SPY-Giant-RIDE training camp and beer sampling contest

January 12, 2014 § 16 Comments

I had really been looking forward to the weekend, that’s what I told myself as the whole fucking peloton exploded into wobbling, weaving fragments on the lower part of the Tramway climb, only I didn’t know it was the lower part because I’d never been there before or watched the finale of the Tour of California stage because if I had I would have known that the yellow sign and the modest bump-top I was sprinting for, far from being the top, was four miles from the top, and what was already the most miserable mile I’d ever spent on a bike was about to be most hellish five miles, not just one.

The leaders numbered about fifteen and I could count them, as they were plotted out in high relief against the ugly, featureless desert shitscape that spilled out like bad barf on either side of the roadway. The flailers numbered about sixty, riders who had, like me, thought they were coming to Palm Springs for a fun team bonding training camp, only to find out that as soon as they’d picked up their swag and put on their fancy kits that some sadist had planned the most miserable of afternoons for them in the high desert hell.

Slowly I moved up, latching onto the wheels of the decaying riders who, like me, were coming apart at the seams, but unlike me were coming apart slightly faster. My signature pant-gasp-hack-cough got into their heads along with the depressing reality that flashed across their minds as I sat on their wheels: “If Wankmeister has caught me and can hold my wheel, my fucking season is over. It’s like being caught by an obese child with short legs, only worse.” One by one they pounded as hard as they could, desperately trying to shake the stigma of having me ride them down, then pulled over in defeat as I soldiered on. This terribly painful, wholly unrewarding, ego-crushing climb ended with only a handful of the very best riders ahead of me. I calculated eighth place out of about seventy-five riders, with Chris Johnson, Brian Stack, John Abate, Paul Vaccari, Logan Fiedler, Dave Jaeger, and Taylor Vaccardi ahead of me.

This, of course, was a result so far beyond anything I could have ever imagined that it almost made up for the misery of the climb and the terror of the 60-mph downhill. When we all reconvened at the hotel, the consensus was general: On the very first ride of the very first day of training camp we had all destroyed ourselves so completely that we would spend the next two days sucking our thumbs, curled up in bed popping Advil and wishing we could go home.

What is a training camp?

I wondered this the sleepless night before our Spy-Giant-RIDE Second Annual Training Camp of General Awesomeness and Beer. There didn’t seem to be any tents, sleeping bags, or highjinks with the girl campers on the itinerary, so it clearly wasn’t a camp. And after wrecking all of our legs on Day One (various riders were so destroyed by the dry air and brutal climb that the following day they tucked tail 30 miles into the ride and slinked back to the hotel bar rather than complete the 103-mile death march across the desert), I couldn’t really figure out what it was we were training for, except perhaps for a graveside service.

Mrs. WM and I had in fact begun the whole thing in high spirits. We stopped in San Bernardino on the way out to get gas after the typical husband-wife car conversation, which began like this. “I gotta pee.”

“You’re fuggin’ kidding me. We’ve been in the car less than an hour.”

“I don’ care I gotta pee.”

“You can’t have to pee. There’s no way you have generated enough pee. You’ve drunk nothing. You can’t have to pee.”

“I gotta pee so let’s stop onna pee stop now.”

A few minutes later we were at a gas station. She came back to the car. “Can I get onna magazine?”

“Sure.” This was odd, because in 26 years of marriage she had read, maybe, four magazines. She returned to the car, smiling, with a copy of Cosmo. “What did you get that for? Don’t tell me you’re reading Cosmo for fashion advice?”

“It had onna cover story called ‘Fantasy Sex.'”

There was a brief silence as I calculated the possibilities. Team training camp was starting to look good.

Swag me!

When we arrived at the Westin Mission Hills Resort and Golf Nirvana our awesome team bosses greeted us with an assembly line of kits, caps, eyewear, and t-shirts. It was brain numbing to think that we, a worthless bunch of prostate-challenged wannabes were being showered with so much pro stuff. Our kits came in plastic bags with our names on them, and the kits themselves had our names on the side panels of the jerseys. We gazed in wonder, not simply at the awesomeness of it, but at the realization that all the other teams would be purple with envy when they saw our rad personalized clothing. Henceforth the pro masters SoCal masters cycling circuit would, unquestionably, be demanding personalized kits even as they gnawed their livers at not having thought of it first.

After returning from our horrific Day One training ride, I realized many things, and chief among them was this: Just because I have a fancy kit doesn’t mean I’m any good. This was really depressing, as I’d been hoping, deep down, that by wearing the nicest kit I would somehow be a better rider.

SPY had reserved a giant room with a bar, restaurant, and conference area for the afternoon presentations. We began with the most important one, from SPY Optic, called “Why You Are Here.” This was important because from the moment we were showered with swag and set up for the amazing weekend, each of us wondered the same thing: “What’s a wanker like me doing to deserve all this?”

To the relief of many, the answer was NOT “Go forth and win bike races.”

Instead, the answer was something entirely different. It was, “Go forth and live a good life, and a happy one. If you win bike races as a result, good for you. If you win nothing at all, you’ve still won everything possible.” In shorthand that every bike racer can understand, we were treated to the SPY motto, “HTFU.” Yeah. Happy the Fuck Up.

A few of the new recruits may have been puzzled, but I wasn’t. Anyone who thinks that winning bike races, or winning any kind of race, is the key to a good life well lived, hasn’t read the fine print that comes Life. Crushing the souls of your competitors, or marking up their FB wall with boasts about how you’ll destroy their hopes in the Aged People With Prostate Issues Category is important, and fun, and, perhaps, fulfilling in some strange way. But the key to getting your foot onto the next stepping stone in life isn’t “winning.” It’s being the kind of person who is kind, and it’s happily accepting happiness as a completely self-fulfilling way of doing the journey.

Of course none of us bought that bullshit for even a nanosecond, and all we could think about was training harder, racing smarter, and beating the snot out of the guys and women we race against, hopefully humiliating them in front of their small children, but at a minimum making fun of them for cherry-picking crits and avoiding anything with a hill in it.

How the team was fitted

The next morning we staggered into breakfast, inhaled everything on the buffet line, and sat down to a presentation from Harmony Bars, a San Diego company that makes what is unquestionably the tastiest in-your-jersey-pocket-treat ever created. However, no one in the room was able to concentrate on the caloric and nutritive aspects of the presentation, since it was being done by Jess Cerra in a pair of mesh white tights. We had all spent the previous day having Jess ride us off our her wheel on the Tramway climb, not terribly different from the times she had ridden us off her wheel on the Swami’s Ride, on the SPY Holiday Ride, on the Belgian Waffle Ride, or, frankly, every other ride we’d ever accompanied her on.

Jess’s strength and unrelenting power on the bike, and her unparalleled ability to litter the roadside with smashed male egos, was equaled only by her presentation in the white tights. Every man in the room died a little bit that day, heaping jealousy and hatred on the shoulders of John Abate as we watchd, er, listened, to Jess’s presentation. The Harmony Bar story can be summed up thus: This shit tastes good, is locally made, and was designed by people who crush on the bike. Okay?

Next we heard from our StageOne sponsors, the dudes who designed and manufactured our kits. Joe Yule and Jon Davy had a glazed look in their eyes, and it was clear they’d put together their presentation after a detailed sketch on the back of a napkin. Davy’s every third word was “Uh,” and with good reason: StageOne had designed, manufactured, delivered, bagged, and tagged the entire team kit in less than ninety days. This had involved multiple designs and product tests, trips to the manufacturing plant in Holland, and an eye for detail and execution that no one but Davy could have ever delivered. Joe Yule’s lifelong mission to beautify the highways of California had come, yet again, to fruition, as our SPY-Giant-RIDE kit was so beautiful that grown men wept while taking selfies of themselves in the mirror and posting them to their mothers’ FB pages.

To make matters more intense, StageOne replaces SPY-Giant-RIDE’s previous kit manufacturer Squadra, and riders are nothing if not bitchy little pricks about their kits. Whatever concerns people had about leaving the top-line kits of Squadra for the as-yet-untried-new-kids-on-the-block-StageOne were dispelled after our first team pedal. Sporting innovations that include a zipper garage, back grippers on the jersey, and farmer-john straps for comfort when you’re not wearing a base layer, the StageOne design and production received rave reviews, which is good, because if anyone had dared complain they’d have had a 210-lb. Jon Davy to deal with.

Following the StageOne presentation we heard from Giant, our bike sponsor. I wish I could explain to you in detail why the new Giant Propel is the most awesome bike since someone decided to make a bicycle with a chain … but I can’t. The Giant presentation explained lots of details about the Propel and about the concept of aero road frames and about how it improved on what most already considered the most perfect bike ever made, the Giant TCR, but it was all in one ear and out the other for me as I was still stuck on the Harmony Bars and the white tights. One of the problems that Giant has with its bikes is that each new model improves on an already incredible model, and the people like me who are completely in love with the current model can’t imagine something better than what they’ve already got. But the situation appears pretty simple, in that the Propel will propel you faster.

Let my people go

Once the presentations finished we saddled up for a leisurely 103-mile ride in the desert. It was going to be a friendly, two-by-two affair until we hit a nasty sidewind going up a long grade and the young punks turned on the gas and shredded the field. Suddenly our 75-person peloton was split into multiple groups of desperately pedaling flailers who broke up into echelons as they tried to avoid getting further behind. The young punks pulled away as I sat back in the second group watching the end of the day happen at about mile twenty, because there was no way the leaders were coming back. As we toiled into the most miserable of howling sidewinds, the guy in front of me exploded into pieces and I lunged ahead in a last-ditch effort to bridge.

Leaving entrails, my soul, and copious quantities of spit and snot on the road, I somehow made it across. The only rider to go with me was, of course, Jess, who then went straight to the front and took a pull even as I hung on the back and prayed for a land mine. Happily, Andy Schmidt flatted at Dillon Road and we all stopped, giving the broken, dropped, crushed, and defeated remainder of the group time to catch up to us. People looked so ill and sad and sick and unhappy that it was clear to me the training camp was a total success.

For the remainder of the ride we rotated, hammer-tated, flail-tated, and generally gasped our way back to the hotel. Massive beerdration ensued for those of us who had not had enough water, and after an even more massive pizza feast we sat down and listened to another slew of evening presentations. The one that impressed me the most was MRI Endurance, our team’s presenting sponsor who is a manufacturer of training supplements. They impressed me not because of the presentation — I was too drunk to understand any of it and kept falling asleep on F-1 Jim’s shoulder, awakening only to wipe off the drool — but because of the following day when MRI handed out the team product.

Have you ever seen a shark feeding frenzy? People were practically gnawing each others’ arms off to get their share of the special supplements. Eyes were gouged, crotches were kneed, and medullas were rabbit-punched in the melee. Judging from the enthusiasm of the riders, this stuff works wonders.

Ending on a high note

On Sunday morning, we were so trashed from the beer, the riding, and the presentations of the night before that a few shameless wankers left early (after collecting all their swag, of course). Those who stuck around got to enjoy yet another morning of great food, camaraderie, and a series of excellent presentations from Skins, RIDE Cyclery, SRAM/Zipp, Lake cycling shoes, Razer keyboards & mice, and Clearwater Partners. Skins provided a detailed scientific review of the benefits of their full line of compression gear, but Mrs. WM had only one question: “If you compress onna chin-chin, it’s gonna make it bigger?”

I didn’t know what to say, or even what product to order. The compression tube sock, maybe, in size XXXXS?

The other sponsors helped us better understand the benefits of working with an awesome local bike shop, of racing on SRAM components and ZIPP wheels, of using Lake shoes and the Boa locking system, and of investing all of our money with Clearwater so we can retire early and race our bikes full time like true SoCal masters professionals.

We took a fine group picture  and called it a day. My 2014 season is officially a success, thanks to the excellent job I did riding around the resort looking splendid in my new outfit and (barely) beating Jess up the Tramway climb. Looking forward to lots of great racing in 2015.

A little slice of nice

December 14, 2013 § 17 Comments

The whole Specialized – Cafe Roubaix brouhaha has ended. Mike Sinyard, the president of Specialized, flew up to Canada and apologized to Dan Richter, the owner of the bike shop, which is located in Cochrane, Alberta. ASI, the company that owns the worldwide “Roubaix” trademark, stepped in and told the shop owner that they would be glad to license the word to Richter for a very small fee.

Everybody shook hands and went home, except for Richter, who was presumably already home. I looked up Cochrane on Google Maps and confirmed what I’d assumed. Cochrane, on the outskirts of Calgary, is out in the middle of nowhere, about 450 miles from the huge U.S. city of … Missoula. It sure seemed like a lot of legal fees in order to crack down on Mr. Tinyshop.

In a sport that has a tough time stepping away from bad news, though, this vignette is a great example of what makes the bicycle industry less of an industry and more of a community. With annual sales in the neighborhood of $500 million in a market that in is estimated to be worth over $70 billion by 2015, Specialized, despite its relative market dominance, is a very, very small part of the community.

Specialized may represent the big corporate side of cycling, but in the global scheme of corporate entities it’s little more than a local bike shop on a very conservative steroid program.

Quick to blame, slow to thank

The rank-and-file bicycling community used Facebook and Twitter and email to send Specialized a message. The simple message was that bicycling remains a community that functions on the efforts of small shops. Sinyard got the message. The Internet, however much it may have taken a bite out of shop sales, has also contributed to more people riding more complicated machinery that requires, yes, a bike shop to repair and tune and ultimately replace what you bought online. Very few riders don’t have a bike shop to which they feel loyalty, and that loyalty is almost without exception the result of a good personal relationship they have with a real person behind the counter.

How many people can say that about their other shopping choices?

“I go to Wal-Mart because I love Fred, the greeter who’s there on Thursday mornings between six and ten.” It’s kind of hard to imagine.

Sinyard and Specialized got the message, and they acted with extraordinary swiftness. When’s the last time the CEO of IBM or Microsoft or Apple got on a plane to make a video and personally apologize for sending out a cease and desist letter?

We can criticize the steps that led to Specialized leaning hard on Cafe Roubaix, and we did. Can we also step back and thank Sinyard & Company for doing the right thing? I’m pretty sure we can.

I’ve ridden two Specialized bikes, the SL3 and the Venge. They were both extraordinarily good bikes. I bought them from PV Bikes, a Specialized store before the owner died, and the service I got at that shop was phenomenal. One of the biggest supporters of cycling and racing in Southern California is the Surf City Cyclery in Costa Mesa, run by Mike Faello. Mike and his team, with the full support of Specialized, put one of the very best faces on cycling in one of the country’s biggest markets.

Sinyard’s decision reflects well on himself, on his company, and on people like Mike who sell his Specialized bikes.

Thanks, Mr. Sinyard. Next time you’re in LA join us on the NPR and I’ll be honored to buy you a coffee, even though I plan to keep riding my Giant.

The eyes have it

November 16, 2013 § 8 Comments

In a month and a half we’ll begin our third season of the SPY bicycling team. Lots of people wonder what it’s like to be an old creaky fellow with a leaky prostate and bad vision while riding for the premier old fellows racing team in California and therefore the galaxy. I’d sum it up like this:

Riding for SPY is fun.

In the first two years we  saw that there were other teams with better racers. We’ve never had the fastest  racers on our squad, but despite that our 45+ team was the winningest one in SoCal, our cyclocross masters teams are hands down the best, and our 35+ team, P/1/2 team and development riders mean that each year more and more people want to ride with us. Add into the mix that our women’s team, led by Jessica Cerra, is already primed to have a super year, and I think the reasons that people want to join the SPY cavalcade are simple : Swag and fun.

When you’re an old fellow, if you have any perspective at all, you realize that if your hobby is best measured in wins and losses, it’s probably no longer a hobby and has become what the rest of the world calls a “job.” You realize that as much as you’d like to win, even more than that you’d like to compete — and win — with people you actually like, doing things you actually enjoy, decked out in swag that makes you feel like you’re winning even when you place 78th.

SPY’s ethos is best described as having a happy disrespect for the usual way of looking at life. Put another way, “Beware of the usual!”

Living up to our mandate

We’re not told to go forth and win races, although we’re given plenty of leadership and racing and training opportunities to do so. What we are told is that once we put on the kit, we’re ambassadors for a brand. Not sales staff, or preachers, group thinkniks, but ambassadors, people who are here to deliver a message.

What message? This message.

1. Ride the front as much as you can on group rides, wherever you may train. Be a leader. Why? Because the usual way of doing things is to hide in the pack and show your face, if at all, at the coffee shop. The usual way of doing things is to use the work of others in order to benefit yourself. The unusual and irreverent way of doing things is to put your share of work into the group effort, and maybe even a little bit more than your share. If you’re too afraid of getting dropped or of not making the split, bite the bullet and … go to the front.

2. Take care of one another, and take care of others. The usual way of doing things is to only stop when you’re the one with the mechanical. This is your Sunday ride, right? You’ve waited all week for this, right? So if someone has a flat, well, that’s bike racing. The unusual and irreverent way of doing things is to recognize that there will be another Tuesday morning ride, and it’s probably not gonna kill you to help out a fellow cyclist. You’ll make a friend, you’ll energize the person you help to pass on the good karma, and you’ll go from being “all about me” to “serving others.”

3. Represent SPY and its team sponsors in the same way that you’d want them to represent YOU. Success doesn’t mean a podium in an old fellows criterium. Success is the sum of a life predicated on our collective good deeds, leadership, and the vicious clubbing of baby seals (to whom we apologize in advance and posthumously).

4. As a bike racer, or more accurately, as an elderly fellow drowning in a delusional vat of swag and beer and navel gazing, when you race your victory isn’t what matter. What matters are  your actions and how they affect your team. What matters is whether you were ready to toil in anonymity and lay it all out there for the sake of a teammate.

5. Make people HAPPY. Collective groupings of old people racing bicycles isn’t a formula for happiness. Smiling and spreading positive energy is. So go forth and happify. Now.

From the touchy-feely to the hard facts

You probably expect me to praise SPY for all the usual reasons, but what are those “usual” reasons? And aren’t we supposed to beware of the usual? Rather, my affinity for the company, begun through personal friendship and swag, has transcended those two things to reach a level of discrimination I never thought I’d reach.

Because you see, I don’t really give a rat’s ass about bike products. Of course I love nice stuff when I can get it, but I’m not now and have never been a “bike guy.” I have one road bike and one ‘cross bike. One extra wheelset for the ‘cross bike. My road hoops are the same ones I train on and race on. For me, it’s always been about being lucky enough to cycle and to be part of a cycling community. The bike and the clothes and the parts are icing on the cake.

Of course, there’s one exception to that, and it’s the unusual exception of my eyes. I began wearing glasses at age 13, bout six or seven years after I first really needed them. My vision was so bad that I could only see movies from the front row. I’m still convinced that much of my early problems in school stemmed from an inability to see the chalkboard.

Having terrible vision has affected me throughout my life. I never learned to surf above kook level despite decades of trying. Why? Because I’m horribly uncoordinated and weak. But being unable to see the wave until it was breaking on my head didn’t help. Ball sports were always impossible, and even though I could see on a bike, my eyes were constantly irritated from the wind that incessantly screamed around the edges of my Laurent Fignon frames. Wearing superb prescription eyewear from SPY enabled me to win the Tour in 2011 and was directly responsible for the winning Powerball ticket that I bought down at the corner 7-11.

In actuality, my vision transformation on the bike thanks to SPY wasn’t accidental or the result of lottery-like luck. This eyewear is authentically bound to technical performance. The prescription glasses work in an incredibly demanding range of light and weather situations, including getting bounced on my head at 40 mph and remaining intact (the glasses, not the head).

This authenticity is so much more than, “The glasses work, dude.” It’s part of the background of the product, where and why it came into being, and what drives its evolution and subsequent iterations. Plus, SPY has never sponsored Lance.

The combination of “ride at the front” and “this shit works” forms the core of the proposition when you’re thinking about buying glasses. Do you want a product made by non-cyclists for cyclists and owned by a giant Italian conglomerate that also handles leather handbags, or do you want a product that’s made by cyclists who have to live with the shit they create, and who have to answer to the product’s utility in their own races and group rides?

Putting glasses on your nose … who knew it was so complicated? Well, it is, because when you wear SPY you’re choosing between Italian luxuory monolith or a variation on ZZ Topp: “That Little Old Performance Eyewear Company from Carlsbad.” Do things like happiness, irreverence, riding at the front, helping those who need it, and buying locally make a difference to you? If they do, maybe there’s something in this story for you.

The pros who ride SPY gear are chosen in order to transcend their stereotypes as “jocks” and tap into a multicultural lifestyle based on a love of outdoors activities. Us grizzled old dudes with leaky prostates believe in that transcendence, too.

Coming unglued

September 29, 2013 § 21 Comments

I was charging up the narrow track, taking what Manslaughter later called “an aggressive line,” when the bike spun out, fishtailed, and stopped. Figuring I had run out of legs due to the severity of the pitch, I jumped off and started to push. The rear wheel wouldn’t spin.

I looked down and saw the reason. The rear tubular had come off the rim. I looked more closely as I reseated the tire and saw that the rim, which was new, had very little glue on it.

“I’m done for today,” I shouted up to Manslaughter, pushing the bike up the trail to where he waited, simultaneously pissed at ending the ride early and euphoric that it hadn’t happened going downhill.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

I’d bought the wheels about a month ago, my first tubular rims since 2008, when I had sworn off them for good. Despite having ridden nothing but tubulars for almost thirty years, when I traded in my steel bike for a plastic frame, the new Specialized had come with Zipp clincher 404’s. I still remember talking to the sales guy.

“I’m not sure about clinchers,” I said.

“Dude, everyone uses clinchers. Tubulars have been dead for twenty years. No one even stocks them. They cost $80 each. They are a huge pain to glue on. No one has a spare if you get two flats in one ride.”

“Yeah, but I kind of like them … ”

“It’s not ‘back in the day’ anymore. Time rolls on. The new clinchers are just as good as tubies, and in some cases better. And they’re cheaper. And they last forever.”

He had me at “cheaper,” and I think he knew it. “I suppose it’s time to ditch the whole tubular thing and move into the new century,” I reasoned, for no good reason.

When the first big clincher revolution came about in the late 1980’s, I had continued using sew-ups only because I didn’t know how to change a flat. It was easier to glue on tubulars, ride with an extra 15-lb. sew-up, and do the infamous tubular-flat road change than it was to learn how to deal with a simple clincher inner tube.

Junkyard still reminds me of the first time he ever saw me change a clincher flat, which happened to be the first time I’d ever done it. “Never, ever, ever saw someone try to put the tube on top of the tire. That was fuckin’ amazing.”

Still, I learned, and am now pretty darned proficient at changing clincher flats. I helped Tink get her tire changed about a month ago in less than thirty minutes.

And the old shall become new again

You can imagine how pissed off I was when I realized that tubulars were back in fashion, and for cyclocross, they weren’t simply in fashion, they made the difference between 37th and 38th place due to the lower tire pressure you can run. When it became clear that I would have to race ‘cross again this year in order to avoid being assigned house chores, I nutted up and bought a cheap set of tubular rims.

“37th, here I come!” I muttered gleefully.

Of course I’d thrown away all my tubular gluing equipment, which consisted of a busted stretching rim, a couple of coat hangers, a plastic baggie, and rim cement. Rather than reassemble this pro toolkit, I then made a mistake. I asked someone to glue the tires on for me.

It’s called “non-delegable” for a reason

Some things you delegate, and the older you get that becomes pretty much everything. But three things you never delegate: Having sex with your own wife, drinking your own beer, and gluing on your own tires. And if you have to delegate any of them, you better make damn sure that it’s #1 and #2 before you delegate #3.

Tire gluing is a non-delegable duty because when it’s done badly the result is almost always a catastrophic crash. If it’s the front tire, it’s guaranteed to be a bad crash. And if you’re riding with someone else, they’re probably going down, too. For me it was stupid luck that I happened to roll it on the uphill rather than going through the fast, steep, sharp, rocky, high-speed, plunging descent a few hundred yards ahead.

When I asked the friend to glue on my tires I had known I was making a mistake, because even though someone else can have just as good sex with your wife as you can (probably better), there’s simply no way they will care as much as you do about gluing on your tires. Why is this? It’s simple. The more glue you put on the rim, the more of a hassle it is. With a big schmear of glue you have to either hang up the wheels for a few hours to let the glue harden, or you have to try and put on the tire (which itself has a nasty bead of sticky shit all around it) and risk covering everything in glue.

When I say “everything” I don’t mean the obvious — rim, tire sidewall, maybe a dollop on the spokes. When a gluing session goes south you get glue on the floor, your feet, your teeth, underneath your nails, your hair, your glasses, your hubs, your tools, your palms, and, in a complete meltdown, on the interior of the wall that you punch through screaming in frustration. The friend who is gluing on your tires, even for a fee, doesn’t love you enough to coat himself in adhesive, and he’s probably trying to save some glue for his own wheels, and he’s not about to cover his workstand in mastic.

I knew all that.

I also knew that even for someone with the mechanical aptitude of a newt, this was the one mechanical failure that is typically both catastrophic and ALWAYS YOUR FAULT. You either did a shitty job gluing on the tire, or you delegated it to someone without first making them screw your wife and drink your beer.

Settling up

So when I contacted my buddy to let him know what had happened I wasn’t surprised when he said, “Sorry.” There was nothing for me to say, because regardless of how it had happened, it was my fault.

Not having glued on a tire in several years, and never having glued on a ‘cross tire, I made a fair mess of it, slathering glue on the sidewall of one tire, and gluing on the rear tire with the tread pointing in the wrong direction. But it took two full tubes, and the next day when I hit the trail at full gas with Tumbleweed, the Gooseman, and Google Wills, I did it knowing that whatever mechanical I had, it wouldn’t be a rolled tire.

And it wasn’t.

Interbike 2013 product review

September 25, 2013 § 22 Comments

Interbike this year was awesome beyond words. The prostitutes looked even younger than they did last year, the liquor was just as strong, and the products on display were mind-blowing. Next year I might even go. Here’s a recap of some the show’s highlights, in case you stayed home due to work, fears of STD’s, etc.

  1. Jaw-based power meter by S-WANK: Unlike traditional power meters, which read output at the crank, hub, or pedal spindle, the “Powerwanker” reads wattage at the place where cyclist generate the most power — their ever-yakking mandibles. According to Sven Svenson, the next generation of the “Powerwanker” will read wattage at the cyclist’s second-greatest output source. “His finger when he’s all a-typin’ on the Twitter and blogger forum crap.” Suggested retail price: $3,999.99.
  2. Rope-a-Dope home drug testing kit: Brought on largely by the growing SoCal masters racing scene, this handy-dandy home drug kit can tell you just how much more EPO, testosterone, tainted beef, or volcano dope you can ingest before you test positive and aren’t allowed to win any more Clif bars. A supplemental “Rage  Gauge” allows simultaneous testing of your violent, steroid-induced mood swings, allowing you to know when you’re more likely to beat up a competitor or kick your dog. Suggested retail price: $289.00 for the kit, testing refills @ $4.99 each.
  3. Krispy Kreme nutritional bar:  Made out of pure butter, flour, and deep-fried in fresh canola oil, the Krispy Kreme “Healthnut” is an oval ride snack with a little hole in the middle for easy grip/fishing out of your back jersey pocket. The Healthnut contains one essential nutrient (sugar), and several nonessential ones that nonetheless taste great (butter, oil, more sugar). The Healthnut comes in four flavors: glazed, chocolate-covered, sprinkles, and old-fashioned. Suggested retail price: $1.00/ea.
  4. The Ride Excusifier: This clever app, downoaded onto your smart phone, provides a quick and appropriate response through your phone’s mic every time your significant other complains about your excessive cycling. Including old standbys like “At least I’m not a whore-hopping coke-head,” and “This new carbon rig is cheaper than heart surgery,” the folks at Stand Your Ground, Inc., have added some excuses that are sure to keep the missus (or the mister) tongue-tied long enough for you to clip in and roll out the drive. My favorites were “I promise I won’t be late again!” and “Aaaaaaaahhhh!” shouted in a suicidal wail. Suggested retail price: $4.99.
  5. Mr. Sockmeasure: How many times have you pulled out a pair of socks and discovered that they’re slightly unequal lengths because you have several identical pairs but they’ve been re-paired with socks that aren’t their “true” partner? Think of all the times this has ruined your ride or made you late as you try on all forty-two pairs to get the exact match. Well, with Mr. Sockmeasure, those days are gone! This handy sock-shaped measure, which attaches to the outside of your dryer, lets you carefully check each sock before folding. From OCD Products, Inc.: $16.99.
  6. The Ronco “Tireflopper”: How many times have you been eating shit ten miles off the back in a brutal road race with 40 miles to go, uphill, into a sandstorm, with no chance of anything except failure, but still too much pride to quit? The Tireflopper attaches to the inside of your valve stem and is voice-activated by shrieking “Oh, fuck!” or “Kill me now!” which triggers a complete release of all the air in your tire. You can then stand by the road looking faux glum and ride home in the sag wagon. (Note: must be used with the “Derailing Derailleur,” a spring-loaded mechanism that prevents any other rear wheel from fitting into the rear drop-outs. Without this, the follow car will simply change your wheel and send you on your way.) Suggested retail price: $98.99.
  7. Aaron Rents “Hand-up Bitch”: Tired of running around at the last minute trying to get some chick or dude to give you hand-ups in the middle of a 110-degree dropfest out in Bakersfield? Embarrassed by not having anyone to cheer wildly at your 37th placing in the Cat 5 crit? Aaron Rents now offers a male or female rental Hand-up Bitch who will stand out in the hot sun, give you shit that’s not going to help, and clap happily when you achieve the impressive goal of not dying. $150/hr., blowjobs extra.

Big words on a badass bike

February 14, 2013 § 13 Comments

Team SPY-Giant-RIDE has spent the ‘cross season and now part of the road season (for some) on their new Giant frames. What better time to give feedback and encourage everyone to go buy a dozen or so?

Of course, if people don’t like them, they can kiss off. Negative reviews won’t be posted here, which is no problem because there haven’t been any. However, if you’re looking for an objective report, you’ve got the wrong guy, the wrong blog and, sad to say, the wrong industry. As in all things, follow the money!

In my case, it’s a short trail. I paid hard cash for my ‘cross frame, and if it sucked I’d just keep quiet, being a polite “team player” type dude who likes to keep his opinions to himself. Bottom line: Nobody gave me squat to ride my ‘cross frame, and in fact I had to forgo the youngest child’s last payment on braces to build it up.

The braces were supposed to have come off in September of last year, but it was ‘cross season and I do have priorities. I got the lower ones off with a pair of wire cutters and a chisel, but apparently didn’t do such a great job as he’s now implored me to wait until we can afford another visit to the orthodontist, which is now looking like May or June of ’15.

What the team has said

First off, I’d be crazy to let a bunch of bike racers say anything in their own words, mostly because the typical lexicon is more filled with “fucks” than a letter to Penthouse (youngsters, ask your grandpa what those were). So I’ve edited the hell out of these quotes, in some cases making them up entirely to paper over the garbled, unintelligible prose. After the fourth “Fuckin’ A stiff as shit, dude” I kind of got the gist that they liked it and it was stiff.

Second, with regard to the road frames we’ve only had a few races to test them out, so despite the fact that these wankers are threatened on pain of death not to say anything even remotely uncomplimentary, the guys have been reticent to provide extensive comments other than what they’ve gleaned from a thousand miles of riding or less.

A few wankers have even refused to comment at all on the lame grounds that their frame hasn’t been built up yet and they’ve never ridden one before. We’ll address internally this unwillingness to lie and prattle, and can promise you five-star encomiums in the next round of reviews.

Greg M.: This machine is second to no other bike in the world for weight agility and style!!! I love it so much I’ve added two exclamation points to the one that I normally put at the end of everything, including sympathy and condolence letters (Sorry to hear about the massacre of your entire family! Condolences!). I love it so much I’ve leaned it up against the SPY truck and taken 458 photos on Instagram, annotated them, flooded your wall, clogged your inbox, and gummed up the Internet. Took like freakin’ days to do. However, I hope this twelve-word review suffices!!! Giant rocks!!!

John H.: I am the worst at this shit, dude, I’m a bike racer which means I race bikes not some pinhead blogger. You would know this except I drop you every time we race together. Anyway,  I have been racing Specialized’s top ‘cross bike for the last three years and was very happy with it until I got on the TCX. Kind of like how you think go-karts are totally badass until somebody sticks you behind the wheel of a Ferrari. Or how you think magazines are awesome ’til you get your first hot date. Not only is it super light and stiff but the thing goes wherever you point it. I’m glad I’ve never pointed it at a hot chick. I’m talking about the bike. The acceleration is amazing and handling is second to none (still talking bike, you wanker). I don’t have my  road bike yet so I’ve been riding 4-5 days a week using the TCX ‘cross bike on the road and I have to say it is as good if not better than any road bike I have ever been on. The Giant TCX gave our team a huge advantage in our success in ‘cross this season. The wankers from other teams were flailing around in the mud on their 75-lb. wankmobiles while we sliced and diced our way to a couple of state championships and numerous event wins. TCX stands for “Total ‘Cross eXecutioner,” or something like that.

Aron G.: The Giant TCR is stiff, responsive and a beautiful piece of handcrafted technology that is second to none! So happy I’m riding a Giant this year, and all the wankers on other teams are flailing on Pudknocker Specials. Jam on the pedals and this bad boy takes off like a lump of snot getting shot from an elephant’s trunk. In a fast sprint finish your kick goes straight from the pedal to the wheel. Well, there’s a chain and some gears and a bottom bracket in there somewhere, but with this bad boy you’d never know it.

Jim M.: While I eagerly await the arrival of my TCR road frame, I can say that I was happier than a bacteria in a public restroom with my ‘cross TCX, which I was able to ride and race on several times this fall. In past ‘cross races the spectators often screamed “Wanker!” and showered me with beer (warm beer, I think, at any rate with warm yellow stuff). Not on my Giant. They frickin’ showered me with awe. While I didn’t think a ‘cross bike should, or could, be as light as a road bike, damned if it wasn’t LIGHTER than any road bike I’d ever had. I was floating through the mud pits and tar pits and tiger pits and slag heaps and sand dunes like debris from a tsunami.  From a riding and racing standpoint, it seemed unfair that a bike that good should belong to me, but I knew right out of the gate it would make me a better rider, which it did, as in my first race I only got lapped twelve times instead of the usual eleven. After that, it was Katie bar the door. I got some great results, and from the nimble handling, the quick acceleration and the screaming good looks, the bike just performed like all get out. My girlfriend was jealous, right?  It won’t gather dust this road season, either, as it has replaced my mountain bike for anything off road and will get lots of use in the coming months.  Can’t wait to race on it again in the fall!

DMac: The Giant TCX is an awesome ‘cross bike and played a key role in my 35+ state ‘cross championship campaign. The frame is very stiff for climbing and super stable in corners, it handles smooth over rough terrain with great power transfer for sprinting and has a superior ride quality off-road and on-road. Plus, if you turn it upside down and put flowers in the chain ring it makes a bitchin’ objet d’art. That’s French for “coffee table.” Best of all, when I went back to Alabama, where I’m from, all the folks there (who are all related, weird, I know), just drooled even though they didn’t know what it was or what it was for. I told ’em that it was a football training device that the Tide was gonna use in ’14 and I got taken out to more free fried catfish dinners and fed more deep-fried Coca-cola than you can imagine.

Joe C.: My new Giant corners like it is on rails, BIG difference from my Parlee, which suffered from having a really stupid name. Dudes were like, “What kind of bike do you ride?” and I’d be like “Parlee,” and they’d be like “Parlee what? Francais?” and then everyone would guffaw and it got to pissing me off so I took to busting out their teeth and pretty soon it was ten of them and one of me and although I was good for wiping the floor with nine, the tenth was always some goon with a two-by-four and to make a long story short I spent a lot of freaking time in the hospital no thanks to that dogdamned Parlee. So now they’re like “What do you ride?” and I’m like “Giant” and they like back off and buy me free beer. So there’s that.

Erik: I’m two rides in on the Giant, but small sample sizes don’t mean squat to me, hell, I’d judge a person’s character based on the way he wiped his nose. The Giant and I, we’re like a dude and the perfect chick, it’s really amazing how connected I feel to the road. We talk to each other sometimes but don’t tell my wife that. I’ll go out in the garage and say “Hey, baby, how bout a little chain lube?” and darned if she doesn’t purr. I’m not kidding. Between the stiff, responsive frame and the Zipps, I really do feel in control and that there is not a wasted bit of power. Pretty awesome. Can’t wait to race it. After a few more months I’m going to see if the wife is cool with bringing it into the bedroom just for safekeeping and stuff.

Ryan D.: Racing crits is much less hectic, the turn in is so gradual and predictable leaving me more confident instead of clipping the curb and busting my forehead open on some fire hydrant. You do that seven or eight times in a season and you start forgetting little things, you know, like your name and stuff. The seat mast soaks up tons of harsh bumps which makes it easier to flip over the guardrails, bomb down the side of the mountain out of control, whacking the huge boulders, and still get to the bottom without feeling like you’ve flipped over the guardrail, bombed down the side of the mountain out of control, and whacked every huge boulder in sight, even though you pretty much just did. It’s stiffer than anything I’ve ever ridden. It has sexy lines, which is actually a big deal when you spend a lot of time by yourself, as I do. The sloping top tube and massive seat mast lets guys run smaller looking frames, because no one likes a massive triangle and tiny seat post except some wanker named Merckx. What the hell did he know, eh?

Mongo from Bakersfield: What I like most about the TCX is its responsiveness to my pedal input and the fact that it gives me a great excuse to leave Bakersfield, which is one of the ten top places in America to be from, preferably permanently. When I push the pedals, the bike goes. Coming from a steel ‘cross frame I was expecting the carbon ride to be harsh, but I’ve found that the integrated seat post and rear triangle absorb a lot of the shock on demanding ‘cross courses and even normal roads in Bakersfield, where the roads are paved with large chunks of glass, nails, gravel, and human bones. The shaped downtube is really easy to grab and throw the bike on my shoulder or at the gangs who try to shake you down when you’re training in Bako. The low frame weight makes it easy to traverse barriers and barbed wire fences no matter if you’re a Brent Prenzlow minimalist or a Bart Wellens dive bomber or a Jim P. Bakersfield refugee running for his life. I’ve raced the TCX in road races where it handles and climbs like a dream. Its higher bottom bracket makes it a great crit racer as well, and I use it to position myself at the back of the field to make sure no one quits.

King Harold: All these peachfuzz wankers are crowing and yammering about Giant like a teenager who just discovered puberty, but listen, I been riding Giant since these punks had a tail and were swimming around in a warm hairy bag, and I know from past Giant frames it’s the best bike you’ll ever ride. They corner, climb and sprint like nothing you’ve ever ridden before, including that $150 hooker you got in Vegas for your 18th birthday. I can only imagine the new bike will ride even better because I don’t have it yet. But I almost don’t need to. It will kick ass.

Chris W.: The bike is incredible. I wouldn’t have believed anyone if they had told me it was this solid. I would have been like, “Oh, bullshit. You’ve been reading too much Bicycling Magazine.” ‘Cause you know, bikers are so full of crap and suckers to boot, and think the latest thing is like the reinvention of the wheel. But my Giant TCR, man, it is the bomb. It doesn’t flex yet it doesn’t beat you to death. Giant knows what they’re doing. Love this bike.

Bull: I love my Giant TCX; it allows me to ride anywhere I want to go with speed and amazing handling, like last week when I was at the liquor store picking up a case of MD 20/20 for the wife and kids and the cops show up, in fact I’d paid for it but there was a misunderstanding about the credit card because I do sometimes go by the name “Susan Smith” and I have lived in Philly before, anyway, there I was and I didn’t have time to explain to the guy with the gun and the radio and mace and the handcuffs and the squadcar so boom, I hopped on the TCX, swung the MD over my shoulder, and hit the gutter going the wrong way down the 405. Lost ’em. Love my Giant.

MMX: This year I got the new TCX toward the end of the season and made up my mind that beginning in March I would start properly capitalizing the pronoun “I” and other proper nouns and win some ‘cross races. For the two years prior to this ‘cross season i had been riding my Blue top of the line Norcross (jonathan Page signature bike, our mutual team rider), which i felt to be an incredible bike. In fact, one of the main reasons for the SPY and BLUE relationship had to do with their initial sponsorship of me and our joint sponsorship of JP. When i got the TCX, with its ISP (which stands for Internet Service Provider), and the SRAM components (which stands for Super Rad And Mombasa) and ZIPP wheels (which stands for Zowie I’m Pedaling Perfectly), it weighed 15 pounds and a couple of ounces. It was light. But, what was so impressive about it was the stiffness of the bike and how this enabled me to slice through sand, power on grassy sections, and get power out of the bike with my low cadence. It was fun watching the wankers on my wheel at that beach invasion ‘cross race on Pendleton melt and collapse and fade and crumble in the bitter headwind followed by the sandy wall climb and the sand pits at the bottom of the 40 mph descent over ruts and rocks and land mines. I really wish i had had the bike for the whole season and can’t wait to race on it next year. I can easily see myself racing this bike on the road, as it is as light as my road bike and as responsive and comfortable. Plus it’s light enough to pick up and smack somebody over the head with when they show up wearing Oakleys or Smith or some other Italian effete multicorp dork pair of eyeglasses.

i was riding the 2012 GIANT TCR ISP bike this year and really enjoyed all the capital letters. I again wondered how getting the new bike would even be anything but a waste of money because my current GIANT was so good and how many more capital letters can you cram onto a downtube, right? Right. Being the leader of the team and the dude who’s going to stomp some heads for the wankers who didn’t get around to writing reviews after all the swag I’ve showered them with, the ingrates, i had to get the team bike, right?! So, i did, with the SRAM red stuff and the ZIPP 303’s. From the minute i got on this new 2013 version i was startled at how much faster it felt, and not just because I got 300 new KOM’s on Strava that day. I felt as though my 11 was a 12, as though i had a tailwind and even though I’ve occasionally had problems counting correctly. I got the perfect fitting bike, thanks to the fit
from Studio DNA and our team mate Nes Rodriquez. The bike rides better
with the new SRAM and it feels stiffer and more comfortable, which is hard to believe. In fact, I don’t have to believe. I rode the dang thing across a 2 mile crosswind gap at Poor College Kids to bridge to the leaders. On another bike I’d have needed a stoker or an engine.

The first time i rode the new GIANT TCR ISP 2013 i was tired from a heavy block of training, even though it was only 250 miles that particular day with 11,000 feet of climbing. But i took it out on a saturday and did the Swami’s ride with you, Wankmeister. Remember how I dropped you immediately, then towed your sorry ass around all day while you begged me not to drop you in exchange for some free blogging? Yeah, that day, you wanker.

Instead of dragging myself, i was ripping despite being tired, driving the front, going off the front, and watching you cry and beg and suck your thumb like a swaddling infant. Afterwards, you and i did a big loop for 80 plus miles and i got 10 KOMs over the last 20 or 30 miles. You were nowhere to be seen when the hard work came about. It was unbelievable. The bike i mean. Not you. Now, two months later, i still have the same feelings about the bike. is my 11 a 12? Are there counting classes for people like me?

Overall, for me, the new GIANT team bike is the best looking bike i have
ever owned, the most comfortable and the most powerful in terms of stiffness and translation of wattage. I couldn’t be happier i got the new bike. It is simply amazing. I’ll be riding it this saturday at the RR, and once we get into march I’m going to take no prisoners on the capitalization thing. You watch.

Alan F.: The Giant I currently ride is a 2012 TRC Advanced, no ISP or SL. You might think I feel slighted to be riding around on something less than the others, but I don’t. I’ve been doing this for decades and could race on a Huffy with cement wheels and still keep up with you wankers. Plus, I’m not emotional about my bike. It’s a bike. A tool to inflict pain and devastation on those who have not prepared properly. I have no idea when I will get a team bike, but when I get it, rest assured I will push down hard on the pedals. What I can say about my 2012 Giant is that it kicks ass. It is a very balanced bike, the massive proprietary carbon stem with 1 and 1/4″ steering tube makes the front end as stiff and stable as the rear. Giddy up!

DJ: The early Giant composites sucked big donkey balls. Sorry, they did. You want PR bullshit? You got the wrong guy. The fork/headset were flimsy noodles. I had one, and I disliked it big time. It wobbled like heck, drifted like sh*t. Don’t ask why I used an asterisk. And I was coming off a Trek (model lost to memory, but it was a high end one). I seriously questioned Giant and their funny compact frame. To their credit, Giant heard that feedback (the rep told me I was not alone in my opinion) and immediately remedied it with a significant redesign. More carbon, bigger diameter steering tube, etc. So I like to think that Giant is me. Also, if you get a minute, I’ll tell you about the time I designed the space shuttle. I rode Giants for 10 succeeding years, and loved all of them. Their current frames with the square downtube are the bomb. They corner like they’re on rails, track true at speed, they’re stiff and light, and they still feel great on a long ride. You could ask for a better frame; you could pay more for a frame; you could start your own frame company…but you’d never get close to a Giant. They are more than functional: They follow input from the riders, hacker/wankers like me and pro/am world class studs and studettes from Rabobank to continually improve. If you think you’re getting some mass-produced item made from slave labor, you’re wrong. You’re getting a handcrafted precision frame made by expert, expert, expert craftspeople. That extra “expert” makes them even better, by the way. Even though we got a deal I was bummed to switch to Blue last year. It was like switching from titanium to overdone linguini. To put it all in perspective, when I heard SPY was going to Giant in 2013, it was full wood! And when my trailer house is rockin’…!

Lars the Norseman: The Giant TCX is so insanely light I contemplated using it as my road bike of choice in 2013! Then I saw Wankmeister doing that very thing, along with Mongo from Bakersfield and I was like, “Whoa, don’t want to be associated with those wankers, no matter how awesome the bike!” The Giant TCR is easily adjustable and gives me the confidence to dive in and out of corners in crits, and it’s stiff enough to withstand my 180-pound frame wrenching it from side to side when attacking or climbing. These are two phenomenal machines, well made for invading smaller countries and plundering them.

Brent G.: As a guy who gets to RIDE a ton of bikes I have a pretty good feel for what is available out there. I have this test I do on all bikes. I just ride loosely sitting in the saddle with my hands on the hoods and attempt to create speed wobble by shimmying my hands forward and back. Yeah, I crash a lot doing that. But I wear a helmet and have good health insurance. Many bikes are like wet noodles, although very few wet noodles are as serviceable as a crappy bike. The Giant TCR is far and away the stiffest! That is the reason this is the only bike I can sit on the top tube and descend at 60mph and feel like it’s 40. Until I crash and hit my head again. Then it doesn’t even feel like 60. More like 100. That “hands-off” test also relates to how stiff the front triangle is in relation to what the bike is going to do when you lean in into a serious turn. With the 11/2 to 11/14 bearing and massive head tube, this bike has zero hesitation once you give it some input. It just does exactly what you tell it to do, and one of these days I’m gonna tell it to do the laundry. With all the rigidity, you might be one of those “my jockstrap is half-empty” types who might worry about ride quality, and that is where this bike with the ISP seatpost stands on a platform that only few bikes I have ever ridden do. The ISP post is a dream and makes for the most comfortable ride you can get. 100 mile days just click off on this bike with less discomfort once you’re off the bike than many others that end up breaking your spine after a 60-mile ride. The Giant TCR ADV SL ISP is in my top 2 bikes ever ridden for quality and capital letterization and additonal exclamation marks!!! It ROCKS!!!

David A.: I have never loved and respected a bike like I do the Giant TCX ‘cross bike. Please don’t tell my wife or children. The confidence this bike gave me throughout the 2012 ‘cross season was second to none. The lack of confidence it inspired in the wankers who fell off the pace and got dropped was inversely proportionate. I knew that I only had to point it in the right direction to get to the finish line and it would do the rest. Halfway through most races I stopped even pedaling. Just a few whispers and a pat on its fanny and it would take me to the line, usually in first place. I treasured the way it would track through stutter bumps and it would make a very  challenging section a breeze and look great in pumps or in tennis shoes. Thank you Giant for creating such a noble steed!

Steven D.: It would be a lie to say “good or bad” because I don’t have it yet. However, bike racers are notorious liars, so why wait? I know this bike is going to be awesome beyond belief, and when I get a chance to throw a leg over I will unleash my literary penmanship, and give Giant the review it deserves.

G$: The most perfect thing I’ve ever touched. I’m totally in love. Fast, tight, gorgeous, goes forever, always gets you to the finish with a massive rush. I feel like I’m in heaven with this baby. Solid when you’re going fast, steady when you’re grinding it out, pounding on the front, easing on the back…technical or straight line!…At 50+ mph you appreciate when your baby has your back!! I would groove 24/7 if I had the stamina! Oh, this is supposed to be about my new bike? Oops! I love my Giant, too. Same as I just said earlier about my, oh never mind.

Wankmeister: I ride and race  my GIANT TCX ‘cross bike on the road and had my best result in like a hundred years in a hard hilly race a couple of weeks ago. It scares the crap out of the competition. They think it weighs 300 pounds and you’re there with them on the climb and they’re like, “Whoa, dude’s a beast!” but actually the thing is lighter than their rig and their girlfriend. It’s stiff, pretty, handles well, blah, blah, blah. You get that by now after reading all these reviews, or you are a congenital idiot who wouldn’t know a good thing if it came with free hookers and a suitcase full of unmarked $100 bills. In truth, though, the GIANT TCX is most rad for its Leg Throwoverabilityness. This is the quality of a bike that allows you to pull up at a light and casually throw your leg over the top tube and rest comfortably there. Frankly, I spend almost all my time posing at intersections and this bike is Pose Nirvana. It’s how I met my wife. I fucking look like a pro, all loungy and relaxed and cool with my SPY shades and stuff. Plus, the shape of the TCX top tube is flatty instead of roundy, which lets your lower thigh rest comfortably on it. The roundy ones make you slip and pretty soon that tube is wedged up where the sun don’t ever shine. Well, not often, anyways. So, for mega plus pose leg throwoverabilityness, this is the best bike ever.

A Giant weekend

January 28, 2013 § 35 Comments

Tink came out of the gate hot at the P[u]CK[e]RR, won her first road race of 2013, and gave SPY Liv-Giant its first win of the year.

Which was nice.

Josh Alverson came out smoking the next day at the Meatball crit and won the Cat 3 wankfest in a 7-lap solo break.

Which was nice.

Cannonball Gadhia,  propelled into the final 500 meters by the SPY-Giant-RIDE blue train, was launched to victory in the old gentlemen’s tender prostate 45+ category of the Meatball crit.

Which was nice.

Erik the Red, Walshie, Stephen Davis, MMX, Alan Flores, Roald Dahl, Logan Fiedler, and Brian Zink all nailed down high finishing spots in PUCKERR and Meatball.

Which was nice.

And then, at the team meeting on Friday night, much swag was handed out to the liver-spotted and grizzled pro masters racers, each of whom received his new shades and fancy socks and knit caps and other cool goodies with sweaty, grasping palms.

Which was nicest of all, perhaps.

Unntil we sat down on Saturday night for a lecture from Perry Kramer about “Why Your Giant Bicycle is So Kick Ass.”

There is no “I” in TEAM

However, if you add an “e,” there’s most definitely an “Eat me.” And truth be told, for years and years and years, my attitude towards carbon bicycle frames has been just that: “Eat me.”

So when I learned that Giant would be the new gorilla sponsor for the team’s bicycles, I shrugged. “Great. Another nameless Taiwanese manufacturer with no soul, cranking out machine-made bikes at a rate of 1,000 per hour.”

Having ridden Specialized for the last four years, I’d given up on the Eurocentric, hand-crafted mythology that used to accompany bicycles when they were made from Columbus tubing, by hand, in some Italian or Belgian village. I’d accepted that the future of cycling was nameless, interchangeable, soulless, plastic knockoffs made by assembly line workers pushing “start” and “stop” buttons on the Carbon Frame Goop-a-tron: Lighter, faster, stiffer, more aerodynamic…but spiritually dead.

And after experiencing the superiority of the carbon frame over steel, I’d made peace with the trade-off. Carbon frame isn’t more soulful. But it is mo bettah.

You may be wrong (but you may be right)

When Perry stood up to make his presentation, I was ready to let the words flow into the right ear and out of the left one, making minimal contact with the thinking organ in between. The only tingle of curiosity I had was this: Would he explain why my Giant TCX ‘cross bike rode so well?

Although I’m a complete clod when it comes to bikes and the way they perform, and my ignorance is trumped only by my cluelessness of why they perform the way they do, from the first time I rode my TCX I’d been blown away by the way it handled. Of course, I chalked it up to the fact that I’d never raced or ridden a ‘cross bike before, and this was just how ‘cross bikes rode.

What piqued my curiosity, though, was the fact that when I’d had to put road wheels on the TCX and use it for road riding while my Venge was having its radiator replaced and its water pump serviced, the Giant ‘cross bike had handled better and climbed better than the Specialized road unit. What was that all about?

We are the sum of our prejudices

It turns out that I’m not simply dumb about bike handling and performance characteristics and why bike frames are the way they are. From the beginning of the slide show I found out that I knew even less than I’d already thought I didn’t know, which was everything.

For example, I thought you made a carbon bike frame the same way you make a toy set for a Happy Meal, by pouring a bunch of carbon fiber goop into a mold. The mold cools, you slap on a decal and some wheels, and boom! There’s your new Specializedgianttrekwillierscannondalepinarello carbon bike.

I’ll spare you the technical details, mostly because I don’t understand them, but there’s no big Goop-a-tron at the Giant factory, with little people pouring in buckets of goop into a cauldron and stirring it with goop sticks until it’s ready for molding. Here’s the shocking fact about how Giant bikes are made: By hand.

More precisely, by 32 pairs of hands, as sixteen is the number of people involved in the meticulous, piece-by-piece construction of each bike. The bikes are painstakingly built over a mold sort of like those horrendous, smelly, ugly, badly painted papier-mache things you had to do in 3rd Grade art class. Strips of carbon fiber are placed in a specific order over the mold, then hardened with resin which is heated and pressed in an oven.

The secret to the way a carbon bike rides lies in the shape of the mold, the type of carbon fiber used, the size of the fiber strips, the number of the fiber strips, the order in which the strips are placed onto the mold, and most importantly, the “secret sauce,” or proprietary resin mixture that bonds and later hardens the carbon fiber.

Changing any of these variables changes the way the bike behaves. The best combination, or the design + technique, is what makes a carbon frame world class or a spongy piece of bubble gum.

The reason my TCX handles so well

After listening to Perry’s awesome explanation and being imbued with extensive tech specs and production process explanations, I can sum it up like this: “The TCX rides so well because it’s fuckin’ bitchin’ rad and badass.”

Hopefully, once I get on the Giant TCR road frame, I’ll have an equally sophisticated explanation for it, assuming it rides as well as my TCX.

Changing perceptions

In addition to learning that there was no Goop-a-tron, and no slave labor pouring carbon into a cauldron, I learned why Giant has flown under my radar screen for so many years despite being one of the biggest manufacturers in the world for composite frames, and being the only large manufacturer that controls the entire production process from weaving the carbon fiber to slapping the decal on the finished product.

I had heard countless times that Giant made the frames for Cannondale, Trek, and numerous other big name brands. “Why would they do that for other brands unless the other brands had some kind of superior design that Giant couldn’t equal? Aren’t they using the other dudes’ designs in their bikes? And if so, why buy a bike with Giant on it, when it’s a knock-off of someone else’s superior work?”

Kind of like my Goop-a-tron thinking, this had it back asswards at best, completely wrong at worst. Giant does make bikes for other frame makers according to the specs of those makers.

But it makes its own bikes according to its own top-secret, proprietary specs because Giant’s secret sauce and lay-up processes are better. It sounds kind of like a sex manual, you know, secret sauce and lay-ups, but it isn’t.

The result of all this is simple:

Giants are lighter (which doesn’t mean squat to me, and sounds kind of funny when you put it like that).

Giants are stiffer (which means they climb better, which explains why my TCX goes uphill better than my Venge).

Giants have less flex in the bottom bracket (which, with the stiffer frame, means they track better, which explains the feeling of being on rails, which I like muy mucho a lot takusan viel hen hao).

What this means for you, the consumer

Actually, it doesn’t mean anything. Whether your bike is made of steel or bamboo or carbon fiber (as long as it’s not one of those horrible stomping bike-running monstrosities that combine the worst things about cycling with the worst things about running), as long as you’re riding it and enjoying it, that’s all that matters. Giant, Midget, Specialized, Generalized…whatever.

The guys who are great athletes and who get paid to ride bike brands were winning before that sponsorship and they’ll be winning when they change teams. The bike doesn’t make the rider, or even the ride. It’s just the catalyst, because, you know, the ride is inside you.

However, if you’re going to buy a new bike, and if you’ve never considered Giant as being among the top tier of the very best hand made bikes ever built, you’re doing a disservice to the dollar you’re about to spend and a disservice to your legs. You can also be assured–take it from the Wankmeister–that there’s no Goop-a-tron. Never was. Never will be.

Now get out there and go to the front.

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