Fashion file

30 04 2011

I’ve never been a fan of bridges. Don’t much like driving over them, crossing them on foot, or especially riding them.

So much so, it took eight seasons for the Orbea to traverse most of the Lower Mainland bridges.

Friday, the Lapierre accomplished five in one ride. It was the inaugural Tour De Cinque Ponts.

With sun in the weather forecast, my buddy RDM took a vacation day to join me on my Friday ride. We didn’t set out to cross five bridges, it just turned out that way as our legs were feeling strong, and the cool temperatures kept us moving.

Halfway through Le Tour de Cinque Ponts

It was also the debut ride for my new Fizik Arione CX saddle, which finally arrived via eBay.

A new saddle is always a risky proposition; will it fit my butt? will it be comfortable? will I get it positioned right on the rails? But perhaps most importantly, will it stay clean?

You see, the new saddle is white.

Lapierre has a new Fizik

White probably isn’t the most practical color on a bike. White bar tape looks great for a ride or two, then it becomes progressively less white. White bikes need constant cleaning.

But white seems to have become the de rigeur color in the pro peloton. White bikes, white bar tape, white saddles, white shoes. Even – gulp – white shorts.

Of course the pro riders have mechanics to clean their bikes after every ride, and the teams can afford to rewrap the bars daily, maybe even swap out saddles. The white shoes may look flash, until it rains.

I blame Mario Cipollini.

In his day, the Lion King wasn’t just a superior sprinter, he was also a supreme stylist. Both off and on the bike. His flowing locks, masculine chin and bedazzling smile made him a favorite with the ladies, with which he reportedly heartily indulged. On the road, his panache and fashion flair ruffled more than just a few feathers of cycling’s old boys’ club, as he frequently favored his own custom skinsuits over officially-sanctioned team kits. He raced time trials in the Giro and Tour de France as a muscled man peeled of his skin, a tiger, a zebra, and even a heraldic depiction of his nickname. He was only too happy to pay the fines that resulted.

Mario Cipollini let it all hang out fashion-wise

The Lion King

It was shortly after the white and gold heraldic Lion King suit that I started noticing the prevalence of white in the peloton. Suddenly, it seemed, white was everywhere, defying practicality. Maybe it was just a coincidence. Cipo pushed the cycling fashion envelope, which seemed to open the floodgates to new looks and colors in cycling gear. For better or for worse.

A spring beauty

25 04 2011

Well, that was nice. While it lasted.

Spring dropped in over the weekend. For a whole two days.

I took full advantage.

On Friday I took the Lapierre for her first major excursion, a 70 km ride with Katie. On Saturday I went a little further, 84 kms to meet Katie at the end of her 23 km run.

Lapierre catches some sun, and admiring glances, at Granville Island

The latter also included Lapierre’s first climbs, up the short steep grades out of New West, and then up the broken pavement of the Camosun climb at the edge of UBC.

All were as close to effortless as a ride be – the distance, the climbs, the descents.

With 200 kms into her, Lapierre is proving to be a beautiful ride, smooth, agile, quick, responsive. And she looks damn fine while doing it. So fine in fact, while pausing to enjoy the sunshine at Granville Island, a gentleman came over and after admiring it for a moment said, “you’ve probably got the only Lapierre in BC.”

Well, maybe not quite, as there is a dealer a few hours away. But it’s certainly a unique beauty in these parts.

All bundled up with someplace to go

22 04 2011

What’s wrong with this picture?

It's still too cold to enjoy lunch on the patio!

It’s beautifully sunny. But there’s no people on the patio. That’s because it’s freakin’ cold!

I mean, it’s practically time for the Giro d’Italia, and we’re still bundling up in layers, tights full-fingered gloves and jackets. It’s as if spring has decided not to bother showing up; it’ll just temper winter a bit.

Meanwhile, in Europe, they’ve gone straight from winter to mid-summer, as it’s 25C in Paris, 24C in Ghent. Instead of rain, cold and mud at the cobbled Classics in Flanders, the riders had to contend with sunscreen and dust!

Today’s 70 km ride with Katie made one thing glaringly apparent; I’ve got to change my cycling wardrobe!

For eight years my riding garb was defined by the bright orange and blue of my Orbea. I love those colors, and, amazingly, I even manage to look good in orange, something not a lot of people can pull off. Plus, on the road, it’s like being a rolling traffic cone; no way any driver could excuse not seeing me!

Alas, the lovely Lapierre is sadly lacking in the orange department. Its red, white and blue accents give me plenty of options, but none of them involve orange.

Alas, the lovely Lapierre has no orange in her livery.

First up will be a proper FDJ team jersey; white with blue and red. Plus I’ve got my recently acquired Sky and Garmin-Cervelo jerseys, both of which are black with blue and white; but I’m not sure how couth it is to wear them while riding a FDJ frame.

I continue to be dazzled by the ride quality of the Lapierre; it’s so smooth and effortless. Despite some sections of rough pavement on our route, my arms and shoulders felt no fatigue, my legs had lots of jump; the kilometers ticked by as if they didn’t exist!. And the slightly longer top tube over the Orbea is working out perfectly, giving me a riding position a little more forward and over the bottom bracket, where I should be! Lapierre’s beauty is more than skin deep!

My French mistress

18 04 2011

I am in love.

And with my wife’s blessing, I have begun an affair with a mistress called Lapierre.

We consummated our relationship on Monday, a languid union along the river on a cool, breezy evening.

Early in our first time together, we had to pause for a photograph. I am still waiting for a white saddle to complete my Lapierre.

But our flirtations began many months ago, when I first spied her in photographs online from the Eurobike trade show. The subtle arc of her top tube and curved arch of the rear brake bridge enticed me. The twist of her chain stays and swooping line of her front fork stirred me.

The Lapierres subtle curves and shapes enticed me from the get-go.

When I saw her perform in the pro peloton, her lithe lines cut a striking figure, more often at the front of the pack than not.

I loved her colors, black and white with touches of red and blue – flashy but not garish.

I loved her Frenchness.

The racing chicken on the chain stay doesnt make me faster, but it does make me smile.

In the months that followed, as my bank account recovered from our pilgrimage to the cobbled climbs of Flanders, I’ll admit, I played the field. If I was to go down this road, I had certain requirements that had to be met: My new mistress had to have a bit of a pedigree; she had to look good with a shiny coat, but she also had to be able to perform, if you know what I mean; she had to have some cachet that would speak to my passion.

In other words, this affair couldn’t just happen; it would take some effort.

There were some pretty Treks to be had, but they’re everywhere like wannabes at cheerleader tryouts. Cervelos are like trophy wives; nice to look at but lacking soul. Williers had some Italian fire, but the online buzz said their love could be fleeting. Scott and Felt caught my fancy briefly, but their lack of commitment to the pro peloton and tendency to chunk up at the bottom bracket turned me off. Look’s beauty was too quirky, and Pinarello’s oddly lumpy stays and fork seemed to take away from its classic beauty. Although I do like those Team Sky and Moviestar liveries.

Ridley was too coy, Giant too plain. The Orbea Orca too rich for my budget. The stylish BH and Cube too elusive. The sharp, angular physique of BMC, with its efficient girder-like tubes, had some appeal, but when we went on a date, she left me feeling ambivalent.

Through it all, the Lapierre kept drawing my gaze. I sought out photos of her in action. Read everything I could find, which wasn’t much. Apparently she likes to keep a low profile.

And winning her over wouldn’t be easy.

There aren’t many places in Canada where Lapierre hangs out; the closest more than three hours away. And she didn’t come cheap.

There were times I’d never thought we’d get together, that Lapierre would stay forever just out of my reach.

But when the stars aligned and the budget seemed to make sense, we made contact.

For three weeks she waited in her box, enshrouded in protective bubble wrap, awaiting the bits that would give her life. These bits had to be special without breaking the bank.

The SRAM Red brifters were a bit of an indulgence. But the Lapierre is worthy.

For the past three bikes I had been loyal to Shimano, but its utilitarian greyness didn’t seem worthy of the shiny elegance of Lapierre. She would have SRAM, the new designer on the block with a growing reputation for style and functionality. Her other baubles would have to be carbon, also from Easton to match her sexy fork.

When all the bits arrived at my bike shop, Jubilee, they measured and sized Lapierre so we’d make a perfect match. They cooed excitedly when they saw her sleek sexiness. They stayed late to put her together, and I was able to bring her home the next day.

No more tangle of cables to entrap my hands in the cockpit.

And there she sat for more than 48 hours as I attended to other duties, like work.

But on Monday, after a hurried dinner and quick change of clothes, we headed out together. Her litheness was immediately apparent, but her smoothness startled me; Lapierre glided over bumps in the road like they were soft butter. She responded alertly to my every touch, to every guiding lean of my body. She was quiet, no creaks, rattles or groans to detract from her supple beauty.

So thrilled was I by our consummation, I waved at everyone who happened by, hardcore roadies to commuting Freds. My grin was my safety reflector.

This is the beginning of a torrid relationship…

Farewell to a friend

15 04 2011

Today’s ride was one of mixed emotions.

It almost didn’t happen. After all, we had snow on Thursday, mixed with monsoon rain. And the forecast for today promised more cool temperatures but dry.

But with the bike bits now in, and the Lapierre frame at the shop to be transformed into a proper bike, I felt I owed my trusty Orbea one last ride together.

She’s been a great bike.

Ours was an accidental union. Literally.

While watching the 2002 Tour de France I decided to fulfill a longtime dream to see it live. Some impulsive surfing and a leap of faith later, I’d signed on with an Australian company for a 10 day cycling holiday that would catch up with ’03 Tour in the Pyrenées to the finish in Paris.

It was kismet; the Centenary Tour, Lance going for his fifth.

In anticipation of some of those long, arduous alpine climbs, I got my beloved Columbus SLX steel road bike outfitted with a triple crankset and started training.

The day before departure, I needed some help breaking the bike down for packing in my bike travel box, so I loaded it onto my car’s roof rack and headed to the shop. In my excitement, I also decided I needed to stop at the mall to pick up a couple of little travel items.

I turned into the mall parking lot and heard a tremendous bang above me. My heart sank. I’d forgotten about the bike on the roof and driven under one of those low arches that prevent trucks from entering the customers’ lot.

The damage was devastating. The seat had popped off the post, the top tube was mangled, the front forks bent over. With just over 24 hours to my flight, I no longer had a bike. I was crushed.

But there was little time to mourn.

I headed into Vancouver to the pro shop that had built up the Columbus bike for me 12 years prior to see what they might have on the floor. There was no time to kick tires, compare brands, read online reviews, do test rides, dream. If it fit, and I could afford it, I had to buy it.

Fortunately, they had a funky Specialized Allez in Acqua-Sapone zebra stripe colors that was my size. I asked if I could swap out some components, and, after explaining my plight, the shop committed to try getting it ready by the end of that day.

It was, and I was able to take it for a quick shakedown ride that evening before packing it into the travel box. Its maiden ride would be in France.

The Specialized was my first aluminum bike. It was stiff, and I wasn’t thrilled with the Body Geometry seat and rather flimsy carbon seatpost, but the bike was quick, climbed like a demon, and turned heads. In fact, when people kept yelling “Allez Mario!” as I climbed the switchbacks of Luz Ardiden, I wondered how they all knew my name; then I realized flamboyant sprinter Mario Cippollini rode for Acqua-Sapone.

My Cippollini Specialized at the summit of Luz Ardiden

I bonded with my Specialized on that trip, we made some beautiful cycling memories. But 10 days after I got home, on my first road ride since France, I got hit by a car.

I broke my thumb, got a small pneumothorax in one lung, plus sundry scrapes and bruises. The bike sustained a crack in the carbon fork, and the frame was bent out of alignment. In other words, a write off.

As I healed and awaited an insurance settlement, I properly researched a new ride. I’d seen a number of Orbeas while in the Pyrenées, where they’re built. When I read they were a co-op, owned by all the workers, my mind was made up; an Orbea would be my next bike.

I loved the orange and blue XLR8R the minute I saw it. I got the shop to salvage some of the components from the Specialized and an eight-year realtionship was forged.

The first few months were rough though. I struggled with creaks and groans and a floppy seatpost that turned out to be cracked. But once I got everything dialed in, we became a team.

I’ve always formed a bit of an emotional connection with my bikes. Spend a lot of time on the saddle, and you can’t help but feel it become a part of you. Every nuance of the ride becomes like a well-worn shoe. You learn how it reacts, whether it prefers to climb or bomb down hills. You settle into the sweet spot on the seat. You know every squeak and the moment you hear something unfamiliar, you know something is wrong.

The Orbea and I rode more than 30,000 kilometers together over eight seasons. It took me to my wedding and to Whistler in last year’s Gran Fondo. We rode on warm sunny days and on cold wet ones. We even got caught in the occasional snow flurry. One year, we rode on Christmas day.

So as I wrestled this morning with the decision whether to bundle up in tights for a ride, I felt more than a little guilty if the Orbea and I didn’t share some favorite views one last time.

On our last ride together, the Orbea and I enjoyed some favorite views.

I’ve decided not to keep it as a winter bike after all; I really don’t ride the road that often in the winter season anyway, preferring instead trail rides on the mountain bike. And we just don’t have the storage space.

Instead the Orbea is going to a new home, a buddy eager to improve his fitness by riding the road. Another MAMIL is born.


8 04 2011

I don’t like change.

Once I find a favorite food, route to work, sleeping position I tend to stick with it.

I am ruled by routine.

So altering my usual early-season riding route is a major life leap.

But after nearly three weeks off the bike, most of that time spent fighting and then recovering from a nasty cold, it seemed a good opportunity to shake things up a little.

All week the weather forecast promised a sunny Friday. The same thing happened last week, but then it ended up raining all day Friday.

But this time the forecast was accurate. Sunny. Dry. Coolish.

Uncertain of the toll my 19 days of sloth had taken on my fitness, I decided to reverse my usual route to UBC, heading out along the easy, flat roads that shoulder the Fraser River then return along the more undulating urban roads. That allowed me to avoid the sharp climb out of New West.

And it also mixed up the scenery a bit.

Things I’m used to seeing going, I was now seeing coming at me.

As I've always crossed this bridge southbound, I never noticed the view of the mountains before.

It’s kinda like playing the reverse course on a racing video game; it’s like a whole new course.

The flat outbound route proved the perfect warmup. My longest ride so far this year, 76.60 kms, ticked by quickly and easily.

Hmmmm, this could become my new regular route…

There was another motive for my route reversal; I needed to make a pitstop at my favorite bike shop to get some measurements. That’s because the orange Orbea is about to be retired to winter/foul weather duty.

A sexy new carbon fiber Lapierre Xelius frame in Francais De Jeux team colors is in the house, thanks to a shrewd eBay deal.

Yes, I’m switching allegiance from Spain to France.

This is my first venture into full carbon fiber, and when I first unboxed the Lapierre, I was shocked at its lightness. It didn’t feel like a bike at all. Of course, it’s still lacking all the bike bits like wheels, gears, brakes, crankset, etc; but it was kind of hard to fathom that this featherweight assemblage of tubes and stays could hold me up, let alone withstand the rigors of the professional peloton.

The oh-so-sexy lines of Lapierre.

Some unique touches: a thumbprint on the top tube, and a racing rooster on the chain stays.


I guess that shows how out of touch I’ve been, merrily pedaling along on my AL Orbea. Heck, they build Formula 1 race cars out of carbon fiber.

The Lapierre will be built up with a combination of SRAM Force and Red components, Easton carbon seat post and handlebars and an AL stem. To save a few bucks, I’m going to port over the Fulcrum wheels from the Orbea, which are less than a year old anyway. I’ve got a set of old Shimano wheels that will do just fine for winter/lousy weather riding on the Orbea.

The only big decision that remains is: white saddle or black?