Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday's Analysis: SRAM S-Series Wheels - R.I.P., Or Will They Resurface After A Redesign?

While not always in the forefront of "Roadies" minds when they are shopping for a new wheelset, SRAM had been offering a decent, competent series of wheels to the masses for a few years now.  Ranging from the alloy S27 and S30, to the carbon (alloy brake track) S40, S60 and S80 offerings, they have a been a nice, reasonably priced alternative to wheelsets costing quite a bit more.

However, something is afoot.  Something is askew.  Something is flat-out going on over at the Boys From Chicago, as road wheelsets have been missing from the SRAM website since March 2013, when I first noticed them missing from the company's product line.  At the sametime, Zipp (owned by SRAM) released two, new wheelsets called the Zipp 30 Clincher (30mm alloy) and the 60 Clincher (60mm carbon, with an alloy brake track).  They are marketed as a "Lower cost" alternative to the 202, 303, and 404 wheels (and. oddly,  are straight replacements for the S30 and S60, too), which can cost you as much as a month's mortgage payment.

But wait, there's more.  Through a warranty fix by SRAM, another clue has come to light.  I had my rear S40 sent back for a rebuild, and the SRAM box it was shipped in magically turned into a Zipp box when I got my wheel back.  A small clues, yes, but I consider it significant.

So, to paraphrase El Guapo in the movie Three Amigos, "What does this mean?"  Well, by this mild-mannered scribe's best guess, this can mean one of two things.  One, SRAM has decided to just get out of the wheel business.  They have Zipp, and with a full line of wheels available from them, why compete with yourself?  And, the second possible reason fo a lack of wheel offereings with the SRAM name on them?  They have decided, for the time being, to step back, and re-design the whole line-up for later release.

We shall see...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fizik Arione CX Saddle Review

If you have just arrived on this planet from another galaxy, you will discover Fizik is an Italian manufacturer of high-quality saddles, shoes, bar tape, and other cycling goodies.  And, while they do not pay me to say so, if you have not tried any of their products, you really ought to.  And when you do take the Fizik plunge, I highly recommend you try one of their truly unique saddles.    

I have been riding on their ever-popular Arione CX saddle for about six (6) months now, and I must admit, I am very, very impressed.  With all of the bells, and whistles of open channels, fancy rail materials, and a rainbow of colors on the market, when you get something right, it is just right.  Well, with the Arione CX, Fizik got it right.
The saddle material is made of Fizik’s durable Microtex material (which, like their bar tape, is breathable and easy to clean), and the rails are made from what Fizik calls “K:ium” (fancy name for alloy steel tubes, claimed 8% lighter than Titanium).  However, I believe it is the dimension (shape) of the saddle which leads to its success.  Compared to my Ritchey (and others I have tried, like Selle Italia, Bontrager and WTB), this thing is as spacious as a couch.  Of all of the saddles I have tried, I have spent the most time on the Ritchey Carbon Streem, but in comparison, it was a like very small bar stool.  Sure, you could get comfortable on it, but the “Sweet-Spot” was a whole lot smaller.  I liken it to the whole “Big Bertha” driver movement in golf.  Make the sweet-spot bigger, and more people can find the “Zone.”

The beauty of how the Arione CX feels is in the shape of the saddle, itself.

Fizik also built into the shell itself a system they call “Wing Flex.”  These are small slots cut into the shell and cover at a specific angle to allow the saddle to move a little bit with the pressure from your inner thighs.  And, while many cyclists fear anything with the word “Compliance” in it equaling power loss, well, nothing would be farther from the truth with the Arione CX.  The Wing Flex system works, all without any discernable loss of seat rigidity.     

Since the saddle is slightly larger than most, this can be a downside with riders of small stature.  The saddle may have too much real estate for smaller backsides, however, I believe anyone whom cannot find a sweet-spot on the Arione is in a distinct minority.  The other side of the coin is for riders north of five-foot eight (I am 5’-11”), the saddle is pure, couch-comfy bliss.  Being wide and flat, finding a spot to spend some time pedaling was not a problem for me.  You have choice of either staying in one spot or you can move around.  Not many saddles allow you this kind of freedom.

The Specs:

Dimensions: Length: 300mm, Width: 120mm
Weight: 205 grams
Price: $169.00 USD (they can be had for much cheaper, though. Shop around)

Editor’s Note:

There are other models of the Arione in Fizik’s line in addition to the CX.  There is the “Regular” version, and there is also a version with carbon fiber rails.  But wait, there’s more!  Fizik has also unleashed an updated Arione called the “OO,” the “R1,” and the “R3.”  All have updated shells, Microtex covers and graphics, and weigh 135 grams, 145 grams, and 185 grams, respectively.  While the “OO” and “R1” have carbon rails, the “R3” get the “K:ium” rail treatment.  While they are nice “Updated” versions of the original, my advice is to stick with the classic Arione or the Arione CX.  You cannot go wrong with either, though the CX is a by far the sexiest of the bunch.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The 2013 Giro d’Italia – Many Mountains Too Far

With all due respect to Mr. Nibali, The Giro is purely Entertainment imitating Sport.

Editor’s note: Due to a nasty illness, I have been off the bike for over six (6) weeks, have lost fifteen pounds (15), and hath become quite bored.  This monotony gives one a lot of time to think about things, so here are some of my thoughts on the passing scene of Pro Cycling.

Well, now that the latest spectacle is in the books, it is long past due to take an honest, hard look at these multi-day, overly-long, hyped-up “Spectacles.”  Twenty-one (21) days of doing anything at peak intensity is a lot to ask of anyone.  Remember, that is twenty-one days of riding, climbing, and mentally tactical racing.  Name another sport were the main event lasts that long?  Heck, even the Winter and Summer Olympics have the decency to not go that many days, and even if they did, an athlete is not competing every, single day of the games.  

A Solution?  I firmly believe seven (7) days is plenty long enough for any bicycle stage race.  It is fair to the competitors, the organizers, and of course, the fans.  Seven days is long enough to insure good racing, all without the problem of draining (i.e. killing) the competitors.  Anything longer is just a waste of resources and encourages “Creative” ways of winning.  A massive, epic, way-too-long spectacle is just too much on the cyclist’s bodies, and to keep up (let alone win) takes, shall we say, a very good doctor.  To keep pace, it is either medicate or lose your job.  Is it any wonder the peleton dopes?  And, the sport only has itself to blame for its current status of scrutiny and disbelief in its organizing body and competitors themselves. 

The 2013 Giro d'Italia.  "Isn't this FUN!!!"
Oh, and for the record, The Granddaddy of them all, The 2013 Tour de France, is set to go twenty-three (23) days.  Just why the organizers need twenty-three days to figure out what they cannot discover in seven (7) days, is beyond me.  Expecting professional cyclists to perform day-in and day-out at peak levels of intensity for more than a week is just downright foolish (and dangerous).   

So, now that the Giro is mercifully over, prepare thee for the King of all long-in-the-tooth spectacles – The 2013 Tour de Doper.  Brought to you courtesy of the good people of France.  And, EPO.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

41 The New 30? And, Yes, Character Does Indeed Count.

41-year old Jens Voigt solo's to victory, Stage 5 ATOC.  "Shut-up, Legs!"

When Jens Voigt crossed the finish line on Stage 5 of the Amgen Tour of California (ATOC), all suddenly felt normal with the world again.  By breaking up the pack, and then completely outsmarting all of the "Youngsters" in the peleton, he proved that age is but a number, and that Good Guys can still finish first. 

Voigt, the eldest member of the Pro Peleton at 41-years of age, allows me to take great joy in this event for a few reasons.  One, I myself are North-of-Forty in age.  Two, as much as I like bike races, my least favorite finish is the chaotic "Sprint Finish."  See, anytime these creatures can be denied their sole existence for living, brings me nothing but complete joy.  Bicycle races are won by strength and brains, not by sucking someone's wheels.  Voigt did just that.  And on that note, point three is Tyler Farrar's long-awaited (and overdue) win on ATOC's Stage 4.  Well done, lad.

Jens Voigt, Tyler Farrar and Thor Hushoved on the ATOC Stage 5 Podium

However, I do not hate sprinters, as there are some pretty good guys in that bunch of specialized athletes.  But, just as there is Light and Darkness in the world, you have your nice sprinters (the Light) and you have your complete assholes, aka, the Darkness.  The nice sprinters are people like Thor Hushovd, Tyler Farrar, Andre Greipel, Heinrich Haussler, and Peter Sagan.  The are all good sprinters.  They are gracious in winning and losing, and they all see bicycling as something bigger than themselves.  I also predict Peter Sagan will take this level of class to a whole new level in the years to come.

As for the Darkness, while there are some riders people claim to be mean-spirited, no one, and I mean no one takes the title of complete Asshole like Manxman, Mark Cavendish.  Classless in wining and losing, he represents the unproductive side of cycling, filled with, and represented by, self-centered, sanctimonious people whom see life and others as props to be used for their own benefit.  In short - They are just flat-out not nice people.

See folks, character counts for something, and just outright winning-for-winnings-sake is as old as sin itself.  Jens' win (and Farrar's) brought back some class that cycling was really beginning to forget.  We thank you for that, Jens.   

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Wrap-Up. The Giro d'Italia, Tour Of California, And Things That Knock Us On Our Butt's.

In Italy, the Giro is so much more than a bicycle race.

It has been sometime since my last installment, and a lot has happened here and abroad.  First, there are two significant races happening on opposite sides of the world.  The Giro d'Italia is now on its rest day after nine stages of hills, time-trialing, rain and pain.  It is a long, brutal spectacle, so plenty of things can happen between now and the finale in Brescia.

Here in California, the Amgen Tour of California (ATOC) kicked off today with a brutally hot stage up and down Palomar Mountain and back into the start city of Escondido for a two-man sprint finish.  Tomorrow's stage will take the riders into Palm Springs.  I suppose the racers are thinking, "Great, just what we all needed.  I guess today was just not hot enough, so the intended torture of Palm Springs will be on the menu just for good measure."  And unfortunately, yes, it will be so, due to a nasty High Pressure System sitting on top of Southern California making life miserable for all.  Ah, California summers... 

If you sense a little bitterness, well, yes, I have some for the ATOC.  The Queen Stage of Mount Baldy was taken off the schedule, and in the opinion of many (including myself), that was a huge mistake by the promoters.

On the personal front, the doctor's still don't know what it is, but something has knocked me on my butt for thirteen days now.  More surprising than the "Doctor's" not knowing their collective asses from their elbows, is that I have been on my butt for this length of time.  I have known the flu, and I have known pain.  But until now, I have never known outright misery.  Whatever I picked up started like the flu, however, it aggressively attacked my Gastrointestinal System with a vengeance.

I go back to the "Doctor's" tomorrow to hopefully get something more than the standard kiss-off with a prescription.  See, with all of the "Problems" people parrot about healthcare in the USA, one real problem which is sadly overlooked (at our peril) are "Doctor's" that only prescribe pills and do not actually diagnose ailments.   

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Scenes We Hate To See - Why Target Fixation Is Dangerous At Its Best, Deadly At Its Worst. Motorcyclist Plows Cyclists On Mulholland Drive, 04-27-2013.

This is reason number one why I personally do not cycle any of the canyons on weekends.

This time it was a target-fixated, rookie motorcyclist.  However, I have almost been hit too many times by people texting while driving and violating my Right-of-Way.

Be safe out there, folks.