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.


Grinduro: I came for the ride and stayed for the hike

The greatest of all bicycle debates rages on in the Gold Country of California.

If you love an endless back-and-forth over tire size, gear ratios or everything tire-pressure, then next year you have to make the pilgrimage to the western edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and to the event known as Grinduro.

For it’s there where the most faithful followers of all things gravel, mountain, adventure, and dirt come to debate the pros and cons of everything from tubeless tires to shaved legs and beard care products. This is deep in the weeds nerdiness. Peak bike-geek. And I love it, for these are my people.

Perhaps part of the reason that everyone here is so enthusiastic is because this is not an easy event to get to. First of all, there’s the fact that it sells out quicker than local legend Carl Decker descends single-track (and that is truly fast). Secondly, you have to make the trek to Plumas County to the town of Quincy, which is at least five hours from everywhere. And finally, you have to come prepared to be prepared. There are some facilities – a few food trucks and some delicious Verve Coffee, but all things bicycle, sleep and living comforts are pretty much left up to you.

So it was with much glee, and a tiny bit of apprehension, that we loaded every piece of camping gear, bike stuff and personal hygiene paraphernalia into the team car and headed north-ish/east-ish into the Sierra Nevadas, on a steep learning curve towards an unforgettable experience.

We played it pretty mellow Friday night, rolling into town, unpacking the sled, swapping out some pedals, airing up some tires and setting up our abodes for the weekend ahead.

For my own comfort, I’d gotten hold of a Mountain Hardwear Shifter 4 tent. And, like a true outdoorsman, I declined to read the instructions or erect it during daylight hours. With the darkness fast approaching, I grew a little concerned … until I realise that the Shifter 4 only uses two poles and clips, practically building itself. Yet again, I was saved from my own stupidity by someone else’s hard work and ingenuity, and my buddy didn’t have to freeze to death on account of me. Although it might have been better to have four in the tent for the crisp nights ahead, we found the tent to be smartly designed and the vestibule to be plenty vast for what one could only call over-packed packing.

On that point, I have to give a big, warm round of applause to the Osprey Transporter. This thing is amazing, part duffel bag, part backpack, it’s designed so well that it kept me at least partially organized throughout the whole affair.

Chilly doesn’t really begin to describe how cold it was the two nights we spent sleeping in our frost-covered tent. And to make it worse, I unselfishly loaned my North Face Blue Kazoo sleeping bag to my tent-mate – having thought that it was so lovely during the day it was going to be a balmy fall evening. So giving the extra long bag to my tall, fast friend seemed like a no brainer. If only his effusive thanks for getting him toasty were enough to warm my bitterly cold toes.

After the first questionable night’s sleep, we rose at the ass-crack of dawn to join almost 900 other riders at the start line. Staring down the barrel of a course covering a little under 8000 feet of vertical in just over 60 miles, this is the point that normally leaves me like a nervous wreck, the jockeying-for-position and the testosterone-fueled, sick-to-your-stomach electricity.

But as the countdown began, it was obvious that Grinduro is a little different. What would normally be a living hell for me was actually a surprisingly relaxed and enjoyable moment. This is because the format is completely different from any other bicycle event on the planet. Instead of timing you from the gun, the Grinduro geniuses have set up four timed sections, leaving the rest of the course to be ridden at whatever pace you desire. They claim this stops the event from being a sufferfest, but I can attest for just about everyone on the course, suffering ensues even if you are not interested in “winning.”

The first timed section is an uphill dirt climb, followed by a downhill fire-road ripper, a paved time trial and finally a glorious stretch of ripping fast single track. And that’s where all the discussion, debate and nail biting about bicycle selection, tire pressure and gear inches come into play.

The perfect bike for this event is what, exactly? A road bike would have come in handy for the pavement. I could only dream how fun the single track section would have been on a dialed, big hit dual suspension mountain bike. And with all the dirt climbing in-between, you realize pretty quickly how horrible both of these ideas are for a day in the woods.

So what bike did the Grinduro masses choose for this adventure? They apparently didn’t call each other, because I don’t believe I saw two bikes with the exact same setup. There were cyclocross bikes and single speeds and hardtail mountain bikes and all manner of custom made goodness. I spotted Rock Lobsters and Sycips and Breadwinners and Calfees and a VYNL. Tire choice was almost as varied as the whip selection, with gum walls and fatties and slicks and semi-slicks were spread out across the mountain.

Which brings us to our next lesson. Never, and I repeat never, borrow a bicycle from a “friend” the night before attempting to “ride” an event like Grinduro. Or any event for that matter. As it turns out, that said friend is both fitter and less mechanically inclined than I (which is astonishing, btw).

I realized about 10 minutes into the first climb I was geared for a ride across Kansas and not the hills of California. As if this were not enough, I came to learn part way up the (epic) second climb of the day not only was my front disc rubbing like a teenage boy at the Homecoming Dance, but my drive-side crank arm was trying to exit stage right.

The thing is, if I ever do the Grinder again, I would be happy to do it on the exact same bike. The Cannondale Slate is part road bike, part hardtail mountain bike and part gravel gobbler. Only next time I would probably make sure it is looked over by a “proper” mechanic before throwing a leg over it myself.

The only thing which kept me moving forward was the realization everyone else was suffering on the hike, yes hike, up the second climb and no one, and I mean no one was complaining. As a matter of fact everyone I met was shockingly pleasant. Even on the timed sections everyone was cordial, communicative and encouraging. As it was pointed out to me by one of my riding companions, this is what it was like in the early days of mountain biking. Everyone enjoying themselves, encouraging those around them and generally making a grueling experience as pleasant as possible. It turns out racing bicycles is fun.

After rolling back into town we showered, drank Untapped maple cocktails, ate tri-tip chili, watched the awards ceremony, hung out with some locals looking for free booze and crashed hard in our tent where we still froze, but cared a little less. In the morning, we crammed all our crap into the back of the car and bolted for home, in the hopes we would soon forget the pain in our knees, backs and quads and remember, with fondness, our time grinding out the duro.

Only time will tell.

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Bice Bicycles – Sexy Steel From Someone Real

I met Bice Bicycles’ founder (and only employee) Dario Colombo a few years back, on a bike-packing trip from Venice to Turin. He showed up with a big smile and an old Pedersen, a peculiar Scandinavian rig with a cantilevered frame and a hammock-style saddle, complete with a set of modern pannier bags. It made a good first impression.

As we rode along the banks of the Po river, he talked enthusiastically about his business building steel frames, getting away from the homogeneity of the modern bike market by making products that would last and that could be tailored to each rider’s ability and needs. This also made a positive impression. When we got home, I promised, we’d talk some more. So this chat is long overdue.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Like a dating profile? My name’s Dario, I’m a nice guy, handsome, hard-working, a generous lover [laughing] … Before becoming a frame-builder, I worked as an electronic engineer for Siemens, and as an environmental engineer, working on the development of cycling in the city of Milan. I also worked at a biomechanics lab specialising in sports, and as a teacher on sustainability and smart cities, when I opened four cycling workshops around Milan to help young people repair their own bikes, have some fun, and maybe discover a future career.

Aside from the work, I suppose people would call me a Xennial, I’m still young, but old enough to remember rewinding my cassette tapes with a pen. I’ll happily drink beer but I prefer wine, in my part of Italy we say “La birra fa pisciar, il vino fa cantar,” – Beer makes you piss and wine makes you sing. I prefer mountain climbing to sunbathing and beaches, and I love music and cycling, obviously. If you made me choose between a concert and a bike, I’d tell you that I was riding to the gig. I actually did it last year when Dub FX played in Sestri Levante, on the Ligurian coast, I think it was more than 2,000 metres of climbing over about 220 kilometres.

When did you get into bikes?

Let’s say that before 2007, I wasn’t a cyclist. I went for a ride every so often, but nothing special. That June I went on a cycling trip to Provence with eight people and it changed my way of seeing the bicycle. From then on I started to bike-pack and to use it constantly for commuting and fun. I never had any grand delusions – if you saw my Strava you’d know what I mean – and I’ve always just seen the bike as something to have fun with and as a means of transport. I’m a committed singlespeeder, but at the same time, I don’t dislike innovations like e-bikes, especially not when you’re talking about something like a cargobike.

Why did you start making frames?

It was a gradual thing. Aside from my professional experiences, it began as an experiment, I just wanted to be a part of the bike world. My previous jobs were all positive experiences, but none of them really felt right for me. And I’ve always enjoyed creating things from scratch – but never to assemble them – and I liked bikes. It seemed like an obvious fit.

I started out modifying an old Leri frame, turning it from road to pursuit, changing the geometry and the rear end. The funny thing was that, even if it was a game to me then, before beginning that frame, I built a rig that I continued to use for three years. That first one was finished on Christmas eve, 2011, it was snowing and as is the tradition around my home town, there was a guy dressed as Santa doing the rounds, handing out presents. Meanwhile, I was flying around on my homemade track bike, it was such a weird beginning that I felt like it could only be a good omen!

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What was the hardest thing about starting out?

Learning everything from scratch, self-taught, and above all, learning from my (many) mistakes, without letting them discourage me. In Italy, old frame-builders don’t have the money or the time to invest in young people, to pass on their skills and knowledge – even though a lot of them want to. So I wasn’t able to learn as a proper apprentice, and I could only get the knowledge by asking questions, listening, and watching. I came home several times after a day spent by with a frame-builder, only to completely change the whole workshop and machinery – as well as my mental modus operandi.

Another big difficulty is knowing the value of a firm “NO”. Involving the customer in the building process is an great experience for both parties, but it needs well-defined limitations if I’m to enjoy my work and they’re to get the best possible end product. But it’s a work in progress – I’m always learning!

Have you changed a lot?

So much. Every encounter with a frame-builder corresponded to a lesson in technique and in life. How to point a chassis, what type of welding alloys to use, how to TIG weld, how to set up the workshop to optimise my space, how to approach customers.

Not to mention the type of frames: at the beginning I didn’t even have a real price list, but now I’ve got a series of models that I’ve developed based on my experiences. I started with 29er frames and then moved on to touring, CX and most recently to the gravel and bike-packing scenes. Roughly, that corresponds to my personal cycling life.

One thing hasn’t changed: my desire to adapt and improve. Experimenting with new techniques and new tubing, for example, is an everyday thing for me, but it has nothing to do with market demand or programmed obsolescence. It just reflects my desire to keep moving and getting better.

Who buys a Bice?

The average customer is somewhere between 30 and 45, they generally have a lot of cycling experience, and are fed up with the modern “disposable” world. They don’t mind waiting four months for a truly custom frame. What’s the difference between that and one off the shelf? Well, you know who made it. You know it’s real.

Cycling has changed so much in recent years. Where do you see it going from here?

The modern bike industry is a child of our times: there is such a huge supply of products and a lot of the history, emotions, and memories, are being annihilated by increasingly heavy marketing campaigns. A year or two on from the presentation of a new model and it’s already “old.” Just one financial mistake, a speculative move made on the other side of the world, and a historic brand disappears. But I think a lot of people want to distance themselves from all that. I certainly do.

bicebicycles.com


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.

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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.

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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

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