Production cycling shoes are like movies billed as “Hitchcockian thrillers.” They cause excitement, high expectations, and flashes of brilliance in preview that make you think every detail has been as expertly sculpted as the camera angles in “Psycho.” Most of them end up making as much sense as Norman Bates.
At least, that’s how it works for me.
I’ve got a foot with an arch like a war memorial, an instep higher than some treetops and the width of sheetrock. At 7 1/2 EEE, they are wider than they are long. Despite their Mini Cooper length, my feet have the volume of a Who concert. Finding a production shoe that is adjustable enough to keep them from screaming—let alone happy—requires a search befitting the “Da Vinci Code.”
While custom shoes such as those by D2 are a sure-fire solution to my particular foot problems, I remain fascinated by production shoes. After all, not everyone (cough, cough) can afford to spend $700+ on footwear. I’m intrigued by the work being done by companies to bring superior function at reasonable prices to the cycling masses.
The new Giro Factor is a prime example of why production cycling footwear deserves our interest. The cycling world has come to understand that a collapsing arch is a head-butt to pedaling efficiency. Custom-moded footbeds can solve this problem but for those who want a simpler solution, there haven’t been many options.
The most obvious parallel will be drawn between Specialized and Giro. The important difference is that no matter what arch support you need—small, medium or large—they are all included with the shoes; you needn’t purchase a set of insoles in addition to your shoes.
The arch supports attach to the insoles via a Velcro-like material, giving you the opportunity to shift the location of the support slightly, allowing you to fine-tune the fit. I used the large arch support and was surprised—nay, floored—when I actually felt support beneath my foot. That was a first for a production insole.
Construction features show a thoroughness I’ve come to expect from Giro. The insole features X-Static anti-microbial fiber to reduce the chance that your cycling shoes will smell like roadkill. The sole is manufactured from Easton’s EC90 unidirectional carbon, making it an especially thin (6.5mm), light and strong sole.
The upper is cut from Teijin microfiber, which, unlike some man-made materials does actually give a bit, allowing it to better conform to the shape of your foot for improved fit and all but eliminating pressure points. And like other ratcheting buckle systems, the closure is replaceable should the need arise. The lower two closures feature Velcro straps; I can report they are longer than most straps.
Giro claims a weight of 255g. I’d say they are on the money; my pair of 42s weighed 256g.
The only shoes in my wardrobe that are worth more than $200 are special-purpose. All three pair of ski boots (downhill, skating and back country) I own cost north of that mark and all of my cycling shoes worth remembering did too. When I think about other shoes that the Factor will compete against, the $279.99 price for these strikes me as a bargain. There are, after all, shoes out there that cost more, weigh more and feature a thicker sole, just for starters.
Did I mention the look of the Factor? In the red/white color way, it’s hands-down my favorite-looking road shoe. Ever.
I’m sorry to report you can’t purchase these shoes in time for Christmas; they’ll ship in February. I’ve been wearing mine for a month and they are absolutely the best production shoes I’ve ever worn.
Thinking back on some of the shoes I’ve worn in the past, I’m amazed at what I was willing to put up with. From eyelets that pulled through to soles so fragile I had to be careful how I walked to lasts so narrow I could have confused the footwear for climbing shoes were it not for that blessed cleat, even most good shoes really weren’t terribly great products. If I had a Wayback Machine I wouldn’t use it for cycling shoes. A Masi Gran Criterium, more likely. Or maybe a date with Brigitte Bardot. I wonder what she thinks of cyclists. I bet she’d dig these shoes.
The Giro LX LF is a pair of gloves I’ve written about previously. I loved them the first time around, even at $70 per pair. And while that price isn’t what I’d call cheap, these gloves feel nothing short of extravagant. I can understand how someone might not choose to indulge in a pair of these, but maybe hint to their sweet one that a pair of gloves, such as these, would be downright memorable.
Giro recently updated the styling on these gloves. They now have two different styles, one being the all-black ninja and the other replaced the black palm of my previously-reviewed pair with a white palm.
These are PRO, not in the classic sense of something you’d expect to see gracing Eddy Merckx’ palms, but PRO in the ‘I’m going to wear the most comfortable and stylish cool-weather glove I’ve ever encountered’ sense. As much as I liked the originals, the white palm totally does it for me.
Of course, white has its, uh, challenges. I’ve worn my pair nearly daily for about a month (not quite). Long rides, short rides, hard and sweaty rides. Below is EXACTLY what they looked like this afternoon.
I’ve made no attempt to clean them up. They aren’t new-undies white anymore, but outside, in sunlight, they are close enough for the peloton. What’s their temperature range, you ask? I’ve worn them into the mid-40s and been grateful for them, though the combination of a hard ride, temps in the 60s and these gloves is a bit much. On easy rides, I can wear them into the upper 60s.
These may not be the coolest long finger cycling gloves crafted from leather ever made. I’m okay with that. But if you know of something better, don’t tell me. I’m satisfied with these.
Much about professional cycling can be understood in terms of the Brady Bunch, that late ’60s, early ’70s television confection that taught a whole lot of us American types exactly how to function within the confines of an idyllic suburban milieu. The Brady Bunch took everyday family problems, turned their volume up to 11 and broke off the knob. If I hadn’t seen that one episode (“Mail Order Hero”) in which Bobby fakes a terminal illness to get a visit from his hero, Jets’ quarterback Joe Namath, then I most certainly would have employed that strategy to win a visit from my own “hero” of the time, Farrah Fawcett.
Whew, that was a close one.
The Grand Tours are like the Brady girls, Marsha, Jan and Cindy. Sure, Marsha (the Tour) is the oldest, prettiest and the one whose route you’d most like to explore, but she’s so conceited and self-centered sometimes. Seriously, high maintenance girls/Grand Tours can be so much more trouble than they’re worth. Jan (the Giro), on the other hand, is smarter and more well-rounded and probably deserves more lines in the show. She has a subtle sophistication that Marsha lacks. You could spend your whole life with her, grow old together, raise small tours of your own, like Suisse or Eneco. Cindy (the Vuelta) is just cute as hell, but it’s hard to build a whole show around her. She has that adorable lisp, and you’re just sure that when she grows up, in that future that never comes on television, she’s going to be a real knock out.
To carry the metaphor to the next, and even more absurd, level, the Tour of California is Mrs. Brady, not your first choice, but you’d do her. Come on, she (it) is gorgeous. The Tour of Oman is Alice, the maid. Her timing is all wrong, and she’s not pretty, but you can’t help but feel she brings something necessary (warm weather training) to the show.
The three big component makers, Campagnolo, Shimano and SRAM are like the Brady boys. Campy is Greg. He’s the oldest. He’s a bit of a playboy, but also sort of a mess. Shimano is Peter, the middle child. He’s the go-to if you need to get something done, because you get less drama than with Greg. Sure, he’s prone to fits of fancy, like that one time when he imagined he was a great detective, prancing about the tiny screen with a deerstalker hat on (Di2 anyone?), but ultimately Peter is your friend. When everyone else is at tryouts for football or cheerleading, Peter is on the couch, doing his homework. SRAM is Bobby, the young upstart. Bobby’s got real potential. He learns the most from his mistakes. He’s going to be a solid grown up.
The Brady house is actually a good metaphor for the pro peloton as a whole. Mr. Brady is an architect, he designs other people’s houses, i.e. he sets the style for how other people race and ride. The Brady house was, at the time, a super cool, modern design that all suburban families were jealous of. It managed to be futuristically perfect for a family of eight, plus maid and dog, but also homey and comfortable. Just like the peloton of that time, though, the Brady house looks hopelessly dated through today’s eyes. What was once cutting edge, now looks sort of silly, like Greg LeMond’s time trial helmet.
I shouldn’t pretend to understand really. I’m just Tiger, the family pet, out in a small house of my own in the backyard, only sporadically involved in the show, never really allowed in the house for fear I’ll ruin the furniture.
I have never before, in 37 attempts, had a Group Ride fall apart within minutes of clicking the Publish button, but last week, that very thing happened. It couldn’t have been ten minutes between the moment I finished writing about Angelo Zomegnan’s failure to invite Team RadioShack to his Giro di Lombardia, and the moment the VeloNews alert hit my in box, declaring the whole thing a misunderstanding.
The only misunderstanding going on, I think, is the powers of the pro peloton thinking we didn’t see through the last minute reversal. The story here, of course, is not really about Zomegnan and RadioShack.
Yes, the Shack stood the Giro d’Italia up, turning down an opportunity to race Italy’s most important race. Yes, Zomegnan was pissed off, offended. The decision not to field even a second string squad for the Giro was offensive, even if it was obvious that the Shack’s American sponsor was going to be more interested in appearing at the Tour of California, which ran concurrently. This is a pissing match between a team without sufficient diplomatic nous to appear humble even when they are not, and a race director looking to plant a stake in the ground as regards the importance of his race.
More than that though, this is about traditional cycling pushing back against the tide of modern cycling. Whether you view the Giro as an old world race and the Tour of Cali as a new school impostor, or you view the doping allegations that dog Lance Armstrong and his cadre of red and gray riders as a sign of the coming apocalypse, this little tiff over the Tour of Lombardy encapsulates many of the tensions seething within pro racing.
Are Zomegnan and his Vuelta a España counterpart, Javier Guillen, objecting to RadioShack’s general comportment, or is this a not-so-subtle way for the Europeans to push back against the globalization of the sport? Are they trying to keep suspected dopers out of their races, or are the doping allegations simply a pretense for playing out their prejudices against the nouveau riche of the sport?
By chalking this little flap up to a clerical error, a breakdown of communication, is to paper over the cracks.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
In Italian bike racing, Angelo Zomegnan is an important, powerful and sometimes sensitive person. The former Gazzetta dello Sport writer is now race director for the Giro d’ Italia, Milan-San Remo, Tirreno Adriatico and the Giro di Lombardia, all owned and organized by RCS Sport. You will recall that, having been notified that Lance Armstrong’s RadioShack team would not be attending the Giro, choosing the Tour of California instead, Zomegnan chose not to invite the Shack to Tirreno Adriatico either.
Apparently, there was a subsequent agreement, made after Armstrong called Zomegnan directly, to allow Radio Shack to ride in the Giro di Lombardia. In fact, according to the Shack, a contract of some sort was signed guaranteeing them an invitation. Then, Zomegnan decided not to invite the American team after all, and now they have filed a suit in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) seeking to be admitted to the last big Italian race of the season.
It has been alleged that Zomegnan’s pique with the Shack began when Armstrong did not appear for Milan-San Remo, as expected. Then, when Armstrong’s team opted out of the Giro, the Italian director wrote the squad off entirely. Whether or not this is the case, and remember that Vuelta a España director Javier Guillén also chose not to invite RadioShack to his race this year, is only conjecture, until Zomegnan steps forward and confirms it.
Shack rider Janez Brajkovic finished second at Lombardia in 2008, so RadioShack believes it deserves to be at the race start. Armstrong himself never planned to be at Lombardia, but Levi Leipheimer had the race on his schedule, so two riders with legitimate chances for the overall win suggests the team was taking it seriously.
This week’s Group Ride asks the question: What should have happened here? Should Zomegnan have invited the Shacks? Or has RadioShack peed in the proverbial pool? Has their decision not to race the Giro given European race organizers the reason they needed to cross the team off their lists? Is it about Armstrong personally? Or is it about the way the team has conducted themselves?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
I already have Grand Tour hangover, that malaise that settles in when there isn’t a daily race to follow by television/live web feed or text updates. This just-finished Giro d’Italia was simply the best three-week tour in my memory. Constant lead changes, ferocious crashes, valiant and successful breakaways, the GC boys spinning away at the steepest climbs in Europe—these are the things that cycling fans want to see, and this year’s Giro delivered them all in spades.
Ivan Basso, he of the curiously rehabilitated reputation, earned what had to feel like a highly redemptive maglia rosa. Between a wishy-washy half acknowledgment that his previous approach to high-end racing had left something to be desired and signing up with Dr. Aldo Sassi, the hottest trainer in the pro peloton, Basso is back in a big way, not to mention his Liquigas squad, who came in as contenders and rode away as champions, with Basso on the top step and Vincenzo Nibali in third. Basso danced in the pedals when he had to, but his team also did an excellent job of sheltering him from wind and the predations of three weeks in the saddle.
Nibali and Basso showed that having multiple captains can work on the road, and also that the younger rider will, eventually, win a Grand Tour, perhaps with Basso as his super domestique. Stranger things have happened on teams not called Astana.
Pre-race favorite Cadel Evans fared not so well, ending in 5th place in the general classification, though he consoled himself with the points jersey. Evans did the World Champion’s jersey proud by racing strong, attacking when he could and generally behaving as though he belonged on the front of the pack. Unfortunately, his BMC squad was nowhere when Evans needed them most. Evans’ former Lotto team perfected that trick. BMC just picked up where they left off. You have to wonder what might have been for the scrappy Australian had he been paced into the big climbs as Basso was.
Other talents also announced themselves. Young Richie Porte of Saxo Bank and Matthew Lloyd of Omega Pharma-Lotto, both Australians, forced themselves onto the scene with some daring rides and some stiff defenses of colored jerseys. This writer really enjoyed watching them ride and make names for themselves over the withering efforts of older riders like Alexandre Vinokourov and … um … well … I’m just glad Vinokourov didn’t win anything.
Mention must be made, finally, of David Arroyo. The 30-year-old from Caisse d’Epargne emerged from the shadows of his better known teammates to take the biggest prize of his career, a second place in a Grand Tour. The Spaniard was gutsy all through the Giro, and dug deep to defend the maglia rosa when he had it. In the end, Basso was too much for him, but Arroyo has laid down a marker with team management, now that Alejandro Valverde has been consigned to a two-year ban.
As regards the questions floated in the Group Ride, let me just float some opinions on questions not already addressed above. First, Italian podium girls are not hotter than French ones. They are equally hot. If my VO2 Max wasn’t closer to my shoe size than to the population of your favorite restaurant on a Friday night, either one would serve as ample motivation to earn a post-race peck.
The Tour of California, for me, detracted from the Giro, which is deeply unfortunate because the ToC is a great race. Still, what if George Hincapie had been riding for Cadel Evans instead of riding loops around downtown LA? A concurrent ToC forces the big teams to make decisions that hurt cycling fans. Scheduling fail.
Andre Greipel definitely deserves to ride the Tour de France. Just not for HTC-Columbia. For sale, one rather large, scary-looking German dude. Real fast on a bike. Somewhat whiny. All serious offers considered.
I don’t know what happened to Team Sky under the blazing Tuscan sun (and rain). Bradley Wiggins pulled a real Sastre on this one, disappearing almost before he’d even really announced his presence. Perhaps the couch cushions on the super plush Sky bus are just a bit too comfy. Perhaps their espresso maker went on the fritz. Or perhaps they really were just out on a training ride. Doubt it though. I think they just sucked.
That brings me to old Charlie Sastre, who I maligned in the last paragraph. I like Charlie. He just keeps riding and riding, and yeah, that Tour de France win was probably as good as it gets for him, but damn it, you gotta respect a guy who can finish 21 Grand Tours. You just gotta.
And with that, I officially turn the page on the Giro and begin to stare out of windows wondering how in hell Christian Prudhomme can possibly put on a TdF better than what we’ve just seen.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Putting aside the controversy du jour/semaine/mois/année, can we all just agree that this Giro d’Italia has not only been the best race of the 2010 season, but the best Grand Tour in recent memory? Can we? If not, there’s a comments section. Lodge your protest there.
For me, this race has been a huge breath of fresh O2. Between successful breakaways (enough that I’m questioning my stance on race radios) and unexpected results (Richie Porte anyone?) and strong men on steep hills, I am beginning to think that Angelo Zomegnan (race organizer) is something of a genius. And they haven’t even crested the Gavia yet!
This week’s Group Ride is sort of a compendium of questions. Where does this Giro stack up against other recent Grand Tours? Why do you think this one has been so good? If Ivan Basso wins the overall, how will you feel about that? Do you think someone else will take the GC? Are Italian podium girls prettier than French ones? Has the Tour of California hurt or helped the Giro? Does Andre Greipel deserve to ride the Tour de France? What happened to Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins? Does it matter? What did you think of the Dutch prologue? Too much road furniture? Has Carlos Sastre’s 21st Grand Tour been disappointing, or is Charlie just passed it now?
Let’s talk about it. Let the craic ensue.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Giro, for those who haven’t been paying attention to one of the world’s top helmet manufacturers, has entered the glove market cannonball-style. That’s in addition to the eyewear and other accessories that the manufacturer has moved into.
It was a risky move. Giro’s place as one of the top three helmet makers is virtually decreed by government. All it would take to crack the foundation would be a crappy lens or two and gloves that didn’t fit or didn’t last.
Last fall I reviewed the Lusso glove, which has since been renamed the LX. I liked the Pittards leather glove a lot, but in the comments, I did get a bit of pushback. One owner of a set complained about how the gloves dried out after washing them.
The folks at Easton-Bell Sports read RKP after they are all caught up on the real news over at Cyclingnews. The brand manager for the gloves saw the comment, contacted the reader and addressed his concerns personally. It makes for great PR when you do something like that publicly, but I only know about it because someone at Giro contacted me.
I can say that no other bike company has shown the same level of concern for addressing consumer issues as Giro. The opportunity is certainly there.
Late this winter I received the long-finger version of the LX glove, called the LXLF. Like the LX, the LXLF comes in either a black and white or all black color scheme. Unlike the LX, it blends some more stretchable fabric at the knuckles to make the gloves more dextrous without forcing the leather to stretch. The perforated Cabretta leather on the back of the glove helps keep it breathable. And the alternating black and white makes them look like a classy costume accessory for the Oaxacan Festival of the Dead.
Compared to the short-finger version of the glove, the LXLF, rather surprisingly, features much less of the 3M technogel padding. While the pads are nice and do a great job of preventing vibration from reaching your hands, it is a little on the bulky side. The LXLF features but two pads at the heel of the palm. As a result, the palms move with your hands much more naturally. Yet, as thin as the glove feels, it still provides more than adequate protection in terms of padding and temperature control.
I wouldn’t advocate using this glove much below 50 degrees and certainly not above 70 degrees, but that temperature range describes my typical ride for at least eight months of the year.
Ever concerned that I’ll do something to stretch the LXs out, I’m super-careful when I remove them. With the LXLF, not so much. With a gentle tug on the fingertips, it’s easy to pull them off my hands. And after more than a month of near-daily use they still look new.
The gloves feature a section of microfiber fabric over the thumb to give you a place to wipe your sweaty, drippy bits, but honestly, the fabric behind the knuckles does just as good a job at absorbing bodily fluids.
Speaking of bodily fluids, in reviewing another company’s short-finger Pittards-palm glove, I had a less-than-fun incident involving the black dye used in the leather and my bar tape. I sweated so much on a hot day that the black dye not only stained my hands the color of coal, but stained my bar tape so that it looked brick red. I have yet to pick up any hint of dye on my hands from either the LX or the LXLF gloves. Some details you just don’t notice until someone else messes one up.
Easily my favorite feature of the gloves is the incredible sensitivity and dexterity they offer. My son’s butt is only slightly softer than these things, but LXLF has the advantage of being wearable for hours at a time.
In my climate, I can make use of a spring-weight glove, as I mentioned, for at least eight months of the year. I’ve tried a lot of lightweight, long-finger gloves. You’d be shocked if I told you how few of them are memorable. The LXLF is not only memorable, it is easily the best long-finger spring-weight glove I’ve ever worn. Periodendofstatement.
Because they retail for $70, it’s not a glove I’d be inclined to wear, say, during a cyclocross race or a six-hour, rainy training ride. I know they can be cleaned, but the cleaning process requires a bit of care and they aren’t indestructible. For those reasons, I don’t wear them on rides I anticipate will be messy.
If this whole global warming thing turns out to be a hoax and supposing my morning rides maintain their 55-degree start temp, I won’t mind. These gloves are so enjoyable, I’d gladly wear arm warmers year-round just to help justify wearing the gloves.
In the grand scheme, what makes these gloves so great isn’t how Giro got all the details right. What makes them so great is the fit of the glove combined with the feel of the leather on your hands; the combination of softness and dexterity is simply unparalleled. Pardon me, but I think I’m going to put them on and retype this review just so I can have another hour to wear them. Seriously—these gloves are so nice, you’ll rethink why you wear gloves … and the standard you hold them to.
In the last year the MBAs on Wall Street have fed us a number of interesting stories followed by dire predictions for increased disaster should we insist on continuing our wayward course. They have also stuck to the old hymnbook with the chorus that goes:
Competition begets innovation
Innovation begets revelation …
That might not have been a direct quote. Don’t hold me to that. Regardless, the MBAs are right that free-market competition is good for innovation. Witness the X Games.
Or consider Giro and Oakley. You’ve seen Lance Armstrong in his Jawbones and probably a fair chunk of your local peloton as well. The Jawbones made big noise for being the first Oakleys to use a unique lock and hinge system to make lens replacement a, um, snap.
But Giro actually beat them to the punch. The Filter debuted nearly nine months earlier and uses an even simpler lens changing system called Pop Top™ (not to be confused with an antique soda can) to allow the user to change lens without risk of breaking the frame thanks to too firm an effort. I’ve switched lenses on a number of occasions and I can attest to making the switch and being fear-free while doing it. The switch takes all of two minutes including putting away the recently removed lenses. If you’re a race mechanic, you’ll still have time to change a wheel and make a martini.
The Filter uses a half-entrapped frame so that the lower portion of the lens is frame-free for minimally interrupted vision. A lever at the temple unlocks a cam that holds the lens in place; a simple twist releases the lens, making tint choice on the morning of a ride a realistic option.
While I’ve tried the Filter with only one helmet so far (Specialized) I did find them to fit nicely in the vent holes on the few occasions I decided to take them off. The nose bridge and ear pieces are sufficiently grippy to keep the glasses in place even when you look straight down. However, I do have one minor issue with the ear pieces; as you can see from the photo above, they angle inward slightly. While I don’t have an issue on shorter rides, if I’m out for four or five hours, they do pinch me just a bit behind the ears, and I’ll notice a bit of irritation.
On fast descents the Filter does a great job of directing wind down my face without eddying up under the lens to make my eyes tear. In my experience, that is a rare quality for a lens this small.
The Filter I tried included two different sets of lenses, rose silver as well as orange selector. The orange selector was excellent for early mornings when the sun was not sufficiently up to require the rose silver lens. Under changeable and brighter conditions I found the rose silver to be one of the single most versatile lens colors I’ve ever used. I wore the Filter when I did Levi’s King Ridge Gran Fondo this fall and several people told me that my lenses were much too dark to be able to ride from sunlight into the forest-shaded areas. They were convinced I wouldn’t be able to see and would wind up some unfortunate statistic of the ride. On the contrary, I was able to see sufficiently in lower light situations and didn’t have to squint in mid-day sunlight. It’s too dark for rolling out at dawn, but once the sun is any kind of up, the tint is terrific.
I also got to try the clear silver lens which has a flash mirror coating which adds a hint of yellow mirror. They were good on really overcast days or on the occasional ride that started much too early and ended before the sun was fully up. They are fairly limited in their use but their ability to increase contrast in low-light situations can be very helpful.
Giro sells the Filter in several configurations. Glasses start at $160. As reviewed with the rose silver and orange selector lenses plus a cotton bag and hard travel case, the ensemble goes for $220. Additional lenses run from $30 to $50; those lenses with the flash mirror coatings are at the upper end of that pricing.
Day two of the Interbike show was a mad dash from one appointment to the next. Unfortunately, some of the coolest things I saw, including a new power meter that measures torque at the pedals, were in display cases that didn’t permit acceptable photography. There were plenty of autograph signings, lots of beer being served and wrenches trying to score schwag, but the one thing retailers told me over and over was that they weren’t placing orders. They had already placed their preseason orders or they were waiting to see how things would shake out with the economy in general and their business in specific.