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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide 2015

We know, we know - everyone has a gift guide these days, but for the hard-to-buy-for, cyclist-who-has-everything on your list, here's ours, with some great things you might not have seen elsewhere. We're sure the lucky person who receives one of these gifts will be thrilled!

 Happy Holidays!

How 'bout a modern but retro jersey from our friends at Nalini? This is not an old, scratchy relic from the past nor something to wear only when the temps drop. This jersey is as comfortable as your favorite t-shirt and might quickly become your favorite.

Have a tool "junkie" on your list? Look up the phrase pleasure to use and there should be a photo of this kit. Silca's HX-ONE will delight anyone who appreciates quality tools. This is one of those iconic things that fathers will pass down to their sons.

Extra virgin olive oil. This is far from the stuff you find at the supermarket, some of which might be five years old! Olive oil's not like wine, it doesn't get better with age. It's more like fruit juice - the fresher the better. Everybody and his fratello brags about Tuscan oils, but we're partial to Sicily - a flavor we find more balanced and more versatile. Our friends at Gustiamo just got some from the recent harvest. It'll never be fresher and tastier than it is right now. This is the "good stuff", to be used sparingly rather than something to cook with.

Here's something that combines pleasure to use with a great result. Tullio Campagnolo, the same guy who invented the quick release for your wheels after his frozen hands couldn't undo the old wingnuts holding his wheel on, had a similar revelation when too many vintage wine bottles were destroyed while trying to get the corks out. The Campagnolo CAVATAPPI remains an icon, still in production today.

Many of us are "getting up there" age-wise, with eyesight to match. While we might be putting off getting prescription glasses, we could use a little help reading the tiny print on a wine label or seeing the distance on our cyclometer. DUAL has the answer, with tiny magnifiers built-in to the lenses. Even better, the lense quality is amazing with excellent clarity. People like the quality of these so much they've added versions without the magnifiers - they're that good!

Something to enjoy reading during a snowy winter. Perhaps an inspiration to improve your home workshop? It's all here in BIKE MECHANIC. Read Larry's full review HERE.

Cyclists can always use tires. Treat 'em to the best. Challenge Strada open-tubulars might not be a tire they'd buy for themselves and we'd not suggest these for an all-weather commuter bike, but they'll improve the ride of ANY bicycle more than any other single thing you could imagine. These fat 25's should fit on most any bike and if you swap 'em front-to-rear as soon as the rear one shows some wear you'll get good mileage out of them, but the smooth, plush and fast ride is what they're all about. Your riding time is precious, why waste any of it riding on stiff, unyielding tires?

A gift any chocolate lover will LOVE. Legend has it that the folks at Caffarel taught the Swiss everything they know about chocolate. If you've joined us at our Italian HQ, Hotel Ariotto, you've probably sampled the gianduotti from Novi which are excellent. Caffarel's original version is even better!!! These are far from inexpensive, but just one, slowly melting in your mouth is so satisfying, they're worth the price. Perfect to place on the saucer when you serve that after-dinner espresso.

Espresso you ask? Larry loves our Gaggia Classic with it's chrome housing and parts you can replace, but after trying out ILLY's  iperespresso capsules he swore the next machine we would get would be one of these. Gaggia makes one, perfect for our apartments in Italy. This is truly no-brainer espresso, just pop in the capsule and push the button. While far from an heirloom you'll pass down to your grandchildren, these low priced machines do a fine job with both espresso and cappuccino.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Book Review: Shoulder to Shoulder - Bicycle Racing in the Age of Anquetil

Imagine for a moment that you had a friend, a guy really into cycling, especially the "Golden Age of Cycling" that we hear so much about.

This guy, Brett, invites you over to his house to look at some photos he has.

These are not just any photos and Brett's not just any cycling fan. This is a guy who has begged, borrowed or stolen(?) all kinds of cycling memorabilia and he wants to share it with you.

With a copy of Shoulder to Shoulder in your lap it's almost like you've been invited to his house to see his photos without ever leaving your comfy couch and your Campari & soda.

106 pages of black & white photos of the greats of cycling are yours to enjoy.

My two favorites are from page 76 - Jacques Anquetil 1962 Tour de France A portrait of the champion. (above)

And page 105 - Eddy Merckx and Jacques Anquetil 1969 Criterium de Caen A passing of the torch. (below)

Most of these rare photos capture the raw, youthful humanity of these legends of cycling, something that's often lost these days.

My only complaint is the notes in the back about each photo. It would be fine if Brett were there with you, sharing a Campari & soda and reciting what these notes say, but instead you have to flip back and forth from photo to detailed note/caption.

Note: a copy of this book was provided by the publisher velopress

Thursday, November 5, 2015

If this toolbox could talk....

I  pulled this old toolbox out the other day. It was covered with dust and cobwebs since it's been sitting in the shop for maybe 10 years?

How many airplane flights has this thing made? LeTour, Il Giro, various Trump and DuPont Tours as well as a couple of Ironman's in Hawaii. Tour of Switzerland. Countless weeks in the French or Italian Alps.

Its travel started when bikes were steel or the fancy ones, titanium and "click-shifting" was new and exotic. The shift levers were still on the downtube while the brake cables were still often-as- not, sticking out into the wind.

Its travel ended when bikes were carbon fiber and everyone had STI or Ergopower - and a titanium-railed saddle. Tuscany's Eroica events had just begun.

Its replacement, one just like this but yellow, sits in our attic storage spot in Italy, waiting for each May to come round when it's opened and the tools carefully stowed within get used again.

Meanwhile, this old one sits here in Iowa. I'm sure it doesn't miss the rough handling of the airline "gorillas" as, containing its weighty contents it's thrown onto luggage carousels and tossed into airplane cargo holds, but does it miss the adventures?

Not the adventure of sitting in the back of a van driving all over France or Italy, but the adventure of being opened up and its tools being used to effect a repair on a client's bicycle.

A client on his or her "dream trip" to ride in the wheel-tracks of cycling's greats, whose bike has broken down or just needs a little tweak to perform "just right". The rider might need a pat on the back or an encouraging word as well.

The tools in this box never let their owner down. Forks were purchased and installed at the base of Alpe d'Huez , rear derailluer hangers bent back from the effects of a catastrophically bad shift then reamed out and repaired with epoxy glue. Broken spokes were replaced and wheels trued.

Flat tires were repaired. Broken chains fixed. Snapped cables replaced. It goes on and on.

If this toolbox could talk...

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pasta Party 2015

Pasta Party? You probably thought we'd be stuffing our faces with pasta after a Gran Fondo, right? Wrong. Saturday was another edition of a spring or fall tradition - the gathering of friends around the table to create delicious, all homemade RAVIOLI. Above you can see Zio Lorenzo cranking out the fresh-egg pasta while (clockwise from Larry: Sara, Lillian and Nick work their magic creating these tasty pillows of dough filled with things like a classic ricotta & spinaci, funghi, zucca, chicken, a mixture of cheese and bits of salami(?) which was suprisingly good, and finally a filling made from beef braised in wine.

Some eating was done as any of the ravioli with defects are instantly cooked and consumed as a form of quality-control and a reward for everyone's efforts. Once they're all sorted, bagged and consigned to the freezer and the mess is more-or-less cleaned up, more snacks emerge to go with some nice bottles of vino.

The final tradition is the sorting of the spoils - since each couple brings some fillings while Harry & Leather provide the pasta -  the 6-700 delicious pillows are divided up equally so they can be taken home to be some cases right away!!!

Grazie mille to Lillan, Brent, Nick and Sara for joining us!!!

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!!!