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The Unrelenting Appeal of Neon Accessories

– The Giro has come to a close. Its legacy to me is my temptation to change the name of this column from ‘Competitive Cyclist What’s New’ to ‘The Unrelenting Appeal of Neon Accessories.’

– Just curious: What is the Cervélo Test Team testing?

– Everybody has a bike they no longer own that they wish they’d never sold. Mine? A Columbus TSX 7-Eleven team-issue Eddy Merckx professionally flogged by Flock of Seagulls stunt double John Brady. As far as I know, Brady is best known for once getting his handlebars kicked out from under him, mid-race, by Roberto Gaggioli. Celebrity or not, when I got that bike the paint was ravaged by what I hoped was umpteen-thousand miles on the roads of Europe, most glamorously so on its right chainstay where in holy Belgian cobble purification the chain slap blasted away every last vestige of red and green. It was raw metal, which I lovingly touched up with my mom’s clear fingernail polish. And in a reminder of the fact that no matter how enviably cool I may be now for my current connoisseurship of all things PRO, I was not that way from birth. To wit: I also owned a Wicked Fat Chance mountain bike at the time, and in my affection for the brand I affixed a Yo Eddy sticker to the Merckx in a precocious-yet-misguided attempt at bike humor. And then (for the first time of 20 times in life) I got sick of my steel bike and I sold it on Ebay for like $400. I wish I had it back. Sentimentality is a powerful thing.

– The world mostly showed collective revulsion at the price tag on Shimano Dura Ace Di2 when pricing was finally announced earlier this year. This should come as no surprise, of course, since the world is predominantly composed of people who can’t afford Di2. In the words of Tom Vu, ‘Today I’m gonna show you how to drive a sports car. First, you need a lot of money…’

I’ll admit we were skeptical about what sort of sales we’d see with Di2. It was expensive, yes, but even worse was its lack of a long-term track record for durability. As a rule we pity the early adopters because of the scary world of unknowns. Nevertheless, we’ve been selling every last bit of Di2 we can get our hands on. And the feedback we’re getting is making me a wee bit tempted to build up a Di2 bike of my own. One example: ‘…Sunday I got caught in a typical Florida summer downpour and I am happy to report there were no problems. Many of the guys on the club ride were doubtful of its dependability in the Florida humidity etc. But after slogging through hurricane like conditions – no problems!’ You never heard these sorts of remarks about Mavic Mektronic. We’ll go ahead and say it: Di2 looks like it maybe has legs for real. This is good news.

– This is bad news: Macro-economic conditions + SRAM = Shimano getting clobbered in Q1 2009.

– Macro-economic conditions = American bike market getting really clobbered in Q1 2009.

– My goal with this column is for one meaningful missive per week. This puts me in a small minority in the blogosphere. Should I consider changing the format to 2 or 3 short posts per day, instead of 1 lengthy post per week?

Michael Barry wrote a stupendous article about the difficulty of Giro Stage 16. It’s literature, not journalism. People will still be reading it 20 years from now. But everything I need to know about the misery of Stage 16 is conveyed in the image of Levi Leipheimer, so thoroughly shattered that he couldn’t even deal with his sunglasses.

– More fun than Stage 16 of the Giro was the Rapha Continental Ride in Washington DC. As in those ‘Intimate Portrait of the Tour de France’ posters, smoking and champagne were considered mid-ride tools for the job.

– Conventional wisdom about breakaways, courtesy of Phil & Paul -- Flat roads: When you’re within 7 seconds of the break, they’re as good as caught. Climbs: On the final climb of the day the break will lose a minute per kilometer.

– After having watched 20+ stages of the Giro on the internet, with a grand total of 30 seconds of commercial breaks per stage, I have two questions: (1) Is it reasonable to expect people to return to the horrors of Versus for their daily Tour de France fix, with its 40-minutes-per-hour of commercials and its incessant plugs for that juvenile & vulgar stewpot of repressed homoeroticism known as TapouT? (2) Is it the difference between capitalist and socialist societies that allows for commercial-free TV coverage in Europe? How does EuroSport and RAI do it?

For years and years people expressed tolerance for Versus’ idiocy and hyper-commercialism with Remembrances of Race Coverage Past, i.e. John Tesh techno and no internet yet and minimum-of-48-hour delays between race finishes and race results. In comparison to the early 90’s, it was said, Versus is the next best thing to being there. For many years I counted myself amongst the most vocal of the appreciative. But I hereby renounce that worldview. New methods of information dissemination -- instant, convenient, and free -- they are the rule now, not the exception. Television as we’ve always known it -- on a screen on the wall in the living room with commercials galore -- that’s as dead as newspapers. Tour de France, please take a lesson from the Giro: Set your race free and create spectacular extra value for team sponsors and for your race sponsors by expanding viewership of your race to an audience eager to consume it in a modern way. Please oh please tell us that the ’09 Tour will be on the internet somewhere. I really don’t think I’ll be able to sit through a single stage on Versus.

– Facebook: Is it something we should be giving some thought to? I can’t see maintaining a Competitive Cyclist Facebook page -- that just seems like a hamhanded & obviously-corporate attempt to jump into the fray, pre-destined for failure. But what about parking one of those ‘F’-logo hyperlinks to the bottom of our pages so people can take Competitive Cyclist content -- product pages, reviews, etc -- and in one click post it to their own Facebook pages? Are we missing out by neglecting to do this?

– Some people have asked why we’re not carrying the ‘Portland’-edition Country Jersey by Rapha. It’s because Portland isn’t a country. Portugal? Yes. Portland? No. I’ll admit, too, that Portland’s overheated self-love makes me uncomfortable sometimes. It started when Portland’s bike royalty had a public hissy-fit when the NAHBS fled for greener pastures, and the feeling never disappeared. Some well-spoken people are documenting the vibe that some, many, most of us get from the place in its weaker moments. It’s a nice companion piece to other sober-eyed views of Portland.

– People I tend to like tend to share one trait: They remember exactly where they were the first time they saw the crash of Joseba Beloki in the ’03 Tour de France.

– Most of our customers buy bikes because they need or want a new bike. The shopping process is thoughtful and fun for everyone involved, and generally with very little adjustment after delivery they’re long-term happy. But a few folks every year buy a bike because they’re trying to fill an emotional void and they’re over-controlling during the shopping process; they’re instantly pissed at a half-dozen things the day the bike arrives; and more often than not they concoct a bullshit reason to return the bike for a refund since, contrary to their plan, the arrival of their new bike didn’t fill that emotional void. We have a special distaste for the headcases of the world, and we have a new commitment here at Competitive Cyclist to avoiding them at all costs.