So Spring fever has hit, and all of a sudden that old trusty stead of yours has become the old rusty stead. Or, you've convinced yourself that if you were to get a new bike then you are SURE you would be motivated to get out more and on the couch less. Maybe you just have some old, but still rideable bikes taking up room in your garage. Either way, the dilemma presents itself: what to do with your old bike that still has some miles in it?
Here are a few worthwhile and noble answers to said dilemma:
1.) Bikes and Smiles - "Bikes and Smiles collects gently used bicycles and helmets for individuals who could not otherwise afford them. Our organization currently concentrates its efforts in Western Massachusetts."
2.) Holyoke Urban Bike Shop - "Through our 6-8 week Earn-A-Bike program students learn, deconstruct, repair and reconstruct different bicycle systems and their components By completing each lesson students earn the components of the system they learned about. When they've completed them all they've earned their way to a bicycle."
Today I went for a ride with a good friend, a long time friend. We go back a long time, but as happens with long time friends, sometimes you're closer and sometimes you're farther apart in your lives. This friend had been into cycling a long time ago, but had fallen away from it for reasons we're all familiar with: work, family, kids, soccer practices, especially that work thing. A few years ago we re-connected and he decided to throw his leg over a saddle again and get back at it.
We've both been busy with all those things listed above, so it's been a long minute since we've gotten together for a beer, never mind a ride, so we had plenty to chat about: again, all those things that get in the way of riding, ironically. Mixed in were the typical early season grumblings about how darn cold it was (Spring seriously needs to hit for real), how he was feeling the beers he had last night, getting back to fighting weight, and so on. But about half way through the ride things got real.
It was my friend's second time out on the road this year, heck since last fall basically, and he started expressing how good it felt to be out on the pedals again. I'm paraphrasing here, but essentially he said something along these lines: it feels like something is missing in life when I'm not biking regularly, but I can't exactly pin down what it is. And when I get back on a bike, I realize that's exactly it, that I need to be out on a bike.
Thoreau himself couldn't simplify the sentiment any better.
I know what you're thinking, something along the lines that it sounds like a Hallmark card moment, or a Lifetime movie turning point, but the truth is I think for many of you/us, it drills down to the core of our love affair with the bike. Without it, something seems to be missing.
Spring will eventually get here, I promise, regardless of the possible snowstorm later this week. For those of you who have let all those life distractors come between you and your bike, try and reconnect with it over the next month. Maybe you'll realize that you were missing something in life as well. Need a partner to encourage you and help make those first few miles roll a little less painfully? Drop me a line.
Why do you ride?
While we here at Speed and Sprocket Cycle Works believe that ALL bikes are special, we have to admit that some bikes are just a little bit specialER. Take this classic Trek 910 road bike for instance. Based on its serial number, the frame was built in October of 1979, and probably sold at some point in 1980. Unlike current Treks, this early in Trek's history (they started producing frames in early 1976), the frames were sold to buyers or shops who would then pick their own build kit to turn it into a rideable steed.
This particular 910 is an interesting mix of Campagnolo and Shimano, with some other choice bits added into the mix.
For those of you who have poked around the S&S website, you might have noticed the above picture on the "Contact" page. It is the front and back of a postcard from the 1953 edition of the Giro d'Italia. Coincidentally, it comes from the year of Fausto Coppi's last win.
This past weekend marked the beginning of the 96th edition of the Giro d'Italia, the first of the three great races that comprise the Grand Tours (the Vuelta a España and the more widely known Tour de France are the other two). For those not familiar with the Giro, much like its better known cousin, it is a three week affair contested over 21 days of racing with two rest days sprinkled in the middle. While many consider the Tour the most challenging sporting event in the world, the truth is that the Giro typically trumps it in its route, and is just as hard if not harder (especially in recent years) with far fewer "flat" stages happening as it winds its way around Italy, through the Alps and the Dolomite mountains, and ending in Milan. The Tour might have the publicity, but the Giro captures the passion.
Just as the Tour de France was created in order to boost circulation of a newspaper (with its signature yellow jersey drawing inspiration from the yellow ink used in the paper, L'Auto, ironically named after interest in auto racing), the Giro was dreamed up by the owners of La Gazzetta dello Sport, and its pink jersey, the Maglia Rosa, drew its inspiration from the pink ink of that paper. Also just like the Tour, the Giro has had its share of heroes, with its crowning star most certainly being Fausto Coppi.
Coppi, the cover
Coppi, also know as Il Campionissimo, or champion of champions, won five editions of the race, but could have added several more to his palmarès if World War II hadn't forced its cancellation between 1941 and 1945, five precious years when Coppi was coming into his own. While there have been innumerous books written about Coppi, just recently a new one was added that instead focuses on images of him: Coppi: Inside the Legend of the Campionissimo. In an era long before moto-bikes streaming live coverage directly to viewers' televisions and computers, the cameras of newspapers brought the story and pictures of the stars and the contest to fans worldwide. It is from the treasure trove of several Italian newspapers that many of the images in this book come from, images that have not been seen for some 50 plus years.
"On stage 11 Coppi did his big ride over Abetone to win the Giro. I was on his wheel when he went but there was no way I could stay with him. Neither could anybody else and I think that was the day everybody realised he was something special..."
While I'm certainly no expert photographer, I'd say that the beauty of the collection is in its breadth of settings. You'll find Coppi on the bike, competing against other Italian greats such as Fiorenzo Magni and Gino Bartali, as well as in other surroundings: his fans, his friends, his family. It is said that a picture says a thousand words, well then this repository presents us with 168,000 words of Coppi and his life.
To bring even greater value to this anthology, interspersed amongst its unearthed images are recollections from the few of Coppi's compatriots who have not passed on yet. Treasured, intimate and first-hand glimpses into the golden age of cycling and Coppi's role in it (Roncino's quote above and Nascimbene's below come from these interludes). While by no means is this tome an all encompassing look at Il Campionissimo's life, it does offer a visual peek into the life of a man whose legend still stirs memories and ignites passions today.
"I never thought he fully understood who he was or what he meant, and I still don't..."
Look around you at the next group ride or race you’re rolling in. You’ll probably find yourself in a field of Y chromosomes for the most part. Charity rides seem to be an exception to this rule, but even then I’d guestimate the balance leans towards testosterone.
Coincidentally, two of my favorite bedside reading materials wrote about this in their latest issues.
Ben Atkins took a look at the most dominant rider in recent times in his article from Peloton Magazine titled “More Than a Cannibal.”
“After the retirement of Eddy Merckx in the late 70s, the cycling world waited almost 30 years for his replacement. When it did arrive, it was Dutch … oh yeah, and it was a woman.”
Yes. A woman. Marianne Vos has been consistently besting her competition since turning pro in 2006. That's her up above, racing cyclo-cross in addition to on the road. And I’m not talking about in one race a year that she specifically focuses on ad nauseum like one particular Texan did in recent memory. She’s been ranked the number one female rider in the world fairly consistently for the last seven years. Similar to Merckx’s domineering campaigns, this requires Vos to go out and give it her all throughout the season: classics, one day events, and stage races alike.
But regardless, I’m guessing that few cyclists would recognize her name, never mind snatch it out of thin air if asked to identify a top woman pedaler.
That leads us into the second article from one of my favorite reads, Rouleur Magazine, which tangentially connects. “Worthy of Their Hire,” by Graeme Fife, opens by looking at another great European rider, Helen Wyman (a top notch athlete in many respects I might add), and the vast inequities between the purses in the men’s and women’s fields. As Fife points out, “In World Cup races men take away €5,000 [roughly $6,433], women €1,000 [roughly $1,286]. (The second-placed woman gets less than the 20th place man).”
And you think the wage gap has disappeared? According to a Bureau of Labor Statistic quoted in Forbes magazine here in the US, “In 2012 full-time employed women earned just 80.9% of the salaries their male counterparts did.”
According to my math, women in the peloton are earning roughly 20% of what their lycra-clad male counterparts are while still putting in 100% of the sacrifice, effort and dedication.
And that’s just at the top of the ladder in some of the best case scenarios. Forget about it when you start going down to the lower category racers or lower tiered races. Of course this only refers to the race winnings and affects just the top few women. I don’t have any concrete numbers for women’s salaries, but suffice to say those who aren’t on the podium regularly (like Marianne Vos) are even worse off. Luckily for the women here in the States, it’s a little better off (and I stress little), at least in the world of cyclo-cross:
We’d all like to think we live in a perfect world, but the truth is that money oftentimes makes the world go round. Let’s follow a chain here: low women’s cyclists’ salaries – low women’s team budgets (typically in the €100-150,000 range, whereas the average male Pro Tour rider salary is €264,000) – low women’s race earnings (see above) – low sponsorship – low coverage (both in print and on TV) – low public awareness – and right back to the beginning. It’s the old chicken and the egg question; you can go around and around the chain in circles with low being the all too common denominator.
Pick up issue 37 of Rouleur to read more about the issue and
what Team Wiggle Honda is trying to do about it.
So now let’s circle back to your local group ride. While I can’t directly draw a line between the two, the lack of local ladies with the lack of $’s or €’s or whatever they use as currency in your neighborhood, I can’t help but think there is some link between the two. And while I’m not saying throwing scads of money at the problem will immediately solve it (cultural mores, tradition, stupidity, etc. all compound the issue), I am suggesting that we can do something about it. How about starting off with a little encouragement and some support?
The Little Bellas up in Vermont have the right idea, helping get young ladies build their confidence and get out on the trails. Looking around here locally though doesn’t find the same helping hand. I could be wrong, and if so please point them out ladies.
Reading about it and bristling with indignation is one thing.
If any of you out there, either as individuals, employees at a business, or owners, would like to help sponsor a women’s club/team (no matter how small or large the contribution, financially or otherwise) here in Western Mass, get in touch with us here at Speed & Sprocket. We’d like to try to put something together in the coming year that encourages women to get out on bikes, be they mountain, road, or cross bikes, and creates a support system that insures their success, and more importantly, their enjoyment of the sport. If you are a lady who’d love to be a part of such a team, whether as a rider or as an organizer, drop us a line, too!
Check out the honkin' big chain ring on the above bike. Looks almost surreal, doesn't it? Like it should be a clown bike pedaling around the big ring (pun intended).
Well, in 1962, the above bike was pedaled by José Meiffret to an astounding speed of 127 mph. Yes, you read that right, one hundred twenty seven miles per hour. The chain ring had an incredible 130 teeth on it (your road bike might have 52 or 53 teeth on it, or if you have a compact crankset, 48 or 50), the bike was equipped with wooden rims to prevent overheating (now there's a novel solution to the carbon rims they are making nowadays that tend to overheat), and the whole package weighed 45 pounds.
I'll be honest, I get a little nervous cruising down hills at 45+ mph on my road bike. Going 100 mph in a car had my whole body taut. Doing 127 on a bike, I'd probably be proverbially (or quite possibly figuratively) shitting in my lycra. Imagine: just the smallest crack, a little stone, heck a sneeze and you're done for. Game over.
Head over to Grist to read the whole story about it.
Reading the article made me think about another speed world record (at the time), that set by 'Mile-a-Minute' Murphy in 1899 (that's him to the right). Just as his nickname suggests, Murphy was the first cyclist to break the magical 60 mph barrier, which at the time was quite the feat. Technically speaking, he did it in 57.8 seconds, but 'Mile-a-fifty seven point eight' Murphy didn't have quite the same ring to it.
While 60 mph on a bike might not seem like all that an impressive feat, consider the fact that Murphy was riding a Tribune “Blue Streak” fixed-gear, manufactured by the Pope Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, a steel bike that certainly weighed at least twice that of today's lightweight steeds. The Blue Streak was one of those new fangled "safety bicycles" which had really just come into vogue roughly 14 years before with John Kemp Starley's Rover bike. Starley's was the first recognizably modern bike whose form we still use today, a bike with two wheels of identical diameter, unlike the iconic penny-farthing with its two very dissimilar wheels. (Incidentally, Starley's company would later produce cars after his death and was the same company that went on to produce the iconic safari vehicle, the Land Rover - but that's a story for another day!)
Getting back to our man Murphy, to achieve his world record, the Long Island railroad laid down two miles of wooden boards between a straight expanse of track and specially fit a steam locomotive and a passenger car with a fairing extended off the back for him to ride within its slipstream.
Think of it as a primitive drafting set-up, working on the same principle as the peloton or NASCAR. Keep in mind that locomotives of the day were neither reliable or all that speedy themselves. Amazingly, all of Murphy's stars aligned though, and on his seventh attempt he set the record that his nickname would lay claim to for the remainder of his life, and indeed to this day.
And you thought YOU were fast!
Read the entire story over at Podium Cafe.
"Unfortunately, many well-motivated people have been led to believe that all fats are bad and that foods loaded with white flour and sugar are healthy choices. This has clearly contributed to the epidemic of diabetes we are experiencing and premature death for many."
The Huffington Post has an interested article titled Fat-Free Half-and-Half? explaining why fat isn't the enemy it's been made out to be and why going fat-free is actually a much worse choice.
Normally I'm not all that up on automotive technology, but a recent article concerning Volvo caught my attention. Volvo has always been a leader in the automotive safety field since the 40's: standard 3-point seat belts, crumple zones, rearward–facing child safety seats, pedestrian airbags (yes, pedestrian, not passenger), etc., etc., etc. Now they can add another technological leap to their already impressive resume.
Volvo has just unveiled their “Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with full auto brake” system (yes the name is a mouthful, but trust me, it lives up to the hype). Basically, how it works is that there are sensors/radars/fancy gizmos located behind the grill in the nose of the car that detect motion in front and to the sides of the vehicle. This could be from pedestrians, or in my case more interestingly, cyclists. These sensors, in tandem with a camera to help identify what exactly the objects are and where they are heading, communicate with a processor that takes all of that information in and reacts to any movement that will place the object in the car's path of travel and...get this...automatically engage the brakes, even to the point of completely stopping the vehicle!
(insert Handel's Hallelujah chorus here!)
Unfortunately as of now this will only be an option on certain models, not a standard feature. Even more unfortunate it the fact that American auto brands will probably be as resistant to this technology as they were the 3-point seat belts (even though Volvo made its design free to any company that wanted to adapt it). While this new technology certainly doesn't replace safe cycling skills, it will certainly supplement it and perhaps save a few of us from inattentive drivers.
Read the full story HERE.
"The ride, running an arc of nearly 1,150 miles, would leave Adelaide and head southeast, crossing Victoria before heading northeast into New South Wales, ultimately finishing in Sydney. Chosen for its variety of terrain, the route would take riders up over the Australian Alps, the highest mountain range in the country, and across the sandy wastes of the Coorong. A team of 126 riders was selected for the challenge and subsequently divided into pairs, with each pair riding one of 63 legs. When the final pair arrived in Sydney, the team’s overall time – 69hrs 35mins – was significantly faster than even the most ambitious estimates had thought possible." - via Rapha
Speed & Sprocket Cycle Works is a company with a passion for bikes. We offer in home service on your bike as well as nutritional and training guidance for your body.