Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Happy Holidays 2020

 Happy Holidays 2020!

Who won't be sad to see 2020 in the rearview mirror? Not us!

So far we've been able to avoid the virus, but the effects are tough on everyone the world over, especially when it comes to avoiding spreading it to friends and family you don't live with.

Thanksgiving Day is coming up and we're thankful that the vaccine trials seem to be going well with hope that perhaps the EU will be open to visitors from the USA at some point in 2021?

We hope that you, your family and your friends come through the pandemic OK and look forward to seeing you again at Piedmont Cycling Resort.

Once travel is again allowed, we'll have all the details in a special edition of La Gazzetta dello CycleItalia.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!!!!!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Only in Italy Part 2

 Only in Italy - Part 2

Regular readers will remember Part 1, the story of Zio Lorenzo's broken bike. Here's the rest of the story:

Marco and Aldo Gios saved the day almost one year ago but Zio's gorgeous, made-to-measure Mondonico frame seemed too good to give up on. C'mon, a Made-in-Italy, lugged Columbus steel frame by an Italian master-builder, a guy you know personally who is now retired, meaning there will never be any more of them? Some dream of owning one, Zio Lorenzo is fortunate to have three of 'em! He wasn't going to just toss this one!!!

Michele Favaloro to the rescue!!! He started out as a teenager TIG-welding custom steel MTBs. You can see the repaired dropout above with a rattle-can touch up paint job by Zio himself.

Here's what it looked like before. This crack looked to have been there awhile and Zio guesses it was the result of damage in shipping since this bike's been all over the place - the old "trains, planes and automobiles" story not to mention in-storage at various places where it may have suffered unseen whacks. That might also explain a broken stem this bike suffered a few years back?

Zio thought for sure the broken dropout would need replacement and the re-brazing would burn the paint off the chain and seat stay, so he bought a reproduction set of decals and asked for a simple red-all-over repaint, to match Heather's Mondonico bike, still in-storage with our friends at Albabici.

But as you can see, that didn't turn out to be the case. Michele instead repaired the broken drop out, burning off just a bit of the green paint so Zio could touch it up, though the rattle-can shade of green's not an exact match. But the beautiful original tricolore paintjob being saved makes that a small price-to-pay, especially when it saves paying for that complete repaint, right?

Meanwhile, the GIOS bike (above) that replaced it went up to Piedmont Cycling Resort in the summer and is now waiting there for next season along with Heather's (behind it in the photo)


It's replacement down here in Sicily now is another tricoloreZio's Torelli 20th Anniversary bike (made by Mondonico) this one with lots of gorgeous chrome as well. This is the bike he thought he'd just fly up and bring back from Piedmont before "Plan G" was hatched back in December. Instead it came down with us in the car back in August.

Things worked out well all around! Mille Grazie Michele, Marco and Aldo!!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Orgoglio Italiano (Italian Pride)


Zio Lorenzo notes that for the first time in awhile,  all three Grand Tours in 2020 were won using Italian-branded bicycles. The Colnago bike even had Campagnolo components!

Giro d'Italia - PINARELLO

Tour de France - COLNAGO

Vuelta a Espana - BIANCHI

And all three used traditional brakes! Of course it's not clear that all of the bikes used were actually MADE in Italy but Zio is happy that at least the Big T, S or G (not to mention disc brakes) ended up with no wins for a change.

Meanwhile, if you want something with an Italian name on the downtube AND 100% Made in Italy, click HERE.

W Italia!

Monday, November 2, 2020


 Another gravel bike?

Super Gravel Monster 2020

Ugly, right? More than 3 decades later Zio Lorenzo's up to the same tricks. Regular blog readers might remember this post?

Super Gravel Monster 1987

Riding around on Mt. Etna awhile back reminded Zio of his original B-Stone MB-1 and how fun it was to ride, unlike the modern 29" wheeled things we rented for the Etna tour. The crazy-wide bars coupled with an insanely short stem had him scratching his bald head wondering WHY?

Nobody has been able to offer a reasonable explanation but now that gravel bikes are all the rage  Zio thought why not put some drop bars on this ancient, pre-BigTex Trek to ride around in Sicily?

This mid-90's Trek 8000's been around awhile - most recently used back when we enjoyed the American Academy in Rome. Zio thought about the drop bars then but didn't get around to it, but now that this old bike's here in Sicily WHY NOT?

Ya kind of need some fat tires to ride out here

A set of cheap bar-con shifters went on a 3T anatomic bar we had laying around. Finding a 1 1/8 quill stem for a 26 mm handlebar was a bit tougher so he had to settle for the ugly adjustable thing you see here, but a test-ride the other day over a route he would never again ride (even with a modern MTB with flat bars!) proved it was secure and safe. One can now buy drop-bar brake levers engineered to properly actuate V-type brakes so the stopping power (not to mention the feel - these are so similar to Campagnolo Ergopowers from a few years ago Zio finds himself trying to use 'em to shift, then remembers the bar-cons down below) is vastly improved over the old B-Stone's cantilever brakes with standard road levers. Zio stuck on a bar top lever for the rear brake while he was at it, just in case!

Fire roads were his thing 30+ years ago in SoCal and they have 'em here in Sicily too - they're called sterrata (as in unpaved) - this bike works very well on these, not to mention the paved sections between the dirty fun. You certainly don't have the level of control you get with a flat bar, but at Zio's age he's not interested in riding over that type of terrain anyway, flat bar or not. A 50+ kilometer mixed-surface ride this past Sunday had him smiling and remembering zooming around the dirt roads of Malibu, CA all those years ago. 

This is much better bike than the old B-Stone ever was even though it's made from aluminum. The ancient RockShox INDY fork is a nice bonus, something that didn't exist back in the B-Stone daze though Zio's gotta get used to the bobbing up and down when he stands up on the pedals. A modern lockout would be nice, but that's not in-the-cards for this cheapo project.

Zio's got a set of smooth tires to go on eventually, but these goofy-looking Vittoria skins (they used the name GEAX at the time) have a supple carcass and a fairly smooth-rolling knobby tread design - exactly as promised by the Italian bike store guy who sold 'em to us. 26" was already old-fashioned then, so these previously top-of-the-line tires were a bargain to boot! Grazie Pinato!

Not much is left of the original bike these days, perhaps just the well beaten-up frame, front derailleur, hubs and crankset? A frame designed before suspension forks makes for some slow steering but you'll hear no complaints from Zio compared to the modern, twitchy, 29" wheeled things we've ridden on Etna and in Napoli awhile back. 

Zio thought more than once of just buying a new MTB but after riding a few of 'em decided it would be a waste of money. A modern gravel bike might be OK but this thing works pretty darn well. A Favaloro custom gravel/mountain bike could be really fun, but Zio will play with this one for awhile instead before spending that kind of loot.

All that's left is to slap on the MTB style fenders for when the roads get sloppy.

Time to hit the dirt!!

Monday, October 26, 2020

A dark day for pro cycling

 Pro cycling gives itself another black eye?

Friday, October 23rd's stage of the Giro d'Italia may soon be forgotten but it may well have set a precedent nobody will cherish. No doping scandal, but to Zio Lorenzo it's possibly worse.

What happened? The riders threatened to go on-strike rather than ride Stage 19, 250 almost totally flat kilometers from Morbegno to Asti. Why? A list of excuses was presented, none of which made a lot of sense.

"Too long! Too cold! Too wet! We're tired! There's a pandemic out there!" whined various riders, led by a guy riding his last Grand Tour and possibly his last ever pro bike race. A guy who brags about riding consecutive GT's year after year after year. Sure he's tired! 

But why Stage 19? This route passed the shores of Lake Como where the year-round microclimate allows tropical plants to thrive, across the Po plain and into the Monferrato hills, passing close by our Piedmont Cycling Resort. Start time was set for 10:20 AM with a finish forecast for 4:45 PM based on 40 kph average speed, easily done by the pro peloton on this flat route, even in the rain.

Not only that, Stage 20, the grueling 5-star tappone set for the following day - 198 kilometers with over 5000 meters of elevation gain from Alba over the fearsome Colle dell Agnello, Col d'Izoard, Montgenevre with a finish at Sestriere had already been neutered by the French authorities' blocking passage into France. 

All the riders had to do before the finale, a16 km flat chrono stage on Sunday was ride to Sestriere via the much easier approach from the west followed by two relatively easy ascents via the Cesana climb. Was it just a bunch of whiny children not wanting to ride in the rain?

Many theories have been presented, one of the best pieces on this fiasco we've seen so far is this one. Today's pro cyclists have no problem receiving the respect and the paychecks in a sport loved by fans for amazing exploits and epics.  Many riders seemed surprised to hear about the protest and strike threat when they showed up to the race start dressed and fueled for the conditions they faced, despite claims of unanimous opposition to riding the full distance.

Think about the snowy climb of Passo Gavia in 1988 or more recently the epic scenes from ten years ago in Tuscany where heroes and legends were created when the weather was awful. Isn't dealing with awful weather part of cycling? Isn't getting wet and chilled and "catching your death" the stuff of old wives tales? The same pandemic was raging when you signed onto the race back in Palermo!!!

Will pro cycling continue to be popular if no new legends or heroes are created? The same pro cyclists who have no problem being paid and respected for exploits like these seem no longer to have any interest in creating new ones - when the going gets tough they want to climb into the bus! 

Sure, there's a weather protocol for that nowadays, but NONE of them were breached by this stage - it was just a chilly, wet day, something that stage racers have to endure and some would say an integral part of the sport? Don't like this? They have races on velodromes for you, plenty of those are indoors so weather is never an issue!

Speaking of a bus, a lot of grumbling has been noted about transfers between the various stages of this Giro despite the fact most of those are not in cramped trains or airplanes, where the riders would be crammed together possibly spreading the Coronavirus. Instead they're in 5-star private luxury coaches provided by their teams, complete with showers, WIFI and espresso makers.

With highest of high-tech clothing, bikes with disc brakes and modern nutrition wizardry, 250 flat kilometers in the rain is too much to ask? What's next: "It's too steep! It's too hard! It's too hot! It's too long!"?

If a three week Grand Tour is too much for you, especially in a sport where these days all you have to do is pedal the bike and wipe your own bottom after visiting the toilet, perhaps you're in the wrong sport?

Update: This whiny screed from the riders union was published after this blog post. Seems that this was the final acting out from tired, cranky riders, some of whom admitted on Italian TV to not have even looked at the Stage 19 details until Stage 18 was completed. I believe the proposed routes for La Corsa Rosa 2020 were published at least one year before but they only decide to complain the morning of the stage? 

Possibly even worse, a Boulder, CO based cycling newsletter came out with this obnoxious quote: Giro boss Mauro Vegni, impersonating a low-level mafioso wannabe, angrily told the media that “someone will pay.” regarding the fiasco.

My hopes that this will soon be forgotten seem to be wishful thinking between the "CYA" actions and insults being tossed around. Pro cycling deserves better than this and needs some adults in control. Are there any out there?

And now this?

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Bottles, borracce, bidone!

 Bottles, bottles, everywhere!

What's up with bottles this season, especially at the Giro d'Italia?

The race leader at LeTour was penalized for taking one too close to the race finish and a team director threw a fit (and the bottle to the ground out of the car window) when the race jury told him his rider would be penalized for taking one the other day at Il Giro.

Between those two incidents a race favorite crashed out of La Corsa Rosa after hitting a bottle in the road before the day's stage had even officially started!

So now the cycling-enthusiast press and keyboard experts (at least in the English-speaking cycling world) who comment on their websites are shrieking that something must be done about bottle cages!

Perhaps it's just because we see more of the races on TV and streaming these days, but from our point-of-view there do seem to be more bottles used in pro cycling these days. Back-in-the-day riders used to "train" themselves to do without water, which if course was not the greatest idea, but the pendulum has swung way, way back the other way it seems.

We're not sure if the rules have changed or perhaps they're being abused but it seems team staff are stationed around every corner with bottles for their riders. Sometimes it looks like the feed bags are filled only with bottles! Handing a gregario a series of bottles from the team car to stuff into his jersey to supply his teammates is more rare these days. Instead there's a staff member at the roadside handing 'em up. Trouble is, it's harder to hand 'em up when the staff person is stationary and the rider goes by at 20-30 kph.

Plenty of these bottles end up in the road. Riders toss away the bottles they have in anticipation of getting fresh ones and even squirt out half the contents before putting the fresh ones into the bottle cage! 

These days you see plenty of riders tossing bottles up and out of the peloton and a lot of 'em don't appear to be empty. Loose bottles (whether tossed by riders or falling out of flimsy cages) don't always vanish into the hands of a spectator, instead bouncing back into the road as happened to the Giro race favorite the other day. 
These days many teams use a biodegradable bottle like the one shown above. We've picked a few up from the roadside (very few were empty) and they DO seem more slippery than the standard ones we use while made from much thinner material. Perhaps these don't stay in the bottle cages as well, especially when wet?  Worse, flimsy plastic bottle cages don't help.

If the teams REALLY cared about any of this, they'd use more substantial bottle cages like the one shown above. The maker* claims this will hold bottles on the pave of Paris-Roubaix while weighing just 40 grams. The cycling-enthusiast press whines that something must be done by the UCI but they are as responsible for this issue as anyone! How? When you read a review about the newest-latest bottle holder, rarely is anything mentioned about its ability to hold the bottle(s) it's all about how much it weighs, how cool it looks and how easy it is to remove and replace the bottle(s) while you're riding.

Does the UCI REALLY need to get involved in testing and certifying bottle cages? Those calling for "something to be done"  constantly whine about draconian regulations they see as destroying innovation and evolution of cycling equipment...but now that one of their favorite riders has crashed out a race they were certain he would win - regulations are sorely needed?

Regulations Zio Lorenzo would support would be those to cut down on the amount of bottles used and then discarded. Making them biodegradable is a great idea but why toss so many away to start with? Why give so many out when many are tossed away after the gel packet attached to them has been removed (or vice-versa) or the contents dumped onto the road? Require bottles and other litter be disposed of in specific zones (as has been done by some organizers) or returned to the team car. 

A few fines (and better yet, time penalties!) for infractions of these rules would solve this problem quickly. Flimsy plastic bottle cages that allow the bottles to fall out when the rider hits a bump would be way too risky to be worth the 10 grams they might save in weight.

*Disclaimer: We have no relationship with Elite, this bottle cage just seemed a reasonable solution at no real weight penalty though we've never tried one, instead preferring metal cages that can be adjusted (bent) to provide as much retention as you desire.

Friday, October 2, 2020

MTB by the sea

 MTB by the sea

We brought our vintage (92-93?) MTB's (7 speeds, 26" wheels, rim brakes) down with us from Piedmont a few months ago and Zio Lorenzo finally got around to making them fit to ride again after sitting in storage in the Piedmont Cycling Resort attic for 5 years. The old Rockshox INDY suspension forks still moved up and down nicely and the funky white Vittoria Saguaro tires were not even rotten!!!

The last MTB's we rode were the newest-latest style with 29" wheels and hydraulic disk brakes - but these old things seemed to work just as well, especially without the crazy-wide handlebars and ultra-short stems of modern MTB's.

The cliffs in the photo are just north of us between the rail-trail and the sea. Perhaps a bit too rocky for anything short of a gravel bike but just right for ancient hardtail MTB's like these.

Zio Lorenzo's got some drop bars to put on his to make it a sort of "super-gravel" bike like his old Bridgestone MB-1 from back in the day. Check back for photos when that project is ready-to-ride.

The guy you see here took a nice dive into the sea while we watched though we doubt he could hear our clapping for his demonstration. 

He took another dive as we passed on our way back home, this time up on the rail-trail.