An Afternoon At The Big Red S

I love visiting bike companies not just because it is incredibly cool to see how a part or a frame is made at a one man shop or a multinational corporation but because there’s always a ton of interesting tidbits I discover that speaks volumes about the brand.

Specialized headquarters
A Specialized Lefty?!

Located a stone’s throw away from Silicon Valley, Specialized is perhaps the biggest bike manufacturer that I’ve photographed. It also happens to be one of the most photogenic with plenty of easter egg moments.

Perhaps it was influenced by the Valley, but Specialized felt more like a tech company that makes bikes than a bicycle company.

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Specialized’s own wind tunnel, officially named the Win Tunnel.

No, the Specialized headquarters don’t have a funky disorganized startup vibe straight out of HBO’s Silicon Valley. Nor does it have a flashy $303 million, Frank Gehry-designed building like Facebook. What Specialized does have though is a mixture of genuine fun and seriousness which was evident from things like their massive employee bike lounge and their state of the art R&D lab.

specialized headquarters
Headtube fatigue testing

Fun like a bicycle company, laser serious like 1 Infinite Loop. Here’s a bit of what I saw during our epic three hour tour.

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We started the tour at the museum which showcased the company's storied history.

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Founder and Chairman Mike Sinyard talks in front of a replica of his old office. And that's Ned Overend listening in.

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Sinyard wasn't happy with the bottles he imported from Europe, so he decided to make his own. Here's a bottle mold.

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Specialized went to great lengths to replicate Sinyard's original office with the inclusion of plenty of these vintage cogs.

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Sorry Fabrian, I blew out your yellow frame a bit.

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1990/92 Specialized/DuPont tri-spoke developed with the aid of the cray supercomputer. Still plenty fast today.

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The original bolted-on Horst Link prototype

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The 2019 Stumpjumper.

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Massive employee lounge/bike parking area

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Various paint samples seen at the Industrial Design Center.

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Plenty of natural light. Look at all those beautifully painted frames.

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Anyone need a quick shot?

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3D printed life-size models of the new Stumpjumper.

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Design process on the finishes.

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An old pair of Specialized shoes just chilling.

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Back in the bike parking area was a bike covered with eyeballs.

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Bike parking right next to the vending machine.

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Not far from the Industrial Design Center is the new R&D lab with various exotic investments such as this CT Scanner capable of spotting imperfections within each layer of carbon fiber. Here's a screen of it scanning the SWAT door on the new Stumpjumper downtube stuffed with oreos.

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And then there's this massive DMG Mori DMU 85 5-axis milling machine.

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A part being made inside the DMG Mori DMU 85. The massive milling machine allows Specialized to dramatically cut down time needed to prototype items from linkages to items as big as a full size frame.

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Clean.

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Working on a Marvel 8 Mark III vertical tilt-frame band saw.

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When there's a machine stop there are machine shavings to be photographed.

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There's also a full-blown weld shop.

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Some 400 pieces of carbon layups are used to fabricate a single front triangle on the Stumpjumper.

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Rolling carbon layers onto a tube mold.

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Brenton telling us how parts are made at the carbon fiber lab for in-house rapid prototyping.

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Another franken bike.

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Right around the corner from the machine shop is the test lab where Specialized can quickly test, validate and improve a product. Again, speedy turnaround is key here where the combination of the R&D lab, the carbon fiber and the test lab enables Specialized to go from concept to product validation with minimal downtime.

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Fatigue testing.

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A shoe last

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A specially-made chain stay protector not only protects the frame from chain slap but also significantly dampens the noise.

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A BMX with an epically long seatpost

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Steel fork for stress testing.

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A bunch of secret products chilling behind the red curtain.

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Pump track for the employees.

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Moving on to the suspension lab, here's a Bent fork stanchion.

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Each shock and fork is meticulously tuned for every frame size by the RX suspension team to ensure optimal performance across the board from entry level models to the flagship S-Works.

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Welcome to the Specialized wind tunnel, also commonly known as the Win Tunnel.

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By building their own wind tunnel, Specialized is able to rapidly test their ideas freely without going through the hassle of a third party. This unique low speed tunnel has also been used to test other products such as Under Armour's speedsuit for speedskating as well as drones.

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No, the Stumpjumper didn't spend time in the wind tunnel. But imagine the possibilities!

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You can autograph here if you're one of the select athletes who spent time at the Win Tunnel.

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Mike Sinyard

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Thanks for the tour, Specialized!


The Eagle Has Landed

When I was told a few weeks ago that Goodyear was making a comeback into the bicycle tire business, I had to look up what they meant by “comeback”.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know that Goodyear wasn’t in the bicycle business. With companies like Continental, Michelin and Maxxis knee deep into bike tires, you’d think Goodyear, the third largest tire manufacturer in the world, would be in the game in some shape or form.

Well, they were. As a matter of fact, the Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear produced bicycle tires from the company’s founding in 1898 up until 1976.

So unlike Michael Jordan’s one year “retirement” from the NBA, or Johnny Manziel and Dave Chappelle, it’s been 42 years. But guess who’s back, back again? Goodyear is back. Tell a friend. Thank you Eminem for that sweet quote.

While Goodyear’s new lineup consists of nine tires, I am just going to focus on the road-going Eagle.

Goodyear Eagle All-Season Tubeless

That’s right, the sole road tire in Goodyear’s lineup shares the same name as the company’s better known racing rubbers both previously seen in Formula One and currently seen in NASCAR… and most likely as OEM tires in some cars. In fact, Goodyear even used the same font to label “Eagle” on the sidewall. Okay, I get it. The Eagle has a deep, high-performance heritage.

And Goodyear was kind enough to send us a pair in 25c to play with before the launch.

Our test samples weigh 310 and 311 grams, just a tad over the claimed 300 grams for the 25C tire. Installation was pretty straight forward. I was told the Eagle is mountable with just a floor pump. I managed to get one of the two tires inflated with no sealant while the second tire needed just a tiny bit of sealant and compressed air from my Bontrager TLR Flash Charger. There wasn’t any overnight leakage, either. I did, however, injected some sealant into that one dry tire for extra insurance before my first outing.

Goodyear Eagle All-Season Tubeless

My first ride using the tires was a 70-mile stroll following the weekend’s atmospheric river that caused some minor flooding, downed trees, and well, unpredictable road conditions that left me yearning for those disc brakes on the Focus Paralane I just sent back and I almost went to IKEA instead of riding. Not your ideal day to try out tires for the first time, or was it?

Goodyear Eagle All-Season Tubeless

So off I went. Rolling down this 10% hill right outside of my house. The Eagle felt supple, dare I say even better than the Zipp Tangente RT25 I just came off of, or the stable Schwalbe Pro One 25s. Goodyear ostensibly didn’t include much info such as the tpi of the casing used, but did mentioned the inclusion of a Nylon-based fabric from bead to bead called R:Armor to combat against cuts on punctures.

Interestingly enough, the Eagle didn’t balloon as much as the other two tires, measuring at 25.55 and 26.17mm on our Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR D3 rim-braked wheels. It’s definitely a welcoming tidbit if you don’t have a lot of tire clearance.

Not long after I navigated out across the slippery Golden Gate Bridge, I ran across this broken Jameson bottle in Sausalito. Last time I rode on wet road with glass, the glass won so I was waiting to hear the tell-tale hiss. Nope. Nothing. The show went on.

The more miles I rode on the Eagle, the more I trusted its capability. The proprietary silca-based Dynamic:Silica4 compound designed with a smooth center for low rolling resistance felt lively and comfortable at 90psi.

Goodyear Eagle All-Season Tubeless

And that “best in class wet grip” Goodyear claims to have is pretty darn good too. The Eagle handled water graciously with its directional sipes on the edges and grooves to channel water from the center. I’d like to see the comparison chart, though.

It’s still too early to comment on the long-term durability of the Eagle but it’s looking pretty promising so far. So stay tuned for our long-term report. The Eagle retails for $70 in four widths: 25, 28, 30, and 32. The 30mm and 32mm will also come with a second version that includes reflective strip all the way around the tire.

www.goodyearbike.com


One Pair Of Bike Glasses To Rule Them All?

I hate getting ready to ride my bike, be it for a Saturday spin or as my commute to work. Where’s my flat kit? Are my water bottles clean? Do I need a rain jacket? And on it goes. Getting out the door takes 20 minutes, if I’m lucky.

I’m telling you all this because one part of my riding prep just got a lot easier thanks to the Julbo Renegade glasses. Instead of finding my roadie bike dork glasses for the weekend ride, then switching back to my non-dork glasses for the commute, or for lunch, I just wear the Renegades everywhere.

They’re amazing on the bike thanks to an ultra-lightweight build, great eye coverage, big rubber grippers on temple and nose, and photochromic lenses that change with the light. I live in the desert of the Southwest where you’ll die without sunnies and the Renegades get just dark enough to take the edge off, then lighten quickly enough to ensure I don’t go rubber-side up from hitting a piece of trash sitting in the shadows of an underpass.

And while the the colored lenses on my pair do scream bike dork just a little, the square frame design is muted enough that I don’t get second looks if I wear them with jeans and a button down shirt.

At $190 they’re a big investment, but totally in line with other cycling glasses and actually a money saver if you, like me, were using two pairs to start.


Focus Paralane: The Two-Wheeled Station Wagon

Focus Paralane eTap

The Paint. That’s right, the paint. It was the paint job on this steed that first caught my attention.

Sure, this is a terrible and vain thing to say, but the paint on this Focus Paralane was truly eye catching at the InterBike media preview night last fall (more on the paint later).

If you’ve never been to one of these preview nights, let me tell you, what gets shown is usually anyone’s guess. You see a whole lot of e-bikes, questionable contraptions, and a tiny bit of sensible stuff.

So there I was hopping between booths and the Paralane was literally chilling next to the Focus booth. The booth guys were pushing a really nice e-bike, but I couldn’t help but be curious about this brightly-colored endurance steed.

To be honest, endurance bikes, much like the American crossovers monstrosity (RIP station wagons), have never really enticed me. I am comfortable on my professionally-fitted road bike, I don’t intend to give that up anytime soon, and I love my station wagon.

Alas, a lot has changed since the introduction of the endurance bike segment and bicycles that fall within this growing category are pretty darn good these days. Standouts such as the Specialized Roubaix, Cannondale Synapse, and Trek Domane are just as fast, if not faster, than their pure-bred racing brethren in such that the line between a road bike and an endurance bike is so blurred, so difficult to ignore, just like the sentiment I got when I was shopping for a SUV recently and inevitably ended up looking at a bunch of crossovers. That’s not counting gravel bikes, either.

Focus Paralane eTap

So I put in a request to review the bike. Then things got busy and I completely forgot about it. So imagine the surprise when the Paralane unexpectedly showed up one morning in early December. Maybe it was a bit of #newbikeday hype or maybe because, unlike Roubaix or the Domanae, I just didn’t know much about this bike.

It has been almost four months since I’ve swung my legs over the Paralane, and even though I love it so much, it was not without its quirks, or shall I say, quirky personality.

The Paralane that Focus sent over came with all the bells and whistles one would expect for $7,999. A lightweight disc-only carbon fiber frame with shaped Comfort Improving Areas (C.I.A), a stiff BB86 bottom bracket for power, 142×12 and 100×10 thru-axles coupled with Focus’ proprietary Rapid Axle Technology (R.A.T) to secure the wheels, with integrated internal cable routings.

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Flatten chainstays to absorb vertical bumps.

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Sculpted carbon forks for ride comfort.

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Room for up to 35c tires.

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Focus' own Rapid Axle Technology (R.A.T) to enable faster wheel change.

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A quarter turn is all that's needed to secure the wheels

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The stock Prologo Scratch saddle was comfortable but also heavy

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Zipp Course 30 wheels with 28mm Continental Grand Prix 4 season rubbers

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A clean cockpit with minimal wirings.

Our bike was kitted with a full SRAM RED eTap HRD compact group set, an Easton EC90 Aero handlebar, a Prologo Scratch saddle mounted and a unique-looking 25.4mm BBB CPX Plus carbon seatpost that’s not to be confused with LaVar’s BBB brand.

Focus Paralane eTap

The only item that was not factory spec was the aluminum Zipp 30 Course Clincher (with factory spec 28mm Continental GP 4 Seasons). The bike will come with the Zipp 302 carbon clinchers and for comparison purposes, we spent half of our testing period on our benchmark Stan’s Avion Pro hoops with 25mm Schwalbe Pro One tubeless tires. As an added bonus, the Paralane also ships with removal mudguards.

Focus Paralane

One thing that immediately made an impression was the taller headtube along with its generous, relaxed geometry. Much to my lower back’s delight, I get to sit a bit more upright at the expense of losing a few watts for not being aerodynamic, but that’s not what this bike is designed for anyway.

According to Focus, the Paralane was intended for “leisure cyclists who like to spend longer in the saddle and don’t mind unsurfaced roads.” Well, that couldn’t be more true given its generous 50/34 compact crankset and 11-32 cassette. Yet the Paralane is so much more than a leisure machine that labeling it as such almost feels like I am sandbagging. The Paralane is one flippin’ fast steed that you can totally race with.

On the less than perfect NorCal roads, the Paralane is smooth, responsive, and stable at high-speeds. Those Comfort Improving Areas, a.k.a shaped stays, worked as advertised to soak up all the shitty road buzz without the need of any suspension elements. The bike has handling that’s direct and firm like an expertly tuned car worthy of the autobahn. Coupled with the powerful SRAM hydraulic disc brakes, the bike accelerates as well as it can stop on a dime.

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It’s pretty cramped back there.

I found that the more I cranked up the distance, the more efficient of a bike it was. My body didn’t scream at me (as much) at the end of those 100+ mile rides. Those 28mm Continental GP 4 Season weren’t only long lasting but also grippy in all-weather, performing admirably when I took them off the asphalt for some light gravel rides. SRAM’s eTap has also grown on me tremendously with its car-like paddle shifters as well. I really like its crisp, mistake-free touch and the ergonomics finally feel right.

Focus Paralane eTap

I do wish there was more bar tape than just on the drops though, as the bare wing top, while gorgeous to look at, was slippery to behold. It’s a comfortable and stiff handlebar one would expect from Easton, but I would argue that an endurance bike like this one can be benefitted with more secure and padded hand positions, especially if unsurfaced roads are frequently visited.

Focus Paralane eTap

Coming in at 16.9 lbs with the shipped wheels and 16.19 lbs with Stan’s Avion Pro/ 25c Schwalbe Pro One tubeless, with Shimano Ultegra pedals installed on both setups, the Paralane can obviously be lightened up a notch given Focus claims a painted 54cm frame weighs 907 grams minus the R.A.T thru axle. I truly believe doing so will further unlock the bike’s potential. Regardless of its weight, though, the Paralane has quickly become my favorite go-to bike to log those early season miles regardless of weather. The longer the ride, the more this bike’s personality shines. With the bike’s decidedly worry-free parts and the BB86 bottom bracket that didn’t creak once during the four month test period, my personal SuperSix Evo was starting to feel left out.

And that eyecatching, colorful paint job matches nicely with just about all of my questionably, colorful kit choices.

www.focus-bikes.com


Velocio: An Understated Alternative To The Big Brands

Velocio ES Jacket

The first time I saw Velocio kit in the flesh, it was on Ted King. As clothes hangers go, a pro cyclist could make almost any old rags look good, but his outfit stood out on its own merits. The colours were subtle. There were no funky, clashing technical panels. And you had to squint to read the branding. To me, that’s the holy trinity of bike kit fashion.

When I got my hands on an ES Jacket and some thermal bibs – my own, not Ted’s – it stood out again. Clean lines, a great fit, and subtle reflective touches to offset what is otherwise pure black. The jacket is light, making me doubtful of the claims that it would work with just a base layer down towards freezing. I was wrong.

The “spring” mornings around here have been frosty and I haven’t once felt a chill. It also stands up well to strong winds and rain showers. Really well. So well, I’m smug about it riding past shivering cyclists. I’m not sure how much use I’ll get from the two-way zip, but it’s a nice feature that might as well be there as not, and I’m sure someone will love it for their own reasons.

I’ll bet on the bibshorts being comfortable no matter what you throw at them, even though rides so far have been short – anything more than a couple of hours when it’s 4º or 5º celsius isn’t my thing. The pad is cushy and they’re well-made. The only critique I’d offer is that the raised lettering printed on the lower leg began to show signs of peeling after just one wash. Personally, I’m fine with taking it all off and having the shorts totally plain, but I’d imagine it might upset some people to buy a high-end pair of bibs only to have them looking less than pristine almost immediately.

They are thermal and I’ve been pairing them with leg warmers, but unless you’re riding in real summer heat they’re not so thick that they’d turn you into a sweaty mess. Here in northern Europe, I think they’ll be usable all year on all but the hottest days. The pad is worth another mention, too, because it comes up higher in the front, providing some modesty insurance to anyone who’s ever worried about showing the coffee shop a little too much. The non-riding half of my household thinks this is a major plus.

I have a wardrobe full of every kind of bike kit, from eye-wateringly tacky event jerseys and some gear from my old club that’s so eurotrash it would make Mario Cipollini blush, to the latest and greatest from the all the big brands. And it’s all good. But the thing is, I stick to the staples. Choice cuts from Giordana, Sportful, and Castelli. Everything else comes and goes, but I always revert back to the most reliable rotation. This Velocio kit is now part of that list.

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Essential Adventure Gear For Spring

In just a blink of an eye, we are already two months into 2018. The Super Bowl has come and gone, Cross Worlds is over and done with and the Coast Ride is already a distant memory. How has your riding been so far?

I know it’s still technically considered “deep winter” for the better part of the country and that it wouldn’t be right to break out the short sleeves just yet. But spring is coming, and here are a few pieces of gear that I’m looking forward to rocking this year.

Time ATAC XC 6 Pedals $150

Time has been making their ATAC (Auto Tension Adjust Concept) pedals for as long as I can remember. I still have my very first pair after 15 years of abuse racing mountain bikes, cyclocross, or running late to meet up friends at coffee shops across town. I love them for their ease of entry and the fact that mud has nothing on them so I can always stay clipped in. The ATAC’s generous 6mm lateral and +/- 5º float are easy on my sensitive knees. Like all pedals, there’s a familiarization time to get acquainted with them but they are now second nature and for me they really are the ultimate set ’em and forget ’em pedals. Their low-profile cleats are reversible to provide either a 13º or 17º of release angle to your own liking, as well. The made in France ATAC XC6 is right in the middle of the ATAC lineup which is essentially the happy medium between price ($150) and weight (293 grams).


Silca Seat Roll Premio

Silca Seat Roll Premio $48

When I was at an industry ride last year, I was told saddlebags are lame. Well, I don’t care. I like my saddlebag and I prefer to have a second water bottle. My Jandd was finally showing its age so I replaced it with a Silca Seat Roll Premio. I love the durable waxed canvas material and three-pocket design allowing me to separate my tubes, mini tool and CO2 cartridge, so I don’t have to resort to a sad ziplock baggie or worry about tools rubbing on the tube. It’s also waterproof and the quilted reflective thread is a nice touch. My favorite part about the $48 Premio, however, is the Boa enclosure system. I am not sure why no one put a Boa on a saddle bag sooner, but it’s such a brilliant move. The Boa allows for more adjustments than traditional hook-and-loops so I can really tighten it down onto the saddle rail. There’s also a button at the end of the enclosure for extra security. I can attest to its effectiveness after I forgot to close the Boa before going on a 45+ mph run down Olympic Parkway in Park City.


CamelBak Chute Vacuum Stainless Insulated Bottle
It’s been scratched, dented and abused for about a year but still zero leaks and works like a champ

CamelBak Chute Vacuum Stainless Insulated Bottle $38

I’ve been using this double-walled vacuum insulation bottle for a little over a year now and it officially my go-to bottle. Its 18/8 stainless steel construction has a few dents and dings from repeated trial-by-fire beating by myself, the wife and the kids combined, but it still works like it did on day one, in keeping beverages chilled or hot. The powder-coated finish has proven to be very durable too.

The 40 oz version is so ginormous I have yet to track down a cupholder big enough to hold it, but whatevs, I love this bottle. The angled, BPA-free spout cap is designed to be snapped into the handle and it’s quite a nice touch once you get used to it. If the 40 oz is just too big to stow your coffee, sake, whisky, or water, CamelBak also makes a smaller 20 oz version.


Lizard Skins DSP Bar tape

Lizard Skins DSP Bar Tape $42-46

Seriously, bar tape deserves more attention. Think about it. Those crucial few millimeters of padding between your hands and the handlebar make a world of difference. Your hands are either slipping off the bar or the tape is working so well you don’t even think about it. Forté Grip-Tec was my tape of choice for the last few seasons, but Lizard Skins has recently won my heart over with their DSP bar tape. The DSP tape comes in 3 different thicknesses: 1.8mm to shave off a few grams and have a better road feel, 2.5mm for a balance of cushion and grip, or 3.2mm if you’re looking for that maximum cush without the need for awkward gel pads. I personally run the 2.5mm on my road bike and 3.2mm on my cross/gravel machine. The DSP tape is available in a plethora of colors including solid, dual, and camo.


Proviz REFLECT360 CRS Plus Vest

Proviz REFLECT360 CRS Plus Vest $125

Commuting around San Francisco continues to be a pretty dicey affair, but the Proviz REFLECT360 CRS Plus vest, or gilets for all my European friends, will brighten things up for you and have you poppin’ when things turn dark. The Reflect 360 has a typical mesh cycling vest look but what makes it stand out are the millions of embedded glass beads that instantly reflect light. It’s so bright, in fact, it’s almost impossible to ignore this giant reflective blob. The tailor-cut fabric is waterproof and retains just enough warmth in combination with the micro-thermal fleece collar for those early morning rides to work.


Boyd Wingnut tubeless valves

Boyd Wingnut Tubeless Valves $14-25

Honestly Boyd‘s wingnut is just a tire valve with a wingnut-shaped nut instead of a typical round knurled nut but it’s such a ingenious move. I can now easily tighten AND loosen my tubeless valve without tools and without losing my mind. So simple, yet so effective. Get some. You’re welcome.


Wolf Tooth Stainless PowerTrac Elliptical chainring

Wolf Tooth Stainless PowerTrac Elliptical Chainring $99.95

My 29er needed a new chain ring last year so I thought I’d give an elliptical ring a shot. I was a skeptic of the benefit of oval rings because they sounded way too good to be true. My teammate told me he could feel the increased traction. Okay, you got me there. The one I ended up testing, a 32t from the Minneapolis-based Wolf Tooth Component, features a less ovalized shape and less aggressive timing for a more natural pedal stroke. It’s beautifully CNC machined out of 416 stainless steel where raw billets cost more and take longer to make than the conventional 7075 aluminum counterparts, but they are also said to be five to ten times longer lasting. Besides the material, the ring incorporates Wolf-Tooth’s own Drop-Stop narrow/wide tooth profile to prevent chain drops. It’s been running smoothly on a 1×10 drivetrain with a clutched Shimano XT rear derailleur for a few months now and the chainring feels natural and not awkward at all. While the ovality does become slightly apparent in lower cadences, it’s a forgone sensation after a couple of rides. It did seem to smooth out the torque a bit and I was able to get a bit more traction on the loose stuff. And I have yet to drop my chain.


Henty Enduro Backpack

Henty Enduro Backpack $110

Fanny packs are all the rage now. Though I like a good locally-made artisanal fanny pack, I miss the load-bearing aspect of a backpack. Luckily, Australia’s Henty Enduro backpack seems to have solved my dilemma. Despite its name moniker, it’s not really a backpack. It’s more like a lumbar pack sewn with a mesh backpack retention system. Henty designed the water reservoir to be placed horizontally instead of the traditional vertical orientation so not only does it keep the center of gravity low for better stability, but I can also reuse my pre-existing CamelBak reservoir.

Made with tough Cordura 500D nylon, the pack is also padded with molded foam for lumbar protection. It has military-inspired MOLLE webbing that gives me plenty of mounting points to evenly and neatly distribute my gear, plus enough pockets to keep my inner OCD satisfied.


Abl B19 Belt

Abl B19 Belt $39.95

I’ve never had a belt that stretches. I mean, don’t you think it’s counter-intuitive to have a stretchy belt? My curiosity got the best of me when I ran across the Abl B19, and I am glad I took a chance on it. The buckle is made with injection-molded carbon fiber with no moving parts and metals meaning you can breeze through airport/stadium screening without taking it off. The 38mm-wide natural elastic band has what Abl calls performance stretch – just the right amount of stretch to make it both extremely comfortable and keeping my pants from falling off at the worst possible moments. It’s so good that it has been my daily driver, save for those days where I need dress a little sharper.


Even From The Support Car, The Coast Ride Was Amazing

The idea of riding from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, on The Coast Ride, has been on my must-do list for quite some time, but sadly my radar just seems to always go into auto-forget mode after that first slice of Thanksgiving turkey. I would like to blame tryptophan but that wouldn’t be fair to the poor turkey.

It almost happened again this year until I was chatting with Jim about whether he was going to Cyclocross Nationals in Reno. “Not going because of the Coast Ride,” he said. I casually mentioned to him that I’ve always wanted to shoot the Coast Ride and he told me I could shoot it from the inGamba car. A very enticing offer indeed considering the logistics were all taken care of, and an assistant wouldn’t forever hate me for hiring them on for the sole purpose of driving really, really slow along the California coast.

But what about cyclocross nationals in Reno? I mean RENO! It’s so close I can almost make it a day trip. I could even shoot for a day and spend some time on the slopes with the family. But a supported Coast Ride, or embed as I would call it, was pretty hard to turn down, so I agreed. Perhaps the predicted warm SoCal weather played a part in the decison as well.

(Full Disclosure: E co-founder Jim works for inGamba and in such that they provided me with a spot in the team car to shoot from, a bed to sleep in, and fed me whenever it was time to eat in exchange for a few snappies.)

After the wife and kids dropped me off in Sausalito early Saturday morning, it was time to work. Since I was neither staff, nor a riding guest, and I didn’t know anyone other than recognizing a few from the social medias, I was largely on my own. But that was perfectly fine. I was able to shoot uninterrupted. Or as they say in journalism school, I was a fly on the wall.

Coast Ride 2018
Former world time trial champ and Ventoux winner Eros Poli doing a quick pre-ride briefing.

Support staff was already busy loading the cars and making last minute adjustments while riders were getting ready. We were off just as the first light of the day popped out of the sky. The team cars crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, reconnected with the riders, rolled past the Legion of Honor and off on our journey barreling along the coast with a few hundred other riders.

Coast Ride 2018
Rolling along Ocean Beach

Life in a support car can be a pretty mundane affair but there was never a dull moment this time as mechanicals, flats, and tired bodies appeared as soon as we strolled past Lake Merced. We saw riders that ran out of juice in their Di2 battery, a dude that flatted on a Lightweight tubular… with no spare, broken derailleur cables (PSA: replace them every season), and compromised tubeless tire sidewalls. Highway 1, as gorgeous and picturesque as it was, mercilessly consumed both riders and equipment, figuratively, of course. Don’t get me started on the amount of middle fingers we got along the route either. I stopped counting after 5 during the opening hours.

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Leaving the team hotel in Sausalito

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Manuel riding in the good light.

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Ralf picking up some warmers.

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Relaxing behind the team car.

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Lunch break.

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Somewhere between Santa Cruz and Monterey.

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Riding across one of many historic bridges along Big Sur.

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Mark taking a few snappies

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Climbing Loma Vista.

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Sweet socks, buddy.

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Ted on the rollers.

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The key is to stick together.

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We got chased by this cute dog near Lucia... and it kept running

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Special mid-ride snack

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Hugs before tackling Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.

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Raul and Katie descending towards the big climb.

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Fort Hunter Liggett is pretty damn sweet

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A couple of horses came by the RV to say hello in Lockwood.

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Loading up the bags for the final day into Santa Barbara

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Everyone's happy after Mark fixed his busted Di2.

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Andrew having a blast.

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Jim and Xico packing a guest's bike

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Almost done with the Coast Ride.

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Manuel chilling next to the team car.

Inasmuch as each Coast Ride participant had to go through their own version of sufferfest (we saw a guy on a singlespeed, true story), the view of the California coast and the camaraderie among riders made a huge difference turning the event from a shitty terrible idea to a fun one. Sure there were faces of people in pain, but there were also a ton of happy folks that seemed to be enjoying every bit of the ride, even on that monster 7 mile climb with 2,700 ft of climbing out of Big Sur on Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. High-fives, hugs, and encouragement floated around which made the miles all the better. Definitely a unique take on them there base miles.

Coast Ride 2018
Salt residues on Tony after his 159-mile epic.

For the inGamba crew, though, a lot of these concerns were taken care of. Two team cars, a van and an RV staffed with pro mechanics. Cold in the morning? Here’s an inflated latex glove to stuff under your jersey for warmth. Need a wheel change? Need to shed your warmers or need to stop? The team car was there. In fact, the team car was everywhere for the three day, 400+ mile journey.

Coast Ride 2018
Inflated latex glove to keep you warm.

Then, there was the world-class guides of Eros Poli, Manuel Cardoso, Raul Matias, and Ted King who seemed to ride on the front for hours, take a few photos with their phones, drop back to the team car, and then go right back to the front for more.

Coast Ride 2018
Manual and Raul in cruise mode.

The pro team treatment didn’t stop there though: Lunch and post-ride meals were ready to go at the RV. Recovery massages and suitcases were already awaiting inside each hotel room everyday. Bikes were also washed and checked daily.

Coast Ride 2018
Road side assistance

One memorable moments was when one of the guests missed the turn for the Nacimiento climb so the team car promptly turned around to fetch him back to the RV full of semi-worried, tired, but cheerful riders. On day three, the Di2 battery on one of the guest’s personal bike battery went out and instead of getting stranded in the middle of nowhere between Morro Bay and Santa Barbara, the team cars pulled up and gave him a spare bike – measured, adjusted and installed with the guest’s own pedals, saddle and a computer mount – all done from the side of a road. See, they really mean it when they say they want you to focus on riding your bike and nothing else.

Ted King Coast Ride Day 3
Ted, being Ted.

After three days of soaking up the inGamba x Coast Ride experience behind a camera from inside the team car, I most certainly would go with inGamba if I were to do the Coast Ride. Sounds like a paid statement, but no, I just want to ride and enjoy the view.

Coast Ride 2018
See ya again next year.

Go Bag Essentials For The Gnar

I live in earthquake country and sadly I am more prepared to run out the door for a chance at some hero dirt than I am for a big shaker. But then again, maybe it just means I have my priorities straight. Because statistically I feel like I am more likely to get invited to a knobby tire adventure, than I am to be around for the “big one.” This might be foolish thinking and in the end I might regret my decisions, but it is much more fun shopping for new knobbies, than shopping for bottled water and C-rations.

Oddly, I have given this a lot of thought. Since I mostly travel with my road bike I am always trying to find some way to get in a little dirt when I am on the road. This means I have to beg, borrow, plead or rent my way onto a mountain bike. Below is the short list of things I try to pack to make sure I am not only able to ride, but am stoked when the opportunity arises.

Kali, Interceptor $180

Rolling over the top of a blind-pitch, headed to god-only-knows where, the last thing going through my mind is whether-or-not the person who designed my helmet knew what they were doing. Luckily, for me I’m wearing a helmet designed by protection nerd, Brad Waldron, at Kali Protectives. The Interceptor is one of many choices in the newish “enduro” helmet market, designed to give more protection than a weight-weenie cross country helmet, but not the no-holds-bar protection of a downhill helmet. The Interceptor has great coverage, style and plenty of ventilation for all day comfort and just the right amount of “holy shit, about to have an epic yard sale” piece-of-mind for your melon.


Five Ten, Freerider Pro Shoes $150

Sticky feet make for happy trails and the Five Ten reputation defining Freeride Pro is the perfect go-bag shoe. Pull them on, wear them through the airport, out to dinner and onto the gnar from the trailhead. The Freerider Pro is perfect for rolling all over the mountain and honing your mountain biking skills. If you’re not wearing Five Tens, what are you wearing?


Mission Workshop, The Hauser $215

Who knew staying hydrated could be so sexy. So very sexy. Mission Workshop’s Hauser hydration pack falls on the pricier size of packs to strap to your back during your shred and we know form is supposed to follow function, but in this case we wanted a Hauser long before we ever figured out if it was any good. Luckily, for us and for you, this is one quality ripping sack.

To start, let’s get the double bummer out of the way. First, the hydration ready bag, even at over 200 clams, does not come with a hydration bag. It seems a little silly to design a backpack specifically for hydration and to not include a bladder. Fortunately, for me I had one of Osprey’s Reservoirs on the way and can now attest it is one of the nicest and easiest to use bladders on the market. Second, this may not be the best backpack to pack on a scorching hot day. Although, we don’t get many of those here in NorCal, but having this in my go-bag as I prepare for a trip to the Arizona desert has me a little concerned. It just does not vent against the back as well as my Camelbak Mule.

Now on to what we did like about the Hauser. We already mentioned how amazing it looks, but with those good looks comes stellar construction. This pack is built to withstand any major yard sales, comes with an additional tool roll, has plenty of pockets for organization, is waterproof and we chose the larger 14 liter version which sits nicely on the back without hindering mobility. And we would remiss if we didn’t mention these beauties are made right here in the ol’ U.S. of A. and comes with a lifetime guarantee.

We like it. And we think it brings out the color in our eyes.


Shimano, Saint MX80 $60

These Shimano flat pedals are not the lightest or the thinnest pedals on the market, but they are reasonably priced and workhorses ready for anything you can huck off of or pedal up. The other nice part about packing these MX80 pedals instead of clipless is they will, arguably, make you a better rider. They will make you find a better balance on the bike, teach you to weight and un-weight more efficiently and will give you more confidence on a strange whip.


DynaPlug, Air Tubeless Repair $74.99

The hardest decision I have when putting my go-bag together is which tool, hell how many tools, do I “need” to feel comfortable on the trail with someone else’s bicycle. The first thing I make sure I have is some duct tape. I usually wrap a nice helping around a hand pump I bury deep in my bag. I then pack a giant multitool, with a chain breaker, into my bag. I love the tools from Lezyne, Park and Crank Bros. Which brings us to the DynaPlug Air and our love of all things DynaPlug and CO2. With this little wonder you just find the puncture, push the repair dealie into the punture and twist on the air. The air plugs the hole and fills your knobbies back to pressure at the same time. Of course, this won’t help if you have a side tear, but that is why I carry a tube, extra C02 and duct tape.


Silca, Maratona Gear Bag $180

I have been using my North Face duffel bag as my catch-all, stuff it full and go-bag for the last couple of years and I have had no complaints. The only problem being that although the duffel swallows everything I can think to throw into it, but that also means I can spend way too much time, sometimes in a panic, digging around in its gluttonous innards in search of this or that.

Along comes Silca’s new Maratona gear bag with a spacious amount of room and ample organizational opportunities. You have the option of three different carrying straps or make the quick conversion to make it a backpack. The Maratona is designed to meet airline carry-on regulations, so whether you are going around the corner or around the globe, your go-bag is ready to go.


Clif Bar, Crunchy Peanut Butter $1.79/ea, $17.88/box of 12

Sure they are better when they are fresh, but even an old Clif Bar is better than no Clif bar at all. Sure you could do a gel or a block or another bar, but I’ve been gnawing on Clif Bars so long they feel almost like comfort food. Ok, maybe not like a big bowl of mac-n-cheese, biscuits and gravy or a piece of pumpkin pie, but these bars have gotten me through plenty of oh-crap-I-am-about-to-bonk situations.


Light&Motion, Seca 1800 $350

Let there be light. With the days shortening, but the weather still within acceptable riding temperatures, it is the time of dawn and dusk patrols. It is also time to break out the blinky lights and headlamps. The Seca 1800 is an excellent choice for these extend the day jaunts. The quad LED array throws enough light to gobble up the dark and make you feel secure in your line choices on any trail you find yourself pedaling. We ran the Seca on our bars and we ran the Seca 1800 (as in 1800 lumens) on our helmet and didn’t feel like we were asking too much of it in either spot. Add in the fact this chubby, but lightweight light is waterproof and it will get you where you need to go, even if you should have gotten there hours earlier.


Giordana. Monsoon Jacket $380

The cycling rain jacket has come a long way in the last 5 or so years. Not that long ago rain jackets made for cycling were basically fancy garbage bags with zippers stitched in for good measure. You basically pulled it on and let the sweating begin. And lord forbid the rain eased before the ride ended and you had to remove your jacket… you were soaked through and through. The new generation of rain jackets is not only windproof and waterproof, but also “somewhat” breathable. The Monsoon jacket is cut plenty long, with great length on the elastic sleeves, taped seams and packs down to a surprisingly small footprint. I also love my Mission Workshop’s The Orion jacket, the Castelli Tempesta jacket and the Shower Pass Club Pro.


Kitsbow, Shorts $125

This is the first version of Kitsbow’s Base Shorts and I keep them at the ready for any last minute rides. They are beautifully constructed, bombproof and super cozy. I’ve put them permanently into my go-bag, knowing full well they are ready for anything the trail can throw at me. If my bits are protected and comfortable, I can always ride in a pair of jorts and a flannel shirt, so as long as I have my Kitsbow base shorts I am good to roll.


Made In Portland

When one thinks of Portland, Oregon, one conjures up reruns of Portlandia, images of hipster coffee shops, independent bookstores and rain wear. While I love a yummy jalapeno, chocolate, non-fat, organic soy latte and Powell’s Books as much as the next guy, it is the Made in Portland ethos which permeates this city which truly gets me excited. From boots to jackets and bikes to bags here are five to get your own Made in Portland collection started.

Speedvagen Urban Racer (Starting at $3,495)

Nothing says I am from Portland, I love bikes and I don’t give a care in the world what you think about my choice of whips, like an Urban Racer. Afterall, it has one gear, kick brakes and is more fun than any bearded hipster should be allowed to have. But don’t let the price tag or the hipster vibe scare you away, this handmade chariot will remind you why you fell in love with riding a bicycle to begin with.


Shwood Canby Walnut Sunglasses $149

These sping-hinged, Carl Zeiss lens having, made in Portland Canby sunglasses are constructed from sustainably farmed wood giving your face an environmentally friendly twist on the classic “wayfarer” look. Shwood has a myriad of styles, including stone and acetate models and most models are available in Rx.


WILD Chore Coat. $475

Sure, it’s $475, but this just maybe the perfect 3-season jacket. The Chore is lined with Polartech Alpha insulation, which won’t take on water while remaining breathable. The triple-tone camo exterior is crafted from a waterproof and breathable ripstop nylon and WILD included all sort of thoughtful details: two-color stitching, custom copper rivets and corduroy elbow pads. Whether you wear the Chore on your next trip to the falls or a rainy day trek to Blue Star Donuts, you will look good and feel marvelous.


Danner Light Mojave Brawler $380

Danner has been making boots in the great old U.S. of A. since 1932 and even though all their product are no longer made in the States, this pair of Brawlers were made right in Portland. They feature Gore Tex liners, Vibram Soles, leather and 1000 Denier nylon uppers and are completely “recraftable” (their word, not mine) by the craftspeople at Danner. I found these boots to be comfortable right out of the box and they have already started to take on the “I’m an outdoorsman” look in a very short period of time.


North St. Woodward Convertible Backpack Pannier $249

It’s a pannier.
No, it’s a backpack.
No, wait, it’s both.
The brilliant folks at North St took two great things and mashed them together. So know, you can take all that weight off your back while you are commuting to work and put it on your bike. Then upon arrival, just pull your pannier off your bike rack, pull out the backpack straps from behind the hidden panel and presto, change-o you have everything you need off your bike and onto your back. The Woodward has a waterproof liner, additional pockets for organization, an internal laptop sleeve and a lifetime warranty. Inspired by the Pacific Northwest, but a brilliant idea for anywhere.


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