I went to France 3 weeks ago for vacation. Well, that and a bike ride. Every four years the Audax Club Parisien runs Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1200K ride from Paris, to Brest, and back. The ride has a long history, having been run the first time in 1891. There is also a history of long, organized bike rides in general, this type of riding is labeled Randoneering. To make it interesting (and depending on your personal level of machismo) there are time limits. Riders get a choice of 80, 84, or 90 hours. My personal level of machismo and the desire to squeeze as much into my once-a-decade European vacation led me to choose 80 hours. Since there are about 5000 riders, there are different start groups, and 80 hours went off first. An earlier start would mean an earlier finish and I would be able to meet up sooner with my wife and continue vacation. This decision would come back to bite me in the ass.
Coming from overseas with a bike and gear to do a 1200k ride is challenge enough, but to do PBP you have to qualify. Audax Parisiene requires that every participant complete a Brevet series: a 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k ride, each with time limits.
I thought that the brevets were very regimented, for what were essentially a few long rides with 30 or 40 participants. There are official start times, map sheets, cue sheets (at 32.6 miles, go left on Soft tire street. 41.9 miles go right on Old Fart road. continue straight at Boy Does my Ass Hurt Trail for 9.3 miles to 51.4 miles). Each ride has a series of checkpoints where riders have to get their “control” cards initialed with the time. There are not only time limits for each ride, but the controls are spaced roughly evenly and to make the Brevet count you have to get to each control point within a specified time window. The timing is such that you only have to average 9.2 mph (roughly) and can’t average more than about 20mph, which would be extremely hard to maintain with stops.
The series is required to prepare you for the rigors of a 1200k ride, the rule used to to be that you had to do two series in consecutive years to qualify for PBP. Because I have ridden at least 2000 miles a year for the past 30 years, and raced for about 10 years, I thought I was completely ready for PBP without these silly mandatory (and time consuming) rides. Physically I was, but I still had some things to learn:
First, Brooks saddles really are the most comfortable thing you can ride. I have heard this for ever, but never believed it. My first brevet was a 400k (250mile) ride - about 50 miles longer than I had ever gone at one stretch before. My legs were fine, but the roads were rough, and after about 140 miles it was painfully obvious that my trusty Flite saddle was just not the right thing. The monday after I got back I immediately ordered a venerable B-17 (honey brown). It truly is the most comfortable saddle I have ridden, and it is because it never bottoms out onto the shell like modern saddles do. From the very first ride it was no worse than my Flite, and by the third ride it was more comfortable.
Next, nutrition. Even before I started this adventure I had done some solo double centuries. My foods of choice were grape Koolaid, braunschwieger sandwiches, and oatmeal cookie bars. I have never like “engineered” excercise food bars and drinks, I prefer good old fashioned sugar, salt, fat, and artificial grape flavoring. Lots of people thing I am nuts when I expound on my on-bike re-fueling theories, but it had always worked for me. On a long ride I want food that is calorie dense, so I don’t have to constantly eat, or carry pounds of food. It is also a good idea to take in some salt to replace what is sweated out. Koolaid and cookies just taste good and all that sugar gives a pretty quick boost when you are tired, plus the oatmeal has a little staying power.
All this was good on shorter rides in moderate temperatures, but my 600k brevet was long and hot. Suddenly braunschwieger wasn’t sitting in my stomach too well, cookies got old after a while, and I had already lost my grape koolaid on a big pothole during an earlier thunderstorm. I got so tired that I literally laid down on the side of the road and took a nap. There were buzzards circling when I woke up, but I don’t think they were serious about me. Anyways, I did the second half of the ride pretty much on Gatorade. There is a place for plastic foods.
Third, ointment. It really does ease discomfort. I advise liberal use.
As you might guess, these brevets had a wide range of bikes. I saw everything from 25(?) year old Gitanes to all carbon Treks, all ti Serottas, and a surprising number of guys in full randonneur kit. It looked like several of them were riding and wearing the complete Rivendell catalog. The Rivendells and custom randonneur bikes were by far the best looking bikes at every ride.
By June 21 I had completed the mandatory rides, got my signed doctors note OKing me to do 750 miles in 3 days, arranged all the paperwork, and sent the whole thing off to Paris. I was ready to go.
I got a glimpse of the 2008 Easton product line-up, and the wheels are sexy. Every single wheel seems to be new except for maybe the rim. I figure that they must have been throwing some big bucks into development this past year or two.
First of all, I’d like to comment that their product catalogs, since the wheels have their own catalog separate from the other components, do a decent job of explaining a product line jam-packed with new items. As a retailer, I freakin’ loathe product literature that is confusing or inadequate to consumers. I’ll just touch on some of the wheels, but maybe I’ll mention the components once I get to hold them in my hand at Interbike.
In designating their product, Easton employs an alphanumerical system that gives material, relative level in the line, and either a weight or purpose designator. For instance, any product that has an EA at the beginning has no carbon component to it. EC means that at least some carbon fibre is used. An EA90 is top of the line for non-carbon products, with EA70, EA50, and EA30 in descending order of cost and presumably performance. Finally, an EA90 SLX is lighter than an EA90 SL, while an EC90 Carbon Aero is an all-around wheel while the EC90 Time Trial is meant for you guessed it time trials. This system holds true for all Easton products, not just the wheels. Got that? Great, back to wheels specifically.
The biggest differences in the wheels are the new hub designs across the line. Gone are the old Velomax twin-thread hubs where the spoke threads into the hub and also into a nipple at the rim. Instead all the hubs rely on straight pull spokes that insert at the hub and run to a nipple at the rim. The hubs look especially clean and are well depicted in computer drawn exploded schematics towards the back of the catalog. I don’t know how these hubs will hold up in actual use, but Easton does seem particularly proud of their design. They market a time trial specific front wheel with a narrow spoke bracing and air-foil shaped axle ends to reduce drag. For my tastes, the coolest hubs are the TKO track hubs which apply the 21st century aesthetic to the traditional high-flange track hub. They somewhat resemble Cane Creek’s hub except that they have the nipples internal at the rim instead of the hub. And the TKO rear hub uses the splined track cog and Hyper-glide type lockring system that I first reported from last year’s Interbike. For track riders, this means lightning fast cog changes with just one tool.
Easton seems to be using in-house built 56mm deep carbon rims for their EC90 track, time trial, and all-around wheels and introduces a new low-profile carbon rim for their EC90 SLX climbing wheels. The climbing wheels have external nipples, while all the deep wheels have internal. And all of the all-carbon wheels are tubular, though there is an EC70-something wheel that uses a structural carbon section co-molded to an aluminium rim. That wheel seems like the wheel I’ll most likely be pitching to customers since it combines an aerodynamic 38mm depth with the convenience of clinchers and the reliability of an aluminum brake surface. However, I’ll personally be gunning for the Aero Carbon and the TKO wheels, and hopefully I’ll be able to evaluate them for Bikehugger in the future.
The wheels seem to top out around $1600 or so, which seems pretty competitive in this day and age.
When I spotted this Sears Bike, it wasn’t exactly the one, but close to what I rode as a kid. My parents ordered it for me from the catalog, it had 3 speeds, was brown, and I rode it everywhere during my Evel Knievel phase.
“Too drunk to shift” was recently heard as an excuse for not winning a sprint, which was hilarious at the time, and rather accurate. That excuse is right up there with “my clothes were still wet” for missing a team ride, “being boxed in” for getting pipped in the sprint, and “air pressure was low” for not taking a big, fast pull or the classic
“Eamon adjusted my brakes into my tire”
I admit one time to having my girlfriend at the time (later my wife) call the team leader to say I wasn’t going to be there (that resulted in weeks of ridicule) … what’s your best ride excuse? Either that you’ve heard or used.
Since every other blog in the universe has posted on it, I thought I should as well. Maybe I’ll take a different tack than others.
Anything pertaining to cycling lifestyle is of interest around here and we, like other cyclists, took umbrage last week as this video circulated. McHenry’s speech is ugly and insulting, but it’s also incredibly lame and that’s what offended me most deeply. When a motorist runs down a cyclist because “bikes are stupid,” he may be using violence in place of argument, but at least there’s violence. McHenry’s got nothing. Bear with me while I expound.
First, let us take note of Rep. McHenry’s intellectual method of critiquing the Democrats’ provision in the energy bill.
There may well be lots of things wrong with the Democrats’ energy bill or their specific proposal to offer tax incentives to bicycle commuters, but rather than point any of them out, use logic, or offer an argument, McHenry substitutes a sarcastic tone.
It’s Argumentum ad Muntziam. He’s not actually criticizing the Dems, he’s just pointing and sneering.
Note also, that he has his facts grossly wrong. The Democrats aren’t offering a 19th Century solution to a 21st Century problem–they’re offering a 19th Century solution to an 18th Century problem. The phenomenon of Supply and Demand was well know by the time Adam Smith published Wealth of Nations, as was international trade. McHenry seems to believe that he has uncovered a new and unprecedented problem: a resource sought by the American public located somewhere other than here. God help us, how will we untangle such a Gordian Knot?
Of course McHenry and the Republicans are at a loss in the face of this problem. Over the last 60 years the party has assiduously worked to lobotomize and emasculate itself, laying down tools like trade and all-out war that could solve such a dilemma.
Barry Goldwater was the last gasp of intellectual solvency and self esteem in the party, which were finally abandoned as part of his throwing in the towel. After his failures in 1964, the religious conservative wing of the party heaved a sigh of relief, knowing they would never again have to offer evidence or argument to support their positions. Not long after, the party castrated itself rather than suffer any longer the label “Hawk”–a vicious aspersion which they have since spent the last 50 year attempting to disprove through one incompetent military action after another.
Patrick McHenry of course is the ultimate payoff for the Republicans’ hard work: empty political bluster, lamely delivered, proudly proclaiming a total absence of ideas without even mindless, reactionary war mongering as a redeeming virtue.
Plus, bikes are cool and he’s short and his hair looks funny.
A Ti commuter by Von Nicholas – a brown fork that matches the decals and the bracket to mount the tail light to the rack also attaches the fender so there is no need for the stays to hold the fender in place.
When I picked up my son from soccer practice recently he asked me, “why do you always pick me up on the Bettie?” And I replied, “because it’s not a car and it’s fun.” He nodded and smiled.
This week when the children go back to school they’ll also ask me to not bling the bell when I drop them of at or embarrass them in any other way … “embarrassed, I asked? What other kids get dropped off by bike?” They’re all in SUVs, how boring!