Sunday, September 30, 2012

Interbike 2012: Trackies and Fixed-Gear...

Before the USA Cycling Track National Championships conclude here in LA today I am going to squeeze this one in. Track bikes and their street cousins have experienced something of a resurgence the past number of years. Whether fueled by images of Olympic glory, youthful attraction to counter-culture, a search for non-mainstream competitive outlets, or any number of other reasons, single speed and fixed gear bicycles have been propelled beyond mere fringe status. Of course that does not mean that every maker has jumped into the fray. I earlier noted how nearly everyone who produces sport bicycles has at least one cyclocross model in the line-up. The same cannot be said for fixed-gear bikes, these largely remain in the domain of certain makers with a more lengthy tradition in the genre. Names like Cinelli, Masi, Look have a long history of making these types of bikes. Add to these the custom builders such as the Dario Pegoretti's of the world, and the more recent mass production providers, such as Pure Fix Cycles and Leader, and you have a wide range of types, but still relatively confined number of companies.

almost all of the true fixes, such as this Masi, are being shown with add-on brakes these days. i'm not sure if this is an industry statement about safety, or if it is being driven by the fashion of the moment. either way, i would say it is a smart move; makes it more attractive to potential converts.

Look is one of the grand masters of the track bike. it is not difficult to see why, their stuff is always distinctive and cutting-edge. their branded graphics can be spotted from a mile away.

a more recent maker in this area of the market, but showing all the style and charisma of its namesake, is Cipollini . this model, simple called speed, just looks fast

a little more on the utilitarian side of the scale is this Swobo. the reason I show this is not so much for the bike per se, as it is for the finish. the raw, burnished look was so eye-catching; i didn't know a naked (unpainted) bike could look so good.

custom has long been in the purview of the fixed-gear realm. simplicity combined, and contrasted with, unique design, creates some stunning machines. i already showed you my best of show from this year; the custom built bike shown above fits nicely into that same lofty category where artistry and function are combined to perfection. shown alongside the world's first full-suspension fat bike, was this creation from the crew at Phil Wood. people gathered around kept using the word sexy, and it was appropriate.

the mass produced side of the fixed-gear market is distinguished by limited frame offerings (often just a single frame style), but allows riders to customize colors and components to match their personal style preferences; we are talking basic, welded steel frames, no decorative lugs or fancy adornments. from there you can do a no-frills build, or go all out. i believe this one with the Canadian maple leaf and Totem labeling is by the Hangzhou Joy-ing Cycle Co. Ltd. of China

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Five for 5: The Week that Was...

monday: hard to believe, but april was the last time i took to the dirt. that is just not right, so i filled a perpetually flat front tire on the 29er. herbert (named for captain kirk from the episode where a group of space hippies kept referring to him as herbert) and i, then rode up marshall canyon and back down through the claremont hills wilderness park

tuesday: passing through the colleges i noticed this collection of bikes - it seemed every color under the sun was represented but one - where's the love for green?

wednesday: gary's panforte is a special, limited time cliff bar recipe conjured up for the company's 20th anniversary. clif is my go-to bar to begin with, but the mix of everything in this one, especially the spices truly is a flavor party in your mouth

thursday: lunch in the village. the morning breakfast club of college professors had departed by then, so it was rather quiet

friday: the answer - yes. not long ago i spotted this trike parked outside 42nd street bagel. the question - do you ride with the umbrella up?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Il muro di Sormano...

I am unable to read Italian, but the above photo accompanied what looks like an interesting design article here. Cycling landscape? Goes without saying.

One of the highlights of this years Il Lombardia (being raced tomorrow, Saturday) is the Muro di Sormano. With a grade averaging 15.3% during its final 2 km, and with a maximum slope of nearly 27% the climb, hitting the riders between the 150 and 200km mark, will provide a severe test of stamina for the peloton. The climb was last used in the race in 1962. We have seen some terrifically steep climbs throughout the year, so Il muro di Sormano will provide a fitting close (and yes, I realize the Tour of Bejing officially ends the season).

Friday GeeMawR...

GMR Friday today so I took the opportunity to ride up to the ToM (Top of Monroe). More people out than I normally see on a Friday morning - more riders, more slalom boarders, more gorgeous gals walking, more motorcycles. Butterflies got caught in eddies between my arms and fluttered along with me as I rode up mountain, squirrels stopped gathering seeds to sit up spectating as I rode past, a seed plucked from cheek pouch as a snack. The sky was velvet blue drapery and the hillsides vivid red. About as good as it gets.

fifteen more to turn-around

descending easy


motor idling

a wall to call my own

buckwheat and yucca at the edge of beyond

Interbike 2012: Bikes (CX)...

Can you believe it? Cyclocross season starts in Southern California this weekend. At Interbike, any manufacturer showing sport bicycles had, I believe, at least one cyclocross (CX) model in their lineup. The bigger companies, of course, had even more. Clearly CX is seen as a sport that has come of age, and the potential for continued growth is recognized throughout the industry. Some of what I saw, and liked, are shown below.

Cinelli, they have a couple in their lineup - the Zydeco, and this new single speed MASH version. I know it is going to get dirty, it is going to get muddy, but for now, and until that happens, the graphics, the colors, it all comes together. Very Cinelli, very MASH:

The Marin Cortina. Pretty solid looking in 6061 aluminum with SRAM build-out:

Bergamont. I had to look this one up as it was being shown in the BMC booth, but I was not familiar with the maker. Bergamont is a German produced bike; they have been in the industry for 18 years, but this is the first I can recall seeing their name. A lot of companies use tradeshows like this to introduce their products to a new market. I suspect that is what is going on here. A quick look at their website reveals no dealers in the States, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them enter the US market in the future. This is the Dolce CX:

The Ritchey Swiss Cross, ever dependable. A lot of tradition here going back to some of the greatest names in the sport:

Volagi. I am not sure Volagi has a CX-specific frame; they consider their long bow flex stay design to be adaptable for on or off road riding, which you are either going to believe or not. I can't really speak about it without a test - I was intrigued by the design when I first saw them last year, and would love to give one a try to find out how they ride:

Lightspeed. I just may be more intrigued by this one than any of the others; I guess it has more to do with history than anything, but I would like to know how a ti frame handles a cross course. Disc brakes only:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Accelerated Braking: A Refresher...

I was going to write this whole post about how some drivers we encounter can't be bothered to slow down for, what would at best be a handful of seconds, in order to safely move wide around a cyclist traveling in same direction. But the weight of words became so oppressively burdensome, and still were not saying what I wanted them to, that I balled up the paper and started over. Has anyone not experienced the sensation of a driver squeezing their vehicle into the lane between ourselves and the lane line/center line.

Another persons life or limb is not a calculable risk in this situation, they are unnecessary risks, risks that could be avoided by simply lifting the right foot off one pedal and applying it to the other. It is not physically difficult, it is not mentally taxing. Basic driving 101. I have long been curious as to why some people find it so easy to apply a little downward pressure to the one pedal, yet apparently find it so difficult to do the same with the other. Whether a driver is negligent in recognizing the inherent risk, or is unconcerned is irrelevant. Both are equally dangerous. Someone who fails to take into account the safety of others does not deserve a place on the road. Short and to the point then: A show of hands, would anyone miss them if a few more vehicles were removed from the road? Anyone? I thought not.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Interbike 2012: Bits and Piece, Odds and Ends...

Before getting to the bikes, I thought I would cover some of the other things at the show that caught my attention - the components and parts, the necessaries and the accessories.

I will lead off with Chrome because it was just so wild to walk onto the floor of a workshop in the middle of the tradeshow. Chrome, that ever-popular maker of bags, backpacks and other cool cycling accoutrement's transported all the makings of both factory and showroom. The only thing I didn't notice was a punch clock. For your nominal fee you could mix and match, and pick your parts and they would sew up your bag then and there. Likewise their screening press could crank out I don't know how many teeshirts per hour:

The availability of bags for commuting and touring grows each year. The selection becomes more functional and decorative all the time, which in turn, is allowing us to personalize how we carry our things like never before. A couple choices that struck me for their creativity were PoCampo, who have a nice line of stylish and useful urban designs, and Alchemy Goods, whose line of products made from recycled inner tubes are well within the environmentally sound ideals held by many bicycle commuters:

Here is the NuVinci N360 internally geared hub. Produced by Fallbrook Technologies, which is headquartered right here in Southern California, the NuVinci hub is not especially new, having been introduced in 2006, but if you are like me and have only ever ridden externally geared bikes using a typical rear derailleur and drive chain, you may not be familiar with this product. What do you think of when you envision shifting gears? Clicks, perhaps? Maybe a chain moving up and down a cluster of cogs attached to a rear wheel? If you watch the short video clip at the NuVinci website you will see that they liken shifting gears, using a method familiar to most of us, as moving up and down a series of steps, each step representing a distinct gear ratio. When I sat on a bike to give the N360 a spin, I was amazed by how different changing gears could be. The NuVinci N360 uses a technology called continuously variable transmission (CVT). CVT does not uses gears as we think of them; there are no steps, you do not click through a series of gears by moving a lever with your fingers. Instead twisting a mechanism in the grip causes a seamless flow through the available range of gear ratios. No abrupt transitions. As you can see, the hub itself is actually quite narrow, and with a newly developed quick release, wheel removal has been made simple:

Since there are no gears per se to run through, a numbered display is rather pointless. Instead, the display at the grip shift shows a rider on flat ground, which transitions to increasingly vertical terrain, and back to flat as you twist the grip and the CVT moves through its range of gear ratios. Again watch the video, it will explain better than I can:

Wheels may just be the most important component on our bikes. There have been a lot of changes over the years, to make them more efficient and lighter. DT Swiss has a number of new wheelsets across the spectrum of sizes, including a new 650B size, and available for Campy, Shimano, and SRAM:

Another wheel manufacturer I took notice of was Hawk Racing. To be more than a bit player these days it seems you need a range; the Hawk line includes training and racing wheels, from open to deep rim and discs, for both clincher and tubular. I did notice than in 2013 only Shimano or SRAM compatible wheels will be standard; the Campagnolo option will be sold separately:

Between all the different bars and stems, seat posts, bar tape, for road, mountain, and triathlon, you might not need to look anywhere else. The 2013 Deda Elementi catalog is 95 pages in length (admittedly it includes some great race photos amongst all the components). Lightweight and durable, it's what we look for in this stuff. You will find both with Deda, plus they give you the option of color coordination (as long as you like red, white and/or black):

I have used Lizardskins grips on my mountain bikes, as well as those of the rest of the family for a few years. Now I am going to have to look into using their bar tape on our road bikes as well. This stuff is plush, and will remove the jolt from most any rough road. As you may know, that translates into less fatigue, and a more enjoyable ride over the long miles:

I would not normally be too interested in flats, but I did notice these by Acros. They have that sleek and sharp machined look. Eight pegs per side to hold that contact with your shoe, and pretty darn light for a flat:

Lighting has come a long way since the old strap a flashlight to your handlebar days, and Nite Rider has been around for much of it. The only headlight system I have ever owned. Much of the Nite Rider line has seen an upgrade in power this year. The competition in the bicycle lighting market has steadily increased the past few years, and there are some really good systems out there making it safer to ride throughout the year, Nite Rider remains one of those systems:

Last year Club Ride caught my attention. They remain atop the pile in the category of casual riding attire. It's good looking stuff, for when team kit just won't do:

Nutcase. The company motto is "the most fun a helmet ever had". I would have to say that is probably true. The new year will see some new designs, as well as new color combinations mixed into the older popular designs. Refinements to shell shape and straps are also in store. Plus it is hard to beat a product that also offers matching bells:

I have previously mentioned the Gates Carbon Belt Drive. Typically you will see wide applications for this on bikes with internally geared hubs. They are smooth, quiet, and clean. A new conversion kit allows you to turn a chain-driven single speed into a bike that is belt-driven. The kit comes with rings and spacers as required to install on an existing rear hub. It, of course, does require a split frame to install the belt - bummer that, my s.s. will forever remain chain-driven:

Finally, Park Tools will celebrate 50 years of making bike tools in 2013,
 and who doesn't need a new 3-way hex tool in celebration:

Like everyone else who was there to write about what they saw, I could go on and on about the components and miscellanea on display. But the line has to be drawn somewhere, and here is where that line is. Still to come - the bikes...

As with all these reviews from Interbike 2012, I have not received any prior compensation, nor promise of later compensation, from the above mentioned company, nor am I connected to them in any way. Views expressed are the result of my observations and subsequent research only.


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