Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Interbike 2016 Part 3 - the people

This is the final installment for Interbike 2016 and in most ways the best. The people in the bike biz are what makes it great, especially when they're Italians.

Above are  some of the Albabici folks (l-r) Robertino, Alessandro, Gianluca, yours truly and Pitz. We've been friends with Ale and Gianlu for a decade now.

Above is yours truly with Veronica of Vittoria Shoes. The sister of Edoardo, she spends most of her time as a flight attendent with Etihad Airways. I asked her to convey my best wishes to her parents back in Biella so we posed for this photo for them, CIAO AMICI!

And then Edoardo gave me a package of these wonderful biscotti, a specialty of the Biella region. MMmmmmm! And si, Edoardo, some were saved for Heather!

Next we have Dan Large of Campagnolo North America. He's the west coast tech guy, buona forchetta and MOTOGP fan. He's standing behind a test bike equipped with Campagnolo's new POTENZA 11-speed groupset. The new components look pretty good, a real return to Campy's philosophy of great performance at every level - paying more gets you nicer finishing, more exotic materials and lower weight - but the performance is the same. We're working on making bikes with this groupset available as part of our rental fleet.

What bike to put a new POTENZA groupset on? Heather likes her Athena 11-speed triple setup just fine  (and it's still offered by Campagnolo) and Larry's happy with an older 10-speed triple setup so....perhaps a new bicycle? How 'bout a FAVALORO? A what, you say? A FAVALORO., as you'll see by watching the video via the link, is made entirely by Michele Favaloro in Italy. He's called FM-Bike in Italy but for the USA his name will be on the downtubes.

Many of you have asked for a full carbon-fiber bicycle to be added to the CycleItalia rental fleet, but our previous bike supplier doesn't offer any and Larry wasn't too keen on anything cooked up in Asia with merely an Italian-sounding name stuck on it in any case.

So we're working on custom-made, just-for-us 100% Made-in-Italy bicycles. We hope to have  at least one example by next tour season, but we're not sure yet if we'll be able to offer a small fleet in addition to our current bikes. 

The idea here is to show that for the same money you'd spend to buy a bike molded and baked in Asia featuring a big-brand name (one who spends millions to have the likes of Froome or Nibali ride 'em) that comes only in "t-shirt" (too big, too small and close enough) sizes, instead you could have a 100% Made-in-Italy, made-to-measure bicycle with all the features you want. Integrated seatpost, internal cables, internal wiring, aero shaping, special compliance for rough roads, etc. Totally hand-built just for you and created in weeks, not months.

This is something only the biggest stars of the sport can do as the bike sponsors want everyone to believe the Tour, Giro, etc. is being won on a bike just like the one you can buy. Despite this, for years many of the big stars have had custom, made-to-measure machines created just for them and then painted up in the team livery.

Now you can too!

We'll have more details as we work to get our first example so keep checking the blog.

Mille Grazie to everyone at Interbike 2016 for their hospitality!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Bellissimo acciaio (the most beautiful steel)

Most of you well know both Larry and Heather are lovers of lugged steel bikes made in Italy. ALL of our personal bikes (with the exceptions of MTB's and a few tig-welded steel bikes here and there) are handmade, lugged steel from Italy. One of Larry's favorite things to do at Interbike (after he's visited with our Italian friends of course!) is to admire these gorgeous machines. ANYBODY still making bikes like these in Italy is a hero in our book!

We've always admired BOTTECCHIA, though for awhile they were made by a rather large industrial concern. Now the brand-name seems to be in more caring hands.

The golden age of cycling, but with modern components. What's not to love?

We are suckers for pantographing. I wonder if this could be done on carbon-fiber?

And we're suckers for chrome - something that certainly can't be done on carbon-fiber!

Colnago continues to lavish chrome on the front end of his steel bikes.

Though that's the only area these days getting the full treatment.

Olmo puts more effort into theirs as you can see.

We think it's wonderful that these companies with heritage still produce bikes that reflect it!

SOMEC has an enthusiastic importer/distributor in the USA.

Larry always enjoys saying CIAO to them!

The steel Wilier bikes are always a feast for the eye and we'd take a guess they're just as much fun to own and ride.


Even on the bottom bracket shell!

Finally, two photos of Heather's new bike. GIOS (at least the real, made-in-Italy ones) can only be purchased in Italy so we did just that this past summer. Heather had always admired the blue bikes (and Roger DeVlaeminck and the Brooklyn team) so we decided perche no? and had one built just for her.

Don't be fooled. Other bikes with this famous name on them are available throughout the world but are made in Asia, NOT Italy!  Heather's name was painted on this frame by Aldo Gios himself, just like they used to do for guys like DeVlaeminck.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Interbike 2016 - Part 1

The Interbike Expo is Larry's chance to say CIAO to all of our Italian cycling friends in one (huge) place. Sadly that place is Las Vegas, Nevada for some crazy reason, but here we are....

Above you see Larry posing with Sig. Valentino Campagnolo, the son of the founder and still the boss. He's not always at this show so I took the opportunity to offer him one of the special tribute t-shirts we had printed up. Larry had long wanted to create an homage to the famous, legendary phrase young Tullio was supposed to have said to himself  in a race over the Croce d'Aune pass when his frozen hands couldn't undo the wing nuts on his rear wheel to swap over to the other sprocket-

"Bisogna cambia qualcosa de drio."
(Something needs to be changed in the rear.)

which led to the invention of the quick-release wheel skewer, a product still in wide use today on high quality bicycles. Mr. Campagnolo seemed genuinely touched.

Next it was more light-hearted fun - for some reason the SMP saddle folks had models dressed up as nurses at their stand, so the obligatory sort-of cheesecake shot was taken. I guess it wouldn't be the bike show in 'Vegas without some attractive models to draw attention from the mostly male audience.

Tomorrow's the Campagnolo tech seminar and who knows what else?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Special offer from Albabici

Above: Our amici from Albabici at Interbike 2015

Great news!

Reserve your place(s) on a 2017 CycleItalia guided tour and our friends at Albabici will offer you a 25% discount on anything in their online store.

Not only will you find great Italian cycling products not likely available at your local bike dealer, who more and more is forced to offer only products produced or distributed by his major-brand bicycle supplier, but you'll save 25% in the process!

This could make the price of what we think is the "World's Best Bike Travel Case"*
under $500. But whatever you choose, it's all 25% off the listed price.

The sooner you reserve your place(s) the sooner you can start shopping!

Discount code reserved ONLY for CycleItalia guided tour 2017 reservations. We'll provide you with a special code to be used at checkout. Please don't share the code with others. Our reservation list may be checked by Albabici.

*Sci-Con is an official supplier to CycleItalia

Monday, September 5, 2016

Bici d'epoca - Tribute to Hampsten's 1988 Giro d'Italia victory

Regular readers of the blog will remember our SCAPIN bici d'epoca project, still a work-in-progress for EROICA California 2017. Larry was planning to ride that one, but Heather now wants to join in the fun. So another project has been started.

American cycling fans old enough remember fondly Andy Hampsten's victory in the Giro d'Italia of 1988. Most remember the iconic HUFFY-branded 7/Eleven bikes the team rode - custom built by Ben Serotta using True Temper tubing, a team sponsor.

This tribute* bike will be far from a replica as it'll be Campagnolo-equipped like the MURRAY-branded bikes (also built by Serotta) the teams used in previous years rather than the Japanese brand components used in 1988. Epoca bikes are supposed to be pre 1987 anyway so we're more in the spirit, no?

So yes, this could have been painted and decaled (Grazie mille to https://www.facebook.com/The-Color-Factory, VeloCals and Sioux City Signs by Tomorrow) to look just like a MURRAY instead, but there's more to the story...

...like the tubeset. Tange Prestige here instead of True Temper or Columbus. Heather has owned this bike for at least two decades. In fact it was repainted in CycleItalia livery after we stopped working with "those other people" back in 1998. It then sat around after Torelli joined up with us, eventually being turned into sort of a winter bike. But EROICA CA called!

While Ben Serotta WAS the "builder of trust" for the 7/Eleven team, some members sought out other constructors for their personal racing machines. This practice has gone on for years and in some cases is still practiced today, though there's a lot more cloak-and-dagger about it these days with million-dollar sponsorships to protect!

Oddly enough, it was Larry who ended up giving Serotta the not-so-great news back in 1988 that the "bike that won the Giro" was not his creation. He'd taken photos of Andy's bike at the Tour de France and when he got back to work at the bike shop, a sharp-eyed sales rep pointed out "That's no Serotta, that is a LANDSHARK."

The bike Hampsten rode to victory in Italy was indeed built by John Slawta of LandShark, same as Heather's bike, using the same Tange Prestige tubeset. The only obvious clue is the logo on the brake bridge, which Larry could not resist highlighting as you can see above. Needless to say Hampsten's bike didn't have this logo!

This will get built-up similarly to our other bici d'epoca with Campagnolo triple crankset and all polished alloy for the correct period look.

Read more about the original bike HERE. For even more on the history of the 7/Eleven bikes go HERE. To read a vintage bike piece Larry wrote for BikeRaceInfo go HERE.

*Please don't bomb us with comments about the fork/color that doesn't match Andy's bike. It's the one that came with the frame and this is a TRIBUTE rather than replica.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Ridin' dirty

With apologies to native Iowans and RAGBRAI'rs...western Iowa's just not a very exciting place to ride a bicycle. Maybe it is in reality, but spending so much time enjoying the great cycling in Italy makes coming back here and getting the bike out rather boring.

But there are a lot of dirt roads around here so Larry's been trying to keep things fresh and interesting by riding on some of them. EROICA it ain't...but there's some pretty scenery out there in places. And as you might guess, not much traffic, though there's never much traffic in western Iowa!

These roads might be more challenging with bici d'epoca but since our bikes for EROICA CA 2017 are still works in-progress, Larry dragged out his old LeMond Poprad 'cross bike instead.

This bike's gotta be more than 15 years old, purchased locally back when LeMond bikes were made by those people in Wisconsin who backed BigTex. Reynolds steel tubing tig-welded in LeMond's classic long top-tube and relaxed seat tube design. All the components are pretty much the same Campagnolo triple stuff as our road bikes with the exception of wheels, tires and brakes.

This bike's been mostly a winter bike, setup with road tires and fenders but for exploring dirt roads the Campagnolo Khamsin wheels and knobby tires are great! Smooth rolling on the pavement with plenty of cushion and grip on the dirt. I guess one could sort of call this old thing a "gravel bike" way ahead of it's time?

Monday, August 29, 2016

TV Dinner

Above: Mario Rizzotti and Larry

The local Farmer's Market folks here in Sioux City put on a benefit dinner featuring TV personality/Culinary Judge/Brand Ambassador MARIO RIZZOTTI. The titles are from his business card as I confess I had no idea who this guy was, but the dinner was supposed to be Italian and benefit the Farmer's Market - so perche no? (as we like to say)

The event was held at a local eatery we'd never visited, as in the USA (with rare exceptions) we prefer to create our own Italian meals in our humble kitchen. We find even if the food in a USA Italian-style ristorante is OK, the service is way-too-often the earnest, overbearing, "Are you still working on that?" (No, I'm NOT working on anything, I'm trying to enjoy this dish, so please go away!") style that ruins the experience.

Rizzotti himself touched on this during his pre-meal remarks. He went on to sing the praises of Made-in-Italy food and wine, which brought smiles to our faces even when we got him to discuss the fine prosciutto crudo from Iowa's La Quercia. Mario said he's met the producer a few times and they make a fine product, though there's still something special about the original product from Parma. We agree, but getting the original product from Parma's kinda tough in western Iowa!

We spoke with Mario mostly in Italian, which he said he appreciated, especially out here in the wilds of western Iowa, where we doubt he hears much of his native language, but his English is excellent after years in the USA. He has that stereotypical Italian warmth and friendly way, which probably explains his success.

We enjoyed (in order) melanzane alla parmigiano, panzanella, risotto al Amarone, a grilled fish dish with scallop and shrimp and finally, a roast beef plate with a little tower of eggplant/zucchini/pepper and onion. Italian wines from a local distributor were chosen to complement each dish.

Dessert was a creamy peach tart topped with special cherries from Italy.

Grazie mille Mario e tutti!

Our challenge now is to convince the Farmer's Market folks to offer their next benefit dinner featuring our friend CARLO ZARRI, the truffle chef.