Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 Winter Training Camp

New Year's Eve is here and with it comes a time to relect on the previous year and begin preparing for the next.

For the last five years, I have commenced my season with a winter training camp that focused on eating, sleeping, and drinking well and riding as much as possible. My training camp begins on Christmas Eve and extends through January 1. The simple plan is to avoid the over eating associated with the holidays and instead use the downtime to my advantage. Mother Nature provided me with above-normal temperatures and dry roads and I have taken full advantage of this gift. The training days are forward-looking and reflective. In 2006, I rode thousands of miles with my weekend group and enjoyed some memorable rides with my friends. This was the year for the Midweek Classic─Wednesday night's all-out hammerfest─where we pushed each other to higher levels of fitness.

For this year's camp I rode the rolling hills and seaside of Southeastern Massachusetts and spent one morning looping Central Park, all benefiting both mind and body. I'm using this training time to make plans for 2007 and set some goals for the upcoming road season. The Spring Classics are around the corner and now's the time to put in some hardman miles in prep for the faster months.

I wish all of you a wonderful 2007, one filled with more miles, more victories, and more joy than previous years. Thanks for taking time from your day to read my thoughts and share our common passion.

- RF

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Michele Bartoli

There was a time during the late 90s early 2000 when PROs racing the classics were at the pinnacle of BKW style. Leading this charge was Italian superstar Michele Bartoli.

Bartoli has been coined the most complete classics rider of modern times. Winning many of the finest races, including Liège-Bastogne-Liège (twice), Ronde van Vlaanderen, Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne, Giro di Lombardia, Tirreno-Adriatico, the 1997 UCI World Cup, Het Volk, and stages in the Giro. Bartoli's style is almost as over-the-top as VDB's. Bartoli rocked the Brikos like mad, always opting for the craziest, biggest, and brightest. Back in the Mapei days, Bartoli was king, so much so that rising PRO El Grillo was his leadout man. Bartoli's style quieted following his days at Mapei; he cruised into retirement in 2004 following a run with Fassa-Bartolo and finishing out his tenure with ex-doper and Tour cheater Riis at CSC.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Providence, Rhode Island

The weather promises to be better than last year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dong Ngo 1955-2006

The glow that surrounds the cycling industry dimmed last week with the passing of Dong Ngo from Denver Spoke. I had the pleasure of meeting Dong for the first time in 1999 and every encounter going forward was memorable. Dong's specialty was selling high-end road bikes. In 1984, he built Alexi Grewal's gold medal winning road machine. Dong was the point person for almost everyone looking for a PRO bike in Denver.

For those of us who were lucky enough to know Dong, we bow our heads at his passing. If you never met Dong, ask someone who has to share a great Dong story. There is certainly no shortage of them.

Photo courtesy The Dong Man

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Passion and Technology

A bicycle frame is a thing of beauty. Equal parts technology, passion, desire and performance. Many bikes on the road today are built in far-away lands, some in countries where human rights are often overlooked. Such bikes are built by drones, filling molds, melting metals, applying paint and boxing frames. They are widgets─for lack of a better term─simply a commodity product. It's unfortunate the bicycle industry leans so heavily in this direction. However, it's the commodity approach that clearly defines and illustrates the true value of the handmade approach to building a bicycle.

In some areas of the world, the bicycle is considered sacred, a machine of beauty─crafted by hand, with love and care, paying close attention the small details─and the sum of its parts is eventually elevated into a true collector's piece. A machine, if treated well, will bring thousands of hours of enjoyment.

Located ouside of Brussels in the small town of Miese, is the Merckx factory (above). Local hero and colleague BS was traveling through Europe for business and had time to drop by Miese and visit the birthplace of his bike-of-choice. During his visit, BS toured the production floor and got a first-hand look at the care, love, and passion that makes up a Merckx frame.

While touring the factory, BS was able to meet the Cannibal himself. In this setting, Eddy goes beyond simply being the world's greatest cyclist. Eddy is a master designer, utilizing his professional cycling career and exhaustive experience to drive the design of his machines. Think about the countless hours Eddy spent training and racing: this dedication extends to the bikes themselves, and BS will be the first to tell you how wonderful Merckx bikes are. Come to think of it, I have never seen BS ride anything else.

A visit to a frame builder is undoubtedly a unique experience. Coming so close to the root of your passion is breathtaking. If you stand and watch a builder at work, you are treated to a wonderful juxtaposition, consisting of both modern and sophisticated materials being crafted by skilled and often leathered hands. For many builders, the techniques of frame building have been passed down from master builder to apprentice over many generations.

It is this pedigree that carries over into the work of these craftspeople. It is not possible to program a welding robot, or mass produce plastic frames and capture the the same end result as that of a hand built frame built by passionate cyclists.

Photographs courtesy BS

For more info on Eddy Merckx frames, visit

Sunday, December 10, 2006

An American Approach

If you have been a fan of the Tour De France for any period longer than the "Lance" era, you'll remember a time when the winner of the Tour was also a contender for other races in the season's calendar. Lance completely re-wrote the way an athlete trains to win the tour. As the Tour moves forward, and new winners emerge, will they be capable of wins throughout the season, or has the era of the all-around cyclist come to a close? Will there ever be another Merckx? Can Boonen extend his season and talents to include a win in a Grand Tour?

Paul Sherwin has compared Lance's Tour preperation to that of a track and field athlete, that is, he prepares only for specific events. I think this tactic begins not with Lance or Yoo-han, but with the sponsors of the USPS and subsequent Discovery team. If the American population were familiar with races like Milan San Remo, the Vuelta, or Amstel Gold, then USPS's charter would be have been different, and so would the team's planning. For better or worse, it was an American mentality that changed how the Tour is fought and won.

I can remember reading an article about Lance in 2000 or 2001, where I read for the first time that Lance's only objective as an employee/professional athlete was to win the Tour. At that time, it was difficult to come to grips with the concept that a PRO team would have such a single goal, a single purpose. The Tour is the only race that means anything to most Americans; it is the biggest and the best. So why waste time on the others.

Now that Lance is retired we may see a return to a time when a Tour Champion and his sponsors will target other events in the season for more than just Tour preperation.

Photo courtesy Spider Man

Friday, December 8, 2006

Pre-Race Selections

The professional cycling calendar spans almost twelve months, exposing PROs to every possible weather and course condition imaginable. From slippery cobbles in the spring to melting tar in the summer, it's the job of the team mechanic, DS, and the rider to select equipment based on the day's needs. As mentioned in other areas of this Blog, the little things are what make the difference. No race better illustrates the importance of equipment selection than the Queen of the Classics. Paris Roubaix is a fascinating race because of the variables that exist, and selecting the proper equipment for the day can mean the difference between a win and a DNF.

Pictured here is Ludovic Auger (Fra) and his Française des Jeux Lapierre carbon, or upon closer look Aluminum frame. This bike is unique in that it has been modified to accept cantilever brakes and was built to accommodate additional tire clearance. At first glance, Ludovic's machine is more like a cross bike than a traditional roadbike. Many teams build special "one-off" bikes for PR; cantilevers, longer chainstays to allow for additional tire clearance and a longer front-center. The longer wheelbase provides a bit more stability on the rough surfaces of PR.

Tire selection is critical at PR and many mechanics and PROs alike prefer tubular tires to a clincher. The tub allows for a more supple ride while reducing the risk of a "snake bite" puncture so common with clinchers. Since a wheel change is as simple as throwing your arm in the air, the inconviences of tubulars are nonexistant. The Vittoria Pave EVO CG is a 24mm tire, providing some additional shock absorption and the tread compound is softer, giving the tire additional grip in the famous Belgium/Northern France spring weather.

Team mechanic handy work is evident on the brake hanger fitted around the steerer tube. I love the clean look of the brake hanger. Mechanics are a creative bunch, set a mechanic loose with a file and Bridgeport and lookout!

One of the most PRO aspects of this photo is the double tape. Those bars are puffier than Johnathon Vaughter's face at the 2001 TDF.

Since PR is a realatively flat course, most PROs opt to run a close ratio chainring set-up, ditching the common 39 in favor of 42t - 46t.

The small things really do make up the difference, often the Spring forecast in Europe is unpredictable at best causing the teams to scramble up to the last moment to make an equipment selection. This is similar to the world of F1 where the threat of rain begs the question, rain tires or slicks? As much fun as it is to see the race action unfold I am often captivated by the tactical aspects of equipment selection.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

1994 Ronde Van Vlaanderen

For almost two years, I have been a loyal reader of Zonebaby, which is the source for all that takes place in this little world we call our own. So, BKW was floored when Seth said he would write an article to help kick us off and provide a little street cred. Seth said he had an idea that would be a perfect fit for our little site. Call it a housewarming gift or a shamless promotion. We call it good fortune and we are honored to dedicate the bandwith to Seth. So, enjoy the read and be sure to drop by and pay Seth a visit. Tell him BKW sent you.

(1994 was a strange and spectacular time for the Northern Classics. It was The Year of The Knicker. The spandex capri was everywhere! People who would normally never be caught dead with "3/4 tights" (Musseuw) donned them. Knickers: cycling's version of Zubaz - a "must have" for the chronically undecided, "Gee, do I wear shorts today, or tights, or legwarmers? I know, KNICKERS!
I almost forgot that somebody decided to invite ALL of the Italians to the Tour of Flanders, and for one reason or the other, they all had mad form - someone (Dr. Ferrari, perhaps) had gotten the mix right.
I mean, it's odd to see four Italians literally ride away from the pack in a Belgian Classic, but that's exactly what happened - all from the same squadra (Gewiss), no less)

The 1994 Tour of Flanders - the shit went down! I won't bore you with the details, but here are the players:

Johan Capiot

Capiot's the Man (as far as I'm concerned). I know you want me to ramble on and on about another Johan "The Lion of Hair Plugs" Museeuw, but let's face it - Museeuw was the heavy, heavy favorite for 1994's Ronde, but couldn't seal the deal. Nope! He was beaten by a wistful and waning double World Champion, but more about that later.
So yeah, Johan Capiot epitomizes what I (and Bob Roll) refer to as "The Belgian Wide-Thigh". Go find a copy of this race on DVD (good luck) and study how Capiot sits on the bike: note the TVM cycling cap with just the right amount of "poof" for the Spring Classics (cycling cap poof varies with the time of year - peaking during the Grand Tours - the Giro in particular).
Note the copious application of leg embrocation (ie, Belgian kneewarmers)! Capiot's saddle height seems just a little on the low side - no doubt a concession to the several treacherous sections of pave on the Flemish countryside.
Capiot, a Belgian sprinter, hard man and rouleur a la mode serendipitiously starts the first real break of Der Ronde when Olaf Ludwig eats shit and creates a pile-up behind the unassuming Capiot. Johan, almost oblivious to the carnage in his wake, carries on the chore of pushing a biggish gear. He is the solo breakaway by default. Despite being in a break for almost the entire race, and not being the Boss of the Bosberg, he manages to hold on for fifth.

Johnny! Johnny Bug-nose!

I always think of Bobby Digital when I think of Bugno, maybe because they're both crazy talented or just crazy crazy. Bugno: two time World Champion, leader of the Giro d'Italia from start to finsh (Bottechia, I believe, was the last human to pull that off), slayer of L'Alpe d'Huez, and all around nice guy. Bugno, riding for the Polti squad (sponsored by Coppi: the janky aluminum team bike of the early 1990s) was, at this time in his career, viewed as a mostly washed-up oddity. Despite his palmares, no one gave him much chance of sealing the deal at Der Ronde. Museeuw, Tchmil, Ballerini, and even Capiot had been viewed as having better chances. Booties? Yes. Kneewarmers? Not likely. Knickers? Never! Bugno unleashes a long, diesel sprint and schools Museeuw. Il Campione does a pre-arrivee victory salute that nearly costs him the victory. We're not talking about Eric Zabel here - Bugno, in spite of himself, wins!

Big 'Dre Tchmil

One Moldavian not to be messed with. He was, for all intents and purposes, a naturalized Belgian, given his penchant for sporting leather hair-nets and refusing to roll with anything vaguely resembling eye protection (or knee protection). Tchmil was suffering from ridiculously good form in the spring of '94. He would go on to win that year's Roubaix astride a Caloi (Okay, an Eddy Merckx) with Rock Shox and 8 speed STI levers - quite the high-tech set up 12 years ago. He finishes third, sans kneewarmers, behind Bugno and Museeuw.

Franco Ballerini

Can't sprint. Can't win. Fourth.

Fabio Baldato

One leg longer than the other + Goatee + Mullet dipped in product + Knickers = sixth place

Guido "Good Times" Bontempi

The pre-Cipollini Cipollini. I think he rode tempo for the entire 1990 World Championship. Good Times elects to sport knickers and paid the price - seventh.

Johan "Zee hairclub por hommes" Museew

I'm convinced, despite his palmares, that he's totally bald. Why be ashamed of that male pattern baldness, Johan? If you find a copy of the '89 Tour de France, you will see a bald Johan riding for Greg LeMond's feeble ADR squadra - look it up.
Anyway, Johan decided to wear knickers for this edition of Der Ronde. WTF, man? Are you not the Lion of Flanders? I know it's cold outside, but c'mon! His fashion faux pas (knickers and a short sleeve jersey ??) ends us costing him the the victory - second.

Little Frank Corvers

The plucky, defiant neo-pro - 10th. whatever happend to little Frank Corvers? Probably became a Lord of the Kermis.

Photo courtesy Het Nieuwsblad - Sportwereld 5/4/1994

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

1994 Bridgestone RB-1

Back in the early nineties, I was a wee young lad working in a bike shop. Anyone who has ever spent time in a bike shop knows that the shop employees are very particular about the equipment they personally use. This makes sense given that they spend 40-60 hours a week up-close and personal with the stuff that makes the bike world go around. Mechanics spend hours trouble-shooting and repairing products and honing their preferences for equipment.

Over my time in the bike industry there have been very few products that have arrived at the bike shop door worthy of bike shop employee praise. There are even fewer that have gone on to become objects of desire. The Bridgestone bicycle in any form is such the item.

From the very beginning, Bridgestone took a no-nonsense approach to building bicycles. They relied on no trends to sell their bikes. From the deign of their frames to the hand selection of components, everything on the bike had a purpose, often making the Bridgestone the best choice for someone who could only afford one bike.

Thirteen years later, my Bridgestones continue to impress me with their forward-thinking and commitment to the pure joy that is cycling. Grant Peterson, who was the marketing end of B-stone and is a true visionary, continues to design, develop, and sell products in the same vein as Bridgestone. He keeps the vision alive.

I finally have enough parts lying around to bring my RB-1 back into service; I plan to build it back up with an old DA 9-speed kit and some tubs.

So check back in a bit for a complete review of the 1994 RB-1, complete with all the B.S. subjectivity you come to expect from bike reviews. I'll be sure to comment on how comfy the saddle is and how I personally would prefer a bar tape with a bit more contrast to the paint scheme.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Hunkering Down

December has arrived like a lion (a Flemmish one no less). The trees struggle to support the blanket of white, which was delivered during the overnight hours. I awoke this morning to six inches of the white stuff and forecasters say we should see another six before all is said and done. This dusting of holiday cheer comes one day before the state cyclocross championships. A sick sense of timing since most of this season's CX races took place in tranquil and sometimes balmy weather, not to mention, on the heels of a 10 day warm spell that bathed the area in temps more akin to the final weeks of April than November. Like all furry creatures forced to endure the changing seasons, I used Mother Nature's gift to gather as many good miles as possible to store up for the inevitable long, cold winter ahead. So, begin the countless roller miles and re-runs of PRO seasons gone by. It is a time to clean out the bike closet, eBay the excess, zero out the KMs, and replace all worn components from the previous season's campaign with bright and shiny new ones.

But this forward march into winter also means that Spring is just up the road. Before we know it, the sweet sounds of birds chirping and Phil's voice will once again fill the air signaling the start of the new season.