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Friday, October 9, 2015


Above: From BIKE MECHANIC the Masi shop under the famous Vigorelli Velodrome

In the1980's Larry was an avid cyclist with a pro-quality bicycle. I took that bike to a shop boasting of an "Olympic Mechanic" as many of the Southern California techs had volunteered at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984. The plan was a complete tear-down, repaint and reassembly. 

Despite having had plenty of success working on my own production-based roadracing motorcycles and with an automotive technology background, I did this because I thought the special tools and expertise required were not worth the investment of time and money.

Until I got my bike back. The entire job was so piss-poor that I decided then and there to make a change. All of the money I would no longer spend on having someone else work on my bicycle would instead be spent on the special tools and on learning the special techniques myself.

This included a copy of BICYCLE MECHANICS in workshop and competition by Steve Snowling and Ken Evans. Soon I was working in a bicycle shop and turning a wrench for challenging bike tour clients in the US and Europe. This book was an ever-present source of inspiration (with a place on the CycleItalia bookshelf even today) and motivated me to jump at an opportunity to attend the legendary, multi-day Campagnolo Technical Seminar in 1988. I was on my way to a life I'd never dreamed of, but one that turned out much better than any of my dreams!

Above: The CycleItalia shop in Iowa, USA

Velopress now brings us BIKE MECHANIC Tales from the Road and the Workshop by Guy Andrews and Rohan Dubash. The authors rightly pay respects to the original and acknowledge the role it played in their careers as well. Well organized in three sections, ON THE ROAD, HARDWARE and THE BIKE, the book offers information and inspiration valuable to both budding wrench-turners and jaded veterans alike. Before I'd even finished the book I'd reorganized and refreshed my "grab and go" tool kit.

BIKE MECHANIC is not really a "how-to" book, but  geared more to inspiring the reader in "the way" of a pro mechanic, just like the original. A bonus - the gorgeous Taz Darling photos (my favorite is at the top of this post) especially those of the workshops of the legendary figures, the guys called pinza d'oro (pliers of gold) in the world of cycling.

I hope this book inspires a new generation of bicycle mechanics in the same way the original did for me and the authors of this wonderful book. Great job guys! Highly recommended.

Disclaimer: a copy of this book was provided free of charge by VELOpress

Monday, October 5, 2015

MASTER CLASS - Descending at speed

Above: Vincenzo Nibali at the sign-in Richmond 2015

Vincenzo Nibali "The Shark of the Straits" as he's often called in Italy, didn't do much last week in Richmond. In fact the entire Italian Men's Elite Team seemed to control things perfectly until the final trip up Libby Hill, when they vanished more or less.

But back on home soil (and the best food in the world which might explain it?) he won the Tre Valli Varesine and Il LOMBARDIA,  one of the 5 monuments of cycling.

Click HERE to see his masterful display of high-speed descending, which was the key to this victory*.

DOs: Notice his head is up, looking far ahead to the next curve. Hands down in the drops where control is best and brake leverage is optimized. He puts his knee out MOTOGP style though some argue against this. Note his flexibility on the bike, bumps don't get transferred but absorbed, helping to keep the wheels in contact with the road surface. Note his almost perfect arcs through the curves and how he doesn't try to go really fast into and out of the tight road intersections where it's easy to come to grief.

DON'Ts: We don't recommend sitting on your top tube or putting your hands in the center of the bars far away from the brake levers. And of course we don't suggest you use all of the road unless you can see far, far down the hill and know that no traffic is on the way up. Same goes for zipping up your jersey at speed or turning around to gesticulate at motorists who get in your way.


* Note: Nibali's demonstrating ADVANCED descending techniques in this video. He's one of the best of the best when going downhill fast. If you're less skilled, please start HERE.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Richmond 2015 video clip

Heather shot a short clip of the sights and sounds of Richmond 2015 on Libby Hill. 
Buon divertimento!!!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The White Roads of Tuscany - a crazy dream?

l'Eroica is this weekend in Tuscany. As many of you know we rode in this event in 2014 and also enjoyed Eroica Primavera in 2015.

 Above: Harry & Leather after sampling their first Eroica event

Larry's had a crazy dream since our first experience with the Strade Bianche in Tuscany. After sampling the peaceful quality of these roads he thought why not organize a CycleItalia itinerary to experience the entire Eroica course?

 Above: a steep climb on the Eroica Primavera route this past spring

Like many, his first idea was to organize a tour to coincide with the famous event(s), but the big one's not until October while the new Primavera's a bit early for most of our clients, so those ideas were tossed aside. 

Next was the issue of epoca-style bicycles. Even if we were to source a supply of these, how many of our clients want to come up with the old-time shoes, or even know how to use clip & strap pedals?

Above: a special Eroica bicycle available from Bianchi

Bianchi's like the one pictured above are now available for sale/rent and we're sure the fleet will be expanded to meet the demand, but Larry's dream has since evolved in a different direction.

How about a week-long tour in Tuscany based on the entire Eroica route? It's about 200 kilometers, though not all of it is dirt, so perhaps 4 days could be devoted to this loop with another day added onto either end to make a full itinerary. Lodging and support would be typical CycleItalia quality and mangia bene would be featured as always.

Slap on the fattest tires your bike will take and bring it with you, or rent one of ours. We'll put some special tires on ours just for this tour. Wear period-correct clothing or your normal cycling attire, we don't care! Use whatever shoes and pedals you like, though we think MTB shoes and pedals work best.

This would not be a mountain bike tour or "gravel-grinding" bike industry-driven fad idea, though if you have a 'cross or "gravel" bike (no MTB's please) it would work well on these roads, but any road bike will do - just as they did back-in-the-days of Coppi and Bartali. The reason to do this is for the experience of amazing peace and quiet while cycling. Hearing the birds chirping, the leaves rustling, the streams gurgling as you pass by is something too rare these days, even on the paved routes CycleItalia so painstakingly designs. There is virtually ZERO auto traffic on these unpaved roads - we know both from cycling and driving on them.

Tuscany's still a magical place but these days too many others are out there enjoying it, so escaping the tourist crowds via the white roads brings one back to Tuscany and cycling "come una volta" (as it once was) in many ways.

If the interest is there (email or post comments here) this tour could happen as early as 2017.

Share your thoughts and ideas - Larry's crazy dream could come true!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

World Road Cycling Championship Richmond 2015

We had a great time at the World Cycling Championships in Richmond, VA this past weekend. We flew in Thursday so Heather could give a talk at the University of Richmond, where we discovered the Elite Men's roadrace would start on Sunday morning.

We spent Friday visiting Charlottesville, VA where we lived briefly in the early '90's. Sadly, the town is now surrounded by ugly "development" as in never-ending strip malls and car dealerships.

Saturday morning we headed from our lodging in Short Pump, VA (another soul-sucking, endless line of strip malls and car dealerships) to downtown Richmond to see the races. But first Larry bought the "mother of all umbrellas" in an attempt to prevent the predicted downpours. We got rained on a bit during the junior men's event, but it was dry by the time it was the elite women's turn. As you can see, we were able to get pretty close to the riders as they were introduced and called to the line. We always have soft spot for the Italians of course!

Above you see the cobbles of 23rd street. Not as big as those in Flanders but from the shaking of the rider's upper arms you could tell they were far from smooth. We moved to Governor's Hill for the final lap and saw Lizzie Armistead's winning move, but failed to get a photo. We thought it was likely the winning move on Sunday would be here as well.

Our friend and CycleItalia client, Myron Lehtman was camped out on Libby Hill all day 
Saturday and Sunday. We ran into him on Saturday and he sent us this photo. The crowds were pretty thick here both days.

Sunday's start was at 9 AM so we were up early to get to the University of Richmond in time. Our visit on Thursday helped, since until then we thought the race was starting on the actual circuit!! Above you can see how close we got to stars like Philippe Gilbert of Belgium...

....and the Dutch team... well as pre-race favorite Andre Greipel (who reminds us of Lurch from the TV Addams Family)...

....and Michael "Bling" Mathews of Australia, another pre-race favorite who, unlike Griepel, would play a part in the finish 6+ hours later...

...and let's not forget Vincenzo Nibali who responded "Crepe!" when Larry called out "In bocca al lupo Enzo!"...

...or this tiny squad from Slovakia with that guy in the middle who would go on to play a BIG part later this day.

Once the race was underway we returned to the car and drove to downtown Richmond, easily finding a free parking place just a block from the course. We like to walk around the course in the reverse direction to see the riders come past in various places, like Libby Hill above.

And again here. This snaking, cobblestoned hill was a dramatic scene but not difficult enough or close enough to the finish to really affect the race outcome. But it was a great place to watch with the big screen TV and valet bike parking! We watched the race come past 2-3 times before heading off to find some lunch.

We'd watched from the 23rd street hill earlier, where it was easy to get a feeling of a cobbled climb in a place like Flanders. Riding on these stones didn't look easy, though not as tough as real Belgian pave. When we heard Peter Sagan had attacked here, we both thought the move was too early and he'd be brought back later and not have enough energy left to contest the sprint.

But we were wrong, though his demon descent was as responsible for his victory as much as the climb. When you see the video (go here to see it via Bikeraceinfo) highlights you can see he's not got much of a gap at the top of the climb, his real gains were on the descent, especially through the 90 degree left turn at the bottom that had the team cars (why do they supply the teams with SUV's? A top-heavy vehicle to start with, only made worse when you attach a rack and 7-8 bicycles on top) looking ready to go round the corner on two-wheels! Above you can see Rigoberto Uran on Governor's Hill trying to chase down the fleeing Sagan.

Seconds later Sagan's foot came out of the pedal and he fumbled with the gears to regain his momentum on the climb, but nothing was going to stop him from taking the rainbow jersey, especially when Uran ran out of gas and the others started looking at each other, thinking about silver and bronze medals. We thought Sagan was a worthy champion, thoughts made stronger once we heard his post-race comments. We hope the "curse of the rainbow jersey" doesn't affect him next season.

Will we have to wait another 29 years for the World's to return to the USA? We hope not!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Interbike 2015

After missing last year Larry made the trek out to "Lost Wages" for Interbike 2015.

First a big GRAZIE MILLE to my hosts, the nice guys at Albabici (Alessandro and Gianluca, 2nd and 3rd from left) for their hospitality and friendship. They're great guys that we instantly wanted to help from the moment we met them. At the far right is Nicolo Schiavon, grandson of SMP founder Martino Schiavon. The SMP in Selle (saddles) SMP stands for Schiavon Martino Padova. Padova is their hometown, though the factory is now in nearby Casalserugo.

Next Larry tracked down Josh Poertner of SILCA. Another example of passion for cycling and wonderful, high-quality products being more important than mere profits, Josh bought the venerable Italian company to preserve its great name and history and is another in the "great guy you just want to help" category.

Then it was over to say CIAO to Todd Linscott of Torelli (left) and his wizard frame painter Jim Allen (right) at their stand. Todd's threatening to join us in Italy next year, taking a Torelli bike back to the land of its birth for some pedala forte, mangia bene. Andiamo!!! (Let's go!!!)

Larry couldn't pass up this beautiful SOMEC bike and enthusiastic Gary DeVoss of SOMEC-USA. This bike even had tricolor tires!!! Passion like this is what makes the bike industry fun though it seems to get harder to find each year.

The Bianchi l'Eroica has been featured in this blog and elsewhere, but this was Larry's first chance to see one for himself. Every bit as nice as you'd think and the answer to your dreams of participating in a bici di epoca event without having to source and prepare an actual vintage machine. Bellissima!

I don't even remember what booth this gorgeous Cinelli was in, but here's a couple of photos to enjoy anyway.

Anyone, especially in Italy, making bikes with steel tubes (and especially with lugs!) is a hero in Larry's book...

...including the WILIER guys with a very interesting finish treatment on this example.

Next, we're off to Richmond, Virginia for the World Cycling Championships.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

NOS "Epoca" t-shirts discovered!

Just discovered! A stash of NOS (new, old stock) original "epoca" CycleItalia t-shirts*.

 Above: back of shirt

As you can see the printing is chipped and faded a bit, but this just adds to the character.

 Above: logo on front

Amazingly this just discovered treasure-trove contained sizes S through X for men and S through L for ladies.
Can you believe it?

Above: detail of logo on back

You can get one for just $20 US including shipping to the 48 US states!
Available while supplies last or until December 1, 2015, whichever occurs first, these are first-quality, pre-shrunk Gildan "Ultra-Cotton" shirts.

Send Larry an email with quantity, sizes and shipping address and we'll send you a Paypal invoice to make payment super easy.

* The truth is these are the latest CycleItalia t-shirts, brand-new and just in from the screen printer, but we wanted a sort of "epoca" look this time to remind us cycling as it once was...and still IS when you join us for a CycleItalia guided tour.