Living in Northern California the brand Williams Cycling has always been in my peripheral like a good bike shop I’ve heard about but never got around to visiting. I don’t know what makes them stand out at races, but I can always count on seeing a handful of them in my own race group. Maybe it’s the fact everyone is faster than me and, thus, I am slow enough to see what others are rolling.
The wheel business is pretty wild these days. It seems like everyone is making or branding or rebranding a set of their own wheels. There are household names like Mavic, ENVE, DT Swiss, and Shimano. Then there are the halo wheels that are so rare that it feels like a Koenigsegg sighting. At the polar opposite of that spectrum, you can pick up a set of carbon hoops for under $400 on Amazon Prime, if you are feeling reallyadventurous.
And finally you can split the difference and get a set of Williams, such as their System 60 carbon clinchers tested here.
With its 60mm rim height, the System 60 is the middle child of the Stockton, California-based company’s new line up representing a balanced ride between aerodynamics and weight. Measuring 26mm externally and 18.4mm internally, the toroidal-shaped carbon monocoque rim is tubeless compatible and comes with a high temperature resin ceramic fiber composite brake track for consistent performance during heavy uses. The rims are laced to William’s own Virgo 20/24 hole hubset using top of the line Sapim CX-Ray spokes with brass nipples in favor of durability.
The wheels arrived straight and true and setup was relatively straight forward like most high-performance wheels. I did, however, have to toe the brake pads a bit more to get rid of a potentially glass-shattering squeal, but they’ve been effectively silenced since November. I am admittedly a fan of the cork pads that came with my Bontrager Aeolus 3 D3 TLR, but the long-lasting Williams-specific blue brake pads weren’t too shabby and offered a positive, consistent feel.
Weighing in at 853 grams in front and 1,011 grams for the rear with rim tape, the System 60 is a tad heavier than its competitors, but it’s also significantly cheaper at $1,439 per set. The extra grams weren’t that noticeable other than the initial spin-up and the times I did some extended climbing – which, to be fair, is not why one would primarily buy it for anyways. The System 60 excels in rollers and flats where its 60mm rim height shines through with its aero advantage. The toroidal rim shape also handles surprisingly well in crosswind so I never felt as if I was going to get blown off the Golden Gate Bridge.
The System 60 offers a stiff ride but still does an admirable job in soaking up a lot of road imperfections that have been plaguing the Bay Area as of late. They stayed true even after a couple unfortunate encounters with potholes. The skewers, while heavy and gargantuan, were solid and securely held the wheels throughout the test. I did wish the pre-installed rim tape was tubeless compatible though, because why make a tubeless-ready wheel and put away that feature with regular tape?
Overall, the System 60 represents a wonderful option for those looking for a performance upgrade at a budget. It’s the perfect wheel for rolling courses such as the Snelling Road Race and tight office park criteriums. The System is also offered in 45/60 and 60/90 combos for those wanting to mix their rim depths. Lastly, every set of Williams comes standard with a 2-year warranty and a crash replacement program.
Conor McGregor is the undisputed king of the UFC ring, known around the world for his record-breaking boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr., his sharp wit, and his even sharper dress sense. But what you might not know is that he also loves cycling.
Road biking is an important part of McGregor’s training regime, so it was really only a matter of time before the 29-year-old had to have the thing that every cyclist dreams about – a totally custom carbon rig that reflects his unique style and his commitment to performing at the highest possible level.
Fittingly for someone who prides himself on where he’s come from, the Dubliner found the perfect frame builder right around the corner from his home-town gym – FiftyOne Bikes, a newcomer to the cycling world that we profiled recently right here on Element.ly.
Photo: Dean Kelly / deanella.com
Photo: Dean Kelly / deanella.com
Photo: Dean Kelly / deanella.com
Photo: Dean Kelly / deanella.com
The connection came through Dr. Julian Dalby, an old friend of Duff’s from his racing days who is now a member of McGregor’s coaching staff. His brief was simple: “I like my bling. Make me a bike that reflects my tastes.” And once a frame was hand-built to the UFC’s star’s bespoke measurements, the real work began, creating a distinctive design that did justice to one of professional sport’s most fashionable personalities.
A ghost paint effect carries both his name and his “Notorious” moniker across a rich, deep black frame that’s accented with real 24 carat gold leaf, painstakingly applied by hand in small pieces to create a truly extraordinary result. Every inch of the frame is hand painted, without decals. It’s one of the things that makes FiftyOne stand out as a brand, because while the big bike companies move ever closer towards total standardisation, they allow the client to have control over every little detail, from the geometry to the final finishing touches, like McGregor’s golf-leaf adorned stem and aero handlebar from Zipp.
Roadies might think that the custom Crankbrothers flat pedals, finished in black and gold and inscribed with “Notorious” to match the frame, don’t belong on such a dream racing bike, but they were a special request from the McGregor camp, owing to an old ACL injury that he has to carefully manage while training.
“Conor’s gym is only about a kilometre from our workshop,” says Aidan. “But the actual link is his trainer and doctor, Julian Dalby. Julian has some impressive records on the track, he won the Irish national road race in 1993. When he hung up the wheels, he eventually became a doctor, involved in sports medicine.
“Cycling is a big part of McGregor’s training routine, and once we started to work on a frame for Julian, Conor saw that there was a whole world of deep custom that he didn’t know about, and had to have one too. What we tried to do is build it within his character. Obviously, when you’re dealing with gold leaf, it’s a balancing act between making it look distinguished and classy, rather than cheap and tacky. Hopefully, we’ve achieved that.
“The paint details are something we tried to do to balance the gold, which is very in your face. The other details are subliminal and play very well in the sunlight. When it’s indoors you can hardly see them.”
The idea of riding from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, on The Coast Ride, has been on my must-do list for quite some time, but sadly my radar just seems to always go into auto-forget mode after that first slice of Thanksgiving turkey. I would like to blame tryptophan but that wouldn’t be fair to the poor turkey.
It almost happened again this year until I was chatting with Jim about whether he was going to Cyclocross Nationals in Reno. “Not going because of the Coast Ride,” he said. I casually mentioned to him that I’ve always wanted to shoot the Coast Ride and he told me I could shoot it from the inGamba car. A very enticing offer indeed considering the logistics were all taken care of, and an assistant wouldn’t forever hate me for hiring them on for the sole purpose of driving really, really slow along the California coast.
But what about cyclocross nationals in Reno? I mean RENO! It’s so close I can almost make it a day trip. I could even shoot for a day and spend some time on the slopes with the family. But a supported Coast Ride, or embed as I would call it, was pretty hard to turn down, so I agreed. Perhaps the predicted warm SoCal weather played a part in the decison as well.
(Full Disclosure: E co-founder Jim works for inGamba and in such that they provided me with a spot in the team car to shoot from, a bed to sleep in, and fed me whenever it was time to eat in exchange for a few snappies.)
After the wife and kids dropped me off in Sausalito early Saturday morning, it was time to work. Since I was neither staff, nor a riding guest, and I didn’t know anyone other than recognizing a few from the social medias, I was largely on my own. But that was perfectly fine. I was able to shoot uninterrupted. Or as they say in journalism school, I was a fly on the wall.
Support staff was already busy loading the cars and making last minute adjustments while riders were getting ready. We were off just as the first light of the day popped out of the sky. The team cars crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, reconnected with the riders, rolled past the Legion of Honor and off on our journey barreling along the coast with a few hundred other riders.
Life in a support car can be a pretty mundane affair but there was never a dull moment this time as mechanicals, flats, and tired bodies appeared as soon as we strolled past Lake Merced. We saw riders that ran out of juice in their Di2 battery, a dude that flatted on a Lightweight tubular… with no spare, broken derailleur cables (PSA: replace them every season), and compromised tubeless tire sidewalls. Highway 1, as gorgeous and picturesque as it was, mercilessly consumed both riders and equipment, figuratively, of course. Don’t get me started on the amount of middle fingers we got along the route either. I stopped counting after 5 during the opening hours.
Leaving the team hotel in Sausalito
Manuel riding in the good light.
Ralf picking up some warmers.
Relaxing behind the team car.
Somewhere between Santa Cruz and Monterey.
Riding across one of many historic bridges along Big Sur.
Mark taking a few snappies
Climbing Loma Vista.
Sweet socks, buddy.
Ted on the rollers.
The key is to stick together.
We got chased by this cute dog near Lucia... and it kept running
Special mid-ride snack
Hugs before tackling Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.
Raul and Katie descending towards the big climb.
Fort Hunter Liggett is pretty damn sweet
A couple of horses came by the RV to say hello in Lockwood.
Loading up the bags for the final day into Santa Barbara
Everyone's happy after Mark fixed his busted Di2.
Andrew having a blast.
Jim and Xico packing a guest's bike
Almost done with the Coast Ride.
Manuel chilling next to the team car.
Inasmuch as each Coast Ride participant had to go through their own version of sufferfest (we saw a guy on a singlespeed, true story), the view of the California coast and the camaraderie among riders made a huge difference turning the event from a shitty terrible idea to a fun one. Sure there were faces of people in pain, but there were also a ton of happy folks that seemed to be enjoying every bit of the ride, even on that monster 7 mile climb with 2,700 ft of climbing out of Big Sur on Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. High-fives, hugs, and encouragement floated around which made the miles all the better. Definitely a unique take on them there base miles.
For the inGamba crew, though, a lot of these concerns were taken care of. Two team cars, a van and an RV staffed with pro mechanics. Cold in the morning? Here’s an inflated latex glove to stuff under your jersey for warmth. Need a wheel change? Need to shed your warmers or need to stop? The team car was there. In fact, the team car was everywhere for the three day, 400+ mile journey.
Then, there was the world-class guides of Eros Poli, Manuel Cardoso, Raul Matias, and Ted King who seemed to ride on the front for hours, take a few photos with their phones, drop back to the team car, and then go right back to the front for more.
The pro team treatment didn’t stop there though: Lunch and post-ride meals were ready to go at the RV. Recovery massages and suitcases were already awaiting inside each hotel room everyday. Bikes were also washed and checked daily.
One memorable moments was when one of the guests missed the turn for the Nacimiento climb so the team car promptly turned around to fetch him back to the RV full of semi-worried, tired, but cheerful riders. On day three, the Di2 battery on one of the guest’s personal bike battery went out and instead of getting stranded in the middle of nowhere between Morro Bay and Santa Barbara, the team cars pulled up and gave him a spare bike – measured, adjusted and installed with the guest’s own pedals, saddle and a computer mount – all done from the side of a road. See, they really mean it when they say they want you to focus on riding your bike and nothing else.
After three days of soaking up the inGamba x Coast Ride experience behind a camera from inside the team car, I most certainly would go with inGamba if I were to do the Coast Ride. Sounds like a paid statement, but no, I just want to ride and enjoy the view.
Until recently, I lived in Rome, where “winter” is something of a theoretical concept. Everyone’s heard of it, sure, but they don’t really understand what it really means. The minute the temperature creeps below 10ºC, people appear in balaclavas, snow boots and full-length insulated jackets, presumably to cover up the inch-thick thermal onesie that they’re wearing underneath.
It made me soft. My hardy Irish blood grew accustomed to the sunshine, and even though I rode all year round, I can honestly say that – trips elsewhere excluded – I went years without getting wet on my bike. And I was never cold.
And then I moved back to Dublin, immediately realising that my bike wardrobe was totally unprepared. It’s not that it ever gets properly glacial here; the problem is that it doesn’t ever get hot, and you never – and I mean never – know what it’s going to be in a few hours’ time.
Adaptable is the name of the game. And it’s exactly how I’d describe Castelli’s Alpha Ros jacket, an all-weather marvel from the Italian brand that harnesses all the goodness of their game-changing Gabba and takes it up a notch. The result is a product that redefines the standard for winter kit.
It’s not waterproof, in the strict sense of the word, but it works flawlessly in the rain. And it’s super soft, fits brilliantly, and offers plenty of ventilation when you want it, so you’ll be happy to use it in blue sky conditions, too.
The prominent parts of the seams are sealed, and Gore’s new (brilliant) Windstopper membrane is rain-resistant, so while I still carry a light shell for torrential downpours, this is all you’ll need in typical wet conditions. The two-layer construction separates the outer shell from an insulation layer, both of which zip up separately. It looks funny at first, but it’s a nice option to have when you just need to let a little air in without freezing.
There’s a nice and high double collar, complete with soft lining, and the seamless cuffs are similarly soft, with a snug cut that slots in perfectly underneath gloves without bunching up and leaving any exposed spots. And on top of the traditional rear pockets, there’s a zipped one on the front, too. Most riders will be accustomed to having three pockets, so this extra one isn’t strictly necessary, but I thought it was a nice touch.
So, is it worth the $350 price tag? That depends on how much you like being warm and dry. For me, it’s a resounding yes. It’s not cheap, but the Alpha Ros is a cut above anything else I’ve tried and it makes most of the competition look seriously out of date. And alongside some cosy new gloves and shoe covers to match, it’s enough to get even me outside when there’s a gale blowing.
It’s easy to be dismissive about newcomers to the cycling market. We’ve all seen the woeful pitches on Kickstarter. And the endless articles about new gear, offering the perfect solution to a problem that never existed. But every so often, one comes along that deserves some attention.
It could be a new idea like Strava, or a better take on an old product, like Rapha or Wahoo. Then, before you know it, they’re part of the furniture, as much a fixture as companies who’ve been around for decades.
Princeton CarbonWorks looks like one of those success stories. There are a ton of wheel options out there, sure, but this enthusiastic group of friends have started from a blank page, based their work on a firm foundation of science – actual science, not the stuff that marketing men retrofit to sell us stuff – and travelled the globe looking for the best materials and manufacturing location.
Founded in 2012 by a group of rowers turned elite cyclists, the company’s stated aim was simple and just a tad ambitious: create the most groundbreaking wheels imaginable. Five years later, they believe they’ve done just that.
The Wake 6560 is sinusoidal with a varying depth of 60-65mm, putting it squarely in the aerodynamic-obsessed triathlon market. But with serious aero gains to be made without a weight penalty – it’s a claimed 1480gm for the pair – they’d sit comfortably on any road-bike that isn’t planning an alpine excursion, especially given that PCW are claiming industry-leading performance in crosswinds.
So where did it all begin? We caught up with PCW’s Paul Daniels, a World Champion rower and an eight-time member of the US Rowing National Team, who these days can usually be found clocking up serious mileage on his road bike.
Where did the idea for PCW come from?
It started simply. My friend Marty Crotty had rowed for Princeton, Oxford, and the US team, and he started racing triathlons after hanging up the oars. Most elite rowers struggle with the transition from training to exercising, and Marty was no different. So he kept training, but swim/bike/run instead of rowing and lifting. To call him physiologically gifted would be a bruising understatement, Marty is savage, an absolute animal. His engine, retrained for triathlon, quickly translated to success in 70.3 Half Ironman and three consecutive trips to the World Championships. And while all this was happening, Marty was also Head Coach for Princeton University Rowing, so he had a crazy idea: Leverage carbon manufacturing of the rowing shell industry to create aero wheels. It didn’t pan out, turns out layup of racing boat shells is pretty “dumb” compared to rim profile creation, but Princeton CarbonWorks was born.
There are no shortage of wheel options these days, so what did you guys hope to do differently?
Options are abundant, no doubt. But advanced aerospace engineering and next level design and material science uber-nerds from Princeton and Boston University are scarce.
Bradley Werntz and Harrison Macris met while trialling for the U23 United States Rowing Team, and became fast friends, bonding over engineering. In March of 2014, Marty tapped Brad to design a “radically different, undeniable” aerodynamic wheelset. Brad quickly looped in Harrison and PCW’s prototype V1 was delivered in December 2014.
It wasn’t so much “hope,” it was more about the freedom to source design beyond what’s considered possible by the cycling industry. We sourced speed from outside cycling.
What was involved in developing a new wheel from scratch?
Harrison and Brad delivered a killer design. Best-in-class, benchmark, elite, etc. wheel brands are easy to identify from the podium steps at The Tour and Kona. Their three depth approach makes sense in a practical way: shallow to climb, mid to cover distance with control, deep to haul. The three product approach is an easy out, a convenient compromise. They think “light, stable, fast – pick two of the three” and cover the demands of your potential customers with three wheelsets.
Harrison and Brad were just far enough removed from cycling to forego this convenient compromise. They believed they could design an uncompromising wheel profile, optimized across weight, stability and aerodynamics. And the smart kids were right. They utilized aerospace engineering, computational fluid dynamics, material science, finite element analysis, with the elegantly simple trigonometric function “sine” as the special sauce.
This is a bit technical, but sine provided breakthroughs in high frequency vortex shedding for aerodynamics and stability, while simultaneously aligning carbon fibers into optimized tension. All of which yielded a wheelset that’s lighter than the Zipp 303, more stable than the Zipp 454, and faster than the Zipp 858.
The Wake 6560 is tubeless ready, 1480g, and it’s faster and more stable than profiles 25mm deeper. We’re calling it a quiver killer. We think it really is the one wheel that can do it all, but that is actually motivating us to optimize the shallow and deep categories and see what’s possible. So watch this space.
Were there any surprises along the way?
There were a couple! Prior to joining Princeton CarbonWorks, I’d thought manufacturing facility mattered. Now I know manufacturing facility matters. We visited dozens of facilities across China and Taiwan, and simply put, all “carbon manufacturers” are not created equal. In fact, the spectrum is far broader than most cyclists, and even industry people, appreciate.
The second surprise was how industry benchmarks perform in controlled testing environments verses the marketing attached to them. The performance/marketing spin gap is massive – specifically at the top. It has been eye-opening to see the reality, because I think of myself as a discerning cyclist who felt relatively well informed.
Zipp came to market with a similar design just before you launched. Was that frustrating or a vindication of your work?
Zipp launched the NSW 454 while we were roughly 10,000 miles into testing our V2 prototype. It was a double edged sword – we felt they were validating our concept, while simultaneously stealing our thunder. Truth is, they most likely spent 10x our total research and development cost on the NSW 454 media launch. The real vindication came when we tested the Wake 6560 against the Zipp NSW 454 at A2 Wind Tunnel in the heart of NASCAR, Mooresville, North Carolina. And at every single yaw angle the Wake 6560 outperformed the Zipp NSW 454.
You’ve wasted no time in signing up high-profile athletes.
Hamish Bond is the embodiment of Princeton CarbonWorks – former elite rower turned elite cyclist. He podiumed at the New Zealand TT National Championships last year with 10 months on the bike, so he’s living the PCW team dream and applying the legs and lungs engine developed over more than a decade of World Championship/Olympic rowing onto the bike.
He’s racing the Wake 6560 in the NZL National Championship Road Race this year. His team wanted to independently test the wheels against the HED Jet 9+ prior to using it for the TT, which is totally understandable. We know we have a superior product, but it takes time to develop credibility for equipment changes at that level. We look forward to their testing.
What’s next for PCW?
The Wake 6560 is going into the wild. We’re fulfilling Batch 1 end of January and Batch 2 will follow mid February. And custom orders are being accepted for USA hand-builds with Chris King hubsets. Meanwhile, disc testing is complete and production will begin in March, with first retail availability in April. It’s a kick-ass wheelset – you need to ride them!
I live in earthquake country and sadly I am more prepared to run out the door for a chance at some hero dirt than I am for a big shaker. But then again, maybe it just means I have my priorities straight. Because statistically I feel like I am more likely to get invited to a knobby tire adventure, than I am to be around for the “big one.” This might be foolish thinking and in the end I might regret my decisions, but it is much more fun shopping for new knobbies, than shopping for bottled water and C-rations.
Oddly, I have given this a lot of thought. Since I mostly travel with my road bike I am always trying to find some way to get in a little dirt when I am on the road. This means I have to beg, borrow, plead or rent my way onto a mountain bike. Below is the short list of things I try to pack to make sure I am not only able to ride, but am stoked when the opportunity arises.
Rolling over the top of a blind-pitch, headed to god-only-knows where, the last thing going through my mind is whether-or-not the person who designed my helmet knew what they were doing. Luckily, for me I’m wearing a helmet designed by protection nerd, Brad Waldron, at Kali Protectives. The Interceptor is one of many choices in the newish “enduro” helmet market, designed to give more protection than a weight-weenie cross country helmet, but not the no-holds-bar protection of a downhill helmet. The Interceptor has great coverage, style and plenty of ventilation for all day comfort and just the right amount of “holy shit, about to have an epic yard sale” piece-of-mind for your melon.
Sticky feet make for happy trails and the Five Ten reputation defining Freeride Pro is the perfect go-bag shoe. Pull them on, wear them through the airport, out to dinner and onto the gnar from the trailhead. The Freerider Pro is perfect for rolling all over the mountain and honing your mountain biking skills. If you’re not wearing Five Tens, what are you wearing?
Who knew staying hydrated could be so sexy. So very sexy. Mission Workshop’s Hauser hydration pack falls on the pricier size of packs to strap to your back during your shred and we know form is supposed to follow function, but in this case we wanted a Hauser long before we ever figured out if it was any good. Luckily, for us and for you, this is one quality ripping sack.
To start, let’s get the double bummer out of the way. First, the hydration ready bag, even at over 200 clams, does not come with a hydration bag. It seems a little silly to design a backpack specifically for hydration and to not include a bladder. Fortunately, for me I had one of Osprey’s Reservoirs on the way and can now attest it is one of the nicest and easiest to use bladders on the market. Second, this may not be the best backpack to pack on a scorching hot day. Although, we don’t get many of those here in NorCal, but having this in my go-bag as I prepare for a trip to the Arizona desert has me a little concerned. It just does not vent against the back as well as my Camelbak Mule.
Now on to what we did like about the Hauser. We already mentioned how amazing it looks, but with those good looks comes stellar construction. This pack is built to withstand any major yard sales, comes with an additional tool roll, has plenty of pockets for organization, is waterproof and we chose the larger 14 liter version which sits nicely on the back without hindering mobility. And we would remiss if we didn’t mention these beauties are made right here in the ol’ U.S. of A. and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
We like it. And we think it brings out the color in our eyes.
These Shimano flat pedals are not the lightest or the thinnest pedals on the market, but they are reasonably priced and workhorses ready for anything you can huck off of or pedal up. The other nice part about packing these MX80 pedals instead of clipless is they will, arguably, make you a better rider. They will make you find a better balance on the bike, teach you to weight and un-weight more efficiently and will give you more confidence on a strange whip.
The hardest decision I have when putting my go-bag together is which tool, hell how many tools, do I “need” to feel comfortable on the trail with someone else’s bicycle. The first thing I make sure I have is some duct tape. I usually wrap a nice helping around a hand pump I bury deep in my bag. I then pack a giant multitool, with a chain breaker, into my bag. I love the tools from Lezyne, Park and Crank Bros. Which brings us to the DynaPlug Air and our love of all things DynaPlug and CO2. With this little wonder you just find the puncture, push the repair dealie into the punture and twist on the air. The air plugs the hole and fills your knobbies back to pressure at the same time. Of course, this won’t help if you have a side tear, but that is why I carry a tube, extra C02 and duct tape.
I have been using my North Face duffel bag as my catch-all, stuff it full and go-bag for the last couple of years and I have had no complaints. The only problem being that although the duffel swallows everything I can think to throw into it, but that also means I can spend way too much time, sometimes in a panic, digging around in its gluttonous innards in search of this or that.
Along comes Silca’s new Maratona gear bag with a spacious amount of room and ample organizational opportunities. You have the option of three different carrying straps or make the quick conversion to make it a backpack. The Maratona is designed to meet airline carry-on regulations, so whether you are going around the corner or around the globe, your go-bag is ready to go.
Sure they are better when they are fresh, but even an old Clif Bar is better than no Clif bar at all. Sure you could do a gel or a block or another bar, but I’ve been gnawing on Clif Bars so long they feel almost like comfort food. Ok, maybe not like a big bowl of mac-n-cheese, biscuits and gravy or a piece of pumpkin pie, but these bars have gotten me through plenty of oh-crap-I-am-about-to-bonk situations.
Let there be light. With the days shortening, but the weather still within acceptable riding temperatures, it is the time of dawn and dusk patrols. It is also time to break out the blinky lights and headlamps. The Seca 1800 is an excellent choice for these extend the day jaunts. The quad LED array throws enough light to gobble up the dark and make you feel secure in your line choices on any trail you find yourself pedaling. We ran the Seca on our bars and we ran the Seca 1800 (as in 1800 lumens) on our helmet and didn’t feel like we were asking too much of it in either spot. Add in the fact this chubby, but lightweight light is waterproof and it will get you where you need to go, even if you should have gotten there hours earlier.
The cycling rain jacket has come a long way in the last 5 or so years. Not that long ago rain jackets made for cycling were basically fancy garbage bags with zippers stitched in for good measure. You basically pulled it on and let the sweating begin. And lord forbid the rain eased before the ride ended and you had to remove your jacket… you were soaked through and through. The new generation of rain jackets is not only windproof and waterproof, but also “somewhat” breathable. The Monsoon jacket is cut plenty long, with great length on the elastic sleeves, taped seams and packs down to a surprisingly small footprint. I also love my Mission Workshop’s The Orion jacket, the Castelli Tempesta jacket and the Shower Pass Club Pro.
This is the first version of Kitsbow’s Base Shorts and I keep them at the ready for any last minute rides. They are beautifully constructed, bombproof and super cozy. I’ve put them permanently into my go-bag, knowing full well they are ready for anything the trail can throw at me. If my bits are protected and comfortable, I can always ride in a pair of jorts and a flannel shirt, so as long as I have my Kitsbow base shorts I am good to roll.
When one thinks of Portland, Oregon, one conjures up reruns of Portlandia, images of hipster coffee shops, independent bookstores and rain wear. While I love a yummy jalapeno, chocolate, non-fat, organic soy latte and Powell’s Books as much as the next guy, it is the Made in Portland ethos which permeates this city which truly gets me excited. From boots to jackets and bikes to bags here are five to get your own Made in Portland collection started.
Nothing says I am from Portland, I love bikes and I don’t give a care in the world what you think about my choice of whips, like an Urban Racer. Afterall, it has one gear, kick brakes and is more fun than any bearded hipster should be allowed to have. But don’t let the price tag or the hipster vibe scare you away, this handmade chariot will remind you why you fell in love with riding a bicycle to begin with.
These sping-hinged, Carl Zeiss lens having, made in Portland Canby sunglasses are constructed from sustainably farmed wood giving your face an environmentally friendly twist on the classic “wayfarer” look. Shwood has a myriad of styles, including stone and acetate models and most models are available in Rx.
Sure, it’s $475, but this just maybe the perfect 3-season jacket. The Chore is lined with Polartech Alpha insulation, which won’t take on water while remaining breathable. The triple-tone camo exterior is crafted from a waterproof and breathable ripstop nylon and WILD included all sort of thoughtful details: two-color stitching, custom copper rivets and corduroy elbow pads. Whether you wear the Chore on your next trip to the falls or a rainy day trek to Blue Star Donuts, you will look good and feel marvelous.
Danner has been making boots in the great old U.S. of A. since 1932 and even though all their product are no longer made in the States, this pair of Brawlers were made right in Portland. They feature Gore Tex liners, Vibram Soles, leather and 1000 Denier nylon uppers and are completely “recraftable” (their word, not mine) by the craftspeople at Danner. I found these boots to be comfortable right out of the box and they have already started to take on the “I’m an outdoorsman” look in a very short period of time.
It’s a pannier.
No, it’s a backpack.
No, wait, it’s both.
The brilliant folks at North St took two great things and mashed them together. So know, you can take all that weight off your back while you are commuting to work and put it on your bike. Then upon arrival, just pull your pannier off your bike rack, pull out the backpack straps from behind the hidden panel and presto, change-o you have everything you need off your bike and onto your back. The Woodward has a waterproof liner, additional pockets for organization, an internal laptop sleeve and a lifetime warranty. Inspired by the Pacific Northwest, but a brilliant idea for anywhere.
In 1970 Giorgio Andretta left Italy and, of all places, found himself headed for Canada.
You see back in the 70’s Giorgio Andretta’s high school team was being organize and run by some former Europeans now living in Canada. And in Canada at the time, access to clothing, bicycles and frames was extremely limited.
Giorgio realized that the limited access offered an opportunity. So he went back to northeastern Italy, the place he calls the cradle and the home of the artisanship of the Italian bicycle industry, and started to import cycling gear to Canada under the name Gita.
Compared to today’s offerings, cycling apparel was a much simpler affair then: Wool jerseys, wool shorts, plus jackets with essentially nylon fronts.
“There was nothing technical about it. It was all two pieces and that was it,” said Giorgio, with a laugh.
In search of something better, the clothing import business turned to making their own custom apparel, drawn from years of racing and know-how.
Things progressed to the point where 1979 Giorgio decided he needed name his growing line, so he named it after his firstborn, Giordana. He also added the Sagittarius logo after her zodiac sign.
Fast forward to 2017, while many apparel companies outsource manufacturing across the globe, Giorgio and Giordana, who is now the Sales Manager of Giordana, invested in their own factory to keep their manufacturing in Italy. They opened the factory in Montecchio, Italy after realizing they just couldn’t get the technical expertise and attention to detail they wanted, after a substantial search in Italy, Eastern Europe, as well as the Far East.
“All this other product that you can find around the world, they look like, they feel like, but they don’t perform like,” said Giorgio.
With his own factory, however, Giorgio is now empowered more than ever to follow his vision for his garments, using speciality fabrics and techniques. From the one-piece 1-on-1 paneling system on their NX-G bib short, to the ability to offer the same ProTour-level FR-C Pro line from their custom program for your local club (Giordana sponsors Orica-Scott and Astana), you’ll know you’re wearing something of quality.
With that in mind, we sat down with the man himself for a chat.
Where do you see cycling apparel down the road in a few years time? Where do you envision it going?
I think it’s got no ends. As innovation, evolution, new material, and everything that is available to us, it just needs somebody to think about what to do and how to do it. Just go to the manufacturer and tell them exactly what they want.
This what I’m able to do in Italy right now. To go to these small manufacturers to create what we want and what we need for each garment. It’s getting better and better.
In the past, we were never, never able to do that. Because you went to a fabric manufacturer and tell them “I want this. That it does this, this, this, and that.” They’ll say, “You crazy? I got a thousand different materials here, you pick from one of the ones I got.”
We can now make something specific. Before it went from one panel to many panels, different material and everything. Now we can go to one panel with one material and get to be able to achieve more than what we achieved with all the material before.
Did you have a background in textile before starting Giordana?
No. I learned it all from getting along and working with different people. I’ve been on and off for 46 years.
That’s a long time in the industry.
It is but if you do something that you like, it’s never hard and it’s always rewarding. I love what I do.
The first thing you would do on your first day as a captain of a pirate ship?
I would never be a pirate. That would be taking ownership of a property that wasn’t yours.
Up hill or down hill?
(Laughs). That’s a good question. When I was young, I loved to climb a lot. I loved the hard gritty races. But now I like downhill.
Favorite place to ride?
There’s a lot of them. The Dolomites are great – I think they are the greatest mountain you can find. They have got some awesome climbs, passes and descents. You can really test your product and get a feel for what a bike can do.
Describe your idea of a perfect holiday:
If I could live in Italy and work in the United States, that would be the perfect life.
What are you most proud about?
I think it’s the achievement that we made. We were able to sponsor athletes from the United States for the Olympics in ’84 where they all won; World championship with Greg LeMond.
Yes, it’s entirely possible to make a bicycle frame out of whisky casks.
I can count a handful of collaborations between bike manufacturers their automative counterparts (Colnago/Ferrari, Specialized/McLaren, Pinarello/Jaguar…)
But this is the first time I have ever heard of a bike made of whisky glass. I mean, I saw the email subject line right after I made it to Apple Park for the iPhone 8/X launch event and I kept wondering what’s up with this wooden Renovo whisky bike.
Named the Glenmorangie Original after Renovo’s partnership with Scotland’s Glenmorangie (and one of their popular Scotches, the Glenmorangie 10 Year Old – The Original.) Each limited edition frame uses roughly 15 staves from twice-filled American white oak casks which are shipped to Portland, Oregon where they are then shaped and put together into a hollow trapezoidal-shaped top and downtube that traces the curvy shape of the staves while a curvy thin seat mimics the shape of a longbow to soak up all the unpleasant bumps.
Just as wood has its own characteristics from growth and well, being aged in some fine Highland scotch, each frame will be one-of-a-kind so you can be certain that no one in your weekend riding group will share the same frame even if he/she decides to order one.
Renovo bills this as an all-around adventure machine so the disc only frame will have plenty of clearance to fit up to 700x40mm tires. A tapered headtube, PF30 bottom bracket and thru-axles are also employed to further boost the frame’s stiffness. Front and rear fender mounts come standard and is rear-rack compatible with a rackmount seat collar.
The Glenmorangie Original launch edition built with Shimano Ultegra R8000 and hydraulic brakes will be available for a cool $6,950 while the Prestige edition with Dura-Ace 9170 Di2 will be $11,450. It’s not exactly cheap and the bike won’t smell like whisky, but it’s definitely something different from your typical carbon fiber titanium steed and is still capable to go just as fast.
The year was 1991. Richard Bryne thought he had a really good pedal design, so he took it to various companies in hopes that someone would bring it to market.
22 companies turned him down. Not to be dissuaded, Bryne, a self-professed incessant tinkerer, decided to build the pedals himself.
Moving the locking mechanism onto the cleat, miniaturized, dual-side entry, and an unrestricted free float that was unheard at this point. It was a radical design.
The Speedplay X pedal and its now iconic lollipop-shape was born. It would be interesting to hear what those 22 companies that turned down Bryne feel about the idea now.
The first production run was only about a 100 pairs of pedals. A pretty modest start. Today, the San Diego-based company, offers 10 different pedals (not counting axle materials and color ways), catering to the needs of the platform-loving gravity crowd as well as the WorldTour racers winning stages in the Tour De France.
Speedplay has come a long, but Richard continues to be the guy behind all of the R&D while his wife, Sharon, a former clerk for the Florida Supreme Court, handles the daily operations as the president of the company.
Here’s Richard answering our question in his own words.
So what do you really do for work?
Well, let’s give credit where credit’s due here. Sharon runs Speedplay. She is the brains behind the organization and the hiring, the H and the R. She handles almost all of the business activities of the company which leaves me free to either do nothing or be really creative.. I choose to consider it being creative. Sometimes it looks like I’m doing nothing. But we’ve made it work with a left-brain, right-brain type of arrangement where she’s really good at some things and I’m maybe really good at a really narrow band of something. Somehow we’ve made it work.
You mentioned you made the first Turbo Trainer prior to creating speedplay… How was that progression from turbo trainer to pedals?
Yes. The other thing that I did was the very first aerobar back in 1984 so I predated anything anybody else did. I tried to promote the idea or sell the idea and I just couldn’t find anybody that was interested in it at the time. I think a lot of the product, or the success of products is timing. You have to be on target when you introduce things. Sometimes timing is not right. The other thing that I did years ago pre-Speedplay was promoting these bikes that had a geometry that put the rider in a position for better aerodynamics and for time trialing.
It was called Scepter Bicycle Company. Bill Holland, who runs Holland Cycles, and I started that in I believe 19. Gosh, I’d have to go back but I think it was 1985.
We were trying to push the idea of it being more bimechanically and aerodynamically efficient back then and I’m telling you, we just could not convince people that there was an advantage to it and now if you look at time trial bikes, every single company produces the geometry position that we were pushing in 1985. It was until the triathlon world came along and when time trialing became a really valuable part of stage racing. America got more interested in international racing rather than in criteriums and one day road races. It was never going to find a home in this country.
How do you keep your ideas fresh?
Well, I think I got lucky because in the early days, I was a bike racer just like everybody else was a bike racer. But I got influenced by this aerodynamic movement that happened back when I started racing human powered vehicles around 1979. The focus there was purely aerodynamics, so people were building machines trying to set the world record on how fast a human could go.
I was involved in this community of engineers that were trying to make machines that were more efficient than the bicycle. The bicycle had kind of hit the limit of how fast you could go on it. And people were trying to see if you could go further if you broke the rules of what the UCI was saying was legal.
There were no rules. It was just who can propel a wheeled vehicle the fastest for 200 meters with a runout.
I was just like everybody else, time trialing and racing and everything. Then all of a sudden, I got in this machine that allowed me to go 25 miles an hour faster than I could go on my bicycle. I realized that aerodynamic barrier is huge… You don’t really notice it until you get into something that doesn’t have the same resistance and with the same motor. I was able to go 25 miles an hour faster than I could on my bike and I realized this aerodynamic thing is for real.
And I think maybe I was introduced to that world before a lot of other people were. So, as a bike racer, I started thinking how can I take some of the advantage that I was learning about aerodynamics in this racing world that I’m in part-time and transfer that to my regular racing bike.
You must have an engineering background then.
No, I’ve got no background in engineering whatsoever. I was simply just a tinkerer, and a bike racer looking for an edge. I think everybody’s always looking for an edge but I was really seeing if there was any way that I could do something… I like to think of myself as lazy, I don’t want to do anymore work than I have to get to the finish line.
That’s pretty unique.
I like to think I have the best job in the world because I can dream of things and I now have the capability to make the ideas that I have into a product. The way I look at products is that I use myself as sort of the test case. If I can make something that works better for me, then I have an opportunity to share it with others. And if it really makes a difference for me, I’m hoping that it will help other people make riding more enjoyable.
The double-sided pedal was a big example of that. I thought, you know, clipless pedals are already here so is there an opportunity to make them better where beginners don’t have to fumble to get them in at traffic lights?
Are you an uphill kinda guy or downhill kinda guy?
Downhill kinda guy.
Describe your product in four words:
High quality, high performance.
Your idea of a perfect holiday:
78 degrees, dry, at the beach. I love the water and I’m drawn to the water wherever I go.
One thing people don’t know about you… besides the reverse trackstand:
I was born outside the U.S. My mother’s Irish, my father’s American, I was born in Caracas, Venezuela.
If you were an animal in the wild, what would you be?
A badger. I don’t take any shit off anybody. They do their own thing.
How many golf balls can one fit in a school bus?
74 million. What kind of school bus are you talking about… A Blue Bird 73, a Top Flight or Nike? Are we putting any in the gas tank?
Where do you envision pedals to be like ten years from now?
I used to be a morning person, I’m more of a day person now.
Where do you get your design inspirations from?
The industrial revolution.
With bicycle parts, the collection that I have basically goes from the early days when the bicycle was invented to about the 1970s when it became a global commodity. There were incremental changes but I don’t think there’s been a whole lot since the 70’s that’s been a huge change.
But during the golden years of cycling, when France and Italy and even in the U.S., there were some really creatives that a lot of people don’t even know about but they were inspirational. Pino Moroni the Italian; Valentino Campagnolo, the guy behind Simplex derailleurs; there were guys that were making really novel, interesting stuff. Rene Heres the Frenchmen.
I remember when I first started seeing these really high quality bicycle parts and they were really inspirational to me and I thought, you know, I’d love to be in the business of making that thing that when you play with ’em you can see and feel the quality in them.
Those meant a lot to me.
Now, I look back at the industrial revolution, whether it was in Europe or in the United States, the products that people made had their passion and love. It’s sort of like they’re artistically made and they’re beautifully built. I’m inspired by that even today and I still try to buy those designs of people that made beautiful things.
Where do you find them?
Flea markets, antique stores, strange places. People don’t make this kind of stuff like they used to where it’s meant to last for four or five years and then be thrown out. I love to see that here… built to last.