The bike industry has this funny habit of trying to sell me things I’m not sure I need. It is all change, all the time, and the trick of it is that some of the change is good and some of it is just expensive. I think of myself as a discerning consumer, but my parts bin will testify to some imprudent consumption throughout the years. It happens.
This year there are a couple trends that have me puzzling.
The first one is 650b mountain bikes, and let me come right out and say, I own one. In fact, it’s the only mountain bike I own. And it’s a single-speed, which makes it a lot like a unicorn in the mountain bike universe where everyone seems to be on a dual-suspension 29r anymore.
The conventional wisdom on 650b (or 27.5 for those of you who want the world to make sense) is that it combines the best of 26″ wheels, the weight and handling, with the best of 29rs, obstacle clearance and rolling speed. The new (actually old) wheel size is even being raced at World Cup level, so if there is some kool-aid drinking going on, it is not limited to a bunch of engineers in the parking lot of a bike company. This thing is happening.
At Interbike, Ritchey even displayed a 650b bike Tom built for himself, and raced, in the ’70s, perhaps just to confirm things we already knew such as, everything old is new again, AND Tom Ritchey is cooler than you or me.
Well, let me tell you, I have ridden 650b, and I like it. I’m not such a trail shredder that I will attempt to communicate in technical terms why it does what people say it does, but I do like it, and coming from a 26″ bike, I think it makes sense for my limited riding style and general propensity for impracticality.
The other trend, and this one is bigger and I’ll wager more interesting to RKP readers, is disc brakes on road bikes. Everybody’s talking. The big builders are rumbling as though this is going to be their next thing, but there are only a few market entrants at the moment. Volagi makes the Liscio (and soon the Viaje) and Colnago makes the C59 disc. Lynskey just announced one. Canyon showed one at Eurobike. And there are others, but chances are you haven’t seen them on the road yet. All current models are running mechanical discs while we wait for a really good drop bar shifter that will support hydraulics.
This week’s FGR is technical and wonky. Are these two trends worth our time? Do you see the value to 650b trail bikes? Will you go disc on the road? Why? Why not? Have you ridden either one? Share your experience. If the future is now, are you going along for the ride?
Today, at work, we talked about whether it was really still possible to go away on the Poggio, to wreck the day for the sprinters at Milan-San Remo. Oh, sure, any group sprint after 290km isn’t the cut and often dried affair it is during the first week of July in France.
But that’s neither here nor there. There is no answer. It’s the perfect discussion for a Friday afternoon at work.
This time of year is special. Milan-San Remo. Flanders. Roubaix. The Ardennes races. All year long we wish for these days to come, and then they’re upon us. They rush up like a German Shepherd off its lead, and then we’re away and down the road.
The Giro makes a pretty good consolation for the end of Classics season. And then you’re sliding into the Tour de France. What a total fucking carnival that is, eh? I mean, I’m not going to wax poetic about the Tour. Better men have done that job.
But oh, when the Tour ends, though there are still so many good races left, you start to feel a little desperate. The season is slipping away. Imagine how the riders feel? No. Imagine how the riders who haven’t won anything yet feel. You don’t want to show up at Lombardy worried about your contract.
This season has only just begun, but I can already feel some of that sadness that sets in the when the leaves fall and the wind first smells of wood smoke. It’s bullshit, but it’s there. Can you feel pre-sad?
This week’s Group Ride asks the stupid question: Which race, when it’s over, do you miss the most? I suppose it’s a bit like asking which race is your favorite, except it’s not. I love Flanders and Roubaix, but I feel sadder when Liege-Bastogne-Liege is done. Things change then.
Hell, sometimes when I’m sure I’ve outrun the German Shepherd I wish he’d come back. Cycling is funny that way.
Image: Photoreporter Sirotti
Some years ago I was sitting in an editorial meeting for a magazine when the topic turned to lifestyle and how to portray the roadie lifestyle in a magazine. It quickly devolved into a debate about just what the roadie lifestyle was. What was the bullseye at the center of the roadie lifestyle. Was it the double century crowd? Was it racing? Was it bike commuting?
In the 1990s, there weren’t that many people who were passionate about bike commuting or the prospect of a social revolution based on the concept of the bicycle as primary transportation. Fortunately, that has changed. But back then, the idea of making commuting the centerpiece of a magazine’s editorial mission seemed like suicide to me. Similarly, the fact that some double centuries may only get two or three dozen entrants makes them outliers even-wise and not a donkey you want to pin your tail on. Even centuries don’t typify the riding life of most riders; after all, they may only do two or three in a year. Racing? Most of the people I ride with don’t have a racing license anymore.
My opinion is the same now as it was then: The center of the bullseye of the roadie lifestyle is the group ride. If you hope to reach cyclists with a lifestyle publication in print or on the web and you don’t get what a peloton is, you’ve already lost the battle.
As the day-in-day-out social nexus of the riding community anywhere I’ve ever lived, group rides do more for cyclists than provide a great way to train. They offer the community a valuable way for riders to get to know each other and form bonds beyond the sweat that drips off them. I could never live some place that had no group rides.
So this week’s FGR is a bit different, a bit more literal, as it were. Tell us about the group rides where you live. Are they year round? How many riders show up in-season vs. out-of-season. Does it slow down in the off-season? Does it have a killer name? Is it the same course each week, or do you switch it up? How long? How fast? And finally, are there so many riders and rides where you are that you have a menu to choose from come Saturday morning?
You never know what might turn into a feature for someone.