The Ugliest Eddy Merckx EVER

This bike lingered in my memories for almost 20 years, and I just found pictures of it again here. Canadian rider Steve Bauer rode this bike in the 1993 Ghent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix. The extremely laid-back seat tube angle and correspondingly long chain stays were meant to give an almost recumbent position for muscling the gears against the saddle’s backrest, with less weight being supported by the rider’s back and arms. Apparently Bauer finished 21st at Roubaix, but in the end he decided that the bike design was a net negative. I’d bet money that this bike wouldn’t pass a UCI inspection nowadays. I remember reading in a magazine at the time that Eddy Merckx was nonplussed, simply explaining that his company built the bike as requested by the Motorola team.

The following year Andre Tchmil won Paris-Roubaix with a Rock Shox fork bolted onto an otherwise standard Merckx frame.

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Above at Ghent-Wevelgem; below at Paris-Roubaix with a Rock Shox fork.

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GT Tachyon, Bianchi Project 7, and the Tire Standard That Wasn’t

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At the end of the 1980s, GT introduced the Tachyon, the flagship of their “Crossover” line of bikes. Their idea was a bike that would give you the best of both road bikes and MTB, and the key would be frames built for a unique tire/rim standard called “700D”. This dropbar bike was designed to take a 2.0” knobby tire on a rim that physically measured 587mm at the bead seat (as opposed to 622mm for 700C or 559mm for 26”) for offroad riding, but it could also take a 1.4” slick tire. With the slick tire, the outer diameter of the Tachyon’s wheel would be about the same as a 700C with a 19mm tire, but of course the Tachyon’s wheel would have a lot more cushion. This concept of having a voluminous tire with the same outer diameter as a racing 700C might sound vaguely familiar, because it is the exact same argument that 650B proponents have used for a half century or more. In fact, 650B’s bead seat diameter is just 3mm smaller than GT’s 700D. Ultimately the Tachyon did not find its niche in the market, and the 700D “standard” has been dead for decades now, but it remains a mystery why GT went out of their way (and the phrase has never been more appropriate) to reinvent that wheel.

In hindsight, the GT Tachyon was really a fascinating bike in its details. The later version had a stem that combined the features of a traditional quill stem and threadless stem, which back then had yet to become established on the market. Similar to some contemporary Tom Ritchey designs, the quill expanded at both ends to secure the steerer and the extension simultaneously. The handlebar clamp used a 2-bolt faceplate, so the angled extension could be flip-flopped to give a low road position for the handlebar or upright for offroad. And the fork had horizontal dropouts to allow the rake/trail to be fine-tuned for offroad riding with big knobby tires. If the Tachyon was a bit gimmicky, GT’s background in BMX probably encouraged unconventional designs, but the bike was not a success. Certainly the weirdo tire standard would have scared off some retailers and potential buyers, but maybe the concept wasn’t quite right for the time. The idea was to bridge the gap between the then-somewhat unfashionable road bike and the increasingly complex MTB, but the market and buying public eventually moved to flatbar bikes with slightly wide 700C tires, dubbed “hybrid” bicycles. MTBs were still in the middle of a boom, and cyclocross bikes were someplace way outside the mainstream.

There were other market experiments at the time. Bianchi had the “Project” series of 700C bikes designed for more technical riding than the decidedly street oriented hybrids, but the tires available at the time were perhaps too skinny to allow those bikes to shine offroad. With wider rubber, those Bianchis could have been the first “29ers” and maybe the whole history of mountain bikes would have been changed. As it was, Bianchi lacked either the foresight or commitment to get a tire manufacturer to make big fat knobby 700C tires, and it would be almost a decade before WTB made a proper 29er tire. Even though a 29er tire is an old standard in the sense that it has a 622mm bead seat diameter like the majority of road bikes, the +2.0” width necessary for performance offroad was essentially the same thing as a new standard. What would it be like today if Bianchi had broken into the market with a true 29er frame and tire before 26” MTB design had become thoroughly entrenched with 26”-specific suspension and wheel systems by the late 90s? The 1993 Project 7 in fact did have a 700C version of the Rock Shox Mag21 suspension fork, so with almost all the pieces seemingly available it’s curious that the 29er trend didn’t start earlier.

Now consider GT’s wager on creating a new category with frame designs specific to a totally unique tire/rim standard. They could have at least saved themselves some trouble by just choosing 650B, considering that the GT’s 700D rims are barely any different. It would be a lot less solid argument, but one might hypothesize that 650B knobby could have ended up being the alternate offroad tire standard instead of 29er. That 650B x 2.0” tire size is large enough to share some of the 29er’s advantages without requiring gross changes to 26”-based frame geometry and componentry, and a big 650B would have almost exactly the same outer diameter as a hybrid’s 700C x 35mm, perhaps allowing 650B to compete in that market segment too. It’s an interesting idea, but it’s doubtful that 650B could have saved the GT Tachyon, much less revolutionized the MTB market of 1992. Those geometry issues for 29er would have been less of an obstacle in the early 1990s as suspension forks were barely in the 50mm range for XC and full-suspension was strictly for downhill bikes. It’s now that even XC bikes have over 100-120mm of rear suspension travel that 650B has some attractive benefits over the larger 29er wheel.

image bianchi

My next project bike will likely involve big 650B tires. Or to be more precise, it will use 650B x 2.25” and 700C x 32mm with disc brakes. If a tire defines a bicycle’s abilities more than any other component, then I’ll be able to completely change the character of the bike within 30 sec, by swapping out the wheels.

UPDATE (2012.11.28): Ultimately, I had to set this idea aside, but I had the idea of using a PressFit BB30 eccentric BB allow me to adjust the BB height. At this stage, I am more likely to pursue a 29er MTB so I can do some honest-to-go offroad racing.

Castelli Kit: Aero Rain Lite LS Jersey

Guess Gore-Tex got the memo about their gear being too hot for cyclists in the PNW, cause I just test rode a new Castelli jersey that worked like a breathable membrane should. It breathed. Also passed the tortilla test – put a stale corn tortilla in the back pocket. After a ride, if it’s steamed and ready to eat, you know that moisture is moving away from your body.

I’m real picky about gear and this kit is very nice. It’s also what you wear at your best racing/riding weight because of the aspirational fit. You know how women wiggle into their skinniest jeans? Castelli has always run small and tight. I sucked it in to pull up the bibs and held it in to zip the jacket up. I’m at my going into road racing season weight.

Castelli shipped me the Aero Rain Lite LS Jersey just in time for a cold, wet storm in Seattle – with temperatures in the 40s, I wore the 4-way stretch, soft-shell Wind Stopper jersey with a thin base layer and was comfortable. The jersey was notable for not feeling cold and clammy like eVent. Castelli describes it like this

The Gabba WS Rain Jersey was such a spectacular success in the pro peloton that we couldn’t resist making a longsleeve version for those nasty training days. Waterproof fabric with remarkable stretch and breathability, but with an almost weightless feel when on the body. Cut long in back to keep wheel splash at bay, and with generous zippered vents along the side.

and wrote about the short sleeve version last year on their blog

We have been able to make race-wear that’s fully protective, very stretchy, and yet so breathable that you can keep the entire thing closed up without overheating.

I saw this stretchy-Gore material last year at Press Camp when I met with Gore-Tex. The material is uniquely suited for PNW cycling and I was impressed on the ride.

On the bike photo

The Free Aero Race Bib/Shorts Castelli sent with the jersey, ranks as one of the “best” shorts I’ve worn. It features an all-day in the saddle pad, stretchy comfort, and a wide-band leg gripper. The amount of tech and thoughtfulness in the jersey and shorts indicate to me, Castelli is a company that’s really into the sport. They just had a win with Vanmarcke and Garmin at Omloop.

Find Castelli at a retailer near you or online. Check their sizing first and I suggest choose a size up. The jersey retails for $149.00 and the shorts $229.99. If you’re into high-performance and the best kit you can buy, this Castelli is worth it.

Update

Excluding sleet, rode in all known precipitation forms today with a jacket over the jersey. Worked like a finely tuned microclimate.

D-Plus Welded

Damn Holmes! That’s a big head tube

The #makebikes D-Plus is welded and in the machine shop for prep before the paint shop. Took a few quick iPhone photos and put it on the triple beams: 1499 grams. That’s expected an respectable weight. All the pluses on the frame add weight and with a light build kit, the complete bike should weigh in at just over 16 lbs. the carbon Parlee I raced last season weighed just over 15.

Beefy

To recap, the D-Plus is a custom Ti CX bike built by Davidson at EBB and features BB30, 44m inset 7 headset, butted tubing and track dropouts with a derailer hanger. It switches from single to geared and is stiff as fsck. It’s another version of the Modal concept developed by Mark V.

Fixed, Single, or Geared

Tigr Lock: a Kickstarter Project is Shipping

If I recall correctly, the Tigr was the first Kickstarter, bike-related project we mentioned. After getting funded, they’re in production and I met one of their reps yesterday. He showed me how the titanium bow lock works and attached it to a bike on a rack in downtown Seattle.

As shown, both wheels and the frame are locked with a unbreakable, very hard-to-cut material. The bow is covered with a PVC sleeve to protect your paint. The locks ships in two sizes and costs $165.00 or $200.00. They’re also handmade. I’ve got one of these arriving to test more and shoot with the DSLR. It does match most of my bikes… also good to see a product shipping from Kickstarter.

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