The Diamond Encrusted Pint Glass of Reasonableness: This one goes to the 3T’s Dave Koesel, and FSA for dreaming up subcompact gearing. Finally, some people sat down and realized that a 50×11 gear is something that the vast majority of all riders will use for less than one percent of their riding. Sugino had a crank with a 46×30 combination, but no one had connected the dots between it and adventure riding. Koesel, while still the road product manager at Felt, approached FSA and others to see if they’d produce the crank. And because the component manufacturers have for the most part eliminated cassettes that begin with a 12, it took FSA, an ongoing source of innovation, to see the promise. I bet that by 2018 we see SRAM and Shimano begin to offer subcompact cranks on high-end component groups (Shimano’s Metrea doesn’t count), but I also bet that Cannondale (with Hollowgram) and Rotor come out with subcompacts before they do. In the meantime, I wish millions of dollars in sales of FSA’s cranks to us mortals. We give an honorable mention to Felt for being the first company to actually spec the FSA crank on a bike.
The Untapped Market Stainless Steel Kegerator: Retailers who figure out that subcompact gearing is a terrific way to get customers in the door for service with a retrofit could realize a great bump to their season. These aren’t sales that would save a sinking business, but if I owned a shop, I’d take a long position in FSA and Praxis cranks and then offer people a discount on the cranks if they bring their bikes in to be retrofit with them while getting a tuneup. And yes, this would constitute a preemptive award.
The How-You-Like-Me-Now Discount Coupon: Anything that brings together a group of obsessive creatives is bound to be the source of occasional disagreement. Indeed, all sorts of people have had all sorts of opinions about the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. But for all those opinions and indictments, there has been only one lasting criticism of NAHBS—that it is an expensive trip for a builder to make that doesn’t always pan out in new orders. Well this year the show director, Don Walker, along with Steve Elmes and the Pro’s Closet unveiled a new program to help encourage new orders for visitors to the show. This award goes to them for the NAHBS/Pro’s Closet Trade-Up Program, which will allow people to take a couple of photos of an old bike and send them to the Pro’s Closet and have their old ride assigned a value before shipping it. They get a voucher that they can present to the builder of their choice while at the show. Boom. New orders. I heart this program so much.
The Most Surprisingly Thankless Job in Cycling Platinum Megaphone: This one goes to the Sustainable Trails Coalition for their work on the Human Powered Travel in Wilderness Act. I continue to be stunned by the number of cyclists who think it’s perfectly okay for bikes to be forbidden from every dirt road in wilderness areas just because they don’t think people should be shredding the Pacific Crest Trail. Even after listening to every possible defense of restricting singletrack from mountain bikes in wilderness areas, there’s still no good reason to keep gravel bikes off of those dirt roads. Ted Stroll and the others at the STC have it tough in attempting to work with legislators who don’t even like bikes, but it remains disappointing to see how many people think that just because they have access to some singletrack, that must be, somehow, enough for the rest of us.
The Voice in the Wilderness Gold Mic: This goes to my colleague (and former coworker) Vernon Felton for taking up the Human Powered Travel in Wilderness Act cause like no one else in the bike media. From PinkBike to Bike to Outside, he’ll write or speak to anyone about this and do it in utterly rational terms. I’ve always loved that dude, but my regard is even higher these days. Keep up the great work Vernon; we’ve got your back.
The Somethingorother of Determination: No matter what you thought of Chris Froome previously, it was hard not to come out of the 2106 Tour de France without admiration for the crazy determination he showed for dispatching all obstacles. We give this award to Froome not just for his 2016 Tour de France win, but for his willingness to run, to ride bikes that are too small, to protect himself and to take the race to his rivals. He raced up, down, on foot and in clown car. Around these parts we call that mad determines.
The Big Brother Is Watching Bronze Camera: Mere weeks after admitting on air that USA Cycling doesn’t have much to offer me as a rider, I’d like to present this one to them for their RaceClean testing program of amateur athletes. It was this program that helped snare Kimberly Ciolli and Robert Baatz, both of whom thought that taking anabolic steroids would be easy to get away with. Ciolli also thought that USA Cycling wouldn’t catch on to her use of stimulants. *Smacks forehead.* The only reason this camera is bronze and not silver or gold is that there are certainly plenty of other cheaters still getting away with this crap and there are clean athletes who are unsure of the value of the money spent on the program, unsure enough that they aren’t willing to pay more.
The You Want More Customers Satin Ribbon: We’re happy to award this to everyone involved in making electric bikes and supplying systems for them (which is why this is a ribbon and not a fancy gold trophy—there are a great many deserving recipients). From Currie Tech, Shimano and Bosch, which make some of the best systems on the market to Raleigh, Haibike, Yuba, Felt and all the other manufacturers of the bikes, ebikes made a noticeable dent in overall bike sales for 2016. They are poised to do even more this year. What I love most about ebikes isn’t even that they get more people exercising and out on bikes (which then leads to more people wanting better infrastructure for bikes), it’s that people who previously didn’t see bikes on the road are now more likely to notice us and leave us room as they drive by. I like that ebike owners are drivers less likely to run me over. That they also realize the value of bike lanes and sharrows and bike paths may be the best-tasting icing ever, though.
The One Night Ima Buy You Beers Bearhug: This goes to the person who has singlehandedly done more to advance ebikes than anyone else I know: Larry Pizzi. He’s a dyed-in-the-woolens, old-school roadie who saw the potential before a great many others and has become as much a midwife as a leader on behalf of this new segment. He’s helped everywhere: from retailing to education, from managing brands to crafting legislation. He’s an advocate unlike any other.
The Unvarnished Dose of Reality: Writer and photographer Mark Johnson gets this one because of his recent book, “Spitting in the Soup.” We could have called this the “Most Important Book of the Year” award, but we were afraid it might get overlooked as a result. Johnson’s work, which was a more than two-year effort of researching and writing, may go down as the most important book on doping ever written. It’s been a stunning education, one that has dashed previous beliefs and begun to frame doping and our attitudes on it as part of the evolution of human thought. It’s a fantastic work and the only reason I haven’t reviewed it yet is because of all the outside reading it has forced me to undertake. I pray this book stays in print for generations to come. And because we’ve given Mark this award, we can withhold our “Ridiculously Overtalented” award. That anyone can craft such a beautiful sentence and capture such mind-blowing shots is proof that the world is without justice, but plenty of examples of why it’s worth working hard.
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