June 16, 2015 § 12 Comments
After enjoying two of its best years since the world-renowned performance eyewear company was acquired by Italian megabehemotholithic ubercorporation Luxotica, Oakley trumpeted its strong sales and growing market share with a dramatic corporate restructuring. Long-time CEO and engineer of the brand’s smashingly successful Prizm brand, Colin Baden Powell, has been restructured to the position of Chief Design Engineer in recognition of his important work in developing this benchmark product.
CitSB got a chance to sit down with “Scoutmaster” Colin and talk with him about the exciting prospects for Oakley’s future.
CitSB: You must be pretty excited about this demotion, I mean, restructured up-leveling.
Colin Baden Powell: It’s the highlight of my career and I’m so appreciative that Luxotica has shown me this level of confidence.
CitSB: Can you tell us a little bit about your work with the Prizm and how it has helped revolutionize the performance eyewear market?
CBP: Absolutely. We decided to start from scratch, clear the slate, and come up with something that has never done before.
CitSB: Which was?
CBP: Develop a reverse-breakaway product.
CitSB: What’s that?
CBP: In bicycling, a “breakaway” is where you “break away” from other riders and then pedal off quickly to be the champion winner. So we wanted to “break away” from our competition. It’s a bicycling sport term. That was our concept.
CitSB: Pretty cool.
CBP: Yes. So in order to “break away” from our competition and pedal to the championships we decided to do that in reverse. In other words, instead of trying to get ahead of everyone we would drop behind them and do something innovative that they couldn’t see and copy.
CitSB: Because you’d be behind them?
CitSB: And that’s the Prizm?
CitSB: Pretty neat. Then what?
CBP: As was part of our plan, the first two years we’ve been far, far, far behind the competition, tucked safely way behind them. In bicycling sports it’s called riding off of your back.
CitSB: Being off the back?
CBP: Whatever. So we successfully did the reverse breakaway off of your back and the main office in Milan was blown away by the execution. They are crazy for bicycle racing sporty stuff in Italy. They went crazy when I showed them what I meant by a revers breakaway. I don’t speak much Italian, but they were excited, I can tell you that. Who is Fausto Coppi?
CitSB: Coppi? He’s, uh, Italy’s most famous standard breakaway rider. So they probably really did appreciate the reverse breakaway concept. Maybe you could call the next generation the “Fausto.” They will love that. So how has this concept been received by the market?
CBP: The response has been incredible. We managed to keep sales way down from the date of launch ’til now. In fact, we’re doing 1/10 the business of our competitors.
CitSB: Sounds like you have this riding off of your back stuff down.
CBP: I don’t mean to brag, but I’m a pretty hardcore amateur bicyclist myself.
CBP: Fifty miles a week, consistently, six or seven months out of the year.
CitSB: So tell me more about the restructuring. That really sounds exciting.
CBP: It is, and the folks in Milan recognized that I didn’t just do it on my own. They’ve given Ted Li, our incredibly innovative senior vice president and general manager of the North American market, which is globally the biggest for Oakley, an amazing opportunity to work as a sales manager at Quiksilver.
CitSB: The surf underwear company?
CitSB: I didn’t know that was part of the Luxotica corporate sausage machine.
CBP: It isn’t, but he had so much success here with the Prizm and our other authentic products especially the bicycle racing market thing that Luigi Florentino dello Cappucino, the CEO in Milan, decided to give Ted the opportunity to go innovate somewhere else. What is it that the surfer people say? “We are like stoked dude, mahalo.” Right?
CitSB: Um, right. Other exciting promotions?
CBP: Well, our senior VP of products, and formerly strategy, Chris Donnelly, has always been a key part of what has made Oakley the following-edge company we’ve become, exemplified by the Prizm, and Luxotica gave him the dream promotion.
CitSB: What was that?
CBP: He has always wanted to do high-speed corporate turnarounds, so they gave him an hour to clear out his office and “turnaround” out the back door. Proud to say he got ‘er done in 59:00 flat. Taught that boy everything he knows. Josee Perault, SVP Global Sales, and Link Newcomb, SVP Retail, were already restructuring for a major promotion into a free market job search position scheduled for September, but they were told they don’t need to bother coming in the building ever again as a kind of going away “thank you.” They were touched, really touched. Carline Starner, SVP of HR, was given an exit package that she probably had to create herself. Awkward, perhaps, but it was the highest compliment if you think about it.
CitSB: Sounds like Oakley’s on a tear. Any thoughts about the future?
CBP: Yes, once we get finished with our reverse breakaway project we are going to segue into “Project Sprunt.”
CitSB: What’s that?
CBP: It’s another pro bicycling term, sprunting. It’s where you go lots faster than everyone else at the very end of a race but actually they all pass you. There is a really cool blog we all follow here at Oakley that has lots of deep insight into the pro cycling world. The writer is an expert on bicycle stuff. Inside tip here — he’s the guy who we get our best ideas from.
CitSB: What’s this, uh, blogger’s name?
CBP: Not sure. He goes by the handle “Wankmiester,” or “Wankmeister,” or “Wanky” or something like that. Say, mind if I show you our latest glasses? The Oakley Spruntmeister, engineered for reverse breakaway artists.
CitSB: Thanks, I think I’m late for another appointment.
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June 5, 2015 § 24 Comments
I had a pair of Mavic Open Pro 32-spoke wheels. Thet were aluminum box rim rims, “bulletproof” as people like to describe a wheelset instead of calling them “really fucking heavy and slow.”
These were sold to me by Steve Bowen, the wonderful guy who used to own the PV Bicycle Center. I had walked into the store one day with a glazed look that said “Ready to spend some money on something,” and Steve, the consummate salesman, recognized it.
He pointed to the wheels hanging from the ceiling, which I’ve always thought is a great place to sell products if your clients are giraffes. “These would be good for you,” he said. “Chris King hubs, 32-spoke, bulletproof.”
Like the old saying goes when you have a stud horse for hire, “The best time to breed the mare is when the farmer is in heat,” and I was in heat for some new wheels and Steve sensed it, despite the fact that my bike needed a set of “bulletproof” wheels about as badly as it needed a concrete saddlebag.
“Cool,” I said without missing a beat. “How much?”
“$1,200 for you,” he said in perfect contrapuntal time.
“Done,” I answered in rather more complicated 7/8 measure.
Then for five years I rode the dogfuck out of those wheels. Four BWR’s, 15k miles a year, races, trails, you name it, IDGAF what the road looked like, those wheels rode it, even the cliff down to the Nazi Camp off Sullivan Ridge. Yep, that cliff. On a road bike.
I rode the wheels so hard that I wore out the rims and had to replace them along with the rear hub. Then in November I cracked the front hub on the Nosco Ride. Apparently even bulletproof can’t withstand a mortar round. Of course, I sent the fucked over, trashed up, shattered, blasted, and deformed hub back to Chris King and told them that their product was plainly defective as it had only been driven for the last five years by a little old lady in Montebello who uses her bicycle to pedal .2 miles round-trip to the grocery store and back.
They sent me a hub the next day and Boozy P. built ‘er up on one of the afternoons when the brewery that he lives behind was closed for remodeling.
Then in 2014 I got in heat again for some wheels and for the first time in five years spent some money on my bike. Local bike shops have gone bankrupt waiting for me to spend more than six dollars at a time. I decided to test out something that wasn’t bulletproof, that is, some full carbon made of 100% carbon, you know, carbon wheels.
As soon as I bought the FastForward full carbon wheelset, my old Mavics violated the Wanky Rule of Wheels: Thou shalt have no more than two.
So I went on Facebag and posted “that” photo. You know the one. It’s where your cyclist friend leans his wheels up against the closet door for a photo and everyone on Facebag world realizes that 1) All cyclists live in cheap apartments and 2) We all have the same carpet.
I offered these beautiful wheels for the low, low, low, low price of $200, and in response to my offer received a number of caustic replies, all related to the condition of the wheels after five years between the forks of someone with a reputation as terrible as mine.
“Fuck all you wankers,” I said. “I’m calling Vinnie.”
Vinnie is an aged Cat 1 racer who is also a teacher, longshoreman, part-time bike mechanic, and most importantly, an eBay savant. Vinnie sells on eBay like he races, and by the way, he has the fitness of a bath towel. Doesn’t matter. For Vinnie, every race is a study in aerodynamics. He can finish any crit in the top ten simply by drafting.
He treats other riders as a scientific review of the principles of aerodynamics, and I have seen him reject perfectly rotund, excellent Cadillac drafts in favor of bodies that are slightly more advantageous in terms of slipstream. I have seen him do 60-minute crits without pedaling more than eleven times. He is a connoisseur of body types, and an even more assiduous student of the psychology of eBay buyers.
Vinnie will take your old frame, your old shifters, your old socks, your old boyfriend, WHATEVER, and sell it on eBay for far more than you could ever get on your own. Then he will ship it and charge you 30%.
Vinnie studies eBay like Warren Buffett studies stocks. In other words, Vinnie knows suckers.
He put up the wheels for sale and got back with me seven days later. “They won’t fetch anything as-is.”
“WTF? They’re immaculate! Perfect! Bulletproof.” It’s like having the obstetrician tell you that your baby isn’t just ugly, it’s actually a rhesus monkey.
“Yes,” he said, “they are perfect in every way. But that’s not how they’re perceived. They’re perceived as second-hand junk that has been beaten to shit and that will likely explode after two days’ worth of riding.”
“The hubs are new!”
“They’re Chris King!”
“The rims are practically new, sort of!”
“I’m a gentle rider!”
“I picked only the best lines in the last four BWR’s!”
I sighed. “Okay. So I guess I’ll come get them.”
“Not so fast,” said Vinnie. “We will get $400 dollars for them.”
“Yes, but it’s going to hurt.”
“$400 never hurts.”
“We will cut away the rims and just sell the hubs.”
“Huh? That’s nuts! We’re not going to waste those awesome rims and spokes!”
“Yes, we are.”
“What idiot would buy a pair of hubs instead of a pair of wheels?”
“Because when they see the wheels they think, ‘Those rims have been grudge fucked by Godzilla on a meth bender.’ But when they see they see the hubs, all nicely polished and leaning against my closet, they think, ‘Whoa! Chris King hubs! Imma build up some bitchin’ wheels with those bad boys! Bulletprooooooof!'”
“You’re joking, right.”
“Wanky,” he said.
“I never joke about money.”
“Do the surgery.”
Seven days later I got the text. “Hey, man, hubs sold for $400. Come get your money.”
I don’t know if he also does hits. But if does, I’m pretty sure he always gets his man.
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June 1, 2015 § 32 Comments
Some people should not be allowed to do the following things:
- Purchase bicycle tools
- Use them
Unhappily, one day I was watching Boozy P. straighten out my hanger thingy and in a flush of excitement and Can-Do Attitude I rushed home and decided to clean my chain. This took a long time and consumed a lot of Simple Green, which is hard to get out of your hair and teeth.
Pretty soon, after my shoes had filled with Simple Green, the chain was cleaner but still not Boozy P. clean. For someone who lives behind a brewery and has franking privileges there, Boozy P. can really make your chain sparkle.
So I got on the Internet and found Pedro’s Chain Pig. This looked great. It was advertised as hassle-free and had replaceable parts, which was kind of weird because it also had a lifetime warranty, so I wondered why you needed to buy replacement parts if it never broke.
The chain pig is complicated but simple. You strap it onto your chain, fill it with Simple Green, and spin the pedals. The chain whizzes through the pig, and inside the pig there are little spinning brushes and stuff that scrub your chain with the degreaser. Then you empty it, fill it again, and after a few turns your chain is shiny and spotless and looks better than your date after you’ve given her her first toothbrush.
I did all this and was really proud of myself, although I thought Boozy P. would be kind of bummed because this is exactly the kind of procedure that usually results in a $500 repair job. Feeling like an ace mechanic I then looked at the cassette, which was clean except for the sand, tar, gum, and thick, black, congealed stuff that was all over it.
“I cleaned the chain,” I said confidently, “I bet I can clean that ol’ cassette.”
I opened up my toolbox, vaguely remember that many years ago I had thought about cleaning my cassette and had bought a cassette remover tool thingy, but gave up on the project when it came time to have a beer around noon. There was the tool, at the bottom of the box, and I took it out and tried to remember how it was used.
I couldn’t remember it because I’d never known, so I subbed in good old common sense. The tool fit into the grooves of the lock ring, and the edges of the tool looked like they fit a crescent wrench, so it appeared that all you had to do was put a honking crescent wrench around that baby and twist it, which would undo the lock ring, which in turn would let you slide the cogs off the freehub.
Now things got really lucky.
One day when I lived in Japan I broke my screwdriver. At that very moment a Snap-On truck was driving by. I flagged it down and asked the driver if he had any screwdrivers for sale. I didn’t know that Snap-On was anything special, in fact the name sounded so cheesy that I thought it was like Gemco or Acme or some cheap off-brand.
The guy was very polite and said that yes, he had a screwdriver or two he’d be happy to show me, which he did. I bought the screwdriver and it was really expensive. It cost me $75. Then, just before I climbed out of the back of the van, I noticed a crescent wrench. It was huge, with a massive head and a handle that was long enough to hang laundry off of.
I had no need for it of course, but it was big and shiny and expensive and new, so apropos of nothing I bought it. It cost me $568 and was heavier than anything I’d ever bought before except a piano.
That crescent wrench sat in my toolbox for twenty years and never got used once. Every time we moved, which was often, I’d hire an extra mover just to carry that wrench. I suppose it would have come in handy if I’d ever needed to disassemble one of those giant freeway girders, but I never did.
So there I was with the cassette tool hooked into the lock ring and my eye casting about for a suitably manly crescent wrench, and there She was. I picked Her up and tightened Her onto the cassette removing tool, and paused for a second to figure out which way to twist Her. The cassette was spinning backwards, so even though that seemed like the right direction, there was no way to keep it from spinning and hence that couldn’t be the right way to turn Her.
When you can’t go back, go forward. I grabbed the handle of that big honking ass wrench and gave Her a mighty crank. All of that solid Snap-On steel and all of that mighty leverage came to bear against the delicate aluminum locking ring that had been crafted and installed by nuns with soft hands and unblemished skin, and the ring made that grinding little complaining sound that things make when you strip them and strip them hard.
Even with the lock ring twisted into several pieces, the cogs still wouldn’t come off, so I got my screwdriver and started banging and twisting and hacking. I didn’t think this was how Boozy P. did it, especially because after all that twisting the perfectly round cogs had kind of a dish-shaped elliptical orbit like a Biopace chain ring. “Cool,” I thought, “this will probably save me a few watts.”
I bathed them all in more Simple Green and had a great time looking at them in the sun, all shiny and shit.
When it came time to put them back on of course they didn’t want to go but luckily I had some pliers and a hammer and a sharp steel thing that I don’t know what it’s for, only it is sharp and pokes holes in anything.
Pretty soon I had the whole thing reassembled except I had some parts left over, so I figured they were just extra weight anyway and chucked them over the balcony. “Extra parts is for wankers,” I said, noting how the cogs were all Biopace now and they jiggled a little bit on the freehub.
Can’t wait to test ‘er out in the sprint on Tuesday.
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March 20, 2015 § 42 Comments
No one ever asks me to review their cycling-related product or service. Perhaps it’s because of my disclaimer, which essentially guarantees that I will not say anything good, and that you’ll have to pay me for the bad review to boot. Or perhaps it’s because prior to requesting a review, the requester, who’s looking for a little “free publicity” clicks on my blog’s Bullshit Products link and comes up with a review like this, and concludes that his advertising dollar will more effectively be spent somewhere else.
Recently, however, a guy named Divad Zerep (not his real name) posted a link to one of his company’s products on my Facegag feed without bothering to sign up for the $2.99 monthly subscription and libel avoidance policy. He was touting the Samsung Gear Circle, which sounds like one of those mysterious bike parts that fits between the rear dropout, the pulley-wheel, and the turkey bushing.
However, it’s not an add-in to your electronic drive train. The Samsung Gear Circle is a plastic loop that fits around your neck so that you can listen to music when you jog, ride your bike, or have sex. True cyclists will not be interested in two out of those three applications.
The cool promo video shows cyclists listening to music as they sprint around the Carson velodrome, do bike tricks on the Golden Gate bridge, and look hot in their Lululemon stretch pants. Then, just before they get hit by a truck, they drop the volume with Samsung’s patented Sticky Finger Swipe Technology, so they can quickly hear the sound of onrushing tires and scoot out of the way.
After that, it’s more “all tunes, all the time.”
Once the promo video finishes, it segues into a 22-minute product analysis by a guy with tattooed fingers who dissects every aspect of the Gear Circle, with the possible exception of the jerk. He starts with the box and helpfully reads the label on the package because he knows that his target market cannot.
The last time anyone read anything to me it was because I was two years old, so I declined to waste any more time listening to a stranger review a product that I would never use, and more importantly, that my three regular readers would never use because they are a retired plumber in Texas who is still riding a steel bike that he bought in 1972, an ex-pro who makes wine and rides the same steel bike he raced on in Belgium in the 80’s, and an Englishman who lives the British motto of “God, Queen, Country, and Horribly Frugal.”
For years I have wondered about people who listen to music while riding their bicycles. Have they not noticed that they share the road with things called “cars” and often with things called “trucks”? Have they not noticed that these things are large, fast, and deadly? Have they not noticed that often the only clue as to the proximity of cars and trucks is something called “sound,” and that the sound of the oncoming truck cannot be heard when you have the equivalent of twelve screaming dicks stuck in your ear?
I’ve wondered other things about idiots who listen to music while they ride. For example, haven’t they noticed that when other people pass them, or they pass other people, they can’t hear anything? And that when someone says “Hello” and you don’t respond because you have twelve screaming dicks in your ear, they think you’re a Delta Bravo?
Nope, people who listen to music using the Samsung Circle Jerk and similar devices don’t ever consider these things. They just turn it up and keep on pedaling.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “Hey, Wanky, that’s unfair. I listen to music to relax on along rides.” Or, “Hey, Wanky, I listen to music to get me in the mood for my killer workout.” Or, “Hey, Wanky, the next time I see you I’m going to pound your face into raspberry pancake batter.”
Music may help your workout, but if you need twelve screaming dicks to eke out those last five watts, and those five watts are going to make the difference in The Most Important Masters Bike Race Ever, then you’ve got a big problem because on race day your training crutch won’t be allowed.
What’s weirder is the people who have to listen to music when they simply ride. This is weird and sad because they obviously don’t find enough in the act of riding the bike to occupy their brains. In other words, riding is boring. Can you imagine any fate worse than spending $10k on a bike and twelve matching sets of slick stretch underwear to do something that’s so boring the only way you can endure it is with twelve screaming dicks?
Worse, it’s evidence that the main therapeutic effect of cycling, which is to let your mind freely associate and drift away from the quotidien, doesn’t work for cycling music listeners. In other words, the unassisted noise in their head is so awful that the only way they can deal with it is by drowning it out with twelve screaming dicks stuffed into their ears.
This is the saddest thought of all, because the bicycle is the ultimate psychotherapist if you let it do its job. Screaming dicks not required.
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March 6, 2015 § 35 Comments
I know you are a big fan of that Thursday Flog Ride around the PV Golf Course and I am too. I have done it several times but I always get dropped. The hardest part is right when we turn out of the parking lot. I’m tired of getting dropped and have spoken with some other people who have also been dropped, and what we’d like to know is if you would make everybody stop at the top at the golf course and regroup, that way we could all be together until the next lap, and then after we all got dropped you could wait for us again and then we’d do that for all six laps and it would be like doing intervals on the Amalfi Ride that they do over in West L.A.
First, it’s not my ride and I don’t control how people ride it. If you want people to wait for you then at the start you should say to everyone in a loud voice before rolling out, “Hey, guys and girls, please wait for me after I get dropped, okay?” Then each person can decide how he or she wants to proceed. The Amalfi Ride is indeed a regroup-and-wait ride, yes, it certainly is.
I am sick of getting dropped by all the snooty SPY wankers on the Flog Ride. How come you don’t regroup? The thing that’s awesome about the NPR is that everyone stays together. Or at least make a B Ride. Quit being such an asshole, okay?
You’re being unfair. Your’re not just getting dropped by SPY, you’re also getting dropped by the Big O wankers, the Surf City wankers, and the Monster Media wankette. Have you noticed that the no-drop NPR goes off on Thursday at exactly the same time as the Flog Ride? Hint, hint.
You SPY guys reek of elitism and exclusiveness. Get over yourselves, and while you’re at it please let’s do a regroup at the top and also have a B Ride and maybe also a C Ride for the people who can’t ride with the B’s. Really. I’m serious.
Rather than pointing to SPY’s elitism and alleged exclusivity, please let me point you to their fourth quarter results. How did they do this? By having a happy disrespect for the usual way of looking at things. In most cycling communities, when a ride is too hard, it gets watered down with a B, C, and D ride. Then “no-drop” rules get instituted. Before long, you know what happens? Someone like Tony Manzella goes out and creates a Dogtown Ride, which shreds everyone until people start complaining and the watering down starts all over again. Our Thursday Flog Ride is an alternative to the usual way of doing things. It was thought up by a creative genius, and the participants like hard rides. If it will make you feel any better (it won’t), everyone eventually gets dropped. Especially me.
Shelled but happy,
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March 1, 2015 § 52 Comments
One of my friends in the “industry” sent me this link to a review of Wal-Mart skateboards. Since the sound on my brand new HP computer is already broken, it took me a couple of days to get around to viewing it. When I finally saw the video, well, let’s just say you don’t need the volume. Two skateboard dudes take turns jumping off concrete stairs on cheap-ass, defectively designed products that are marketed to little kids.
The boards fail catastrophically. If you have kids, grandkids, know anyone who has kids, or were once yourself a kid, this video will scare the hell out of you.
I see this a lot in the bike “industry” as well. I love it when people call it “the industry” because it sounds like a huge conglomeration of space-age manufacturing facilities, globally designing, testing, marketing, and retailing sophisticated services and products, and it doesn’t sound like some smelly old unemployed guy in his underwear, hunched over his computer screen in his mom’s basement sipping his third cup of coffee after awaking at noon to put out his bicycle industry blog. In short, it doesn’t sound like Steve Tilford.
Fact is, part of the bike industry revolves around the same kind of deadly, low-quality, defective products that Wal-Mart loves to sell on its skateboard shelves. Full carbon wheels made of 100% carbon that disassemble on steep descents when ridden by over-the-weight-limit riders, a weight that is often “super plus” sizes like 190 or 200 pounds–weights that are completely normal for certain body types. New generation disc brakes (always the front) that mysteriously stop working. Front fork failures. And of course my personal favorite, a Specialized tire that was slightly non-round at the bead, which meant that it would seat and inflate, then blow off the rim once you started going downhill.
“Oh, you tore your face off and spent a month in the ICU like the guy who runs my sister publication at Red Kite Bore while exhibiting your descending skills down Las Flores? Here, have another tire. It’s on us.”
In addition to the physical danger of product failure, there’s the fraud that occurs in the advertising of such products. Mrs. WM likes to go to the Korean spa around the corner. It’s a place where chubby middle-aged women, Asian and non, go to sweat away a few pounds of water weight while chowing down on the pork noodles and ice cream. The key thing about the Korean spa is that you aren’t allowed to wear clothes.
The other day I went to pick her up after her day-long bathing session and she was hopping mad. “I’m so onna sick of these cheaters,” she said.
“Yes, they are cheaters.”
“The blonde bathing ladies, all coming onna spa dressed up all onna fancy with a pretty blonde hair.”
“I didn’t know you had it in for blondes.”
“I like onna blonde hair it’s pretty hair but then they are takin’ off onna bottoms and it’s all black like a parking lot in a Wal-Mart, that’s a fake advertising.”
“That’s what I’m saying. If I was a boy and getting all happy at a pretty blonde lady and she’s dropping off onna her bottoms and it’s all a black patch like a motor oil I’m gonna cry and ask for a moneyback.”
As usual, Mrs. WM had a great point. Nobody wants to pay for blonde and get black, or pay for black and get blonde, or pay for carbon and get rim failure at 50 mph going down Tuna Canyon.
Super products that have been tested and that work make a difference, and yep, they cost more. In a pinch, and when you’re racing your bike there’s always a pinch, good products can make the difference between a bad accident and losing your eyesight. Just ask Ronnie Toth, who would have been blinded without his performance glasses, made of course by SPY Optic. Save a few bucks and get a cheaper brand? The worst that could happen is, well, you go blind.
Quality matters. Choose wisely.
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February 17, 2015 § 63 Comments
I saw this VeloNews load of crap when it came out about six months ago, and ignored it because, obviously, it was written by a triathlete.
“What do you have against triathletes, Wanky?”
Nothing. Some of the people who I might otherwise consider friends are triathletes. But the bottom line is that when you’re looking for bike racing advice, triathletes are complete, hopeless, and utter morons. The only thing worse is seeking bike racing advice from a blog on the Internet. Nonetheless, what triathletes do has nothing in common with bike racing. They get on a bicycle and pedal it hard. Hardest pedaler gets there first. Brain not required.
So when I saw that Jim Gourley is “demystifying the science of triathlon” I kept on going. First, last time I checked, there is no section in Science for “Triathlonology.” Nor I have ever heard of a “triathlonologist.” What I have seen, and seen plenty of, are tri-dorks.
Unfortunately, someone brought this corpse of an article back from the dead and posted it on Facebag, where a handful of actual cyclists noted their approval. Oh, brother.
To sum it up, Gourley wants you to believe that bike weight doesn’t really matter. He proves this by taking out his calculator and plugging in some numbers, assuming identical rider weight and an identical steady grade. Air resistance, we’re told, isn’t factored in. That’s so we can have a model that is as far from reality as those triathlon outfits are from attractive.
What he “discovers” in his windless lab where everyone rides along at the same power output is that a one-pound weight advantage only gives you a 2.5 second advantage in his fantasy lab setting. And who doesn’t race in a laboratory?
Unfortunately, if you read this correctly, you need to go screaming out to your nearest bike shop and get the lightest bike you can find. Why? Because 2.5 seconds in a hilly road race — or any bike race — is a crushing, dominating victory. Unlike triathlon, where 2.5 seconds on the bike is easily wiped out in the run, if you put 2.5 seconds on someone at the end of a bike race you have made them your bitch and they will have to spend the whole fucking morning on Monday looking at stupid pictures of you with your arms raised on Facebag.
But there’s more. Gourley the Triathlonologist says that a 3-lb. difference will give you a 7.5-second advantage when racing in his laboratory. This is not just a beatdown, it’s being skinned alive. And here’s the good part: For about a thousand bucks you can shave 1.5 pounds off your bike with a light pair of full carbon tubulars that are full carbon and made out of carbon.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “The last time I was in a lab someone bent me over and put on a latex glove.”
Exactly. The only people who race in labs are, apparently, triathlonologists as they’re working on the latest research project that will hopefully get them a Nobel Prize in Triathlonology.
The rest of us contend in road races that are on roads with actual wind, and we compete against people who don’t weigh exactly what we do in events that don’t require a steady power output. This means several things:
- The weight advantage of a light bike is increased when you’re racing someone who is in the wind while you’re sheltered. The guy pounding it on the front of the climb, even if he isn’t saddled with a heavier bike (which he often is), is taking the brunt of the wind. When you’re sucking wheel three bikes back riding a rig that’s 3-pounds lighter than his, Gourley’s “7.5 second advantage,” or rather the savings in watts, becomes even more significant.
- The weight advantage of a light bike is increased when you’re racing uphill against someone who’s fatter than you are. On the flip side, if you’re the porker, a lighter bike diminishes your chub disadvantage to the tweezly twig-men who are driving the pace, especially if you’re combining a light bike with massive wheelsuckery.
- Different riders have different power profiles. Tri-dorks tend to dominate in the “Duhhhhh” power band, which requires mindless mashing at a steady state. Hilly road races, however, are surge-fests. Intense 2-3 minute bursts on the climb shake out the wankers. The leaders take a rest and the pace drops dramatically. Then they kick it again. These continual surges thin the herd and put a premium on your ability to go fast on a climb, slow down, then go fast again. In this context, bike weight in general and wheel weight in particular is huge when you’re on a hard climb because you have to get the damned thing up to speed over and over and over, unlike the tri-dork who wraps it up to 27 mph and holds it there until his teeth rot out. In other words, every last gram matters when it comes to acceleration.
The other problem with extrapolations from the science of triathlon to the witch craftery of bike racing is that disparities caused by weight don’t make themselves felt in a linear fashion throughout the race such that, at the end, the lighter wanker is 2.5 seconds ahead.
What actually happens in a hilly bike race is that the 10 or 15-watt differential enjoyed by the guy on the carbon bike made of full carbon makes itself felt early on, and it results in you getting your ass shellacked on the climb. Once unhitched, you spiral off the back and are left to battle with the wind — no shelter from the peloton — by yourself. The “2.5 second” differential turns into minutes by the end of the race, with you dejectedly struggling through the finish zone and embarrassed onlookers try to make you feel good by ignoring you or saying “Good job,” in mousy, quiet voices.
How many times have you been in a race where the difference between hanging on and getting kicked out the back has been a mere one or two pedal strokes? Suddenly those “7.5” seconds look like what they are: A huge differential that can decide the entire race. And of course when you’ve got great form, are already tiny, are riding smart, and have the lightest rig, you’re truly stacking the deck.
Weight matters when the road tilts up. Every single gram. And if you’re listening to a triathlonologist for bike racing advice, well, you deserve what you get.
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