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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 buy the components, not an entire new bike. It’s further evidence of SRAM’s consumer-first strategy, which is why goodwill for the brand has reached lofty heights.

With the new Red, SRAM shaved 120g compared to the first-generation. Now that we’ve begun playing with it a bit, here are some highlights beyond the weight story:

The new shifter ergonomics live up to their billing. In case you didn’t know, the shifter internals remain mostly unchanged. Rather, the big news with the shifters is the all-new feel of the levers. The hoods are chunkier in some places, slimmed down in other spots. Their shape is reminiscent of the all-time-most-comfy levers, the post-pointy era of Campagnolo 8 and 9 speed. The hoods weren’t the only thing that got a facelift. Significant work was done o the shift paddles as well.

SRAM Red 2nd Generation - Hoods

The cobbled classics are only a few weeks away, which means we’ll go through our annual ritual of selling a truckload of 25c and 28c tires as folks piece together pavé-inspired bikes. One great evolution with the second-generation Red brakes is that they accommodate 28c tires. No other top-shelf brake caliper comes close. (Most barely have room for 25’s.)

SRAM Red 2nd Generation - Caliper Width

The first-generation Red cranks had a foam core with a carbon wrap. The new version is hollow, structural carbon, which means it’s both stiffer and lighter. And for those of you who love playing association games, it’s impossible miss Red’s tribute to Campagnolo by having the fifth chainring bolt thread into the back of the crankarm.

SRAM Red 2nd Generation - Bolts

An additional bonus with second-generation Red is SRAM’s efforts at making it silent. Its engineers did a good bit of work to the rear derailleur to hush up the shifting. But that work was nothing compared to the introduction of clever elastomer rings between each cassette cog. The hollow-sounding cacophony of the first-generation is muted thanks to what SRAM calls ‘StealthRings.’

SRAM Red 2nd Generation - Elastomer

We’ll have the new Red shipping in mid-March and if you’re keen, you can pre-order it now.

‘The UCI can wish it otherwise, but to remove cyclists caught doping from the results in a Stalinesque erasure assumes an ownership of history that the organization does not have.’

You probably already know the dark history Ben Birdsall reviews in this article. But if you’d like to give your non-cycling-obsessed girlfriend or Mom a quick lesson on the true lineage of the sport of bike racing, this is the ticket. The fact that it appears on a blog that ordinarily focuses on ball sports makes it that much more appealing. (Truth be told, The Classical rules, and if you’re remotely interested in sports it should be on you daily reading list.)

Jan Ullrich - september 2011

Book of Intentions, For Fans of late 1990

– Stamp fascination:

Stamp Fascination - 1974 Worlds in Montreal

Fashion intermission #1

Where have you gone Michael Ball? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Where have you gone Michael Ball, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you

Fashion intermission #2

These are sweet. These are sweeter:

Eddy Merckx Shoes

Team camp is under way. More on this next week.

– Yes, I read the comments on this blog. The trolling is amusing. At this point it’s like watching the final few dinosaurs waste away. Strange people hiding behind noms de plume while doing juvenile flaming in the comments section of blogs and articles is as old as the internet itself. And it’s a phenomenon that is quickly coming to the end thanks to Mark Zuckerberg. The Facebook ‘Comments’ social plug in requires people to post comments using their Facebook identities. It’s been adopted by a staggering number of media properties. Our developers have crossed the proverbial Rhine. The forces of good are oh-so-close to eradicating the tyranny of anonymity here.

– The closest thing pro bike racing ever had to today’s root-for-the-super-longshot Linsanity was in 2010 when Joao Correia left his day job at Bicycling Magazine to ride for the Cervelo Test Team. It was a feel good story with real substance. Joao dropped weight like he was trying out for the Ms. America pageant. And the engine beneath was, in fact, ProTour-caliber, as evidenced by the fact he played an active domestique role in several wins for the team in real Eurodog races.

Actually, it wasn’t all Linsanity. Some of it was, in fact, pure insanity. It was the industry’s worst-kept secret that 2010 was the do-or-die year for the Test Team. The cost and aggravation of managing a ProTour team as a side project within a manufacturing company was simply too much to bear.

Cervelo understood that Joao had deep connections to the NYC bike scene. He lived in Brooklyn and regularly destroyed all comers at the New York City weekly World ChampionshipsGimbel’s Ride.) Its bet was that Joao could leverage the combination of his prominence in the NYC high-end cycling scene with his new-found role as a Euro pro to sell title sponsorship of the team to a cycling-mad NYC-based financial industry (or any other industry) baller.

As we all know, it wasn’t a happy ending. Despite the efforts of Joao and others, the company could never coax a replacement title sponsor to the altar. The team shut down operations at the end of season. Joao’s neo-pro season turned out to be his only pro season. But don’t feel bad for him. He transitioned into a nice job at LinkedIn. (Pre-IPO, I believe…some guys have all the luck.) And now he’s kicking off a travel company called InGamba.

For those of us who’ve spent time riding in Europe, the idea of doing an organized trip there sounds ridiculous. I’ll wear my snobbery on my sleeve: I’d rather ride solo in Fresno than roll the dice with Butterfield and Robinson or Backroads. I don’t need a bus driver. I don’t need a valet. I don’t need a babysitter. Luxury? No. I want genuineness.

The purpose of InGamba is to fill a void that currently exists within the cycling travel market. It’s built to handle the itinerary and logistics for folks who aren’t scared of Europe, who aren’t reluctant to commit to real riding and who are keen to offset big miles by treating every meal as a flat-out bacchanal.

The ultimate European cycling experience is in finding that cross-section of secret roads and secret culture. It’s truly local and it’s devoid of touristy schlock. Unless you have very fit, very good cycling friends who live in Europe fulltime, InGamba is your best bet for an authentic week in Europe.

– Our pal Michael Barry embarked on his final season as a PRO at this year’s Tour of Qatar. Like every year since the late 90’s, he starved himself and logged insane miles with springtime glory in mind. Here’s an image photocopied straight out of his brain:

Michael Barry

The worst news of the season so far came from Qatar, and unfortunately it was about Michael. A rider in front of him wasn’t gripping his bars when he hit a reflective cateye. In the inevitable crash that followed Michael plowed into him at 40-some-odd mph. He broke his elbow, dinged up his femur, and now finds himself off the bike for a month to recover.

Michael snapped a photo from his hospital bed in Manchester. In doing so, he captured the quintessential image of a cyclist with lousy luck. Grim food on the tray. The same wooden door chosen by hospital accountants worldwide. And it’s capped off with a sign of resistance: The humble pair of thin cycling socks. Those Curve socks symbolize defiance. They make the statement of I am a cyclist despite the way cycling plots against the cyclist sometimes. If your bike has ever put you in the hospital, you’ll understand the meaning of them. Get well, Michael.

View from the hospital bed