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More from Milan-San Remo, Bikes & Airlines

– We’ve all seen the frontal video of the finishing sprint from Milan San Remo. But have you seen this helicopter footage? It tells the story a thousand times more vividly. Cav’s acceleration is mind-blowing seen from here.

Agony of defeat.

– Spring is here, and a boy’s fancy turns to traveling-with-bike. Spring ’08 was the first time I ever paid more than $75 to take a bike on a flight. It was $125 to take it along to Europe last year, and on the flight back (only a week later!) the cost went up to $175. In anticipation of this year’s adventure, I visited the website of Delta Airlines and learned that it’ll be $600 round trip to take a bike(!!!) I checked other airlines -- some specify bike surcharges and others just stick to oversize bag surcharges -- but it’s pricey no matter how you cut it.

I’m aware of the financial peril of the world’s airlines, and I know their revenue-generating tactic du jour is the baggage surcharge. I don’t begrudge them: I have no interest in taking a steamer ship, and bike trips to Europe are always once-in-a-lifetime adventures, no matter how many times you go. But cheapskate that I am, I’m curious if there’s a better way.

The way? The S&S Coupler bike. The idea of getting a lightweight S&S coupled Ti bike is a thought I can’t rid myself of. Building it up to be a silly 15lb bike would be easy. You sacrifice zero in terms of ride quality or stiffness -- in fact I remember an article somewhere once that said an S&S-coupled tube is stronger than the same tube uncoupled. And while hotel room assembly/disassembly takes a bit of extra time, the fact that you’ll be flying with a standard piece of luggage -- it’s not oversized, and it’s not identifiable as a bike -- you’ll save enough cash to pay for 2 extra days of vacation.

Other travel bike options exist, yes. There are the small-wheeled Dahon/Bike Friday-style bikes, advocated by many including my pal the globe-trotting Nigel Dick. While I appreciate the super-compactness of the design, I admit I’d feel a bit conspicuous on one, and in my ignorance of physics I worry about whether hitting good speeds on a bike with such small wheels is harder. And Ritchey has done a solid job marketing their Breakaway travel bike. It is an extreme temptation. But I find their coupler to be almost unbelievably minimalist. It’s elegant to the eye, but in comparison to the near-industrial heft of the S&S coupler, I have doubts that Ritchey’s coupler leads to a joint as stiff and durable as S&S’. I’m possibly off-base, but nothing on Ritchey’s website addresses this perception. I wish it did, because if they plead their case well, I’d likely buy one.

5 trips to Europe on Delta = $3,000 in bike fees. That pays for an S&S Moots or a Ritchey Breakaway pretty fast. In 2009, the airlines have suddenly made these bikes cost-competitive.

– More Spring. 3 things we’re digging:

  • 1) Hincapie Jeans. Thanks to a friend-of-a-friend connection, I scored a free pair of these. I’ve always been a Levi’s guy (more by default than by conscious choice), and the difference between Sears-sourced 505’s and my Hincapies are like going from 105 to Dura Ace. The fit is totally different: Most notably, the distance from the waist to the crotch is measurably shorter (a pal told us this is how ‘designer’ jeans are cut). And the denim isn’t just denim. There’s a small hint of stretch to them -- like there’s lycra or something beyond just denim there. The stretch makes them more agreeable as you put them on, and if you have any physical oddities (be it mammoth quads, or just a beefy Italian rump like yours truly) there’s none of the discomfort you get from new-and-intractable denim like you get from Levi’s.
  • 2) Fresh Yokozuna Reaction cables. We run SRAM, and the stock Gore cables that come with Red levers aren’t on par with stock DA or Record cables. Yokozuna gives us the best shifting & braking this side of Nokon, but at half the cost. We’ve been backordered on these for the last six weeks, and finally they’ve hit our warehouse again.
  • 3) CC videos are coming back. Our videos went on hiatus when we made the move from our old building, and we’re finally sufficiently settled that we’re beginning our video reviews again. We’ll be adding some educational videos to the mix as well. Best of all, we’ve built a new video player for the site that’ll show our videos in ‘HQ’ format -- basically the online equivalent of HD. It’s a larger player, and the quality gets a boost, too, for the fact that we’ve hired a new production staff to shoot them. Expect to see these rolling in April.

– Our favorite blogs are dying! The once-legendary Belgium Knee Warmers: One post with written content in the month of March. Rob Vandermark’s insightful 25Seven: 0 posts in March. Cycling Fans Anonymous: He’s made the leap to Twitter. Cozy Beehive: We remember reading a post a few months back when he said he was taking a new job and he was expecting it to be really busy there. And with that we’ve gone from daily posts to maybe two or three times a week.

The most interesting transformation was that of Cycling Fans Anonymous. His transition to Twitter is emblematic of a scary trend on the internet: In contrast to the more-contemplative medium of blogging (where you link to a post, then with some level of feeling and/or thoughtfulness explain your reaction to the post), Twitter is defined by how bite-sized the communication is. There’s no room for depth. For bloggers who captured their audience by their spirit as much as the links they aggregated (and CFA was definitely one of these for me), Twitter doesn’t allow that spirit to shine. The news and the links are still there, but the analysis and the feeling aren’t. A tiny URL appended with a mot juste or two ain’t the same.

Anyway, Twitter -- we read it, and oftentimes we like it. But in some contexts it’s sort of sad. Blogging encourages thinking through your emotions, and that leads to real writing. And real writing is an important thing to the world.

– I’m always looking for analogies between the bike business and other industries. Most of the time I can find meaningful, useful connections. Sometimes I can’t. I saw this haute couture photo shoot from Chicago and I cannot for the life of me figure out anything in the bike world related to stuff like this. Even the most exotic piece of Assos or a race-day-only silk tubular tire is, at heart, practical. (Here’s one well-known exception -- but it’s the only one I can’t think of.) Clothes like these don’t appear to possess a whit of practicality or, at least to me, beauty.

– Many of you know Justin Spinelli as the bike racing prodigy who raced the Giro d’Italia as a super-young pup for Saeco back in the day, and ever since has kicked much ass on the road and in CX in like 8 of the 9 continents, including some fearsome consistency at the top of the pile in the Tour of California last year. In his spare time he’s built a great bike retail operation in Providence known as Svelte Cycles. We give him huge props here for building a fine business while keeping with a very PRO training regimen. All of this serves as a prelude to his nice blog entry/technical public service announcement on properly wrapping handlebar tape. Bookmark this entry for the next time you need to wrap your bars. And I agree with Justin, Fizik Microtex tape is sweet!

Replace ‘March Madness’ with ‘Paris Nice’ and you get a picture of what it’s like here at Competitive Cyclist on an average spring workday. In order to be effective at our jobs here, we need to be up-to-the-minute on race happenings, no? Read comment #6 from ‘Daniel’. What a wet blanket.

Yet another chapter in how the global economic carnage is paining the bike industry. Trek is unique because they’re not merely a design company that outsources all of its production overseas. They’re a true manufacturer, which sets them apart when compared to their direct US-based rivals. While we don’t buy the spin this press release presents, we nonetheless feel terrible for the affected employees and raise our hopes that all high end sales -- for Trek and for the rest of the better brands in the marketplace -- all make it through the times somehow.