Thursday, April 30, 2009

Assos Summer Gloves

I’ve spent the day thinking about the last time I got excited about a cycling glove. I’m still thinking. It may be that I’ve never found a reason to be excited by a cycling glove. Sure, there have been gloves that I tried on in a shop or at Interbike and thought, “Man, these things are the bomb.” Then I wear them for two weeks and I start finding weaknesses.

That I came to wear the Assos Summer Gloves was nearly accidental. I requested a loan of some Assos clothing for a photo shoot for a project I was working on. In handling them for the photo shoot I noticed their unmistakable quality; they’re from Assos, so it was no real surprise, but they made an impression.

So one morning I decided to try them on. With their simple and striking black and white appearance the style is pure PRO. The closureless fit was surprising not only because it worked and kept the look clean, but because it improved the gloves’ comfort, as in, “Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?” On the palm side the gloves’ great stroke of brilliance is its great flexibility and thin but sufficient padding. Glove padding is a lot like butterscotch on a sundae; it can make a good sundae better, but overdone it will obscure every other detail.

The fit is form following, which is to say it is neither loose nor snug. The absorbent Terry cloth is perfectly positioned for a quick wipe. They are easy to pull on and curl around bar and lever hood as naturally as your hand.

But recommending an expensive pair of gloves is a risky proposition. Given that a pair of Summer Gloves runs north of $50, they need to be more comfortable than Ricardo Montalban’s “rich Corinthian leather” to justify the price.

A glove is not a jersey or pair of shorts. The lessons one learns in producing those garments are not necessarily applicable, at least not the way an approach to fitting a jersey can be applied to fitting a jacket. If ever there was an opportunity to find a chink in the Assos armor, a glove would be an understandable weakness.

If you are unsurprised that BKW would give a positive review to the Assos Summer Gloves, I hope you’ll understand when I tell you I wasn’t planning to review them. That I’m doing so is because I was so completely impressed. These aren’t just great gloves, they are easily the best summer-weight gloves I’ve ever worn and score a perfect 10 on appearance, function, fit and comfort. I expect they’ll hold up well based on my inspection.

Simply put: the Assos Summer Gloves are the Assos of summer gloves.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Day With Fausto: the Ride

The ride began with a climb on a tree-enveloped road that took us up over the shoulder of Mt. Tamalpais and suddenly opened to sunlight and bright azure heavens.
The day alternated between cool shade under trees and earthen walls and the brilliant sunlight of a day uncommon to Marin County.
The group was as calm as it was adept at navigating challenging terrain. I felt like I'd been riding with these guys for years.

Fausto gained everyone's respect by staying near the front the whole day. There is no doubt he rides regularly and with a strong group.
Chad stayed near the front as well, stopping the group periodically to let those with less spring fitness rejoin and enjoy a drink.
The Bissell Team members rode with the relaxed air of guys out for a Monday morning recovery ride. Many remained in long sleeves and leg warmers for the whole of the day, despire temperatures that entered the 80s. More impressive, they would gently slide into gaps allowing lesser riders a chance to catch a wheel rather than get dropped.
After climbing up the long grade of BoFax from Stinson Beach, riders were treated to vistas of rolling hills, the beach below and sheer hillsides.
The rolling terrain gave everyone a chance to enjoy some short decents on which to recover.
In the birthplace of mountain biking, singletrack beckoned, despite the quality of the road.
Gita's Nicholls, at right gets important feedback on the DMT shoe line the team wears.
The final descent back to town offered the group an E-ticket ride with distracting views and constant switchbacks. Disneyland was never this much fun.
A group with this much skill can make any descent seem effortless.
Morgan Schmitt, who won the crit at Sea Otter days before, grabs a bottle on the descent.
DS Eric Wohlberg was joined by his girlfriend and made sure she stayed with the group with pushes on the climbs and descents. It was an incredible display of power, grace and gentleness.

Above Category: A Day with Fausto Pinarello

Bicycle retailing is a tough business. To succeed, a shop needs someone steadfast in their devotion to daily routine. Opening on time, merchandising, assembly, repairs, orders, accounting. It’s not sexy, but the success or failure of any retailer can hinge on the most mundane of details. But what makes us love bike shops, more than our love for the bicycle itself is the passion that some owners put into their shops.

That passion can’t be imparted by adding square feet or more bicycles; instead it comes in ways as diverse as the colors frames are painted. Tributes to favorite pros, sponsored racers, a hall of fame of those who have passed through, each front door is another chance to revel in what makes cycling our sport of choice.

Chad at Above Category in Mill Valley recent held a special—invitation-only—ride with one of Italy’s living legends, Fausto Pinarello. The man who shepherded the Prince to its place beneath kings came to heaven itself (okay, Marin County, same thing) for a ride with the devoted.

Not everyone rode a Pinarello, but they all were fans.

Our ride leaders for the day, Skyler and Spence. They are already amazingly strong. Remember these faces: You'll see them in VeloNews in years to come.

The Above Category team riders rode in the black and white Giordana kits.

Sometimes, good taste starts early, Assos for the cradle set.

Fausto talking to a devoted customer.

A stunning collection of Assos clothing.

Sandy Nicholls of Gita Sporting Goods, Pinarello's importer, Chad's wife Kalara and Chad.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Café de l'Arbre

Sunday, when the PROs leave Carrefour de l'Arbre and enter the commune of Gruson, they'll pass an isolated café whose year-round business owes to the race. The owners of the Café de l'Arbre have decorated the inside with art depicting the race's great personalities. The paintings and murals by the artist Teel decorate the walls of the café, making it a year-round celebration of the greatest single day of racing on the calendar.

Above, left to right: Tom Boonen, Alain Bondue, Frederic Guesdon, Felice Gimondi, Jean Stablinski, Hennie Kuiper, Freddy Maertens and Gilbert Duclos-Lasalle.

Shown here are Octave Lapize and Charles Crupelandt leading the field.

This trio needs no introduction: Johan Museeuw, Andrea Tafi and Andrei Tchmil.

Images courtesy John Pierce, Photosport International.