Made In Portland

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.

Speedvagen Urban Racer (Starting at $3,495)

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.


Shwood Canby Walnut Sunglasses $149

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.


WILD Chore Coat. $475

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 Light Mojave Brawler $380

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.


North St. Woodward Convertible Backpack Pannier $249

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.


Getting Down with the Donkey

I keep mulling over the perfect Grinduro bike build. There are so many options, and that’s awesome, but choice can be a burden, too. For help, I thought I’d reach out to some experts to see what their thought are about bikes, gravel, riding and where they see the genre going.

To my mind, for a discussion about all of this, there was no better person to start with then with super bicycle-nerd and all-around-nice-guy Stephen Fitzgerald of Rodeo Labs. Anyone who knows him will not be surprised to hear that he had some really interesting things to say. Normally I would edit quite liberally for content, but I’ve pretty much left his responses intact because he has given me a lot of food for thought, not only about what kind of bicycle I want to build, but who I want to be as a person and as a person who rides a bicycle.

What’s the future of gravel?
Gravel and adventure riding is maturing pretty quickly. And that maturation is driven in a large part by the prospect of large brands finding new ways to sell bikes. We’re all going to get hammered by cliché, dumb products, and tired storylines as the voices shout over each other for attention.

This could be bad for the sport, but in spite of that I’m not really worried. Adventure riding is really based around riding your bike in new places. Seeing new things. Testing yourself in new ways. As soon as we all put our phones down, close our web browsers and get on our bikes for ourselves we can experience the appeal of it all first hand. That’ll always be fresh.

Tell us about your first memory of riding a bike. 
Does a bigwheel count? If so it would be doing burnouts in a cul-de-sac in Cincinnati, Ohio when I was very very young. If bigwheels don’t count it would be riding bikes with my brothers in Vancouver, WA. We had a big hill at the end of our street and we built a jump at the bottom of it. We had to push our bikes up the hill, then we’d flip around and nail the jump full send. Injuries resulted.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up mostly in a small city outside Portland, Oregon called Vancouver, Washington. Vancouver was a sleepy little town but that sleepiness meant that we could pretty much go as far as our legs could take us on bikes and we rode EVERYWHERE from grade school through high school.

Our parents trusted us, curfews were minimal, and bikes were freedom to go and do as we pleased. I had a paper route, which I did by bike. I made $125 per month on the route and spent 100% of it on my mountain bike. I’m sure I was the only kid doing a paper route on a mid ’90s dual suspension downhill race mountain bike.

How did you end up in the bike business?
I arrived in the bike business completely by accident. The bike ambushed me. In 2014 I started Rodeo as a bit of an un-structured anti-team. We were just some friends from Denver who were sick of the rules that governed roadie culture so we made matching kits and threw up a WordPress website to shout our exploits to the world.

The team took off a like a rocket and took over my life. I realized that Rodeo was as much a creative outlet as it was anything else. Any ideas that we had we could try. One of the first ideas was the Traildonkey, one which caused the team to become a business and has since become my full time job nearly four years later.

The Rodeo Labs Traildonkey 2.0

You seemed to have a been an early innovator for the idea of an all-around bike or a gravel bike. What was the initial response to this idea and how have you seen that evolve?
If we were an early innovator in the gravel bike space it was completely by accident. We certainly don’t claim to have invented the genre but we did start working on our bike before we knew that gravel was going to be a thing. We pursued this style of riding because in Denver’s Front Range you have some great road rides and some great dirt rides and we saw an opportunity to blend the two and to create fresh riding loops.

I’m a product of 1990s MTB culture and I fundamentally believe in attacking a trail with technical skill more than technology. In Denver in 2012-2013 we just happened to be challenging ourselves to ride bigger and bigger trails on our cyclocross bikes and we eventually found the limits to the current offerings at the time. Canti brakes just couldn’t handle Colorado trail descents. 11-28 gearing couldn’t really get you up the trail. 32mm CX tires weren’t very forgiving in rock gardens. Etcetera. Etcetera. This is why I started working on Traildonkey 1.0.

I wanted a bike that blended MTB, CX, and road genres. When I made one for myself my friends saw it and wanted one too. Then the internet saw it and after 9 months of inquiries I decided to pause my career and start from scratch with Traildonkey 2.0. The timing of it all was serendipitous.

There were plenty of other people all over the world re-discovering the freedom that can be found by ignoring traditional bike categories so interest in our Traildonkey project was high. I say re-discovering because modern day gravel and adventure riding is not dissimilar from 80s and 90s era mountain biking and “hybrid” bikes. It’s just all come back into vogue and the industry is now hyping it as the next big thing.

Is there such a thing as a one-quiver bike?
Broadly speaking, one-quiver bike is a bit of a sensationalist idea to me. Sure, you can road ride, tour, cross ride, gravel ride, and even trail ride on a modern day adventure bike, but for a large part of the cycling population that isn’t the best way to have fun.

Are you really into touring? You should get a touring bike with durability, comfort, and stability engineered into the frame.
Are you really into mountain biking? You should get a front or full suspension rig with a bunch of gears and big tires and go enjoy the mountains at maximum comfort, maximum speed, and maximum air time. Road riding or racing? You should get a bike tuned for road handling, light weight, light weight, aero considerations. CX racing? You should get a light bike with good mud clearance and cantilever brakes! (for crying out loud!)

BUT… if you are like me and you don’t care about going fastest off road, being aero on the road, you tour a week or two out of the year, and you only do a half dozen CX races per year… then yes you can do it all on one bike and you can have a lot of fun doing it. The important distinction here is that while I claim N-1 is true for myself, I do not suggest that N-1 is best for everyone.

Can you give me the spec sheet for your dream Rodeo?

  • Traildonkey 2.0 frameset
  • Easton EC70 AX bars and EC90 stem
  • Easton EC90 Cinch crankset for quick 1x chainring swaps. 40t. (and Cinch power meter because I’m a nerd)
  • TRP Hylex RS hydro levers and calipers (which have the best ergonomics and brake feel across all brands)
  • Shimano Di2 / TRP climbers switch shifting mod on left and right levers so I can shift up or down with either hand and take photos with the other
  • Shimano XTR Di2 rear derailleur
  • eThirteen 9-44 rear cassette
  • Brooks C13 cutout saddle
  • Cane Creek 110 integrated headset
  • KS LEV dropper post for getting all the way rad on the trails and also for straddling the bike flat footed at stop lights. Both uses are important
  • Rodeo 2.0 carbon wheels. 700c x 24 spoke set for road and light gravel use. 650b x 28h spoke set for bigger off road days
  • Current favorite tire changes hourly!
  • Crank Bros Candy Ti pedals. I have a love hate with Crank Bros but I love 4 sided entry even more.
  • Supacaz bar tape.

What is your definition of the perfect bike?
The definition of a dream bike is that it is the best bike that you can get. There isn’t any harm in dreaming for the best. But I will say that you can build a $3,500 Traildonkey and you can build a $9,000 Traildonkey and both bikes can pretty much do the exact same stuff at the end of the day. The amount of performance gained for the extra $5,500 is not nearly more than double what you get for $3,500. More so, if you really want to save some money and just go have fun on a bike I’ll bet you can find a really capable adventure bike down in the $1000-$2000 range.

What differentiates what you are trying to do, from what everyone else is trying to do?
Rodeo’s differentiation is our story. Our products are a genuine and validated as a result of the rides that we do and the places that we go. We share our story openly, both the successes and the failures. Even though we have a pretty small audience in the world of bikes, the people who are aware of us and do follow our story know that our brand is driven by an authentic quest for adventure.

Pound for pound, we do bigger and more adventurous riding than pretty much any other brand out there. I know that is a bold claim, but I think our Journal backs that up. We are relentless with sharing the fun and the beauty of the places we go by bike.

Our stories aren’t “content”, they are personal experiences from people like me who are out of their mind excited to be allowed to see what we see and go where we go. The bikes aren’t created by product planners, they are honed and iterated based on first hand experience and feedback from our community at large. And our brand is also based first on a team and a culture of inclusion. We welcome all riders on all brands of bikes to ride with us and be a part of what we are doing. We are not trying to overwhelm the other teams and brands in the industry, we’re simply trying to achieve sustainability and be a part of the family. If we could take our pick we’d prefer to be the red-headed stepchild.

Where do you see this whole idea of adventure riding going and is it going to kill the mountain bike or road bike market? And with so many “pros” coming over to the Gravel Grinders, is the adventure being replaced with competitive testosterone?
This is a multi layered question. It needs a few answers. I don’t have a crystal ball but here’s my guess: Adventure riding is going to keep evolving and keep maturing but I think it will have a couple of narratives. One narrative will be marketing driven. Product planners will seek to differentiate their bikes in an increasingly crowded playing field. Brands will attempt to validate their feature distinctions through sponsored content and sponsored riders.

“You need this shock, you need this drivetrain, you need these brakes, you need this geometry, you need these features. Etc Etc. Why do you need this? Because we invented it, and then we put our pro rider on it, and then they won a big race on it. You want to win big races, you want to beat your friends, you want to cause envy in your local posse. Buy our stuff.”

Marketing driven adventure riding will go where the money takes it. To the victor go the spoils. There will eventually be an adventure bike backlash. People will get tired of hearing this message. Perhaps a lot of people will move on to whatever the next big marketing thing is.

There will be other narratives though. Other narratives will be driven by the quest to see what is possible on an adventure bike, or where the bikes can take us. Those stories won’t be driven as much by gear but by the terrain, the images, and the adversity overcome. That sort of adventure riding will show a whole spectrum of creativity. It’ll be genuine. That sort of adventure riding won’t get old. We’ll all be inspired by it no matter what bike people ride. That sort of adventure riding will birth new features to overcome new challenges.

For our part Rodeo at its kernel is going to be driven by bigger and more absurd rides. We’ve all gone to the marquee gravel events and I’m sure some of us will go back but gravel is only one subset of adventure riding. We will look for new places to go, new peaks to bag, and new stories to tell.

Adventure biking won’t kill road bikes or mountain bikes. I won’t be surprised if road biking continues to contract in the USA but that is probably as much due to crowded roads and angry drivers as it is anything else. If I tell my MTB friends that my adventure bike is going to kill mountain biking they’ll laugh me in the face. If you look at the level of progression going in in mountain biking these days you know that they’ve not nearly mined the vein. As long as MTB stays inspiring and amazing it will be immune from encroachment by any other genre of bike or any other sport.

Are pros going to change the gravel or adventure riding landscape?
Yes, but that isn’t all bad. Gravel racing will get faster and faster and average joes will get further from the podium. If you need a case study look at Leadville. The pros blow the amateurs out of the water. But does that keep people away? No. Leadville keeps selling out, everyone wants to take a swing at it. The big gravel races will be like that and the small gravel races will continue to be pretty friendly and grass roots. On the adventure riding side of the spectrum I think pros will start doing more and more next level rides and we will all be inspired and entertained by their exploits.

Photography by Ashley and Jered Gruber

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Rapha’s Loopback – Function With A Splash Of Flair

When Rapha’s loopback jacket arrived to my apartment, the mercury was pushing 40ºC [I’m not sure what that is in fahrenheit, so let’s just call it “Hot AF”]. It was sharp-looking, sure, but not what you want to see during southern European summertime. Just the thought of it was enough to induce severe perspiration, and so, it waited patiently, for the weather to change and the autumn to come.

A couple of months later and it’s become a go-to, which is about the best thing you can say for any garment. But I do have one bone to pick, albeit a pedantic and totally silly one. Rapha’s own description reads: “Trucker jacket utility with the comfort of a jersey.” I’ve just travelled from southern Spain to northern Portugal, and along that 1,100km stretch of road, at not one single rest stop did we see a trucker wearing Rapha.

Trucker jackets usually come in heavy-duty fabrics like denim or canvas and close with sturdy metallic buttons. And while the lightweight loopback fabric used here would be fine against bare skin, this isn’t a jersey. I’m not sure why they’re trying to make either association. Perhaps “blouson” didn’t sound as cool?

Rapha Loopback jacket

That said, you’re buying the jacket here, not the marketing copy. And the only bad thing I can say about the product is that I was a little confused by the sales pitch. I’m not sure how much more I can add, other than to say that it goes well with a tonne of stuff, is very comfortable, and the reversible, high-vis and pink cuffs are a nice touch for anyone feeling a little fancy. The water repellent, wind-blocking material is quick drying, so it does a great job as a cycling commuter jacket, but thanks to some low-key retro styling and a smart cut, it does just as well on social occasions. All in all, a solid addition to any wardrobe.

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A Hammer For Deep-Pocketed, Heavy-Hitting Weight Weenies

Abbey Bike Tools Team Issue Titanium Hammer
Photo: Jim Merithew/ element.ly

Who in their right mind would lust after a $200 titanium bike hammer? Me. That’s who.

For certain repair or build tasks, especially on a pricey carbon whip, there’s nothing better. Titanium has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal and yet can be up to 45 percent lighter. Thus you can have this featherweight, 235 gram, Abbey Tools hammer in your toolbox for those tasks where you need to deliver a blow, without having to carry the heft of a regular hammer. The lower weight also allows faster speeds with less effort when, say, trying to remove some pesky press fit bearings.

The backstory is a good one. Orica GreenEDGE professional mechanic Craig Geeter first dreamed up the hammer while wrenching on pro bikes and then reached out to Jason Quade, owner of Abbey Tools. Quade luckily had some extra titanium laying around from his days building heat exchanges for the nuclear industry and built a quick prototype.

“At first I thought it was the dumbest thing anybody had ever requested,” Quade said. “But then, once I started to use it, I realized Craig’s idea wasn’t dumb at all and was actually pretty awesome for the light tapping you do on modern bicycles.”

Quade ended up making an initial batch of 50, with each one numbered and then engraved with the owner’s name. That batch sold so quickly that the hammer has since become a regular item in Abbey Tools’ catalog.

Most people still buy them for their bikes, but the hammers have also found a following with gun owners who like them for adjusting sites and tapping pins out. Because they’re non-magnetic, the hammers sometimes get used in data centers were magnetic signatures can be a problem.

If you asked me whether I absolutely need my $200 hammer the answer would be a stiff no. But if you asked me if I regularly enjoy the fine craftsmanship and precise mechanics, my answer would be a pounding, er…, resounding yes.


Post-Grinduro Bicycle Dreams

News of the North Bay fires, the possibility of toxic air and tragic stories have been filling my news feed, my mind and my heart since the moment I returned from Grinduro.

As I sat on my computer last night reading the news, I desperately needed a diversion.

So what better to occupy a bike nerd’s mind than the dream of a new bicycle.

Now, I ride a Pinarello F10 for work, so the bar is set pretty high for my two-wheeled, lust-filled dreams.

An argument can be made where you could build a “dream” gravel grinder whip for a very reasonable amount of money.

All one would have to do is to go on Craigslist and find an older mountain bike frame or even an early cyclocross frame and then start “shopping for parts.”

There are parts bins all over the planet filled with 80’s and early 90’s bits and pieces you could procure fairly cheaply and you would have a delightfully, rideable chariot to take into the back country in no time.

I know, because this was my first line of thinking. A classic Eddy Merckx cyclocross frame, some Paul Components bits and pieces and some handbuilt wheels and I would be styling and profiling at the next gravel grinder.

The problem with this plan is it misses all three of the criteria I came up with for my ultimate “adventure” bike. These three specifications became seared into my brain as I pushed my bike up the second climb, an epic piece of steep and long dirt road, of the Grinduro and baked into my pysche as I grinned all the way down the timed section of the race, an unbelievable, whippy fun piece of legitimate single track.

Requirement number one: Lightweight. I’m not young enough or fit enough to carry any more weight on myself or my bike and so being a weightweenie is going to be job one as I build my bike.

Requirement number two: Gears, gears and more gears. I have fully embraced the idea that spinning is winning. I’m no Chris Froome, but I would much rather have one more gear, rather than one less. I didn’t run out of cardio ability during the Grinduro, but I certainly ran out of gears. I won’t make this mistake again.

Requirement number three: Flat bars. I know, I know, there are advantages and disadvantages to this choice. If I were 10 or 15 years younger, I might make a different call here. If speed is your primary goal, that makes the decision even harder. There were plenty of sections of the Grinduro where the aero advantage and more aggressive decision making drop bars allow makes this a tougher decision. But I prefer the control allowed by flat bars.

Ok, with those three requirements in mind I turned to my traveling companions/beer drinking/potato chip eating/maple syrup slurping/tentmates, to find out what worked and what didn’t work in their self-selected two-wheeled wonders.

Cory Farrer, former bike shop owner, fellow inGamba employee and sexy single dad, was on a 2015 BMC Fourstroke 01 29er with 35c cross tires, SRAM XX1 and a 34t ring. 

“The bike was pretty close to perfect because for the most part, Grinduro is a mountain bike race course, but it has dual lockout and was light enough to keep up with the gravel road bikes on the rolling road section with the cross tires,” said Farrer. “Most importantly, I was having way more fun on average than people on Cross Bikes, Gravel Bikes, Hardtails, or heavier longer-travel Full Suspension mtn bikes.

“I was probably at a small disadvantage on the dirt climb because of the weight of the bike, but it probably comes in at near 20lbs the way it was set up. Not bad. I would switch out for the SRAM XX1 or Eagle to get that lower gear for the second climb and still have a high enough gear for the road.”

“I think I would also go with fatter tires, seeing as how the road gravel bikes almost all had much fatter rubber than I did, and I had to be concerned about burping a tire or destroying my rims at the speeds we were going on the 35c cross tires. Mainly though the thing I would do differently is not show up fat and out of shape again. Or old.”

Andrew Pollack, mountain bike racer, designer and Lily’s dad was on a 2016 Lynskey titanium 650b hardtail, XC Schwalbe Racing Ralphs, 100mm front fork, XX1 34t ring. 

“I felt this setup was darn near prefect for this event,” said Pollack. “I had some issues with my fit on the bike that I was able to resolve mid-race, but other than that I felt the lightweight XC flatbar hardtail was the way to go.”

“Riding that with drop bars would have crushed my soul.”

“The shot of whiskey I was gifted before the single track was also helpful.”

“And I agree with Cory, the Eagle would have been nice.”

Ted King, soon-to-be husband to Laura Spencer, former roommate of Thor Hushovd and Ivan Basso, trumpeter of all things maple (read: Untapped) was on a Cannondale SuperX with Clement 40c, Zipp 303s, SRAM 1x. 

“The expression “run whataya brung” is appropriate for Grinduro,” said King. “It’s such a motley collection of steeds — cross, mountain, gravel, and garaged tinkered together frankenbikes — and yet quite frankly no bike is perfect for Grinduro. I’m blessed to have a whole bunch of bikes in my garage so I have more than average options from which to bring.”

“I opted for the Cannondale SuperX, which was sweet. Having let a friend borrow my Cannondale Slate, which truth be told might be the perfect bike for the job, I was down to either this gravel maniac, the SuperX, or my full suspension Scalpel. This bike is set up with a SRAM 1x drivetrain, 44t in the front and a vast 10-42t cassette in the rear. I had speedy Zipp 303s with Clement 40c tires run tubeless. A Quarq powermeter and Speedplay Syzrs rounded out the drivetrain with a Zipp cockpit. Light, fast, and dreamy looking? This is your bike.”

“The first 1 mile climb was perfect. I had a respectable time and with just the slightest scent of the previous night’s IPA on my breath, I was pleased with a top 5. The next section was a six mile twisty, turny, loose gravel fireroad descent. Given the level of competition, again, I was stoked with… I think 4th place? 6th? I forget, but I was pleased.”

“The paved 4 mile rolling section was basically a TTT. With an average power somewhere in the high 400s, I went into this stage confident I had the ideal tool for the job. It was! The race just featured a few more coy racers who jumped into our group after hiding at the start and gamed the system to perfection. I did pump the impressively heated sprint, so again, this bike was the cat’s pajamas.”

“Let’s not kid ourselves, the final 3 mile descent was straight up downhill material. This wasn’t meant for a cross bike, nor gravel bike, a cross country MTB would be great and a downhill bike would take top honors. I think I did it by 20 or so seconds. Being a frenetic roadie, I was happy to a) finish with my bones intact and b) have a top 15 finish. That’s where the race was won, so maybe in 2018 I would run a hardtail mountain bike, so that I could skim through the first three stages and hammer the finale.”

“Or not. The SuperX was super sweet and I think that could be the bike of the day for fun alone. And that’s what this day was about.”

Nate Ripperton, who once climbed Mt. Tam like 27 times in a single day to win a pair of shoes, promoter of proper (Osmo) hydration and maker of secret routes was on a Santa Cruz Highball 29er.

I rode my Cruz Highball since I don’t own a gravel bike. I was under the (what turned out to be false) impression that “Grinduro” would need a “gravel-grinder.”

“However, I think a hardtail mtb is perfect. I had 40c Rambler tires from Maxxis on there, per recommendations from Ted King and Rebecca Rusch, that this was the fastest rolling tire with a bit of tread.”

“One additional bonus of riding my 6-year-old Santa Cruz was that it was built and spec’d before the current modern era of 1x drive chains and came equipped with the tried and true triple chain ring, replete with the old-fashioned granny gear. That was really nice on the last climb when a lot of people were walking. And it provided the added benefit of not spinning like an wacko during the road section while sitting at the back of the group led Ted, who was doing his pro Ted thing.”

“I would probably consider even wider tires next year as it seems that most of the time is to be gained would be on the downhill gravel road section and the single track sections.”

Decisions need to be made.

Will it be SRAM Eagle or maybe a sweet Shimano XTR Di2 build? Will it be a frame from one of the whips in the newly minted “gravel” segment, like the Open U.P. or U.P.P.E.R. or the 3T Exploro or a blinged-out, Ted King recommended Cannondale Slate.

Or will I put a flatbar on a bike like the Ridley X-Trail or the Santa Cruz Stigmata or one of those Niner RLT RDO which helped fuel the whole genre to begin with.

Holy shit cakes, I still haven’t added in the possible. Hardtail and dual-suspension mountain bikes, both in 29er and 27.5 wheel sizes. And what about cyclocross bikes like the Specialized Crux or endurance road bike likes the Trek Domane?

And wouldn’t the Pinarello GAN GRS Disk make a great platform for this quest, with its built in rear end suspension and built in room for some big fat tires?

Tires?

Rims?

Carbon?

Tubeless?

Damn it, I haven’t even started thinking about tires or pedals or saddles or grips.

Maybe a dropper post?

Oh yeah, and do I really want a flat bar?

Let the journey begin.


Inter(ospection)Bike was beautifully sad

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InterBike can be a real grind. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Sort of like a frat rush but here's a view of registration on day one. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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All the stickers you'll possibly need. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Willier easily wins the best booth snack category with SPQR Chef Matthew Accarrino giving away prosciutto breadstick freshly sliced with a manual Berkel slicer. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Cargo eBike testing. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Yes, you can demo a downhill bike with six-spoke wheels, an inverted suspension fork, and a motor. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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You can chill on a chair, or you can chill on a bicycle-powered charging station. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Aero is everything. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Pioneer showcased an updated version of their Expanded Sensor Network now with cameras for even better analysis. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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We even ventured out to the last CrossVegas in Vegas for a few snappies because why not. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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Announcing the winner of the 2017 InterBike Mechanics Challenge. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Attending InterBike this year was a little bit like going to any Burning Man after the very first one held on the beach in 1986.

Everyone in attendance was wandering around, muttering about how great it used to be and lamenting what has happened to “their” event.

I, oddly, had the opposite reaction.

Sure, the almost complete lack of legitimate big name bike brands and the proliferation, like rabid rabbits, of TIG-welded e-bike “brands” was a little jarring.

And the fact you could, as I did, walk the entire show in one day and feel like you missed nothing. It seems like an indication the bicycle industry is in serious trouble. That, of course, is assuming Interbike is a microcosm of the bicycle industry and as it suffers, so goes the industry.

It is possible the majority of the industry stayed clear of Vegas this year, as the trade show transitions to the more rider friendly venue in Reno?

Well, for whatever reason the show was a little thin on “wow” and pretty heavy on “woah.”

But I have to say, even though I was only in Vegas for 7.5 hours I still got my fill of sweet looking rigs, hugs from my friends and my stoke for all things bicycle is higher now than before the show.

It may just be me getting old, but as far as I can tell, these are the good old days.

So here is my brief and unscientific rundown of what you missed while sitting home lamenting how great the show used to be. Or as Peter Flax so eloquently said on Twitter: “Interbike is like that boyfriend or girlfriend who was exhausting and sometimes annoying but now that you’ve broken up you kind of miss them.”

Somehow we landed in the middle of e-bikeville almost immediately after entering the show floor. And I’m neither a lover or a hater of the e-bike segment of bicycles, but once you strap the motor on it I don’t see the point of discussing the rest of the specs. Everyone says they are “a lot of fun” to ride and I’m sure this is true. Sadly for me, I’m not really riding to have “a lot of fun.” I’m ride for so many more reasons than just fun and I kind of prefer to do it under my own power. It might be more fun to do it on an e-bike, but then I would miss all the other stuff.

InterBike 2017
e-bikeville. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Having said that, I caught the sweet video Pivot Bicycles did with their new e-whip and Jimmy wants that. Sadly, I’m not Aaron Chase and this steed is not available in the states. I’ll probably have to settle for one of those Pivot Mach 5.5 chariots.

If the bike business is not exactly booming, the bike rack business appears to be raging. There were well over a half dozen bike rack companies displaying at the show, with sweet racks from Thule, Yakima and the aesthetic frontrunner Kuat. But the Best in Show has to go to SeaSucker with their sucked-on 9 bicycle roof rack. It looked like a gimmick, but this sucker is an actual team-car-ready setup. Seeing it displayed with a fleet of new Cervelo bicycles did not hurt the presentation one bit.

The Aaron Gwin gunshow autograph session. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

The new 3T Strada was front and center in the main hall and did a pretty good job of reminding me we are in the heyday of bicycles and bicycle technology. Although, these may be tough times for the industry, this is a great times for bike riders.

And you didn’t have to look much further than the Alchemy booth to see this displayed again. They were displaying bikes in super matchy-matchy paints jobs which made you consider, just for a moment, knocking someone over the headed and running for the door. If I could have only remembered which way the exit was in the stupid convention center.

I always enjoy hangin’ with the hipsters in the Kali booth, the Moots road bike with full EPS sitting in the Campagnolo booth was nothing short of stunning and Clif, as always, had a myriad of tasty bites to stave off show floor starvation.

If e-bikes are the new hotness, the run for power supremacy has still not been decided. With Shimano still not delivering their power cranks, Stages doing dual leg, Garmin having finally removed the giant growth from their power pedals, the choices continue to be multiple and confusing. This might be the only case in history where more choices are not driving down the cost or making things clearer for the consumer. I guess you should all just go with your gut and power on.

There were countless other booth with various versions of bags, blinkies and baubles, of which, I paid no attention. But I did see one dude wearing his “Las Vegas” bicycle jersey, spotted a pair of 6 foot-plus tall booth babes in angels wings, experienced a quality Worthy-sighting, talked Mark Riedy into giving me his watch, partook of several bowls of peppermints and saw countless people standing in the line for free beer (somethings never change).

Something really doesn’t change. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Overall, it is hard to know how I would have felt about the state of the bicycle industry, and the much loved and maligned Interbike, had I stayed in Vegas a moment longer. But I can tell you without a hint of sarcasm, I am looking forward to seeing what happens in Reno next year and I continue to be a fan of all things bicycle. Especially the crazy, zany and intensely fierce people who call the industry home.

InterBike 2017
So long, Vegas. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

I Remember Climbing Being So Much Harder

Photo: Jim Merithew/ element.ly

I remember climbing being harder when I was younger. When I was fitter. When I actually rode a bicycle.

This occurred to me the other day on a nasty pitch in the verdant hills above Berkeley. Well, I say nasty, but it was no more than 8 or 9 percent, and not at all long. Yet my thighs burned as I stood on the pedals, I wanted a few more teeth on the big cog, and I really should have eaten something during that coffee stop a few miles back. But I didn’t find it hard. You might even say I enjoyed it.

It stood in stark contrast with the days when I attacked every climb like Alberto Contador. The days when I could ride all day, when I did crazy shit like the Death Ride, when inclines were something to conquer, not enjoy. Maybe it’s the bike. Or my attitude. Certainly not my fitness, which after too many years behind a desk I can most kindly describe as endomorphic.

After more than a decade away from the bike, I’ve decided to do something about that.

This was not entirely my decision. I recently quit my job, leaving myself with a lot of spare time to fill. After a few days of this, my friend Jim, a guy consumed by an obsessive love of cycling, asked, “When do we ride?” I tried to think of an excuse not to, realized I didn’t have one, and said, “Uh, how’s Monday?” hoping he might be busy.

No such luck. “Fine,” he said. “See you then.”

Come Monday, I pulled out my bike, second-hand Specialized SL3, a seven-year-old carbon fiber whip with all the right hardware and a paint job only slightly less garish than a Vegas casino. I’d picked it up for nothing a few months ago, thinking I’d get back into cycling—and then didn’t because life got in the way. I found a water bottle that wasn’t thoroughly disgusting and squeezed into a kit that, surprisingly, still fits. Well, mostly. Jim provided a pump, a bottle cage, and a pair of pedals (he seems to own at least three of everything), and got my seat more or less dialed in. After a few laps around his place to check everything out, we got started.

We took it easy. Twenty-two miles or so, mostly flat. I soon found that I enjoyed being on the bike, getting exercise, getting out. Going to the gym, lifting weights, running—I find them boring. A chore to check off the to-do list. But riding? Riding is fun. It’s social. You go places and see things. We rode through neighborhoods I hadn’t seen in years before following the waterfront to the Port of Oakland, where sheer joy prompted me to take my hands off the bars and stretch out my arms. It felt like flying. It felt like childhood.

I rode four more times that first week, putting in about 120 miles. Yeah, it was all flat, but you’ve gotta start somewhere, right? I made each ride a bit longer than the last. I started adding hills—nothing crazy, just rollers. I got a professional fit from someone who knows what he’s doing. He flipped the stem, tweaked the bars, adjusted the seat. I decided to tackle a more challenging ride. And so last weekend we attacked the hills above Berkeley.

OK, attacked is a bit strong. But, at age 49, I’ve adopted a Grant Petersen-esque attitude toward bicycling (if not bicycles): It should be fun. You should ride like a kid, for the unfettered joy of it, and get there when you get there. I kept that in mind as the first climb approached.

Jim and his wife motored along with the strength and speed that comes with having started riding when index shifting was the hot new thing. I managed to keep them within view, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t spend more than a few minutes waiting for me at intersections up the way. Further along, where we could descend into Berkeley or keep climbing, I decided to keep going. A few miles later, I came around a bend to see San Francisco Bay and the city beyond. The sky was clear, the sun was bright, and you could see well past the Golden Gate. I paused to enjoy the view. I’d passed this vantage point countless times before, back when I used to ride. But I’d never stopped to appreciate it. Why would I? There was a climb to conquer. Don’t break cadence. Don’t fall behind.

I no longer feel that way. I’m in no hurry to reach the top, or descend the other side. I used to love bombing down mountain passes, and still can’t quite believe I once hit 57 mph coming out of the Rockies in Montana. I can’t imagine ever doing that again. I can’t imagine wanting to.

We arrived home after 30 miles and 2,900 feet of climbing. It was tiring, but not hard. Not yet, anyway. Maybe one day I’ll find climbs hard again, when they’re once again something to be conquered. But for now, I’m having too much fun.


Giorgio Andretta continues to bring Italy to the States

Giorgio Andretta. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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.

The Sagittarius logo. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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.

Intricate print details on the Pegoretti “Ferro” FormaRed-Carbon (FR-C) Pro Bib Shorts. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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.

Perforated dual stretch bib straps found on the NX-G bib short. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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.

Red wine or white wine?

Red. All red. My favorite red wine is Amarone. The next is Tofanelli Charbono.

Favorite music?

I like a little bit of everything.

Favorite bike?

2000 Pinarello Prince LS.

Any hobbies in your free time?

I stay at home with the family when I can. I’m very lucky that both my daughter and son are in the company.

Are you a morning person or a night person?

Both. I sleep very little. My sleeping hours are anywhere from four to five hours a night.

What’s your secret for doing this for so long and being so successful?

You have to know how to take and how to give. It’s just like a marriage.

www.giordanacycling.com


A Bike Made With Whisky Casks?

Photo: Renovo

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…)

Photo: Renovo

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.

American white oak staves ready to be shaped. Photo: Renovo

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.

A Glenmorangie Original in the making. Photo: Renovo

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.

Even the head badge says Glenmorangie. Photo: Renovo

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 by Renovo. Photo: Renovo

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.

https://renovobikes.com/

Photo: Renovo

Speedplay’s founder rides obsession to success

Richard Bryne, the man that gave us Speedplay. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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.

Explaining his creation. All of it. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Explaining his creation. All of it. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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?

You’ll have to wait and see.

Customizable stack heights! Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Favorite restaurants in San Diego:

Ken Sushi Workshop.

Are you a morning person or a night person?

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.

Richard pointing out the design details on the Syzr cleats. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

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.

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly