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    - The loveliest road sign. - A pedal revelation. Being both cheap by nature and averse to change, I’ve been riding the Keo 2 Max since it was first introduced. Until recently, I never thought to upgrade to the Blade version. Before now, it seemed to me that the only difference was the flexible carbon stick used for cleat retention in the Blade instead of a metal spring. If you’re looking for an upgrade with a difference, put the Keo Blade high on your list. It wasn’t until I finally gave them a test ride that I understood that there [...]

    An Occupational Disease

    - Needless to say, we were bummed by last week’s announcement that the Competitive Cyclist Racing Team wasn’t chosen for the Tour of California. But we still have a huge amount of respect for the phenomenon AEG has created with the race. Outside of the Tour de France, it’s the most important race to the American bike industry. So while we would’ve loved to take part this year, we’ll derive plenty of benefits from the week just the same. The situation is no different from the annual wildcard drama with the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. Unfortunately there [...]

    Finish Line Rituals

    - Several folks have requested a ride review of the new SRAM Red. Here goes: * The biggest mechanical change is the movement of the front derailleur. The angular sweep of SRAM’s Yaw design is a big improvement from first-generation Red. Is it in the same ballpark as Dura Ace Di2? Sadly, it’s not. The tiptronic-like way Di2 commands your chainrings is dramatically superior to the clutch-popping clatter of mechanical shifting. I realize this is less a comment on Red than an observation about the wonders of electronic shifting. Nevertheless, the new Red is a substantial improvement, and remains (as [...]

    - Only two weeks after the Competitive Cyclist Racing Team camp, I found myself back in Tucson, this time at the behest of SRAM. The purpose of the trip was to pile miles on its new Red group. With one part mouthwatering anticipation and another part loathing I threw my leg over the bike SRAM had waiting for me: a Specialized Tarmac SL3. Within the walls of Competitive Cyclist, Specialized is forbidden fruit because of its no-online-sales philosophy. In truth, the big S (that’s Specialized, not SRAM) is a company to which we owe a lot. Much of the growth [...]

    - Lesson #1: Salt. One of the most promising signings for the Competitive Cyclist Pro Racing Team is Max Jenkins. He spent the last two years with United Healthcare, including a lengthy spell over in Europe during 2011. We chatted about how he kicked off his season last year. From the chilliness of his hometown near Sacramento he went straight to the tropical heat of the Tour of Langkawi. He explained that from the outset of the race, cramping was a big problem for the team. So the soigneurs tracked down a local solution: Pink Himalayan sea salt. Whether it [...]

    Book Of Intentions

    - In just a few weeks we’ll take delivery on our first shipment of the second-generation SRAM Red. In the past, Shimano and SRAM first shipped their new high-end groups as original equipment (OE) components only. That is, you could only get the new stuff at first by buying it pre-installed on a complete, new bike. (Campagnolo doesn’t do this because they essentially have zero % of the OE spec in North America.) But by making the new SRAM Red available initially in the aftermarket form, SRAM has dramatically reduced the cost for the early adopter. They only need to [...]

    - If you follow the Twitter feed of cyclingnews’ tech editor James Huang, you’ll remember that travel bikes were the topic du jour a couple of weeks ago. He tested a Ritchey Breakaway, which seems like an adequate option. But for the true equipment tycoon nothing else offers the ride quality and structural bling of S&S couplers. While a coupler-equipped frame might put you out upwards of $4,000 to $5,000, once you calculate the lifetime cost of being gouged by the airlines — $250 each way for bike-specific luggage surcharges — buying an S&S bike begins to make sense. Just [...]

    - The heavy hitters of the pro peloton kicked off their 2012 bike racing season this week with the Tour of Qatar, a weeklong stage race known for its abundance of six lane highways and its utter lack of climbs. Except for the unrelenting desert wind, the race has all the intrigue of an office park crit. While there’s no reason to expect this year to be different, this recent photo essay at least gives us more mind candy about the locales we read about in the race reports. - Our support of racing at Competitive Cyclist has never surpassed [...]

    BMC’s GranFondo GF01 is a bike designed for long rides on rough roads. A cursory glance speaks volumes — the frame and fork are nothing like anything BMC has produced, yet as a whole, it still carries a distinct BMC flavor in its dramatic tube shapes and seat cluster.

    A Wintertime Retrospective

    - Winter is the season of too little riding, too much food, with an occasional pinch of cross-training. But now with February looming, a commitment to springtime fitness cannot be deferred any longer. Some visual notes of the off-season that was: - 50 hours on the trainer. A new annual record. Is it a pain cave? A tedium cave? Either way, a proper portrait: - The misery of indoor training was something periodically avoided through a more exquisite sort of brutality: - Stamp fascination gets stronger. - Rothko cookies to match. - Dreams of riding in Europe are best fueled [...]

    Cheap Bars Everywhere

    - All hail FSA. Since it doesn’t make a full drivetrain, it’s an under-considered brand. But no other company is so dedicated to making flawlessly designed and executed, yet affordable, components. Sure, it made a big, unfortunate bet on its ‘RD’ wheelset platform six or seven years ago. But its management quickly got that bit of madness out of its system and they’ve more than redeemed themselves in the time since. FSA dominates the headset, handlebar, stem, and seatpost categories. It’s also a crankset and chainring behemoth. Now, during this year’s cyclocross season, it proved that it’s earned its brakeset [...]

    - There’s an interesting story hidden here. But at 5,862 words, it’s desperately seeking an editor. - The riding is gutsy. The announcing is otherworldly: - Long-forgotten baubles and trinkets of PROness. Shall we call it PRO apocrypha? Or shall we shorthand it as aPROcrypha? A perfect example: The Yakima Race Ready bike rack. - Highlights of the week: - Things that made me mildly uneasy this week: - A few of you have asked ‘What’s going on with Merlin?’ A brief update is overdue: It’s been a yearlong struggle trying to nail down our goals for the resurrection of [...]

    Despite all the advances in bicycle equipment over the last decade, we’ve seen almost no changes in road brakes. The side-pull brake as imagined by Campagnolo and seen gracing Fausto Coppi’s bikes at least as far back as the early 1950′s is pretty much what we have today. The only major modification we’ve seen is the advent of the “dual-pivot, ” wherein one arm’s pivot is off to one side while the other pivot is directly over the wheel and runs through the frame or fork crown. When change is incremental like this, one explanation can be that the component [...]

    - There’s already big bike industry intrigue in 2012. An internationally-renowned brand spirals towards bankruptcy, only to be saved at the final moment by an outsider who scoops up the pieces for a bargain price. I’m talking, of course, about German company Fixie, Inc. Fixie’s art school chic never grew old. Travelling to the Eurobike trade show has been like an annual pilgrimage to be tempted by its gritty urban bikes. And the annual escalation in its marketing absurdity was the antidote to bike biz blandness. Evidence exists, too, that Fixie had a love affair with bygone traditions of road [...]

    For all the love given to embrocation by the All Things Belgian Supporters Club and their subsidiaries and hangers-on, it is rare that the potion is mentioned in the winter outside of stripping down to short-legged skinsuits for cold cyclocross races. We suspect there are many reasons for this. For some, it is ignorance: even though it might not immediately cross minds that the stuff can be used under tights, the principles that make it work in the spring and fall are equally true in the winter. Another is time: dressing for a cold ride takes long enough already. Another [...]

    Final installment. I promise. Reminder Of The Year About The Worthwhile Trade Offs Of Excess Training makes cyclists connoisseurs of excess. The wet, the cold, the discomfort and the gnawing suspicion that you’re depriving your life of something essential by spending so many hours on the bike. On the one hand it’s bleak and on the other it’s a celebration. It’s a complicated set of emotions, and apparently it’s not the cyclist’s alone. Product Of The Year Finalists abound here. One I’ve been enjoying lately has been the Assos T.607 S5 Thermal Bib Short. Perhaps it’s thanks to my love [...]

    Road Sign Of The Year This one has been a perennial favorite. But this year it got pipped out at the line: Corporate Suicide Note Of The Year ‘…JRABS has reported violators, and will continue to do so. I have to do what I can to protect my business and the local economy.’ The only thing more disconcerting than the prospect of Chain Reaction and Wiggle gaining more US bike marketshare in 2012 is a US bike retailer reporting his own customers to the feds for buying from them. Rather than playing the role of the Stasi, I’d suggest to [...]

    The dog days of winter are upon us. For the bike-disturbed, it’s a season for reflection and contemplation. The early nightfall and lack of motivation compelled me this week to finally find the back corners of my liquor cabinet. A more productive result is the Competitive Cyclist 2011 Year In Review, Part 1 – Article Of The Year: ‘Three hours into the race, Fernández and I tear down a broad boulevard alongside a wall of rotting industry, and the peloton looks like a Miró mural, should you pass by one in an F-18.’ This is one of my favorite quotes [...]

    A Whiff Of Crayfish

    - A foreseeable bit of bike industry M&A went down last week. Wiggle has been quite publicly shopping itself around for the last year. Given that its campaign made noise for so long without results, it was easy to conclude that no one else shared Wiggle’s view of its self-worth. But last week’s selling price of $281 million proved that nothing could’ve been further from the truth. Students of finance will appreciate that this sum represents a 16 times multiple of LTM EBITDA, and a 12 times forward-looking EBITDA. In the post-2008 recession era, this is 18 times as freaky [...]

    - Trainer season is upon us. - March races are won in November. November’s cyclocross stars will be chilling on a beach come March. So you can skip ‘cross races guilt-free while dreaming about March glory provided that your indoor trainer becomes your best pal. Indoor trainers boil down to three basic types: (1) The Genre We Call Turbo Trainers. This includes bargain choices like the CycleOps Wind or virtual reality exotica like the Computrainer. The concept of these is basically the same: You lock your rear axle into place and a drum then puts resistance onto your rear wheel. [...]

    Definitely Not Wikileaks

    - It ain’t Wikileaks if you stumble upon it on the Internet: 2010 Chain Reaction audited financials here. 2010 Wiggle audited financials here. In 2010 Chain Reaction did $173 million in global sales and earned $15 million. Wiggle did $137 million with $10.5 million in earnings. If not expertise, I can at least bring some experience to the subject: Those are big numbers, and each business reached those heights at a pretty astonishing rate. Props to both for their success. Since they’re online retailers operating in the UK, it would be reasonable to assume that these numbers are of little [...]

    Embrocation is not a rub, or a method to stay warm, but a way of life. It’s a ritual, a humbling act, an empowering routine: an offering to the gods of cycling. At least that’s how the folks at Mad Alchemy live. It explains why they put so much care into their products; they live it. They obsess over it, they discuss it, they rub it in every day. Junkies sharing their fix with the world. They’ve found their mantra and far be it for us to suggest it doesn’t work. Personally, we didn’t think we had the time to [...]

    - Domestic (pro) bliss, #1: - Domestic racing is in the air here after we hosted a reception last week for USA Cycling and the promoters and organizers of the NRC races. While chatting with Todd Sowl, CFO of USA Cycling, I asked him something I’d long been curious about (and, interestingly, the uber-blog Inner Ring brought up on its own recently): Given the explosive popularity of cyclocross and the fading pulse of track cycling, why not expose cross to the masses through the Winter Olympics? If the Olympics are our best opportunity to introduce the wonders of bike racing [...]

    Mad Alchemy does a fine job of covering your skin, and all of their products seem to be crafted with great thought and care. We’ve taken some time to test out their chamois crèmes to see how they compare with others we’ve used. Mad Alchemy’s chamois crèmes fit in with the Alchemist’s mission – body lotion with an evocative aroma that has a performance purpose. This is our second chamois crème review of the year. In general, we use crotch lubes as an insurance policy against serious chafing, and we make absolutely sure that we apply something in certain circumstances. [...]

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