from the Michelob Ultra commercial.
Here we are. We have arrived at fast again. But just like Dorothy, back in Kansas after that technicolor acid trip of hers, it was inside you the whole time!
You are fast because you ride. And it doesn’t matter if you never do an interval or a hill repeat, or like me, you sprint from the hoods. You will never win Milan-San Remo, but at the school drop off in the morning you are among the elite.
It is quite possible that you can be faster, that by riding intervals and hill repeats, that by consuming a carefully considered diet, that by resting, by patience, and by dint of hard work, you can raise your performances, such as they are, to some vanishing point, an asymptote of accelerating brilliance.
But let me tell you I have clutched the philosopher’s stone in my greedy fists, and I have reworked the formulas. Take your life, add a bike, sprinkle liberally with a ruthless realism and a modest sense of humor. It’s that easy. You are fast.
Image: © Matt O’Keefe
Okay, now that the collective gasp everyone made in reading that title has passed, I’ll confirm for you that this is a review of eyewear that you may not even have known existed. Members of the Argos-Shimano and Française des Jeux teams have been wearing pieces of Shimano eyewear for a couples of seasons (though most of the bigger names at FDJ, like Jeremy Roy, wear Oakley) as have Niels Albert and Radomir Simunek Jr., but of the many things that Shimano makes, their eyewear has gotten less promotion than a woman in Congress.
Okay, so I’m going to be honest here. There are a great many accessories produced by big companies that aren’t necessarily up to par. Trek’s water bottles can’t compare to those made by Specialized, for instance. Cycling is full of similar examples. Last month I went to the media intro for Dura-Ace 9000, and while there I tried out a pair of the Equinox just to be polite. I really didn’t think they’d be anything that I’d wear more than a week, just to make sure they were unremarkable.
Sometimes, my hunches are just plain wrong and this is one of those times. I’ve never been wrongerer about an item that wasn’t core to a company’s product line.
Look, these are just glasses. They won’t make you faster, they won’t bring peace to the Middle East and they are unlikely to make the opposite sex bat their eyes at you, but what they will do is provide you with eye protection suited to anything from midnight to noon. That’s why I’m writing.
The Shimano Equinox Eyewear kit comes with three sets of lenses. There’s a pair of clear lenses included, plus a pair of mirrored lenses with a gradient, gray tint; their materials list a fourth, yellow, set of lenses, but mine didn’t include those. The lenses included in the glasses have a slight brown tint that is very color-accurate, but what makes them remarkable is that they are photochromic, covering the broadest range of any photochromic eyewear I’ve ever worn, from Cat. 1 to Cat. 3. I timed the transition from lightest tint to darkest at under 20 seconds, though the reverse seemed to take a few seconds longer.
I never used the clear or mirror lenses. Not once. I had no need. I wore these glasses during sunny, cloudless days and in pre-dawn darkness that required lights on my bike. Never in my life has one pair of glasses been so versatile.
Naturally, styling will be a big question on peoples’ minds. I think these look sufficiently PRO not to be an embarrassment, and I’m sorry, but I don’t care how effective a piece of eyewear is—if it looks like something I’d buy off a rack at the Flying J truck stop, I’m not wearing them for all the diesel in Bakersfield.
I could go on about all the technology Shimano uses in their polycarbonite lenses, how remarkably clear they are, the scratch-resistant coating, the prescription lens clip that’s available, the nice travel box and larger-than-Oakley’s cotton protection bag, or how I was able to fit them into helmets from both Specialized (the Prevail) and Giro (the Aeon)—though not Bell—but the only other detail that really impressed me was this: They retail for $119.99.
By chance, I heard last week’s edition of the BBC radio program, “Afternoon Theatre.” It was a drama based on the life of Beryl Burton, who, when she died of a heart attack while riding her bike in 1996 at age 58, was regarded as the world’s greatest ever woman cyclist. Two other female champions have since laid claim to Burton’s throne: Jeannie Longo of France and Marianne Vos of the Netherlands.
These extraordinary athletes have variously been called the Eddy Merckx of women’s racing, but it’s hard to compare riders from very different eras: Burton had her heyday in the 1960s, Longo in the ’80s and ’90s, and Vos in this current century. The Dutch wunderkind has deserved her cyclist-of-the-year accolades this season thanks to her world and Olympic road titles, and her repeat victories in the UCI World Cup, women’s Giro, and cyclocross worlds. Before Vos’s recent emergence, Longo dominated women’s racing on road and track for the best part of 15 years—and that was well before her latter career was stained by doping allegations and her husband and coach Patrice Ciprelli being sanctioned for importing doping products.
No such shadows linger over Burton, whose mantra was hard work, dedication and having fun with cycling. Even though she was told as a child fighting rheumatic fever that she would never be an athlete, she went on to become a legend in British cycling. That status was earned over several decades of dominance, but it was one event that put Burton on a pedestal as a one-of-a-kind champion. That race was featured in the radio play that also included interviews with Burton’s widower Charlie and daughter Denise. The event was the 1967 Otley Cycling Club’s 12-hour time trial.
By that point in her career, when “our Beryl” was age 30, Burton was Britain’s undisputed queen of time trialing. She had already won the first eight of an eventual 25 consecutive British Best All-Rounder titles, based on average speeds in 25-, 50- and 100-mile TTs, and that day in 1967 she was determined to improve on her own national 12-hour TT record of 250.37 miles that she had set eight years earlier. The course for that time trial in her native Yorkshire followed an out-and-back route on the so-called Great North Road, finishing on a circuit that the riders reached after about 200 miles.
The women’s field started after the men, with the men’s favorite and final starter, Mike McNamara, setting out two minutes before Burton. Her way of relaxing before a big race like this was to sit down and do some knitting, rather than anxiously circling on her bike. No one seriously thought that she could challenge McNamara, a tough competitor from South Yorkshire who was the reigning national champion at 12 hours; but for hour after hour that day she matched his pace. Amazingly, the gap between them was still two minutes at the 156-mile marker. That was astonishing enough, but what happened next was unprecedented: Burton started to close on McNamara!
After another three hours of effort, she eventually had her male rival in her sights on the finishing circuit. And the unthinkable took place at mile 236 when Burton finally rolled up to McNamara’s back wheel. What happened next is the stuff of legends. Putting a hand in her jersey pocket, she pulled out some candy and as she drew level she matter-of-factly asked him, “Would you like a liquorice allsort?” McNamara rose honorably to the moment, taking the licorice from Burton and thanking her with a “Ta, love.”
By the end of that time trial, almost two hours later, Burton completed her 12-hour ride with a distance of 277.25 miles—it not only topped McNamara by almost a mile but also broke the men’s nine-year-old men’s national record, and, 45 years later, still remains the longest distance any woman has ridden in an authentic 12-hour time trial.
Besides her sheer longevity and competitiveness from distances as short as the 3000-meter track pursuit or as long as the 24-hour time trial, Burton was a pure amateur athlete. She fitted in training between time spent as a mother and housewife and working at a smallholding farm, planting and harvesting beets and rhubarb, often in harsh winter weather. And she had virtually no financial support for overseas trips.
When Burton and husband Charlie traveled to the 1960 world championships in East Germany, they missed their train connection in Berlin and walked the streets for hours seeking affordable accommodations. Weary and hungry, they eventually went to a police station at two in the morning—where the officer on duty recognized the name on her passport, called a friend at the sports ministry and got them a hotel room, courtesy of the state. The next day, after catching the train to Leipzig, Burton raced the qualifying rounds of the individual pursuit. She went on to take the gold medal in that event, and capped her worlds’ appearance by winning the women’s road race. A double world champion at 23!
In a down-home speech to her colleagues gathered at her Morley Cycling Club’s annual dinner the following winter, Burton said this about her worlds experience and competing against state-subsidized athletes: “I was envious at first of the Germans and the Russians, and the support they received from their government, while we had to dig deep into our own pockets to compete. But then Charlie reminded me of you lot, my cycling friends and family, and the support, inspiration and encouragement I get from you, the laughs and the commiseration. So from now on, if I start to feel a little hard done to, I shall think of you rabble … and I will say to myself, ‘Smile when you lose, and laugh like hell when you win!’”
A phenomenal champion, Beryl Burton never forgot her homespun roots and she remained a fierce competitor all her life—even against her own daughter, who also became a fine cyclist. Mother, 41, and daughter, 21, both took part in the 1976 British national road race championship. Beryl did most of the work in establishing a four-woman breakaway, with Denise sitting in her wake. But when the daughter came through at the finish two win the sprint ahead of her mother, Beryl was furious. In fact, Denise Burton said on the radio program, “She wouldn’t let me in the car,” and told her to ride her bike home.
Sounds just like Merckx, the Cannibal, who also was convinced that he would win every race he started.
COMPARING THE TITLES EARNED BY BURTON, LONGO AND VOS
This summary does not include Olympic medals because women cyclists were not awarded any events until 1984, so Burton never had chance to ride at the Olympic Games. It should also be noted that a women’s time trial was not included at the worlds until 1994; otherwise Burton would likely have won many more rainbow jerseys. The “other” events listed here include track races and cyclo-cross.
Rider Years World Championships National Championships
RR Other RR TT Other
Burton (GB) 30 2 5 12 72 12
Longo (F) 33 5 8 15 10 34
Vos (Nl) 7 2 7 5 2 4
Follow me on Twitter: @johnwilcockson
We tend to think of great achievements as unparalleled statements of personal belief. The great sporting performances, the great works of art, the great leaders, are easy to see as examples of uncompromising will. We like to think of Claude Monet as an artist without peer, yet even at the height of his powers he was aware of the work his contemporaries were doing, and often discussed them and their work in his letters.
We think of compromise as a kind of sacrifice, a net loss, something less than an individual’s pure art.
The Zipp 202 Firecrest Carbon Clinchers are an achievement borne of compromise. These aren’t the lightest wheels on the market. They aren’t the most aerodynamic wheels on the market. They aren’t the stiffest wheels on the market, nor are they the strongest. They aren’t even the best riding.
Sounds like they aren’t all that terrific, doesn’t it? Well that’s where the compromise helps. I’ve ridden the tubular 202 and have serious miles on the Firecrest 404s. The tubular 202s accelerated like a goosed cat and forgave over-geared climbing with the aplomb of an Irish priest. I’ve not ridden another wheel like them. On the other hand, the Firecrest 404s are a divine instrument of personal torture. Little else can inspire me to dig deeper than to look down at my Garmin and see 30 mph and know I still have a few beats in reserve. Not that it happens much, mind you, but going that fast is high-school-make-out fun. And if the only downside to riding that fast was chapped lips, I wouldn’t be sitting in front of this computer right now.
I flat-out have never ridden a wheel this light that wasn’t a liability aerodynamics-wise. Weight on the Firecrest 202s is 606 grams front, 737g rear and 1343g pair, significantly less than the advertised 1375g. Sure, there are lighter wheels out there, but wind tunnel tests say the traditional box rim throws 324g of drag when laced with the same spoke pattern as the 202s. By comparison, the hummingbird of the Zipp line throws only 131g of drag, for a 60 percent reduction in drag. Now, compare that to the 80g of drag of the Firecrest 404s.
Now consider the difference between the tubular 202s with the Firecrest Carbon Clincher 202s. The tubulars weigh what a lot of frames weigh—1115g. That’s 228g lighter than the clincher model and if the folks at Zipp were as bad at weighing the tubulars as they were the clinchers, that difference in weight is even greater, which is to say that the Bugatti Veyron doesn’t accelerate as quickly as these wheels do. The trick is, that weight loss is completely offset by the wheels’ unremarkable aerodynamics.
All the bike industry engineers I talk to are singing the same song: Weight is going to matter less and less. We’ve reached a point of diminishing returns. The real gains, as I’ve reported before, are going to be in aerodynamics. It took a while for me to become a believer, but I’ve ridden enough aero wheels and frames at this point that even if I didn’t want to believe, I’ve seen the results displayed before me on Strava. It took me months to understand why I set my fastest time down Decker Road in Malibu on a day where I really wasn’t trying hard to go fast. Finally, one day I recalled that on the day I’d bettered my previous top speed on that road by a full 2 mph (with no tailwind), I was riding the Cervelo S5. Oh. Ah. Right.
My sense is that on flat rides these wheels aren’t the liability other climbing wheels are. They are still an improvement over most of the aluminum wheels your friends are riding. But on climbs you’re going to have an easier time keeping your cadence up than if you were riding a heavier wheel. And if you’re an Eagle among frogs, an acceleration on these wheels will deliver dividends that will leave tongues lolling on stems.
It’s easy to focus on the Zipp rims and forget about the notable quality of the Zipp 88 and 188 hubs. Honestly, without the grade 10 bearings or ABEC 7 races, these wheels wouldn’t roll as fast or last as long. Because of the impending release of Shimano’s Dura-Ace 9000 11-speed group, the rear 202 came equipped with the new 188 V8 hub. It features a new axle and freehub to allow for 11-speed cassettes. Riders with existing 2012 wheels (black or gray hubs) can get them retrofit with the new freehub and axle. This new hub requires a slightly different dish to the wheel; increased dish is always a concern for wheel longevity.
In years past, Zipp wheels had a reputation for being, well, fragile. As I mentioned in my post, “What About the Bike?” when I crashed, my front wheel struck something and came to a stop with the sudden inaction of a computer freezing. It took me almost as long to understand what occurred. By that time, I was on the ground and as rearranged as a freeway guardrail. Days later I inspected the front 202. I’ve inspected it a few times and can’t find anything that looks like damage. It’s not even out of true.
The rear wheel did come out of true a bit in the first few weeks of riding—not badly, but it didn’t stay perfectly true. I continued to ride it that way for another two weeks just to see what would happen. I attribute the change to spoke creep/stretch/settling, but even under continued riding that initial loss of true did not increase.
Zipp wheels are expensive enough that they, like Assos clothing, come in for as much criticism as the Lakers on an off night. It might not be just how you want it, but there’s no denying they are good. Spending $2700 on a set of wheels just isn’t in the cards for a great many people; hell, I’ve got a baby on the way and I wouldn’t even bring this up to my wife right now. But there are other people, people who got graduate degrees that weren’t MFAs like mine. They got PhDs, MBAs, MDs, JDs. They were both smart and disciplined. To them, the spoils … and an extra 40 watts or so. But the alternative—open mold stuff—is the cycling equivalent of a Corvair: not as fast, not as well-made and unlikely to fair as well when safety is an issue.
On my first few fast descents on the 202s I had some questions about how they’d fair on the technical descents in Malibu. Just because I’ve never melted a Zipp wheel doesn’t mean it can’t ever happen. With less material to dissipate heat when compared to the 303s and 404s, I wondered if there was a chance that I could melt the brake track under hard, sustained braking.
Yeah, the answer to that would be no. Of course, should I get caught behind a slow-moving car on a mountain descent with no place to pull over, I’m confident I could eventually push these or any other carbon fiber wheel there.
Let me acknowledge yet again that these wheels are as easily afforded as a two-week binge on cocaine. Even if you come up with the scratch, there could be lasting consequences, right? And for those who occupy the same economic stratus that I do, let me suggest: Move along—nothing to see here. That said, there’s no reason to badmouth these wheels. They are the technological leading edge that will trickle down through production and in three to five years, you’re likely to see something nearly as fast as these for a third the price. Of course, by then Zipp’s wheels will be even faster.
Those who have the spare cash, however, can enjoy a wheel that’s faster than a box rim on the flats, climbs like Reinhold Messner, and handles like Fred Astaire dances. Sometimes, compromise ain’t a bad thing.
I think this is probably a topic you don’t deal with all that often, but I am an avid cyclist, a bike racer, a commuter, a cycling advocate and more. In short I am a bike geek … and think I am about to be sued for hitting a guy on a bike with my car.
About a month ago, I came home from work and had to run to the store for groceries. I grabbed the car, did my shopping and began my trip home again. At the end of the parking lot, I made a right turn and bang: I ran right into a guy riding his bike against traffic.
He bounced off my hood, fell to the curb and broke his arm. His bike was destroyed. The police came, I told my story, and so did a couple of witnesses. The cops didn’t write a ticket to anyone and the guy was taken to the hospital. I felt awful for the guy, but I don’t think I did anything wrong, at least in a legal sense. I keep thinking back and wondering why I didn’t see him when I glanced to my right when making the turn.
Anyway, yesterday I got home and I found a letter from a lawyer trying to tell me that I was responsible for the guy’s injuries and that he wants to be compensated for his medical costs, his bike, loss of income and “pain and suffering.”
What the @#$&? What did I do wrong? What am I supposed to do now?
Man oh man – to quote a recent president – I feel your pain. As a cyclist, it’s my major pet peeve, since these boneheads not only put themselves at risk, they give the rest of us a bad name. I live in a college town and, especially around campus, there are hordes of young, seemingly oblivious, undergrads who seem to think that riding on the left side of the road is somehow “safer” because “I can see what’s coming.”
Unfortunately, that myth fails to take into account the reasons it’s not safe, namely the situation you just described. There are other hazards, including faster closing speeds and the need for greater braking distances. But most of our readers are relatively experienced cyclists, so I don’t need to rehash all of those. Most of us know to ride in the same direction as the flow of traffic.
Still, we’ve all seen people – most of whom are not avid riders – who insist that riding against traffic is safer. Telling them otherwise, especially when you’re on the road, often results in the extension of a single digit in your direction. I actually had a collision involving similar facts, except I was on my bike and got creamed by a wrong-way rider at an intersection. (Apparently, he not only believed that he could ride on the wrong side of the road, but that since the stop sign wasn’t facing him, he wasn’t constrained by that rule, either.)
So, if your description of events is accurate – and for purposes of this answer, let’s assume that it is – you didn’t do anything wrong. Nowhere in these United States is it legal for a cyclist to ride against traffic. The cyclist should have, despite his injuries, been ticketed for that. Maybe the cop felt sorry for the guy and didn’t write him up because he was getting hauled off to the hospital. The bottom line is that all cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as those operating a motor vehicle on a public road. Those responsibilities include obeying applicable traffic laws and, no, riding against traffic is not an option for cars, so it can’t be for bikes.
Anyway, let’s start with the letter. My first bit of advice is don’t sweat it. It’s probably a shot over the bow and little, if anything, will ever come of it.
That said, do not blow it off, though. The first thing you need to do is contact your insurance company. Actually, I am surprised that the guy’s lawyer didn’t contact the insurance company directly, instead of bothering you with this claim. He certainly should have. I do have to assume you have liability insurance on your car, since you probably would have been ticketed for that had you been driving in an uninsured vehicle.
It sounds like the amount of the claim will fall well within even the most minimal liability coverage, so you’re good to go. Your insurance company is responsible for paying any claim and, as will probably be the case here, rejecting those that aren’t valid. If there’s a lawsuit, the insurance company handles the defense, although you will need to make yourself available in the unlikely event this thing goes to trial. If you do have liability insurance, your insurance company will end up doing all the background work.
Now, on the off chance that you don’t have insurance, you may have to do some of that legwork yourself. First, contact the police agency that handled the accident and see if you can get the officer’s report of the incident. There is a chance that the rider was, in fact, ticketed at the hospital.
Even if there weren’t citations issued, there should be an accident report and you have a right to see that. Hopefully, the report will note that the rider was traveling against the normal flow of traffic. If so, you’re in pretty good shape. Still, I would advise you to seek legal counsel at that point. If you’re going to get into an argument with someone who has a lawyer on his side, you may need to get one yourself.
Again, if things are as you described and the police report notes that the cyclist was at fault, your lawyer may be able to solve this thing with a response letter that points out that it was the victim’s failure to comply with traffic laws that caused the accident and not your negligence.
If the police report doesn’t mention that the rider was violating applicable traffic rules, you may have a problem. You mentioned that there were witnesses and that can prove helpful. I’ll guess that you didn’t get their contact information, but again, that should be in the police report.
If you are sued, the plaintiff – the cyclist – will have to show that you were somehow responsible for the accident. He’ll have to show that the accident occurred do to your negligence and not his. From the sounds of it, that will be a pretty big hurdle for him to overcome.
Like anyone behind the wheel of an automobile, you have what is called a “duty of care,” to anyone else out on the road. You “breach” that duty by not acting in a reasonable fashion when you’re driving and if that breach is a cause of someone else’s injury, then you can be found negligent and will be ordered by the court to compensate the victim.
But in your case, you appear to have been operating your vehicle in that reasonable manner and it was he who violated his duty of care by riding his bike against the normal flow of traffic. Indeed, if by being hit by your car, he somehow damaged it, you could have reason to file a counter-suit.
Again, if you have the requisite insurance coverage, you won’t have to worry about any of that.
Good luck and let us know how it turns out.