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    ‘…She had learnt that the serpent hisses where the sweet birds sang, and her views of life had been totally changed for her by her lesson.’ — Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy David Millar’s memoir Racing Through The Dark serves as the long-overdue confessional for an entire generation of bike racers. His downward tumbles — from amateur powerhouse to exhausted neo-pro; from determined reliance on his own physiology for recovery to the use of injections; from injections to full-blown dopage — are not portrayed as a morality play. Rather, as David Walsh laid out about Motorola in the late [...]

    Kudos to Wheels Manufacturing. They’ve made compatibility the cornerstone of their business. In so doing, they have made mixing and matching new and old components and across platforms incredibly easy and have taken the sting, and fear, out of purchasing many seemly-proprietary parts, and allow those with special needs to keep their bikes rolling. Want to get your Campy shifting to work with Shimano cassette hubs? They’ve got the solution. Need to find a shim to get your fork, handlebar, stem, front derailleur, seat post to work with your frame? They’ve got that as well. They even have pedal washers [...]

    The BMC RM01 reminds us of old-school pro bikes, even with all the modern touches and materials. Back in the day, you could get a bike with pro geometry in different Columbus tube sets. Columbus SLX if you wanted the pro copy, maybe Columbus Max if you wanted a stiffer bike that was for bigger riders. Columbus SL if you wanted something a little cheaper and a little more flex. You could get it in even heavier tubes, like Cromor or Thron, if you just wanted the pro geometry and a pro-esque paintjob. There were some fictions about the old [...]

    Giro has once again revolutionized the bicycle helmet with their newer, lighter, and sturdier Aeon.

    Wool socks have experienced a renaissance. Once, they were the last vestiges of antiquity in the cyclist’s wardrobe, after wool shorts, jerseys, and undershirts had been consigned to the scrap heap of history. Ever since that day, wool socks were probably destined to return, and lead a bottom-up return to the ancient high-tech fiber. We never understood the disappearance of wool socks. Cotton socks never appealed to us, and synthetic never did well in poorly ventilated shoes. The issue of whether or not wool socks were “scratchy” always seemed like a non-issue, as once the shoe is clamped down, the [...]

    Up to now it seemed to me as though the Giro could only be properly watched in two places: (1) In Italy. (2) In my kitchen. In a paradigm-shifting visit, the wonderful Rapha Cycle Club carved out spot #3. Oh, San Francisco, most lovely of all American cities. Can’t we just make the Tour of California 7 different days of coursing through your streets? The world can have Lake Tahoe and the Donner Pass. I’ll sip my coffee, reminiscence about the best Californian race there ever was, and spend countless hours in May glued to the TV as the big [...]

    The perfect helmet should be like the perfect saddle. You know it’s right when you forget that it’s there. No pressure on your body, no need to contort and adjust. In an effort to help make the most of your helmet shopping, we’ve put together a comparison of our six best-loved models. We’ve focused on four areas: venting, weight, retention systems and a mystery category. Safety is a given here, all of the helmets meet or exceed CPSC impact tests. Instead we’re examining a higher calling: fit, comfort, and vanity. We put Giro’s trifecta of high-end helmets under the microscope: [...]

    The perfect helmet should be like the perfect saddle. You know it’s right when you forget that it’s there. No pressure on your body, no need to contort and adjust. In an effort to help make the most of your helmet shopping, we’ve put together a comparison of our six best-loved models. We’ve focused on four areas: venting, weight, retention systems and a mystery category. Safety is a given here, all of the helmets meet or exceed CPSC impact tests. Instead we’re examining a higher calling: fit, comfort, and vanity. We put Giro’s trifecta of high-end helmets under the microscope: [...]

    - A thank you to everyone who expressed concern over the last two weeks for our team at Competitive Cyclist. At some points the tornadoes made it seem like the London blitz. We spent night after night huddled in the basement, air raid sirens blaring, a blackout in full effect. We had the good fortune to emerge mostly unscathed. I say mostly because one of our service techs — his name is Jeremy and perhaps he built your last bike — had his home guillotined by a tree as he crouched in a closet with his 4-year-old daughter. Thankfully they [...]

    The Stalingrad Moment

    - A debt of gratitude to the readers who answered my request to upload the finale of the 1998 Fleche Wallonne, what we might call The Passion of Bo Hamburger. His truncated attempt to ‘rock the baby’ is even more charming than his Spinergy wheels or VDB’s hairnet. It would be nice if there was a way the Cozy Beehive could upload this to its canonical compilation of victory salutes. A tip of the hat to two of the folks who uploaded Fleche clips, both of whom also happen to be fine bloggers: Cycling Inquisition and Helmeteering. - The evolution [...]

    The Instinct to Shill

    - Lugged steel has proven hard to kill, proof of the fickleness of sentimentality in the bike market. Who among us daydreams of riding with feet pinched by Alfredo Binda straps? Of bumping bars in a peloton while reaching for friction downtube shifters? Of riding in shorts whose chamois was just that — the hide of a goat-elk thing? The shorts were the worst of it. In the span of 5 hours what you squatted on was transformed into a desiccated filet. Then came the night, when the sweat dried and the chamois crusted over. Prepping shorts before every ride [...]

    Lebowskis in Wetsuits

    - There are 8 million stories from the pavé of northern Europe. This is one of them: ‘The race was going well up until just before the Arenberg when Geraint crashed. We waited and had to chase like hell to get him back on before the forest then he crashed again at the entrance. Again I waited, chased like hell made contact and we all crashed again on an oil patch on the cobbles. Anyhow, I did my job (which was to protect Flecha until the forest and then go as a far with them as possible) and my legs [...]

    - Bike racing was different in my 20′s. Not better, just different, with a much stronger dose of gutsiness. Mid-hill repeats this week it came to me in haiku: The fear of crashing was nothing compared to the fear of getting dropped. My interval-addled brain remember bits of the most essential roadie text since Krabbé’s The Rider, Michael Barry’s Le Métier. Its voice of experience has driven me back to it pages again and again – ‘In bed, lying awake in the darkness, everything from the past and future swirls together…Once the lights have gone out my mind starts to [...]

    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 [...]

    If the price doesn’t make you do a double-take, then the beauty of the Wilier Izoard XP most certainly will. It’s paired with our specially-configured SRAM Rival component package to provide 2012′s best value in an Italian race bike. To see all our Featured Bikes and learn more about the program, click here.

    - Yes, we bought a bike brand. Why? There are lots of reasons. But like much in the history of Competitive Cyclist, many of them are rooted in emotion rather than rigorous strategic planning. Perhaps the best answer is another question: Who wouldn’t want to own their own bike brand? Along with Colnago (too expensive) and Fat Chance (un-buyable, take it from me), my crush on Merlin was white hot in my youth. The intervening years of separation made the reunion a blisteringly hot affair. Few people would disagree with the notion that your all-time favorite bike is the one [...]

    Competitive Cyclist is joining Rapha’s global effort to raise funds for Japanese Red Cross Society in response to last week’s earthquake and tsunami. We will be leading a road ride on Saturday, March 19. It’s a classic central Arkansas route — we’ll leave from the Competitive Cyclist HQ in North Little Rock, AR, and do an out & back to Marlsgate Plantation in Scott. And for those of you who don’t live nearby, please visit Rapha’s website to see the locations of the other 20+ rides Rapha is orchestrating. Rapha has had a longstanding involvement in the Japanese cycling scene [...]

    We visit with Gary Vasconi from Capo Cycling Apparel about the highlights of their Spring and Summer 2011 lineup.

    - My apologies for the sporadic updates here on ‘What’s New.’ Our European excursion was a disruption, and then came the roll-out of our mobile-specific site and the unveiling of our Featured Bikes program . Both were the result of immense work by a lot of people. Sadly, sometimes the blogging must wait. It’s time for some catch up now, and we’ll be back with regularly scheduled What’s New columns in two weeks. - When Paul Kimmage published ‘ A Rough Ride’ in 1990, doping was one of those topics most people in the cycling world strenuously avoided. He was, [...]

    Our Visit to Girona

    It’s not the climbs. It’s the sound of my own nerve-wracked thoughts leading up to the base of them. Anticipatory dread is my specialty. It’s likely for this reason that turning 40 years old never bothered me. What I couldn’t shake was the worry about being worried about it. So I made a plan for the fateful day: Play Peter Pan, which meant a 4 day camp in Girona, Spain with my best training pals and ride myself into the ground every day with the simple sense of purpose that, at age 40, life no longer permits. The art of [...]

    Our Visit to Ridley HQ

    Tessenderlo, Belgium: Heart of Flanders, heart of cycling. Trivial notes: The town was the site of Tom Steels’ 2004 Belgian National Championship and, in 2005, Ludo Dierckxsens’ final race as a pro. Personal notes: It’s home of the first bread vending machine I’ve ever seen and in its January misery (-3˚ Celsius; wet grey skies; a jacket-nullifying wind), it begged one question above all else: How do people here get fit for March racing? Unlike, say, Pittsburgh or Cleveland, the expectation in Flanders is that you’ll be flying-fit in March. Summertime racing is near-irrelevant. Getting hard when it’s hardest: That’s [...]

    Our Visit to Canyon HQ

    Cue in memories of Eurobike 2008, Day 1. It was the first time we ever saw a Canyon bike. Their beauty was obvious, but what mystified us was the against-the-grain way they sold their bikes: Consumer direct. The technological sophistication of their frames was as subtle as a hammer blow; their aesthetic appeal was mammoth; and their corporate branding was crafty. After all, Eurobike has long been the world’s most important trade show. The first 3 days of the show is always restricted to industry-only, then the 4th day is open to consumers. Canyon’s booth was the size of the [...]

    Thermal bib shorts are our favorite secret weapon for cool and chilly days, and none offers better value than the Castelli Claudio.

    Our Visit to Assos HQ

    It’s turning into a tradition: Our mid-winter sojourn to Europe. It’s a time to ride, to visit with great brands on their home turf, and to contemplate changes in the way we buy (and sell) to make Competitive Cyclist that much better for our core customer base, i.e. everyone back in North America. We’ll file a total of 4 reports from our trip. This entry is the first and expect to see the remaining ones every 3 or 4 days – The 9-hour flight to Milan? I slept like a baby. The airport pickup? A Mercedes AMG driven by an [...]