So let’s start this off with a correction. This is the image I meant to pull for Day 1′s mention of the BMC TMR01, their new aero road frame. I plead thumbnail size.
The fork design is fascinating for the way it hides the brake cable and as an illustration of the lengths that engineers have to go to avoid violating any of the UCI’s ridiculous rules regarding aerodynamics. In a way the brilliance here is less a demonstration of real creativity than an indictment of the terrible way in which the UCI wields power. Yeah, I bet you were thinking that we’d leave criticism of the UCI just for discussions of doping.
I dropped by Hincapie and saw a number of new designs. Fit seems to continue to improve with them (I’ve got a kit from ’12 that I’ve been meaning to review that is the best-fitting from them I’ve ever worn) and thanks to designs like this one, the look is better than ever.
This big news at Campagnolo is the new Athena 11 with triple. While my personal preference these days is to go compact, I have always supported triples and in the case of Campagnolo and their Ergopower levers, found them easy to set up and shift. Yes, they are heavier and result in a wider Q, but they aren’t the wildebeests that some would have you believe. The combination of a triple and an 11-speed 12-29 cassette will let anyone go almost anywhere paved without having to buy a $7000 (or more) bike.
Among a great many cool things I saw at Ritchey was this display of two mountain bikes, both featuring 650B wheels. The industry seems ready to endorse this wheel size en masse. More nimble than 29-inch-wheeled mountain bikes and better rolling than its 26-inch-wheeled counterarts, everyone’s touting 650B as a great compromise. Shown here are Ritchey’s new P-650b (the red, white and blue bike in back) and a mountain bike that Tom built back in the 1977 (think Debbie Boone and Fleetwood Mac). Yep, both feature 650B wheels. I didn’t even have time to get into where Ritchey found the rims and tires back then, but the bike implicitly begs the question.
And if you’ve never had reason to appreciate just how fine Ritchey’s fillet brazing is, here’s the seat cluster from that 560B mountain bike he built in ’77. This is on my list of the top-five prettiest things I saw at Interbike.
The Legend is the new shoe from Giro that you’ve already been seeing on Taylor Phinney’s rather sizable dogs. Whether you dig the lace-up design or not, one of the notable features—perhaps the most notable feature of the new shoe—is the Teijin upper. Teijin is a microfiber material with greater durability and less stretch than traditional leather (meaning you won’t kill your shoes by going for a ride in the rain), but Giro found a way to make the upper from a single, seamless piece of the material. Crazy.
Giro’s designers decided to do a bunch of one-off exercises on the Legend for its launch. This one, a nod to classic hiking boots from companies like Asolo, re-imagines the Legend with the one-piece Teijin upper made to look like tanned leather. I couldn’t not shoot this. It would totally be the shiz for ‘cross racing. Right?
The Reverb is one of Giro’s many helmets aimed at commuters. What makes the Reverb different (and remember that reverb is a first-cousin to echo) is the way its design calls upon the past in a very specific way. It looks like the old LeMond Air Attack helmet even more than my son looks like me. Last year they offered the Reverb in the same Tequila Sunrise finish they offered circa 1992. This year’s palette includes this nod to LeMond’s Team Z helmet that he wore to victory in 1990.
There was a time when Pearl Izumi was my absolute barometer for great cycling clothing. In the 1990s custom team clothing was a step down from what Pearl offered. I raced in my team kit, but I trained in Pearl. Just how it was. And then something happened—okay, I’ll tell you what happened: custom team clothing, from companies like Voler, improved dramatically, and for a period of time Pearl lost their way, releasing boatloads of clothing that was good, but not amazing. There’s been a shakeup at Pearl and one of their brightest and most insightful designers has returned. The line has received a pretty serious overhaul and I saw piece after piece that I’d put up against the best stuff coming out of Capo or Giordana.
Where I live it will be 95°F today, but looking to the weekend and next week the days and evenings, will be getting cooler. Already some of the leaves are starting to lose their chlorophyll, beginning to go yellow or red at the edges. The company I work for is preparing for 2013. There is brochure copy to write. The season is winding down. This might all be a beat or two early, but…
On the roads of Northern Spain, especially the steep ones, the Vuelta is at full tilt, the battle lines drawn, the GC shaking out slowly. It wasn’t long ago that many of us argued over whether Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) or Chris Froome (Team Sky) would win this race. Purito Rodriguez (Katusha) apparently isn’t a regular RKP reader. Otherwise, he might have clued us in to his intention to win his home Grand Tour.
If you have been following closely, you will know what surprises this race has offered up. You would have seen the likes of Froome clinging to wheels. You would have seen Contador attacking with his signature explosiveness but not able to close the deal. You would have seen Rodriguez ride the time trial of his life to keep the jersey on his shoulders.
Perhaps it is still early to cast judgement. The top 5, which includes Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), are all within 3 minutes of one another. How many lead changes and plot twists we have in front of us is almost impossible to tell.
But, the excitement of the Vuelta, and some recent comments about the Tour, got me thinking about just which of the Grand Tours I’ve enjoyed most this season. Ryder Hesjedal’s big Giro win was fun to watch and featured plenty of back and forth with Rodriguez as well as Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD). The Tour, by some estimations, disappointed, with Team Sky managing every last detail to perfection. Still, the Tour is the Tour, a tautology that means something to most race fans.
So, though it might be early, this week’s Group Ride asks the simple question: Which was the best Grand Tour this year? And why?
Press Camp is both the best and most difficult aspects of of a trade show rolled together. It’s the best of a what a trade show can be because you had the ability to receive the complete attention of whoever you’re meeting with. And it’s a chance to pick up anything you’re interested in and really look it over, also without the worry of being interrupted by anyone. But it’s also challenging in that every conversation you have could go on for at least an hour longer than you have time for. At Interbike I’ll schedule a 15 minute meeting with someone and not have enough time to find out what the new products are. Here at Press Camp, I have 45 minutes and we end up digging deep into the first half-dozen products and end up not having enough time to get through the others. No matter how much time you have, it seems never to be enough. Thankfully, I consider this to be a happy problem.
I’ve been meeting with people who aren’t necessarily core to what RKP is about, such as Hayes. Yes, they offer this amazing forged cable-actuated cyclocross disc brake shown above. And ‘cross bikes are firmly in the wheelhouse of RKP. But really, I stopped by to learn more about their suspension forks and many brakes. Anyone who does that much good work I want to check out; after all, their brands also include Answer and Manitou.
Years ago, I reviewed plenty of Canari clothing and used it in photo shoots. It was fairly inexpensive stuff and good price points. Since then, the quality has risen noticeably and the price hasn’t increased that much. It’s nice to see a company invest in Southern California manufacturing, while offering many of the high-end features you see elsewhere, such as digital printing, full zips and hidden seams. While there I saw what was one of the more intriguing pairs of sub-$150 pairs of bibs I’ve encountered in a good 10 years. Expect to hear more on those.
I first used a Camelbak in 1996. Back then, the product was good, but had plenty of issues, many of which I can no longer recall. As the company has improved and evolved, their packs have become more sophisticated and the bladders stronger, better fitting and less likely to impart any taste. Above are just a few of the different bladders they produce at their own facility. For where I live, the pack mule approach to spare gear is never necessary. There are no lightning-laced afternoon thundershowers and the temperature won’t drop 20 degrees as dusk approaches, but my mountain bike won’t carry more than one water bottle and I don’t go out for mountain bike rides on the weekend that aren’t at least three hours, so hydration is an issue. I encountered some new packs from Camelbak that I’ll be trying as soon as I’m back.
Assos is here and this was a chance for me to see some new products on the way for 2013. There have been some revisions to base layers that should make them noticeably more comfortable than most, if not all, their competition. And with four different weights, they produce something perfect for whatever conditions you’re riding in. Above is the jersey that will be worn by the Swiss team at the Olympics. I can already see Cancellara killing it in this jersey. Inside the jersey collar I noticed a little inscription.
My German is beyond rusty (think Yugo in a junk yard and you’ll get an accurate picture), but the inscription suggests that the jersey is to be used by the nation’s heroes in pursuit of the top step of the podium. Not bad.
I also had meetings with Clif, where I received a few new samples and we spent time discussing just how cool a life Gary and Kit lead (yes, I’m envious), and Cannondale. Honestly, I wanted to get more familiar with their mountain bike line, just because I find them interesting. (It has either helped or not helped depending on your personally outlook that I’ve been sharing a room with Richard Cunningham of Pink Bike and he’s had a Claymore here in the room that I continue to eye with fascination; at 180mm of travel, it’s a park bike and something I must admit, I have no idea how to ride.) Alas, they’ve got some cool stuff going on with road and that’s all we really had time to discuss. The big news on the road are a few new models of the SuperSix EVO. They are now offering a women’s model, and in five different sizes. And as is to be expected with any truly conscientious work, each size not only receives a full set of its own molds, but the layup schedule changes for each size, giving each bike a consistent flex pattern for the riders. There’s also a new SuperSix EVO made with intermediate modulus carbon to bring that model down to a more affordable price point, as well as a new layup of the SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod in which they’ve done a bit of judicious refinement in the layup schedule to shave another 40 grams or so from the frame and they say become the undisputed leader in the weight game.
We spent a lot more time discussing their ongoing work with aluminum and how much bike they continue to deliver even with an entry-level bike like one of the CAAD 10s. Watch for a pair of reviews of the CAAD 10 and SuperSix EVO in the near future.
It’s worth mentioning that one of the most-discussed products here yesterday was the just-announced Giro Air Attack helmet.
Even though the helmet won’t be available until spring of next year, it had most of us talking. And while the press materials make a compelling case for why it will keep you just as cool as any of today’s helmets, what had everyone’s curiosity, of course, was its shape. The helmet is said to offer a significant aerodynamic advantage, but many of us, and if I’m honest, that group includes me, struggled to get past the look. It’s worth noting that we’ve come to accept and even champion some head-ware that has no real analog in nature. Put another way: We’ve come to accept a pretty strange looking device—even like it. The strangeness of the look of the Air Attack says more about what we accept than what it truly is, which is a lot closer in shape and look to other sporting helmets.
I’ll do my wrap-up of today’s meetings this weekend as I leave here before lunch for a flight to an undisclosed location for the introduction of a new Specialized S-Works product. It should make for some great photos.
No one can stay on their bike at the Giro d’Italia this year. From the roll out in Denmark, it’s been bodies on the road. Mark Cavendish took stage 2 after a crash in the closing 150 meters. Theo Bos lost his front wheel and took out a slew of others. This was after Pink Jersey wearer Taylor Phinney crashed with 8kms to go, and then chased back on to save the shirt.
Stage 3 saw Matt Goss win, but the big story was behind him, where Roberto Ferrari of Androni-Giacottoli made a sudden dart to the right, taking out Cavendish, Phinney and others. It was Phinney’s second time on the ground in two days, and the toll would show on the youngster’s face in the TTT on Stage 4 where he relinquished his leader’s jersey to Ramunas Navardauskas of Garmin-Barracuda.
More bad luck for the American on Stage 5, where he was caught up behind a crash 35kms out, but fought his way back to the lined-out group.
Then it was time for Garmin-Baracuda to get theirs, as Stage 6 saw the abandonment of Tyler Farrar. Thor Hushovd and Roman Feillu got off their bikes too, though the circumstances of their exits was still unclear.
There was an interesting piece about all the pile-ups in today’s sprints on Bicycling.com the other day, touching on some of the themes we hear regularly now. Too much speed, too little respect, the UCI’s stupid rules, all of it contributing to the chaos.
But, what do you think is going on? A year on from Wouter Weylandt’s death, how will top-level racing get safer? Or is this just how it is, a sport for tough guys and girls, willing to sacrifice skin and bone for elusive success? Is this the downside of pro-racing, or is it just part of the entertainment, sick as that may sound?
I got quite the shock this past summer when I noticed during a visit to Giro’s web site that all the eyewear was gone, save a few pair of goggles. Specialized dittoed around the same time. Instantly, two of my three favorite eyewear lines had gone the route of the Dodo. Naturally, the other of my favorites, Oakley, isn’t going anywhere, but they are precisely why Giro and Specialized are out of the eyewear market. They won’t say so specifically, but that’s always the problem when you enter a market and there’s one gorilla and it weighs 12,000 pounds.
As much as I love Oakley, Giro and Specialized had become favorites because they were offering some killer lens tints that were just a bit better suited to where I live than anywhere else. The issue is that I’m on the bike early and our climate frequently includes low cloud cover, what gets referred to around here as marine layer. My taste runs to relatively light-tinted lenses, and though they let lots of light through (though not as much as a high visibility yellow or orange), they still feature a light mirror coating to keep them from looking, well, boring.
Giro did a great job with its rose silver tint. I was hyperventilating when I thought I’d never find a pair of shades with such a great lens tint again.
Enter the Spy Alpha and its rose with blue mirror tint. I like eyewear that looks like it means business, and while I like the Oakley Jawbone, it seems that’s the one shade everyone is wearing, so the Alpha is a refreshing switch for me. They are lightweight, don’t feel brittle to the touch and feature grippers that keep the shades in place without getting grabby, which is how I’ve described some glasses that have overly developed nose and ear grippers. The frames are constructed from a material called Grilamid, which I’m told is virtually indestructible.
The lenses benefit from both hydrophobic and oleophobic coatings. They hydrophobic coating repels water and helps in fog, mist and light rain, but the oleophobic coating repels oils and dust and is the one that makes rinsing sweat off of the lenses a real snap.
The Alpha also provides another really respectable service: It helps ratchet down the arms battle of eyewear pricing. It seems like the first thing to go in a crash are the glasses; I’ve seen people escape without a nick on their helmet, only to notice their lenses are scratched beyond use. At only $119, should something happen to yours, the impact isn’t quite so dear.
One aspect of Spy’s marketing materials is that they make clear just how much wrap each model gives. That is, traditional fashion eyewear doesn’t feature a wraparound look, while performance models need that in large doses in order to offer an unobstructed but protected view. Spy offers four different grades of wrap. Their fashion stuff gets a 4. In-between stuff gets a 6. Performance models come in at 8 and 9. The Alphas are an 8, very much in line with other typical performance eyewear, like the Oakley Radars.
The Alphas also feature temple vents and unlike the vents in some glasses I’ve tried over the years, the vents in the Alphas actually work. As long as I’m moving they don’t fog over, even if I’m moving slowly. I’ve worn glasses from some manufacturers that would fog during a slow roll at a stop sign.
It used to be that keeping your expensive eyewear safe was harder than trying to get through the airport with an undamaged lithograph (I know a thing or two about this). Spy offers the Commando Kit, which includes a case, three lens tints, and a carry/wipe bag. That package is a little pricier, of course, going for $159.
Spy has a dozen more technologies that I could use to try to convince you these are great glasses, but I’ve got a better way to recommend them. If you’re ready for a fresh look and a great value, check these out.
HTC is pulling out of pro racing, mergers promise to reduce the number of ProTour teams surviving into 2011, Alberto Contador continues to ride with a CAS-sized question mark over his head, and Lance Armstrong, the ghost of cycling past, waits to find out whether he’ll be indicted by the US government. But screw it, it’s always darkest before the dawn. You’ve got to stay on the sunny side. Accentuate the positive. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Etc. Etc.
This has been a GREAT year for racing, beginning with the Spring Classics, continuing through the Giro and culminating with the just finished Tour de France. If you have not enjoyed this season, it is likely you don’t care for bike racing. You should take up the harp or explore your interest in paragliding.
Having just won the Tour, Cadel Evans is a strong candidate for rider of the year. He dazzled last season, while wearing the rainbow stripes of World Champion, and that gave him a measure of popularity he hadn’t enjoyed previously. He won Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Romandie before claiming his first maillot jaune at 34.
Thor Hushovd started slowly, and though his marking of Fabian Cancellara clearly led to Johan van Summeren’s big win at Paris-Roubaix, the norseman was vocally upset that Garmin-Cervelo wasn’t planning more races around his burgeoning talent. As this year’s wearer of the rainbow stripes however, Hushovd absolutely lit up the first week of the Tour, spending eight days in the yellow jersey and generally getting to display his class on the very biggest stage cycling offers.
Of course, any discussion of 2011 has to include Philippe Gilbert. To wit, Gilbert has won: Ster-Elektrotour, the Tour of Belgium, the Belgian road championship, Liége-Bastogne-Liége, Amstel Gold, La Fléche Wallonne, Montepaschi Strade Bianchi, Brabantse Pijl, stages at the Tour de France, Tirreno-Adriatico, and the Tour of the Algarve, and stood third on the podium at Milan-San Remo. Dude. Wins. Everything.
And, now that you’ve read this far, you’re probably thinking I’m going to ask who the rider of the season has been up to this point. Wrong. Gilbert wins it going away (as usual). No. The question is, who has anything left for the end of the year? Evans can certainly be competitive in those Fall Classics that have, over the last few years, been the meat and potatoes of Gilbert’s palmares. Hushovd will surely notch some more wins before the leaves drop.
The question is: Which of these three will win more this year? Where? And why?
Well, the 2011 Giro d’Italia is in the books, the most epic, epicness in the history of epic epics. Race director Angelo Zomegnan took a page from Tour de France founder Henri Desgranges’ playbook and turned his race into more of a survival event than a bike race, with many racers and directors saying this version was just too hard. What I think they meant is that it was just too hard for everyone who wasn’t named Alberto Contador.
Alberto Contador - He’s the elephant in the living room or, perhaps more specifically, the pistol in the peloton. He completely dominated. He never looked troubled. He never looked challenged. He seemed to attack at will, often on whim or simply through appetite (the sort that earned a certain Belgian a not-always-complimentary nickname). The Spaniard’s performance was thrilling in a way, his signature attacks both completely fluid and completely explosive.
Of course, the flip-side to Contador’s ride is the lingering doubt that he’s clean. Whether it’s the doping case that will never end, or the whirling dervish of the Armstrong affair that is tarring all of our dominant riders with a tainted brush is hard to say. Regardless, it’s hard to believe in Contador’s flavor of dominance, whether that doubt has any basis in reality/science or not.
Michelle Scarponi – It must be hard to finish second and have everyone ignore you, but of all the GC hopefuls Scarponi made the absolute best pretense of trying to stay with Contador, chasing him off the front, if only to drop back. That so much was said about Vincenzo Nibali is a good indication that the rider who topped Nibali by 46 seconds was a worthy runner up.
Vincenzo Nibali – All of Italy seemed to be pulling for the “Shark,” but he didn’t have it. Known as perhaps the best descender in the pro bunch, Nibali had almost zero pop in his legs when it came to riding up hill. What made the Liquigas rider’s Giro interesting and admirable to me was the way the constantly rode within himself. He didn’t make any suicide attacks. He stayed patient and limited his losses to a clearly superior opponent. It wasn’t always exciting to watch, but it was good, smart racing.
John Gadret - My previous estimation of Gadret was based on his woeful lack of team spirit in supporting Nicolas Roche at the last Tour de France. I thought he was a punk, and he may well be, but in this Giro he showed a massive leap in ability, sticking with the world’s best climbers on some of the world’s toughest climbs. Maybe the French are rising again. No. Probably not.
Jose Rujano – If we turn slightly to our left, Rujano’s doping past will sit just out of our peripheral vision, and we’ll be able to view his 2011 Giro as a massively entertaining ride by a guy very few thought would ride at this level again. Perhaps he has earned himself a move up from Androni-Giacatolli to a bigger squad who can deploy him in the mountains of other grand tours.
Denis Menchov/Carlos Sastre – When Geox-TMC, the team of former grand tour winners Menchov and Sastre, weren’t invited to the Tour de France, I was one of those who thought ASO had screwed up, picking crappy French teams instead of this Spanish squad fronted by this unlikely pair. The Giro was, as a result, their everything, and the ASO is vindicated. Sastre was no where. Menchov was a shadow.
Honorable Mentions – Roman Kreuziger moved to Astana to get his chance at grand tour leadership. Liquigas was always going to go with Nibali and Ivan Basso, so that seemed like a sensible move. Kreuziger didn’t quite make the cut this time out. He remains a potential GC rider, rather than a real threat.
Christophe Le Mevel started strong, finished weak, but did Garmin-Cervelo proud, and provided another glimmer of the idea that French cyclists might be returning to grand tour podiums again one day. Maybe.
Peter Weening, the giant Dutchman, pulled a real Voekler and not only pulled on the maglia rosa in the first week, but then had the temerity to defend it.
Mark Cavendish came, saw, sprinted and then left. It’s sad to me that modern grand tour sprinters do this so often, but this is the world we live in. Specialization is king.
Final thoughts – They say the Tour de France is the biggest bike race in the world and that the Giro is the most beautiful. It would seem that Angelo Zomegnan is looking for more ways to draw even with his counterpart in France, Christian Prudhomme. They are both operating in the environment of modern cycling, which seems to be as much about which riders might be suspended as what the race route looks like. The 2011 Giro was an effort, I believe, to reassert the primacy of the race. In crushing all comers, Alberto Contador undid much of Zomegnan’s plan, and that is too bad.
(Just to be clear, I have no idea whether Contador is clean or not. I am only saying that the ongoing case related to last year’s clenbuterol positive creates doubt in the minds of many.)
Thanks to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and their geologically-timed appeals process, Zomegnan’s problem now becomes Prudhomme’s. How to keep the focus on the racing, when the racers themselves inspire such doubt. Perhaps one day we’ll look back on this time as the “Age of Asterisks,” a time when you couldn’t be sure what race you’d seen until the various governing bodies had a year or two or three to digest what happened and the lawyers had come up with acceptable compromises in Swiss conference rooms.
Regardless, this Giro d’Italia made a valiant effort at challenging the riders in unconventional ways, pushing them well outside their comfort zones. Was it too hard? Clearly, for some, it was. For the rest, it was a great race.
Big points have to go to the organizers for handling the tragic death of Wouter Weylandts with dignity and a minimum of controversy. Their modification of the stage that included the descent of Monte Crostis was another testing moment that passed with relatively few problems. These challenges are testament to the ability of a cycling organization to make good, effective decisions under time constraints.
The ASO, the UCI and the various national federations would do well to pay attention.
The Giro d’Italia starts Saturday, and this time out everything is BIG. The peloton, at 207 riders, is well beyond the normal size, as are the climbs (see Mt. Etna stage above), with seven mountain top finishes. This a race for the featherweights and survivors. Someone is probably taking odds on how many sprinters will even finish. My buddy DNF will definitely be there.
Here is my list of favorites: David Arroyo (Movistar), Denis Menchov and Carlos Sastre (GEOX-TMC), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Roman Kreuziger (Astana), Alberto Contador (SaxoBank-Sungard), Tiago Machado (RadioShack), Stefano Garzelli (Acqua e Sapone), Danilo di Luca (Katusha), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), Giovanni Viscontini (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli).
Contador’s presence at the Italian race, for the first time since he won it in 2008, shakes up the general classification. 2010 champion Ivan Basso skips this Giro to focus on the Tour, so that leave his Liquigas teammate Nibali to battle with the Spaniard. 2009 winner Denis Menchov will hope that his Geox-TMC squad has the gas to keep him in contention. Will a rapidly aging Carlos Sastre be able to help?
Astana’s Roman Kreuziger, finally given a grand tour leader’s role, has a lot of questions to answer about his true top end capabilities, and the pack of skinny Italians who might normally crowd the podium (di Luca, Grazelli, Viscontini and Scarponi) will likely struggle to keep pace with Contador and Nibali.
While most observers ooh and aah over the total number of climbs in the race, the real issue will likely be recovery. It is one thing to climb strong for a week. It is quite another to do so consistently day after day. There will be no safety for the maglia rosa, as the course just provides far too many opportunities for rivals to put in attacks.
Patience and consistency, consistency and patience. And luck. Don’t forget luck.
Of course, it is far too early to begin picking an overall winner, but let’s try something different for this week’s Group Ride. Stage One is a Team Time Trial. Who will win it? AND…who will be in the pink jersey on the first rest day?
Stickers for correct pickers.
I was going to writing something witty and trenchant about the smaller Tours that dot the UCI calendar, but everything I came up with was too obscure, cruel or unfunny to waste your taxed eyesight on. The Tour of Romandie is on now. Then comes the Giro (and Tour of California). The Dauphiné and Switzerland are after that. Then le Tour. Tour of Poland and the Eneco countries are in there next. Then the Vuelta, and then it’s fall, and we’re back to watching Phillipe Gilbert write his legend.
For me, Tour season is tiring. There is a lot to keep up with, lot’s of racing, with very few results. The calculus of controversy becomes more abstruse. We go from reading the novellas of the Spring Classics to the Russian Epics of the Grand Tours. Oodles of characters to remember. Someone always going “mad.”
I am a Classics man myself. The races are smaller, easier to digest, like comic books…um…excuse me…graphic novels. They appeal to my sense of drama and brutality, my impatience. Four hours (roughly) to watch, four weeks to digest and debate.
Padraig is a Tour-a-holic. This is his season (quite literally) in the sun, and these are the races that quicken his pulse from its normally zombie-like cadence. The man loves an epic. Ask him how many Yes albums he owns. King Crimson. Pynchon novels. You get my drift.
This week’s Group Ride asks the question: Which are you, Classics or Tours? Perhaps there is a sub-species of one-week tour lovers, but I have not met one of these. Perhaps you love any and all racing. You’re poly-velo-amorous. You freak me out, but it takes all kinds. Tell us about it.
Say what you are, and why you are that way. Solve the problem, but show your work. Open our eyes to your unique and very valuable point-of-view.
As I sailed through the air the one thought I had time to conjure was, “Damn, I just bought this jacket and now it’s going to get shredded.” The impact came in a not-all-at-once loping, rolling, whiplashing smack that wouldn’t have been so bad had it not involved my head.
Concussions are frequently referred to as ‘getting your bell rung.’ I soon realized I’d taken up residence in the belfry of Notre Dame and judging by the clanging, mass was due to start any minute.
I laid on my back, eyes looking blankly up into the evening sky. The were four streetlights above me, swirling with the same animated dance the snow flakes made as they sank to earth. I counted and then counted again. I knew there weren’t four streetlights on this section of dead-end road. ‘Must be double-vision,’ I thought. So I waited. Soon enough, there were two streetlights.
I gingerly made my way to my feet and began the inspection. My elbow and shoulder were tender and judging from the dark spot on the inexplicably shred-free jacket, my elbow was bleeding. Never mind the bleeding, I hadn’t ruined the jacket. From the neck down, I was fine, as was my clothing.
My head was another matter. It felt like I’d been walloped with a golf club. My balance was off and it seemed the internal volume was Who-concert loud. I picked up my bike, looked around and realized there was but one streetlight.
I made my way home. After a shower and dose of ibuprofen and discovered I’d cracked my helmet. Little wonder. I’d hit a tree that had fallen in the road. I was going 25 mph downhill and squinting due to the falling snow and didn’t expect to find a tree lying in the road when I roared around a bend. It wasn’t there when I passed that spot two hours before. I can be forgiven for being surprised, can’t I?
I came upon the tree with the unexpected surprise of a roadside bomb. I didn’t even have time to touch the brakes.
In my mind, whether or not I had a concussion had been settled by the time I got on the bike. My then-wife’s concerns didn’t run in the direction of ER, but that I was delaying dinner with my wound care.
Any time any person starts to poo-poo helmet use, my mind returns to that December ride. Whether or not a helmet saved my life that day isn’t the question. There really isn’t any question; rather, I have a certainty: Had I not worn a helmet on that ride, my injuries would have been worse. As it was, I didn’t race ‘cross the next day and mostly sat on my ass during the main event, when I was supposed to be offering neutral support. My head hurt too much to bend over and do a wheel change.
Anything worse than what I suffered is more than I’m willing to entertain. That hurt plenty, thankyouverymuch.
Ten years ago, a friend of mine was hit from behind by a Range Rover. The driver was reaching for her cell phone and priorities being what they are for the affluent, my friend on her bicycle was, for this woman, just another recyclable. In the wake of that event a mutual friend swore off helmets. His reasoning was that if a helmet couldn’t save Debra (nothing short of a cinder block wall could have), then why bother?
Somehow, he came to the conclusion that helmets embolden us to take risks that we wouldn’t take were it not for the styrofoam cooler strapped to our noggins.
Dane Mikael-Colville Andersen has a similar dislike of helmets. Andersen is the style maven behind Cycle Chic, which espouses “style over speed.” In a recent presentation at TED, Andersen talked about what he calls a “culture of fear” of which he says bicycle helmet use is part.
He points to the fact that there is a study that has shown you have a 14 percent greater chance of having an accident while wearing a helmet. Maybe, but correlation isn’t causality. He also claims the car industry is behind the promotion of bike helmets. This will be a revelation to the folks at Easton-Bell Sports who have labored under the misperception that they have been paying for all the advertising for Bell and Giro helmets.
One wonders where all those ads placed by GM appeared.
Andersen also says bicycle use fell in Denmark after helmet promotions began. For those of you who slept through logic or didn’t take it (perfectly understandable), as I mentioned before, correlation is not interchangeable with causation. There may be a relationship between the promotion of helmet use and 10,000 fewer cyclists on the road in Denmark, but conjecture should not be trotted around like fact. Street lights come on when the sun goes down with perfect correlation every flippin’ day; it doesn’t mean that the street lights cause the sun to go down.
He says people stop cycling when helmet use is promoted. I suspect it is true for some people. Is it uniformly true? Not for a second.
In the United States, there was a fear when seat belt and shoulder strap laws were enacted that it would hurt car sales and impinge on our freedom. Education and enforcement overcame that issue. What’s that you say? People will give up a bike long before they give up a car? Too true.
The issue I have with Andersen and others who criticize helmet use is that they demonize a perfectly valid device. Helmets aren’t the problem. To the degree that people don’t ride as a result of a “culture of fear,” I can tell you what they fear: CARS. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think, ‘That was entirely closer than necessary.’ Anyone who fears a helmet more than they fear a car will probably make a tin foil hat for you, too.
You want to change how people feel about riding a bicycle on city streets? Change the consideration drivers show to cyclists. Granted, that’s even less likely than McDonald’s going vegan, but this is a cultural change for which any incremental improvement would be notable and deserves the effort.
Let’s ask the question a different way. Which do you think would get more people out on bikes: a reassurance from the government that helmets don’t make you safe and you need never wear one, or streets utterly devoid of cars and trucks? I’d have whole new training routes open to me if there were no cars.
Andersen criticizes the bubble-wrapping of babies, going so far as to show product photos for a helmet designed to be worn by children—indoors. I can’t argue how ridiculous the idea (much less the product itself) is.
Spied from any angle, my son has visible bruises. He leads a full-contact life. Standing up beneath tables has introduced him to both pain and spatial skills; it’s likely one did have a causal relationship with the other. In my view, both are helpful. Does he need a helmet when strapped in to his trailer? I’m not so sure. But I can assure you, he’ll be wearing a helmet as he learns to ride a bike.
However, I’m not sure that in a tabletop-flat land such as Denmark commuters riding 12 or even 14 miles per hour need a helmet.
As for my friend who thinks that helmets are the root cause of risky riding, my response is that if helmets didn’t exist, I’d ride just as I do now. I don’t ride in a way I believe to be inherently risky, but I do like to descend mountains like a falcon dropping on prey. Knowing that a safety device is out there that can increase the likelihood of me conjugating verbs in the wake of a crash, why would I ride without it? Based on my previous airborne experience, it’s not worth the risk.
Are we really to believe that if helmets were eradicated more people would ride bikes? Have you heard a more feeble-minded idea this week? Andersen closes his presentation by saying, “Let rationality become the new black.” This from the man who espouses the emotional “style over speed.” Sorry Mikael, you can’t have it both ways.
Honestly, I thought TED was home to better ideas than these.