But I don’t care.
I’ll admit the first time I saw the K-Wing it looked as ridiculous as Kiss’ stage outfits do today. I mean, a riser bar for the road? What gives?
Then one day its beauty clicked. I realized the K-Wing is a deep-drop bar that isn’t. The mistake I commonly see in setting up the K-Wing is by positioning it so the bar top is at the same height as the previous bar. Wrong!
What makes the K-Wing so great is the ability to position the drops at the same height as other bars (thus making the levers the same height) which ultimately places the bar top a full centimeter higher than it would be otherwise. The result: You sit up higher while climbing while needing fewer spacers below the stem. Your bike looks more PRO in profile.
I’m not one to get too hung up on the look of a bike; I’ll flip a stem upside down if it’ll give me the fit I seek, but there is much to be said for a bike that looks elegant.
I will admit I’ve struggled to reconcile the fact that the switch from aluminum to carbon fiber as the raw material caused prices to quadruple while cutting lifespan to strictly single-serve. Crash it: Replace it. So yes, I struggle with more expensive and greater fragility. But then I get back on a bike with an aluminum bar and even with cork tape I wonder who turned off the comfort. I don’t have carpal tunnel, but I don’t want to get it either. The vibration damping that comes with carbon fiber increases comfort so noticeably it’s a wonder we didn’t make the switch sooner.
The first time I rode a carbon fiber bar I felt like a soon-to-be addict trying crack for the first time: “Where have you been all my life?”
The internal cable routing is—I won’t lie—a pain in the kiester to deal with and the tight bends can reduce braking and shifting performance if you’re not careful. I keep a special cable around to aid with the routing when I replace housings. But the liability posed by price ($229) and limited lifespan are more than overcome in my opinion by the deep drop that doesn’t require increased flexibility.
I hope this bar is never discontinued.
Of all the tools I have purchased for bike maintenance, my Silca Pista is the single oldest item I own. It’s reliable like a good dog. Like a dog, it’s not free, and it requires some work, but its operation is so familiar as to provide comfort.
Between all the different bikes I’ve owned, reviewed or wrenched on plus those bikes of teammates I’ve raced with, I estimate I’ve used it to take tires up to 8 bar more than 15,000 times.
I’ve had it so long, were it human it would be emancipated. At this point, it’s a bit like a commercial aircraft; The only parts I haven’t replaced are the base, barrel, handle and chuck. Hoses, grommets, gaskets, plungers and more, I’ve replaced everything else on this pump at least once. The miracle is that I have at times purchased new parts before actually needing them and then—after a year or three—have been able to find them to install.
There are pumps with bigger bases, bigger handles, larger diameter barrels, bigger gauges, but the Silca Pista remains my standard. Give me a smooth valve stem and a little shoulder room and I think I could run a kids’ balloon party.
Companies keep trying to top this baby but a quick lesson in physics taught me why larger diameter barrels don’t improve pumps; they actually increase the amount of force necessary to reach a given pressure. Not so bueno for cyclists who have the upper bodies of a T-Rex minus the green and the scales. That Columbus tube is laudable not for its pedigreed manufacturer, but rather its small diameter.
I’ll put it this way: If you ever enter my garage and can’t find my Silca Pista, call 911, because it’s been stolen.
As riders there are rules we obey without even thinking. No tube socks. No spitting into the wind. No bare knees when it’s cold. We make our Saturday rides and find ways to get our miles in even with the pressures of work and family. Some weeks are better than others, but we are defined not by the deviation, rather the aspiration. It is the rule that tells who we are.
Does anyone really need more rules in life? The reasonable answer would seem to be no, but the rules we use can reveal a lot about our ability to judge the situations in which we find ourselves.
Are all Saturdays created equal? Must Saturday mean at least 75 miles and a few thousand feet of climbing, or is every fourth Saturday dialed back for rest?
If there is a break off the front, do we chase? Is there a teammate in the break? Is the 11 the right choice on a wet descent? Do we ride injured or sick because we can’t give up the miles?
Our constant reassessment of road conditions, the group, our own legs are—no matter how much we aim to impose our will on the bike, on the ride—a sign of humility. I once heard on the news a political analyst who specialized in the Middle East. He said, “Well the first thing you have to understand about the region is that every statement you make begins with, ‘it depends.’” To me, it was a sign of true insight.
Every new lesson I learn results in a new rule. Maybe it’s a sign of aging—that I don’t have the strength of will I used to possess—but I think my riding is more a test of my knowledge and experience now. My own wisdom has overcome my loss of youth.
But there is one riding rule I’ve come to value, even to cherish, and it’s not about riding at all, even though I learned it from the Grand Tour riders. It’s about saving. For them, it was saving something for tomorrow, next week. For me, yes, it means saving something for tomorrow, but more importantly, it means saving time for my family, saving some energy for the rest of the day, saving myself so I can be fully present for those who love me. We’re not much different from soda: That first sip is sweet, but no one wants the empty can.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International.
The final kilometer of Classics and Grand Tour stages is marked with an archway from which hangs the flamme rouge—the red kite. Its passage marks the greatest drama of the race, a ratcheting up of tension and anticipation that culminates in the winner’s celebration.
Of course, the red kite holds different meanings for each rider. For the time trialists, it’s the last chance to attack and beat the sprinters at their own game. For the leadout men, there’s a final dig before pulling off to the let sprinter shine. For the sprinters, that red kite is a signal that their moment is less than two minutes to come. For much of the field, it’s simply the signal that the pain is nearly at an end.
What unites each of them is a moment that inevitably comes after passing under the red kite. Each rider will bow his head as he summons the last of his strength for the finish. It’s the same bowing of the head that recreational riders will make before rolling to the finish of a century.
Summoning the strength to make a final surge to the finish is as universal as the urge to finish; no one wants to roll across the line in defeat and that final effort is the chance to accelerate to a personal victory that comes from the satisfaction of knowing you left everything on the course.
The psychology of riders can rarely be guessed, but the red kite prayer is a moment we all share, a search for our remaining strength as we summon the will to leave it on the road.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International.