Tuesday, January 18, 2022

April 1st already?

 Gravel Hall of Fame

"Gravel" cycling circa 1920

The "Biggest Midget in the Room Award" goes to the Gravel Hall of Fame.
Zio Lorenzo couldn't have said it better himself! What fame?

I think the "cart before the horse" idea sums this up pretty well, no?

"Gravel" is nothing more than the bike biz' latest attempt to sell you another bicycle. Since they figure you already have road, aero-road, comfort-road, endurance-road, a mountain bike or two, a 'cross bike and maybe even a stealth e-bike like a Pinarello Nytro, you must be ready for a "gravel" bike!! Or at least they're ready to sell you one.

Because there's no way you can ride ANY of those bikes you already have on gravel, right? Forget what those guys used to do in LeTour back-in-the-day. So far Zio Lorenzo's doing just fine with this.

Do you REALLY need another bicycle? Is there really a need for this Hall of Fame?

Thursday, January 13, 2022

VeloNews is dead!


Another one bites the dust, as they say. The OUTSIDE Magazine conglomerate bought up various titles not too long ago and anyone who didn't see this coming must walk with a white cane or hold onto a dog.

A good history up to a previous sale of the mag can be found HERE. Zio Lorenzo can remember the original newspaper from Vermont and how excited he was when JW and Co. took over. This was at the same time Zio began his bike tour work and a couple of the richie-rich backers of the thing joined us on a TdF race-chasing tour around this time.

They had the cartoons of Patrick O'Grady and Zio's favorite, "At the Back" by Maynard Hershon, complete with illustrations by David Brinton.

But the magazine went downhill fast once JW and Co. were gone as did most of the English-language cycling print mags with the exception of Rouleur from the UK, all of 'em overshadowed by free online publications I guess?

Trying to advertise our cycling vacations became a real challenge and much more expensive as the magazines wanted payment for the print advertising and another payment for online. The result seemed like a doubling of costs for nowhere near the doubling of the audience while neither the print or online versions were profitable.

So along come the "vulture capitalists" to gobble 'em up, kind of like the big bike brands gobble up independent bike retail stores in the USA? They pick over the carcass and then what?

As is usually the case, it's consolidation so it looks like all that's left in-print is a Rouleur wannabee named Peloton. Zio wonders why they kept that title with the troubles of the indoor cycling company of the same name, but since he's not a vulture capitalist how should he know?

Meanwhile, here in La Bella Paese we have BICISPORT which has just upgraded their printing, binding, etc. and brags the January issue is already sold-out in places! At one time they even had a digital edition in English but sadly that seems to be a thing of the past.

Makes one wonder why print is going away in one place but seemingly thriving in another? Zio's guess is the quality of BICISPORT hasn't deteriorated in the way so many English-language mags have. The buying-selling seemed to reduce the quality of those print magazines to the point they were no longer worth the money - making free English-language cycling coverage online much more popular. 

Now that many of the English-language (Italian ones are still generally free, but full of annoying pop-up ads) online magazines are going behind paywalls, will their quality improve? Zio's too cheap to pay to find out! Instead he'll pop by his favorite newsstand each month and pay 5 euros for BICISPORT in print and fill-in with whatever is still free online.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Happy New Year!

View of Mt. Etna from our local rail-trail

Hope your 2022 is off to a good start. Some things Zio Lorenzo's been thinking about:

Remember Jeff Novitzky? The FDA agent hot-on-the-trail of BigTex and other cycling dope cheats...until he wasn't? Now he's been bought...er...well..hired to be the "senior vice president of athlete health and performance at Ultimate Fighting Championship". Is that a sport?

Since "BigTex" has justified his cheating with a similar "But Mom, everyone else is doing it too!" excuse, should Tex be reinstated as winner of all those races where the winner gets the yellow shirt? What about other cheats like "Mr. 60%"? Zio wonders about the similarities between Novitzky going to work for this fighting business and when Tex hired Don Caitlin to, well, whitewash his yet-to-be-admitted-to doping scheme.

Meanwhile, the tiny country of San Marino is offering great tax breaks to various athletes. No matter how much dough you make the maximum tax you'll have to pay is $100K they say. You need a house there and I guess you have to live in it? With Italian cycling pros spending so much time out of Italy, can they "live" (or at least sleep) there enough nights each year to not run afoul of the residence requirements that caught up tax-exiles like Valentino Rossi and Luciano Pavarotti?

Since San Marino is entirely surrounded by Italy, Zio guesses you could "live" there and ride around on your bike all over Italy as long as you could prove you were back "home" (as in out of Italy) enough nights to meet the regulations. Some well-known pros have been listed as moving there so Zio guesses only time will tell if they get away with it.

Ever wonder why pro cycling teams don't take more care/interest in having kits that stand out on TV and show their sponsor's logos in a way they can be read on a rider on a bike? Zio has, and now it seems the UCI has taken some steps to reduce the similarities, at least in the women's category. For some reason a whole bunch of women's team kit designers decided for 2022 way-too-similar purple/orange/pink fade designs were the way to go. Thankfully, the UCI decided otherwise.*

Finally, some great advice from pro rider Victor Campenaerts. It's in Italian but (easily translated) he basically says unless you're a pro, why waste your time fooling around with power-meters and other electronic gizmos? He claims these things reduce the fun of cycling even for the pros!

Heather long-ago demanded cyclometers be removed from all of her bikes while Zio uses a simple Cateye unit on his, mostly for service interval reasons. We both ditched heart-rate gizmos once our racing daze were over and never got into Strava or any of the "smart-phone" based schemes. GPS units were used only sparingly, mostly to map routes for our tours

Best wishes for a great 2022!

*Update: UCI is allowing both SDWorx and HumanPoweredHealth teams to race in jerseys almost impossible to tell apart! Zio feels sorry for anyone tasked with telling these teams apart on the road!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

How was your ride today?

 How was your ride today?

Zio Lorenzo's was delayed by...cows! But not for long and the cow plop on the road was easy enough to avoid.

It's been too long since Lorenzo rode up the "Strada Diego" that the local boys showed him a few years ago, but when it's a day like this with bright sun, no clouds and 60+ F temps, if you're feeling good, have low gears and two bottles of water...perche no?

The whole thing's only 50 kilometers round-trip but you get that "middle-of-nowhere" feeling along with an absence of any sort of traffic out here so what's not to like?

Maybe the trash on the roadside when descending towards Floridia where you want to let off the brakes and zoom down but at the same time worry about hitting a bag o'trash, or a critter looking for lunch in one, or sliding out on a critter who got smashed while looking for lunch in one!

But soon enough you're back on quiet roads towards the coastline...and lunch. A first plate of basil and burrata ravioli followed by fresh grilled swordfish was ample reward!!!

As they say: La Vita e Bella!

Saturday, December 25, 2021


Harry & Leather at home in Sicily, September 2021

For a great 2022!
Let's hope we can put the pandemic behind us and enjoy a whole lot of bike rides next year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Happy Holidays!

 Buone feste!

That's what they say here in Italy at holiday time. If you're like us you probably already have pretty much everything you want/need for cycling so why not spend some holiday gift money to help people who really need it and promote cycling as well?

We're far from fans of Trek after their relationship with BigTex and the things they did to screw-over Greg LeMond but for now we'll put that aside as they are matching donations to World Bicycle Relief's bicycle program. The sturdy, easy-to-repair bike is shown above.

We've supported WBR for years but now your donation is doubled if you make it HERE!

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a great 2022!

Thursday, December 2, 2021

New, nuovo, nuovissimo!

 Year-end treats in Sicily

Apologies again if you're snowbound somewhere but it's December, often one of the best months of the year down here in Sicily.

Cold? By Sicilian standards I guess, they say your blood thins out so it seems cold even when it's 50+ F outside. That means cycling wearing at least knickers and long-sleeved jerseys but (so far) it's not cold enough for full-fingered gloves or ear coverings, though we've seen some local riders already dressed up like it's ready to snow!

But the cooler weather brings some of our favorite things: Novello wine for one - think of the French Beaujolais Nouveau idea...fresh, clean, grapey and delicious, perfect for that turkey dinner at holiday time. We get ours from a place just off the island at a shop Zio calls "Wine-Boy" as it's now run by the son of the owner (his mother) who passed-away not too long ago.

Next up: Oranges, which are a winter fruit after all and the novellini (new ones) are coming into the market now, with the blood-red ones coming soon. We don't much bother with fresh-squeezed juice until the oranges are fresh, fresh, fresh...like now!

Finally: Olive oil. Look how green that is! Another fresh-squeezed thing here this time-of-year. This bottle was filled by "Spice-boy" who runs a little shop here selling spices and products his family produces at their farm. Zio Lorenzo passed by the farm one day and saw their olive trees and asked if he could buy some of the oil. They sell oil produced and packaged by others as well, but agreed to share theirs with us. Needless to say, it's really good.

A five-liter can of freshly-squeezed oil was also purchased from our friends at Caseficio Borderi since "Spice-boy"s won't last long. When we lived here only during the winter we'd bring back one of these cans and share it with friends in Iowa. Packing this in the checked luggage was always a challenge!

Mangia bene!