Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bianchi's Line of Steel Bikes

I am surely reporting something well known to all, but it was pleasant news to me. Bianchi -- the maker of those "celeste" colored uber-high-end racing machines -- has a line of steel rides that would make Surly envious. At the high end you can pay $2000 for a classic-looking Bianchi Vigorella with 105 all around.  I know without asking that Sam will appreciate the level top tube.
Bianchi Vigorella.  Image from

At the low end there is the Campione with down-tube shifters for a what-passes-these-days-as-modest $849.

Campione.  Same credit as above.

There's the Lupo and it's sibling, the Volpe, which fit in the cross/dirt-road/commuting genre.

Lupo.  Ibid.

And you can even buy bare frame sets to do with what you will, including the single-speed/fixed-intended "San Jose" and "Gitane" (with mounts for cantilever brakes) and my personal favorite, the beautifully lugged Tipo Corsa, which is just begging to be built with an older group and a Brooks saddle and ridden in a parade.  Bianchi asks $999 for this one.

Pretty things still do come from bike factories, somewhere.

Not sure this discovery changes my life any, but if I can bring myself to unload the Neuvation one day, the Tipo Corsa might be a fun project bike.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A gentle romp to Mosier, I mean "Scoping the Start of RAO"

Yes, I realize that when we started the HBC blog, the plan was to fill it with trip reports and plans for super long rides. With that in mind, then, let's pretend that rather than a nice 10-15 mile ride (not sure how far, I didn't have my computer with me) along the Columbia River, this was instead an opportunity to scope out the parade start of RAO, which follows the same route.

A_ and I celebrated Mother's Day last weekend with a pleasant ride along the Columbia Scenic Highway. The route follows an old one-lane road between Hood River and Mosier. The road has been maintained impeccably, and contains beautiful vistas of the Columbia River. For various reasons A_ hasn't been on her bike since last Thanksgiving, so this was a moderate ride. I took my Surly Fixie, and enjoyed it immensely.


A rider from team Google-Sky

It just so happens that RAO, which starts in Hood River, follows this same route. Like FC508, RAO has a parade start, where everyone rides casually until they hit Mosier. That's when the real race begins.

Along the way you're treated to some unique experiences. This series of tunnels continues for maybe half a mile, with significant sections ridden in near pitch-black (particularly when you're wearing sunglasses). They're on a slight grade, so you can ride through them quite quickly once your eyes adjust.

On the way back, the river is on the other side.
Anyway, there's not any real cycling content here. Just a few pictures from a quick little ride that made for a lovely morning. Afterward we tried to go to Killer Burger in Bingen, but it's closed on Sundays. Darn.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sunday, May 18, 2014

When Are You Obligated To Intervene?

There's an interesting video making the rounds, with commentary here.

It's a bit disturbing to watch, but anybody who has watched an endurance event has seen similar situations. Of course one difference is that at amateur events, there's not even a paycheck waiting at the end. Potentially major medical issues are risked with the result of gettign one's name on a webpage of finishers. Even ignoring the all-too-frequent stories of death-by-car on brevets, there are plenty of anecdotes of participants at endurance events suffering severe medical consequences, or even dying.

I've never seen serious issues first-hand, but I've seen plenty that could have been serious. A few that I recall:

  • Years ago I was volunteering at a 1200K (the exact event and participant to remain nameless, of course). One of the entrants was a fellow who had the willpower of Tyler Hamilton but, unfortunately, not the engine to match. From the first day he was hitting the controls right at the cutoff, a sure recipe for disaster on a 1200 where you need to bank time early. After two completely sleepless nights and riding through 100+ degree days he arrived at a control, again at the cutoff, clearly out of his gourd but unwilling to withdraw. I'm not sure what the official obligations of a rando ride organizer are but I think that for various reasons they aren't supposed to "pull" a rider. I'll leave the details a bit murky here, but the organizer had a volunteer feed and re-hydrate the rider while the organizer, shall we say, sabotaged the bicycle to ensure that the rider would opt to drop out of the ride.

  • While volunteering at an ultra event, the rider I was supporting reached a state of complete delirium. The best parallel I can draw is the stage that Jure Robic's team described in Bicycle Dreams, where he was imagining mailboxes as soldiers trying to attack him. In my rider's case, on a course he'd ridden many times before, he simply refused to believe that we were going the right way. Several times he stopped riding, and refused to go further. Despite this, however, he was able to continue riding his bike at a reasonable clip, and he finished the ride without a problem. Interestingly after a short rest after evening, he was more lucid than the rest of us the following morning.

  • Max and I were riding paceline on the BWR 1200K when a mischievous rock found its way in front of Max' front wheel. My recollection of what followed is a series of snapshots. In the first his front wheel is turned nearly 90 degrees sideways. In the second, his front wheel is ejecting from the fork. In the third I'm endo-ing over him. He wound up with a concussion but neither of us had any broken bones. Presumably it would have been possible, though highly unadvisable, for him to continue the ride. I certainly could have, but we both opted to abandon.

In fact, I can think of very few > 600K events where I haven't seen something happen that, on a different day or slightly different circumstance, could have been a medical emergency. This seems utterly insane. There's no glory in these events. You pay a bunch of money to participate, you suffer for a prolonged period of time, and then at the end nobody really cares what you've done but you.

But that aside, more interesting to me is how few of these potential medical issues result in real medical issues. For every story like the first above where the rider clearly needed to be pulled, there are 10 stories of riders who complete a 1200K or longer with single-digit hours of sleep. Yes, at the end they are incoherent. But they finish.

My rider in the ultra event finished safely. On the BWR, despite what could have been a serious mishap Max was, after a few days of rest, fine. If we usually survive weaving down a highway at 20 MPH (OK 14 MPH), sleep deprived, with heavy semi-traffic it makes it apparent how large of a safety buffer we have in our daily routines when we operate on a full night's sleep. Most of the time that we feel like we need to quit an event, it's because we're experiencing mild discomfort, not because there is any real danger.

The appeal of the amateur ultra events is seeing what your limits are, and seeing if you can push your own boundaries. Honestly for anyone in decent physical condition, the events are (far) more mental than physical. We've all seen riders who would be considered obese to the casual observer finish 1200s or marathons.

But what obligation do we have, as volunteers or spectators, when things start to go sideways? Once you start to intervene it's a slippery slope. If your rider is is clearly in dire straits, do you pull him? Or perhaps adopt a more neutral stance and let him decide? What if he's ready to drop; do you encourage him to keep riding? What if you do, and he weaves into oncoming traffic? Any supported event is a team effort, but it's a fine line between the support crew providing needed encouragement or pushing a rider beyond where they should go.

The video at the top is of course a completely different situation. The runner is a professional who, based on his race number is probably quite accomplished. The dangers a professional runner faces in a 2 hour marathon is are completely different than what an amateur endurance cyclist faces in a 2-3 day ultra event. But you can see the same dilemma facing the vounteers. Do you encourage him to keep running (as his agent, allegedly the guy yelling in the video, was doing)? Should the EMTs have pulled him as soon as he was clearly having major issues? It would be a real shame if his collapse had been followed by death, with EMTs jogging alongside him immediately prior.

Since I really don't have a point I'll stop writing. I'm signed up as crew for two ultra events this year, and these are the things that run through my head, at 3 in the morning.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Looking for a way to distract myself while reading over a few papers I came across the Kevin Bacon movie "Quicksilver" from 1986.  In short, he is a trader who blows a margin call and becomes a bike courier to make ends meet.  Lots of sweet '80s-style bike moves, some bike-mount camera action, '80s music, big hair . . . .  Among other things -- does anybody else remember when wearing net bike gloves when not actually biking was cool?

I care little what you say:  I like Kevin Bacon movies.  Footloose was objectively awesome.

Quicksilver feels a tad like American Flyers.  Kevin Bacon even starts off with a Kevin Costner-as-Marcus mustache.

It also boasts a very young Paul Rodriguez and Laurence (back then, "Larry") Fishburne.

He encounters a bike messenger who wows him by beating Bacon's cab in a race.  (Video dubbed in Spanish.)

Later that day he loses it all.  He spends his last few bucks on a thrift-store fixie.  Only in the '80s was a classic fixie available in the thrift-store window!

He apparently has a girlfriend who is a dancer.  Here is Bacon's character joining her for a dance workout.

This next scene has some sweet '80s moves. It feels like the old-school skate tricks, performed on some nice rides.  A good number of brooks saddles and up-turned bars here.  I also love the bar tape, which I remember all too well.  You finished a bar-wrap in those days by heating the end of the tape and sticking it together.  It never worked.

Then a few good riding scenes.  Note that sometimes the bikes are fixes and sometimes they can coast.

And, of course, Bacon's character gets into it with some shady characters.  One such encounter produces this car chase.

In addition to a cheesy plot and some cool riding, there are lessons in financial transactions.  Seriously. I'm pulling parts of this movie into my Secured Transactions or Bankruptcy classes in future semesters.

Ultimately, Kevin Bacon becomes the white knight, taking care of his parents, his buddy, and the orphan girl.  That last relationship produces the night-time chase scene above.  The buddy and parents lead to the trading scene which is reminiscent of Caddyshack:  "Buy, buy!  They're buying?  Then sell, sell!"  Bacon's character hits it big by doing everything exactly opposite the grain and getting lucky.  Somehow that makes him a wunderkind trader.

So I take it back.  Together with American Flyers and Breaking Away, there are apparently three '80s biking movies worth watching.

Available on Netflix.  Have at it.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Two Things from Today's Ride

P__ is enjoying her Neuvation and I played hooky from the 400K this weekend so we went out both days for ~25 miles north and west of town.

Today I saw a guy wearing a "Russia" kit.   $10 says he bought it from Performance, selling some imitation national team kits or the like.  But amazing how quickly I defaulted to "tsk, tsk, how dare he wear Russia colors in America!"  The last time I remember feeling that way was about when American Flyers was in the theaters.

Marcus (Costner) takes on Belov in the Hell of the West.  Love those
biceps.  And that helmet.

And on Tuckerman Lane riding into Bethesda a woman very nearly ran down P__.  The woman was pulling out of a side-street in her CRV; P__ was riding ahead and curb-side of me; and we both noticed at the last second the woman making her move before we were clear.  I yelled, P__ yelled, the woman stopped, P__ gassed it just enough to keep her wheel out from under the bumper.  I was right next to the near-collision, and it was inches.

It went south from there, of course.  P__ continued up the street a short ways, but this lady was not continuing on her way that easily.  Perhaps my funniest move was popping a wheelie up onto the hood of her car to get her to stop. 

"I'm sorry."  
"I don't care if you are sorry."
"Are you going to beat me up?"
"I'm not going to beat anybody up.  I want you to go home and keep off the road so the rest of us can make it home safely."

To her credit, she handled getting yelled at with relative equanimity.  The one line that visibly shocked her?

"My problem is you and all the other old biddies thinking you can threaten the rest of us just by getting behind the wheel."

I guess some people just don't like being called old biddies.

I've ridden Tuckerman dozens of times.  It's a road with plenty of cars driving plenty fast and there is no shoulder for bikes.  I was worried about taking P__ there; near misses are part of the sport, but when you ride <1000 miles in a year they affect you very differently.