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    - Photo of the year, so far: This one is somewhere in the bottom half of the top ten. And rounding out the upper quartile: - The dominance of Tornado Tom Frits at Roubaix was obviously impressive on many levels. In addition to the historical implications of a new four-time winner of l’enfer du nord there came confirmation that pavé is to Paris-Roubaix what the Tourmalet is to the Tour de France. Both cases are terrain so savage that they nullify tactics and skew the likelihood of victory to the fittest, meanest rider. I could reach no other conclusion after [...]

    When it comes to shaving grams without sacrificing strength or stiffness, no Santa Cruz model can match their signature 29″ hardtail, the Santa Cruz Highball Carbon/SRAM X9 1 x10 Complete Bike.

    The first time we saw the Civilian Vive Le Roi Complete Bike we knew that it was something special. We know it’s not a good idea to judge a book by its cover, but not every book has a dust jacket like the Vive Le Roi — it’s like discovering a McSweeney’s limited edition in a warehouse of ’80s high school textbooks. Nothing in its aesthetic is predictable; in fact, the frame screams NAHBS more than bike store, yet it possesses a hypnotizing power that demands admiration, but more so to be ridden. And so we obliged. Over four days, [...]

    - The phone? In airplane mode. The computer? Kept further away than arm’s length. The TV? Off, off, off. As dusk settles on the evening of Tour of Flanders, nothing is so sweet as a successful media embargo. The NBC Sports TV coverage is predictably stuffed with commercials. It’s bliss to turn that two-hour broadcast into an hour fifteen and to watch it properly but guilt-free (that is, drinking Belgian beer at 7pm rather than 7am). Three cheers: One for the Ronde. One for the DVR. One for friends who know when to leave you alone. Doing a big ride [...]

    The Pivot Mach 5.7 Carbon, offered here with our exclusive SRAM X0/X9 component package, is the result of hundreds of hours of frame-optimizing computer analysis to take full advantage of the much-celebrated DW-link squish.

    The Hot List

    - 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 [...]

    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 [...]

    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 [...]

    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 [...]

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