Wednesday, August 10, 2022

REDSHIFT ShockStop stem review

 REDSHIFT ShockStop stem review*

A suspension stem you ask? Yep! This one from REDSHIFT served two purposes.

The first was replacing the 12 cm stem Zio Lorenzo stuck on this bike before he brought it down to Sicily. Too long! He stupidly failed to bring any other lengths just-in-case, so what to do?

If he was gonna buy a shorter one, why not try one of these to soften up the ride of this great Torelli Gran Sasso a bit more than the 27 mm tires (the widest that will fit on this bike) provide, especially on strada sterrata like on the old rail-trail along the sea? Zio was already running 60 psi in front and 70 psi in back but still felt more "sting" on the bumps than he liked, especially after riding his Super Gravel Monster on the same trail. Its frame is being painted at present so this Torelli is IT for unpaved roads.

Bolts right on with a shim Zio already had for the 1" steerer tube along with a shim he bought with the stem to use a 26 mm bar in the stem's 31 mm clamp. Looks pretty normal, right?

It comes with a selection of elastomers so you can get the amount of movement you prefer. Zio set his up using the recommended pair and liked it just fine. No bouncing around, just a bit more "cush" when your front wheel hits a bump. No slop or wiggle when you hop over a bigger bump though you do get a bit of movement when you land or stand up and push down hard on the bars, but nothing like that when simply standing up on the pedals to accelerate or climb. You don't notice it until you hit a bump and even then it's very subtle, but still effective.

Overall, it feels like Zio let another 10 psi out of the front tire without any of the squishiness he'd feel running that tire at just 50 psi, so he's kind of happy that he failed to bring a rigid 10 cm stem down here just-in-case!

* Zio bought this at MSRP through the REDSHIFT website.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Drop handlebars..dead?

 RIP Drop handlebars

News that a racer was DQ'd recently based on the "puppy-paw" position she used briefly in a race made Zio Lorenzo think.

Or course drop handlebars haven’t died, but in some ways “rest-in-peace” still applies.

What happened? Don’t racers still use them? Of course, but they rarely put their hands on the dropped part these days.  Until recently the rules let them drape their forearms over the bar top with hands out-front, touching nothing. Some dubbed this “puppy paws” but it simulated an aero-bar position (remember the old Cinelli "Spinaci" and the copies?) and evidently was superior against the wind vs riding with hands down in the drops. But for safety reasons the UCI banned it, making the riders at least maintain a semblance of grip on the handlebars. They banned the silly “super-tuck” (sitting on the top tube) position around the same time, but that’s a topic for another time.

"Puppy-paws". Now banned.

Now they keep their hands on the brake hoods but try to keep forearms straight as in the now-banned “puppy paw” position, sometimes even laying them across the bar, but as long as their hands aren’t sticking out into thin-air it’s OK.  Modern brake/shift levers with hydraulic cylinders inside are longer than the old cable brake style which helps them stretch out a bit more, but unless they’re descending quickly or sprinting, you rarely see many hands on the drops these days.

Almost as good as "puppy-paws" as in more "aero" than using the drops?

Drops are not so “droppy” nowadays either*. Back-in-the-day when Cinelli bars were king, there was the deep drop # 66 Campione del Mondo (no longer on Cinelli’s website – just too “droppy”?) and the not so deep #64 Giro d’Italia along with other copies. All had much deeper drops than you see these days. So-called “anatomic” bars came along after but despite their flattened rather than curved sections the drop remained pretty much the same.

Eddy Merckx using deep drop bars. Notice how his stem is not slammed?

So what changed? What caused the drops to be less “droppy”?  Zio claims it was the clamp-on stem. When these threadless setups became standard, the “slam that stem!” (meaning zero spacers underneath) became popular. This put the bar tops and hoods much lower than with a traditional quill stem, one that could be raised and lowered without stacking spacers above or below, all with just a twist of the hex bolt holding the quill in the steerer tube.

But now everyone could see how many spaces you had (or didn’t) under your threadless stem, even if you flipped it upside down (compared to the pros anyway) to get a positive rather than negative rise…you were “slammed” and in-fashion! Maybe the tops of your bars (therefore the brake hoods as well) ended up lower than what you used with a quill stem, but you were in-fashion, so who cared? Plenty of bike-mag articles were written about the merits (fashion and otherwise) of “slamming that stem!”

Perhaps as a result a lot of the head tubes on so-called “endurance bikes” got taller so those “slammed” stems could still get the bars higher up, but on “racing” bikes the overall lowering meant your drops might now be way-too-low.

The answer? “Compact” bars! Really shallow drops (sometimes so shallow your forearms hit the top when you reach down) soon became the norm. In comparison the drop on a not-so-deep-drop bar like the old Cinelli 64 seems huge these days. Hands on drops or hoods? It made little difference to your aerodynamic drag it seemed, so why bother with drops, especially when getting down there might put pressure on your sensitive regions since the bars (and therefore the drops) were too low if you followed that “slam” fashion?

The result is you see even the pros rarely bother these days. Modern hydraulic brake systems are so powerful a rider can get plenty of braking power despite the reduced leverage with hands on the brake hoods, so even on technical descents they’re as likely to put hands up there as on the drops.

Some riders have also tried super-narrow bars while others have turned the brake levers inward in what is assumed an attempt to create a more aerodynamic position.  You  might wonder how long before these folks just cut the drop part of the bar off. If you never use it, why carry it around? Would the UCI allow that?

*Note the difference in bar drop on the bikes pictured below. What used to be "normal" at the top followed by early "compact" bars below and what Zio would call "really compact" (but these days pretty much standard) bars at the bottom.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Thoughts on the Tour 2022

 Thoughts on Le Grand Boucle 2022

Harry & Leather at LeTour 2019

No live, in-person viewing for us this year, just a lot of time watching on TV. We're spoiled-for-choice here as RAI broadcasts intensive daily coverage with commentators we mostly like while Eurosport/Discovery/GCN streamed the whole thing live, every stage, start-to-finish with a duo we really like, Luca Gregorio and Riccardo "Magro" Magrini. Eurosport usually got the nod as there are no commercial interruptions with their service. We'll get into their coverage later in this post.

First, the race was pretty entertaining overall, a lot of thanks goes to Pogacar who tirelessly attacked day after day, sometimes all alone and in ways you thought (against hope) would be fruitless. Perhaps the defending champion came in a bit over-confident and under-trained but he's still a kid after all!

The best comparison Zio could come up with was "El Diablo" Claudio Chiappucci once the very real weaknesses of Pogacar's UAE team were revealed. The team UAE wanted to bring didn't even make it to Denmark due to Covid with another member testing positive once the race began but somehow deemed non-contagious enough to continue while at the same time a different UAE rider was sent home, followed soon by another plus a team director! They lost another due to intestinal issues, leaving Pogacar with only three helpers at the race' end. Zio predicted pre-race that Covid would have a far greater effect on the race than any individual team or rider and it's hard to argue otherwise in his opinion.

Meanwhile, super-team Jumbo-Visma had all eight of their riders until Stage 15, using them well to tag-team attack Pogacar, fouling up his eating regimen enough for him to suffer hunger-knock and lose two minutes to J-V's now solid team leader. JUMBO somehow dodged the Covid bullets, losing two riders instead to crashes which usually are not contagious, though their leader did manage to fall off himself once or twice! Another JUMBO rider later left the race for personal reasons but by then the race was all but over.

So while teams eventually were down on strength UAE soon would be even worse-off when they lost yet another key man, this time to equipment failure. While it was great to see the American on each team (Kuss on J-V, McNulty on UAE) perform so well in support duties, just like with "El Diablo's" constant attacks against the likes of BigMig or LeMond it was hard to see Pogacar getting away to gain any real time barring a crash or major mistake by Vingegaard or his team.

But that didn't stop him from trying! Just like the old daze with Chiappucci it was great to watch - a guy racing-to-win rather than not-to-lose whether he had a white or yellow jersey on his back. Even on the last day he was smiling and riding off-the-front. Hvala vam Pogacar!

It was also great to see Michael Matthews get a win, a win for the French with Christophe Laporte and the amazing performance of Wout VanAert. Some talk of slimming the guy down so he can win a Grand Tour but we ask why? Does everyone have to have GT's as their goal? The fair-play handshake episode between the Tour protagonists was nice to see as well, making it clear you don't have to hate your competitor to beat him or her. CHAPEAU!

Other positives: Is the "kite-man" dead? One crashed out while another, who actually won Le Grand Boucle with the "mow 'em down in the chrono, defend in the mountains" method could do neither this year. Is the kite-man idea dead or was this guy just too old? His team's "marginal gains" strategy didn't seem to help much either while the winning team reportedly spends only 1/2 as much as those guys, with most of it coming from a chain of grocery stores and a cloud software company rather than petro-sheiks or fracking kings. CHAPEAU!

Now for the criticism: Zio Lorenzo criticized the Giro's TV director, a guy he assumes works for the broadcast company EMG? Seemed like the same guy was running things at LeTour, way-too-often showing meaningless, unimportant images while ignoring the action, only to cut to an attack after-the-fact, relying on instant replay far-too-often. That same EMG logo was visible on trucks in the broadcast so it seems fair to blame them rather than French TV and while we're at it, who is the guy at the post-race interview? He sounded like the same guy they had at the Giro and asked the same banal questions. Surely there are better people out there?! 

On that same subject, more Wiggins-less Contador on the moto in the race caravan, please. While you're reducing things hand some pink-slips out to some of the UK "experts" who way too often blather-on in interviews with their own opinions, then try to get the people they're interviewing to agree! Nobody cares what they think, it's not an interview of THEM! But keep Bernie Eisel, he does a great job!

This race set a new average speed record, despite the claimed record heat while the winning team's members never seemed to get tired or sick, a few of them crashing out instead. The race winner ended up gifting the final chrono stage to his teammate while other chrono specialists got trounced. 

"Incredible" was a word tossed around a lot during this race but Zio Lorenzo's wondering if this is true in a more literal sense? Cynics can look up "Danish cycling dope-cheats" and find a disproportionate number compared to the total number of pro cyclists from that country while the winning team can be traced back to the scandal-plagued Rabobank squad. They admit to using substances others say should be banned and they are not members of the MPCC. To be fair UAE'S not a member either, but performance comparisons of these two teams in the Tour shows a wide disparity once you go beyond the two team leaders.

Eyebrows should be raised and questions should be asked. Let's hope time will tell. Fans want more than just WWE-style entertainment, they want results they can trust and believe in.

Vive LeTour!

Click HERE for another view.

Friday, July 1, 2022

It's TOUR time!


Can we write that without being sued by ASO? Either way, the big show starts Denmark.

ASO's marketing juggernaut made me think of:

That's right, the official pasta of the Giro d'Italia!! Take that LeTour! These are still in stores and they're not half-bad. Zio remembers pasta in France..for some reason they cook it like rice there..until all the liquid is absorbed. Then there were the official frites...a product of McCain Food..a Canadian company. Can you believe that? One more reason Italian (and later pretty much all of 'em) teams bring their own cooks to Le Beeg Shew, spawning recipe books, food trucks, you-name-it!

Vive LeTour!

Sunday, June 26, 2022

La Mitica 2022

 La Mitica 2022

Geez, almost a month with no posts!! What have we been up to?
Heather has been running some academic conferences, we enjoyed a trip to the Aeolian Islands and last week we came up to Piedmont for a couple of weeks.

Since CycleItalia/Piedmont Cycling Resort has been closed, we have a lot of stuff that we no longer need. We'll keep our own stuff up here as we intend to visit regularly but we need to get rid of a lot of bikes, parts, equipment that's no longer needed. So Zio Lorenzo is going through it all bit by bit, bike by bike, box by box.

Of course we've been riding and eating well along with some other activities like La Mitica, our favorite bici d'epoca event. Today Zio went to Castellania to see old friends and enjoy old bikes, taking his vintage Bianchi around the short (55 km) route.

Zio in Volpedo, the first ristoro.

Heather was off running in the ancient Nemean Games in Greece so Zio was a uomo solo...but not al comando like Fausto Coppi though the Campionissimo's son Faustino was a guest-of-honor on a weekend all about Fausto (and Serse) Coppi.

La Mitica is our favorite epoca event for a lot of reasons including the amazing, hands-on management of Pietro Cordelli and his staff, the festive stop in Tortona and the general atmosphere. We've enjoyed all the epoca events we've attended but La Mitica stands out! And for some reason the normally fearsome "rampina" climb this year didn't seem so hard - perhaps because the sterrata surface was more firm and the temperatures were not too hot? It was great to finally enjoy one of these again after a two-year absence even though Zio looks to have come down with Covid-19 as a Thursday he tested positive after feeling bad starting on Wednesday.

Buon lavoro Cordelli & Co..see you next time!!!

Monday, May 30, 2022

Thoughts on Giro d'Italia 2022

 Giro d'Italia 2022

Start in Avola
La Corsa Rosa 2022 was challenging to say the least. Will it go down as a vintage edition? Probably not as the course revealed back in the fall of 2021 looked really, really tough and turned out to be just that. I mean just watching it on TV! It was not only a test for the competitors, a real last-man-standing battle of attrition, but a real challenge to watch day after day.

Let’s start with the good stuff: who can’t love the story of Biniam Girmay, the audacity of Mathieu Van der Poel, the “Christopher Reeve as Superman” looks and sprint domination of Arnaud Demare, the never-say-die long range attack of Alessandro Covi, the surprise of Trek-Segafredo’s young Spaniard (the next Hindley?) the over-performance of underdog teams like Alpecin and Intermarche, not to mention the spectacular scenery and massive crowds along the roads saluting Vincenzo Nibali in his final season?

We like Magro and Co on Eurosport

Then there’s the winner, Jai Hindley, taking revenge on the team who kept him off the top step of the Giro podium back in 2020 with a bold, last-chance attack on the Giro’s queen stage to put an insurmountable gap between him and INEOS team leader Richard Carapaz. This is a guy who came a long way around the world to Italy to learn his craft, winning some races in the Australian National Team jersey and racing with an Italian team based in Abruzzo. A guy who hasn’t seen his parents since the Covid-19 pandemic began and the first Australian winner ever of the Giro d’Italia.

The Torino stage was exciting

But watching the race was sometimes a struggle, even for me, an unabashed Italo-phile. Was the course too hard? Not in my opinion, why not have an edition for climbers rather than “kite-men”? Were there not enough big names racing? Plenty showed up but quite a few never made it to Verona, but that’s part of a Grand Tour, you have to first finish to finish first. There did seem to be a lot of racing not-to-lose, even Italian commentators talked about boring stages and blamed a lot of it on the current technology and the “numbers game” that is modern cycling under current UCI rules. That’s not the Giro organizer RCS’ fault is it? Perhaps the Giro could make their own rules and ban power-meters, heart rate monitors and the like? But we still had exploits like from guys like MVdP and Covi, just not enough of them. Plenty of social media keyboard lions whined about boring stages, but I figure anything not LeTour or without “their” rider in the race and doing well is going to get complaints, so who cares what they think?

Gios Raduno visits La Corsa Rosa

In the complaint department, I have two: One was the sport-washing of the Orban regime in Hungary. I know RCS needs the money but I thought Israel was a bad idea, now Hungary? Will Moscow be next? Second was the video coverage. There was lots of talk last year about the poor TV production quality provided by Italian national broadcaster RAI. This year’s TV images and some interviews were provided by a private group, EMG I think it’s called. While their images never suffered during inclement weather…wait a minute, there was NO inclement weather, the EMG director too often seemed not to understand how bike races work – countless times missing attacks and deploying his camera motos at the front and back of one group of riders while none covered other groups. There were plenty of TV motos but they were rarely in the right place at the right time. RAI’s coverage has been superior even if we were sometimes left with no images if/when the weather went bad.

Bring back RAI!

The interviewers provided by these people weren’t very good either, asking banal questions way too often and why so little of Bradley Wiggins on the moto? He’s one reason (Riccardo Magrini is another) we watched Eurosport coverage vs RAI’s…at least until Magrini and Vladmir Belli started arguing, especially when RAI cut to commercials. Adding Moreno Moser to the Eurosport commentary group was a great idea!

I WILL throw out some criticism for RAI - their Processo alla Tappa show was too often a let down. Bring back Alessandra De Stefano as host, per favore! Same with the morning show, Beppe Conti is great but please, please find someone else to be the host!

Perhaps not a vintage edition but looking back over the three pink weeks, my time in front of the TV and seeing the race live, in-person was well spent. I’m already looking forward to the 106th edition!

Here's another take on Giro d'Italia 2022.

Sunday, May 29, 2022


 GRAVEL...far from new...but..

...this one has a twist. Heather's new Bianchi has something different. Can you tell what it is?

Above is a clue.

And the rear wheel hub is the giveaway, Mahle's E-bike Motion X35 system. Their X20 system looks even better and we're currently begging Favaloro to check it out with the idea of having something weighing around the same as our beloved steel bikes, yet with a battery and hub motor like X20. There are already bikes on the market weighing 11 kgs while this aluminum Bianchi is double that...but rides a lot like a normal bike when the motor is off...and you're not going uphill.

Yeah, we know, E-bikes are cheating. And Zio hates disc brakes, thru-axles and Shimano components...but when your doc says limit your heart rate to X and your husband complains that you're holding him back, what's the solution? The coolest thing about this is (now that we ditched the cheapo wire-bead tires, slapped on some non-flared handlebars and a decent-length stem) is the computer-controlled motor assist. Heather straps on a heart rate monitor and tells the bike to assist ONLY when her heart rate gets to a preset level. So when Zio Lorenzo is going too fast, the motor kicks-in and everyone's happy! And sometimes Zio has to chase uphill!

While we're on the subject of happiness, here's one of our ex-rental bikes, a Torelli Gran Sasso that we named after Gino Bartali. Zio Lorenzo wanted a winter-beater so his gorgeous Torelli 20th Anniversary bike can stay clean when he doesn't want to slog around on the ancient MTB with the drop bars and 50+ mm slicks...which he's now having repainted.

With this addition to the fleet, he now he has this "Low-fat" to go with the fat slick-equipped "Full-fat" bike and his regular "No-fat" road bike. This bike may end up an all-rounder like Heather's e-Bianchi, but for now Zio's skipping the motor...but by the time we get Favaloro talked into the X20 system......?