October 8, 2015 § 45 Comments
Cruising the ‘Bag yesterday I ran across a strong statement about the superiority of handmade Italian carbon frames. The writer was pimping Cipo’s new brand, which has the amazing benefit of being 100% fully made completely in Italia, and it is all Italian. The writer went on to say “You can feel a substantial difference between hand made Italian and the Asian made stuff.” For a minute I wasn’t sure the subject was still bicycles.
But he brought me ’round when he said “Specialized, Trek, Cannondale — wish they could say that #notchinese.” Then things came hot and heavy and illiterate with this gem:
“… to say Taiwan isn’t part of China is like saying Texas isn’t part of the US, both think there independent but in reality there not. The point is about Quality and workmanship. Nobody way back in 1998 said were sending our production to Taiwan/China because the workmanship is better, it was to increase profits with cheap labor. I have a few Asian bikes other then my felt’s and they ride fine, I might be wrong but made in Taiwan was not much of a selling point… BTW- I’ve shot over 15,000 x-rays on all manufactures and there is a distinct difference in workmanship with the big box Asian brands the smaller Euro brands. I’m pretty sure I’ve x-rayed more carbon then any man alive and can tell the subtle difference between the quality & run of the mill brands.”
So while the author trumpeted the awesomeness of Italian racing frames, a market they once owned and now have a tiny sliver of an itsy bitsy percent, I was left to try and understand what the fuck he was talking about. And then I got it! I’d heard it all before! Just substitute “Asian stuff” (because Asia is one place with one nationality), “China,” “Taiwan,” and “run of the mill brands” with the word “Japanese” and we’ll go right back to the early 1980’s–without even needing a flux capacitor.
Once upon a time …
The Japanese entered the U.S. market with transistor radios, courtesy of Akio Morita and SONY. In a short while they destroyed the U.S. market, first with products that were as good and cheaper than ours, and later with products that were much better, more innovative, and more expensive. Remember the Walkman? The PlayStation? Bet you’ve never owned a Sylvania TV.
The little Asian people who were only good at copying and ripping off the smart white man quickly proved his equal, then his superior, in the entire field of electronics.
Then Honda and Toyota got in on the act. They first had an uphill struggle even finding people willing to sell their cars, and the first Japanese vehicles I saw in Texas were labeled “rice rockets,” “rice burners,” or simply “ricers.” By the way, these are all considered pejorative, racist terms. As with transistor radios, Americans quickly chose cheap, reliable, efficient quality over the shitbombs that ‘Mercan ingenuity flung from the anus of mighty Detroit. Remember Lee Iacocca’s “The K cars are here!”
Hahahahahaha! NO, THEY AREN’T.
So the Japanese first knocked down our electronics and motorcycle and automotive markets with competitive pricing and competitive quality, then eviscerated it with vastly superior, innovative products that carried a luxury premium while Chrysler has been sold around to foreign automakers like a rusty old Colnago on e-Bay. Toyota is now the largest automaker in the world, and the first two Nobel prizes doled out in 2015, for medicine and physics, went to Japanese scientists. That makes a tally of 24 for the “copycat” race, by the way.
What happened is simple. White people couldn’t fathom that “Asians” were able to learn, imitate, improve, and innovate. So what if they invented gunpowder, the compass, and Hello Kitty? When the ugly reality of WE’RE NUMBER ONE became a mantle assumed by Japanese carmakers, (number two is now German, give or take a secret piece of exhaust software), the former masters of the universe drowned their beaten pride in “classic car shows” and automotive memorabilia that glorifies some of the worst, ugliest, and poorest performing vehicles ever made: The “muscle car.”
So it’s no surprise that we have people like the ‘Bag poster dissing on Asian bikes while he reps Cipo frames on the side, and that he thinks “China and Taiwan” are just like “Texas and America.” It’s no surprise because racism and prejudice run deep, and when your “inferiors” kick your ass, take your markets, and scoop up your Nobel prizes, the best that most people can do is namecall and rest on laurels that haven’t meant squat since the first major American bike manufacturers began producing in China and Taiwan.
Why Taiwanese carbon bikes are the best
Actually, they aren’t. That’s because there is no “best.” Bikes are made to do a variety of things, and no single manufacturer does all of those things better than every other manufacturer. The U.S. handmade bike industry is proof positive that small shops with skilled craftsmen can satisfy many thousands of customers. And steel is not only real, it is one of many materials, along with bamboo, that has proven its mettle in the real world of real biking.
But Taiwan is the indisputable center of carbon fiber bike manufacturing technology, and its base is built on the world’s best carbon fiber which, if you want to name names, is made by Toray Corp. … a Japanese company, not an Italian one.
People like the ‘Bag poster can point to crummy carbon bikes that come out of China and Taiwan, but so what? Crummy cars come out of Italy, crummy cars come out of Japan, crummy cell phones come out of China, and crummy everything comes out of the U.S.A. This only points to market segmentation, not to bad products at the top. As surely as some Chinese manufacturers make shitty bikes, others make world class ones.
Do you really think that Apple uses Foxconn because they make a bad product? And do you really think that top of the line Specialized, Felt, Giant, and Cannondale bikes are anything other than superlative? Because if you do, you’re going to have to come up with something more objective than “there is a distinct difference in the workmanship.” Please do share some of these 15,000 scans with us and compare apples to apples. And then show us how those “differences in workmanship” which you can only see with a flux capacitor x-ray MRI electron scanning microscope translate into performance, durability, comfort, or aesthetic differences.
And this is what gets the “Made in Italia” people’s goat: China and Taiwan (and before them Japan) entered “our” markets with products that had a high cost/quality compromise, and now dominate the market across all segments, from entry level to expert.
Nor is the story limited to bikes, cars, and electronics. Canon and Nikon are all there is in the world of cameras; everything else is a tiny little asterisk, and the Germans haven’t gotten over that, either.
Code word: Bigot
Using words like “Asian stuff” and conflating Taiwan and China is racist. Taiwanese speak a language that is unintelligible to speakers of standard Beijinghua; it’s called “Taiwanese.” Taiwan has a completely different political system, a radically different history, and a totally distinct economy from China. Just because the writer is too stupid, too lazy, and too prejudiced to know the difference between Taiwan and China doesn’t mean that Italian bikes are better. It just means that he is stupid, lazy, and prejudiced. Oh, and the Taiwanese use traditional kanji rather than the simplified ones introduced by the communists, so the writing is different, too.
In other words, not the same as “Texas and the USA.”
The market is screaming at you, glad you’re listening
Ultimately, the “Made in Italia” hard-on that Cipo’s bikes are using to try and get a tiny sliver of the U.S. racing market is a good thing. The customer, who’s apparently lots more discriminating than an x-ray, has told Italy that their bikes suck. People don’t want to pay a premium for something that’s inferior, or that is only marginally better for an astonishingly bigger cost, which is why the Italian bike making industry has dried up and mostly blown away. It’s why Campagnolo is now a niche product and it’s why Shimano and SRAM dominate.
But it’s disingenuous to take a technology that was perfected in “Asia” and whose products saturate the global bike frame market and claim that this is somehow Italian, even when the brand is Mario Cipollini, a guy who doesn’t make, has never made, and will never make a bike. Italy has given the world some great things, and forgetting bikes for a moment, has given us the most wonderful food known to man: Pasta.
Oh, sorry. That too was originally MADE IN CHINA.
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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!
February 3, 2013 § 8 Comments
Part I: The Venus fly-trap
I stood in the sunny parking area, having just arrived at Boulevard, and contemplated the only thing that a bike racer contemplates before registering and changing into his battle garb: Where are the port-o-potties?
Then I remembered that Boulevard had none. The smart money voided the chamber up at the Golden Acorn casino gang toilets; the dumb money drove down to the race site and used the quaint wooden latrines.
I peeked into the first one, which was easy to do because it had a large window with no glass in it, facing directly from the barbecue and parking area into the direct view of a toilet. On the down side, if you were scarfing a hot dog with chili and looked the wrong way, you’d catch a full frontal of someone grunting and straining away to make space for another round of wieners.
On the upside, if you were the one grunting and straining, you got to watch all your friends drink, eat, and be merry while you took a little sunbath and did your business.
I looked in and was greeted by G$, trousers around his ankles as he soaked in the scenery and the sunshine. “Yo!” he said. “Don’t be shy!”
I stuck my head further into the window and looked at the other two units. Using either would have required a hazmat suit, so I sauntered around the building and entered the other toilet. This one had no windows, was almost pitch black, and had a single unit stuck over in the corner. Spiders and roaches and a scorpion scurried off as I approached.
My eyes adjusted to the gloom, and indeed the unit was spotless. It’s amazing how clean a public pooper will remain, even in a barbecue venue frequented by tweekers and chili-dog aficionados, when it’s guarded by scorpions.
I brushed a couple off the rim and into what was sure to be a very unpleasant way to die, even for a scorpion, and settled in. I could hear footsteps outdoors and voices.
“That other place was out in the fucking open practically. I ain’t shitting there. Gotta have my privacy.”
The two speakers stepped into my domain and saw me over in the corner. “Oh, wow, dude, sorry.”
“No problem,” I said. “I’ll be done shortly. Just watch out for the scorpions.”
If it looks sunny and feels warm, put on an extra layer
After registration I got dressed. Thermal undershirt. Thermal arm warmers. Jersey. As I got ready to put on my thermal long-sleeve jersey, Quickie drove up. “Yo, dude!” he said. “I got 34th here last year!”
“That’s, uh, awesome.”
“You got 36th!”
“Yeah, you were behind me.”
“That makes sense, I guess, if you were 34th and I was 36th.”
“Yeah, you were 36th. I was almost 33rd.”
“Fucking pit bull chased me down on the final climb. I tried to sprint away but cramped.”
“Did you live? Or did he kill you?”
“I had to get off my bike and put the bike between me and him. I thought he was going to eat my fucking frame. That’s how come I got 34th.”
“Bummer. I mean, awesome.”
“You were behind me,” he reminded me again.
“Oh, yeah, well I was behind a lot of people.”
“Thirty-five of them, actually. You were 36th.”
This was getting repetitive, even for me. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“Hey, what’s with the long-sleeve jersey? It’s fucking 70 degrees out here.”
“Yes, it is.”
“You’ll broil in that thing. Stick a butter pat, some soy sauce and ketchup down your back after the first lap and the coyotes will be able to eat you barbecued. Don’t overdress, dude.”
“I won’t. But the wind is howling out on the course. And if you get dropped you won’t finish before five. And by then the shadows will be long. And the cold wind will cut to your core. And your sweat will freeze. And you will die if you’re lucky. The warm weather at the start lulls everyone into a false sense of security. Out on the course the helpless riders freeze and seize. It’s like a Venus fly-trap. Invites you in, then covers you in the toxic goo of your own sweat, spit, blood, and mucous, and kills you. That’s Boulevard.”
“You planning on getting dropped, then?”
“I always get dropped at Boulevard.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Me. too. But I was…”
“Thirty-fourth last year,” I finished.
“Yeah!” he brightened. “And you were 36th!”
Bike racing is a sport of tiny, incremental changes to maximize performance
Lauren and Ron Peterson have helped me immensely as I’ve become more focused on fine-tuning my bike fit. Last winter on a ride Ron said, “Hey, dumbass. Your saddle’s too low. Raise it.”
“Oh. How can you tell?”
“You knees are hitting your chin. Raise the danged saddle.”
“Start with two inches.”
So I did, and immediately noticed positive changes. The next time Ron dropped me on a ride, he said, “Another inch, wanker,” as he whizzed past.
Each time I went to the bike shop to get my saddle raised, the mechanic shook his head. “You can’t raise your saddle two inches at one time. That’s massive.”
“Oh. How much do most people raise it?”
“A giant lift is a centimeter. Usually it’s done in millimeters.”
“Make it three inches, then.”
Lauren had also helped me with my bike fit. “Yo, Wanky,” she said. “That bike posture where you’re all hunched like a dog going after a sofa cushion is robbing you of power. Not that you have any.”
“Fact. You need to find a balance between being squeezed over your bike like a pretzel and sitting up in the saddle like a windmill. Bump up your stem a fraction.”
So I threw away the whole stem and got one of those up-pointing dork stem things that raises your bars about a foot.
“You don’t do things by halves, do you?” she said as we walked over to the Boulevard Cafe to get a cup of coffee.
Victory and defeat are defined by the care one uses in choosing one’s equipment
A few days before the race I’d gotten tired of my road bike, and had taken it over to Luca Brazzi’s for him to part and sell on e-Bay. “Dude,” he said. “Glad to do it, but aren’t you racing Boulevard this weekend?”
“What are you gonna do for a bike?”
“I’ll ride my ‘cross bike.”
Luca looked at me for a minute, pausing politely for the punch line. None came. “Dude. You can’t race Boulevard on a ‘cross bike. You’ll get dropped on the first lap.”
“I always get dropped on the first lap.”
“Then you’ll get dropped in the parking lot.”
“So I’ll get home early.”
“What are you going to do for gearing?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know on the back side of the course where you spin out a 54 x 11?”
“What do you think is going to happen when you’re running a 50-tooth chain ring?”
“I, uh, hadn’t really thought about it.”
“Here’s what’s going to happen: Your fucking legs are going to come unhitched at the pelvis and you’re going to kill whoever’s next to you when they get speared by your bony fucking legs whistling through the air at 50 mph. Here. Take the bike back. We can part it and e-Bay it after the race.”
I had, however, made up my mind. “Nah,” I said. “My Giant ‘cross bike handles better than the Venge anyway. I’ll be fine.”
“You’re nuts,” he said.
Proper nutrition is the key to success
I was fanatical about proper eating prior to and during a race. That morning I’d had oatmeal, raisins, kimchi, eggs, sausage, yogurt, fruit, and coffee. The fartage alone would shell a dozen or so riders.
An hour before the race I carefully unwrapped my magic lunch. Quickie peeked in. “What the hell are you eating?”
“Before a race?”
“Yeah. But I’ve got coffee to wash it down with.”
He shook his head and went back to his car.
Humpster wandered over. He was doing Boulevard for the first time and wanted some advice from a seasoned wanker who’d been dropped every time on the first lap for four years in a row. “What are you doing for nutrition during the race?”
“I’m taking a small water bottle.”
“What are you putting in it?”
“Dude,” he said. “The race is almost seventy miles. You’ll die.”
I thought for a second. “You’re right. I’ll take two.”
He rolled his eyes. “What about food?”
“I don’t need food. I’m just taking a pocketful of these.” I showed him a handful of dates.
“Gross. What the fuck are those? Baby turds?”
“They’re medjool dates. Filled with, uh, energy stuff and things.”
Before I could warn him about the unbreakable granite pit in the center, he chomped hard. Shards of tooth went everywhere. “Dogfuckit!” he screamed. “My tooth!”
“I was gonna warn you,” I said. “About the pit. It’s really hard.”
He stanched the blood with his cycling glove and staggered back to his car. “Don’t worry!” I called after him. “It’s just one tooth! That’s why Dog gave you 32. Or was it 36?”
Quickie, who had only heard part of the conversation, shouted over, “You got 36th, dude! Thirty-sixth!”
Perfect preparation on the day before the race is the key
On Friday I’d ridden to work and then gone to the gym. Since I wasn’t riding hard, I figured it would be a great day to do some squats. I loaded up the bar with two massive five-pound plates on each end and went into a deep squat.
The giant muscled man with tattoos looked on in amazement. “Dude,” he said as I grunted and roared and strained and heaved and pushed and sweated and almost threw out my back as my legs straightened, “you’ve only got ten pounds on the bar.”
It took me a couple of minutes to catch my breath. “I know,” I said. “But today I’m going big, so get outta my way.”
As I finished off the set, a small group of hecklers gathered around the squat rack. “C’mon, Wankster! You can squat those ten pounds! Be the animal! Be the beast!”
“Let’s do it Wanky! Well, maybe you should replace the fives with 2.5’s. Just sayin’!”
After three sets my thighs were so wrecked that Tattoo Dude had to grab me by the armpits to lift me to a standing position. It briefly occurred to me that all this thigh work might not be such a great idea the day before a big race. “Fuggit,” I told myself, and moved over to the inclined leg press thingy.
Still delirious from the massive squattage, I accidentally put on the 45-lb. plates instead of the 25-lb. plates. When I released the switch control protector thingy, the entire contraption came crashing down like, well, a ton of steel plates, jamming my right knee hard into my rib cage. I felt a sharp pain and something under the skin went “pok-kee-t.”
I somehow got the weights back up to where I could engage the protector locking thingy, and tried to stand up. The sharp stabbing in my rib cage was so intense I could barely breathe. Tattoo Dude came over. “You fuck yourself up, Wankster?”
“Where does it hurt?”
I pointed to my rib. “Here…gasp…”
“Oh, you probably just bruised or broke a rib. Get back into the fucking leg press and finish your set. Just don’t hit your damned broken rib with your knee and you’ll be fine.”
He put me back into the leg press thingy and reduced the weight to an amount appropriate for a young elementary schoolgirl and watched as I completed the set. Between the pain in my rib and the pain in my throbbing thighs I could barely breathe.
Tattoo Dude then slapped on a couple of the giant plates, two per side. “Here you go. Now do some calf raises.”
When I finished he picked me up out of the thingy and carried me over to the leg extender. “You wanna go big? You wanna be big? You wanna flex and pop those veins? We’ll get you beefed up in no time.”
“But, Boulevard tomorrow…” I protested.
“Yeah, you can walk up and down the fuckin’ Boulevard tomorrow all day long, and all night, too. We’ll put legs on your skinny ass that will get you all the tricks you can handle.”
He plopped me down into the leg extender and loaded it up with a huge, unthinkable 60 pounds. “Hit it!” he yelled.
Out of fear I jerked my legs straight, each knee joint making creaks and pops and tearing noises that sounded like a wing separating from a fuselage in outer space, that hollow, empty rending sound of bone and muscle and gristle all twisting knotting and grinding. “More, you weakling!” he roared.
Three sets later I was in tears. He carried me out of the gym and set me gently on the curb. “Good job, weakling. You won’t be able to walk tomorrow, but that’s what it takes if you want to go big.”
“Walk tomorrow?” I thought. “I can’t even walk to the car.”
When it all comes together: Nutrition, equipment, adjustments, clothing, and pre-race preparation
Finally zipping up my jersey, I assembled my ‘cross bike. Now I was really wondering about the downhill. How windy would it be? What if I had the gears to hang on the climb, but got shelled on the damned downhill? How mortifying would that be?
I hopped on the bike to warm up, and my legs seized. The weights from the day before had completely destroyed what little musculature I had to begin with. Then I gasped from the sharp stab of the broken rib.
Had I done anything right?
I saw John Hall pedal by, and realized, “Yes, I have. I have the best-pinned on number in the whole damned race.”
John had failed his comprehensive exams in Basic Number Pinning On, and had left huge gaps in the tops of his numbers. Whether he thought he’d save weight on safety pins, or whether he was counting on the reverse sail effect of the billowing numbers to push him faster, or whether he was planning to psych out his competition with the constant whirr, buzz, flap, and chatter from the fluttering paper numbers, it worked, as he turned in one of the great rides of the day.
At the beginning, though, he sounded like a small helicopter. It gave me some measure of confidence. My numbers were perfectly placed so that I could access the dates in my rear pockets and so that the officials could easily read my number. Not that it’s hard to read a number when you’re the last guy crossing the line, alone…
Tune in tomorrow for Part II: The Vomilitious Road to Hell
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.