April 25, 2014 § 20 Comments
There are three things that make a course: the route, the weather, and the riders.
The 2014 SPY Belgian Waffle Ride offers up a route like no other. Much has been written about it, and each rider will discover the extraordinary difficulty of this 136-mile torture chamber at his leisure. The weather will likely be dry and cool with a moderate wind.
When it comes to riders, though, most of us will have only a fleeting glance of the strongest participants, as they will storm away in the first wave, never to be seen until the finish. If you are one of the people who is showing up to the BWR in order win a jersey, here’s a snapshot of a few of the people you’ll have to beat.
- Ryan Trebon. Pro cyclocross racer and sponsored SPY rider, former U.S. national champion.
- Neil Shirley. First place finisher in the Belgian Waffle Ride’s 2013 edition, and one of the best professional riders in America.
- Dan Cobley. Don’t let the Cat 3 fool you. He finished fourth last year behind Neil, Thurlow Rogers, and Karl Bordine.
- Brent Prenzlow. He’s an uncategorized “public” rider. He also made mincemeat of virtually the entire field in the inaugural 2012 BWR.
- Phil Tinstman. The best all-around masters racer in America. He time trials, sprints, climbs, and has exceptional off-road skills. Former sprint jersey winner in the 2012 edition. If Neil misses a pedal stroke, Phil’s my pick to win it all.
- Chris DeMarchi. This is Chris’s first BWR, and you can expect that he will ride it with a vengeance. Chris is also one of the best masters racers in America and is teammates with Phil. Look for a one-two combo from these two titans.
- John Abate. Lokalmotor from San Diego, John has the legs and the knowledge of the local roads to be there at the finish.
- Lars Finanger. Unhappily (for us) shipped off to Houston last year, Lars returns to his old stomping grounds where he can be expected to stomp people’s heads in if he’s on form.
- Michael Marckx. Will this be MMX’s year? He knows every inch of the course because he designed it. He’s riding with exceptional speed and strength. Could be awkward if the head honcho wins his own race!
- Ryan Dahl. Truly one of the beasts of North County and always a top finisher at the BWR, in 2013 Ryan earned the hardman jersey for toughest rider on the course.
- Brian Zink. The question mark here is fitness. If Brian is on form, he will storm the field, much as he did in 2012 when he won the hardman jersey, and last year when he finished sixth.
- David Jaeger. Winner of the inaugural BWR in 2012, DJ is currently on fire as evidenced by his podium finish in the state road race. If he carries it over to Sunday, he will be lethal.
- Logan Fiedler. If he hadn’t been felled by a broken elbow earlier this year, Logan would be higher on this list as he’s an excellent climber, skilled in the dirt, and has tremendous endurance.
- Robert Frank. Major Bob placed 16th last year with minimal training. This year he’s scorching, earning 2nd place last weekend at the state road race. Lean, fast, an excellent climber, and equally comfortable on dirt and asphalt, a podium is not out of the question.
Given the fact that over 500 riders have signed up for the 2014 SPY Belgian Waffle Ride, there will certainly be surprises as well as strong riders who I’m simply unfamiliar with and have omitted out of ignorance. This list, however, should include at least a handful of the top finishers. Game on!
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August 10, 2013 § 4 Comments
You can’t be a pro masters racer in SoCal without sponsors. You know, they’re the people who spend money on you for no obvious reason. The people who donate clothes, equipment, and services so that you can live the dream, and boy, is it ever a dream, if not a full-blown fantasy psychosis.
Our team, SPY-Giant-RIDE, bends over backwards to make us think we’re special and to treat us like we matter, even though I’ve shown at 35 races this year that I’m not and I don’t. It has made for a tremendous couple of years as we’ve benefited from the perfect formula for happiness, which is: Swag + Bikes + Racing + Fun + Friends = Happiness.
Here’s what some of the SPY-Giant-RIDE athletes have to say about the gear and services they use.
- Ryan Dahl: I can’t thank MMX and SPY-Giant-RIDE enough for all that they have done for the team. It really is a privilege to be a member. Every rider on the team is an exceptional athlete and person, and I’m proud to be able to call each and everyone of them my friend. On top of the great friendships, we have been fortunate enough to wear and ride the best equipment made. Of course, MMX has good taste and a focus on quality products, and we all reap the benefit of that. SPY: They really are the best eyewear company out there. The designs are fresh, the optics are crisp, and the SPY brand is one that I am so proud to represent. GIANT: You know you have a good bike when you polish it to a shine every night. I love this bike. BONT: I’ve always known Bonts were the best so when I found out they were going to be sponsoring us I was really stoked. They are raw performance; nothing else compares. ZIPP: I polish these every night, too. These wheels are so fast, and perfect in every way. But everyone knows that, too!
- Garnet Vertican: When I think back to last CX season, one of the products that stands out as having helped me land on the podium twelves times was my GIRO helmet. It performed flawlessly in every condition and situation, it weighs almost nothing, and stays in position no matter how rough the course is. The comfort and style of this helmet was top notch. Lots of riders focus on bikes and other components, which are really important, but the comfort and stability of your helmet is important as well. Giro fits perfectly, super, super product. SPY: Love my glasses, especially when the mud and dirt get flying!
- Steven Davis: GIANT: I have been fortunate enough to have ridden some of what the industry might consider the best bike frames on the market, but I’m certain that there is only one “best” of anything. That for me is the Giant TCR road frame. When racing and training, my enjoyment comes during the climbing phases. My excitement and appreciation comes from the way the Giant responds. Stiff, light, aero, and compact would be a few key descriptions of what it provides for me. The Giant is uber responsive to those fast accelerations or attacks on steep grades, then once unattached and free to fly, my Giant allows me the speed necessary to stay away via its aero-prowess. One of a kind technology! BRL Nutrition: I have been traveling on the road, racing since the first of June at multiple stage races across the U.S., and what BRL has provided me with is the ability to recover and maintain optimal health, and to keep my immune system strong so that I don’t succumb to illness. With travel, six-day stage races, different time zones, altitude, and everything else that comes with racing the circuit, stress can saturate your system. With BRL supplements and performance-oriented nutrition, I have been able to push my physical limits and maintain my health. BRL allows me to continue moving forward by taking care of a huge aspect of this sport–health via nutrition. SPY: The frames are light, compact, and so easy to wear. The lenses are crisp, sleek, and most certainly stylish. The company and its employees are irreverent badasses and technological innovators. I am lucky to be an ambassador for such a gnarly group of against-the-grain, unsatisfied with the status-quo, avant-garde trendsetters! BONT: “Performance machine” is how I would describe their shoes. The technology is in place for a cycling shoe that is created for one reason and one reason only: Optimum performance at the highest level of the sport. STAGE ONE APPAREL: Joe Yule, the designer for our team kits, has an eye for the fashionably sensible yet eye-catching in a crowded peloton filled with flashy colors. He’s just got a nose for what will look good, an ear for staying on top of the industry’s needs, a feel that makes the user comfortable, and a taste for what works.
- Damian Stevens: The support from SPY has been tremendous. They’re the key sponsor and everyone they’ve put together from their internal operations to fellow partners/sponsors has been insane. There is nothing but support. No egos, and no BS, except for Seth, but that’s because he’s mostly drunk. Straight-up, solid people who offer the best gear known to any cyclist out there. We’re eternally fortunate and beyond. I’ve never had this kind of experience on a team. To sum it up? Gratitude, and peace.
- Logan Fiedler: This has been an amazing year full of happy moments that have been shared with some of the nicest/strongest guys I know. The bar is set high when you’re representing the lightest, stiffest bike on the market, and if you don’t believe me, test ride one. I had my last “race” bike sold within two weeks of riding my Giant. Having the SPY logo on your jersey has been something to be proud of. No one puts on an event like the Belgian Waffle Ride, no one supports the sport of cycling more than SPY, no one cares more about their racers than SPY and NO other company has a CEO who will make you ride home with your tail between your legs after he rides you off his wheel. Notes from the year: Our SQUADRA kits are badass and better than those worn by most pro teams. Our BONT shoes make our legs an extension that connects to the pedal with the stiffness and lightness of our bikes. They are molded and they fit like a glove. SRAM is just badass and hasn’t mis-shifted or jumped a gear all year.
- Erick Sobey: GIANT: This bike just feels “tight.” When I mount up, the SLR becomes a part of me. ZIPP: My new ZIPP gear bag is my new life bag. BONT: A great way to surgically attach your legs to your pedals. I don’t even remember which sunglasses I used to wear, and now, I don’t even remember that I’m wearing sunglasses because SPY are the lightest, most secure, and most advanced lenses I’ve ever experienced. No sweat marks EVER!! Oh, and they will make you look great!
- Josh Goldman: GIANT: The TCR has been a simply amazing frame. Coming off a Specialized S-Works SL4 in 2012, I was skeptical after being very satisfied with that bike, but the TCR did not disappoint. It is extremely light, dives into corners with ease and confidence, climbs better than any bike I’ve ever ridden, and makes the rider feel very connected to the road by way of the integrated seat post. Thanks for a great season Giant! SPY: Are there any other glasses on the market, seriously? I cannot say enough about the amazing people, products, and community support from SPY. SPY is truly a world class organization committed to its customers and to being the best. After many years with a competitor, I was truly blown away, I was HAPPY with the perfect lens combinations and performance of the SPY Screw! Their lifestyle optics are second to none and everyone in my family loves them! BRL: I am very picky about my nutrition, its ingredients and quality. Endurafuel was there for me every hard ride, race, and final effort, efforts that were so hard almost everyone got shelled. I experienced a substantial advantage with Endurafuel in my bottle and am confident my performance could not have been what it was without it!
- Eric Anderson: SPY: The Cutters are by far the coolest and yes most functional performance glasses I have ever worn. I’ve never worn another pair of glass that have generated so much attention. “Wow, those are cool,” “Wow, those look like my grandpa’s glasses,” and “Those don’t look like other cycling glasses!” To which I respond, “Yes they are cool, yes your grandpa is cool, and these really are great performance glasses.” To be honest, my Screws and Quantas have been collecting lately, that’s how much I love the Cutters. BONT/GIANT: This combination is the sprinter’s delight. I can’t imagine a stiffer combination of frame and shoe. Without any actual data to verify this claim I’ll go out on a limb and say 99.9% of your effort gets transferred to the pavement when you clip into a Giant TCR Advanced SL with Bont Vaypors. One note about Bont sizing, if you use their online measurement method they come in exactly as they say!
- Oliver Stanley: Let’s crush some motherfuckers on Sunday! This is our course! I know we can do this, WM, even though you’re a flailing wanker! SPY: Sweet styles, multiple lens options, and perfectly clear vision with these things. My biggest problem with the SPY glasses is deciding which ones to wear! Favorite right now? Black Cutters with the Happy Lens. They make me happy, as advertised! GIANT: Where do I start? This TCR Advanced SL is an absolute weapon. Compact, light, aero, and responsive. This bike will make any wheel sucking tosser feel like a pro. I climb onto the TCR and I’m ready to smash the pedals like a hammer on a nailhead. It just feels right, every time. BONT: Yup, these are the shoes for me. Little bit of heat forming in the old kitchen oven and they fit like ass-kicking slippers. I came over to Bont from another high end shoe company, and there’s no going back for me. These Bonts are solid; they’re lightweight, super stiff, and mad stylish. I could wear my Bonts all the time. Maybe I’ll get another pair for lounging around the house and heading out to the bars. The chicks dig them. ZIPP: Speed weaponry, indeed. I’m rolling on a set of 404 tubular Zipp wheels and they just work! Great ride quality, super light, yet stiff and responsive. A set of Zipp wheels will give any bicycle that badass look. Don’t believe me? (I’m talking to you here, Wanky!) Pop some 303’s into your bike, stand back, and feel like a badass. Even YOU will go faster. Okay, maybe not you, WM. These tubular 404 Zipp wheels have given me the confidence to get out there and make the break, or jump across that gap and chase down the leaders. I’m not much of a sprunter, but with my 404’s I’m ready to go head-to-head with anyone. The product line doesn’t stop at wheels and tires. My carbon Zipp handlebars are the best I have ever ridden. Great ergonomics, light as a feather and zero flex. GIRO: I love my Giro helmet. Ventilation is second to none. Stylish, yet fully functional design. I really can’t tell that I’m even wearing a helmet most of the time because it’s so light and comfortable, but I’m glad it’s there to keep me safe and hold my SPY sunglasses in place! SQUADRA: All cycling kits are the same, UNTIL you’ve worn Squadra. Oh my, what a difference. The SPY-Giant-RIDE Pro Issue bib is perfect. The cut is supreme, holding everything in place without being too smothering. I’m not just talking about the business parts, either. The relatively low waist band allows free breathing and stays cool in warmer conditions. The pad/chamois offers a comfortable ride for hours and hours, and those long leg bands keep a firm but even pressure on the quads. The Pro Issue jersey is the best jersey in the business. Slightly longer sleeves keep my arms just that little bit more protected and stop the dreaded sleeve roll into the armpit. The material breathes and contours to the body. On race day I bust out the aerodynamic Squadra Speed Suit. It fits like nothing else except maybe a great condom, gives me that all important aero advantage and to be quite honest, it makes me feel like a bad bitch. I would wear it every day, but I don’t think I could quite pull that one off. I’m not Stathis. STAGE ONE: I don’t know how these guys do it, but oh wait, that’s because IT’S JUST ONE GUY AND HE’S A GENIUS. Every season, when you think you have the coolest looking gear, the new Stage One kits just blow the old stuff out of the water. It just doesn’t make sense. I was so stoked on my 2012 SPY kit, hand washing it instantly after each ride so I could wear it again. Until…BOOM! The 2013 kit arrives and I’m all 2013 clad. Poor old 2012, he never stood a chance. Thanks to every sponsor and every single person that has a hand in building and supporting our racing team. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by such a positive and friendly crew. To those I have met, and more importantly, the folks behind the scenes that I have not yet had a chance to meet, thank you so very much!
- Jim Miller: RIDE Cyclery: The best bike shop I’ve ever had the pleasure of patronizing. Service is done quickly, accurately and with a smile by Blaize, the best damn mechanic anywhere. Aside from being a cool kid, Dillon is super friendly and exceedingly knowledgeable about the products in the store, and he’s always willing to help you find something or explain the finer technical details. Of course it all starts at the top with Brent! He’s put his heart and soul into his business and it shows in everything this amazing crew does. GIANT: The best bike I have ever ridden. Period. The experience is made even better by getting to work with the Giant team, which has gone out of its way to get us their great bikes and help us promote the team in a way that leaves a big impact. GIRO: They have been amazingly generous in providing us with the best fitting helmet on the market. BRL Labs: Their products, EPO Boost and Endurafuel, work very well. Bob Gentile is a great ambassador for their brand and I’ve enjoyed working with him. SPY: Hey, we make the best eyewear anywhere, and we’re not owned by some big Italian conglomerate. Okay?
- Chris Nesbitt: As soon as I could start riding again, RIDE had my GIANT bike ready to go. My TCR had only suffered a few scuffs and scratches despite a wreck at speed north of 35 mph with multiple rollovers, a testament to this bike’s build quality. Furthermore, SPY had already arranged a replacement kit, helmet and shades, as all had been destroyed, so I could resume training immediately! While I missed the balance of the 2013 season recovering physically, I am excited to enter 2014 and begin to contribute. With this kind of support and equipment behind me, it’s humbling to say the least. I am proud to represent SPY-Giant-RIDE on the road!
- Harold Martinez a/k/a Critboss a/k/a King Harold: SPY: Best casual and sport eyewear I have ever worn. I’ve never looked cooler in a race or at a rave. Put these bad puppies on when me and the missus get down and it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame. BHL: EPO Boost is an amazing product. Not only does the powdered drink mix taste good but it keeps me riding stronger with less fatigue and a shorter recovery. RIDE Cyclery: What can I say? First Class Operation. Excellent support, great prices, top team of mechanics, and that’s coming from a wanker engineer. STAGE ONE APPAREL: Designer of the finest cycling kits in North America, okay, the galaxy. If your kit is not being designed by Stage One, stay home or hide in the pack because chances are it was designed by some junior high school punk with a pirated copy of Photoshop. StageOne is pro from top to bottom, and Joe Yule is the world’s foremost cycling kit designer, which is kind of like being the world’s most famous snake charmer. SQUADRA: Most comfortable chamois I have ever saddled up in, and after 30 years of racing, the twins have been rubbed and chafed by more chamois than I care to remember. I can ride for days in Squadra bibs. The twins love them, and when I peel them off, the missus is ready for a whole new ballgame. GIANT Bicycles: Hands down the best bicycle in the world, okay, the universe. It’s like cheating a little bit every pedal stroke. When I hop off this bad boy after a hard ride and the missus sees me all covered in sweat, well, it’s a whole new ballgame. SOCK GUY: Best cycling socks for my feet! Cool and comfy all day long. I even wear them off the bike, but not in bed. Usually. GIRO: Lightest and best looking helmet on the market. Fits my melon just right!
- Derek Oldfield: For 2013, I’ll be entering into my second year as a SPY-Giant-RIDE cyclocross rider. My 2012 and 2013 experience with SPY-Giant-RIDE has been nothing but frills and good times with strong athletes who push my limits and make me a better cyclist. I really appreciate having the opportunity to be part of this grassroots team and am excited to see the ‘cross season approaching! It feels great when you have the backing of companies that are really involved in competitive cycling. The equipment is the best! Awesome SPY eyewear, killer kits from STAGE ONE and a fast GIANT TCX bike that has made a world of difference at my races! RIDE Cyclery has been amazing as well! Thanks to Brent, Blaize, and Dillon, as they all contributed to helping me figure out the logistics to building the right bike for me! RIDE has great customer service and it’s been awesome working with them!
- Lars Finanger: The one piece of equipment I never leave the house without are my SPY shades. Whether it’s an early morning triathlon (yup, I’m a tri- geek) or a late afternoon crit, their lineup has an excellent variety of frames and lenses that keep my eyes protected and happy. My favorite model is the Daft, in large part because I ride my time-trial bike three days each week. It’s the lightest pair of sunglasses I’ve ever used and the biggest advantage is not having to get disoriented from staring at a frame like you end up doing with other manufacturers’ so-called offerings.
- David Anderson: Last year had so many highlights, but the thing that stood out the most was capturing the Bear. Our equipment makes a difference in performance. If you don’t have it, you don’t win.The EPO Boost by BHL had me floating around the state championship course for 45 minutes and it felt like a mere ten. Performance eyewear rarely works well for racing ‘cross, and I’ve tossed quite a few optics off my face just so I could see what was happening around me. Then came along the SPY Screw (under lens). No fogging, no sweat streaks, no glasses bouncing off my face, just pure clarity. If you don’t think seeing makes a difference between winning and losing on a ‘cross course, well … Wearing SPY was one less thing to worry about, plus they look so damn good. I praise my GIANT bike to anybody that will listen. I always lay out that I’ve ridden quite a few ‘cross bikes in my day and my Giant is by far the best bike I’ve ever ridden. The confidence that I have when lining up for a race took me to a number of podiums this year. The stability and tracking is what slows things down in a very fast and hectic environment. I was taught years ago that you need to go slower to go faster in this discipline. When you;re stomping the pedals after the hundredth hairpin the bike just jumps with every pedal turn. What a joy. Thank you sponsors for all that you’ve given!!!
- Andy Schmidt: I have an extremely flat foot that prevents me from wearing shoes with any type of arch support. In the past I have relied on shoes with zero arch and zero support for riding. Most of the time it felt like I was standing directly on an oversized pedal. My foot would basically slide around if I left the top straps too loose, or they would cramp and go numb from over-tightened straps. Every ride would end in sore tired feet. BONT Vaypors are amazing because of the Super Mold Technology. Stick the shoe in the oven for 20 minutes, then put your foot into the warm shoe and feel it mold. The instructions are simple, and I was a little skeptical of the promised outcome. I followed the instructions and spent extra time pushing the arch down, and didn’t pay attention to the molding that was going on around the rest of my foot. So, off I go on my first significant ride in the Bont Vaypors. What I immediately noticed was that my foot was a single unit with the pedal. I rode and didn’t feel my foot sliding around inside the shoe and I didn’t even have to crank the top straps. More importantly, it felt like my foot was a part of the bike rather than two separate units. In one single ride the Bont took me one hundred miles and 10,000 vertical feet. For the first time ever, I didn’t experience any cramps, soreness, or fatigue in my feet. The shoe has perfect power transfer. That is what makes the Bont so fabulous. SPY: Best eyewear ever. You gotta see if you want to ride well, and SPY lets you see and it protects your eyes. SPY put the other eyewear companies to shame. The quality is the best and the grassroots support for our support makes you appreciate the company even more.
- Wankmeister: Fuggit, I love all this shit. This team is so awesome, and the attitude of “strength through destruction” comes from the top down. My SPY eyewear never leaves my face. Ever. Think about that for a minute. My Giant bikes, I sleep with. Yeah, I got grease marks in funny places. My Squadra kit fits like a tailored tuxedo. StageOne makes me look like a gigolo on a bike. RIDE Cyclery makes sure my bikes and wheels are running perfectly. Lost Abbey keeps me drunk. But most of all, it’s the people. A better group of wankers I’ve never run across, nor hope to.
- Alan Flores: It goes without saying that SPY eyewear is the best I’ve ever worn. Not much to add except that their glasses are great on the bike or off. I was starstruck the first time I threw a leg over my GIANT Advanced TCR ISP. The balance of stiffness, from the 1 ¼ – inch steer tube and massive carbon stem was matched by the smooth transfer of power to the drivetrain, so that all my energy was used to push the bike forward. I raced my new GIANT that following weekend, winning easily. I am not a strong time trial rider, but by taking a long shot attack off the front of the race I was able to maintain a large gap on the field for much longer than I ever have before. That move drew out the best riders in the field to join me the breakaway. The conclusion of the race came down to a six-man sprint finish, in which my GIANT proved superior by taking me to victory. Simply put, the GIANT Advanced TCR is “superbly responsive.”
- David McNeal: Two years ago when I was new to California and to the race scene, and not knowing a sou,l I approached MMX during ‘cross season about racing on the Masters 35+ SPY team with the promise to put the best eyewear in the world on the podium in CX. With an open heart and an open mind, MMX threw me a kit and some SPY Alpha’s without any questions, and thanks to the team’s support I was able to get 3rd in the Master 35+ overall series, as well as win in the Masters 35+ SoCal CX series. I couldn’t have done it without the awesome support from SPY, GIANT, and RIDE Cyclery. Of course, getting to pedal in the SQUADRA kits designed by Joe Yule at STAGE ONE SPORTS made a difference as well. Light-as-air GIRO helmets, BHL supplements, and the best ‘cross footwear on the market made by BONT made me feel like I was a UCI pro racing in Europe. Most of all, though, I’m profoundly grateful to the SPY-GIANT-RIDE team that has helped me make Southern California my new home, and to my teammates who have made me part of their SGR family. And thanks as well to Seth for his write-ups and most of all for the post-race beer hand-ups. I couldn’t be prouder to be an ambassador for this team.
- John Hatchitt: It’s impossible to single one of our amazing sponsors as the best. They’ve all had a huge impact on my racing this year. My SPY performance eyewear has come through again and again, helping me see better, protecting my eyes, and helping me look good on the bike! The first time I used my ZIPP 303’s, I was rolling down the hill from my house and thought, “Wow! These are the real deal!” They are fast, light, and amazingly smooth. I got them with the intention of using them only for ‘cross, and rode them to numerous podiums as well as my biggest ‘cross victory to date, the top step in the “UCI Cross After Dark.” Once the road season started I pulled off the knobbies and glued on road tires. They have been my go-to race wheels all season, with never a creak or an out-of-true wheel to date. My GIANT TCX ‘cross bike was incredible, and of course I love my STAGE ONE kits. Most of all, I love the team. It’s been a blast, and the only thing that’s going to be better is 2014!
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.
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.