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

FiftyOne Bikes – the latest in hot custom carbon

Photo: deanella.com

FiftyOne Bikes might just be the hottest frame-builder you’ve never heard of. The Irish brand is new to the scene, but over the last year they’ve gained a small but dedicated following thanks to their exquisitely hand-built, painstakingly painted, custom carbon frames.

They’re totally bespoke and almost always very colorful. In other words, the anthesis of what modern bicycles have become. Aidan Duff, a former professional rider with a lot of experience in the bike industry, decided to start the company after becoming frustrated with the limited sizing and personalization options that have become the norm thanks to the industry’s shift towards mass-production in Asia.

The brand’s formation took time and a lot of work, as Duff searched first for a producer that could make him the kind of frame he wanted, and then for a selection of experts and artisans who would help him do everything in-house at FiftyOne’s HQ in Dublin, Ireland. The end product is a completely unique frame, built to suit the rider’s characteristics and desires, and to reflect their personality.

www.fiftyonebikes.com - Photos by www.deanella.com

Photo: deanella.com

www.fiftyonebikes.com - Photos by www.deanella.com

Photo: deanella.com

www.fiftyonebikes.com - Photos by www.deanella.com

Photo: deanella.com

www.fiftyonebikes.com - Photos by www.deanella.com

Photo: deanella.com

www.fiftyonebikes.com - Photos by www.deanella.com

Photo: deanella.com

www.fiftyonebikes.com - Photos by www.deanella.com

Photo: deanella.com

www.fiftyonebikes.com - Photos by www.deanella.com

Photo: deanella.com

www.fiftyonebikes.com - Photos by www.deanella.com

Photo: deanella.com

www.fiftyonebikes.com - Photos by www.deanella.com

Photo: deanella.com

So in that context, the beauty they made for Eurobike this year – part of a limited run of 10 frames to commemorate Enve Composite’s 10th anniversary – is positively mass production. Each frame will still be tailored to its owner, but the signature paint job will stay the same, which is no bad thing, because it is cool AF.

Duff is just back a successful trip to Germany, but he took the time to catch up with us and talk a little shop.

How was Eurobike?

“Fantastic. It was great to meet so many people, drink several weissbier and get to ride my bike – not strictly in that order.

“There’s been a lot said about it being too late in the year, not attracting the bigger brands any more, or 50% of the floorspace being taken up by e-bikes. But the reality is, it’s still the world’s largest cycling trade show and industry hub and regardless of who you want to meet in the business, they’re likely never more than a hall or two away. For us, it provides a very good platform to reach out to the industry and build relationships with other companies in our space.”

And what was the reaction to your Enve bike? 

“Ten years ago, Enve’s first products were specifically designed to service what they believed was an underserved small frame builder community. Jason Schiers and his team saw that carbon was not being used to its full potential in the majority of components and wheels and that the industry were making aluminium shapes out of carbon, failing to employ the real strengths of the material. With years of experience in aerospace and NASCAR, Jason and his team knew they could fill this gap in the market and Enve was born. They played a crucial role in the early stages of our composites development, so it was a privilege to work with them on the bike and present it to the world on their stand.

“The reaction to it has been awesome. With great coverage by the international media, the 10 limited edition bikes have attracted lots of attention with several being snapped up within the first 24 hours of launching.

“I was actually one of the first distributors for Enve when they expanded into Europe in 2009, and I’ve watched them grow from a fledging start-up to an industry leader. I was at the opening party for the launch of their new facility and to celebrate their 10 year anniversary, back in March, where we discussed possible ideas for Eurobike. The idea of a 10-year celebratory bike was born.

“It’s a limited run of 10 bikes that will all be delivered with custom geometry. Each of them is numbered and will have its own certificate of authenticity, and we’re giving each owner a photo-book of the bikes in development and the finished product. It was also our way of introducing our flat mount disc option, which we designed totally in-house, and our integrated Dominator BB shell.”

Fiftyone '87 (6)

This design tips its hat to the Carrera–Inoxpran bike that Ireland's Stephen Roche rode in 1987, the year he won the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France, and the World Championships

Fiftyone '87 (31)

Tell us a bit about your new disc designs. Is it the future or is there still hope for rim brakes?

“As I said, we used the Enve10 as the launchpad for our disc design. We already have a lot of interest in discs in general which certainly motivated us to create our own design. The UCI rollout of discs has been less than ideal but I see the next two years changing the landscape of braking forever. That said, I do still think callipers will appeal to a slightly older rider.”

Images by www.deanella.com

Bearing the names of past champions, this frame commemorates the 65th edition of the Rás, Ireland's most important race, and was ridden by AquaBlue's Ronan McLaughlin. Photo: deanella.com

Images by www.deanella.com

Bearing the names of past champions, this frame commemorates the 65th edition of the Rás, Ireland's most important race, and was ridden by AquaBlue's Ronan McLaughlin. Photo: deanella.com

Images by www.deanella.com

Bearing the names of past champions, this frame commemorates the 65th edition of the Rás, Ireland's most important race, and was ridden by AquaBlue's Ronan McLaughlin. Photo: deanella.com

You’re getting a name for yourselves when it comes to show-stopping bikes such as this and Ronan McLaughlin’s Rás concept. Why is it important for you to showcase your products in this way?

“Well, what motivated us to start FiftyOne? We were tired of safe designs and an underwhelming client engagement. We’ve stripped back all the restrictions on bike design to ensure we create timeless classics. It doesn’t matter how intricate the masking needs to be or how long the construction process takes. We believe we are at the intersection of art and engineering. We want to empower clients to create their dream bikes, creations that rise above model years and trends. Something that will be gifted from one generation to the next.”


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

14 drool-worthy gear from PressCamp

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

We’re back from the annual PressCamp in Park City, Utah where we lived and breathed nothing but bikes at 7,000+ feet of altitude for a week. It was fun and frankly it’s been a lot digesting all the materials. While more stories will be rolling out shortly, here are 14 items (in no particular order) we saw there that we’re pretty stoked about.


Ridley Fenix SLX disc

Ridley Fenix SLX Disc, now 300 grams lighter. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Aero and gravel bikes have been all the rage lately and while many pass on endurance bikes due to the preconceived notion of them being ‘slow,’ the Ridley Fenix SLX disc is anything but that. While the geometry remained identical to the ones Lotto-Soudal used to race in the classics, the 2018 model is 300 grams lighter, down to sub-850 grams in medium and now disc compatible, making it an ideal all-around machine. The disc-specific design utilizes Ridley’s own 60-50-40 ton high modulus unidirectional carbon and complete bikes will be available with Shimano Ultegra Di2, Ultegra mechanical, or the new Campagnolo Potenza 11 hydraulic disc grouppo.


Campagnolo Hydraulic Road Disc

Campagnolo Super Record mechanical, now available with hydraulic disc brakes. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Built around reliability, safety, modulation and better late than never, Campy is alas entering the hydraulic disc brake market. Designed in collaboration with Germany’s Magura but made by Campy in Europe, the disc system is full of sweet little design details: Its flat-mount and rotor-size specific caliper houses two 22mm phenolic resin pistons to combat heat transfer (Campy does not recommend adapter use for safety reasons); its organic brake pads are chamfered with a built-in wear indicator and are separated magnetically (versus metal springs); its centerlock rotors have rounded edges.

On the interface side, while the Ergopower shifter extends 11mm further and the shifter knob is 8mm taller to accommodate the brake’s master cylinders, the contact surface has largely remained the same as the previous generation. With all those design elements on such small real estate, Campy was able to increase the range of adjustments available to fine tune a rider’s preference: the new Adjustable Modulation System to tune the brake feel, adjustable brake lever reach, and adjustable reach on the upshift lever.

The disc system, dubbed the H11, will be available to flagship groups such as Super Record and Record (mechanical and EPS). Mechanical Chorus will be available with disc as well. For a lower-price point, Campy’s Potenza 11 group will share the same rotor and caliper, but with alloy shift levers and a PowerShift drivetrain (instead of Ultra-Shift found on higher end group sets).


Pivot Mach 4

The Mach 4 was Pivot’s first model in 2007. Now in its 5th iteration, the bike is as capable and is fast. Designed to be World Cup cross country worthy and trail capable, the Mach 4 seems perfect for those who like a fast ride and eschew bikes with longer travels. The DW-link rear suspension with 115mm travel on a custom tuned FOX Factory DPS shock is now mated to a new rear triangle to accommodate boost 148 spacing while improving stiffness and tire clearance up to 2.6″. Pivot offers both builds oriented for both XC and trail build that goes as light as 22lbs complete and 5 sizes to fit riders from 4’10” to 6’3”. What’s neat about Pivot’s offering is that unlike other companies who use same frame designs but heavier carbon layups, the Mach 4 uses the same frame and shock across the board from its $4,599 race XT build to the top of the line $9,499 Team XTR Di2 build so you can always up your parts game later knowing your frame is as good as it gets.


Bag Balm

Bag Balm for days. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Started as a quest to remedy chafed and cracked cow udders in Vermont in 1900, Bag Balm sounded just so unrelated to bikes. But perhaps it’s a best kept secret from the ’96 US Olympic track team, as told by team member and world record holder, Sky Christopherson, where the team turned to Bag Balm as their go to chamois cream. They were only able to purchase it from a nearby livestock supply store. Bag Balm is as long-lasting as it is simple. Its formula contains only 4 ingredients: petrolatum, lanolin, 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate and paraffin wax. But it’s versatile as I doubt any famers would put anything unproven on their prized cows, or any of us who needs an effective moisturizer to fit our variety of needs from using it as chamois to lip balm to anything in between. We gave it a try while combating the dryness and altitude in Park City and it seemed to work exceptionally well. Bag Balm is available at most drug stores such as CVS, Target and Walgreens so you know where to find it next time when you need some chamois cream and all-around moisturizer.


Factor O2 Disc

Originally started in 2007 as an offshoot of Britian’s renowned engineering firm BF1systems, Factor Bikes is no stranger to the limelight thanks to its forward thinking designs over the years:  From the £25k Factor ONE-77 hyperbike made in collaboration with Aston Martin (yes, the car company) to the Twin Vane split down tube on the Vis Vires in 2013, Factor has been making, albeit limited stuff for the chosen few. That all changed in 2015 when industry veteran Rob Gitelis and former green jersey winner Baden Cooke purchased Factor from BF1 and went on to sponsor a WorldTour team before a bike was sold to the public.

But the wait is over and the O2 disc, a disc version of the same O2 that is being raced by AG2R La Mondiale (look for it in this year’s Tour De France). The disc version adds about 20 grams to the fork and about 40 grams to the frame, bringing the frame to about 800 grams. The frameset does not use any alloy inserts and will be available as a complete bike, chassis (frame, fork, headset, bottom bracket, bar, stem and seatpost), as well as rolling chassis (chassis plus wheels) with components from in house brand Black Inc. which is said to work as a system together in terms of optimal balance in performance and comfort. Extra Credit: Every Factor comes standard with a CeramicSpeed bottom bracket. Here is our first ride impression.


Boyd Altamont Lite

Boyd Altamont Lite. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Alloy wheels are not dead and Boyd’s Altamont Lite is a good example of what one could get from a high-end hand built set of alloy wheels. At $900/set and around 1,450 grams, the 30mm tall welded rim with 19.86mm internal width and tubeless compatible rim, it has all the bells and whistles that one would find on wheels costing much more. Boyd didn’t stop there, though. The Altamont Lite now comes with a durable ceramic coating on the brake track to improve all-weather braking performance. Since all of Boyd’s hoops are hand-built at their family-owned shop in Greenville, South Carolina, you have options regarding spoke counts as well as an upgrade to White Industries hubs. Also new for 2017 is Boyd’s Ready2Ride program where Boyd installs the wheels with axles, tires, cassette and rotors in advance (for a fee) so it will be ready to ride straight out of the box. A small but thoughtful detail perfect for those with a busy schedule.


Thule Yepp Nexxt Mini

Thule Yepp Nexxt Mini. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

We love high-performance machines but we didn’t forget about all you parents with kids. This year Thule had a mix of on-bike bike seats and convertible trailers for the little ones. We think the Yepp Nexxt Mini is pretty neat with its quick attach bracket, a slick five-point magnetic harness system on a shock-absorbing seat, plus an integrated handlebar and adjustable foot rests designed for nine month olds to three year olds plus a max 33-lb capacity on a lightweight 6.6-lb chassis. Because admit it, weight does matter.


3T Strada

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Gerard Vroomen is no stranger when it comes to designing something different. From his Cervelo days telling everyone about  the benefit of 25c tires and the idea of a compact crankset that has now been well-adopted, Gerard does his own thing. Though eagle-eyed readers might see a facade reminiscent of Gerard’s past projects, the Strada is different.

It’s drawn specifically around wider tires, disc brakes and without the front derailleur in mind. That’s right, a 1×12 drivetrain 3T believes so strongly the bike will be released with its own dedicated cassettes featuring what they could just call the golden ratio of cassettes that has the smooth 1-tooth transition on the first 5 gears, plus a massive 350% range.

Speaking of massive, the tubes are in their own league. Whereas common aero tubing assumes airflow to stay flat as the bike travels into the wind, 3T noticed the airflow actually behaves more like an arc so the tubes were designed accordingly. Its new Fundi fork continues to minimize the frontal area to the wind while being able to accommodate 25-30c tires.


NeilPryde Nazaré SL

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Perhaps the biggest bang for the buck at PressCamp this year had to be the NeilPryde Nazaré SL. Named after the legendary Portuguese wave, the Nazaré SL is the company’s aero offering. You’re probably thinking great, it’s (yet) another aero road bike. NeilPryde may be relatively new to the bike biz, but for those who are unfamiliar with them, NeilPryde has been playing with aerodynamics and composite engineering for about 40 years in water sports, notably windsurfing and sailing.

While other companies’ top aero offering could easy cost upwards of $10k, the top Nazaré SL in Dura-Ace 9100 mechanical transmission with Fulcrum Quattro Carbon hoops for $6,200, followed by a second model with Ultegra 8000 at an equally competitive $3,600. At 960 grams for a large frame, it ain’t no slouch either. Both models include their semi-integrated Aeroblade bar/stem cockpit to slice through the wind.

For those with tighter budgets, NeilPryde will also be offering the Nazaré, which shares the same design cues but is built with slightly heavier fibers. Nazare with Ultegra 8000 will be $2,900 and there will even be a 105-spec’d version, minus the Aeroblade cockpit, for $2,100.


Cinelli Nemo Tig

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

This one got me with its sparkly purple paint. At 1,800 grams for a frame, the Nemo is not going to win any weight weenie contests anytime soon, but this frame is much more than just a pretty face. Under the hood (ok, paint) the Nemo utilizes oversized triple-butted Columbus Spirit niobium steel tubes which are then TIG-welded in Italy before being painted with your choice of five colors. The Nemo is available in six standard sizes from XS (48cm) to XXL (61cm), but Cinelli will make one made to measure if you like this classy-looking machine. Who says weight is everything.


G-Form Elite Knee Guard

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Flexible body armor has been making its way into the body protection scene the last few years and I thank companies for making them so good yet hardly resembling those bulky hard rebadged ones from motocross that were once the only choice. Among them is G-Form. New this year is the Elite line of knee and elbow guards. The Elite continues the usage of G-Form’s own Reactive Protective Technology (RPT) layer to instantly absorb impact while staying flexible. Compared to the previous Pro-X line, the elite has thicker padding, more coverage and updated lycra sleeves that are not only longer in length, but also with a more breathable back panel plus silicone grippers top and bottom. Available now for $99.99. We are putting ours to the test for now so stay tuned for a more in depth look.


FSA SL-K BB392EVO Modular Crankset

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Thinking about buying a new crankset for your current mtb but worried about future compatibility? Enter the FSA SL-K BB392EVO modular crankset. For starters, it has the standard option of running direct mount 1x and 2x chainrings while the BB392 axle means you can fit the crank into a variety of frames with different bottom bracket standards (using appropriate bottom brackets obviously). But it doesn’t stop there. The modular crankset also makes nice between the traditional and the newer, wider Boost spacing with its built-in adjustment system (read: a spacer). They’re available in-stores now.


THM Tibia Stem

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

It’s by far the most expensive stem ($650) I’ve ever crossed paths with – so much so one can buy a new iPhone 7. But if money was no object, I’d get my hands on one of these gems ASAP. At 68 grams (100mm), it’s likely to be one of the lightest stems in the market by the THM Carbones of Germany. The Tibia is said to have the world’s best stiffness to weight ratio with its full carbon construction including the faceplate, and titanium fasteners (in torx versus the more traditional hex). What’s special about the Tibia’s design is that the faceplate mounting bolts are reversely mounted in such that the threaded rods extend from the stem and are secured by four t15 torx bolts. THM claims their particular design makes for a stiffer platform. The steer clamp is also mounted on two rotatable shafts to lessen stress. Available now.


Zipp 454 NSW disc

Zipp 454 NSW disc mounted to a Canyon AEROAD CF SLX DISC. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Also prohibitively expensive at $4,000 a set but equally fascinating is the Zipp 454 NSW (Nest Speed Weaponry) disc. The rim uses the Zipp’s new variable depth HyperFoil Sawtooth profile that gives the rim its distinctive zig-zag shape as it varies from 53mm to 58mm and is said to be inspired by the tubercles of a humpback whale’s pectoral fin. It’s the fastest and also the most stable wheelset, a point Zipp stresses in terms of aero balance when riding in the wind in the 30 years since Zipp got into the aero wheel business. The 454 also employs Zipp’s own Cognition hubset with Axial Clutch technology that uses magnets instead of the standard pawl design to reduce drag. Enough said about these gems. Just think of the 454 as the AMG of Zipp wheels.


I discovered that I was best in cycling

Isabelle Beckers
Isabelle Beckers. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Racing in her fifth year as a professional and in her fourth season for UCI Women’s World Tour team Lotto Soudal LadiesIsabelle Beckers had a comparatively late, yet speedy foray into professional bike racing due to injuries from competitive track and field and many friends telling her, “Just do the same.” The former Belgium 400 meter track star and physical education teacher got her first start in triathlons because “I could ride my bike, I could still do some running, and I could do some swimming,” she explained.

After two years of racing triathlons and working full-time as a pharmaceutical sales rep, she eventually found her true calling.

“I discovered that I was best in cycling. I was like, ‘Okay. I’m 29 now. It’s now or never.’ So I decided to go 100% for cycling.”

Today, aside from her day job racing and pulling domestique duties for her teammates, the multi-talented Beckers works as a curator for La Ridley, a women’s cycling community founded by Ridley where one can read up on a wide variety of topics ranging from everyday questions such as how to fix a flat tire, to stories inside the pro peloton.

How long have you been riding for Lotto-Soudal? How long have you been racing?

I’ve been racing for five years and this is my fourth season with Lotto-Soudal.

Your most memorable race: 

Gent-Wevelgem two years ago. It wasn’t really rainy, but there was so much wind that we felt it in our arms because we were leaning into the wind. It was such a hard race because we were fighting the wind constantly, and you would see girls getting dropped the whole time and then just get off their bikes, so we were like “Lotto-Soudal, okay, that’s another one. And then another one, and then another.”

We were like the last ones.

That was such a cool experience also because I had my teammate with me. We were the last ones in the race because they (the commissaires) were taking everybody out. Everybody got dropped. There were riders all over the place and she was the one telling me, “Isabelle, keep eating. Keep drinking. We can do it. We can do it.” And I was like, “Okay Anouk (Rijff), that’s great.” After that she was the one being very hungry and couldn’t do it anymore.

We didn’t drop (each other). We did a time trial until the finish. (Only 65 riders out of a field of 169 finished the race- Ed.)

Biggest challenge as a professional cyclist:

The biggest challenge would be getting selected for races like the big classics… And really finish them and do a real good job.

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Uphill or downhill?

Uphill.

Your speciality and main role at Lotto-Soudal:

I try to specialize in Time Trials. I don’t have enough explosive power to be a sprinter. But I can ride really hard for a longer time. I am 183cm tall which makes me too heavy to be a good climber even when I’m very skinny. But I absolutely love climbing certainly the longer climbs where I can ride tempo and be the ‘busdriver.’

My job at the team is mostly to be a helper/domestique. And if I get the chance to be in an early break, I can grab it.

What’s on your playlist when you’re warming up for a time trial?

Dance music, like Tomorrow Land kind of music.

Favorite place to ride in Europe?

I have never done it but I would love to do the Stelvio.

Any recommendation if I was to visit Belgium tomorrow:

Oudenaarde. Because that is really the center of cycling. That is the center of Tour Flanders. Right there.

Do you see any difference in the cycling culture between the US and its European counterpart?

The difference I could experience so far is indeed that in the US, people are very serious about their cycling. Training with coaches, schedules, powermeters, newest tech. All the racing on the road and even on the track. I was impressed! Even in every age group!

In Europe the amateurs ride their bikes in a less professional way. Power meters you can only find with the pro riders at the moment. What you do see over here is a rising trend in granfondo’s, triathlons etc. The real endurance stuff. People want to make it to the finish line but the result isn’t that important.

I’ve been told that you’re also a talented artist, a Renaissance woman type:

To say that I am an artist, is a bit over the top, I reckon. I wish I had more time to draw. I work with crayons because I like the texture it gives.

Describe your idea of a perfect holiday:

A lot of nature, adventure. I don’t really like resorts. I’m not a very touristy kind of girl.

Your spirit animal:

I was with the girl scouts and there they give you an animal name during your last year. I was a swallow. They say they’re artistic fliers or something.

What about a favorite meal?

Meatballs with tomato sauce, together with warm cherries, cherry sauce and mashed potatoes with no gravy.

First thing you would do on your first day as a captain of a pirate ship?

Just go to a very beautiful island.

What would you be your chosen superpower?

Fly.

How many golf balls can you fit in a school bus?

Is it a Belgian school bus? 10,582,361.

What is a coffee ride and what do you do when you’re on one?

I’m very good at coffee rides… It’s just riding a little bit and drinking coffee most of the time. We ride much slower than most of the tourists in a coffee ride. It goes really slow, it’s not doing serious stuff because we do that all the time. We look forward to doing coffee rides. It really is part of training and it’s just a day that you can really enjoy bike riding.

One embarrassing fact people don’t know about you: 

I basically fell over my first race bike with clipless pedals the first time I hopped on it. My dad was standing there and he brings up that story every time in every race or whatever- whoever he is talking with… Another thing also with pedals.  I was lost during our training camp. So we had to stop at a red light and I was all being cool… So I just grabbed a car who was also waiting at the red light, but they had green before me. I nearly fell while the whole team was there.

What would you like to see/improve in terms of women racing and cycling?

What I would like to see improved in cycling in general, is safety.

On the road and in the races. Do you know that team leaders and staff don’t even need a first aid certification to do their job? They are the first arriving at a crash during a race! To me this is just crazy. It’s not even mandatory to have a first aid kit in the team bus/car. We take so many risks during a race but if something goes wrong it could really go wrong.

The accident of Stig Broeckx is the perfect example. The ambulance following that day wasn’t even checked before the race. I think first aid courses should be followed by the staff of every single team and every year to be able to get a race license.

Women’s cycling could use more professionalism. That all starts with more TV-coverage or media attention. This way sponsors are more interested and budgets could rise. And wouldn’t it be great if it would be mandatory to have a women’s team next to every men’s team at the Pro Tour or World Tour level? They have huge budgets and could make it possible for every girl to get at least a minimal wage. Maybe I’m not thinking realistic but it’s not wrong to dream, right?

Anything else you would like to add about your job as a cyclist and as an ambassador at La Ridley our readers should know about?

Anything is possible. I’m proof that where there is will, there is a way.

Impeccably clean and laced Converse High Tops
Impeccably clean and laced Converse High Tops. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Sea Otter was a much needed breather

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

I thought hard about whether I should make a trip to Sea Otter this year.

No doubt last year’s inaugural e-bike race at one of America’s premier bike festivals was fun, but I could really use a day off, especially after what turned out to be an intense Saturday in Berkeley.

So I somewhat reluctantly made the drive down to Laguna Seca and in the end, I am glad I did.

As I walked toward the entrance, a friend I haven’t seen since InterBike came out of nowhere and we spent 10 minutes catching up as we treaded closer to the blue overpass. The conversation ranged from kids, life, and a bit of bikes.

Pretty spontaneous but it felt like family.

Once over the blue overpass, my initial plan of attack was to fly under the radar around the expo as long as I could. However, just like my previous conversation, my hopes of staying down low was all but evaporated within five minutes into the expo when I walked by the Boyd booth.

Old pal Richard was there showing them hoops with a couple of Factor O2s, industry chatters…

Want. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Somewhere along the way, test rides were offered but since I only had a day there, that just couldn’t happen. With more than 400 exhibitors, even quick drive-by booth visits quickly added up to a significant chunk of time as I jumped between the seemingly sprawling booths and race venues that littered within and outside the famed corkscrew race course.

As cheery racers went to claim their podiums from the day’s criterium and enduro races one after another, I slowly came to realize that Sea Otter is more than racing and new products.

Up and personal. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

It’s a family gathering of all disciplines where little rippers can share pump track tips with their older brother-in-arms of whom they’ve only seen in YouTube videos; Where aspiring cross-country racers in USA Talent ID jerseys rub shoulders with GT’s Anneke Beerten as Brett Tippie goofs around while filming his latest Just The Tip segment; And eBikes getting along with just about everyone, including them electric surfboards.

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

In it, I find myself a brief reprieve from the constant barrage of what’s happening around the world.  The feeling where you’re so thirsty and suddenly the GU booth just magically appears like a desert oasis on the horizon, along with all the food samples and drinks you can have.

And I am not even mad about falling into one of the many gopher holes, or, as one of my teammates joked, bomb holes that lined the dual slalom course.

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

With that in mind, perhaps I should treat next year’s Sea Otter as if I was coming home for Thanksgiving.

Until next year. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Cleaning the Steed gets friendlier with the Wash Buddy

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

I love washing bikes.

For me, there’s something to be said about getting your hands dirty only to get the bike looking new, all lubed up and ready to rock.

I would never win a timed bike washing contest but I really don’t mind taking my time scrubbing and tweaking, granted made more enjoyable with some wine and music thrown in. Maybe it’s my personal woosah from the never-ending daddy/husband duty, including the realization I washed my bikes far more often than I washed my car last year.

We can talk about this love for bike washing all day, but you’re not here for that. And honestly, I am not going to write it either since what I’m supposed to tell you about is this Team Issue Washer Buddy from Abbey Bike Tools.

Amongst the unsung heroes in my cleaning kit has been the Morgan Blue Chain Keeper that I reviewed a few years ago. In fact, I loved it so much I bought a second one for traveling and washing multiple bikes. It is a bargain for $7. But as much as it was stupidly affordable and extremely durable, it had its limits, namely the inabilty to shift the rear derailleur, and lately, its incompatibility with thru axles.

There are products from other brands made specifically for thru axles, but I wanted a chain keeper that could do it all.

It seems I’ve finally found the perfect buddy.

Designed by Jason Quade who bought us the ingenious Crombie tool, the Team Issue Wash Buddy is hands down one of the most well-made chain keeper I’ve ever had my hands on. So good it should be on everyone’s holiday stuffers list this year.

At its core is a pulley made with DuPont Delrin for low friction and chemical resistance to solvents. Coupled with the stainless steel spindle where the pulley spins on, the Wash Buddy is made to last. And instead of a set stationary location where the pulley stays during use, the Pulley on the Wash Buddy is designed to glide along the spindle to allow shifting of the rear derailleur.

Plenty of room for the delrin pulley to move as you shift. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

On my 11-speed bike, I was able to shift to all but the 2 smallest cogs without the chain popping out of the pulley’s deep channels. It’s a small but welcoming design detail I found to be super helpful whenever I need to rid the gunk trapped between the derailleur body.

To top it off, Abbey uses a gorgeous custom skewer from Chico’s Paul Component for its quick release. It’s the same proven design off Paul’s wheel/seatpost skewer, and the lever action has stayed buttery smooth even after repetitive pressure washer treatment.

Smooth curves and small details. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

So what about bikes with thru-axles? Well, the easiest way, as Quade personally showed yours truly at Sea Otter, is to insert only the pulley onto your bike’s axle. While it is entirely possible to use the entire Wash Buddy with the included Paul Skewer by unscrewing and reconnecting the quick release as I did on my very first try, I wouldn’t recommend doing just that though since the whole installation felt rather awkward.

The Team Issue Wash Buddy retails for $75 with the Paul skewer. But Abbey will also sell you just the pulley for $15 should you wash your bike so much you manage to FUBAR yours, or are already all-in with 142×12 thru-axles.

All scuffed after repeated washings but everything still works as new. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Is going in circles really going to work?

Counting the seconds as I barreled toward the 42-and-a-half degree banking of Manchester’s HSBC UK National Cycling Centre velodrome for the first time, I couldn’t quite banish the instinct that I was about to end my honeymoon with a busted face.

Manchester was the latest stopover in our freewheeling post-wedding circumnavigation of Scotland and northern England, a loosely planned route that proved highly susceptible to the suggestions of fellow pub-goers. Following the vague endorsement of “it’s a cool city,” we wound up penciling in two days on the itinerary, relying on our good record of finding our own fun.

Perhaps the single existing bit of intelligence we had on Manchester was the velodrome, a facility I had read about for years in the scene-setting of various bits of cycling news. We committed to having a look, hopping the light rail for an easy trip out to the track where riders like Chris Hoy got their kicks in.

This was nothing like the beloved concrete Hellyer Velodrome in my hometown of San Jose, California. The massive indoor track seemed something reserved for professionals, something we could never hope to experience. But I remembered from San Jose that Hellyer regularly rented bikes for beginner sessions at the track, and it wasn’t long before a couple of dirty backpackers in T-shirts wound up on the roster for a one-hour afternoon session at Manchester.

The banking loomed huge as I hit it as fast as I could, as a not-so-insignificant part of my inner voice continued to scream, “Is this really going to work!?”. Yet I felt the curve scoop me up as it had the dozens of riders I’d watched that day and dump me out on the next straightaway with smooth and seamless speed. The sensation of building altitude around a turn and accelerating on the descent was incredible.

After adjusting to the surprising scale of the whole experience, we wished we had more time. We hadn’t even gotten into the racing. It was sheer joy, and one of the most memorable parts of the trip.

Velodromes all over the world offer these sorts of sessions, and in this case, it was cheap. Around $25 U.S. got each of us a bike, shoes and helmet – the worst part of the process was the minor annoyance of setting up a user account for the facility.

We were lucky to sneak in for the session, but I’d recommend calling a few days in advance for advice on how to properly set up an account. It was a hoot, and a nice way to work off some of that ale.