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! 

Thursday, May 9, 2024

RIP Massignan


He was called the Angel of the Gavia, kind of the Pantini of his day, winning the climber's jersey at LeTour in the early 1960's. For some reason Massignan's recent passing didn't get a lot of press even here in Italy. Click HERE for some details and statistics.

Click HERE for details on where the above photo was taken and HERE to see him in action on the Passo Gavia.

RIP Scalatore.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

GIOS Raduno 2024

Famiglia Blu

The 7th GIOS Raduno was this past Sunday so we flew up to Milano, rented a car and headed off to our former HQ, Hotel Ariotto. We got our blue bikes out and made sure they were ready-to-ride on Sunday. Above you see a few of the tribe posing with Aldo and Marco GIOS.

This year instead of roadside stops for snacks, they arranged a full, sit-down, multi-course pranzo. Great idea!

We lucked-out with the weather as it's been rain-rain-rain up north. But Saturday and Sunday were clear though we raced back post-pranzo under some dark clouds. Above shows the group stopped to wait for someone with a broken chain. Same chain broke again on the way back, but everyone eventually made it back OK.

There was a roadside pause to see the Giro pass-by.

Pranzo was enjoyable, lots of catching-up with members of the tribe we might see only once a year while making some new friends as well.

One of the race police escorts remembered the old Brooklyn cycling team and called out as he went past.

GIOS created another limited edition bicycle, this one to commemorate the famous Grande Torino football team.

We also saw Il Giro pass nearby the GIOS showroom on Saturday under sunny skies.

Mille Grazie to Aldo, Marco, Silvi, Roby and the rest for all of their hard work to make this happen each year. This might not have been the biggest one yet, but maybe the best?


Tuesday, April 23, 2024

A proper handlebar at last!

 Arrivederci FSA!

A proper handlebar at last! Zio Lorenzo tried to like the OEM spec'd FSA K-WING carbon handlebar, he really did! Especially when he thought about the PITA involved in changing it.

But after a couple of months and more than 1000 kms of trying he caved-in and ordered a more normal-shaped aluminum road bend handlebar by Ritchey. Heather likes their 31 mm bars OK as they have a reasonable shape and bend while Zio ordered the same FSA model stem but 10 cm vs the shorty OEM 7 cm. The hoses/cables/wires are no longer inside the stem (or bar), instead under a plastic cover that fits under the stem and under the bar tape. Does it really look all that untidy? Not to Zio!

The bike looks a lot more "normal" now, but the real benefit is the change in position. The distance from the tip of the saddle to the center of the handlebar is now Zio's normal spec while when he's down on the drops the front hub is hidden from view, just as they used to tell us was proper back-in-the-day.

Not too ugly, eh? Zio decided not to cut the steerer tube when he removed the 2 cm of spacers underneath, at least for now. But he's really liking the lowered bars despite them still being higher than normal due to modern frame design with higher headtubes and sloping top tubes.

An old-time round style top-cap and spacers ABOVE the stem don't look too bad, do they?

This was Zio's first project like this. He dreaded pulling hoses/cables/wires out of the insides of a bar and stem. It threatened to be a lot of work...and it was! The e-shifter wires had to be unplugged (once the plugs were finally found, deep inside the frame'a toptube!) and then snaked back through headtube and frame to be reconnected. 

The brake hoses have banjo-type fittings at the brake lever and Zio feared they wouldn't fit through the holes in the bar, but fortunately he was wrong, but they still had to be disconnected, which meant a time-consuming brake-bleeding session was required to finish-up. 

Meanwhile, the shift cable inner wire had to come out of it's housing so it too could be yanked out of the bar, then replaced, the entire time with Zio sort-of holding his breath as he pushed the inner cable back through all that housing - through the entire frame, hoping it would pop out rather than get stuck and frayed, requiring replacement with a new one. 

Super-duper, extra-slick cables are needed (Campagnolo call's 'em "Maximum Smoothness" which sounds like a men's shaving product) to deal with all the twists, turns and bends required for internal routing and the replacement cable/housing for this bike costs $100!

Zio breathed a sigh of relief when the cable popped out in good shape, especially as the super-slick aftermarket replacement (he forgot to order with stem/bar) wasn't going to arrive for a few days. From that point it was just running everything along the handlebar, then under the stem (where the extra wiring that didn't like being stuffed back into the headtube was coiled-up) where it's all hidden by a plastic cover. 

Zio had saved the original bar tape when he switched to the red cork (which didn't come off in one piece) to match the red SMP Glider saddle he tried before going back to the white Plus, so it went back on, easily covering the simple round bar vs the extra surface of the multi-shaped FSA thing.

The bike now fits properly. Zio likes the less flexy feeling with hands down in the drops along with the general shape and feel he's familiar with. The levers are no longer slanted/tilted/skewed, though it's unfashionable for sure. 

This damn near all-day project certainly would go more quickly next time, but even then it would likely still be a half-day project. But now with everything under the bar tape or under the stem cover, unless something goes wrong inside the headtube, any repairs or parts changes should be quick and easy in comparison!!

Best of all, when he hops on this bike it feels pretty much like his other bikes...finally!!!