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    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. [...]

    - And so we find ourselves in Park City, UT. Our people, our inventory, all our things professional and personal are now surrounded by mountains I formerly only knew as Alpine. The Wasatch lords over everything here like an ocean — heavy, majestic, and eternal. For the road-mad amongst us, Park City is a storied place. The Tour of Utah prologue is a hillclimb to the top of the ski jump hill at the Olympic Park. The Richie Rich hideaway Deer Valley has hosted Nationals umpteen times. And students of ancient history know that in 1991 Lance Armstrong acquired one [...]

    Where do you stand on lip balm? Do you prefer fruity flavors? What about herbal? Do you prefer simple, like using Vaseline straight up? Do you prefer something that has a little action, like Carmex? While it’s hard to know if all, or even any, cavemen used some sort of smile salve, it’s hard to imagine life without having something to relieve the discomfort of dry, chapped lips, something that probably has been experienced since there were humans to experience it. According to Wikipedia, “The primary purpose of lip balm is to provide an occlusive layer on the lip surface [...]

    Brake and shift cables are so necessary that we hardly think about them. They’re hiding in plain sight. We obsess over our shifters, be it the throw or the feel, the lightness of the clicks, the nature of the ergonomics, and how many gears we can shift at once. We obsess over our derailleurs and how fast they can push the chain onto another cog or chain ring. We study brake calipers, trying to find the best one-finger feel and smoothest power curve and the consistency of the pads. But cables? They come with’ the shifter, right? We have to [...]

    The last few weeks has been busy. To wit: - We went to Utah and adopted a domestic pro bike race team. Then we signed our first few riders for 2012. Then we learned that seeing this logo there and trying to make conversation by quipping ‘Beat Harvard!’ gets you nowhere. - Then we road-tripped to the Grands Prix Cyclistes de Québec et de Montréal and got reminded that one-day racing is the best racing there is. - Next was Interbike. We left with a couple of basic vibes: (1) Reflecting the state of the American economy, the handmade bike [...]

    There is a conflict inherent in all time trial handlebar setups and the Easton Attack Time Trial Carbon Aero Bars are no exception. On the one side you have simplicity, light weight, and aerodynamics. On the other, you have flexibility and aerodynamics. The Easton bars are firmly in the simplicity, lightweight, and aerodynamics side of the divide. The extensions clamp onto the bars via a collet system built into the top section of the bullhorns. Because it is integrated into the bars, the clamp is lighter and more aero. The base bar is also shaped for aerodynamics and this is [...]

    Reviewed: Ridley Cheetah

    For LESS than the price of a set of Zipp wheels, you can own a fully-equipped Time Trial rig with wind-tunnel tested technology that’ll keep you from sliding off the podium at the very last second — the Ridley Cheetah.

    Whatever success this blog has achieved in the last few years might be because candor has always had the upper hand. There’s no purpose in changing course now. The big question — maybe the biggest question in the history of Competitive Cyclist — is why did we agree to an acquisition by Backcountry.com? Since we owe nearly all of our success to you, our customers, I’ll endeavor to explain. Some background for starters. My first job in the bike business was with Pacific Bicycle, a retail chain in the Bay Area. It was the mid-90s and our industry was rudderless. [...]

    Socks are socks. Only if you’re buying six packs of white cotton tubes. If you ride regularly, you probably have a decent idea of what works for you. We like thin socks with no padding. Ideally, the foot is meshy, at least on top, and fits really snugly. We prefer shorter cuffs to longer. Materials, we’re much less particular about. Our preference is generally wool blends for cooler days, synthetics on hot days. In between, we can go either way. Some synthetics feel too plasticky to be comfortable, at least when putting them on, but there is a broad ground [...]

    Park City, UT Effective today, CompetitiveCyclist.com is joining the Backcountry.com family of specialty retail stores. With this acquisition, Backcountry.com solidifies its commitment to the bike industry and to creating an unparalleled customer experience for cyclists. Backcountry.com has built three unique businesses focused on three unique industries: Bike, Action Sports and Outdoor. Each industry-aligned business consists of specialty online stores core to that industry. Brendan Quirk, founder and CEO of Competitive Cyclist, will become the General Manager of Backcountry.com’s Bike Division. Numerous key Competitive Cyclist employees will also be making the move to Backcountry.com. ‘Brendan’s operating experience, strategic insights, and bike [...]

    After flying with the Sci’Con and feeling both the joy of a light bag and the pain of a steep airline fee, we wanted to try the Pika Packworks EEP. We wanted the smaller standard EEP, but since that was out of stock, went with the EEP Stretch. We were hoping this was a case that would not generate the $200 bike fee on Delta. Pika Packworks has been around for years, but has been flying under the radar. It’s a small company that makes equipment bags for people in the know. They do custom as well as stock. The [...]

    Until recently, Zipvit struck us as one of those odd names we saw on Euro’ race jerseys. We couldn’t place it at first when we saw it, but it seemed to be “around.” Maybe it was on second-division team jerseys, the tops that are splattered with a multitude of names and brands we’ve seen here and there over the years. Case in point, the Acqua e Sapone style of design — even for small brands, there’s always more room to give a few bucks and your name gets slapped on the jersey somewhere. Turns out, that Zipvit is a Swiss-registered [...]

    Sometimes, even chamois crème isn’t enough. Some days, maybe our saddle slipped, maybe the ride was more than we expected, maybe the time trial took more out of us, maybe we had too much chamois time after that hot hundred. The result is our undercarriage is a bit raw. Ordinary hand lotion is usually not a good idea, as most contain some scent, the chemistry of which can irritate sensitive skin. Vaseline is too thick; clothes will stick to it and you. Besides, being that we’re cyclists and prone to over-exertions, we typically want something that will speed healing. To [...]

    When you were a kid, did you save up for one authentically nice part for your tank-of-a-bike? Maybe you had a Panasonic with a motley mix of Shimano 105 and 600 components, but you were most proud of your Campagnolo seat binder bolt. Perhaps you make up for your early deprivation by buying the highest quality available now. With the Dogma Carbon, Pinarello got back into the game of sponsoring more than one ProTour team. Caisse d’Epargne and Team Sky are both making use of the Dogma’s asymmetrical design. And even though Caisse won’t be around come the 2011 season, [...]

    We’ll always need tires. While the investment can make a huge difference in riding performance, helping determine comfort, speed, and road grip, tires are relatively cheap and entirely disposable, so if you’re not happy with a set, you ride them until they fail and then try something new. Since they’re cheap relative to wheels, that makes them almost fun to try out, except for those few times when a tire doesn’t work from the moment we try to mount them. So it is that we tested out the Schwalbe Ultremo ZX. Schwalbe is a relatively new name to us, though [...]

    - 2011 Tour de France Déjà vu #1: Who didn’t think of MJ every time Thomas Voeckler let loose with his irrepressible tongue? - 2011 Tour de France Déjà vu #2: Who didn’t think of Snoop Dogg at the sight of Team Sky’s ‘rainforest’ team car? - 2011 Tour de France Déjà vu #3: Who didn’t think of Bob Uecker every time one of Bob Roll’s Road ID TV ads played during the Versus TV coverage of the Tour? Perhaps Roll thought he was signing up for a comic relief role. But instead he played the buffoon — a character [...]

    The Laser line from Giordana is about sleek, form-fitting pieces that are high-tech without being explicitly racy. The jersey is stretchy and should fit like a skinsuit top. The shorts have been redesigned as high-compression bottoms. Both of these items were interesting to us, particularly the bibs. Cycling shorts with compression. Lots of companies claim their shorts have compressive qualities beyond just the spandex hugging your legs, but this is the first time we experienced bibs that really felt like they were actively compressing our legs. The surprise came when tugging them on for the first time. They were sufficiently [...]

    The Veneto region of northern Italy is home to what might be the highest concentration of luxury-class cycling brands in the world. They include Sidi, DMT, Campagnolo, Selle Italia, Selle San Marco, Elite, Giordana, Nalini, Pinarello, and Wilier. The gorgeous terrain marries nicely to the fact that they’ve been building roads there for the better part of 1,000 years. Cycling is sewn into the cultural soul of the Veneto, which is why it was such a joy to make a pilgrimage there to test Wilier’s new top-end bike for 2012, the Zero.7. Wilier has been building on its Cento platform [...]