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    Lebowskis in Wetsuits

    - There are 8 million stories from the pavé of northern Europe. This is one of them: ‘The race was going well up until just before the Arenberg when Geraint crashed. We waited and had to chase like hell to get him back on before the forest then he crashed again at the entrance. Again I waited, chased like hell made contact and we all crashed again on an oil patch on the cobbles. Anyhow, I did my job (which was to protect Flecha until the forest and then go as a far with them as possible) and my legs [...]

    - Bike racing was different in my 20′s. Not better, just different, with a much stronger dose of gutsiness. Mid-hill repeats this week it came to me in haiku: The fear of crashing was nothing compared to the fear of getting dropped. My interval-addled brain remember bits of the most essential roadie text since Krabbé’s The Rider, Michael Barry’s Le Métier. Its voice of experience has driven me back to it pages again and again – ‘In bed, lying awake in the darkness, everything from the past and future swirls together…Once the lights have gone out my mind starts to [...]

    The Painter’s Eyes

    - We sell chamois cream. A metric ton of it each year. Assos and DZ Nuts are the stalwart brands. New to the game is Rapha. When searching for ointments, if you mis-type their URL, (.com instead of .cc) the vibe is mildly different. Out goes stylish suffering. In comes ‘The Sound of Music.’ - Kidding aside, Rapha is madly popular here — with our customers, and with our staff. Beyond our love of their clothing, we like their sense of initiative, including how Rapha (the bike company) quickly launched a series of rides worldwide in support of the Japanese [...]

    If the price doesn’t make you do a double-take, then the beauty of the Wilier Izoard XP most certainly will. It’s paired with our specially-configured SRAM Rival component package to provide 2012′s best value in an Italian race bike. To see all our Featured Bikes and learn more about the program, click here.

    - Yes, we bought a bike brand. Why? There are lots of reasons. But like much in the history of Competitive Cyclist, many of them are rooted in emotion rather than rigorous strategic planning. Perhaps the best answer is another question: Who wouldn’t want to own their own bike brand? Along with Colnago (too expensive) and Fat Chance (un-buyable, take it from me), my crush on Merlin was white hot in my youth. The intervening years of separation made the reunion a blisteringly hot affair. Few people would disagree with the notion that your all-time favorite bike is the one [...]

    Competitive Cyclist is joining Rapha’s global effort to raise funds for Japanese Red Cross Society in response to last week’s earthquake and tsunami. We will be leading a road ride on Saturday, March 19. It’s a classic central Arkansas route — we’ll leave from the Competitive Cyclist HQ in North Little Rock, AR, and do an out & back to Marlsgate Plantation in Scott. And for those of you who don’t live nearby, please visit Rapha’s website to see the locations of the other 20+ rides Rapha is orchestrating. Rapha has had a longstanding involvement in the Japanese cycling scene [...]

    We visit with Gary Vasconi from Capo Cycling Apparel about the highlights of their Spring and Summer 2011 lineup.

    - My apologies for the sporadic updates here on ‘What’s New.’ Our European excursion was a disruption, and then came the roll-out of our mobile-specific site and the unveiling of our Featured Bikes program . Both were the result of immense work by a lot of people. Sadly, sometimes the blogging must wait. It’s time for some catch up now, and we’ll be back with regularly scheduled What’s New columns in two weeks. - When Paul Kimmage published ‘ A Rough Ride’ in 1990, doping was one of those topics most people in the cycling world strenuously avoided. He was, [...]

    Our Visit to Girona

    It’s not the climbs. It’s the sound of my own nerve-wracked thoughts leading up to the base of them. Anticipatory dread is my specialty. It’s likely for this reason that turning 40 years old never bothered me. What I couldn’t shake was the worry about being worried about it. So I made a plan for the fateful day: Play Peter Pan, which meant a 4 day camp in Girona, Spain with my best training pals and ride myself into the ground every day with the simple sense of purpose that, at age 40, life no longer permits. The art of [...]

    Our Visit to Ridley HQ

    Tessenderlo, Belgium: Heart of Flanders, heart of cycling. Trivial notes: The town was the site of Tom Steels’ 2004 Belgian National Championship and, in 2005, Ludo Dierckxsens’ final race as a pro. Personal notes: It’s home of the first bread vending machine I’ve ever seen and in its January misery (-3˚ Celsius; wet grey skies; a jacket-nullifying wind), it begged one question above all else: How do people here get fit for March racing? Unlike, say, Pittsburgh or Cleveland, the expectation in Flanders is that you’ll be flying-fit in March. Summertime racing is near-irrelevant. Getting hard when it’s hardest: That’s [...]

    Our Visit to Canyon HQ

    Cue in memories of Eurobike 2008, Day 1. It was the first time we ever saw a Canyon bike. Their beauty was obvious, but what mystified us was the against-the-grain way they sold their bikes: Consumer direct. The technological sophistication of their frames was as subtle as a hammer blow; their aesthetic appeal was mammoth; and their corporate branding was crafty. After all, Eurobike has long been the world’s most important trade show. The first 3 days of the show is always restricted to industry-only, then the 4th day is open to consumers. Canyon’s booth was the size of the [...]

    Thermal bib shorts are our favorite secret weapon for cool and chilly days, and none offers better value than the Castelli Claudio.

    Our Visit to Assos HQ

    It’s turning into a tradition: Our mid-winter sojourn to Europe. It’s a time to ride, to visit with great brands on their home turf, and to contemplate changes in the way we buy (and sell) to make Competitive Cyclist that much better for our core customer base, i.e. everyone back in North America. We’ll file a total of 4 reports from our trip. This entry is the first and expect to see the remaining ones every 3 or 4 days – The 9-hour flight to Milan? I slept like a baby. The airport pickup? A Mercedes AMG driven by an [...]

    Indoor riding takes much of the fun away from this sport we love. Even when riding in the cold and wet, you still can feel fast, feel the bike respond to your efforts, feel the g-forces as you go through a turn, fight and overcome the resistance gravity puts on you when climbing. Our preference is to bundle up in our Fugujack and brave the elements. Some days are just too messy to go outside unless you have a fully-fendered mountain bike. Some days are too cold to manage a high-intensity workout on the road. Sometimes, there isn’t enough time [...]

    Assos has completely redesigned their winter tights, and the result is the new LL716. The flexible, soft, and more comfortable fabrics combine to make these tights feel like they’re barely there, but they still keep your legs from freezing even on the coldest days.

    Reviewed: Mavic Fury Shoes We suspected that Mavic’s top of the line Fury shoes would be awesome for racing. We rode and raced with them through the seasons to see how they’d stand up to our expectations.

    The Misery-Hilarity Index

    - January 14th’s Wall Street Journal brought a most non-Indurain-like podium for Banesto. Forget about what it means for the poor souls tasked with finding tomorrow’s team sponsors (so often found in the banking sector.) The larger economic implications of the caption to this photo are staggering – ‘PAIN IN SPAIN: ‘It will be a difficult and uncertain year,’ CEO Jose Garcia Cantera of Banco Espanol de Credito SA said on Thursday, when the Spanish lender reported weak fourth quarter results. It said nonperforming real estate loans rose to 24%, [emphasis added] up from 14.5% in 2009.’ – Wall Street [...]

    Competitive Cyclist

    Looking at this Selle Italia Flite Gel Flow opens old wounds. Selle Italia stepped on a minefield when they retired their Flite design and the shrapnel was felt under cyclists the world over. The saddle, the first of the modern lightweight saddles, was hugely popular both for roadies and mountain bikers, and many of them hung onto their saddles until they broke. Realizing the mistake they made, Selle Italia reintroduced the Flite design. The new shape and rails were lighter than the old shape and rails. And, as they did with the original Flite, and they do with all their [...]

    There’s no more important cool and cold weather accessory than the arm, leg, and knee warmer. Castelli’s NanoFlex material revolutionizes this fundamental piece of cycling apparel.

    We offer several different iterations of thermal bib shorts, but none are as well executed as the Assos T.607 S5.

    Last week we took a look back at the year in bike racing and fanhood. This week we take a look at our highlights from 2010 specific to gear and the people who earn their keep by making & selling gear. - Product of the Year: It’s as much the ‘Brand of the Year’ as ‘Product of the Year’. Garmin didn’t just devour the bike computer market, but thanks to the functionality and variety of their computers (and price points) they grew the bike computer market tenfold. That’s great news, and perhaps this is what we should’ve expected from a [...]

    - The rule isn’t clear about these year-end reviews — whether they’re best done at the end of said year, or better kept under wraps ‘til the new year comes in. With that one solitary bit of uncertainty in mind, I hereby bring you an otherwise utterly self-confident act of judge, jury & executioner, a.k.a. our 2010 in review. We offer it up in two parts. Part 1 pertains to the year of racing and fanhood. Part 2, coming next week, pertains to product and bike industry stuff. - Crash of the year: Dwars door Vlaanderen. Hell hath no fury [...]

    One of the best developments in shoe design we’ve seen in the past few years is the return of four-bolt soles on the bottom of cycling shoes. This design means those who ride on Speedplay pedals don’t need the three-bolt plate that attaches to the Look three-hole bolt-pattern sole common throughout the cycling world. The reason we’re excited about this development is we’re Speedplay users. It also might be we think that if we can lose weight and increase efficiency just by switching shoes, we probably should do it. So praise is due to DMT for making shoes with Speedplay-compatible [...]

    Mavic has been a quiet entrant to the computer wars. It seems largely by design on their part. Their Wintech USB units don’t have the features that magazines like to salivate over: they don’t read power, don’t have GPS, don’t have a zillion data streams on display, and, while wireless, don’t run on the ANT protocol. They have four features that together give Mavic computers a unique spot on the bike computer matrix. Those features are unit shape, mounting system, transmitter, and interpretative program. We chose the HR iteration, with the e-Skewer transmitter. First is the unit shape. It is [...]