Sunday, March 26, 2023



Nothing to do with Oscar-Meyer here! A display at the Museum Shop in the Napoli airport. Our little house has a few things from there, including a 'fridge magnet flying phallus. These things were not only about fertility but also about warding-off evil spirits...for us so far, so good! Zio Lorenzo laughs when he thinks of the outrage a display like this might cause in some other airport or public space.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Giro di Sicilia

 Giro di Sicilia 2023

2022's program

Finally! Barely three weeks before the start, RCS has published the Tour of Sicily route for 2023. We were starting to wonder if they'd even run it but on the local TV news came the announcement yesterday.

Sadly, just like last year the race won't come anywhere near us. We still wonder why they never used the route that had a start finish here in Siracusa - the race that never happened due to the Covid-19 pandemic?

But we'll try to get out there, perhaps taking bikes on a train up to Giarre where the 4-stage race ends? We have a few weeks to figure things out.

Friday, March 17, 2023

New Cycling Website

Is what they call it. See it HERE.

Why are we posting this? You may be aware that OUTSIDE bought up a bunch of cycling magazine/websites awhile back, which soon had a tin-cup out for "memberships" promising if you'd just pony-up some loot they could be less like advertising shills and more like journalists.

What really happened (as Zio predicted at the time, getting banned from their comments sections for doing so) was the old Mitt Romney routine: consolidation, layoffs, etc.

So a bunch of the writers who got canned decided to start their own publishing scheme and asked for $99 to get it on the web.

Enough of us put up money and it launched this week. Check it out and decide if it's worth your $99!

Wednesday, February 22, 2023


 33 Years Ago

Doesn't seem all that long ago, even though it was half-a-lifetime. Our wedding anniversary was yesterday so we took a little trip to Napoli to celebrate.

The view above will seem familiar to many, especially fans of the TV series The Soprano's, right? Zio's favorite episode shows it when Tony and the boys visit Napoli. Click HERE for a link to their arrival scene about 45 seconds in.

We stayed at Hotel Excelsior just like the "Commendatori" enjoying a wonderful Sunday lunch at Umberto 

Where we were pleased to discover 1/2 bottles (375 ml) on their wine list! That way we could enjoy some local bubbly with our antipasto followed by two local reds (chosen with help from the founder's granddaughter) to pair with our first and second plates, all without wasting a bunch of good vino or drinking too much. It was great to enjoy real Neapolitan food in a lively "Sunday lunch" atmosphere.

Our final day included pizza at our favorite place, Attanasio and a visit to our favorite museum. We might have to make this an annual ritual!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Plastic, electric OK, but hydraulic?

 Be careful who you buy from!

"Fausto" (shown above) has been a challenge, mostly due to issues with the brakes. We found a handlebar Heather likes along with the right-length stem. We've purchased a few other Bianchi bikes including two Rubino Spillo shopping bikes along with two E-Impulso Allroads, one in Piedmont and the other here in Sicily. The e-bikes were bought on-line from an authorized dealer. Other than some fiddling with the brake calipers to get them centered so they'd stop rubbing, they've been just fine.

We can't say the same about "Fausto" however. We tried to get an E-Aria from the same source but he had none but we found a slightly used one at another Bianchi dealer, Centro del Ciclismo in Pavia. They were listed on the Bianchi website so we assumed they'd be OK. What a mistake!

The bike arrived within a week of payment though the battery charger was not in the box. The seller swore up-and-down he'd packed it in the box but there was no evidence the box had been tampered with so we think he just forgot. We're still trying to get him to send it. Luckily the same charger for the other bike works but what if we didn't have another MAHLE X35 bike to borrow a charger from?

But worse, this bike's brakes were seriously screwed-up. The Shimano GRX brakes on the others have been just fine but this one with Ultegra had one problem after another! First, the rear brake simply didn't work, as in there was no stopping power but there WAS a lot of gawdawful noise. Zio Lorenzo found a fluid leak at the lever which explained why there was no braking power, then found the seals in the caliper blown out, which would explain the noise - from contaminated pads/rotor.

Zio hoped to go to his grave without ever having to delve into the world of bicycle hydraulics though he has plenty of experience with motorcycle brakes back-in-the-day. No luck, so various parts/tools were ordered.

The fluid leak at the lever seemed to be due to (how did that happen?) the hose connection not being secured properly. Luckily a few turns of a wrench seemed to take care of that, but the leak at the caliper turned out to be a stuck piston which then blew out the seals, despite having a bleed-block in place when the lever was actuated to test the now-secured hose connection.

New rear brake caliper + bleed kit + tools to cut the hose and install new fittings + new brake rotors and pads were ordered as the claims are contaminated rotors/pads can't be restored - they must be replaced. It turned out the rotors were mismatched with the rear having been replaced for some reason with a Made-in-Japan one vs the OEM Made-in-China rotor up front.

Another interesting discovery was the rear brake hardware. See that little black bracket under the caliper? The screw holding the front of that onto the frame was too short, meaning only a few threads engaged and they stripped out when things went back together. The dealer blamed all of this on Bianchi, claiming supply-chain issues meant they were building bikes with whatever parts they could source! He also said the brake noise would go away if she just kept riding. 

The bikes we got from the other Bianchi dealer, which would likely have been assembled during the same period were just fine. Hmmmm, seems like somebody who didn't know (or care?) what they were doing screwed-around with the brakes on this slightly-used bike before we got it and we find it hard to believe it was Bianchi.

Despite all this the rear brake is now centered with no leaks and no noise but WITH decent stopping power. What about the front? New rotor and pads but it drags and makes noise. GGRRrrrr! Piston seems stuck in this one too, did a leak cause contamination and noise? Just-in-case, a new caliper was ordered but in the meantime what can we do?

Cleaning the pistons to free them up seemed to work as did cleaning the pads and sanding the brand-new rotor's braking surface. No drag, no noise and it even stops now! Short test-rides are one thing, but will it work out on the road?

The dealer finally responded about the missing battery charger. He claimed he bought one for us, but now he wants us to pay for it! He never indicated the bike price didn't include the charger, how would you use the bike without one? Where's the one that came with the bike? These things sell for more than $100 online!

Perhaps the folks at Bianchi might want to have a talk with the shop owner - Alberto Riboni in Pavia? 0382 53904 is the phone number.

Zio has to admit being frustrated with this project. He prides himself on being a mechanic, someone able to figure out what the problem is, then fix it vs just throwing new parts in until the problem is solved one way or another. Back in his moto daze he used to joke about "parts-changers" with a vast arsenal of spares they could just keep changing until the problem went away. In his book they weren't very good mechanics.

But above you see more parts - this time aftermarket rotors and brake pads along with a jug of brake fluid and some shims. Shims, you ask? Swapping out brake rotors (all genuine Shimano so far) revealed not all of 'em meet the same specs. WTF? One brake rotor would end up slightly off-center between the brake pads while another would line up just fine. Zio at one point had a rotor that was noise-free installed but it dragged on one side vs another that sat squarely in the middle but squawked like mad!

So he bought a bag o'shims just-in-case he needs to reinstall the rotor that is quiet but a bit off vs the one that's centered. Sanding that one seemed (so far) to stop the noise but more just-in-case/parts-changer he now has two sets of new rotors on-hand (both genuine Shimano and aftermarket) along with brake pads (genuine and aftermarket) to match and the shims to make sure they sit exactly right in relation to the caliper.

Once the roads are dry/clean enough to take "Fausto" out for a real ride Zio will know what's next. He's hoping becoming a "parts-changer" is not it!

*Update: Zio eventually unstuck the piston in the front brake caliper and found a rotor that would sit centered between the brake pads. After bleeding the front brake both are fairly quiet and stop OK. Bianchi's customer service people responded to our complaints about the dealer and said they would look into them. A few days later we got a message from the dealer saying he had a charger for us and would send it. So far...nothing.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Carnevale 2023

 CARNEVALE Acireale 2023

Some photos from Carnevale 2023 in Acireale, an easy train ride north from Siracusa. They call this the most beautiful version in Sicily and after a few years of missing 'em due to the pandemic this was a "perche no?" moment after we saw a promo on the local news. We hopped on a train around midday here and were there well before things got going.

These things, I guess in the USA we'd call 'em floats are carri here. It's all paper mache they say, airbrushed in vivid colors with all kinds of animated features - things pop up, swing out while the characters both human and otherwise wink, smile or wave combined with fog/smoke and blasting sound.

The stop in a place on the route where they can rise up without getting tangled in overhead wires, then do their thing for about 20 minutes before it all closes back up and the thing is wheeled down the street a ways for a another display.

Crazy costumes, street food and masks are part of the fun as well.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Veloflex tires

Some things are just right!

Have you ever bought something and been delighted with...the packaging? The people at Veloflex seem to care about these things. The story (or legend) is when Vittoria tires sold out and the whole works was moved to Thailand some workers stayed in Italy and started their own company.

We love Vittoria tires, don't get us wrong (the company has been bought and sold a few times though it seems back in Italian hands now) but Veloflex remind us of the old daze of silk or high TPI cotton tubulars. And let's be clear, a great set of tires can make even a less-than-great bike ride pretty well as the installation of some high TPI, supple tires on Heather's gravel bike proved - a "night and day" difference in fact.

Conversely, a bad set of tires can make even a good bike ride like, well...crap. Zio Lorenzo's eager to put these CORSA EVOs on Heather's new Bianchi e-Aria road bike (which already rides pretty well with the mid-range Vittoria Rubino tires that came on it) to really bring it to life!

There's a lot more on the blog about the subject of tires. Type tires into the search box at the upper right to see them.