Thursday, April 21, 2011

L'enfer du nord

Paris-Roubaix is the race that got me interested in cycling. Ever since I first saw it on television back in 1987 with commentary by John Tesh. Now don't get me wrong, I love the Giro and the Tour, but Paris-Roubaix is my favorite hands down. Fast forward 24 years and a bunch of miles later, I finally got my wish. My good friend Dan Farrand got the idea planted in my head and I couldn't say no.

For those who don't know, northern France is SUPER flat, fast and smooth roads as far as the eye can see. That is of course until you hit the cobbles. The first section I rode was Wallers/Arenberg. When I finally stopped and took a look around, I couldn't believe that I'd made it here. All the memories of races I've watched over the years comes right back. After taking a bunch of pictures, I was ready to ride. The road leading up to the forest is flat, straight and fast. But once you hit the cobbles everything goes downhill fast.

The only way I could describe it would be to imagine yourself riding over land mines and your handlebar is red hot and hard to hold. After about 300 yards I stopped with fear that I was going to crash. My hands already had blisters the size of silver dollars. After about 5 minutes I made it to the end with my teeth intact.

The day of the race is like no other. Locals are already dressed up with flags flying by 8 am. You pretty much have only one section to watch the race and since Arenberg is our favorite, that's where we went. As we were waiting, a reporter and camera man interviewed me for Belgian TV (which we saw later that night).

My friends and I could maintain about 15-20 mph through the cobbles. The pros on the other hand were going at least 25-30. You could tell when they were approaching by the roar of the helicopters, motorcycles, support cars and of course the fans.

The ghost train has arrived.

L to R; Me, James Mason, Dan Farrand, Andy Mason

On Monday we decided to head up to the Roubaix velodrome and check it out. One word, impressive. The track is so smooth and the banks are STEEP. This is the last year that the race will end on the original track. Next year, it will finish in the new one which is being built just a stones throw from the old one.

About 50 paces from the track is the office/museum for the track/race. Since this is northern France and Belgium is not too far away, it only makes sense to have a bar inside. Above it are listed all of the riders who won over the years.

No matter what you see on tv, real pave is 1000X harder than it looks. I guess that's why I have more respect for the riders who focus on the classics instead of one race. They turn themselves inside out on the worst roads and weather. The one with the best handling skills wins, it's that simple.


Ps. go see this race in person.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thanks Adam! :: Go Bruins!

Ever been in one of those situations where you're up to your eyeballs, you don't know what you're going to do, and then someone comes along and extends a hand?

I think we've all been there, and as the song says, we get by with a little help from our friends. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the helping hand of Adam Deemer over the past few months.

Adam is off to New Mexico to start a new adventure with his family, and we will miss his mad mechanic skills, willingness to do any crappy job that needs to get done, and most important, his enthusiasm and love of all things bike.

The best thing that we could do to show our appreciation to Adam was to help him build his dream bike, which had to be done in Boston Bruins livery. I was hoping to get this shot properly in our studio, but it hasn't stood still long enough, so here are a few snaps from the build stand and a link to a recent Bike Rumor outing of Adam's new ride:

Adam, best of luck to you and your family in New Mexico and many, many thanks for your support.

Go Bruins!

Friday, April 1, 2011

TiFLW :: Cycling Weekly Review

Our good friends at Mosquito Bikes in London have been introducing our Sprout Green Titanium Factory Lightweight to the press since showing it off at the London Bicycle Show back in January (excuse the cell phone pic, there are some great detail shots in the online article linked below).

Cycling Weekly recently did an online preview and then a print review after throwing a leg over it.

We set out to make a modern metal (mostly) race bike in the same spirit as the muscle cars that came out of Detroit in the late 60's and early 70's (e.g., everything you need for performance, and nothing extraneous, wrapped in aggressive aesthetics).

Modern in the adoption of standards such as BB30 compatible bottom brackets and head tubes for 44mm in-set head-sets, which provide the platform for large diameter tubing to create an extremely rigid frame-set, yet retaining the sweet ride of titanium.

On the aesthetic front, I've taken some heat for limiting the paint scheme and color options on the TiFLW, and even forgone some orders as a result, but after reading Neil Webb's last line in the print review, "the TiFLW is exceptionally well finished, the bike will fit perfectly, and the paint job itself is worth 20 watts!", I feel justified in taking a firm stance on the bike's aggressive aesthetics.

It's not for everyone, and that is a good thing, worth reflecting on from time to time. We make custom bikes, and that is often over simplified into "we make exactly what the customer wants". While we aspire to exceed customer expectations, we aim to do that within the unique context of what makes an IF an IF. Marketeers can go all buzz-babble about brand DNA and such, but sometimes it's best to just be who you are and let the customer decide if they want to dance with you.

Let's face it, lots of folks can join tubes together and make a decent bike... just look at the expanding list of exhibitors at NAHBS. What separates those that can just make a bike from those that will endure over time is the unique emotional context they create for themselves and their customers.

We are an American brand. No faux Euro nomenclature or heritage rip-offs here. After 16 years in the game, we have our own point of view... we make stuff that gets us excited in the morning.

Sprout Green, Omaha Orange, Velocity Yellow, Barracuda Purple, Boss Blue... good for an extra 20 watts? Not sure about that, but if looks fast and has some attitude, you will be faster.

Let's dance,