RKP Annual End of Year Awards

RKP Annual End of Year Awards

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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30 comments

  1. Craig P

    ” 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. ” .

    I should point out that there are no ” roads ” ( dirt or otherwise ) in wilderness areas. At least none I’ve been to. If there is a dirt road, it isn’t ” wilderness ” – shred away !

    1. AC

      I would agree that roads are not common in WAs. They do exist though. In WA state, a relatively recent addition had roads, bridges, and areas that had been clearcut. A very close by trail into a Wilderness area is an old road. They definitely exist.

    2. Winky

      100% agree. My personal definition of wilderness definitely does not include dirt roads. The presence of a dirt road automatically renders it non-wilderness. But I am against increasing bike and horse access to areas currently only accessible by hiking.


    3. Author
      Padraig

      The issue here isn’t about personal definitions of how we think of wilderness. The issue is one of legal status and in the U.S., bikes are not allowed in wilderness areas, and yet some of those same areas have dirt roads. While some people can have a reasonable debate about whether or not bikes ought to be on singletrack in those areas, I can’t fathom a single argument against a bike on a dirt road in said wilderness.

    4. Winky

      If there’s a dirt road, bikes should be allowed on it. (Whether or not I think that it is still wilderness or not is, as you say, irrelevant). I just don’t want my non-road wilderness hiking experience interrupted by rapidly descending, flannel encrusted, chest-bumping bros on ludicrously oversized dualies. Or by people on enormous, skittish, stupid, scared-but-dangerous fucking horses.

  2. Geraint

    Totally agree re subcompact gearing, and I hope you’re right about it going prime time with Shimano/SRAM in the next year or two. I just wonder if it’s come a bit late and been overtaken by single ring drivetrains.

    As for Cannondale doing a subcompact spidering, well they’ve got all the technology and a bike to put it on, but that bike has hitherto worn 52/36×11-28 or 44×10-42, so maybe they need a new product manager first…


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Despite SRAM’s best efforts to eliminate front derailleurs and second chainrings, there are enough riders in California and Colorado alone to keep sales of those items alive. I’m in the process of reviewing Shimano’s Deore XT group and they were thrilled when I said I wanted to review it in 2x. They make great front derailleurs and as far as they’ve communicated, they don’t plan to stop.

  3. Jonathan

    “Sugino had a crank with a 46×30 combination, but no one had connected the dots between it and adventure riding.”*

    *citation needed


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Simply look up every production adventure bike on the market. Not one of them feature the Sugino crank. And FWIW: Sugino isn’t the only one, but you don’t see the TA one (or any others) on production bikes either. For all practical purposes, those cranks didn’t exist; they weren’t being talked about in the media at all. A handful of gear nerds are the only people I know who were aware of them and part of the problem is that the only bikes you were seeing them on were rando bikes, which is a market subset that the mainstream manufacturers go to some pains to ignore. I don’t necessarily agree with how these events have played out, but this flavor of crank wasn’t getting any media love until it was spec’d on a bike by Koesel while at Felt.

    2. Jonathan

      Oh, you mean on mainstream production adventure bikes? In that case, point taken.
      I know a bunch of the aforementioned “gear nerds” (myself included) who have various iterations of the Sugino sub-compacts on adventure bikes, but yeah, mainstream they aint.
      Sub-compacts on mainstream bikes is a great thing, I really hope they become ubiquitous.

  4. Alan

    Agree with most of this, but E-bikes are MOTORCYCLES.

    Unless you are handicapped, no reason to use/buy one. When I was fat & out of shape, I had to slowly get better and ride farther.

    1. Alan

      I guess I am just so confused and simple minded. A motor on a bicycle. It’s not a motorcycle.

      IT’S A MOPED. My mistake.

      And since I am a changed man, YES, let’s have more simply out-of-shape people on the trails and roads where they shouldn’t be. Let’s have more skilled riders smoking their buddies on all the trails and roads!

      Wonderful idea.

  5. Chasseur

    You’re both right, they ARE MOTORCYCLES and able bodied people can use them when they’d rather burn electrons than gas or four wheels of rubber. They may also burn some human calories, but that’s elective.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      No, they are not motorcycles. While there are a few that feature a push-button throttle, the vast majority of all ebikes sold do not have a throttle and therefore require you to pedal. The motor is an assist to, not instead of, human output.

  6. Kimball

    Any chance you could combine the FSA subcompact right crank arm (with, say 46/30 chain rings) with their tandem stoker left crank arm (with chain ring) so you could use subcompact gearing on a tandem? Might be a sweet setup with Ultegra Di2.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Unfortunately, that’s not possible. They use two different BB standards. The tandem crank uses either MegaEXO or BB30, while the adventure crank uses BB386.

  7. brooke fabricant

    Would love to know which Felt bike will the FSA crank be spec.

    I was rewarded for waiting for a 2×11 xt (36×26, 11-42) mountain bike because I then got 130mm travel, 29 (!) water bottle bosses, boost spacing and awesome 27.5+ tires. It’s made me soooo happy. Now I can climb trails that were hard for me 25 years ago and descend stuff I never could…
    Now I’m waiting for the right gearing to be spec on the Adventure/Gravel category so I can get disk brakes and an improved geometry to replace my 1999 cyclocross race bike that is repurposed for “adventure” with 3×9 xtr, mini v’s, and 40mm tires.
    Why it’s taken so long for gearing to catch up to 1) increased wheel size in mountain bikes and 2) the supposed purpose of the “adventure” category is beyond me. What worked for 26″ wheels and cyclocross do not work for modern mountain and adventure bikes, unless you’re under 30 or you don’t care about your knees…

  8. Jim Smith

    I’m an old guy (66) who rides a lot $14,300 km last year including a couple of weeks in the mountains of Switzerland and Italy). As I age, I keep liking lower gears but I still like close ratios. I was using an 11-32 with my compact in the big mountains but was intrigued when I saw FSA’s 46/30. I went to my LBS and he tried to order one. That was a couple of months ago. As of yesterday, it might come in April. I’ve also ordered one of the White 46/30 cranks but don’t think it looks as good. If the FSA doesn’t arrive by the time I fly to Nice on July 1, I guess I’ll use the White, which is supposed to arrive this month with a 12-29 for nice, tight but low gearing. If both arrive, one goes on the S&S coupled Moots travel bike and the other goes on the Norco Search “adventure” bike, although I’ll stick with the 11-32 on that one.

    I always wondered whether mountain bikes sold so well for so long because of the triples and the upright riding position. Sub-compact cranks and hybrids will both sell well to the people who want something that’s easy to ride.

  9. John B.

    “…part of the problem is that the only bikes you were seeing them on were rando bikes, which is a market subset that the mainstream manufacturers go to some pains to ignore.”

    Would you care to expand upon that?


    1. Author
      Padraig

      There’s not a lot to be said. The number of people buying those bikes is tiny and the big manufacturers haven’t seen numbers enough to justify doing production runs of them. There’s also the fact that there seems to be (and this is just me talking out of my elbow) some antipathy between those two groups, which we could classify as garden-variety mistrust on the part of those consumers. One need only spend an afternoon at NAHBS to hear the bashing of brands like Trek, Specialized and Giant.

  10. Curtis Corlew

    I’ve been trying to get that 46/30 adventure crankset for months. Here is is July and I have no luck. No one on line has it. My local shops aren’t any help. I’ve even written FSA and they swear they are shipping. They gave me a part number. I still can’t find one. 330-0158BJ3261 Omega Adventure ME 46×30 N10/11 170mm SB black V17 w/o BB,CK-4002ST/WT $ 156.99 retail.
    If anyone knows where I can score this, please oh please let me know. curtis (((AT))) corlew dot com (like that will trick spamers…)


    1. Author
      Padraig

      I haven’t been able to find out why so few have shipped but my contact at FSA tells me things will be changing soon. You might consider looking at Rotor; I’ve got one of theirs and the review will be going live soon.

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