Friday, June 14, 2024

Getting it Right Part ?

 More Fooling Around with new Gravel Bike

 Zio Lorenzo thought the 40 mm deep carbon "aero" wheels on his new bike were kind of a dumb idea but just like the whacky handlebar, he figured he'd ride it awhile before making any changes. It seemed much more sensitive to gusty winds at speed than his other bikes. Last time he rode (and hated) a deep section wheelset it was just 33 mm, but these 40 mm rims seemed just as bad, if not worse. Zio's sure the larger tire plays a role here too, but he likes the 38 mm slicks...a lot!

If you've followed the story of this bike you already know he ditched the whacky carbon bar for a standard type road bar (in aluminum) a few months back. Since the rear wheel is laced into a motorized hub, changing that would be a huge PITA while the front wheel is the one gusty winds tend to mess with the most, so it got changed. You'll often see wheelsets sold with deeper "aero" sections on the rear vs the front just for this reason.

DTSWISS GR1600 is a low profile rim in aluminum and he found a place that would sell just a front wheel at a reasonable price, so here it is. Zio Lorenzo couldn't find one that would accept the original 6-bolt brake rotor so he had to order a new centerlock rotor and lock ring as well. Grrr!

You can see (above) the overall section height (tire+rim) is now 62 mm vs

77 mm with the original wheel. How much the wind will notice this smaller surface area as it blows across the wheel on a fast, twisty descent remains to be seen, but Zio figures it's got to be an improvement, right? Check back for a report.

Update: A few rides in gusty winds suggests the front wheel gets blown around far less. Zio noted the other day a race where the winner appeared to be using a 33 mm wheel up front and a 50 mm in back, so his 26 mm - 40 mm combo is far from an original idea...but it works!

PS: Zio felt like he spent a lot of money on this bike but the other day noticed the Big-T was offering a slightly used, factory refurbished carbon gravel bike with Shimano GRX components and the Big-T's house-brand handlebar, stem, wheels, etc. for $6K while a new one will set you back $8K! And neither of 'em comes with a MAHLE X20 motor/battery! So this MV bike seems almost cheap in comparison, even with all the extra-cost part swapping.

Saturday, June 8, 2024


 Magical Mugello

MOTOGP came to Tuscany's Mugello Circuit last weekend. After Zio's Monza F1 experience last year he wanted to visit another iconic racetrack, but just like then, he wasn't keen on going solo. He'd seen the track from the road outside a time or two during a Tuscany cycling vacation but wanted the sights, sounds and smells of the real thing.

He threw out a challenge to some friends months ago, daring 'em to fly over and join him. Only old moto pal Tom (seen above) stepped up, climbing on an ITA Airways plane in LA last week to fly to Rome. Zio flew up from Catania where they met and hopped on the fast train to Florence for the weekend.

Since it was just two of us we booked with a Dutch tour operator though there were a couple other Americans there too. 4-star lodging, bus transfers to/from the circuit and race tix in the Poggio Secco grandstand. What's not to like? Bedankt Jongens!

Lot's to like in fact, though neither of us cared much for the smoke bombs and constant racket when the racing machines were silent, but we're old so what can ya do?

American Joe Roberts scored a win in MOTO2 while the Ducati factory team went 1-2 in Sunday's main event. We found a decent pizza on Friday night and some pretty good Tuscan food on Saturday. Racetrack food was good too (this IS Italy after all!) and they said the crowd was the largest seen there since Valentino Rossi hung up his leathers.

But I for one will be content from this point to watch on free, over-the-air TV in the future. As they say "BEEN THERE, DONE THAT!"

Thanks again to Tom for coming over (and wife Linda for letting him!)

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Giro d'Italia 2024

 La Corsa Rosa 2024

We raised a glass of this to "Taddy Poe-gatcher" (as many call him) on Sunday as the Giro d'Italia finished in Rome. Maybe next time we'll go see it there live? We enjoyed the first three stages in Piedmont.

Some might call the race dull since Pogacar pretty much led start-to-finish but along the way he created some nice memories, whether it was throwing out stuff to the crowd or just riding away from his rivals but somehow at the same time not making them look bad.

Sure, some will say he had no real rivals but you can only beat the guys who have the guts to show up at the start, the rest can be sore-losers though its mostly their fans that endlessly whine "If only MY guy was there!"
Well, your guy wasn't there, either by choice or accident, so too bad!

New talent was revealed, especially Italians Antonio Tiberi  (best young rider and maybe on the podium if not for an early mechanical issue?) and Giulio Pellizzari, the youngest guy in the race on a 2nd string team. Wonder if Tiberi's old team regrets canning him over the cat/pellet gun fiasco? They kept the racist tweet guy, what's he done lately? Wonder if that same team wishes they'd used something other than SRAM after the equipment failure in Rome? Couldn't help but remember Bauke Mollema's comments about their stuff awhile back, but they just keep cashing the fat checks.

Has sprinting changed? Seems like it to us..66 tooth chainrings with 11 tooth sprockets? Mamma mia! Little guy sprinters who can turn the cranks over fast look to be going the way of the dodo...will the "Manx Missile" have any luck if he makes it into LeTour 2024?

RAI TV's coverage was even better than recent years if you discount the awful Alessandro Fabretti and hapless Ettore Giovanelli, but the "dream team" of Pancani and Cassani were back together again for the stuff that counted while the Processo alla Tappa (post-race show) degenerated into a snooze.

What else was not so great? Well, there was THIS, another black-eye on the rider's so-called union. Quickly forgotten until the next tantrum from the clownish rider union official whose initials should be "CYA". Another issue was the feud between RAI TV and RCS the Giro organizer. Rather than working together they seemed to be at war, same as Milano vs RCS...another fight that makes no sense and doesn't help Italian cycling at all. 

Meanwhile, LeTour will come to Italy! We'll head up to Bologna to see a stage or two before our annual visit to our old CycleItalia HQ, Hotel Ariotto.

W Il Giro!

Friday, May 24, 2024

Ya gotta love it!


Yep, we found out about this via PEZ Cycling rather than anything on Italian TV or the race broadcast. Thanks PEZ!

We've been to EATALY stores in Rome and Chicago. If you want Italian specialties from all over the country, they have 'em!

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The Day the Big Men Cried

 The Day the Big Men Cried

1988 was the year, Gavia was the pass.

Contrast THIS to what's going-on at the Giro d'Italia today.

First the iconic Passo Stelvio was deleted from the Giro's 16th stage due to the risk of avalanche, they said. Instead the plan was to detour around over the Umbrail Pass rather than continue over Stelvio since the avalanche risks were on the descent rather than the climb.

Overnight weather at today's start reminds me of what was described at the the start of the infamous Gavia stage, but back then the race went on, creating the spectacle and memories pro cycling likes to exploit.

But now, despite having clothing far superior than the old wool and lycra stuff they wore back in 1988, not-to-mention bicycles with far more efficient braking systems than rubber blocks pushing on the sides of aluminum rims - today's stage has been neutered.

Instead, the riders will be driven over/around to a flat road around 120 kms from the finish and will race along the rest of the original planned route to the finish above the town of Ortisei.

Was the decision back in 1988 the wrong one? Perhaps, but nobody was killed or seriously injured while the epic stage entered the history books as something...well...epic. Legendary might be a better word? Is pro cycling destined never to repeat such exploits?

Is it now and forever to be "The Day the Little Men Whined" so they didn't have to get wet or cold?

Monday, May 20, 2024

La Barocca

 La Barocca 2024

Sunday was La Barocca, our first vintage event in the south. Ragusa's just an hour or so from our house so we rented a car on Saturday and zoomed out there. Last year our friends at GIOS-Torino came down here for it and wanted to stop by and visit on their way back. Zio Lorenzo was embarrassed that he didn't even know about it, but swore we'd be at the next one. We shipped Zio's vintage Bianchi and Heather's DeRosa down here last summer, just for this purpose. Nice finishing "medal" eh?

The HQ was a tiny shop next to a pharmacy. The owner's way into vintage stuff as you can see by the photos.
Crammed full of neat stuff!
Cool car, eh? We stopped-by on Saturday to pick-up our numbers, etc. and they had this car out front. It was used on Sunday to lead the group around the course.
Lot's of bikes here from local Sicilian builders. Never seen or heard of GINO before.

How 'bout BONANNO from Catania?
Or Di Lorenzo?
After admiring bicycles, it was time to ride. We opted for the short loop and were glad we did when Heather didn't feel well on the first climb.
First stop was Scicli where you see Zio Lorenzo posing on the steps of the fictional police station in the Inspector Montalbano TV series
The ride split in-two after that so we headed-off with a small group with escorts on E-MTB's, who led us through the flock of sheep and goats on our way out of town. We were happy we chose the short route as a) the skies were getting very dark b) it was mostly downhill or flat. But we got rained-on anyway the last 10 kms or so but arrived at the HQ before Zio's socks turned black, so all was good.

We were back barely after noon with 5 hours to kill before the pasta party, but when they offered us fresh arancini and birra as post-ride snacks we had our answer - skip the pasta party and head back home in-time to see the finale of the Giro d'Italia's queen stage!

We were back home and dry in front of the TV by 3 PM with plans to return to La Barocca next year - maybe riding the long route but certainly hoping it doesn't rain!

Grazie mille to everyone in Ragusa! See you in 2025!

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Letter to Vicenza

Cara Vicenza (Dear Vicenza)

Clock in the shop. Clock movement long gone

I loved you Vicenza (hometown of Campagnolo, but let's pretend she's a beautiful Italian woman and Vicenza's her first name, OK?) I really did. The first time I rode a pro-quality bike with your Nuovo Record components I came back to the shop saying "I don't like this bike but I love the components." after first trying a bike I liked with Shimano parts that I didn't. The bike shop guy said they could build me something so I put a deposit down on a Swiss-made Mondia (Reynolds 531) with Campagnolo Nuovo Record parts, Fiamme red-label tubular rims and a Selle Italia Turbo saddle. 

Was I biased? Perhaps, as my first quality bike (meaning one without a one-piece steel crank and Schwinn on the downtube) came with then-new Shimano 600 parts, the newfangled "cassette" rear hub promptly failing with nobody seeming to care about warranty/repair. I caved-in and bought another rear wheel and screw-on freewheel but never had much love for Shimano from that point on.

But this Italian stuff was only gorgeous, it worked very well after a short break-in period. Later when I worked in bike retail the shop joke was "Shimano wears-out. Campagnolo wears-in." 

It was true back then, especially after I spent 2-3 days in a Campagnolo Technical Seminar (still have the certificate of completion, shown above) while working in a Southern California bike shop.

It was still true when the bike tour company we worked for received some Campagnolo groupsets as part of a promo deal yours truly was instrumental in creating. We got their new-fangled "Ergopower" 8-speed groupsets with triple cranksets to get us up the Passo Mortirolo, etc. Some of those parts from 3+ decades ago are still in-service on our vintage bikes!

4 decades old and still going

A few boxes from when Campagnolo meant Made-in-Italy

It was still true when we created CycleItalia and needed a rental bike fleet. Our friend at Torelli provided some beautiful, tricolore versions of their Gran Sasso bicycle with Campagnolo's Mirage 9-speed triple groupset. One of those bikes is still in-service as my winter bike, complete with the original cables!

Still going strong after 2 decades

Still true when we added more bikes as the years went by and we needed more modern machines to please our clients. Every one was Campagnolo-equipped, I even had to argue/insist on this with our carbon bikes as the maker previously had nothing to do with Vicenza. Once they met he seemed a bit smitten too.

It was still true when I bought an EKAR-equipped gravel bike a few months ago.

But I'll admit to feeling a bit cheated-on years earlier when unboxing a set of cantilever brakes for a 'cross bike. Made-in-Taiwan by Tektro!!! Part of a 'cross groupset Vicenza was selling back before gravel bikes pushed 'cross off the "newest-latest-coolest" list.

I tried to ignore it and tried to ignore it again when the brakes on Vicenza's new Centaur and Potenza groupsets were so obviously Tektro products and so certainly NOT Made-in-Italy. Sure, they worked just fine, but....  
We touched on this HERE.

But I can't ignore it any longer -- it seems Vicenza has dumped me and moved to Taiwan. Despite my fidelity, she's gone. 
Am I sad? Certainly!

Vicenza's gravel groupsets, EKAR and EKAR GT seem to have a lot of Made-in-Taiwan components based on the labels on the spare parts boxes arriving here. Hard to believe it's only the brake parts. They originally admitted to working with Magura on their hydraulic stuff but obviously are having it made now by Tektro. Their hydraulic fluid color changed from blue to red like Shimano's. How much of the rest of their groupsets are Made-in-Italy rather than just designed and boxed there?

The romance is over now, especially since I've been riding a bike with Shimano's GRX groupset. All of this new gravel stuff is rather ugly, especially in boring matte-black, but GRX works pretty well in direct comparison to EKAR, based on back-to-back comparison rides done recently.

This all makes me wonder how long Campy-fans, not to mention those new to the sport will continue to pay a premium price for component groups made-in-Asia with Campagnolo's brand-name on them vs products from the same place that work just as well but cost less but have names on them that begin with "S"?

It's interesting to note the famous Q/R skewer, (the thing in the center of the clock in the photo, the invention of Tullio Campagnolo that legend has it launched his company) has been rendered obsolete with the adoption of screw-in "thru-axles" made necessary by disc brakes.

Rumor has it the petro-sheiks that bought Colnago recently also wanted to add Campagnolo, but the privately-held firm wouldn't sell. Rumors go on to point out the UAE pro cycling team on Colnago bikes no longer uses Campagnolo components.

And now that Vicenza has "dumped" me, I'll certainly think twice about what components will go on my next bicycle.

Arrivederci Vicenza, it was great while it lasted!