Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mavic Classics

By today's wheel standards, the Mavic Classics are yesterday's news. The Classics are 32-hole, standard rims much like the Reflex or Open Pro, steel eyelet reinforcements and a ceramic braking surface weighing in around 1,600 grams for the set.

The Classics have an interesting history and even more interesting future. In 1996, Mavic introduced the Helium, the famous bright red, annodized wheelset that kicked off the pre-built wheel boom and put many of the cycling industry's best wheel builders out to pasture. The Heliums were expensive then (~$800) and on the heels of the Helium's sucess, Mavic felt it was a good time to continue adding to the pre-built wheel line-up. Along came the Classic Pros, which were 32-hole wheels with a standard rim and unique Mavic hub. This wheelset was inexpensive and offered a reliable option for dealers. They required no additional labor to build and they rode beautifully out of the box.

Mavic later refined the wheelset to include a ceramic braking surface and they simplified the name to "Classics." The Classics became the choice for professional cyclists who earned their living on the slippery cobbles of the Spring Classics. The Classics came in two versions, a clincher version and a "very PRO" tubular version.

According to Mavic, the Classics were never popular among the recreational cyclist crowd and became a product that was mostly routed to the professional peloton. This is where the allure of the Classics begin. Years later, it is impossible to turn a spoke key in March or April without tensioning a Classic spoke. Many of the pro peloton's biggest names rely on the Classics to get them into the decisive moves. Often you can see the bright yellow decals forming a yellow streak across the top section of the all black wheelset. Mavic no longer produces this wheelset, and according to a few Mavic reps, the wheelset is one of Mavic's most desireable and difficult-to-find wheelsets.

I searched for two years to find a pair in decent shape, scouring eBay and Craigslist. While on a spring ride in 2004, I even offered some guy on a group ride my Ksyrium SLs for his Classics. The SLs were easily replaced.

Thanksgiving 2004 I found my Classics. They were sitting on an older Moots cross bike at a bike shop in Boston. The bike had been sent to the shop's bargain basement. When I asked an employee if I could buy "just the wheels," he asked, "why would you want those?" Clearly, he was unaware of the thousands of cobbled miles ridden by pros on those wheels, carrying them through the toughest of Spring conditions. One man's trash is another man's treasure.

My Classics are clinchers, they came with a Shimano freehub and zero miles. I paid $200 for the set, no tax and they remain one of my most prized cycling possesions. The Classics continue to become harder to locate and serve as a membership card for those who are knowledgeable about the details that make up a passion for all things PRO. Today, I have thousands of miles on my Classics and I have ridden everything from the Vittoria Pave Evo to Michelin cross tires on them. The ceramic continues to provide impressive grip in the coldest and wettest of conditions and they have never required service.

Monday, November 27, 2006

USGP - Stumptown

The Belgium mafia has been gaining strength on the left coast. B-blue is a common sight at many cross races from LA to SEA; taking a firm grip on the 1-2-3 box. Belgium hardman ZD wears his Sunday best and prepares to spread the word in the Elite race.

Do you get it? People who say "how will it wash out" don't get the point. People who are too afraid that it will be "see through" don't' get the point either. Everyone who knows about the white, also knows that you don't stay in your kit after the race, and you warm up in a different kit. That was one of Simon Burney's recommendations: two kits; a fresh kit for the line. So, no, it isn't see through because it is RACE ONLY. And I mean RACE. No trainer time, no sign in time, no chamois time. IN the words of Yeti circa 1993: FRO.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Mutt - A thermal cycling cap.

An essential piece of cycling gear when the temp drops below 10 degrees C. Excellent when worn forward or backwards and low over the ears. Additional style points awarded for ipod ear buds poking out. White, of course. Tom Danielson may not have delivered the goods in Espana, but he sure scored the points at the 2006 Tour of California.

Photo courtesy Michael Svihura - http://www.svihura.com

Belgium Knee Warmers

Rain, Cobbles, Mud, Wind, Pain.

The Spring campaign for many professional cyclists is the toughest of the season. For many, it means training from October until March in the worst, character building weather conditions Europe can dish out. Many consider the poor weather to be an important aspect for developing a strong constitution as well as the characters known as "hardmen".

Paris Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, Het Volk, Fleche Wallonne, Leige-Bastone-Leige, Amstel Gold, Kerne Brussels Kerne, and Ghent Wevelgem—these are all races that make up the spring racing calendar and represent some of the worst conditions a cyclist can endure. Many of these races take place in 4 degree C temps with rain and brutal Belgium head winds. Cyclists tackle these conditions in the typical attire. Shorts, long-sleeve jerseys or short sleeve jerseys with arm warmers, wind vests, and booties. The true hardmen opt to forego the knee or leg warmers and instead choose an embrocation to cover the knees, which provides warmth for the legs chemcially and keeps the blood circulating and the muscles as supple as possible. This embrocation and the sheen created is affectionatley known as "Belgian knee warmers." The hardest of cyclists will sport bare legs in the most ruthless of conditions.

Belgian Knee Warmers are indicitive of the many subtleties that make professional cycling so enthralling.

It is only fitting that I open my blog with my all-time favorite photo. Frank Vandenbroucke embodies the insane Belgian style where it is so PRO it hurts. It is a shame his rock star lifestyle got in the way of his cycling career. Oh well, In the words of Joe Elliott, "it is better to burn out than to fade away."

Photo courtesy ADA Wheels - www.ada.prorider.com