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The Painter’s Eyes

- We sell chamois cream. A metric ton of it each year. Assos and DZ Nuts are the stalwart brands. New to the game is Rapha. When searching for ointments, if you mis-type their URL, (.com instead of .cc) the vibe is mildly different. Out goes stylish suffering. In comes ‘The Sound of Music.’

- Kidding aside, Rapha is madly popular here — with our customers, and with our staff. Beyond our love of their clothing, we like their sense of initiative, including how Rapha (the bike company) quickly launched a series of rides worldwide in support of the Japanese Red Cross. It was called Rapha Rides for Tohoku. Following their, lead, we had a nice 50 mile affair here with a sizeable peloton of supremely generous folks (almost all of whom were kitted out in Rapha Sportwool.) We raised nearly $1,700, and based on what we read, it seems like Rapha’s choice of charity was spot on.

- The curation never ends.

- In an attempt to ready a size Large Wilier Cento1 SL last weekend for air travel, I learned several things about travel cases and bikes with integrated seatposts:

isp headacheThe most burly case we sell is the SciCon Aero Tech Evolution hard case. But even with the seat removed, the Wilier’s seatmast prevented the bike from fitting. We then moved onto the Pika Packworks ‘Stretch’ case. With the saddle removed we could zip in the bike, but the top of the seatmast pressed hard against the exterior of the case. One perhaps inevitable bad bounce by a luggage handler was sure to damage it. We finally tried our old standby, the SciCon Aero Comfort Plus case. It fit just fine, even with the saddle still installed. If the Aero Comfort isn’t the best travel case on the market, it’s certainly the most versatile.

- It’s two years old, but it’s new to me. Does anyone know if they made this trailer into a full-on film?

- A lousy finale this weekend at Ghent-Wevelgem for HTC-Highroad’s Mark Cavendish. In contrast, the preceding week was a golden one for Cav’s boss, Bob Stapleton. In 2001 he sold VoiceStream to Deutsche Telekom for a mind-numbing $50.7 billion, giving birth to T-Mobile USA. And now the Germans are dumping it (and some subsequent acquisitions) to AT&T for $39 billion. With this sort of golden touch, we can expect Cav to win 16 stages of the 2011 Tour de France.

- Speaking of HTC, their bike sponsor Specialized unveiled the McLaren Venge frameset at the Taipei Cycle Show. It was a cheeky move to steal the thunder of its high-end competition, who did similar global announcements of sexy 2012 product at the same time and place. Matt Goss then boosted the publicity by winning Milan-San Remo on one, and HTC has been all over Europe racing on them. But where is its UCI approval sticker?

In looking at the fine print of the UCI’s rules, ‘all models of frames and forks under development on 1 January 2011 which had not yet reached the production stage (the date of the order form of the moulds is evidence)’ require UCI approval. Specialized asserts that the Venge has been a work-in-progress since mid-2010, which exempts them from the requirement.

Given that UCI approval will be required of ‘…all new models of frames and forks,’ the program’s ultimate result will be less innovation and attempts by manufacturers to prolong the life of existing models. The issue isn’t simply the cost of filing for the approval of a new model, although that is certainly an issue for start-up brands, a traditional source of innovation in any industry. But the program also presents an intellectual property risk by asking companies to ship their crown jewels — the frames that represent their vision for future product innovation — to an organization with a dubious reputation for competence, confidentiality, and integrity.

- Overwhelming joy. Gets our vote as picture of the year so far.

- A great photo essay from Milan-San Remo.

- Folks often contact us for advice: SRAM or Shimano? Zipp or Edge Enve? Pinarello or Wilier? Our first job here is to educate our customers and serve as their jungle guide. In the spirit of dispensing advice, an unsolicited recommendation: Now that Spring is here, find a way to take a long, mid-day, weekday ride. It’s intoxicating. Like spending lunchtime in the sack or watching a matinee, the unusual context of something otherwise routine heightens the experience wholly.

During the glorious hours between 10am-3pm: The roads are empty. The sun is brighter and higher. That clarity of light — it’s like being lent a set of painter’s eyes. Rides you’ve done 1,000 times look all new. Too often rides are a rush for training. To take a huge ride, unpressured by time constraints, and to see familiar things with an uncontaminated brain is a gift. I did it last week, and Little Rock has never looked so beautiful.

Wye Mtn 2

Wye Mtn 3

Wye Mtn 1

Wye Mtn 4

Scott

Allsopp Park 2

Millenium Trail 3

Millenium Trail 1

Ft Roots