Last summer I was sent a set of Hincapie’s Emergence kit for review. I had been pretty fascinated by the stuff when I’d gotten a look at it at Interbike, but my fascination was somewhat … academic. Why’s that you ask? Well, even though this kit is ninja black, the fabric has been treated with Schoeller’s coldblack® technology which reflects light and provides SPF protection. I know, black kit for a hot day sounds like a joke, but I was at least persuaded to give it a try. But when?
The fact is, even though I live in Southern California, my proximity to the beach (two miles and falling if the reports of rising sea level are to be believed) means that I never see the triple-digit heat so much of California withers beneath.
Combine that with this other little tidbit and you’ll see that it was difficult to even find a chance to put the stuff to use. Oh, and that other little tidbit is that I ride in the early morning six days a week. By the time I get home, temperatures are usually still south of 70 degrees. I spend nearly 10 months a year in arm warmers.
Ah, but I’ve had two events in the last 12 months that allowed me to put this kit through its paces. The first was a trip last August to Bishop, Calif., where I took in a bunch of hors categorie climbs. I’d start off just as soon as it was warm enough to ride without arm warmers and return to temps in the low hundreds.
Then last month I took a trip to Memphis, Tenn., and got reacquainted with “90s and 90s.” That is, temperatures and humidity upwards of 90 (degrees and percent). It was a bit like bumping into the psycho ex; I haven’t missed it. But man, coldblack® actually works. Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t some universe-altering Gabriel Garcia Marquez surreal air conditioning textile. I’m not crazy. What I noticed was that I could reach down and touch the fabric in the jersey and bibs and they weren’t hot to the touch like so many all-black garments would be. I had to ride with some other all-black bibs just to make sure I wasn’t imagining the phenomenon.
So coldblack®, in my experience, does work. It won’t turn July into October, but it can make unbearable sort of okay. Hincapie reports that it offers an SPF factor of 50+.
That said, I’m trying to understand why it was coldblack® and not coldred or coldblue. I have serious reservations about an all black kit. Part of this is the nerd in me. No, it’s not that I have some twisted sense of what looks good (though I do take fashion cues from “The Big-Bang Theory.”) It’s that a portion of my undergraduate work was in sensation and perception. Allow me to distill a year’s worth of 400-level courses into a single, useful statement: Black isn’t a color; it’s a hole in the visual field.
As it turns out, to the human brain, black is as close as we get to invisible, short of Wonder Woman comics. It’s the opposite of red. Your eye is hardwired to look around black rather than at it. Given the incredible number of SUV-driving people whose next phone call is several times more important than your continued good health, I just have a preference for recommending stuff that makes you more visible rather than less so. Though I do make an exception for anything in neon yellow. There’s no need to overdo it. Which brings me to another point: don’t ask about color options. Henry Ford would approve of this approach as it’s available in black or black.
To be fair, both the jersey and bibs have reflective tags, logos and piping, but reflective bits don’t do much on rides when headlights aren’t on, and even for cars with daytime lights, reflective pips aren’t often noticeable at noon.
In Hincapie, as in most American clothing brands, I wear medium bibs and a small jersey. Of late, Hincapie bib inseams and jerseys have been cut shorter than they used to. This is a good thing. It’s one thing to have George Hincapie personally test all the clothing. It’s quite another to use him as the fit model. Having said this, the kit is supposed to have a form fit—Hincapie calls the cut body-mapping. The jersey should be snug, though not quite skinsuit tight. In my case it would have been nice to go down yet another size to achieve the desired fit; I say would have because they don’t make the jersey in XS—that was a bit of a disappointment. The kit is available in five sizes: S through XXL. So if you want the jersey to fit you correctly, at least like the guy in the pic, go down one size if possible. I don’t see anyone under 145 lbs. wearing this jersey. The bibs, on the other hand, fit correctly.
The kit is cut from AT1 Dynamic stretch fabric and features flatlock seems throughout. The pieces are quite comfortable. In walking around before the ride, filling bottles and that sort of thing, the Hincapie Emergence Chamois feels rather stiff except in the low-density areas, where it essentially just folds. It’s not a common experience and I can’t say that I really liked it, but we don’t purchase chamois based on how well you walk in them. Which is a good thing, because out on the bike it’s a good deal more comfortable.
The leg bands and sleeves are finished with a lightweight, laser-cut tape that has a slightly tacky backing, though it’s nothing like the silicone grippers that seem to irritate some riders. If you’re looking for something less grabby, I can definitely recommend these.
Final details: three rear pockets plus a fourth, zippered security pocket. The front, like almost all jerseys these days, includes a full zipper for maximum ventilation. There’s a gripper to hold the jersey hem in place.
At retail the jersey goes for $129.99, while the bibs go for $219.99. They have a dealer locator and if none are nearby, you can always make a purchase directly from their site.
Final thought: We knew black was beautiful, so of course it’s cool.
I spent my formative years struggling between wearing clothes that were unfashionable but fit me and those that were fashionable, but didn’t remotely fit me. Not only did I not understand it, my mother didn’t either. Most of the pants I wore in grade school were loose at the small of my back; to keep them at my waist I had to pull my belt pretty snug. Most of my shirts fit okay at the shoulders and then billowed out as they went down, like I was wearing a tailored tent.
Eventually I began to notice from time to time that some clothes simply fit better than others. As much as I loved Patagonia casual wear, their polo shirts were flappy on me, even in small. Their pants and shorts either fit in the seat and loose in the waist or fit at the waist and tight across my crotch. Levi’s 501s stopped fitting me after I took up cycling. I had to switch to the 569s—sit at the waist and roomy through the seat and thighs. Those skinny hipster jeans? I’d never get ‘em past my knees, unless I went for the 40-inch waist.
It wasn’t until an ex-girlfriend taught me about fit models and how all clothing begins with pieces of fabric cut to fit some individual that I began to appreciate why some things fit and others didn’t. Understanding that actually made shopping easier; it eliminated whole product lines because I knew they weren’t cut for me.
When I first got into cycling I was pretty unaware of just how cycling clothing needed to fit. I got it more or less right, but I occasionally bought shorts that were too big and all my jerseys were a size larger than necessary. Even through the turn of the century, most cycling clothing had enough stretch to accommodate differences in physique within a given size.
More recently, with the advent of Power Lycra, compression panels and skinsuit-tight jerseys, I’ve begun to notice some stuff doesn’t fit as well as it used to, or as well as some of the competition. In my reviews of clothing I’ve begun to talk about the nature of the fit. The point isn’t to say this fit is good or that fit is bad, but to note how it fits. We can talk about features like materials, reflective piping, dual-density foam in pads and Power Lycra panels until our faces are cyan, but if you—like me—have a bounteous and spherical caboose, some bibs aren’t going to fit you all that well. It won’t make them bad, but it’s worth knowing that there are others that might fit you better.
The importance of this was driven home for me this past winter when I had an experience I really didn’t want to have. I’ve long been an admirer of Vermarc clothing, but I’d never had the opportunity to wear any of their stuff. It’s a big world and I just didn’t get around to it until this winter. I tried one of their top pairs of bibs. On my first ride, I cut a three-hour ride short because my ass hurt. How could that be? I was wearing the pride of Belgium. What gives?
In objective terms, I’ve been riding 143mm-wide Specialized saddles, though it was recently suggested to me that I might do well to try the 155mm-wide version of the Romin. Not the Incredible Hulk, but not bantam, either.
Well, as it turned, out my sit bones are wider than the widest portion of the densest foam in the pad. I was writing out of the margins, so-to-speak. It doesn’t mean they are bad bibs at all. It just suggests I’m seven feet tall and the owner of a new Mini Cooper.
While this won’t be complete by any means, I wanted to note my experience with some of the different lines out there to help give you a better basis for comparison. For the record, I’m 5′ 11″ and currently weigh 163 lbs., which I hate to admit, is heavy for me.
- Assos—the Uno and Mille bibs are fairly consistent in their style of fit, though the Unos are a bit more snug on me. Like I said, I’ve got enough of a butt that I can’t do straight-leg jeans. The Mille in particular is a fantastic fit for me. And with both pads, my sit bones come down squarely in the middle of the densest foam. I wear a large.
- Castelli—these are cut for riders with a slighter frame. For me, by the time I’ve crowded my ass into them they are a bit tight across the front. I’ve experienced this more with some of their bibs than others, but I do get it to some degree with all of them, save the Claudio (thermal) bibs. In my mind, most are climbers’ bibs. I wear a large.
- Capo—This line is pretty remarkable for its middle-of-the-road fit. I’ve had no issues with their bibs, nor have any friends reported issues with their stuff. I wear a medium.
- Voler—I’ve had issues with being sort of between sizes. I was too big for the smalls but the mediums weren’t as snug in fit as it seemed they ought. I can’t recall ever being between sizes with another line. The quality has come a long way from what it once was, but the pad will only stay put if the bibs are tight enough that you don’t catch the bibs on the nose of the saddle. I wear a medium.
- Panache—this is another line that offers ample room for my bumper. In addition to being roomy enough to accommodate both of my glutes, the pad is one of a handful that can rival Assos’ for comfort in terms of width and placement of the densest foam. I wear a large.
- Rapha—I’ve just begun wearing the new Pro Team bibs and have been impressed with the fit. They are cut with plenty of room for my glutes without being loose up front, which is what happens if the butt is too roomy (which I did experience once). I wear a medium.
- Hincapie—like Castelli, these tend to lack a bit of room in need in back. I wear a medium.
- Giordana—Giordana has so many different product lines, there’s no one essential truth to their fit. Most of their stuff fits me pretty well, though the FormaRed Carbon bibs use the same narrow pad in the Vermarc bibs I tried. I wear a medium.
- Vermarc—overall the fit was good; I just need a wider pad. I wear a medium.
- Etxe Ondo—these could use a bit more room in the butt, but overall the fit was pretty good given the Power Lycra panels. I wear a medium.
- Specialized—these had a very traditional fit. It may be that the Lycra they used was just particularly forgiving (I believe it was 6-oz. throughout) and that what made the fit. I wear a medium.
- Primal Wear—not quite enough room in back, so it ended up being a bit snug in front. I wear a medium.
- Nalini—another pair of bibs that needed more room in back to keep the front from being too tight. I wear a medium.
- Assos—all the Assos jerseys I’ve worn have been cut on a pretty noticeable taper. However, there are always materials with such great stretch utilized that the fit ends up being remarkably forgiving. distinctly short, lengthwise. I wear a medium.
- Castelli—the jerseys I’ve tried are cut a bit more straight than Assos jerseys, though it appears their top-shelf stuff is cut on more of a taper. Mid-line stuff is somewhat long, but the pro stuff appears to be shorter. It’s really easy to buy a size too big with Castelli. I wear a medium.
- Capo—cut on a slight taper and cut on the short side, though not as short as Assos. I wear a small.
- Voler—cut remarkably straight and nearly as short as Assos; it’s a unique fit, but one I like when I’m not in perfect shape. I wear a small.
- Panache—these jerseys feature a significant taper and run short. Out of season I need to wear a medium; when I’m fit and want a pro-style fit, I’m a small.
- Hincapie—these are cut straight and long. They’ve got to fit the man himself. I wear a small.
- Giordana—again, Giordana offers so much stuff their fit is all over the place. Inexpensive stuff is generous in fit, while primo stuff like the FormaRed Carbon is short, snug and tapered. I wear a small.
- Vermarc—they feature a tapered cut and run slightly short. I wear a small.
- Etxe Ondo—yet another tapered cut, but these run on the long side, though not so long as Hincapie. I wear a small.
- Specialized—this is a remarkably straight cut with a little more length than some stuff. A conservative, fit-almost-anyone cut. I wear a small.
- Primal Wear—cut pretty straight and with a fair amount of length. I wear a small.
- Nalini—tapered cut, almost as short as Assos. I wear a small.
Bottom line: I’m not trying to steer you into or out of any one clothing line. I have my personal likes, but the value in this is to give you a greater frame of reference for choosing clothing next time you go to buy something. Fit is at the root of comfort. Go be comfortable and ride well.
The knock against Assos is always their cost. The Swiss manufacturer is famous for nothing so much as their pricing that makes Mercedes seem as affordable as Kia. Sure, they are known for their over-the-top models and pimped-out images of said models in their clothing, but the prices can make you forget the models, at least until you put your injured Visa away.
But here’s the thing: While everyone I have spoken with about Assos has exclaimed, “Dude, that’s a lot of f***in’ money for a pair of shorts,” everyone I know who has actually plunked down said money has rendered the same verdict—”Best shorts I’ve ever worn.”
The F.I. Uno S5 is Assos least-expensive pair of bibs. At $200 that’s a good deal more than almost all of their competitors’ most expensive bibs. This is Aston Martin territory, wherein every vehicle they offer is more expensive than anything Lexus offers. That can be hard to wrap your head around. It doesn’t so much redefine the term “luxury” as render it useless.
And while I’ve driven very few Mercedes and only ridden in a single Aston Martin, I have this suspicion that after a fortnight in a fine example of either, going back to my Subaru would be like drinking Two Buck Chuck after having spent a weekend in the Russian River Valley. You’d wonder what the point was.
That’s a bit like my reaction to the Uno bibs. My recollection is that the most I’ve ever paid for a pair of custom bibs was $120. The material was pretty good and the fit was good, but the pad was just so-so. (The best pad ever included in a pair of custom bibs, by contrast, was not the most expensive pair.) You’d hope that the $200 Unos would be better than that, right?
Well, the Uno bibs are unsurprisingly better. They are also so superior to most of the custom stuff I’ve worn that I wish they did my custom kit. But then I don’t suppose many people would buy it. Here’s the crazy thing: If you told me that Assos made only one pair of bibs and the Unos were they, I’d believe and would never dare wish for something superior; they are that good.
But Assos positions these as their all-purpose training and racing bibs. Which may undersell them, kinda like having a dressy tux and then a casual tux.
When I compare the Uno to other shorts in the $180 to $220 range, the Uno is the hands-down winner. Now, I can’t claim to have worn all of the offerings from Capo and Rapha out there, but against Giordana, Castelli and Hincapie, the Uno is the clear winner. That’s not to say I don’t like the others, but the Uno is just superior.
Take the pad in the Uno. It isn’t curved like that in the Mille, but it still fits very well. It’s also more comfortable than the pad in comparable shorts from Castelli and Hincapie. And the pad in the Giordana Forma Red Carbon? This is the same pad that Vermarc uses, the same pad that graces the powerful hindquarters of Philippe Gilbert. That pad? It’s too narrow for my ass. My sit bones fall beyond the thickest portion of the pad. I have no such trouble with the pad Assos puts in the Uno.
And how a six-panel short can fit so well and offer compression over an evenly distributed area is as surprising to me as a pharmaceutical with no side effects. As much as I love Castelli products, I think their shorts are cut for people with less caboose than me; as a result the fit just isn’t terrific; they are a bit tight up front.
Let’s consider for a moment that I’m discussing each of these products in relatively newish state. My experience with Assos is that these bibs, now eight months old, will still be in rotation in five years. I’ve never had a pair of shorts last as long from any other manufacturer. For that reason alone they are worth comparing against any similarly priced shorts.
But here’s the kicker: Had I never worn Assos’ Mille bibs or the T.607 thermal bibs, and only knew the Unos, you could have lied to me and told me these were the very best shorts out of Switzerland and I wouldn’t have had reason to doubt you. I’d like to try the rest of the comparable bibs out there, if only to test my belief that these are the very best value in shorts you can get for $200. Given what else is on the market in this price range, this is one time when you simply can’t knock Assos as too expensive.
I need to level with you. I take a very skeptical view of most arm/leg/knee warmers. Even though I wear arm warmers for a good nine months of each year (people have no clue how cool the South Bay is), my standards are almost unreasonably high. I’m almost as likely to toss a new pair of arm warmers as I am to wear them. Almost.
The way I see it, I’m not being unreasonable. I just have a basic expectation. Arm warmers have a single mission: to stay in place so they may keep my arms warm. Same goes for leg and knee warmers. If they don’t stay in place then they can’t keep you warm, ergo, they haven’t fulfilled their mission. When I first entered cycling, I didn’t see anyone but PROs wear them. Then I saw a friend with a set. He safety pinned them to his jersey sleeves.
Let’s try that again: My buddy took safety pins and attached them to the ends of his jersey’s short sleeves to hold his arm warmers in place.
That’s a function fail. It’s a design fail. It’s a fashion fail. It’s more kinds of fail than I have the energy (though I certainly have more than enough space) to enumerate here. I rather instantly came to the conclusion that anything so poorly designed didn’t deserve to ride my skin. Then I became the dedicated cycling clothing guy for a bike magazine. I’ve worn dozens of different arm, leg and knee warmers over the years. I was required to try stuff I detested. Mercifully, I ended up only writing about the stuff that measured up.
Here are the most common fails. With arm warmers, length is usually the big one. Arm warmers that are too short make your upper arms and shoulders cold. Occaionally, I’ll run across a set made with Roubaix Lycra that isn’t stretchy enough. Pulling them on is a bit like getting a bone out of a dog’s mouth—surprisingly difficult and not without risks. Making them ultra-tight as a means to combat having them slip down is tantamount to setting fire to your checkbook to keep your spending down. Sometimes arm warmers are cut on too much of a taper, so by the time you find one that will fit your wrists, they are too loose on your upper arms. So they slip down.
With knee warmers length is an issue again. They need to be long so they can ride high on your thigh and still cover your calves. This, because most folks don’t own thermal bibs, so you want that Roubaix Lycra covering as much of your thigh as possible. This, by the way, is yet another reason to shave the whole of your leg. Having the leg grippers of a pair of knee or leg warmers pulling on hair is as much fun as being one half of a girl fight. And again, some Roubaix Lycras aren’t stretchy enough. The problem usually comes down to using material that is stretchy enough for thermal bibs, and because there’s lots more material in thermal bibs than there is in knee warmers, the smaller garment requires stretchier material. And for some, there’s a real challenge to finding a gripper elastic that won’t irritate the skin.
Leg warmers have the aforementioned challenges regarding the stretchiness of the material and even, sometimes, length. The bigger, more frequent issue has to do with zipper placement and taper. Years ago I recall seeing Axel Merckx in the start village of the Tour DuPont. He had leg warmers on. They looked like the most ridiculous bell bottoms ever imagined. Unless you played for George Clinton, and then they would have been money. Merckx’ calves were tiny, but the problem was that his ankles had been crafted from No. 2 pencils. Even zipped up, his leg warmers could have been caught by the chain and sucked through his drivetrain with the gleeful destruction of a Great White Shark feasting on whole chickens.
Could that be right? Ah, we’ll never know. He took the leg warmers off before the start of the stage.
So at some point I should probably mention Hincapie’s new stuff. I say let’s go for it. Okay, so the basics: The warmers are available in three colors—black, red and white. Length on the arm, knee and leg warmers is good. The arm warmers run from wrist almost to mid-bicep; they are roughly as long as some of the other big brands I’ve worn, though a bit shorter than my faves. They are different from some in that they are cut from two pieces of fabric—not one—to create a bend at the elbow. The knee and leg warmers are right in line lengthwise with some of the big brands like Giordana. And the ankles on the leg warmers? Cut on a nice taper so they don’t flair out like some pants. That the zipper on the leg warmers is red is an attractive detail. Another nice detail is that the zipper locks. I’ve noticed that I have to pull these leg warmers up exceedingly high to keep the bottom of the zipper above my cuboid bone (that bump on the outside of your ankle), which will just push it open if it isn’t flipped up in the locked position.
The warmers are all cut from Hincapie’s BodE Thermal Loft fabric. It’s unusually soft and seems to feature more loft than some materials I’ve worn, and it’s very stretchy so it’s easy to pull on. The Hincapie logo transferred onto the warmers is reflective because, Lord knows, half the time you’re wearing this stuff you’d have to shoot at F2.8 to get a properly exposed image.
All that stuff is nice, but not terribly different from stuff by competitors. Here’s why I bothered: Hincapie placed grippers on both the inside for against your skin and the outside to grab fabric. It’s a classic “D’oh!” innovation. That is, the fact that nobody did it before now made me go “D’oh!” when I pulled these out of the package. I didn’t need the fact sheet to clue me in on their purpose. In the image above the gray grippers at the top of the warmers are against your skin, while the red grippers hang on to your clothing. And both the knee and leg warmers are given grippers on the lower hems to keep them from riding up. These might be the most budge-proof warmers I’ve worn.
All that’s well and good, but this may be their best feature: Suggested retails for the arm, knee and leg warmers are $29.99, $39.99 and $49.99 respectively. In the past, I’ve spent more for less.
What. A. Race. There were so many big moments in yesterday’s Tour of Flanders, it reminded me of a Fourth of July fireworks show. As soon as you think, “That must be it,” another big blast goes off and leaves you breathless.
First of all, Nick Nuyens. This guy has been an increasingly dark horse since some good showings in 2008. That he won the Dwar doors Vlaanderen a week-and-a-half ago might have been an indication of good form, but it took more than form to win yesterday’s Ronde. It took the perfect tactics, riding wheels, getting in the right moves, saving up, and then exploding in the last 200m to absolutely shock everyone.
Padraig: Nick Nuyens rode a terrific race and has given Bjarne Riis the right to walk around with a guilt-free smug grin for the rest of the week. And though he won, because he isn’t a rider I have feelings for one way or another and really did nothing to make the race exciting save for the fact that he won the final sprint (and let’s be honest, it is the most important move of the race), I must admit I feel slightly cheated by the outcome.
For some Nuyens’ win is disappointing. The Ronde is an emotional race, and it wants an emotional winner. Does anyone have any feelings for Nuyens? No. I didn’t think so.
At the finish I wondered, though, if Cancellara had had Riis in his ear, would the outcome have been different? More importantly, did Spartacus have the same thought? For fans, this win for Saxo can only intensify the rivalry with Leopard-Trek. Can there be any doubt who is winning?
Padraig: Spartacus was the man of the day. He may only have gotten third, but he was the carbonated water in my Coke, and a Coke without fizz is just pointless.
And if the Leopards were disappointed with third place, how must Quick Step have felt about 2nd and 4th. It looked as though QS put too much stock in the plan to win with Tom Boonen, completely disregarding, until it was too late, the obvious strength of Sylvain Chavanel on the day.
Padraig: For my part it was a race of surprises. I was surprised to learn that Quick Step director Patrick Lefevre was all-in on Boonen. You’ve got Sylvain Chavanel and you won’t let him do anything more than mark Spartacus? Really? That Philippe Gilbert couldn’t stay away showed how stunningly strong the top riders were. But I think my biggest shock was when Cancellara originally attacked how easily Tomeke seemed to give up when he got caught up in traffic.
The turning point for the Quick Steps seemed to come with about 2k to go with Chavanel off the front with Spartacus and Nuyens. The Frenchman shook hands with the Swiss as if to say, “I’ve been released. We can work together now,” which is just what they did, holding off Boonen, Gilbert, Flecha, Leukemans, et. al. Where Riis got it just right, QS chief Lefevre got it just wrong.
Was anyone else screaming at the TV for Gilbert when he made his own move with 3k left? It was textbook Gilbert, but just as Cancellara’s textbook escape with 40ks left failed to break the chasers’ will, so too was Gilbert reeled in.
Special mention should go to three domestiques. First, Chavanel, who was clearly Boonen’s up the road decoy, continued to follow the plan long after Boonen was able to hold up his end of the bargain. Second, Geraint Thomas buried himself over and over to keep Flecha in amongst the leaders, and finally Big George Hincapie performed yeoman’s work towing Alessandro Ballan over cobble and dale. Even if their leaders didn’t come through, they did their jobs to perfection. Hats off.
The only item left on my agenda is a quick assessment of Garmin-Cervelo. They sucked. I suppose Farrar did well to take the bunch sprint from the peloton, but did anyone hear Haussler’s name mentioned all day? And what did Hushovd do in the rainbow jersey? He was there or thereabouts for two-thirds of the race and then faded like a pair of Levis on permanent spin cycle.
I watched the race twice. Once on the Eurosport feed (while tuned in to the Feed Zone on Pavé, and that was excellent) and then again in the afternoon on Versus. It struck me how completely different were the stories the two networks told.
What did you think of this year’s Ronde? What surprised you? And what does it all mean for next week’s tilt in the North of France?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Day one of Interbike was a flurry of missed connections, reunions with old friends and, yes, introductions to new must-have bikes and parts. Somehow the day was over before I felt I had done enough; so it goes.
One of my more interesting stops was at Ritchey. Their components have fascinated me for their simple form and function ever since I bought my first Ritchey stem in 1990. More recently, the company has begun to make a firmer style statement. This has really come through on their wet white and wet black components. Yesterday they introduced wet red and this photo doesn’t do it justice; think lipstick red. As cool as I thought the black and white were, the red was a real stunner. I’d love to see a full pro team on them; that would look PRO.
This may have been the best looking ‘cross bike I saw yesterday. The matching fork is a new graphic touch for Ritchey and really ties the bike together nicely. And though not immediately apparent, this is a Break-Away.
Ritchey worked with Reynolds on this carbon clincher rim. They say that with Reynolds blue pads stopping is much better than with some other wheels and heat dissipates better than with Swisstop pads. Weight for the set is 1410g.
I’ve been digging Twin Six stuff for a few years now and as much as like some of their jerseys, I saw some T-shirts yesterday that really caught my eye. This ‘cross design is from a watercolor one of the owner/designers did at home one night.
I don’t know how many non-Bostonians will get the Southie reference, but having spent time in Revere, this shirt may have been my favorite inside nod/joke I caught yesterday.
Larceny entered my head when I saw this $2499 as-equipped carbon fiber ‘cross bike from Bianchi. I think they are under-appreciated for their ability to deliver great-spec’d bikes for terrific value.
Hincapie showed some great new clothes and the new George Signature line caught my eye. It’s a more form-fitting Euro-style cut, meaning the jerseys and bibs don’t run so long and the seams are welded rather than sewn. If you dig the Giordana Formula Red Carbon, then you’ll love this stuff … and you’ll like the pricing as well.
Colnago introduced its new C59 frame. In it there are some surprising nods to the modern world, such as the slightly sloping top tube (not the first for them, but one gets the sense that each new bike could just as easily have been designed around a horizontal top tube). This bike is available either with cable guides or Di2 guides, but you have to order ahead.
I don’t ride Brooks saddles. I won’t criticize anyone else for doing it, but I’m just not built for them. I do, however, have great respect for their ability to work with leather. The bags I saw yesterday were the ultimate lifestyle pieces for the cyclist who wants to keep cycling clothing even when in street clothes.
Not only were these bags elegant and well-made, they were surprisingly functional. Once again, larceny was on my mind. And I don’t mind saying it.
Fi’zi:k introduced a seatpost last year to work with their saddles with carbon fiber rails. Yesterday I saw a new carbon fiber post. Being the geek that I am, what really caught my eye was that thing at the bottom.
Should you have an occasion to slip the seatpost out of the frame, say for travel, the ring serves as a much better way to remember your exact saddle height than electrical tape. I used a glider board in the back of my wagon for years and every time I headed off to a race, the seatpost came out. I took an unnatural delight in this little gizmo.
By now you’ve heard that Fi’zi:k is introducing a shoe line. The sail-cloth straps look stiff but were surprisingly flexible. What I most liked about what I saw was just how Italian the shoes look. The cut of the leather and more understated accents made them surprisingly gorgeous in person.
Was it thrilling? Were you thrilled? Were you surprised to see Cancellara ride away with the race for the second weekend running? Were you pulling for Tommeke to reel the big Swiss back in? Did you think Hincapie was going to make something of his good mid-race position? Was Pozzato disappointing? What of Flecha and Hushovd, who seemed to wait for the Champion of Belgium to ride himself out in the chase, before dropping him in advance of the velodrome?
From my perspective, this year’s Paris-Roubaix was a bit of a let down. I successfully avoided learning the results all day in anticipation of the Versus coverage with Liggett and Sherwen (It’s the curse of residing on this side of the Atlantic that you can’t see these great races live), and then plopped myself down on the couch after reading my boys some rivetting bedtime stories about bears and mice having tea together, only to witness a decidedly subdued Hell of the North.
The French police barred spectators from drinking in the Arenberg Forest (above), and so there were far fewer at cobble-side, and thus less crashes. In fact, this version of the Queen of the Classics was just too short of mayhem for my tastes, an opinion not at all backed up by the fact that 85 riders had DNF next to their names at the end of the day.
The favorites rode to the front and stayed there. The usual attrition, the pummeling of the pavé, thinned the race down. And then Fabian Cancellara crushed the rest of the strong men, who scrabbled around in his dust, literally, leaving Tom Boonen alone to put up a fight. Quite how the nine of them couldn’t conjure any sort of meaningful paceline to at least limit their losses underlines how much stronger Cancellara was, physically AND mentally.
This was another aspect I found disappointing, the lack of fight from the guys who were supposed to fight.
After the race, as I noted in comments, Saxo Bank owner/manager Bjarne Riis took credit for his rider’s race-winning move. Apparently he commanded his giant Swiss-bot to attack at just the moment he saw Boonen napping at the back of the group. I’d pay 100 Francs to sit next to Bernhard Hinault while he read that interview and then went off on a profanity-laced tirade about modern riders all being a bunch of gigolos attached to Game Boys, but I’m like that. I love the drama. And badgers.
Getting to our little prediction contest…what’s wrong with you guys? You came up with really every permutation of Cancellara, Flecha, Hushovd, Boonen, Hincapie, etc., etc., et. al., PhD, MBA, PDQ, EXCEPT the right one. How did you do that? Well, now you know how Tom Boonen feels. Good effort, but no prize.
Images: John Pierce, Photosport International
Roubaix! Roubaix! Allez! Roubaix!
I don’t know. It just came out. So … here we are. For some of us, the biggest weekend of the cyclo-spectator year. The Queen of the Classics. The Hell of the North. A Sunday in Hell. Other, clever monikers incorporating the word ‘hell.’ Go on. Make up some of your own. It’s fun.
Paris-Roubaix, which actually starts in Compiégne, north of the French capital, and ends in the velodrome at Roubaix, consists of 28 cobbled sections (see the RKP Roubaix t-shirt here for the full list of cobbled stretches) connected by bits of proper pavement. The pavement serves as respite from the suffering, and allows the riders who have been dropped, crushed, crashed, mechanicalled or otherwise beaten by the cobbles, to regain their senses and climb into a team car or the broom wagon.
I could go on and on (ask my wife), but my hyperbole would be as a smear of embrocation against the elements. Not up to the task.
Here is a list of favorites (some more favorite than others, obviously): Cancellara, Boonen, Hushovd, Flecha, Farrar, Eisel, Maaskant, Pozzato, Breschel, Hincapie, Hoste. The dark horses: Everyone else.
Paris-Roubaix sometimes yields to the strongest rider, but other times bestows its glory on the luckiest. If you’re both strong and lucky, you’ll win. Maybe.
Anyway, let’s do something special for this most special of Group Rides. Let’s say, the first person to name the podium finishers correctly (and in correct order) wins the aforementioned Roubaix t-shirt. We will have one winner, the first up with the right answers. So name your podium … now.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International