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Our first Cervélo S3 build, and other stories

- 2009 is most definitely here, as evidenced by the backlog of cool new stuff in our receiving department. Highlights this week include the arrival of the Cervélo S3 and Shimano Dura Ace 7900, a combo we’re sure we’ll be pairing together countless times for the next few years.

We built our first S3/7900 on Wednesday. There’s a lot to love: The ‘Rings’ paint scheme looks like a knock out in person. The flat-but-chunky S3 chainstays (the same stays used on the P4 TT frame) are pure sculpture, like Cervélo took Pegoretti Big Leg Emma chainstays and turned them 90 degrees. And, as promised, the ergonomics of the 7900 STI levers are a huge improvement over 7800.

That being said, the mental adjustment we’re having to make here pertains to cable routing. It’s the biggest structural change with 2009 Cervélo. Many of their bikes now have a more aero cable routing path, which requires the derailleur housing to feed into the top of the top tube, just behind the headset.

The challenges are twofold: (1) We haven’t had an internal cable routing path this exacting since, like, mid-1990′s Klein mountain bike frames. The downtube cable stops are inside the frame, which presents a challenge in correctly mating the cables to the stop. In order to manipulate the cable, you need to remove the stops. But the whole idea is to get the cables into those stops. In other words, you’re trying to fish a cable you can’t see through a cable stop that you can’t keep in place if you want to get a glimpse of the cable. No doubt we’ll get used to it over time and it’ll be a snap. But the first time -- wow, bring us some Ketel One.

(2) With the introduction of 7900, there is one important commonality between Dura Ace, SRAM, and Campagnolo: All systems route the derailleur housing under the handlebar tape, which requires a short, acute bend of derailleur housing (in comparison to the long, gradual loop of housing that exits from 7800 STI levers). As many of you know, you can’t make too tight of a bend in your derailleur housing because (a) it’ll lead to lousy shifting and (b) it’ll impede your ability to fully turn your handlebars. Conversely, if you make the housing loops too long, your knees will hit them when you’re sprinting or climbing out of the saddle. This isn’t rocket science, but we had to set aside our traditional methods for measuring the ‘correct’ length of housing. It was something new to learn, and while it’ll doubtlessly be second-nature before we know it, if/when you build your own S3 make sure to bring a suitcase of patience to the job.

During out 1st S3 build, this photo became of great interest to us. Note how Kristin Armstrong of Team Cervélo-Life Force uses Nokon cables. Because of Nokon’s linked housing, you can radically angle the housing with no detriment to your shifting. This is an ideal solution since it’s best complements the spirit of this new housing path: By making the loop as short as possible, it maximizes its aerodynamics.

- We wrote last week about the incompetence at USA Cycling as it pertained to correctly and competently tracking UCI points for the one US spot available for the 2004 Olympic Women’s XC mountain bike team. Sue Haywood earned maximum points, but USA Cycling fouled up the math and awarded the spot to a different athlete. Sue sued, and won $300,000 in damages. Keep in mind that one of USA Cycling’s primary reasons for being is to nominate Olympic athletes.The more you think about it, the more irritating and embarrassing it becomes.

This caused a reader to send us to a link of USA Cycling’s 2007 tax return. The interesting details there are too many to mention. One of our favorite is the death spiral in ‘Gifts, grants, and contributions received’ over time. In the time span from 2003-2006, annual gifts to USA Cycling went like this: $4.2mm, $4.4mm, $2.4mm, $2.7mm. What’s most alarming to us is the fact that Thee Almighty Lance was still racing in ’05 (which means grassroots interest in cycling should’ve still be huge), but the drop in gifts from ’04 to ’05 was the worst year. Maybe donations are largest in an Olympic year (’04), which is a sad irony given USA Cycling’s mismanagement of the athlete selection.Do not obsess is a rule for contentment in life, but my goodness I’d love a reader with an accounting background to take a longer look there.

- We’re a solid-performing dot-com retail business in a part of the world where (outside of Walmart.com) there is not an abundance of dot-com retail success stories. Sometimes, especially after a few cocktails, I indulge some secret pride at the thing we’ve built here in Little Rock. And then I read a story like this and realize how many people in Arkansas are smarter than me…

- I typically leave all singlespeed commentary to the genius of Bike Snob NYC. But he has yet to remark on the SRAM Torpedo hub . I hope I’m not setting myself up for excoriation by saying that it seems kinda like a cool idea. Fixed gears scare me. There, I said it. But someday, maybe, I wanna learn to competently ride one. The Torpedo seems tailor-made for rookie-leaguers like me. And it’s pretty neat web design too.

- They say youth is wasted on the young. But then I see photo galleries like this, and I recall just how many lame-ass parties I went to in my 20′s. Maybe this was a Grand Fête and everyone scored much tail & a nice discount on a new Prince. Maybe. But I doubt it.

- Edge Composites makes lovely wheels and forks. They’re on the short list of cycling industry up-and-comers. I once heard a story that they got sued by Lew Composites, which didn’t mean much since I guessed that Lew had ~$20 to spend on an attorney. But then we saw this filing, and we got much more concerned for Edge. This is an Edge vs. Reynolds matter, but Reynolds is owned by McLean-Fogg, and they are an $800 million/yr company, and doubtlessly they have the means to exert shock & awe with their lawyers. This is David vs. Goliath stuff. Stay tuned.

- People ask us all the time -- ‘How’s business?’ And before we can answer, they tell us ‘Oh you guys must be doing fine. Bikes like yours -- people who can afford those can always afford them.’ Business is passable, thank you. But trust me, nobody out there is feeling rich & spendy. No better statement of this exists than this graph. It’s from an 11/25 Wall Street Journal article called ‘A Rough Ride in Collectible Cars’, which closes with one of the better quotes about the current economy, ‘The love of cars never outweighs the love of money.’

- Thanksgiving has come and gone, which means if you’re serious about being in shape for March races, you better be getting in some miles rain or shine. We’re starting up here, and for many of us it means religiously taking multivitamins to ward off the cold & flu bugs that often come with long, chilly, wet rides. We read this article and raised a toast to the placebo effect. Whether they really work or not, we swear we get sick less often when we remember to take our vitamins.

- Saw this article and I remember why we made the decision in November, 2007 to put a full stop on all forms of print advertising for Competitive Cyclist. Print is dead. Totally dead. Witness the fiery meltdown of Maxim. Witness the slow decomposition of the New York Times. Think of the costs in print: The placement costs; the production costs. Think of the frustrations of print: The slow lead times to broadcast a time-sensitive message; the complete lack of trackability in comparison to online. The world is changing so quickly it’s wild. VeloNews can afford to downshift from 22 issues a year to 12 in 2009 because nobody reads it anyway, but everyone devours their website. How long ’til 12 issues a year goes to 0? They’d be doing themselves a huge favor.