September 26, 2015 § 13 Comments
For almost three years now I have ridden with Bont Vaypors. Aside from the bad spelling, they had some amazing qualities that led me to put them on my feet.
- They were free.
- They didn’t cost anything.
- Tensile strength of 130,000 MPa’s.
Of course there was a down side or two. As Alan Flores said, “Dude, when I got those things I took one look and put them on eBay. What a joke.”
Or as Joe Yule said, “I had a pair once, briefly.”
“How briefly?” I asked.
“As long as it took for me to look at them, put them back in the box, and put them on eBay.”
So here were the negatives:
- Hideously ugly.
- Incredibly painful.
- Tensile strength of 130,000 MPa’s.
Doing a cost benefit analysis ($0 cost versus 130,000 MPa benefit), I kept them, trained in them, and raced with them. Over the years they bruised my toes so badly that my nails all blackened, withered, and eventually fell off, but unlike the leaves of New England lovely maples, they never grew back.
How stiff were these shoes? It was like setting your foot in wet concrete, curing it for six months, and then trying to wiggle your toes. When you pushed on the pedals, the only energy transfer loss was from the tendons that snapped and the ligaments that tore as these flexless beasts conducted muscle directly to ball of foot to pedal.
I loved those Bonts because they had such a fearsome reputation for pain and discomfort that anyone who saw you still wearing a pair after more than forty miles became afraid, very afraid. There is no pain like foot pain and if you can endure the 138-mile BWR on Bont concrete specials you can endure anything, even accounting. Best of all, Josh A. always wore his while walking his two Chihuahuas, Stanley and Olive.
It’s an awesome shoe that lets you maintain an 2015 race winning percentage of 100% and clack around the neighborhood picking up mini-puppy poop.
After a while I think the Bonts actually bent the bones in my foot because my toes, which once were narrow, straight, slim and rather lovely, became twisted, blackened stumps that snaked over one another like a bad root system. I occasionally thought about replacing them, but not seriously because, hey, free.
Then one day I happened into Bike Effect and Steve Carre insisted on measuring my feet. I know, I know. “Well,” he said, “your right foot is a full size bigger than your left.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that if your cycling shoe fits your left foot it’s probably horribly painful for your right, but if it fits your right foot then your left foot has enough extra space to open up a lemonade stand.”
That thought haunted me for a few months until, plagued by sneaky Internet algorithms that registered my ONE search for Shimano shoes and then showered every single page I visited for the next twelve weeks with ads for Shimano shoes (even http://www.skankytoe.com), I caved to the relentless marketing and bought a pair of fancy new Shimano R-somethings for $150.00. Stylish, sleek, lightweight, they looked comfortable in a way that the Bont torture chambers never had.
I was so excited when I went out for this morning’s ride with my new shoes. They didn’t hurt, but they didn’t fit worth a crap either. I wore them anyway because hey, paid for.
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September 23, 2013 § 12 Comments
Lots has happened.
Julie Cutts, who rides for La Grange, won two world masters championships this weekend, one in the time trial and the other in the road race. More about this at a later date, but suffice it to say that this is staggeringly, incredibly, amazingly fantastic news. Julie was joined in Trento, Italy by Rudy Napolitano, Mike Easter, and Tony Restuccia, who all raced in the men’s 35-39 world championship. Although everyone can appreciate Julie’s two victories, not everyone can appreciate the men’s results — 15th, 19th, and 60th. Let me be the first to say that these results are extraordinary. Out of 101 finishers, these three racers performed exceptionally on a global stage, on a brutal course that ended with a 20km climb, in the epicenter of world cycling. Simply being invited to the biggest stage for masters racers is a tremendous accomplishment. Finishing as strongly as these guys did is testament to their toughness, ability, and racing skill.
Cyclocross is here
The 2013-2014 cyclocross season kicks off in Southern California next Sunday, September 29, at the historical downtown LA state park. Dorothy Wong brings cyclocross back for another year, only it’s bigger, better, and promises even more participation and excitement. Even as road and track racing stagnate in the state and nationwide, ‘cross continues to grow. Why? Because it’s audience-friendly. Road and track focus on the athletes, and with the exception of blowout races like Tulsa Tough, it’s unheard of in SoCal to see a road race, circuit race, or crit that’s packed with spectators.
Cyclocross brings people in to watch. The courses are exciting and spectators can put their tents right next to the most thrilling parts of the course. The racers go slower and they come by much more often, and spectators are encouraged to cheer, heckle, and give questionable hand-ups. ‘Cross courses are “parky,” so kids can run around. After racing, the athletes are often found under the tents drinking beer, hanging out, and enjoying the rest of the day. What’s also interesting is that, as far as I know, there’s little or no prize money — and the racers could care less. They’re energized by screaming fans and a fun time, not the illusory professionalism that comes from getting a “paycheck” of $25 and a box of Clif bars.
More PCH tomfoolery
I did another couple of Sunday rides on PCH, taking the lane all the way out to Cross Creek and back. The criticism of this approach was initially massive by the local cycling community, or at least among the people with whom I ride. Then, thanks to a video captured by a biker on Sunday, I saw an entire crew of “gutter bunnies,” 50 riders strong, taking the lane. So that’s awesome. One disappointment has been the almost complete absence of “take the lane” advocates, folks who are quite vocal about taking the lane and who spout lots of facts and figures regarding the merits of this method, but who can’t be bothered to actually do it on PCH. Maybe you don’t believe in your method quite as much as you say?
My kingdom for a stem
On the way to the ride this morning I ran into Mike Barraclough, who was sidelined just past Malaga Cove with a flat tire, a short stem, and no stem extender. My wheels are box rim aluminum Open Pros and so they take any length stem, no matter how short, but when I went to the bike shop to get a new tube the only ones they had in stock were the 60mm. It turned out that this was just the right length, so we swapped his spare 52mm for my 60mm, and we got underway. Dave Kramer, also en route to the ride, had also stopped to help. Pressed for time, we took the most direct route from Redondo to Manhattan Beach, which is PCH, and we took it at full speed. Mike and Dave had breathing problems along the way, and we had to back it off a notch to stay together. Then, once we turned on Gould and dropped down to Valley, Dave and Mike blew a stop sign that had a police cruiser parked off to the side, waiting for speeders. This was our lucky morning, though — I put a foot down for the first time in recent memory, and the cop just watched us pedal away. When we got to the start of the ride, Mike and Dave looked like they were on the finishing leg of RAAM. Ron Peterson looked up and laughed. “You were supposed to exercise the horses, son, but instead you done broke ’em!”
Can’t say enough about these shoes
I’ve been riding Bont shoes for about six months now. My first shoes were Detto Pietro. My second shoes were Marresi. My third shoes were the Sidi Revolution, the first shoe with a velcro strap. My fourth shoes were Duegi white patent leather track shoes with wooden soles … I used them on the road and almost died in them atop a high mountain pass in Japan, but that’s another story. My next shoes were Sidi, and I wore their various iterations for twenty years until two years ago I bought the Specialized S-Works under pressure from a local dealer. My feet eventually adapted to them, but the dials constantly wore out and it was frustrating and expensive to replace them. It also felt like a bit of planned obsolescence, so that I could keep spending money on the shoe. It rubbed me the wrong way.
I was given the Bont shoes as part of my team’s sponsorship package. Basically, they give me a bunch of world-class gear so that I can go place 57th in the local crits and DNF the occasional road race. I was skeptical about the Bont shoes because you have to put them in the oven. They are also flexible like well-cured concrete. And the road shoe looks a little boxcar-ish. Once I had cooked them and used them for a week, my feet molded perfectly to the interior of the shoe. Everyone loves to talk about their “stiff frame” and “stiff BB” and “stiff soles” and “stiff” whatever, but it’s a word I’ll use with care for the rest of my life after wearing the Bont.
So, how stiff are the Bont shoes? They are “sailor on shore leave” stiff. They are stiffer than a fused spine. Stiff like glass. When you push down on the pedals, the shoes are so stiff that, if your bottom bracket is sufficiently robust, the earth will flex on its axis before you’ll flex the soles on these beasts. The ‘cross version of the Bont Vaypor is just as good, with several modifications for the rigors of cyclocross. If you’re unhappy with the flexiness of your current shoes, consider the Bont.