Wednesday, July 25, 2007

And Stuff

Compliments of our pal ZD.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

PRO Defined

What's up with the word PRO? A noun, an adjective? Well, both actually. PRO is used to describe equipment, an attitude, a practice. It is a word that has many meanings and can be used interchangably. When I write the word, I use all caps to make it more pronounced, to give it more punch. But, in many ways, the use of caps helps to convey my love for things PRO and the use of caps gives the word some heart and soul. When I'm watching cycling, cruising a bike site, or reading a magazine and I come across something that is indicative of PRO racing, or the PRO culture, I say "that's so PRO. Or when it's really insanely PRO, I may say something like that's so f#@*ing PRO.

Well, I came across a site the other day that contained some images from Paris Roubaix that were simply too much, even for a seasoned PRO like myself. Paris Roubaix is always a great place to spy equipment and practices that are head and shoulders above the more routine races on the season's calendar. I think CSC is a team that's not afraid to bump it up a notch, evidenced by some of these shots. Check out how insane the 303s look when shod in the black and green Pave EVO CG tubular tires. I mean, come on that is about as PRO as it gets. And when you have a team car rooftop filled with these machines, my little brain begins to swirl and smoke under the stress of computing the total PRO-ness.

Check out this action, too: 180mm cranks? When I labored in the trenches and some 5'4" goof ball on a $300 road bike would drop in asking for a 58t chainring and 180mm cranks in order to tackle the local highway overpass we would laugh him outta the shop. But when I see a 180mm crank in the PRO ranks... well then, that my friend, is PRO, F'ing PRO to be exact.

PRO can be an attitude. Like when Jens Voight grits his teeth while pulling the entire break away or choosing to train in 38 degree rain. Racing anything for 24 hours is PRO, skipping desert for 6 months is PRO and so is a massage after a wicked hard weekend of racing. Drinking black coffee as opposed to a carmel, mocha, equalized, double tall frappa-whippeo is also PRO. So use the term freely as you will; make it your own, take PRO to the races, the group rides and airwaves.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pocket Change

In the opening sequence of The Bones Brigade Video Show, Lance Mountain, rolls out of his house in the AM then rolls back home just before midnight; spending the entire day skating and relying only on his skateboard for transportation.

My buddy Matt and I always talk about how simple things used to be and how our bikes and riding were all that mattered. Despite growing up worlds apart, we have the same childhood memories. Our daily summer schedule was the same - wake up, eat breakfast, ride bike, eat lunch, ride bike more, then head home for dinner. All of this was always possible with mere pocket change. We both remember our bikes took us to places near and far. In those days, it was a BMX bike and there were no gears, rarely a flat tire, and the biggest mechanical problem was a loose headset that was easily repaired with the human vise grip, namely, your hand.

Over the years, although my bikes became more and more sophisticated (and expensive), I make it a point to return to the simple days. Now I do it on a 1968 Schwinn complete with fenders and steel rims. I run my errands on it, ride it in sandals and shorts (often no-handed), and I rarely lock it up. The freedom of this simple machine can be intoxicating, I even find myself blowing off my errands just to keep riding.

Hurray for the simple machine and the pleasure it brings!
Hurray for the car-free, hassle-free leisure of a bicycle!
Now, if I could just get by on my pocket change.

Wild Card

You've got to hand it to a team that arrives at Le Tour on a wild card entry and then goes on to put the smack down. Here's to the little team that could.

Photo Courtesy: Barloworld

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Jitensha Studio

I have visited hundreds of bike shops around the country. No matter where my travels take me, the smells and sounds inherent to bike shops bring me a sense of home and comfort. I aim to visit shops that are doing something unique, something different than the others. Often, these shops are focused on an aspect of the cycling world that is dear to them, something driven by their passion. One such shop is Jitensha Studio, located in Berkeley, California. (Jitensha is bicycle in Japanese.) This past May, I made a point to visit this gem of a shop.

Jitensha is centered around the mantra that the bicycle and the products that surround it need be merely simple and functional. Jitensha offers custom steel, lugged frames designed specifically for a rider's needs, and have purposeful names such as the All Around and the All Purpose Bike. Owner Hiroshi Iimura designs each bike for a specific function or rider and relies on a highly selective list of frame builders to produce his frames.

Hiroshi has been designing bicycle frames for over thirty years and his style is one of simplicity and beauty. His designs are displayed throughout the shop and they invariably capture the essence of the bicycle, that is, each machine has clean lines, beautifully sculpted lugs, and is painted in crisp colors. The finished product is a purification─a reduction of the superfluous─and leaves only that which is neccessary for the task at hand. Hiroshi feels the lugs reflect the artistic nature of a bicycle frame and shuns the mass produciton of tig-welded frames.

My emotions are always stirred by this approach to the bicycle. In a world of over-engineered, over-hyped crap, Hiroshi's approach is warm and welcoming, a reminder of why the bicycle crosses cultures and needs no explanation or translation. I realize Hiroshi's creations are a world away from the high-tech machines ridden in the PRO Tour. however, I don't see these as two ends of the continuum, rather I look to both "worlds" often to find balance. Jitensha's approach is similar to that of Grant Peterson and rightfully so, Jitensha was Grant's local shop before and during the days of Bridgestone. Thus, it seems natural and safe to assume that Hiroshi's influence made its way to the bikes produced by Bridgestone.

In addition to offering frames and complete bikes, Jitensha also provides hand-selected components, such as Honjo-hammered fenders and a beautiful selection of Nitto products. Probably the most exciting element found in Jitensha is the departure from the standard bike shop. Hiroshi knows his products, understands his place in the bike world, and does it better than anyone else.

2250 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
Winter Hours:
Tues - Sat: 11:00 - 5:00

Jitensha was originally posted on 12-21-06.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Friday, July 6, 2007

Pre-Race Medical Check

Excitement fills the air in late June as the "Tour Day France" rapidly approaches. The discussions begin to circle about each rider's fitness: who will be strong enough over the first three weeks in July to take the coveted crown? I especially enjoy the discussions about who can excel in the mountains and against a clock. (As if the fomula is that simple.) With the exception of some PROs, most arrive at the Tour in peak condition. My buddy ZD and I always get a kick out of the pre-tour medical checks. Each PRO is carefully examined to insure proper health and and the "fitness" to tackle the weeks ahead. This pre-tour ritual is akin to a boxer's weigh-in before a bout. Publicly, the rider is evaluated under the media's watchful eye. I have to wonder how this plays to a rider's advantage. In year's past, this was really the first opportunity to see if Jan has been able to arrive at the Tour ready for three weeks of battle or if it will take Weeks 1 and 2 to get into form.

The best part about this pre-Tour ritual is the form these athletes show. As they lie on the doctor's table with their heart rates in the 30s, they look part Frankenstein, part Ivan Draggo, and part machine. I am almost waiting for someone in a lab coat to proclaim "It is alive!"

PRO cyclists have such an odd build: concave chests, chicken arms, and enormous legs. Covering these features is a thin layer of skin and almost zero fat. Then there's the tan lines that are literally branded on their skin. PROs are an interesting breed, in any other capacity, these individuals look sick and emaciated. Just think back to Rasmussen in the 2005 Tour.

The Pre-Race Medical Check was originally posted on February 13, 2007

Photo courtesy

Monday, July 2, 2007