Thursday, March 29, 2012

Our Classics Finale: Final Race Prep

So here we are, 500m from the line in our leadout to the major classics of 2012.  If you were me in this race situation, this is where you would prematurely open your sprint—like I always manage to do in our weekly rides—and fizzle out about 150m from the line.  But not today!  Today we are going to be patient—like a champ and wait until the last second to jump into the wind.  To get you primed for these career-making Sundays, we are looking at the real essence of these races: who to watch for, how the races might unfold, and who we are picking for the big wins. 

The craziness that is The Ronde van Vlaanderen

Flanders is first up.  The Ronde will be run this Sunday, April 1st.  Our friends at NBCSports are televising it live at 8:30am—or you can opt for the multifarious websites that stream the race.  I’ve watched plenty of these races on TV or the internet, but when prepping for this post today, I wanted the expertise of someone a little more experienced than me.  So I asked Cadence’s own Brian Walton for his opinion on Belgium’s greatest one day race.  In April of 1989, when I was gearing up to turn 3 years old, Brian was racing The Ronde, so it’s safe to say he has a wealth of knowledge and insight that is beyond my years—literally.  

“Tour of Flanders will take place on Sunday April 1st and it's no joke that the course has been drastically altered. The 254km 2012 edition will feature 17 cobbled climbs and nine flat "koppen" sections; 26 "Hotspots" in total or as I like to say, 26 opportunities.  Past winners have made comments on the 2012 course such as, "This is no longer the Ronde van Vlaanderen" Or my favorite, "Three times up the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg can blow you away. The course didn't need to be made any harder." Dam, sounds like "Must see TV on Sunday!" A true champion will emerge.

It was back in 1989 that I rode my first and only Tour of Flanders. It was similar to my first Olympics in Seoul in 1988 in many ways, in what I described for years as one of my "nonevents".  I was a non-factor, a DNF, not even an afterthought in the press. I finished my race at the 180km feed zone after flatting, hopped in a car, and drove to Paris that night. I woke up, flew to Spain early in the morning, and started Pays Basque at 1:30pm that same day (first stage was a short hilly 150km) and then finished the 6 stages in five days. Flew back to Paris and started Paris Roubaix on Sunday; a day after Pays Basque ended. My Saturday recovery ride was reconing part of the course. Times have changed and recovery, periodization and team management organization have slightly evolved. Over 20 years later, I have now drawn on these experiences and become a coach. I use these "negative" situations as opportunities that can draw the best out of people, use their talents to their greatest potential, implement a training program that's fun (and don't take that word lightly at any level) and methodically analyze a race and finally, get the best result out of an individual.

Over the past few years in writing articles for various journals and websites, I have received many interesting e-mails from individuals regarding very specific questions.
"Do you train with power?" Or one of my favorites, "How do I increase my LT wattage? Is it better indoors or outside?"

My answer, "I don't know."  

"Excuse me? Aren't you a Level One Coach, some past pro, Olympic Silver Medalist and you don't know!?!"  

"No, I don't." 


 "Because, until I get to know the individual on a personal level and what they like and dislike, forget the LT for the moment.   Anyone can read a book, get a plan and reach a good level of fitness. The value of a coach and, in particular, a good or great coach, is that level of thinking and the process involved that makes the difference. A coach needs to understand each individual on a personal level before it's time to focus on the next level of detail, where is the athlete currently and what are they trying to accomplish short term and long term.   When I'm interviewing an athlete and asking them questions it usually reverts back to "This race or that race and my best result was here and my best LT was X watts but I only managed X watts in a test last week."   OK, great. Then I make a few comments so the athlete thinks this is the critical part of the conversation.

Dominique Rollin is looking to score a big result at this year's big classics

I'm heading over Europe today to spend a little face time and fine tune one of my most talented athletes that I have coached over the years, Dominique Rollin (FDJ-BigMat), as he prepares for his first peak of the season at Flanders and Paris Roubaix.   Dom lives in Girona like many of this generation of professional cyclists (insert, smart pros learn from their past mentors and don't live in Belgium where the weather is VERY unpredictable in the winter and early spring).  At this stage of our coaching relationship going on over 5 years, it's not about the tactics of the race or the watts he is cranking out on  the hills (over 400+watts on his peak 185 pound frame for over 30minutes) or peak power in his sprint (I'll keep you guessing). "Just" face time, listening, a little motor-pacing and recovery. One of the best rewards for me personally coaching Dom, (he is a first rate chef), is that I get spoiled by his cooking.

As for the race and Walton's Way:

1.       Pack positioning before the "Hotspots" will separate the men from the boys.

2.       Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg will decide an iconic champion.

3.       And for everyone, before, during and after the race. "Control what you can control. The rest is all noise."

It’s easy to see why positioning will be so important in these races.  Check out the steepest sections of the Koppenberg:

Can you imagine riding that in the rain? Since the middle and later half of the peloton will most likely bunch up and end up walking—or at least coming to a complete stop at one point or another.  This section of the Koppenberg is 19% and its one of the points of separation for the group that will contain the winner.  

So whose wheel should you follow for the win? Here is a run-down of who could be towards the front—not just on Sunday for The Ronde, but also for the following week’s French counterpart Paris-Roubaix.  

Tom Boonen has been on great form this season.  Taking several wins in big races, including last weekend’s E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke as well as Gent-Wevelgem, Boonen has become a marked man for sure.  It’s well deserved for the most consistent classics rider of the past 10 years. 

Cancellara should never be overlooked.  Thanks to his dominance in 2010, it’s likely that he never will be again.  These races are suited to his style—riding everyone off his wheel.  No complicated tactics or thinking required. 

Breschel on the podium at Gent-Wevelgem--often cited as a pre-Flanders test of your fitness.

Matti Breschel has had a rough couple of seasons recently, but has shown some really great form in his early classics campaign, with several top 10 finishes.  2012 could be the year Breschel finally scores that big win? (dramatic pause) Perhaps. 

Peter Sagan is having a breakout year already.  He is still very young, so it’s difficult to say what his real strengths and weaknesses are, but he has been there in the finale of several big spots this year, including Milan San Remo.  Watch out…

Edvald Boasson-Hagen has piles of potential and he has already started to live up to that potential with some strong performances in big spots last year.  He has been quiet so far this year in terms of results, but was there and looking strong in Gent-Wevelgem.  He was boxed in, but still managed a decent result. 

Sep Vanmarke attacks at the Omloop.

Sep Vanmarke is now Garmin’s undisputed team leader for Flanders and Roubaix.  With a big win at the Omloop to open his classics campaign, he has looked very strong this year.  He is smart and that makes a difference. 

Others to look out for include the crafty veteran George Hincapie, Sylvain Chavanel, Filippo Pozzato, Thor Hushovd, Juan Antonio Flecha, and we will all be cheering for Cadence’s own Dominique Rollin.  


My picks for the race are slightly risky.  I don’t like to pick the out and out favorites.  There is no romance in that.  So for Flanders I’ll take Matti Breschel and for Roubiax I’ll take a shot in the dark with Edvald Boasson-Hagen.  


The best part about racing, though, is that the winner could just as easily be someone no one is expecting.  Last year’s winners of both Flanders and Roubaix surely would not have made a favorites list such as this one.  Nick Nuyens has been a strong one day rider, but his victory over two pre-race favorites was unexpected and incredibly exciting.  Paris-Roubaix was equally thrilling, with Johan Van Summeren pulling a surprise, but tactically brilliant victory.  There is nothing to suggest to me—apart from some controversial route changes—that this year’s races will be anything but must see TV.  

If you’re looking for the best place to watch all the action check out NBCSports live coverage this weekend beginning at 8:30am for Flanders and the following week at 9am for Paris-Roubaix.  Don’t have cable? No problem.  Check out or for links to stream live EuroSport coverage.  The English commentary by Sean Kelly is outstanding—if you can understand what he is saying.  Don’t have the internet? Well….you probably have other issues you need to sort out then—one being that you have no way to read this blog.  You’ll just have to wait for the print coverage to come out in VeloNews in May or June.  


You are prepared.  Go forth and enjoy the drama that are the Spring Classics. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Classics Leadout Part 3: The Wheels that Changed the Game

The cobbled classics punish a cyclist’s equipment.  They are the hardest test of durability for rider and his machine alike –passing over some of the most brutal terrain imaginable in a road race.  Teams and manufacturers are constantly looking to improve on the durability and performance of the equipment they use in these races.  Only recently has a full carbon wheel been able to pass through the gauntlets that are the cobbled classics.  In 2010 Zipp’s 303s  became the first carbon wheel to win in Flanders and Roubaix in the same year under the already legendary performance of Fabian Cancellara.  They followed that up with a repeat in Flanders in 2011—this time piloted by dark horse Nick Nuyens. 

Cancellara pilots the 303s to victory in the 2010 Paris-Roubaix

What is so special about Zipp’s 303s?  Why such a streak of dominance after years of carbon failure in these races?  They are just that good—that’s why.  Professional palmares, however, only go so far for us average joes.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not planning on making a run at Roubaix or Flanders in the near future—so why should I need a wheel that can take that kind of punishment?

To find out if the average earthling really needs these wheels, we set up our good friend and local crit crusher, Mike Egan, with a set of the new Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon Clinchers to get his unabated feedback.  We didn’t prep him, coach him, or ask for any specific glowing review.  We said, “Here are some new wheels to try for a bit.  We’d like to know what you think.”

After sending him away with the wheels for a couple weeks, this is the write up Mike sent back to me:

“The success of a wheel company is often found at how well it capitalizes on the intersection of the science and real-world results of its product.  If the science is poor, it can hope that "might makes right" and they can point to results.  The problem with this approach is that the consumer is smart enough to know that it's the Indian, not the arrow, which determines the result.
If the results are poor, the company can hope to appeal to its own quantitative success in the wind tunnel, the lab, or on the scale.  The problem with this approach is that often times, might does make right for the consumer who thinks "I, too, can be like Fabian Cancellara if I ride what he's riding."
Fortunately for Zipp, they are able to market its wheels as being successful at both.
So, how do they ride?  That’s the question I will try to answer in a practical way.  I don’t care about the R&D results, and I don’t care that Fabian Cancellara won a bike race on them.  Bike races don’t take place in the lab, and I can’t hold 500 watts for the last 30 minutes of a 5-hour race.
I will “review” these wheels using 3 performance metrics important to all racers:  the steady-state interval; the fast paced group ride; and the four-cornered criterium.”

Steady-state interval:
The ability to go fast in a straight line is Zipp’s core competency, and it is evident in my interval session.  A simple 20-minute sub-lactate interval on a climb of about 3%, the Zipps were impressive.  Even the most rigid of Zipp detractors have often said, in a critique after use, some variation of the sentence “….BUT, once I got them up to speed…” and it was clear why during the interval.  Zipp’s Technical Director, Josh Poertner, has said that wheel depth is important, but it is secondary to shape. According to Zipp, all of the hallmark characteristics of the 303 have improved with the Firecrest Carbon Clincher. The Firecrest shaping optimizes the aerodynamic profile of both the front half and the back half of the wheel. In addition, Firecrest moves the center of pressure of the wheel backwards, giving the 45 mm-deep rim the crosswind stability a box-section rim. At the same time, the 26.2 mm-wide brake track allows the clincher tire to take on a wider, more stable shape without compromising rolling resistance. It’s faster, simpler, and more stable. Or as Poertner puts it, Firecrest is “lightning in a bottle,” claiming to be the “fastest, lightest, and strongest.”  What I love most about the Zipps is they just feel fast, and while it is the job of Poertner and his ilk to quantify this feeling, all that matters when the rubber meets the road is that the feeling is there…. and it is good.
The radically different firecrest shape gave Mike just what he was looking for...

Fast-paced group ride:
It is this notion of feel that, in my opinion, has led to the hesitation of many cyclists, both amateur and pro, to use Zipp wheels.  A battle I’m sure Zipp and other cutting edge equipment designers have waged for quite some time—they KNOW their product is the fastest to race on, but the rider undermines thousands of hours of research and development with the simple sentence, “but, it feels sluggish.”  Well, the Zipp 303 felt anything but sluggish.  A sluggish wheel requires a certain amount of overcompensation in order to “get up to speed,” and that is a luxury that a time-trialist can afford, but not one doing the BOS Ride in Scottsdale Arizona.  In this fast-paced group ride featuring 3 separate climbs of over 8 minutes in length, I was not fighting the 303s, they were my companion. 
The antithesis of sluggish is jumpy and it is the highest “lay” complement a rider can give a wheel or frame.  Forget vertical compliance, I don’t know what that means and I don’t care—if a wheel is jumpy, I’m sold.  The Zipps were jumpy.  And what’s nice about the 303 is that it is the perfect balance of weight and aerodynamics.  According to Zipp, the 303 Firecrest is 8 percent faster than the wheel that took victories at Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, and has been completely redesigned using the Firecrest shaping. The Carbon Clincher preserves the aerodynamic advantages of its tubular brother, while adding the convenience of a clincher tire. And at just 1,498g, it’s light enough to climb up the steepest gradients with ease. 
Many also complain that with many aero wheel sets their stability starts to decrease as the winds, particularly the cross-winds, start to increase.  The Firecrest shape combined with the 45mm rim depth of the 303 has eliminated this completely.  It can get windy in Arizona, and not once did I feel “squirrely.”

4-Corner Criterium:
And here is where I put the Zipps to the ultimate test: A 60-minute, 4-corner criterium on the East Coast of Florida.  Speed is important in a time-trial; feel is important on the road; and while both combine to play important roles in a crit, confidence is most critical.  If you are not confident in your equipment when racing a crit, you race is over before it even begins.

The race began with myself and 30 other guys (including 2 teams of 8) hammering each other hoping to establish a breakaway.  Because 50% of the field was made up of 2 teams, no attack could contain a member of these 2 teams or else my race would be over.  So I went with just about everything!  I went with 2 out of every 3 attacks, every single attack containing a member of the 2 teams, and bridged to several others. 
The process of bridging in a crit usually requires both an attack and a very aggressive turn through a corner.  This sentence reads like a blatant advertisement, but the 303’s cornered as though on rails.  Attacking, cornering, bridging… and then with 30 minutes to go hoping to establish a break, I attacked on my own.  By now I knew that I could rely on Zipp’s superior aerodynamics and although my attempt ultimately failed (a break caught me, but we were caught by the field near the end of the race), it was the confidence I had in the equipment that manifested itself in my desire and ability to race aggressively. 

I wanted to test the Zipps in a variety of different circumstances and hold off forming an opinion until the conclusion, but now I have no hesitation in claiming the 303s to be the very best wheels I have ever raced on and hasten to add that the 303 Firecrest CC is the perfect wheel, combining the best of weight, aerodynamics, or in my case—speed and feel.  The hardest thing for me to do will be giving them back.”
I just want to emphasize again: I did not solicit an overtly positive review from Mike.  In fact, I was expecting a less emphatic reaction from him—but I guess that points to the quality of manufacturing and research that Zipp has achieved.  I also want to be careful not to get carried away here.  Mike might beg to differ, but I am a really strong believer that there is no “perfect” wheel—or any component for that matter.  Gains in one area usually mean diminishing returns in another, and not to sound totally trite, but a jack of all trades often is a master of none.  Zipp’s jack, however, is edging ever closer to master status.  

I also found some really interesting videos about the 303 and its durability and victories at Flanders.  Check them out:

Overall, Zipp has come up with a superb all around wheel set with the 303 Firecrest Carbon Clinchers.  It is not a pure climbing wheel—there are lighter options.  It’s not a pure aero wheel—there are more aerodynamic options.  So if you have the cash for several “specialist” wheel sets, you can surely mix and match to get the perfect set up for every situation, but if you are looking to make one solid investment to suit many needs—these wheels are what you need.  Just ask Cancellara or Nuyens—they worked out alright for them. 

Do you have questions, ideas, or products you would like to see reviewed? Let me know what you want to see in this blog in the future! Contact me at or comment below.  Happy riding!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Classics Leadout Part 2: Tubular Time

It’s all about the ride.  Everything else is secondary—an afterthought.  Feeling the road hum underneath me is all there is—everything I need to get motivated to throw a leg over my saddle.  The ride is everything. 

That video sticks in my mind.  What a sport this is—how romantic.  My favorite part of that video is the tires.  Maybe it’s the mechanic in me, but seeing those sew-ups get hammered all the way to the rim is really something.  Most road cyclists cringe when they see that.  They are used to the pinch flat that follows an impact like that.  It’s surely Pavlovian.  To me, it’s a beautiful sight.  One of the oldest technologies in cycling conquering what is a nuisance to most riders—with their cutting edge carbon clinchers.  The fact of the matter is, most modern technology would not—nay, could not—survive those cobbles. 

Tubulars have been around far longer than clinchers, yet 98% percent of riders ride on clinchers 98% of the time.  It’s time to change that.  Why? Because it’s all about the ride. 

Pros use tubulars year round for many conditions, but nowhere is tire choice and pressure more important that the cobbled classics.  They run large sew-ups (27c at least) at low pressures.  This is the only way that these races are survivable.  Tubulars, and their fantastic ride quality, make all the difference. 

Now I’m not going to spend time enumerating the many performance benefits of tubular—lower weight, less rolling resistance, etc.  They are sundry and worth considering, but for today, it’s all about the ride. 

The ride of tubulars is celestial.  Imagine the most supple racing clincher you have ever ridden and then exponentially increase your enjoyment.  Like floating on air (well, technically you are on pneumatic tires! I’m a nerd), you’ll be surprised at how noticeable the difference will be when compared to your usual set up. 

So by now you are almost assuredly sick of me yapping about how great tubulars are. You’re retorting,

“Scott, just wonderful ride quality does not a perfect tire make! What about flats? What about the cost? What about all the glue? It’s so messy.  I don’t want to ruin my new skinny jeans!”

I’m with you.  I hear you.  No one likes a ruined pair of new skinny jeans less than this guy.  So have no fear—you are about to be quelled like no one has ever been quelled before. 

Flats are everyone’s main worriment with tubular tires.  The truth is, with practice and some well developed thumb muscles, tubular flats can be changed faster than a clincher.  That’s right, FASTER.  The key is knowing how, and being prepared. 

Cadence's glue of choice: Vittoria Mastik' One.
Carrying a pre-stretched, pre-glued spare tubular tire is the key here—and before you even think it: it’s not as bulky as you think.  After you have stretched the tubular for at least 24 hours, put a thin coat of glue on the base tape and let it dry for at least 24 hours.  Then check out my step by step pictorial on how to roll your spare about as small as a regular tube:

With all the air out of the tire, lay the tubular out with the valve at one end. 
Position the tire so that the base tape faces up and the tire casing down.
Fold the tire opposite the valve and start rolling from that end.
The way you start the roll will effect its overall shape, start short if you want the tire to be round, or oblong for an oblong roll.  
Continue to roll the tire with the base tape facing in.
Keep the roll tight, and both sides of the tire close together, as it will produce a smaller finished product.
When finishing, be careful not to stress the valve at an odd angle--it can damage the tire.  It should tuck neatly in between the two sides of the tire.
The finished product!

Rolling the tire in this way prevents any dirt or road grime from getting into the glue.  Most people then use a toe strap to attach the spare under your saddle.  You also will want to include a burly tire lever in your jersey pocket, or bundle it in the toe strap with the tire to assist with removing the old tubular.  You can scrap your old saddle bag.  You will not need it anymore.  Plus carrying a tubular spare makes you look so freakin’ cool. 

When rolled well, a spare tubular is only slightly bigger than a spare tube.  No inconvenience at all!

For the rest of the ride, though, you will have to be very cautious rounding corners.  Even though the tire is pre-glued, a tire changed on the side of the road is always more likely to roll—which can cause a serious crash.  We want you to be safe, so just cool it. 

So there: flats are not a problem.  So what about cost?  Well, I’m not going to beat around the bush here: tubulars are more expensive—but not nearly as much as people think.  Since you don’t have to worry about pinch flats, you just have to avoid road debris.  This is just about being smart about when and where you ride tubulars.  Obviously winter and bad weather is out.  Before you head out consider the road conditions where you will be riding.  Make your tubular your exclusive fair weather wheelset, and your tires will likely last quite a while—thus cutting down on your cost. 

From road to cross, we glue a lot of tubulars at Cadence, so we keep a large stock of glue and supplies.
Use your head when choosing a tire.  Don’t get the super thin silk track tubular.  It will flat on the road.  There are good quality tubular that are quite durable (the Vittoria Pave comes to mind), and these tires will be your best bet for everyday use.  Also be careful not to confuse the token “cheap training tubular” for a really great durable tire.  They often ride just as poorly as a training clincher—voiding all the benefits of running tubulars.

I openly admit that in terms of cost, clinchers win out.  You have to pay a little extra for the best ride in the world.  Deal with it.  Let’s finally move our discussion to the glue—and your jeans.  I love gluing tubular tires.  Like wheel building, it connects you to the many generations of cyclists that have come before you.   Carefully applying the glue all the way to the edge of the rim—but without getting any on the brake track—can be a very Zen experience.   This feeling might be attributed to inhaling the fumes of the glue, but I prefer to call it Zen in the Art of Tubulars. 

The coats of glue should be thin, but cover to the edge of the mounting surface.  

Gluing takes practice, but is a simple task.  Getting the entirety of the process right is what leads to good bond between tire and rim, so no shortcuts should be taken.  Mounting the tire has a technique all its own, and sometimes—unfortunately for many cyclists—requires ample thumb and upper body strength.  There are plenty of resources available that give you a complete run-down in detail of the process of gluing and mounting a tubular—so I will spare you those words here.  This one is my favorite, and this is how I was taught to do it. 

So as you can see, tubulars aren’t the inconvenient time-sucking money black hole that everyone makes them out to be—and I am not suggesting that you get rid of your current wheels to exclusively ride tubulars.  They have their place.  I think this place, however, should be more often and in more situations than most people realize.  Don’t be scared of the tubular tire.  It is your friend and it just wants to give you a good ride.  And that’s what it’s all about, right?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

In a Belgian State of Mind

It’s the most wonderful time of the cycling year—bar none.  In my opinion, the spring classics define all that is amazing.  People can extol the virtues of the Stelvio in May, or Mont Ventoux in July, but I will take the cobbles of northern France and Belgium any day.  The 2012 edition of the classics season kicked off a couple weeks ago with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and will gather steam until its high point with the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix—the most famous of the classics—in successive weeks in April.  Off the Rivet will follow a classics related arc leading up to the first monuments of 2012.  We’ll take a look at all aspects of spring cycling from clothing to equipment, and get you primed for the races that can make or break careers. 

The cobbles of Paris-Roubaix

Our first stop on this classics tour is your cycling closet.  Riding in the spring is exciting—feeling the warm sun for the first time since the fall is an amazing feeling, but riding in the spring is also unpredictable.  Rides that start in the mid-30s can end in the mid-60s, and somehow you are supposed to dress to be prepared for both—and look good at the same time.  Don’t forget about the rain either.  All in all, spring time weather is multifarious at best, and this at its worst:

Hincapie gettin' some.

So what is one to do?  I sat down with Cadence’s own cycling fashionisto extraordinaire, Luke Bunting, to get the low-down on dressing to impress in the springtime.

“The springtime sun can be deceiving,” Luke says, “You are surprised once you step outside to find that the sun is warm but the air and wind are still cold. You now have to go back inside and put more clothing on—an hour later into the ride you are now too hot! You start the ride at 32 and sunny and it could end being 50+ and raining.”

Aside from channeling our inner Hincapie and just HTFU, Luke laid out some clever tips for conquering the spring classics season just like the hardmen of the pro peloton. 

Check it out:


Always apply chamois cream before me.

This is a tough one for cyclists to wrap their brains around. Embro is something that I use year around and gives that extra layer of protection that clothing does not give you. Embro is a cream or paste that protects the skin from the elements. Rub it on your legs before a ride. The application acts as a pre-ride massage.  It stimulates the blood within the muscles, brings it to the surface of the skin and gives you an extra layer of warmth from the cold or rain. While you do not feel a "warming" affect when applied you will notice a lack of cold and a nice tingle when the sun hits your legs. Try it on your lower back and it will be a nice surprise when you are 3 hours in and just wishing that the ride would end. 

Castelli NanoFlex:

Bad photography? Yeah right! These arm warmers are so awesome they glow a angelic white light....

Available in leg, arm and knee warmers as well as jackets and tights it will protect your whole body from the wind and rain. NanoFlex is a breathable and stretchy material that is water resistant and wind proof, both elements that you cannot avoid when riding this time of year. The jackets have a nice tight fit and will not flap in the wind like other wind and rain jackets. All of the NanoFlex pieces are lightweight, breathable and well fitted so they will feel great whether doing a recovery ride or a 5 hour Classics race.

This stuff has some serious watershedding abilities.  Check out this video we made:


The Fins make some pretty great base layers

This is an absolute must for any cyclist. Worn under your kit and directly against your skin a good baselayer will keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I don't leave the house for a ride without one! A baselayer (which should fit like a second skin) transfers sweat from your body to the outer layer of clothing that you are wearing. In the winter this will keep you dry so you don't freeze on the decent or when the wind kicks up. In the summer it will pull the sweat from your body so the skin is not saturated. This will let your body continue to sweat, which is the body's natural AC.

Wool socks:

Swiftwick Merino Wool: Coming to a Cadence near you...or not near you--depending on where you live.

Buy them, wear them, live in them, love them!!!! This is the cheapest and easiest way to keep your feet warm in the questionable weather we have. I wear merino wool socks all year as they transfer sweat and breath really well in hot weather as well as cold and rainy conditions.

Cycling cap:

It is one of the simplest pieces in a cyclist clothing arsenal but can make the biggest difference. It will keep the heat in on cold days and the small brim will protect from rain and bugs lodging themselves in your eye. Even if you don't wear it, put it in your back pocket so when you stop for coffee and take off your helmet you don't look like a mad scientist. Helmet off, cycling cap on, sunglasses on top...look like a Pro whenever possible.”

So there you have it folks—straight from the hors…er, Luke’s mouth.  As a general guideline, versatility and adaptability is the name of the game for times like these.  Make sure your kit can be easily modified to fit any number of conditions.  Follow these rules, embrace your inner hardman, and you will be dropping people with your “motor in the seat-tube” cobbles skills in no time.  

Stay tuned next week for a look at the one piece of classics equipment that has been largely unchanged from the beginning of these brutal races—from Merckx to Boonen, this old school technology is still carrying our heroes to victory….


Does the comment button down here ↓↓↓↓ even work? I’m beginning to wonder.  Let me know what you think of this here blog, and I’d love to hear all of your suggestions on how to make it better…..well, maybe not all of them…just the good ones.  Send the bad ones to Luke’s email or something.   

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lace it up

We live in an age of immediately outdated technology.  Laughably, our computers are obsolete before we unbox them.  Our best efforts to spend our hard earned paychecks on the latest and greatest are often met with the realization that they are no longer late or great—now just recent and decent.  In an industry as fickle as ours, it can be a badge of greatness when a design endures for longer than a flash in a pan.  Nowhere is there a greater example of this than in bicycle wheels. 

Bicycle manufacturers literally try to reinvent the wheel on a daily basis.  These designs will claim to work miracles on race day, but say little about their ease of use or longevity.  So often in cycling we pay a premium for cutting edge performance—giving little or no credence to any given items serviceability, durability, or reliability.  These performance-oriented items can live up to their claims on race day, but often disappoint when they are put into training or everyday use.  So what do you do when you find out your $3000 carbon tubulars aren’t really suited for 4 hour winter training rides—or really anything for that matter other than racing?  Hand built wheels. 

I’m not talking about flashy, new-age, crows-foot lacing, pink hubs with candy cane rims hand built wheels.  I’m talkin’ brass-nippled stripped down form follows function style hand built wheels. 

There are so many choices to build the perfect wheel for all of your wants and needs.

What? You’re not excited? Its true that 32 spokes aren’t as sexy as 12—and double eyeleted, double wall, aluminum rims aren’t as sexy as full carbon clinchers, but you should want these wheels.  Here’s why:

Ride Quality

When assessing a new product I always start here.  How does this product effect the way my bike feels?  At the end of the day this is what matters most.  In almost every case, a set of durable hand built wheels will feel more comfortable than almost any other “straight from the manufacturer” wheelset.  Why is this?

Performance wheels are built for just that: performance.  Sacrifices in comfort and ride quality will always be made in the name of weight or aerodynamics. 

“Well that isn’t a bad thing,” you say, “Don’t I want my bike to be light and aerodynamic?” 

While this is a bit of a complicated question, I will attempt to give you my honest, and maybe somewhat controversial answer: No.  Weight savings and aerodynamics are great things when you are racing, but for training and everyday purposes—which are what most cyclists do most of the time—you need components that function.  No one wants to get chattered around on a set of deep-dish carbon wheels on a four-hour training ride at the beginning of the season.  They just are not built for comfort. 

Hand built wheels, on the other hand, are fully customizable.  They can be built with any number of factors in mind.  Comfort, durability, weight, stiffness, and handling characteristics are all factors that can be specifically tuned for your needs when getting hand built wheels. 

“Fully custom sounds expensive…”

Fully custom is fully custom.  You can choose expensive or inexpensive parts without giving up much in terms of the wheels’ tunability.    Custom wheels vary drastically in price, but I assure you they will be much less expensive than any race wheels. 

Hand Built wheels are fully customizable.  We can even build premium race wheels in addition to burly training wheels

They’re Hand Made

This might seem obvious, but it’s worth talking about.  Hand built wheels are so great because they get the undivided attention of a skilled artisan for hours! That’s right, hours, as in multiple.  We’re not working on a production line.  We don’t have a quota of 15 wheels to build in one day.  We are not a machine that approximates spoke tension.  We take the time to check and re-check, tune and re-tune until your wheel is flawless.  Here are a couple of videos I made of the process:

Wheel building generally has two parts: Lacing and tuning.  You just watched the lacing portion.  That is the simple part.  The real magic happens in the second part: Tuning.  Check it out:

That was just a portion of the process that usually takes about 1-2 hours per wheel.  In case you’re wondering, that is actually the speed at which I work (if you don’t believe me, check out  0:45 of the video for a real time coffee sip). 

This is the real advantage of hand built wheels.  We take the time to make them perfect before they even go on your bike.  Despite a slight break-in period, these wheels are pretty much maintenance free for life—a life than can be easily 5-10 years if you don’t mistreat them.  We believe so strongly in our craftsmanship at Cadence, that we offer lifetime free truings and a guarantee against spoke breakage for the life of the wheel for every hand built wheel we sell.  You might think that is crazy, but we don’t spend very much time with our hand built wheels after they leave the store—if you know what I mean.

Bomb Proof

It’s one of my favorite bike shop phrases.  “Are these bomb proof?” “How bomb proof are these mini-pumps?” “What’s your most bomb proof pair of socks?”

Hand built wheels are by far the most bomb proof wheels in the store.  End of story. 
Most “straight from the manufacturer” wheelsets can be expected to last 1.5 seasons.  If you really take care of your stuff you might get three seasons out of them.  To be honest, by the time you get to three years, you will want a new set anyway because they are so outdated!

Hand built wheels can be expected to last thousands upon thousands of miles.  You will physically wear a hole in the brake track of your rims before these wheels bite the dust (I’ve seen it).  Even when that happens, you need only replace the rims and rebuild the wheels to have a brand new set at a fraction of the original cost. 

Each component of the build is serviceable and replaceable.  Hub bearings can be rebuilt, spokes can be changed, rims can be replaced.  There is almost no situation where the whole wheel should be scrapped and you have to start from scratch—which is fairly common with manufacturers’ wheels made with proprietary spoke systems, etc. 

Want something unique? Check out Ghisallo wood rims.  Visually stunning and durable. 

It seems like a no-brainer to me.  For race day, continue to strap on your highest tech wheelset you can get your hands on, but for everyday use, find something that better suits your wants and needs.  Find something that will last.  Find something that will be dependable for many seasons, many bikes, and many miles to come. 

Interested in getting wheels built?  Contact us at the shop at 215-508-4300, email me at, or come in and find me, and we can chat about your custom wheel options.

Music Credits: The Black Keys - Remember When
                        Garage A Trois - Plena for My Grundle