Saturday, December 29, 2012

French Rubbers - Michelin Pro3 Race And Hutchinson Atom Comp Clinchers

Nothing is a shot in the dark like the evaluation of tires.  Unless the tests are conducted under controlled conditions, it is almost impossible to arrive at a uniform conclusion due to all of the variables involved in real-world usage.  While manufacturers put forth press releases explaining the desirable attributes of their tires, in reality, to the average cyclist, mileage will vary greatly from rider to rider.  Thus, “Seat of the pants” tests are all we consumers have to go on.  That being the case, there is still some concrete data which can be gleaned from the daily ride on these round, rubber things we call tires.

Michelin Pro3 Race
                                                                          Fresh out of the box.

I have used products across the Michelin realm, from automobile tires, to commercial aircraft tires, to their line of excellent, high performance motorcycle tires.  I figured if Michelin knew as much as they do about car, aircraft and motorcycle tires, well, they just may know a thing or two about bicycle tires.  Turns out they do.    

The Pro3 Race is a traditional “Folding” tire, with a dual compound, slick tread pattern – They were built for speed.  They have a 110 TPI casing and weigh approximately 200 grams.  They mount up easily with minimal work of the tire iron or some really strong fingers will do the trick, as well.   To date, I have 1800 miles on a pair of 700X23’s, which according to on-line reviews of these tires is pretty darn good - For a racing tire.  However, it was not all without issues.  Small, nagging issues, thank goodness. 

I ran them with Bontrager tubes from a low of 90 PSI to a high of 120 PSI on SRAM S40 wheels to evaluate how they performed at various pressures.  Turns out they really like the lower pressures, running extremely fast at 90 to 100 PSI.  The Michelin’s saw duty from bike trails, to steep climbs, to hairball, hard cornering, descents (including the Ojai Century), and the rubber performed flawlessly in all weather conditions, including light rain. 

                                                   Smooth rolling, and not too bad looking, either.
The only issues I have seen with these tires are they nick really, really easily.  In my subjective testing, the Pro3’s seemed to puncture rather easily compared to the Hutchinson’s.  I have even read reports of Michelins getting nicks and cuts in them after only one ride.  I find this to be true, however, it does not take away from the tires’ overall performance.  And, for the record, Michelin claims a 2500 mile service life.  Well, maybe in a laboratory test they do, but not out in the Real World.  Mine are due for replacement, and they will not live to see 1900 miles.

                                                              Note the dual-compound tread.

Now replaced in the Michelin line by the Pro4 Race’s, the Pro3’s are still a tire to be reckoned with, and they can be had for as little as $30.00 USD each.

Hutchinson Atom Comp

                                                                 Sex and the single compound

I have to admit I tried the Hutchinson Atom Comp’s purely out of curiosity.  First, they were available with red sidewalls, which was a giant plus to me.  Also, since Lance Armstrong used Hutchinson’s almost exclusively throughout his career, I figured I would see what all of the hype was about. 

The specs from Hutchinson are a slick tread, 127 TPI casing, 195 gram, single compound rubber, folding tire, with a Polyamide belt for puncture resistance.  And, they roll really, really sweet!  I ran them almost exclusively at 105 PSI for the front and 110 PSI at the rear.  This, to me, seemed to be the Hutchinson’s sweet spot for all-out speed.  I ran them on the flat bike trails of Southern California, to the descents of Glendora Mountain Road and Highway 39 (Azusa Canyon).  The compound stuck like glue in the corners, and other than some small nicks and cuts here and there, it took a major size machine screw to really mar the surface of the tires’ carcass.  And, even though they are a single compound construction, they ran very well in all-weather conditions, just like the Michelin’s did. 

I used the 700X23’s with Bontrager tubes on Mavic Ksyrium SL’s for the duration I rode on these tires.  Smooth rolling, sticky in hardcore corning, and relatively durable, overall, they can be had for as low as $35.00 USD. 

                                                Not even a giant screw could kill the Atom Comps.

While the Atom’s seemed like they were going to be quite an exceptionally durable tire, for reasons still inexplicable, the tread began to separate and crack, especially where the different colors of rubber met at approximately the 800 mile mark.  I am not sure why this was, and I am certain this is not the status quo with this tires, as I have not heard of this happening to anyone else.  I returned the tires to my dealer for evaluation by Hutchinson, but they dropped the ball (my dealer), and threw the tires out instead of reporting the issue.  Rather than beat them over the head for lousy customer service (which I should have), they stepped up with a killer deal on the Michelin’s, and I have not looked back since due to the Pro 3’s awesome performance.  Would I go back to the Atom Comp’s in the future?  Yes, definitely.

                       Notice the rubber separation where the red sidewall and black center tread meet.

Vive la France!

You cannot go wrong with either of these tires.  Both are excellent racing, training, and street tires that will provide all the performance you need without resorting to glue, and without bursting your wallet.  However, while there are plenty more tires out there which will get you higher mileage, and possess better puncture resistance (but do not roll as smoothly), does this mean the Pro3’s or the Atom Comps are bad tires? 

On the contrary, actually.  If you want the best performance bang for the buck, these tires are excellent choices for riders of all levels of ability.


Monday, December 24, 2012

A Very Merry Christmas Courtesy Of Boeing Commercial Airplane Group.

Some of you loyal readers may not be aware, but in addition to all things cycling, I have also a spent a significant portion of my life in the aviation business, as well.  Thus, it is indeed a rare occasion when one can come across cool corporate cycling jerseys.  Even rarer still are aviation cycling jerseys.  That being the case, when my contact at Boeing offered up these two beauties, well, how could I refuse?  I mean, c’mon, it is the 787 Dreamliner, and the new 737 MAX, for cryin’ out loud!  With the 787 just entering service, and the 737 MAX is still on the drawing board, to not only to see, but to receive these jerseys, was indeed a Christmas treat.

                                                                          Front of the jerseys

With the Holiday Season in full-swing I admit to not riding as much as I would have liked, which kinda’ bugs me.  However, Christmas is a time of year quite a bit busier than others, so I am sure this a common theme among many a rider right now.  I mean, there are parties to go to, food and drinks galore, plus short daylight hours, so squeezing in a ride can be a little more difficult than usual.  Well, new jerseys makes the incentive to get on out and ride that much greater.

                                                                       The rear of the jerseys

On the path leading up to Christmas and the New Year, I have indeed been blessed with good friends and now some killer riding apparel, too.

I feel rich.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Running Opposite Traffic – What’s Up With That?

                       Just another example of rude behavior.  Just who's safety is being violated here?

When I was a kid we were taught to always walk and ride our bicycles with the flow of traffic.  Later in life I was a runner for over twenty years, and I never ran against traffic on streets, sidewalks, or on any bikeways.  I was never rude, arrogant, aggressive, nor did I expect other people to get out of MY way.  Things have changed.  And, it seems a new, dangerous, selfish way of thinking is afoot.

Lately, I have had to do a lot of swerving out of the far right side of traffic lanes, and even out of marked bike lanes, to miss oncoming runners, all whom refused to move over and allow safe passage.  I have even seen a growing number of cyclists and walkers doing the same thing.  They are even pulling this crap on bicycle trails along riverbeds, too.  And, in all cases, there was plenty of sidewalk and pathways for pedestrians to utilize without impeding the flow of traffic. 

What the heck is this behavior all about?    Did a new law pass few got the memo about?  Did the magnetic poles reverse?  Do British rules of the road now apply here in America? 

Being I like to get to the bottom of new phenomena, I asked some people I know, all whom are voracious runners, why they insist on training against the flow of traffic.  They all claimed it was “In the name of safety.” 

Oh, really?  Let’s investigate that claim.

The Myth: Running/Cycling/Walking against the flow of traffic allows a clear view of on-coming traffic.  It makes travel safer.

The Fact: Running/Cycling/Walking opposite traffic is inherently more dangerous to yourself and to others.  Here’s why: 

First, closure speeds will now be higher, meaning less reaction time on both parties’ behalf.  Second, if a cyclist must swerve wide to avoid Wrong-Way Dufus, and we often do, the cyclist is placed at risk in two ways - Having to swerve left to miss the opposite direction moron, the rider is forced into traffic and incurs the major risk of being hit from behind by a motor vehicle.  And, if the cyclist swerves right to avoid same moron, then the curb, road signs and trees are right there to greet the rider.  And finally, traffic traveling in the correct direction is not expecting someone to be coming directly at them, not to mention traffic making turns being surprised by a “Wrong Way” buffoon.

Researching marathon and triathlon sites on the net reveals this wrong-way behavior is actually encouraged to avoid “Being hit by vehicles from behind.”  While this may sound like intelligent, good advice, did any of these idiots stop to think that if you don’t run in the street in the first place you don’t have to worry about being hit from behind by vehicles?  Yeah, I’m betting none of these weekend warriors ever stopped to ponder that fact at all.

If you analyze the law here in California, it basically states the following regarding pedestrians (i.e. Runners): Unless for the purpose of crossing a street/road/highway in a legal, safe manner (or in an emergency), a pedestrian may not enter the road, or block vehicular traffic, including bicycles, for any reason.   I did not recite the Californian Vehicle Code verbatim, however, that seems pretty cut and dry.  If you don’t believe me, contact the California Highway Patrol (or your State Trooper) for verification of what I just described. 

So, the bottom line regarding opposite traffic idiots – Why are you behaving so selfishly dangerous?  Please knock off your aggressive, reckless behavior.  It is hard enough having to deal with vehicular traffic, but must we have to deal with you violating our safety and right of way, as well?  

What did the rest of us do to you to deserve such treatment?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Where Fashion Meets Cycling - High Heel Riding Shoes.

                            Spotted In Italy - Of Course!  Are Cleats Included?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Our Doper Is Cooler Than Your Doper!

To paraphrase singer Lesley Gore, “It’s my blog, and I’ll bag on people if I want to.”

It is pretty much universally agreed there are five traditional human senses: Sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.  Unfortunately, it looks like we can add a new one - Hypocrisy.  Well, maybe that is being a bit dramatic in the literary sense, so let me just put forth it must be part of the Human Condition.

It does not take a PhD in Literature to smell which way a particular media outlet leans editorially these days. To put it even simpler terms – It does not take much effort to sniff out partisan hacks, anymore.  Harsh words you may think?  Well, not so fast.  Allow me to expound on the morass which passes for Cycling and Media these days.

So, just what has brought forth from my psyche the following tale of bizarre behavior?  Well, I just got finished with the January 2013 issue of Velo Magazine, and the bullshit has become so thick over there you couldn’t cut it even with a brand new, extra-sharp 53-chain ring.  Cancel my subscription, please!

And for the record, this article is not a hit piece on Velo Magazine.  They don’t need me for that, anyway.  The madness runs deep and wide across the entire cycling media spectrum, and there is indeed an answer to the odd, macabre mystery of what cycling currently is and where it may be headed. 

For openers, the so-called “Anti-Doping” crowd has finally found something they hate worse than doping itself - Lance Armstrong.  The battle lines have been drawn between the Armstrong supporters and his detractors, I mean, enemies.  The drama, and the humor within, is observing the “Anti-Doping” crowd fully embrace, dare I say it, A DOPER, to support their own case for the elimination of performance enhancing drugs.  I am not making this stuff up, folks!   See, they hate doping (so they claim), but, they just didn’t like THAT doper.  THEIR doper is OK, though. 

And just who is THEIR doper?  Well, Tyler Hamilton, of course.  The (now formally) disgraced, hated, ignored racer, who just recently, could not even catch a break from his own shadow, is now the poster boy for “Clean” cycling.  Wow, now that was a switch!

Ponder the following, Grasshopper.  How is it possible Tyler Hamilton (the new “King of Truth,” and busted, admitted doping cheat) went from the proverbial Pit to the Palace without so much as smelling like the very manure he shovels?  Well, the “Cycling Community” won’t tell you how, and this includes Velo Magazine, and pretty much all of the cycling media.  See, when a person could not even get someone to piss on their gums, even if their teeth were on fire, how is it they are now the anointed “King of Truth” when it comes to justice regarding doping and cycling? 

It is quite simple, really.  To first have a scapegoat, you must first have a hero.

For the “Anti-Doping” faction there are only two sides in this argument, and for them it is clear-cut - Armstrong versus Hamilton.  However, in reality, there are three sides in this power struggle for cycling’s future (and yes, it is a power struggle).  They are Armstrong, versus Hamilton, versus all the rest of us who don’t really give a shit, because we knew the game was rigged in the first place.  Therefore, all of the cries for reform are nothing but smoke and mirrors at best. 

What we are witnessing is like that old Who song which wisely proclaimed: “Meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss.”  We are simply viewing a changing of the guard, not a grass-roots, benevolent movement for the greater good of cycling.  It is nothing but a power grab by the New Boss seeking to oust the Old Boss, and that “Greater Good” will be defined as is seen fit for all to live under once the New Boss is in power.   

All of this nonsense is out there for anybody with a molecule of reasoning to comprehend, if you try.  You just have to dig a little.  Peruse any media source regarding bicycle racing, Lance Armstrong, or Tyler Hamilton, and the scenario just lays itself bare for public viewing.  And, it does not stop with Lance or Tyler - People, and their reputations are falling all around us, and the death toll will be high in this conflict.

Additionally, consider this scenario.  Following the illogical rants of the “Guilty because I said-so,” sanctimonious, anti-doping police, how long will it be before we discover Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Marianne Vos are found to be juiced to the Moon?  Really, this is not a stretch of the imagination or innuendo for that matter.  Remember, the burden of proof to this point has been if you are an icon of the sport, you got there by doping.  And, the “King of Truth” has pointed out doping was present and deeply systemic in the sport.  How else do you explain a multi-time winner/champion, or so the anti-doping police crowd claims?  However, as for the currently agreed upon innocence of the above mentioned riders, well, doping was only a constant of the Armstrong culture we are told, and there is absolutely no way Dopers are dominating the sport today.  Oh, really?  Well, time will bare this one out, I am sure.

In summation, I must state the obvious again, being it seems to be forgotten so often by our species – Anywhere there is money, fame, prestige and eventually power to wielded, you will find the cheaters, the liars, the thieves, the cut-throats, the desperate and the clinically narcissistic.  Call it cause and effect, as this description would be completely apropos.  To put it even more succinctly – One has to have had their head fully implanted up their anus to NOT know performance enhancing drugs drove the sport. 

In humanity, there never has, nor will there ever be, a completely level playing field.  It is just a fact of human nature that rules will always be broken by the unscrupulous seeking a quick way to the top.

So, as I had mentioned previously, Hypocrisy must be part of the Human Condition.   

And if it isn’t, it ought to at least be one of the Original Sins.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Quick Peek. SRAM Red One-Piece Cassettes - Call 'Em Industrial Art.

                                                                     Photo Courtesy SRAM

Machined from solid pieces of billet, these cassettes are not only beautiful to watch being made and admire before installing on your bike, but they are also awesome to use.

So, whether you are a fan of SRAM or not, you have to appreciate how Red OG-1090 cassettes get made.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Death Of The Turn Signal.

In the beginning, right after the Earth cooled, oil discovered, and the automobile conceived, there thankfully appeared a brilliant safety device once known as the Turn Signal Indicator.  It was a simple, elegant invention, and it made the difference between safe passage and catastrophe.  Now, sadly, it seems to be gone.

While bike trails are a separate adventure unto themselves (and a tale for another day), most of our daily riding is conducted on roads we have to share with dangerous, deadly creatures known as Drivers.  And, as I am sure all of us have experienced (in some case painfully), not all drivers possess the basic equipment necessary to operate a motor vehicle.  And, I just don’t mean a license and insurance, I mean a brain. 

To anyone whom has ridden a bicycle, or driven a vehicle, the concept of announcing ones’ intentions to other motorists/cyclists, even pedestrians, has pretty much been abandoned.  Call it laziness, or just a lack of concern for others, or probably both, this simple courtesy should not have died so suddenly and quietly.

So, while some people long for a lost love, or simply the nostalgia of the past, I long for the return of common sense, and within this realm, the reemergence of the turn signal.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Prototype SRAM Hydraulic Disc Brakes Spotted.

Disc Brakes Are A Comin,' Folks.

                                      Photos courtesy Wil Matthews/Velo Magazine

Seen and photographed at CXLA 2012.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wait, What's This? Now The Brits Are Blowing The Cheating Whistle Again - This Time In Motorcycle Racing?

                                   Cheating In World-Class Sports?  Tell Us Something We Don't Know.

Editor's Note: Cheating is, unfortunately, part of the human condition.  As I have written in previous articles regarding, anytime an advantage to get ahead of other people exists, some unscrupulous people will take it.  Be it for grades in school, a spot on the team, admission to college, lying on a resume, faking your work on the job, or running for public office, cheating is everywhere.  The real question should be not if it exists, but how long are we as the human race going to tolerate it.

Well, since the Brits seem to be at the leading edge of cleaning up bicycling at the moment, I though this tidbit from the motorcycling spectrum just might tie-in. 

The following story is from 

Smith Blows Whistle On Moto2 Cheating
by staff
Friday, November 30, 2012
What's this? Allegations of cheating in spec racing? So now Moto2 hasn't made entry-class racing in MotoGP cheaper at all and well-funded teams can use equipment other teams can't? 

The embers of controversy were cooling surrounding allegations late this season that Marc Marquez's team altered the software on his Suter-Honda Moto2 bike, providing him a significant advantage in acceleration out of corners all year en route to winning the 2012 Moto2 World Championship.

But those coals are sparked again after fellow Moto2 graduate and 2013 MotoGP rookie Bradley Smith dumped kerosene on Marquez and other Moto2 teams that he alleges were cheating throughout the 2012 season.

Smith was signed to a MotoGP contract with Tech 3 before the 2012 season and appeared to be a curious choice for promotion after he managed only a ninth-place finish in the Moto2 standings this season for Tech 3, with no podium finishes.

But Smith said chicanery by many other teams masked his true pace. And, for the record, this is a British rider making these accusations now.

"To be honest, a lot of it came down to ... there was cheating going on inside Moto2 this year," Smith told British media. "We were not one of those teams, and we suffered for it. There was nothing else we could do as a team to make our bike faster. It was just slow.