Monday, May 2, 2016

EROICA Primavera 2016 Part 1

Ciao from Tuscany! 

This is a great video explaining why we love bici d'epoca so much. Worth the five minutes for sure.

Some folks don't get EROICA and that's OK with us since we enjoy these events for the reasons outlined in the video clip and really don't want them to become so mainstream they lose the special atmosphere. Those who just want to bomb around on upaved roads can do that anytime they like. The old bikes and old-time clothing are what make this special.

We love everything about these events! The atmosphere reminds us of why we took up cycling in the first place, something that's too often lost in today's "you are what you buy" culture. Above you see the entrance to EROICA Primavera in the tiny village of Buonconvento, not too far from the famous Montalcino.

Pretty much the entire historic center of the town is decorated for this event. This year, the second had around 1300 participants, far less than the original October event in Gaiole. But we like this smaller event much more, for reasons we'll go into later.

Everybody seems to get into the act.

And wine is a central theme, as this bike demonstrates.

We couldn't resist a photo of this bike with all the wooden parts. GORGEOUS!

Then there were the old-time support cars, something Larry really likes.

Right out of "A Sunday in Hell"

And there's the cutest of 'em all!

Saturday was our time to pick up our numbers and schwag, roam the expo looking for that perfect old part (and we found more than one!) before grabbing a porchetta panino and watching the "famous old guy" race through the town.

Even the creator of EROICA got out there for awhile.

Round and round they went with the speed gradually increasing until a few actually looked tired.

But they still were all smiles when it came time to pose with guys like Larry.

Remember Roberto Conti? A gregario for Marco Pantani? He's way into bici d'epoca, Larry can remember him out there in the rain and mud ahead of the Giro d'Italia stage into Montalcino a few years ago.

Some of these old pros never seem to lose their love of the bike, especially when they're ones from back-in-the-day. Remember Eric Vanderaerden?

The weather forecast for Sunday's event was bad, rain getting stronger all day. Saturday was nice and we scored some old-time rain capes at the vintage expo just-in-case. We headed back to our lodging to take a quick shake-down spin on our epoca bikes before a wonderful Tuscan dinner and a night's sleep while the rain tinkled against the windows.

All about our Sunday ride in the next post....

Monday, April 18, 2016

EROICA California 2016

As regular blog visitors know, we're big fans of EROICA, the bici d'epoca events. We're off to Tuscany for EROICA Primavera in a couple of weeks but here are some photos from EROICA California 2016.

Larry had plans to be there, though it was more about helping our friends at the event expo than riding, as his bike for this event has not been completed yet. Instead our friends from Albabici manned the entire thing for us, doing a great job promoting our ciclismo come una volta (cycling as it once was) philosophy, which we think should be a perfect fit with those who attended this event, the second edition.

In addition to our latest jersey, the blue Nalini one you can see in the upper photo, visitors could also purchase items from the Nalini 70's collection - perfect not only for bici d'epoca events but great any time you're on the bike. Heather likes the wool bib shorts so much she wears them even when riding her "modern" bicycle. She's not alone as the entire stock (except xxxs and xxxxl) sold out!

If you missed this event but still wish to purchase some of the retro-inspired clothing, click HERE or on the link above.

Mille grazie to the nice guys at Albabici for taking care of this for us. We WILL be there in 2017 to ride the event and help out at the expo, we promise!!

Finally, if you want to come and experience ciclismo come una volta in Italy with us this season, there are 1-2 places still available on most 2016 tours if you act fast. Don't miss out.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Campagnolo Potenza?

Regular readers and friends know we're fans of the equipment from Vicenza, Italy - CAMPAGNOLO.

When Larry spoke with them about becoming an Official Supplier to CycleItalia he described the partnership as probably the worst kind of "sponsorship". Why? He explained that first, both of us grew up in cycling using Campagnolo equipment and have enjoyed using it ever since, meaning they would not be stealing any customers from their rivals. Second, even if they turned us down, we were not going to run off to seek support from one of those rivals and third, we'd likely keep using it for the rest of our cycling lives. So why should they bother helping us?

Luckily for us, they saw some wisdom in a more formal relationship and have become good friends over the years. Just as in our other Official Supplier partnerships, we don't require agreements to "get X and provide Y" but just agree to help each other out whenever the opportunity arises. For this season they fixed us up with skewers to hold your bike atop our van's roof rack. Campagnolo wheel skewers are the ONLY ones we trust with your (and our) bikes!

So now we're going to tell you about their new groupset, POTENZA. This is NOT a $multi-thousand.00 groupset used only by pros or rich folks - not that there's anything wrong with those, but they wanted a 11-speed groupset that bike makers could equip their bikes with so potential customers could try Campagnolo out on a test-ride.

Back-in-the-day, customers wanting higher-end "pro quality" bikes most often chose a frameset from their favorite maker, then a component groupset, wheels, etc. to end up with a complete, custom-assembled bicycle. Sadly, those days are long-gone.

Now the trend is to buy a complete bike right-out-of-the-box. Campagnolo's competitors have been very good at supplying component groups to the big bike companies who now dominate the market. Just take a look at who sponsors pro teams these days - they're the only ones with the sales volume and budgets to pay teams millions to ride their bikes in addition to supplying a large fleet of them. Unless you're a big star (and sometimes even then) the days of having custom bikes made-to-measure for you by a trusted builder and then painted in the team livery are gone.

This means potential clients start out with bikes equipped by Campagnolo's competitors and with the shifting mechanisms varying from the most (we think) intuitive like Campy's "thumb does one thing, finger does another" to fingering two different levers or fingering the same lever but a little bit or more than a little bit, depending on which way you want to shift, people tend to stay with what they're familiar with - meaning unless you have groups spec'd on entry-level bikes, you lose out.

Campagnolo's known this for awhile but now they finally have an answer to this issue. The Potenza group claims to offer all the engineering and function of the top-end groupsets, but saves money with less expensive materials. Aluminum, steel and some composite bits vs carbon fiber and titanium for example. This used to be the case back-in-the-day at Campagnolo but they drifted away from it awhile back. Our standard rental bikes are equipped with 9-speed Mirage components that work just as well (and have lasted just as long) as the high-end stuff from the same production period!

What else do you get? How 'bout a 34 X 32 low gear? Finally Campagnolo offers a larger cogset for that "after-lunch gear" or to get you up the Passo Mortirolo. The  rear shifter, unlike many of Campy's competitors, lets you shift up THREE cogs with one motion, making that "Ooops, I need to shift up to bigger cogs NOW!" moment much easier.

The new crankset looks like the latest 4-arm carbon fiber versions but is aluminum, something some of us prefer, as well as the polished silver finish available in addition to black. The new Power-Torque + crankset comes apart with no special tools. We STILL wish there were three rather than two chainrings for more individual ratios and to eliminate the rather large gap from 50 to 34 if you want low gears for real mountains, but we'll save the whining for another day.

We just put a Campagnolo Athena 11-speed triple groupset on Heather's bike in order to promote it a bit for our friends, but now it seems it'll be going away in favor of Potenza? We'll need to get our hands on one of these new groupsets sooner rather than later, so we can share more information about it's performance with you.

Why do WE even care about these lower-priced groupsets? First, they're affordable. We'd rather spend money on a great frame instead of on components that are lighter since we're far from featherweights ourselves. Second, we think Campagnolo's idea is a good one, we find those who rent our bikes and have never used Campagnolo often end up preferring it once they've spent a week riding around Italy with it. Potenza can only help that process!

Friday, April 1, 2016

New Support Vehicle 2016

 Above:  Larry posing in our new support vehicle*

This Alfa Romeo 4C Spider doesn't have a lot of room for bikes or luggage, but it can reach you on the road in a flash. We chose the white paint scheme so the advertising logos will show up better and we'll soon have a custom bike rack installed on the is no roof. Well, we'll think of something!!!

What's not to like? It's even got a carbon/aluminum chassis, just like our premium rental bikes and best-of-all, it's Made-in-Italy!

Join us this season and enjoy the fastest support in the bike touring world!!!

* Note: April 1, 2016

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Buona Pasqua 2016

The Vernal Equinox is celebrated today in Italy, but for us it was a pretty normal Sunday in Sicily.

As you can see above, spring has certainly sprung here, the first day of Italian "summer time" when the clocks are turned ahead an hour. After a leisurely breakfast we went out on a ride we call "Wild, Wild West" as it takes one up on a high plain and through what looks like some very remote countryside. Once the climbing starts there's almost zero traffic, though we're never farther from home than maybe 20 miles at the farthest point.

You no doubt notice the different clothing - Larry's become a fake Italian but even more a fake Sicilian. Unless the temps are sunny and above 75 F, he's wearing arm and knee warmers while Heather's getting a tan in shorts and short sleeves.

This ride was 75 kilometers, a 3+ hour trip for us these days. After we returned home it was time to tune in a pirate-feed of Ghent-Wevelgem on the Smart TV in our apartment (regular TV coverage was provided by SKY's Bike Channel, which we don't have here) and sit down to Sunday lunch.

Chicken "hunter style" was wonderful!!! 

 Buona Pasqua!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Tired of Tires?

Above: Two of our favorite tires

You might be tired of reading about tires, but we put this up to let you know about tires on sale.

Vittoria has revamped their tires with the introduction of something called Graphene while Michelin is rumored to be announcing an entirely revamped lineup as well. The MSRP on these new tires is likely to be pretty high from what we've seen so far.

For us, this means SALES! The manufacturers need to empty their warehouses, distributors need to make space on their shelves and online retailers need to "blow 'em out" as there's nothing worse to them than "obsolete" merchandise.

But of course these tires were state-of-the art not too long ago. We shop for and buy tires NOT when ours are worn out, but when they're on-sale and right now it seems everyone's blowing out soon-to-obsolete tires at very nice prices.

Take this opportunity to stock up (hint: take 'em out of the boxes and store 'em in gallon-sized ziploc-type bags where they'll stay fresh for years) as stocks are cleared. Below are a few links to tire sales we know about or have taken advantage of recently. We scored some Vittoria Rubino Pro II's (similar to the example above) for our rental fleet for less than $20 each!

High-quality (folding bead/high thread-count) tires improve the ride of ANY bike more than you'd believe. Take this opportunity to upgrade yours at these special prices.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The $2 Buck Chuck* of Italy?

Maybe this should be called "2 Euro Carlo"?

We've not been able to find out exactly why, but this Nero d'Avola, sahrade, produced by CVA Canicatti was just 2 euros a bottle in a local wine shop!!!

The folks at the wine shop said something about a promotion and when I asked if this wine was "buono" (good) they assured me it was. I was still skeptical, but their advice so far has been good and it was only 2 euros, so I took one home along with the usual sfuso bianco and rosato we get from them. We're not big fans of their sfuso Nero d'Avola but perche no (why not) try this? The price is barely more than their sfuso price of 1.40 euro a liter!

The verdict? BUONO!!! We went back to get a few more bottles and came home with a case of 6 and we hope they don't run out soon. When someone asks why we want to live in Italy, finds like these are the reasons we cite.

*We tried a red $2 Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's once a few years ago and found it undrinkable, though we've heard some vintages can be just fine.