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 by dishes eaten in Europe. Ribollita is as PRO as a frame pump beneath your top tube. This recipe is enough to feed a whole team plus support staff. I suggest you cut it by half. And in my experience plain ol’ kale is perfectly good.
- ‘Tis the season for food obsessions.
- Until this winter, everything I’d ever known about skiing came in 1980:
- Who knew that Smith Optics owns the ski helmet market given that it was so lost in the woods during its one foray into cycling?
As I took baby steps into Alpine skiing this winter, the one piece of gear which left me smitten was the insulated ski helmet. A lack of air vents plus cushy interior insulation and the thick ear pads keeps your head toasty even in sub-zero conditions.
Is there a market for the winter-specific helmet in cycling? The population of outdoor, wintertime riders may be just too small. Another concern is the trade of warmth for danger. MIght the thick ear pads muffle engine noise of approaching cards until it’s too late?
In trying to guess how many cyclists would pony up for a helmet they’d use for just a few weeks out of the year, it’s natural to wonder about the global sales of Sidi’s incredible winter shoes, the Hydro GTX. They’re expensive, season-specific and narrow in purpose. Historically we’ve done a reasonable business in them. I can’t help but wonder if the market for winter cycling shoes correlates to potential for winter helmets.
- And, speaking of shoes, my bony and mismatched feet drove me to purchasing a set of fully custom ski boots from the legendary company Surefoot. The shell itself is an off-the-shelf affair. But as part of the process I got computer-modeled insoles plus a liner shaped to my feet, ankles, and shins. The process involved blowing high-pressure fluid blown through tubes into the boot. The fluid then congealed into something I’d describe as malleable foam. It was an amazing process to behold. The end result is boots that made the difference between me spending my weekends skiing instead of sitting on the couch fretting about my trainer.
In comparison to the Surefoot process, the bike business has a long way to go. Currently, the best options come from the two behemoths of the cycling shoe marketplace, Specialized and Shimano. They offer heat-moldable footbeds and some basic options for arch support. But nobody offers the full-bore customization of Surefoot,. Likewise, to this day no cycling shoe company has matched the promise once offered by Rocket7.
Rocket7 was as custom as custom could be. Thanks to its use of crush boxes for plaster-casting your feet, the fit process offered superb footbeds, near-infinite options for length and width, and the bonus of aesthetic freedom impossible in regular mass production. Their shoes were incomprehensively light (a half-pound lighter than a pair of Sidi’s luxe Ergo road shoes), their soles were stiff as a thru axle. The brand had singular cachet thanks not just because of the shoes themselves, but its association with the Slipstream pro road team.
In the end, though, Rocket7 was star-crossed. It was saddled with unreasonably high expectations. Its owner looked at every shoe order as a mystery to be definitively mastered while every customer viewed it as certain deliverance from lifelong disappointment. In addition to the challenge created by those astronomical expectations was Rocket7′s lack of capital and its inability to manage its growing production. By comparison, Surefoot has 24 retail stores across the world, and it offers an easily-replicable custom process. If Rocket7 had found similar financial backing and operational expertise, it would own the high-end cycling shoe market. My memory of the company is one part sadness and one part respect.
- Cross racing season is long gone. Time to turn the beast into a commuter. SKS fenders plus 28c tires are a recipe for an all-weather superbike. And adapting Dura-Ace 7900 cranksets to a PF30 bottom bracket shell was a piece of cake.