Thursday, June 27, 2013

Le Grande Boucle

So here we are.  In less than 24 hours, the most important race in cycling will roll from Porto Vecchio with eyes on Paris. Almost four hundred eyes will fix similarly, with flashes of yellow, green, polka dots, or solo flyers for epic stage wins filling their dreams tonight—that is, if they can find a way shut for some much needed sleep. This is the Tour de France.  No one rides the Tour de France for training.  Le Grande Boucle sits atop almost any aspiring cyclist’s wish list.  It is cycling. 

The gateway drug for any fan of bike racing, this race stops the world in its tracks and captures its attention.  Not just the pinnacle of cycling, the Tour de France sits upon a high pedestal for all sport.  This year is particularly important, being the 100th edition of the race.  But what makes le Tour so special? Why has it transcended cycling into the sports mainstream?  There are harder, longer, tougher races.  There are races that punish, humble, or even crush the strongest riders on earth more than the Tour. Why exactly is the Tour so special?

Friday, May 31, 2013

Community Breeds Culture

There is strength in numbers.  All over society you can see examples of it.  Come to think of it, society itself bears out a whole being greater than the sum of its parts.  In cycling, the peloton—or group ride—is the perfect metaphor for this phenomenon.  The group operates at a level that is unachievable through an individual effort. 

There is probably no better week to talk about cultivating cycling culture than the week of the Philadelphia Bike Race.  Over the years it has known many names, but this year it has started a new, with fresh race organization and sponsorship.  It is a true showcase for our city and its cycling community.  Cycling will be more visible to the “others” (aka non-cyclists) in Philadelphia this weekend more than any other weekend of the year.    

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Little Spring Cleaning: A Simple Guide a Spotless Bike

Spring sprang a couple weeks back. The occasional April shower is going about bringing the random May flower, and as such, the shop is brimming with bikes rescued from a winter of non-use. We’re busy and it feels good.  With all of this repair work though, I have become increasingly aware of an epidemic in cycling.  One that should be taken care of—nipped in the butt, as it were, before our city’s mechanics are sent to therapy, driven to the brink by the endless stream of sugar coated tri-spaceships, muck-covered MTBs, and road bikes covered in some kind of black road sludge I don’t even want to talk about.  Clean your bikes! There was a time when a clean, well-maintained bicycle wasn’t a rare bird, but a badge of honor that most would be embarrassed to be without. 

Maybe it’s our fault.  Maybe the bike mechanics of the world haven’t done a good job explaining it to people.  Well if that is the case let me be clear beyond any doubt: Keeping your bike clean is the single most important thing you can do in maintaining your ride.  So many issues—from slow shifting or bad bearings to creaks and rusted cables—can be wholly avoided by keeping your bike clean and dry.  It’s not hard.  It doesn’t take any special tools.  It doesn’t take any special skills—in fact, if you can operate a spray bottle and move your hands back and forth in a basic wiping motion, then I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you would probably make a good bike cleaner. 

So that’s our soup de jour: Dirt, mud, sports drink, and road grime and how to rid your ride of them. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Rite of Spring

Click…chunk. Click…chunk.  I grab two gears and stand on my pedals.  My bike lurches forward under me as I crawl up my favorite wooded climb.  Rose Glen road is in some other reality.  One where civilizations don’t exist—as if everyone lived in old field stone houses situated on wooded lots with clear cold creeks running through their yards.  Small stone walls border each driveway—built from the same stones that support the roof of the house that sits fifty yards from the freshly paved road under my tires.  It’s brisk.  The sun shows through the still bare trees and every couple pedal strokes it shines warm on my covered arms. 

Rose Glen is in another world, but it couldn't be more than two miles from the doors of our shop.   We all ride here on our too-short breaks from our too-busy lives for exactly one mile of another world.  It’s a nice effort, but not one you can’t slog up if your legs are feeling too heavy.  Mine don’t feel heavy today though.  I wind up along the wooded road just a mile, and then back down into the small valley that flanks the river on both sides, only to climb out again. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Real Sagan vs. Merckx Comparison

It has been an exciting spring.  The early classics have been marked by unpredictable weather and unpredictable racing.  The clear headline story, though, has been the ascension of Peter Sagan to the darling of the cycling media.  This is not without good cause, as his performances in huge races have been great.  I cannot help but be a little annoyed at just how quick we are to anoint Sagan as the greatest rider since sliced bread.  He is impressive, young, and full of potential that he is beginning to fulfill—but if we are being objective, he is not even the best classics rider currently in the peloton. 

This lack of perspective, has even led to what I would call ridiculous comparisons between Peter Sagan and Eddy Merckx.  Now I’m no stranger to sports media hyperbole, but I have a hard time even putting Sagan in the same sentence as Merckx.  This is no dig against Sagan.  I just think we have lost perspective on just how unmatched Merckx was, and probably ever will be, in his accomplishments.  So here is a healthy dose of perspective on the company in which you are putting Sagan, when you claim he is, “the next Merckx.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Short History of the Longest Day of the Year

Popular logic says that the longest day of the year falls on the summer solstice.  In 2013, that happens to fall in late June—the 21st, to be specific.  But the longest single day for a cyclist comes this weekend; the professional peloton will depart from Italy’s cultural center, Milan, heading south-west towards a city situated on the Mediterranean coast, just across the French border from Nice.  It doesn’t seem like an insane distance to travel in a day—especially by train or car.  This is no car race though.  The peloton will travel via bicycle—which should have been obvious to you—not as the crow flies, or even the most efficient paved route, but rather nearly 300kms at race pace to San Remo. 


Let me give you a second for that to sink in…

Monday, February 25, 2013

It's Time to Get Pumped About the Classics

This past weekend saw the kick-off of 2013’s spring classics campaign with the running of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.  The longstanding kickoff of the cobbled classics is usually the first half of a weekend double with Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, but the later was cancelled due to an overnight snowstorm.  The right call without a doubt, but it points to the extremely unpredictable nature of racing in the north of Europe in spring.  That specifically makes the spring classics such a special time of year.  There is no telling what can happen—due to weather or simply bad luck—in these monuments of the cycling calendar.

A race like the Omloop is a semi-classic and won’t make or break a career, but it is surely a gauge of early season fitness and a stage for up-and-comers to make their mark on the cobbled calendar. The biggest thing for me, though, is simply that it means the classics are upon us. That gets me going.  So today I put together a veritable smorgasbord of images to get you psyched for the classics that are coming.  Some classic, some recent, these images should get your blood pumping for the races that are just around the corner.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mark D'Avino at Cross-Worlds

This blog, believe or not, doesn't really have a large travel budget.  By not large, I mean that it doesn't have one at all.  I lucked out though.  Cadence's newest killer mechanic, Mark D'Avino, decided to head to cross worlds on his own dime to take in the event as a rabid fan and amateur cross racer.  I asked Mark to pretend Off the Rivet was his post race psychiatrist and lie down and talk about his feelings about what he saw on that snowy day in Louisville.  This is what he gave me, stellar stuff:

"Deciding to travel to Louisville, Kentucky for the first UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships ever held in the U.S. is one of the best decisions I will ever make as a cycling fan. The streets of this seemingly quiet mid-western city came alive with cycling’s global culture. For those of you unfamiliar with cyclo-cross, quite simply, the Belgians rule the sport. Both on the track and off, they came to Louisville in full force. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Hardest Month

February is the hardest month.  It is about survival.  The brittle cold wind whips against the faces of cyclists as they suffer to turn over the pedals.  There is a still warm bed they left, for what?  They left for the coming spring and summer, but certainly not for February. 

February is the hardest month, so it was shortened.  No one could stand the extra days, so they did away with them, leaving the bare minimum.  Four weeks of windswept rain and freezing fingers is all anyone could stand, so that calendar was truncated—the extra days would be slipped in elsewhere.  Every four years February is even harder.  The suffering gloom and gray stays for a day further.  March is denied to us for an additional 24 hours.

Friday, January 25, 2013

What to Watch Out for in 2013: Part 2, Your guide to tech...

The cycling industry is being turned up to 11.  Every major component manufacturer has now released or will be releasing an 11 speed group. For 2013, this is the story to watch.  Compatibility issues will abound as riders scramble to get the latest and greatest.  Have no worry though, these upgrades are worth the trouble, as every new 11 speed set up I have come into contact with has been stellar.

Monday, January 14, 2013

What to Watch Out for in 2013: Part 1

2013 is shaping up to be quite a year in cycling and endurance sports.  There are no shortages of great story lines, product releases, and epic races poised to play out while we all watch.  Believe it or not, early season racing is already getting started down under, and the pedal-to-the-metal mud-fests that are cyclocross are about to culminate at a fever pitch in the next few weeks.  A 2013 Buyer’s Guide from Velonews arrived this weekend at the shop, a harbinger of all the great tech innovations this year will offer.  So divide and conquer we must.  There is simply too much to cover in one epic post.  We’ll start with the race calendar. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2012: The Year When the World Didn't End

A little more than a year ago, I took over this blog.  Admittedly, I didn’t really fully understand what I was getting myself into.  I had no idea what it was like to create content on a regular basis, even if it is only once a week.  Once a week can be trying when you are also wrenching full time, in addition to juggling a professional freelance career in the amazingly robust world of professional tuba playing.  That being said, it was a great year and I had more fun than I anticipated writing Off the Rivet. 

The Olympic Games: One of the highlights of 2012

For 2013 I am working on trying to expand Off the Rivet even more, with additional contributions from the rest of Cadence’s expert staff, as well as a more diverse look into every aspect of the sports we love.  Before I start off down that road, though, I want to pause for a minute to review the year that was 2012—what a year it was!