– If you follow the Twitter feed of cyclingnews’ tech editor James Huang, you’ll remember that travel bikes were the topic du jour a couple of weeks ago. He tested a Ritchey Breakaway, which seems like an adequate option. But for the true equipment tycoon nothing else offers the ride quality and structural bling of S&S couplers. While a coupler-equipped frame might put you out upwards of $4,000 to $5,000, once you calculate the lifetime cost of being gouged by the airlines — $250 each way for bike-specific luggage surcharges — buying an S&S bike begins to make sense. Just eight trips’ worth of saved luggage fees will pay for your frame.
A typical S&S bike has three details worth noting. First are the couplers themselves which are made from stainless steel and loosen and tighten with a special wrench. A frame tube mated by these couplers is purportedly stronger than an uninterrupted tube.
Second are the cable splitters for the derailleurs, as well as the rear brake. Separating the cables is a fairly brainless operation. There’s only one downside. With an S&S bike you’re limited to the barbarism of mechanical shifting. Alas, there’s no splitter for electronic shifting.
Finally there’s the travel case itself. In height and length it’s just fractionally bigger than a 700c wheel. The width of the case is maybe 8 inches. Never, ever, ever will an airline agent think to ding you for a bike fee. It’s worth mentioning that bike assembly and disassembly takes maybe 15 minutes.
In the priority list of life-as-cyclist, an S&S bike occupies slot number 2, right after the standard road bike, and well ahead of CX bike and miles ahead of a TT bike. Nothing is as sweet as screwing the airlines. I don’t celebrate their bankruptcies. But can’t they take it out on the golfers instead of cyclists?
– A point worth repeating: The best content in cycling is branded content. An emerging leader on this front is Castelli. Its (mostly) photo blog Manual For Speed is an explosion of color accompanied by tales from way-behind-the-velvet-rope. And its product reviews are a breed apart. This test of the Gabba Jersey on the climb of the Mortirolo is a celebration of the cycling life as much as it’s a promotion.
– Services continue at the High Church of Neon:
And in an unexpected development, we’re seeing a last minute plea for PRO neon status from that all-but-completely-dismissed color Fluo Orange.
The bar tape is especially nice.
– Stamp fascination continues. Props to Cycling Inquisition for sharing. If you don’t read this blog, you’re depriving yourself of much joy. Not only is Cycling Inquisition one of the top five cycling blogs, it’s the granddaddy of the list. Claus has faithfully grown it for several years.
Cycling Inquisition is a blog focused on the collision and consequences of the Colombian invasion of European cycling. (It’s a topic you can further study by reading Matt Rendell’s book ‘Kings of the Mountains’.) For those of us less obsessed with, but nonetheless aware of, Colombia’s role in professional cycling perhaps our most powerful memory may be Abraham Olano’s victory in the 1995 World Championship Road Race in Bogota.
Olano won while riding a rear flat. Then immediately after the race Marco Pantani went on a Richard Pryor-like cocaine binge to mark the end of the season. (An event detailed in an even better Matt Rendell book, ‘The Death of Marco Pantani’. A highly recommended read.)
My contemplation of Olano’s win pulled a mental lever that unleashed a flood of memories about the most glorious of all teams, Mapei.
– In the last couple of years frames with hidden brake calipers have become all but commonplace, particularly in the realm of the time trial. Forgotten in all this, however, is the bike industry’s original skeptic about traditional brake caliper placement. As far back as the 80’s, Harry Havnoonian has insisted on building his bikes with the rear caliper on the inside of the brake bridge.
For those who have never heard of him, Havnoonian’s company, HH Racing, has been building handmade race frames near Philadelphia for time immemorial. It’s possible to consider the popularity of the new generation of steel brands at NAHBS to be akin to the resurgent madness for the McRib sandwich — that is, old-school sentimentalism combined with a small group’s smugness about how much noise it can make. But Havnoonian and other little-known American framemaking stalwarts like Hans Schneider in Texas are the McDLT. They’re no more or less rooted in the 80’s. They’re no more or less desirable to ride. But for some reason they’ve passed unanointed by the underground tastemakers.
– Sentimentalism here at Competitive Cyclist is just as illogical. I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for well-done marketing. Which explains my fondness for Ritte. I’m not alone in appreciating its efforts. And I’m not alone in getting a big chuckle from its branding work.