Day 8: The Forbidden City

by CycleChick on March 1, 2014

Todd MortonIf you ask most cyclists where the birthplace of cycling is, the majority will say “Italy”. Those that don’t are likely either French or Belgian, and are most probably drunk. When I think about cycling in the classic sense, the pure essence of the sport and its history, I think of Fausto Coppi, Marco Pantani, Gino Bartali, Felice Gimondi, and a score of other racers who’s names fly off the tongue like an exotic Italian buffet. I think of the Giro and of rich espressos drunk from tiny ceramic cups held by gloved and blackened fingers. And I think of Campagnolo. No other company embodies the passion and history of Italian cycling like Campagnolo, and today I am going inside the great factory – something precious few people have had the privilege to experience. I feel profoundly unworthy.

This morning is the first in eight that I haven’t woken up and dressed myself in semi-damp and rank-smelling lycra. It feels nice, but strange, and I still feel like shit. Under normal circumstances, the past week would have been appallingly difficult. But this week has been anything but normal. It has been glorious.

After a short ride in the Super Ban, we are met at the front entrance of the Campagnolo factory by our host, Joshua Riddle. His name is appropriate, given the fact that he is something of an anomaly. On first glance you would take him for a local – he speaks beautiful Italian and is completely at home here. But when he speaks English, it is almost impossible to identify his accent. A mix of soft European sounds mixed with a slight Southern drawl, and a twinge of … what is it? Australian? It turns out he is from North Carolina, but his mannerisms, his personality, his hospitality, even his fiancé, make him 100% Italian. Even Sergi, when I ask about Joshua, shrugs his shoulders and tells me “he is more Italian than most Italians”.

Nevertheless, I am notably disappointed when he does not greet us at the factory entrance with a top hat on his head and accompanied by an army of Oompa Loompas.Joshua RiddleThe inside of the factory is impossibly clean. But considering where I am I should not be surprised.

Campagnolo FactoryAlmost every single thing Campagnolo makes is made by a machine that Campagnolo made to make it. Every chainring, gear, sprocket and do-dad is inspected by hand and made to adhere to impossible tolerances. Then it is tested, in the factory and on the road by a multitude of engineers, scientists and professional bike racers._AAA1988_s_AAA1992_S_AAA2034_sWe are, quite literally, kids in a candy store._AAA2008_sI am particularly pleased when Joshua tells us about the rigorous testing Campagnolo chains are subjected to. They are built to stand up to the repeated application of incredible force, and three days ago I broke one.  I see the sideways glances of Jordi and my fellow riders and smile. I wish my boyfriend Valentino was here.

We also get a rare peek at “Mr. Ghibli” – the one man who is responsible for making every single Ghibli disc wheel that comes out of the factory. Made only to order, he does not make one wheel that will sit on a shelf. He works behind plexi glass and Joshua tells us they take very good care of this man’s health. If Mr. Ghibli gets sick, the production of Ghibli wheels grinds to a halt._AAA2038_sYou don’t have to be around other cyclists for very long to see the respect and reverence  people hold for Campagnolo. But walking through this factory, I am starting to understand why.

In spite of a new, more open policy at the factory, Campagnolo still has its secrets – vast parts of the plant where new technologies are built and tested that must remain hidden from our curious eyes and cameras. As Joshua leads us through the factory, he often skips ahead to make sure there is nothing lying about that we are not supposed to see. In addition to bicycle parts, Campagnolo makes parts and wheels for Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini, to name a few, and even made satellite parts for NASA back in the late 1960′s, when they knew more about working with metal than the egg-head science guys did.

If I make it sound serious and impressive, it is. But there are small glimpses of the fact that this is a place full of friendly and exuberant Italian craftsmen and women. They are clearly proud of their work – you can see it as we walk by – the shy smiles as they go about their task trying to pretend they are not being stared at and photographed by a crowd of curious onlookers. In one of the areas there is a dirty joke hanging on the wall. We are, after all, in a factory, where a complete absence of off-colour propaganda would be highly suspect. It’s written in Italian, but the combination of the picture and the use of the word “Sushi” is enough that I get the joke.

When the tour is finished, the next item on the day’s agenda is a short 55 km ride to the Astoria Winery in Arcugnano. We will be accompanied by Joshua, who will lead the group along with some very special guests, including Davide Malacarne from Team Europcar. I try to be cool. I’m not.Davide Malacarne_AAA2061_sIMG_6108 We get all kitted up at the factory. I have applied a special tattoo that Joshua gave me. If there was any company logo in the world I would even half consider tattooing on my body forever, I think this would probably be the one.

The ride is fairly relaxed, flat, and not necessarily the prettiest we’ve done. But riding with Joshua and the handful of very experienced riders he has brought along is amazing. I watch the pros and marvel at their smoothness, the casual confidence they have on the bike – no doubt the result of spending most of their waking hours in the saddle, likely since they were old enough to walk. It is a beautiful thing to see._AAA2076_SAnd then there is the obligatory stop at a castle for an espresso. Just another day in Italy._AAA2105_s_AAA2106_sWe continue to ride. The 55km route has now turned into 110, but I don’t mind. Joshua is a little stressed about being late for lunch, but this is Italy, and we are not German, so it’s all good. For the second half of the ride we kick things up and let the group break apart into natural pace groups. I am in heaven as we tear down the road in a fast and smooth single pace line.

We finally arrive at our destination, Astoria Vineyard – the makers of the official podium wine for the Giro d’Italia. As we turn into the driveway, the road slants up to a bit of a climb. By now, this is normal and I don’t feel the panic I used to when faced with going uphill. I stand and push the pedals, rocking back and forth to get the bike and myself up the hill. I pass the small gaggle of pros we’ve been riding with, and wonder why they are going so slow.

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Then the road turns a corner and I am at the bottom of what must be a 30% grade climb that goes up for about 500 meters to the top, where a crowd of people are waiting for us. With wine. And cameras. I panic – this climb is ridiculously steep, and on gravel, and represents the last pedal strokes of this incredible week of riding in the Italian mountains. The pros pass me easily, chatting. I can barely move the pedals, but I cannot walk up this stupid hill. Somehow, I make it to the top, and am greeted by the applause of a ridiculously stylish group of Italians holding cameras and champagne glasses. I am a mess. Many pictures are taken._AAA2186_SThen we are treated to such an incredible showing of Italian hospitality, I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. In the front room of the winery, we are served a magnificent spread of antipasto, accompanied by a special edition Campagnolo prosecco made here at Astoria for their 80th anniversary.

_AAA2200_sIMG_6146_AAA2197_sWhen we are led into the lunch room I am already full and a little drunk – but unfortunately not quite drunk enough to not care about how awful I must look and smell. I sit down next to Benjamin Fitzmaurice, editor of Conquista magazine. Benjamin and his lovely family (his wife and two incredibly well-behaved little boys) were with us at the factory tour and have met us here for lunch.

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They are Australian, living in Switzerland, and we get along famously – something we attribute to the strange but undeniable affinity between Australians and Canadians. We talk easily about cycling, wine, family and Italy, and I quickly forget about my less than stellar appearance and odour.  _AAA2249_SBetween each course, glasses are rung with forks to get our attention. Dignified and imposing, the owner of Astoria rises from his chair at the head table and addresses the crowd in Italian, offering praise, respect and gifts to the Campagnolo family.

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These presentations are countered with a presentation by Joshua to Astoria on behalf of the Campagnolo family.

“Joshua parla!” Mr. Astoria announces, causing the entire room to fall silent. He presides over the room in a way that makes Don Corleone look like a waiter at Pizza Hut.

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Lunch is served in a progression of courses, each more fantastic than one before, and each accompanied by a perfectly paired Astoria wine. I don’t really believe in heaven, but if it does exist, I sure hope it looks like this.

The final presentation is extra special – each one of us from the tour is given a bottle of the 80th anniversary Campagnolo prosecco, complete with an 11 tooth cog._AAA2295_S_AAA2300_s10Life does not get better than this, my friends.

We wrap up the day with a tour of the winery, a veritable museum of cycling royalty, with some beauty queens for added colour.IMG_6182IMG_6184IMG_6186With that, what will probably stand up as one of the most incredible days and weeks of my life comes to an end. Looking back, it still seems like an incredible dream.

I cannot say enough about our guides – Sergi, Jordi, Pablo and Daniel. They were incredible hosts and I’m happy now to call them friends._AAA2169_s_AAA2192_SPabloDanielMy fellow riders were equally amazing, and this shared experience will always make us family. Augustus Farmer, the wonderfully snarky photographer from Peloton, is going to be stuck with me whether he likes it or not, and I have every confidence our paths will cross again. Joshua Riddle from Campagnolo made the mistake of encouraging me to contact him if I need anything – a privilege I will try my very best not to abuse. Much.

My heartfelt thanks goes to Thomson Bike Tours, for creating this incredible tour, and bringing me along for the ride of a lifetime. If you love cycling and want to experience the best riding the world has to offer in style and comfort, I cannot recommend them enough.

Ciao! Viva Italia!

Actif Epica 2014

by CycleChick on February 23, 2014

Actif-Epica-race-day-KTPHOTO-February-15-2014-060I was not feeling confident going into Actif Epica this year. I was plagued with equipment problems, and then there was the added factor of this being the harshest winter we have experienced in these parts since the Depression. But I am not the sort to allow silly little things like that stand in my way. Two weeks before the event, I decided I would participate no matter what. No excuses.

So yeah, the race was hard. Much of the course was unrideable due to the ungodly amount of snow we’ve had this year, and a strong and bitter north wind made some of the riding sections very slow going indeed. But if you live in Manitoba, this is nothing new. I finished the 130 kilometre race in 11 hours and 55 minutes. Of the 77 people who registered, twenty did not start. Of the 57 runners and cyclists that started, 16 did not finish. Of the ones that did finish, I came in seventh. And first woman. The women’s field was small, as usual, but an experienced female racer had come from out-of-town, making for an exciting and challenging race for me. We both worked very hard, and I was impressed by her talent, toughness and ability.

The day after the race, as I lay flat on my back wondering what model of truck had hit me, I surfed Facebook for photos of the race that other people had posted. I saw a link to images the visiting female racer had posted and happily flipped through them, interested in seeing her view of the race.

In her photo gallery, I found a picture of me riding with fellow racers Pete and Paul, who I had met up with somewhere before the third checkpoint in Niverville. Under the photo was this caption:
“leader – cheater on the wheel all (the) way.”

I was stunned. Cheater? How could she say that? Riding in groups is not illegal in this race. It is a draft legal race. Riding together is not only allowed, but encouraged in the race bible. Almost every other racer rode with others during the course of the race, why single me out? And how could she say I was on someone’s wheel the whole time when I spent almost half the race completely on my own? During much of the time I was with others, we weren’t even riding. I’m no scientist, but there did not seem to be any aerodynamic advantage to being in a group while dragging our bikes through 3 feet of snow. As for those sections when I did work with others to battle the North wind, we worked together, taking equal turns on the front.

I felt sick to my stomach. Here was a well-known racer publicly calling me out for cheating – in front of my friends, the race organizers, strangers, and other members of the cycling community. Her accusations affected not only my reputation, but the reputation of every other racer in the field, not to mention the very race itself.

I notified the race organizers and they assured me that my standing is officially secure, legitimate and well warranted, both technically and morally. They contacted her explaining their perspective, reaffirming the results, the rules and the spirit of our event. They asked her to reconsider her choice of language, but the photo is still there, along with the caption.

I am pleased this was taken seriously and dealt with promptly, but I would be lying if I said this hasn’t seriously affected how I feel about the race, which is perhaps the greatest injustice of all. Perhaps even worse is how it makes me feel about being a woman racer. Is this how we encourage each other? Is this how we make our few fellow racers feel welcome and bring new women into the sport?

I’ve tried to brush this off and come up with a positive spin on it, but I’m afraid I’m coming up short. Maybe you can help. Try to understand that women are still relatively new to this table, and still finding our way. In spite of being competitive, hard, and fiercely motivated, we can be easily swayed. Small gestures of encouragement can go a long way to make us feel welcome, just as a thoughtless and vindictive accusation can turn us away.

This was not the post I had hoped to write. I tried to write a positive one that talked about my experiences throughout the race, and it was way more funny and nice. It talked about what a great race this was, and how proud I was to be part of it. It also talked about the incredible volunteers that helped make it happen, and the amazing job that was done by the organizers. All of that is still absolutely true in spite of this crappy ending. Thank you to those people who worked so hard to make Actif Epica the wonderful success it was.

photo: Kyle Thomas

In Your Face, Winter

by CycleChick on February 9, 2014

photoSunday morning ride with JP and David.
-28°C temperature, -42 windchill. 35 kilometers.
Espressos, a flat tire, and some dancing.
In your face, winter.

The Glorious Indignity of Winter, Part 2

by CycleChick on January 30, 2014

TerryTerry has had it with winter, so he decided to go for a road ride on Sunday. He asked his wife’s permission, because that is what we do when we want to stay married. She told him he could go, but only after he finished the shovelling. Poor Terry.

BarnCross 2014

by CycleChick on January 28, 2014

IMG_0310Roosters and barns go together like ham and eggs, so for the third year in a row, Dark Red Racing & friends spent a frigid Sunday afternoon giving old man winter the middle finger salute by racing our bikes in a horse barn. Some might call it crazy. We call it BarnCross. And it looks something like this.

IMG_0311Attendance was a little down this year, probably because 80 kilometre winds and blowing snow made visibility on the roads something like this:whiteout

But roosters are hearty folk, and those who made it out were treated to short but painful laps of a course with sweeping curves, a fancy new ramp handcrafted by The Awesome One, and plenty of horsey jumps. IMG_0308As in previous years, the rules were made arbitrarily, and followed at the discretion of the racer. Points and penalties were given with little consistency, but equal abandon. There was a podium. Like many of the racers, it fell over.IMG_0307

But no matter, after all we had a cozy space heater, chips, and appropriately selected local beverages.IMG_0309Do you like how artsy and out of focus my pictures are? Totally on purpose.

G and I took a trip to the loo. It was scary.IMG_0312But not nearly as scary as the crazy wind blowing around outside. Thankfully it died down before we left and we didn’t have to have sleepover with the horses. They are majestic animals, but they kind of smell like ass, even to a rooster.

Thanks to the VP Pizza and The Inhaler for putting on a knee slappin’ good show, and to JP and The Cross Hottie for the après race rib stickin’ grub. Yeehaw!

Actif Epica Recon

by CycleChick on January 26, 2014

IMG_0280With Actif Epica three short weeks away, organizers arranged a little recon ride today to give registered racers a small taste of the 130(ish) kilometre course.

David discovered it tastes a lot like blood.IMG_0273Young David tried to french kiss a rock. It didn’t like that. The good news is that David’s dentist is getting a new Mercedes.

The conditions were quite cold, about -15º with a nasty wind from the north – nothing like the anticipated race day forecast of +24 and calm. Of the fifteen or so riders that came out to play, there were only about four of us not riding fat bikes. I was on my ‘cross bike with 34c tyres, and everything was ridable, except the parts that weren’t.IMG_0267

Snow can be a drag, but it can also be pretty useful for racking your bike.

IMG_0269I wanted to come out today because, in spite of doing Actif Epica two years ago, I’ve have some trepidation this year due to some equipment changes, diminished training time, not to mention this whole “polar vortex” bullshit.

Like most things, being around similarly minded people can do a world of good.IMG_0268My bike fared well, as did most of my clothing, with the exception of my ski pants that continue to be hideously unattractive. They could certainly take some lessons from Stephen’s sweater, which got top marks in the style department.

IMG_0277Kevin was quite daring in his au courant tape mask, no doubt the work of some edgy new fashion designer from France. Mark my words friends, in the coming months this look will be everywhere.IMG_0262Kevin is the guy you see tearing around in that little yellow velomobile. For today’s ride he was on an equally unusual three-wheeled recumbent fat bike. Kevin clearly has an eye for the unusual. I wonder what his house looks like.IMG_0264

Kim and Dave were there looking all adorable in their matching fat bikes. Dave reports that the Hippy Bars are working their magic and are just as good frozen solid. Heck, maybe David’s dentist can get TWO Mercedes!IMG_0278Charles walked away with the Best Beardcicles of the Day Award by a landslide.IMG_0270I’m happy to report my water stayed in its liquid form, and would have been a total win if I had actually brought enough of it.

All in all a good time was had by all. After all, they say that winter biking is the most fun you can have with eight layers of clothing on. Even if one of those layers happen to be ski pants.

The Glorious Indignity of Winter

by CycleChick on January 21, 2014

photoThis winter has been cruel. Even by Winnipeg standards. For much of December and well into January, temperatures reached an ungodly -40°C (that’s -40ºF for you Yanks, and -30°C for those of you do don’t believe in wind chill) and we have received enough snow to put half the city in the emergency room with shovelling-related back injuries and the other half in the morgue from heart attacks.

We Winnipeggers (yes, that is what we call ourselves) channel our inner Chicken Lickens as we chirp dire weather warnings at each other from the comfort and sanctity of our twitter accounts. Those brave and stupid few who do go outside shuffle past each other in stylish Northface parkas wondering what they could sell (or who they could kill) to get on the next flight to Cancun. The general consensus, even for the irritatingly chipper glass-half-full crowd, is that the weather can only be described as bullshit.

If cycling happens to be your sport of choice year round and you were stupid enough to marry for love and not money, this time of year presents you with two equally unsavoury options:

Ride the Trainer
Riding a stationary trainer indoors is boring, sweaty, and quite possibly one of the most fruitless activities a person can do. Much like a hamster, you can spin your wheel for hours on end and get precisely nowhere. Sure you can work on your V02 max or what have you, but you’ll probably want to keep that to yourself since other cyclists (most of whom indulge in stealth training themselves) will make fun of you for doing it so far out from race season.

Ride Outside
Certainly the more interesting and fun of the two options, riding outdoors in the winter does not come without a price. I’m talking about everything from a 30 minute commute to the office (which is exponentially more treacherous than its summer equivalent), to long endurance rides of an hour or more. The specialized™ gear and supplies needed to keep you warm and comfortable can be both cumbersome and expensive. You’ve no doubt seen plenty of Fat Bikes by now, the latest ‘it’ bike for the winter cyclist that’s built more like a two-wheeled snowmobile than a bicycle, but will float over snow that will sink a traditional bike to its axles. Built more for function than sex-appeal, fatties are the ski pants of bikes, and people are buying them by the boatload.Fatbike(photo by Kyle Thomas)

Speaking of ski pants, dressing for long rides in the winter falls somewhere in that murky grey area between art and science. It’s hard to believe that a person can wear up to eighteen articles of clothing and still be cold, but it’s true. Between the base layers, vapour barriers, warmth and wind layers, once you have  exhausted all of your layering options, the real indignities begin. Things like smearing vaseline all over your face, wearing surgical gloves, and stuffing your man junk into a Ziploc baggy – all practices that skirt that delicate line between fashion atrocities and just plain illegal. (I can only attest to the efficacy of two of the three).

As a relative newbie, I have found the simple act of winter commuting anything but simple. After showering and gathering my work clothes, it takes me close to twenty minutes to locate my eighteen items of clothing, put them on, and get out the door. With all due respect to Mr. Colville-Andersen, winter commuting in Winnipeg does not look like this:Cycle Chic(photo by Mikael Coleville-Andersen, Cycle-Chic)

…it looks like this.Me

So pretty.

The inevitable question I am leading you to is “Why?”. “If riding a bike in the winter is so unpleasant, why do it at all?” It’s not a simple answer, but I’ll start with the easy stuff – things like the health benefits, fresh air, not being stuck in traffic, being good to the environment, and enjoying the outdoors all year round in spite of whatever bullshit nature decides to smite us with. There is something gratifying in this simple act of defiance that can put a real spring in your Sorel-laden steps.

And then there are the amazing things you see out riding that you would miss if you stayed on the beaten paths behind the windshield of your car. Things like giant ice blocks waiting to be carved into sculptures, and your whole city skating, running, walking, skiing and riding on the frozen river on a Sunday afternoon.IMG_0214River WalkAnd, of course, your riding buddies’ funny beardcicles.David

The biggest reason of all is the one that is hardest to explain, but I’ll try. When you really love something, you will tolerate all sorts of unpleasantries that you would normally find abhorrent. Like cleaning up your dog’s shit, or watching Cinderella with your little girl for the two hundredth time instead of the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. So when you see some shapeless blob on a bike skidding around on a shitty winter road, or a friend proudly tells you about the killer interval workout they did in their basement on Saturday morning, sure you can probably assume they are a little bit nuts. But you can also be sure they are the kind of person that would hold your hair when you throw up or drive you to the airport at 3am to catch your flight to Cancun.

Heck, they might even shovel your driveway while you’re gone.

The Guerciotti Project, Stage 6: It Takes a Village

by CycleChick on January 3, 2014

Team Fiorella Mocassini 1977With the front end of the Guerciotti all but taken care of, it’s time to move into the other business parts of the bike – scary parts like the drivetrain, brakes, and wheels – which all need to come together roughly at the same time. There are a seemingly endless supply of obscure parts to be found and assembled, and I have become acutely aware of the fact that I have no idea what I am doing. What I do have, however, is a fantastic network of friends, resources, and a healthy case of OCD. I will finish this fucking bike if it kills me. And it may.

Let’s start with the wheels. If you’ll recall, I procured a sweet pair of blue Weinman wheels from Cousin Adam back in the spring in exchange for a bottle of bourbon and a six pack. I hate to sound fancy (even though I am super fancy), but said wheels, as nice as they are, would look atrocious with the purple frame. They will have to wait for the next project bike. It’s been nothing if not an organic process.WheelsCoach Rick generously offered a set of track wheels he had lying around that sounded like a good match. One, an aluminum Ambrozio Prisma with a Gipiemme hub (soooo Italian), and the other a dark grey anodized Mavic (not so Italian). It feels a little wrong to put a French wheel on this bike, and the wheels do not match each other, but both had been used on a track some years ago and came with tyres so old and brittle they practically disintegrated when I took them off, so they have some serious street cred. In return for the wheels, I brought Coach Rick an official 80th Anniversary Campagnolo shirt back from Italy. He seemed pleased.

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The rim tape on both wheels needed replacing, which I did (for the first time) with far more self-congratulation than the task probably deserves.

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Of some concern were the wheel bolts. Which were missing. Things being what they are, the particular bolts I needed are probably situated in a cave somewhere in the Middle East beside the Holy Grail, so a new axel needed to be installed. Stupid bolts.

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Thanks to a store credit at Olympia Cycle from coaching Kids of Mud last summer, plus a generous discount from Morgan, I picked up a pair of 28c Panaracer Pasela tyres (jeez, will that word ever look right?) which I saw in this post from bike blog celebrity John Watson (Prolly is not Probably). He shoots his regular Beautiful Bicycles features with the care and artistry generally reserved for portraits of naked women and Ferraris.JesseHufnagel-10

So. Hawt. The 28cs seemed perfect – nice and skinny so as not to wreck the aesthetic of the bike, but wide and grippy enough to ride in most weather without wrecking the aesthetic of my face. The gum walls are a good match for the hoods on the sweet retro TRP Tektro drilled alloy brake levers I ordered.  At $110, these were the biggest splurge on the entire bike. But so worth it. TRP Tektro brakes

Image courtesy of Chari & Co. NYC . Yummy.

Once that was sorted out, it was time to move on to the part I was dreading the most – the drive train. Consisting of the front chain ring, cranks, chain, and rear cassette, this is by far the scariest and messiest part of a bicycle. Making the decision to change this bike to a single speed – thus negating the need for derailleurs (which I still only half understand) and the associated cabling – was easy. Deciding what gearing to use was harder, requiring more mathematics than I’ve had to use since I dropped out of physics in grade 11. Stupid physics.

The bike came with 53 and 42 tooth rings on the front. It’s quite common (so I’m told) to use a 42 on the front with a 16 tooth cog on the back. Not too spinny, but not too grindy. However, a 53 tooth ring is bigger and looks more badass so I decided to use the 53 with a 20 tooth freewheel on the back, which offers the same gear ratio as the 42/16 set up.

Wow. Are you as turned on as I am right now?

I am pleased to report that I removed the 42 tooth ring, replaced the crank bolts, reattached the cranks, AND installed the freewheel ALL BY MYSELF.

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In case you were wondering, I used newspaper to protect my kitchen counter, where the majority of the work I did on the bike was performed. You see, I’m not allowed to use the workbench in the basement anymore because ‘apparently’ I break things and don’t put the tools back where they belong. (Lies.)

Coach Rick also gave me a Campagnolo seat post, which generally requires the use of (you guessed it) a special Campagnolo seat post wrench due to the unusual location of the bolts. Positioned directly under the saddle, the bolts are nearly impossible to adjust and tighten with the saddle in place. A small 5mm wrench and some deep breathing exercises got the job done with barely any tears at all.seat post

Photo by Speedplay Vintage Bicycle Component Museum.

The Impaler came through with this lovely set of old Campagnolo brakes that came with a very reasonable (liquid) price tag.

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Installing and cabling the brakes was yet another journey into the terrifying unknown – a task accomplished with the loving help of Sheldon Brown, The Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair, and a glass of pinot grigio.IMG_5804

By this point I was visiting Andrew at Natural Cycle on a daily basis. Like me, Andrew has a passion for old Italian road bikes. Unlike me, however, he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of them, and actually knows what he is doing.

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Young Andrew saved me, both in the poetic and literal sense, checking my work over to make sure it was done properly and nothing fell apart. In spite of the fact that I don’t exactly fit the mould of their typical customer, Andrew and the other folks at the shop offered invaluable support (without a single eye roll) during this phase of the project. At one point they even offered to set up a cot for me in the back.

Now all that remains are the fun, cosmetic parts of the build. Decals, bar tape, installing the tyres, and other tasks that are well within my comfort range.

Lastly, what I thought would be the easiest task has turned out to be one of the hardest. I decided to leave the bosses for the downtube shifters on, mostly because I love the look of the shifters. They remind me of fancy earrings. Finding Guerciotti ones has been impossible (they are sitting beside the Grail with those damn bolts), and Campagnolo ones would seem to be the only suitable alternative.

The other day a handsome prince named Ian dropped one of these:photoHe doesn’t seem to need it, and I have been scouring the Kingdom of Twitter to find its match. It’s from the Campagnolo Victory group, probably late 1970s or early 1980s. If you happen to have a matching one lying around, I would be most happy to take it off your hands. Heck, I’d probably even give you a kiss buy you a beer.

You’ve probably noticed I have been quite coy about showing you much of the finished bike. It’s because I like drama and surprises, and I bet you do too. The next Guerciotti post will be a full photographic reveal with hardly any pesky words.

I can hardly wait to show you!

Feature Photo: Team Fiorella Mocassini in 1977
Gierciotti’s debut team on the pro circuit (1976)
Photo courtesy Guy Dedieu, Cycling Museum

Naughty or Nice?

by CycleChick on December 13, 2013

Santa with giftsWhether we like it or not, the holidays are upon us, which mean we will be forced to spend all of our hard-earned money on other people instead of the new carbon fibre cyclocross bike we really want. On the upside, the people who really know and love you will shower you with love in the form of bike-related gifts, because nothing makes shopping easier than when someone has a unnatural obsession.

In the spirit of the season of over-eating, drinking and spending, here are a few ideas for the bike-obsessed person in your life (or for your own list, as the case may be). For your convenience, I have categorized this list by degree of naughty or niceness. If you are unsure where you fall, check out this handy app that tracks your pottymouth on Twitter. Do that later. Read this first.

Really, Really Nice
If your wallet is weighing you down, and your fireplace just can’t handle anymore paper currency, you are probably in the position to really spoil that special bikey someone who’s been EXTRA good with this 24k plated gold bicycle from Aurumania, because why not? It costs about $100K and even has a matching gold rack, but I think that might be extra. I don’t know where Aurumania is, but it looks like a pretty nice place.Aurumania самый дорогой золотой велосиBike_hanging

Of course, if that’s a bit too rich for your blood, you could track down some pantographed Guerciotti downtube shifters, circa 1980. Because I bet someone out there really, really wants them and was really, really good.Guerciotti shifters

Very Nice
I am a big fan of Road Holland, not only because they make great looking stuff, but because they understand that pink is not a universally mandatory uniform for all humans of the female persuasion. Earlier this year they released the Amsterdam, a long sleeve jersey (with THREE ACTUAL POCKETS) in… wait for it…. celeste. Meow.Amsterdam

Being winter and all, the right gear can not only help keep your crazy year-round cyclist nice and cozy, but could also help them not freeze to death. The go-to people for cozy are Ice Breaker – who have made friends with some merino-type sheep who are nice enough to provide the raw materials. While it may not make the crazy go away, these base layers will help keep your loved one warm and dry.icebreaker

Quite Nice
Everybody loves Eddy Merckx. Sure he might have had his naughty moments, but unlike a certain someone who is besties with Oprah, people actually liked him anyway. Named for the 525 victories he amassed in the course of his career, this coffee table book is crammed with some really beautiful old-timey photos that don’t even need Instagram filters to be good. Oh, and Eddy Freaking Merckx. That is all.Merckx525_3Merckx525_1Merckx525_2

Photos from here. Available through VeloPress.

Speaking of coffee, I bet if Eddy was forced to drink terrible North American-style coffee, he would drink it from this awesome vintage Molteni coffee cup from Cycling Souvenirs.Molteni cup

Of course if he wanted a fancy espresso, he could always use one of these.IMG_0032Depending how nice he is, you might even want to throw in a gift card for his favourite nail salon. So matchy! You can order sets of these awesome little espresso cups from either their European site here, or the North American one here.

While you’re at it, you should order some of these for yourself BECAUSE THEY ARE THE COOLEST THING EVER!Lights2

You will have the best Christmas tree in the universe. You’re welcome.

Cyclists love bags. No really. We love them. Almost as much as we love coffee, wine, and craft beers. NYMB.co in New York carries a great selection of handmade bags to hold all of your cycling essentials, like a nice bottle of Masi Modello Delle Venezie Rosso, for example.Jesse Hebert wine-rackYou will, of course recognize this wine rack from our friend Jesse Heber from Quebec, because I talk about it, like, all the time. NYMB.co have bags for more practical items like your cell phone, so you can Tweet, Facebook and Instagram the shit out of your ride.cell-pouch-for-cyclistsbike-cell-phone-pouch_largeI have this little number from Road Runner Bags – in green to match my hair when I spend too much time in the local swimming pool.

Naughty (but in a nice way)
Some people just can’t help being a little naughty, and let’s face it, that’s what makes us love them. These are the people who make the office Christmas party a thing to remember, and keep the HR department busy all year round.

Naughty people love things that sound dirty, even if they aren’t. Things like bike lube. If you are going to go there (and you should), get the good stuff. Phil Wood grease seems to be many a bike mechanic lube of choice. And the packaging is nice, so I approve. PhilWoodWaterproofGreaseAvailable at your LBS, in combination with the matching Road Holland jersey, this gift upgrades to Very Nice.

Naughty
I’m a firm believer that most people are predisposed to goodness, but just make bad decisions sometimes. Take for example the Specialized legal team. Very, very naughty. What better time than the holidays to lay down some tough love? coalSorry guys. Pick up your socks and maybe next year you’ll get the gold bike.

Wishing all of you happy shopping!

The Road to Vicenza

by CycleChick on November 29, 2013

Joe

Today, our second last day, was supposed to be another long one. Like 206 kilometres long. But on a routine recon of the route that took place several weeks before we arrived, Sergi and the boys had determined the first 130 kilometres of the route were pretty much bullshit and best travelled in the van. As incomprehensible as it may be, it seems that there are parts of Italy that are… dare I say it?… ugly.

And so it was decided that today would be a paltry 70 kilometre ride, starting with a trip in the van to a point outside the ugly bits and ending in Vicenza – the home of Campagnolo. When Sergi explains the reason for the ride or “transfer” in the Super Ban, I can tell he is not happy. This is not normal. We should be riding, not sitting in the van – but looking out the window as we sit in an unexplained traffic jam, it is clear the ride would have been shitty. Super shitty. Perhaps even shittier than sitting in the van. Even still, the ride is dreadful, for more reasons than I can share here. Everyone who was there that day knows why. And maybe, one day, if you buy me enough drinks, I will tell you the story.

Finally, blissfully, we are back in paradise. Another small, Italian town that was around hundreds of years before anyone east of Newfoundland knew North America even existed.

_AAA1845_S

We get our picture taken in a park, and for the first time it occurs to me that this trip is almost over. And as much as I miss my life back home, my family – the thought of this coming to an end brings a certain panic. I push it aside as we start to ride. _AAA1875_S

The mood of the group has changed. We ride together, relaxed and in no particular hurry. The fast riders have proven themselves. Each of us have shone in our own way – some as climbers, some descenders, some wisely conservative. We are, in turn, exuberant cheerleaders, mechanics, and documentarians. And in this short week we have gone from strangers to friends. Maybe even family._AAA1857_S

We have trouble finding a place to have lunch. It’s later than usual and here most of the restaurants inexplicably close for a few hours in the afternoon, something a North American restaurant wouldn’t even think of for fear of losing the late lunch and early dinner crowd. Clearly the Italians are far more in synch with each other in terms of mealtimes. I can’t help but wonder where all the old Italian gents go and sit during these mid-afternoon sabbaticals.

Eventually we find a small garden restaurant and Sergi sweet talks the owner into feeding us. The poor woman must suffer from double vision, because she brings out enough food to feed an army.ToddMike and PabloAnd no, there are no celiacs in Italy. If there were, they have either died or moved to California, where you are more likely to get busted for possession of flour than cocaine.

You might think hopping back on your bike after eating a massive amount of pasta would be excruciatingly difficult. And you’d be right. But this is exactly what we do._AAA1891_s

We ride all afternoon, to Vicenza – or rather a small town on the outskirts of Vicenza, where we are booked into what might actually be the most beautiful hotel in the world._AAA1948_S_AAA1942_SWe take advantage of the first early finish we’ve had all week and sit on the patio (which is oddly devoid of Old Italian Gents) for a nice cold beer._AAA1955_s_AAA1954_sJordiWhen they talk about “the life”, I’m pretty sure “this” is it.

Tomorrow we are officially no longer the responsibility of our Thomson guides. Tomorrow, we are in the hands of Campagnolo – and as far as hands go, I figure these are pretty capable ones indeed.



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