Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Some Cycling Winners And Losers In 2013

As the end of the year is at hand, it is quite apropos to reflect back on said year, me thinks.  This includes pondering things we did, things we did not do, things we planned to do, but did not have time, things we planned to do, but chickened out of, and finally, things we did actually do and were damned surprised to get away with.
General George S. Patton said it best when he espoused the only way to really find out what was going on was to talk to the troops rather than the officers.  This, of course, led to his “If everyone is thinking alike, no one is thinking,” quote.  Therefore, I have spent the year canvassing local bike shops, talking to the bike shop owners, old riders, new riders, prospective riders, municipal officials, law enforcement, non-riders, et al, to discover what people were indeed thinking, and to get a grip on what this whole cycling thing is about. 

Some of my discoveries were local and some are macro.  Thus, I put forth the following tidbits, with my first (hopefully to be annually) Winners & Losers list.

Winners: Fresh & Easy Markets.  I had never been to a Fresh & Easy, but after the treatment I received at a local Trader Joe’s, I am now a solid customer.  The products are comparable, cheaper in a most cases, and they are 100 % bicycle aware and friendly.  Don’t have a bike lock?  No problem.  Bikes are allowed to park in the store while you shop.

Losers: Trader Joe’s.  For a chain that touts itself as health and athlete friendly, they really are not.  I stopped in while on a ride to pick up a couple of items and asked permission to park inside the door for a brief minute.  The sales clerk said “OK,” and even moved a plant display to facilitate my bike.  Right then, the store manager barked at me what an inconvenience it was to have my bike in the store, what a huge favor they were doing for me, and “All of you cyclists expect preferential treatment.”

After I made my purchase ( no more than 60 seconds after being lectured and talked-down to), another sales clerk knocked my bike over in full view of the manager, checkout staff and customers.  No apology came from any of the staff members or management.

Sorry T.J’s, you ain’t getting my hard earned money, anymore.

Winners: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s and California Highway Patrol.  Friendly and helpful, with the safety of all cyclists in mind.  They are aware of us and always willing to lend a helping hand.

Losers: Monrovia Police Department, Monrovia, California.  Short fuses, revenue minded, with no patience, and little understanding of cyclists.

Winners: Pasadena Cyclery, Pasadena, California.  Allan and the boys put the relationship with the customer before the sale.  They are fair, knowledgeable, helpful, and above all, very friendly.

This is the kind of local shop we should support, because when you need them, they are there.  Mail order is not that helpful, nor friendly.
Losers: Shops that do not establish a business relationship with their customers and sell at full-boat retail.

Winners: All of those who got a bike, got out on it, met people, stopped for coffee and soaked in the sunshine.

Losers:  Those who continue to miss out on what a wonderful world cycling is.  Also, those who do ride, but are rude, arrogant, and view cycling as something to be hurried through, just like sex and root canals.
Winners: Real Cycling Clubs.  Providing a place for cyclists of all levels to meet and ride with others.  There is inclusiveness, kindness, and assistance, all without the cliqueiness.  A riders cycling life will thrive and prosper here.  There are tangible benefits to membership, and this club will grow by leaps and bounds.  You will know when you have found one.
Losers: Phony Cycling Clubs.  The antithesis of the “Real Club,” these types really offer no hope for a rider’s growth potential.  New riders are not nurtured, nor welcome, thus membership will dwindle.  Save for the controlling clique, there are no real benefits of membership.  You will know when you have found one.
Winners: Safe, Kind, Courteous Drivers.  These are the folks that understand what “Share The Road” means.  They will live long, happy, prosperous lives.

Losers: Rude, Selfish, Dangerous Drivers.  These people are far too frequent, and they will most likely die behind the wheel, if not from an early heart attack.  They are impatient, angry, and are so self-centered, they think the Universe actually revolves around them.

Winners: Disc Brakes.  They are coming, they will be awesome, and they are a whole lot safer than the standard rim brake.

Losers: The Rim Brake.  Long on the tooth, short on actual stopping power, its time has come.

There are, of course, many, many more examples, however, I am not doing a thesis here, just a few items which popped into my head when I sat down to write this missive.  Truth be told, this exercise was kinda’ fun to put together, so I will throw some more points into my next “Random Thoughts From The Passing Scene,” installment.

In closing, ride, be safe out there, have fun and talk to people.  I have ridden motorcycles long enough to understand that one loud, open pipe Harley, or one knucklehead sport bike popping a wheelie on the freeway, lumped us all into the same group of “Bikers.”  Well, though I have traded internal combustion for pedal power, the treatment and lack of respect from the driving public seems to be worse.  I do not see this changing anytime soon, unfortunately.  Therefore, be friendly, be courteous, and above all, be patient.

Remember, Cycling is people.

Happy New Year!

Darryl Bustamante, Editor

Saturday, December 28, 2013

You Meet The Nicest People Out On The Road: The Big Kahuna

Phil, and just one of his many steel bikes. This one a gorgeous, Nishiki.

Probably the single, greatest component of cycling lost on many riders are the actual people involved in our beloved activity.  We, as a collective, seem to be obsessed with getting up at God-awful hours of the morning to pedal our little hearts out, looking the part, all the while getting lost in a haze of carbon fiber, heart monitors, and cadence numbers.  What we fail to notice, unfortunately, are the people.  You know, those other creature on the planet astride a bicycle which are not us. 

Thus, whilst I was recently on a ride in the foothills of Claremont, California, I met one of those other people.  A rider was stopped at the side of the road, and I pulled over to see if they needed any assistance.  Happily refusing, and telling me all was well, we struck up a conversation.  Turns out he not only rides, but makes a living at, and has an actual passion for bicycles.  Plus get this: He likes people, too!  Phil is the owner of Big Kahuna Bicycles.  Buy, sell, restore, or customize, steel has never been more real in his world, and, after conversing with him for a bit at roadside, it would be hard to fault his philosophy on bikes and life.  It was as if we had known each other for the better part of our lives.

After parting company, I replayed the chance meeting in my mind for what it was: A pleasant experience with another human being who was not only interested in bicycles, but also the people that rode them.  How refreshing it was from the usual snarl's, frown's and stares from the kit-cladded, road-set.

So, the next time you are out cycling, instead of being the proverbial spandex asshole focused on humiliating people up that next hill, take the time to wave, offer assistance, or, dare I mention it, even say "Hi" to fellow riders.

Remember, at its core, cycling IS people.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Saturday, December 21, 2013

From The "Great Minds Think Alike" Department: Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Aero Gloves, Team BMC & Me.

 Philippe Gilbert, 2013. Graham Watson Photo

Taylor Phinney, 2013. Graham Watson Photo

Darryl Bustamante, 2012. Helen Blum Photo

It was a nice surprise to see Team BMC embrace the Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Aero Glove this season, as I had been testing (and using) them since last year.  Besides, as soon as Pearl Izumi came out with these gloves in 2012, well, I just had to have a pair.  I mean, they looked so cool, pro's were already using these types of gloves in Time Trials (so, I figured they had to be good for the road), and they came in red!  What was not to like?

I used to be of the mind that thicker padded gloves were the way to go, however,  I have completely moved away from so-called "Regular" style cycling gloves, and I now have a stable of "Aero" gloves in my drawer.  I like the snuggness, excellent tactile qualities, and lack of bunching in the palms that regular gloves seem to always exhibit.  And, even though the P.R.O.'s have zero padding in the palms, I have not really noticed that fact while out slaying the battlefield grade roads of Southern California.

As for the coolness factor, it was nice to see the pros take-after the amateurs for a change instead of the other way around when it comes to equipment.

Clicky for Pearl Izumi's website.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Even More Random Observations From The Passing Scene

“Eddie” from the movie “American Flyers” lives in Southern California.  Ride the San Gabriel River Trail through the City of Pico Rivera if you want to meet him.

Own at least a basic set of bicycle tools.  And, know how to use them.

It is not a social faux pas to have a cassette larger than 25-teeth.

Cycling is a life experience.  Don’t be afraid to try new things, such as ride routes, ride times, components, clothing, and even the people whom you ride with.

Ride out of your comfort zone on occasion.  You will be amazed at what you can do.

Why a “Top of The Line” cycling helmet should cost as much as a very good motorcycle helmet is beyond me.

Check your tire air pressure before each ride.  You are already doing this, aren’t you?

Check your tires post-ride for debris, cuts and tears.  You are already doing this too, right?

It is not a crime to ride an “Endurance” bike.

Cycling jerseys should ALWAYS have a full-length zipper.

Tall cycling socks add a touch of flair, provide some protection from road debris, plus offer compression and support.

Front and rear, bright, blinking lights during the daytime are a darn good idea.

While riding a bicycle, trust absolutely no one!  You are responsible for your own safety.

Ride on the correct side of the road.  If not, you are just pissing people off.

Bicyclists are the most vulnerable to collisions with motor vehicles, even more so than pedestrians are.  Yet, cyclists are treated with the most distain by the public and law enforcement, alike.  This needs to stop.

Who mandated such ridiculous stock seatpost setback numbers?  Give us zero to five degrees, and let us work it out for ourselves with the saddle and the stem.

The vehicle code is a set of RULES.  They are not suggestions, as so many cyclists seem to think.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mission Accomplished: Shimano Ultegra 6700 Upgrade Complete, Plus The Hidden Beauty Of Fizik Microtex Bartape

Continuing with Frankenbike’s mission in life as a product test bed, it was high-time to eliminate the cable spaghetti of the stock Shimano 105, 5600 Series shifters in front of the bars.  This also led to an upgrade of both the front and rear derailleurs, thus finally making the gruppo homogenous, overall.  Not that it was a moral imperative; it was just high-time to replace all of the cables, so I figured, hey; why not upgrade components, too.

In regards to the controls, up to this point, I had been running an Ultegra 6700 crankset and bottom bracket, 105 shifters, 105 front derailleur, 105 long-cage rear derailleur, and SRAM Red brakes.  Well, the Red brakes stayed, but the gruppo had to finally be unified (there is a new SRAM Red Wi-Fli rear derailleur sitting in my bike toolbox, but that is for a future project).  Having a complete Ultegra 6700 group would not only make me happy, but it would look good, and perform even better.

The more ergonomic, carbon Ultegra lever shown above, and the new PRO Vibe 7S alloy bar shown below.

The difference between Ultegra 6700 shown above and my old 105-5600 gruppo shown below. A much cleaner setup with the 6700 shifters!

New GS "Long-Cage" derailleur above (with red cable housing this time), and 6700 front derailleur shown below.

I now have a few hundred miles on the new equipment, and I must admit I am very pleased with the results.  Those whom have been using under the bar cable shifters for awhile will not be impressed, nor will those using Di2.  But, for those still using legacy groups (and there is nothing wrong with that, as they are solid, reliable systems), cleaning up the cables out in front of the bars is a big deal to us.  So, in addition to the new, clean look, the 6700’s are very smooth shifters (though they do require a firmer swing of the lever than my previous 105’s), and the hoods are significantly smaller, so the feel to my larger-sized hands is much more comfortable.

Shimano PRO Vibe 7S alloy bar, and Fizik (hooray, it's reusable!) Microtex tape.

As for the bartape, well, in a previous review of the Fizik line of Microtex products (Cycling Dynamics, 09-21-2012), I was very pleased with the look, and durability, of the product.  The only downside was the difficulty of installation, due to the tape’s unique stiffness.  Well, it turns out that its inherent stiffness is also a blessing.  Allow me elaborate.

With the addition of the new shifters, and both front and rear derailleurs, I decided to try a Shimano PRO Vibe 7S alloy bar in place of my trusty alloy Ritchey WCS, anatomical.  And, being the Microtex tape has performed so well day-in, and day-out, I decided to see if it was reusable.  Well, turns out it was, thus my spare box of gloss red Fizik tape will remain in the bike toolbox for another time.  

As for the bars, I like them a lot, save for the drops which are not as deep (and comfortable) as the Ritchey’s.  Fortunately, they flex just enough while in said drops to give some relief from the road, and I like the fact the top of the bar is a constant 31.8mm, before tapering down at the hood area.  This is much less fatiguing on the hands than the smaller diameter tubing of the Ritchey WCS.

I anticipate years and years of trouble-free use with this new gruppo.     

Pedal safe, my friends.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

In Case You Have Not Heard: SRAM Issues Red Wi-Fli Derailleur Recall.

SRAM worked with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and other global authorities on a voluntary product recall of SRAM RED 10-speed medium cage rear derailleurs. SRAM has determined that there is a potential for the derailleur parallelogram to jam and no longer shift...

Continue reading the details at Roadbike Action Magazine.

See the Recall Notice at the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Specialized Bicycle Corporation Steps In It, Again. Unleashes It's Legal Dogs On Small, Independent Bike Shop (Again!). Industry And Consumers Step In And Smacks Specialized Down.

It is a story that would actually be amusing, if it were not so sad.  In a classic tale of the proverbial David versus Goliath, Specialized Bicycle Corporation, Goliath, went after David (again), this time in the form of little Cafe Roubaix, in Alberta Canada, and its owner, Dan Richter.  Seems the issue was over the use of the name "Roubaix," which Specialized claims to have ownership of due to its line of Roubaix road bikes.  Mr. Richter believed the name of a French city, and probably the hardest one-day bicycle race in the world, was an open-source name, and offensive to none.  So, that's what he named his small shop (which, by the way, does not sell Specialized bicycles).

Well, Mr. Richter was wrong, or so thought Mike Sinyard (Specialized's Head-Honcho) and his merry team of lawyers.  So, Cafe Roubaix was hit with a C&D letter (Cease and Desist), courtesy of the big, red "S."  That was when the Fit-hit-the-Shan, as social media lit up with anger at Specialized for doing what Specialized does best: Namely, bullying small businesses.

In short, it appears that Specialized has now backed-off, but it seems to be more from public backlash then from suddenly finding a corporate conscience.    

So, without getting too much farther into the big details, here are some links to stories from the bicycling industry which explain the situation in much greater details.  

The Story:


Red Kite Prayer

Riding Against The Grain

The Apparent Resolution:

Bicycle Retailer And Industry News


Riding Against The Grain

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It Had To Happen Sooner Or Later: Prototype SRAM Electronic Gruppo Spotted.

Full story on what is known at the moment can be seen over at Bikerumor.com

All we can say here is that it was bound to happen sooner or later.  In addition, will electronic gruppo's across the main manufacturer's spell the end of mehanical systems?  Probably not.

Pedal safe, my friends.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Break From The Usual Routes - Eldorado, Found.

The Whittier Greenway Trail

Every once in awhile it is nice to just get out and ride.  No destination, no usual routes, and no course where one is seeking a new, best time.  I mean, just getting out, turning the pedals and seeing where we can end up.  Well, this was one of those rides, and it was suggested by a friend of mine.  I certainly was glad she put forth the idea which led to the interesting ride described below.

I arose early in the morning (not one of my personal, strong suits), ready and roaring to go with thoughts of coffee and good food in my head.  Dressed, tires pumped-up, and eyes finally open, I rode to the meet-up point to join my posse.  We usually meet at a local park, and this morning was no exception for the group which assembled for the adventure.  Saddled up, we headed south on the San Gabriel River Trail in search of mischief.  Riders in search of a unique, morning adventure, headed for the path less pedaled.  And, we found it. 

After heading south on the trail, we hung a big left in Pico Rivera, headed for Uptown Whittier, where we struck gold: The Whittier Greenway Trail.  A former Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way, turned bike-path, the Greenway runs from Pioneer Boulevard on the west, to Mills Avenue on the east.  While in Uptown, we stopped to refuel at the California Grill.  Not only was the food, coffee, and service excellent, but they were very bike friendly, even on the super-busy, crowded morning we dropped in.  That’s class, being there are still a lot of eateries which are none-too-kind to cyclists for some reason.  The California Grill was a nice exception.

                                                   Uptown Whittier, California

Fueled up, we hit some of the local bike shops to check out their wares (emergency bikeshop tours are a habit of mine), then we headed back to the Greenway, thus using the trail to Uptown and back, traversing a lot of territory off of city streets.  That was the actual goal of the ride, as combined with the San Gabriel River Trail, it was a good scenic run free of motor vehicles.  However, the only downside to the trail’s unique, smooth pavement is the amount of it punctuated by street crossings.  Other than that, it is a good, scenic trail.        
This was without a doubt a fun ride, relaxing, and very interesting ride.  It was conducted mostly on bike-paths (about 98%), and according to the trusty Garmin, it was 40 miles round-trip from our start point, making for a moderate leg-stretcher.  The real beauty of the route, however, is that one can start from about anywhere up or down the riverbed to lengthen the ride to suit.  In short, it won’t be boring by a long shot. 

So ride, boldly ride, my friends, till you find Eldorado*.

* Regards to Mr. Edgar Allan Poe

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cycling & Politics: I Tried To Stay Away From It. I Really, Really Did.

And, just what was it that I was doing my best to stay away from?  Why, Cycling and Politics, of course.  However, it just seems damn impossible to do in the age of Media Made While You Wait, and innuendo-turned-fact before our very eyes.  For some reason, more than any other sport, we just can’t ride, read, or hear about cycling without politics being at least some part of the discussion.  And, it goes something like this: Lance Armstrong and Doping, or Doping and Lance Armstrong.  It is as if the two were not mutually exclusive, and have in fact for many, become Proper Nouns.  And, there seems to be no shortage of people lining up to take a swing at the Armstrong piƱata for their own macabre self-validation. 

Here is my ire with the whole Cycling/Doping/Lance conundrum.  First, cycling is supposed to be fun.  Let’s keep it that way.  Two, doping, i.e. looking for an advantage over another, is as old as humanity itself.  And three: Armstrong is who he is, and he did what he did.  Anything else, above and beyond, is just plain B.S.  And, pray tell, what do I mean by this?  Simple: Armstrong is being held up as the Eternal Scapegoat for all things wrong with cycling.  And, there is no shortage of people in the sport piling on, including many big-name racers, as they seek to distance themselves from the situation.  It is all a feeble, sleight-of-hand attempt to make it appear like the problems of the Pro Peleton were solved because Armstrong was finally busted.  Dream on, sports fans.

While there are those who feel even being in the same room with Armstrong will give them a case of the heaves, I say Lance has actually done cycling a huge favor.  If folks can just peel back their outright hatred of the man, they would see he can be of immense use to cycling’s future in the realm of catching past, current, and future cheats.  See, if he won seven Tours all without getting caught, then who better to help the Powers-That-Be police the ranks, right?  And, this is not too far-fetched of an idea. 

For a prime example, just look at the Cyber-Security industry.  Cyber-Security companies are not as dumb as professional cycling in terms of eating their own and recognizing the existential value of a cheat, as in their case, Hackers.  While cycling pretends doping does not exist, in the high-tech world of network security, to catch hackers, they hire the biggest hacker they can get.  Conversely, want to find out how riders did it, what they took, who administered the juice, and how the support system operates?  Call in the best “Expert” we have – Lance Armstrong.

If Cycling can only park its sanctimonious pride, it could learn a lot from Lance Armstrong.  No, it does not matter how big a dick he was/is, as there is no law on the planet against being a large, walking penis.  However, there are laws against Performance Enhancing Drugs, and tragically, the top expert on the planet is being ignored because he might have hurt some people’s feelings once.

Grow up, cycling.  And, for all of the myopic Lance Haters out there: Shut up and Ride!