Sunday, January 24, 2010

Everything I Know About Bike Racing I Learned From American Flyers

American Flyers, the quintessential 1980s cycling film, is a veritable tome of cycling knowledge. If you've seen it, watch it again and take notes. If you've never seen it (and you call yourself a cyclist?), go rent it right now, it will change your life.

Here's some of the lessons I've learned from this theatrical masterpiece:

  • You don't need to be outfitted in the latest Assos kit to ride. Jean jackets and cowboy hats are perfectly acceptable riding gear.
  • An awesome way to work on your bike handling skills is to ride your bike around your apartment complex.
  • If you've been riding 30 - 40 miles a day on relatively flat terrain and have never raced before, you are totally ready for a major stage race in the Rocky Mountains.
  • If you want to perfect your sprint, find a neighborhood with a lot of loose pit bulls. Rumor has it that's how Cavendish trains... 
  • "Shake and Break" is an excellent technique to get rid of a "wheel sucker"
  • When racing, be wary of the Costner-proclaimed "oldest trick in the book" - when a rider pretends that the race is over and then shifts to the big ring and drops the hammer. Those cowboys certainly fell for it... 
  • Also, beware the second oldest trick in the book - when a rider pulls down your shorts and leaves you fumbling to pull them back up as he rides down the road. That's why bib shorts were made.
  • It is totally acceptable to rip off the nickname of the all-time greatest cyclist if you are a mildly successful professional cyclist
  • If you want to be competitive, you've got to be an asshole to everyone, all the time. Exhibit A: Barry Muzzin.
  • It is acceptable to try and run someone off the road on a high speed descent if it means winning the bike race. Your competition will forget all about it at the end of the stage. Hell, they may even respect you for it.
  • ANYONE is capable of winning a bike race. Even if you are a first time racer and your competition consists of current and former national champs, olympians, and high ranking euro pros.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bib Short Review

With all the European cyclocross racing I've been watching lately, I've noticed a proliferation of a certain Belgian brand of cycling clothing adorning several of my favorite racers. This piqued my curiosity (proof that sponsorship really works?), so I set about on my search to see where I could buy this fabled brand.

The brand I'm talking about is Vermarc (If you hadn't figured it out yet...) Vermarc is a sports clothing company based just out side of Brussels that specializes in cycling gear. They've been around since 1977 and, like a lot of cycling companies, was started by a retired pro. The brand definitely has some cachet with the name conjuring up images of Lion of Flanders flags, mud-soaked cobbles, and veldrijden. It also proved to be a bit elusive as my preliminary searches revealed little on where I could purchase said clothing.

Since I couldn't find any shops locally, or any online shops that sold Vermarc clothing, I ended up going to to order a pair of bib shorts. I figured that was an excellent way to get acquainted with a clothing brand since the bib short is results in some intimate contact points... I decided on a fairly base level pair of shorts in classic black, with Vermarc's CP4 chamois. Their website looked a bit... unpolished... and I had a small amount of trepidation about ordering from them. But Vermarc USA was very helpful and responded quickly to the sizing questions I had. Ends up, for someone my size (32" waist, 170 lbs) I would be a large. My shorts ended up being $69.99 on sale from $125, so fairly middle of the road as far as bibs go. I placed my order and the bib shorts showed up on my doorstep a few days later.

Initial impressions:
Upon initial inspection, the shorts seemed pretty typical for this price range. The lycra wasn't anything "space-aged" or created by formula one engineers. It was normal everyday lycra. I would liken it to your typical club clothing. Something that I did notice, all the stitching was really well done and, just maybe, in some cases, over done. This stitching wasn't going any where. This would be a relief, given my last 3 pair of Castelli shorts had seams unravel or break a couple months into their lifespan.  The bib tops were light and perforated to allow air to flow through although the material wasn't as soft as some I've owned.

The CP4 chamois is Vermarc's base level chamois. That was readily apparent in some of the details. First off, it was branded "Giordana" so Vermac obviously farmed out their chamois manufacturing to save costs. As I only have one pair of their shorts, I'm not sure if this is the same situation on Vermarc's higher end stuff or just limited to their base model. The chamois has a large center piece of squishy material with a "fleecy" bit that is sown in and extends around the front and on either side of the squishy stuff. I gotta admit, the location of the seams had me worried. Seams = chaffing = saddles sores and those seams are located right in the danger zone... Although seemingly badly placed, the stitching is top notch and I have every confidence that this chamois is going to stay put for the life of these shorts. Other than the seams, it's not the worst chamois I've seen but my undercarriage has gotten quite spoiled with the plush one-piece offerings from Louis Garneau and Castelli.

After a few rides:
First and foremost, the fit of these shorts was dead-on. There wasn't any bunching or sagging and the lycra was supportive without being over worked. I was aware of some of the seams on the straps and around the mid section, but that faded as I mounted up and began riding. I'm confined to riding an indoor trainer right now, so that's the only mileage these shorts have seen. For me, trainer riding is inherently uncomfortable, even if I were riding on the chamois equivalent of a barkalounger, my bum and seat would still exchange some unpleasantries.

With that said, after a handful of rides in them, these shorts are pretty middle of the road. It's precisely what I would expect for $70. They did what they were supposed to do, nothing more, nothing less. The seams in the chamois did cause me some problems, but nothing a little chamois cream couldn't fix. I think I would have been much more disappointed had I shelled out the non-sale retail price of $125 for these, but at $70, they aren't too shabby. If I had a rating system, I would give them 3 out of 5 cowbells.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Friday, January 8, 2010