Monday, September 29, 2008

How To - DV46 Spoke Lengths and Rebuild

The White Industries equipped 16H front and 20H rear Reynolds wheels uses spokes.

Of course.

I broke one of them a month or two ago, and with buying a house, moving, and even working, rebuilding the clincher rear has taken a bit of time. I finally got around to it, after overcoming a hurdle.

I found it a bit difficult to find exactly which size spokes the wheels use, and with the hidden spoke nipples, it was hard to see where they ended (and the broken spoke wasn't of much help). Reynold's site doesn't have specs for older wheels, especially those with hubs other than the ones currently used.

But they do have a support number.

So I called Reynolds, got a friendly and competent customer service person, and he looked up the spoke length for the White Industries equipped 16/20 spoke DV46 wheels.

The inner rim, where the spoke nipples sit, are the same for both the clincher and the tubular. The outer cap differentiates the two models. Since I have matching tubular and clincher DV46s, I decided that I better rebuild everything - the clinchers now, the tubulars after the clinchers.

Fine, I'll skip the front tubular I rebuilt two years ago, since that already has newer spokes. I used non-aero spokes, the better to make the wheel less flickery in sprints - for some reason I can't track a straight line when sprinting on aero-spoke equiped wheels. It must be me since no one else seems to have (or notice) this problem.

Anyway, for reference sake here are the spoke lengths:

264 mm non drive
274 mm drive

266 mm front

I'll be re-using the original spoke nipples. I hadn't even taken one out to see what it looks like, but this last spoke popped way up top so the spoke nipple is rattling around in the rim.

The Reynolds spoke wrench (consumer version).

It is double ended, one longer than the other. I used the shorter end as the handle since it's easier to twirl. The wrench gives you tons of leverage so you don't need the long end except to free up old frozen nipples.

Here is the culprit. It broke on the threads. Brass nipple because it was a drive side spoke. Note the spokes are round for drive side, aero for non drive side. As mentioned before, I'll be using all round spokes, DT 14G Revolution spokes.

Preparing the new spokes.

Since it's a rear, I'm using two different color Spoke Prep, one for each side (they have different length spokes). In the Reynolds case the spokes are really different in length, but in normal wheel builds they differ by about 2 mm. This is hard to see right away and to avoid confusion and mis-laced wheels, it's better to play it save and use two colors. For front wheels you just use one color.

Nothing like some nice Spoke Prep. Dip and then rub it around.

Two different sides, ready to go. In my case I did Right Red (or beige). This makes Blue Left. The Blue side is visibly shorter, even in this not-too-close-up picture.

I started by removing one old spoke, then replacing it with one new one.

Spokes can be bent a bit. I'm doing this with an old spoke but I did it with new ones too. Don't bend too much, but relacing a wheel, one spoke at a time, will require some spoke "tweaks" to thread certain spokes through the mesh of spokes on the other side of the hub.

Respoking is a pain, especially since I didn't want to rotate the rim around at all. Since I didn't know how the rim reacts to different spoke angle stresses, I left the wheel intact (but loose) as I relaced the wheel.

Progress is when all the Red (beige) spokes are gone.

With hidden spoke nipples it's a real pain to thread the nipples onto the spoke. First you have to make sure the nipple gets on the spoke (I dropped two into the rim). Then you tighten it down. Since the spoke wrench for a hidden nipple rim is so far from the spoke, I can't feel the spoke twisting. Therefore I need to hold the spoke with my other hand to feel its twist.

Holding the spoke to feel it twist. Or, if removing a spoke, to hold it in place.

Turning the spoke nipple from the top. I couldn't take the two pictures at once because I don't have a third hand.

Wheel is laced but not tensioned. Note that all the spokes on the grey plastic bin top are the old black ones.

Favorite part of building a wheel (or relacing) - the spoke bend. I did it early on to make the relacing a bit easier, but at the end I did it properly using a screwdriver.

Wheel tensioned.

The wheel after its (my) record breaking run of 244 watts for 20 minutes. Note empty Gatorade bottles.

Its maiden run was on the Monday night group ride out of Granby Bikes. The wheel felt immediately responsive, stiff, rigid, just a joy to ride. Sure, you say, you've been riding other wheels, another bike, of course your "nice" bike will feel fine.

Fine, I admit that I've ridden the Giant on training rides, mainly with the Granby group. But I've been racing the Cannondale a couple times also, and I've ventured out a few times on it shod with race wheels, tubulars (no spares or anything). Although the tubulars are nice, they're not as, well, immediately responsive as the clinchers. I may have (a lot) more tension in the rear wheel but I'll have to check. Any differences or similarities should stand out when I rebuild the tubular DV46 with the same type of spokes.

Regardless they're nice wheels to ride now, and with a 20 spoke rear, instead of 19, it's a heck of a lot better.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Equipment - Campy 11 Speed Overview

Campy's booth with the Campy 11 speed Super Record group. Wow.

At Interbike I attended the Campy/Fulcrum Tech Seminar. Although I figured I knew all about Campy, I wanted to hear the company line, especially with the new 11 speed stuff. People have asked a lot of good questions about the group, and I hadn't heard very compelling answers. When in doubt, go to the source.

The first question: Why 11 speed?

It came down to saving milliseconds in the shift. With racing becoming so competitive, evenly matched racers on semi-evenly matched bikes, Campy decided to revisit the idea of improving design to aid their racers' competitiveness. The focus fell on improving shifting, improving rider efficiency (power transmission and ergonomics), and reducing friction.

As an aside, Campy also wanted to improve small parts availability so your component groups would be fully serviceable.

Campy decided that to reduce shift time, they would put the cogs closer together. This, of course, required a narrower chain that would fit between the extremely friendly cogs. They developed such a chain by shaving down the outsides of the outer plates. Because this reduced the amount of material holding together a critical part of the bike, they spec'ed 20% stronger steel to keep the chain strength at proper levels.

Once they were done reducing the chain width by about 10% (5.9 mm to 5.4 mm), they ended up with, coincidentally, about a 10% spacer (5.4 mm) between the "narrow" 10 speed cassette and the spokes. It happened to be about the same width as an extra cog. Hey, they thought, we could just add another cog.

"Why?", the critics asked.

"Because racers always want an 18 tooth cog. The 10 speed gave them the 16T, but now they want the 18T. And we can do it."

And so it was. The 18T would let racers use a cruising gear currently unavailable in standard 10 speed set ups. With the 11th cog in the cassette, Campy could reduce their cassette selection. For 2009 Campy has four cassette sizes in 11 speed. Three are the normal 11-23, 11-25, and 12-25 ranges, all gaining the elusive 18T cog. They added a "wide range" 12-27 for good riddance, but dropped the 12-29. Compact cranks reduced demand for the big 29T, and by dropping that large cog they could also drop having to make a long cage rear derailleur.

You can see the largest three cogs are joined together, then the next three. After that they're separate cogs.

The cassette is now 70% stiffer side to side, 180% stiffer torsionally (i.e. when you pedal you twist the cassette torsionally). This gives the rider better responsiveness (kind of like how a stiff wheel responds better than a flexy flyer) and it also gets rid of some creaking. Apparently the creaking in my bike is from my cassette twisting torsionally.

Dag. And I've been relubing and regreasing everything I can on the thing.

Super Record gets six Ti cogs (both triple cog carriers), Record gets three (one triple cog carrier), and Chorus gets by with all steel ones. Unlike before, all cassettes now come with lockrings, aluminum or steel, depending on the line up.

The rear of the cassette, showing the intricate mesh of aluminum and titanium. I'm waiting for a creative use of the cassette mounting ring shape as a bio-hazard styled bike team logo.

If you look carefully at the above picture, these "non-rideable" prototypes have severely cracked large cogs - check out the center of the cog, where they bulge out from the cog carrier. I hurried back to the Campy booth after I saw these display-only prototypes.

I checked the cassettes on display in the show. No cracks. When a part says it's not for riding, it really, really isn't for riding.

So there are 11 cogs back on the rear wheel. How will you shift the chain from one cog to another? With the new tall Ergo shift levers. There are three "levels" of 11 speed levers, Chorus, Record, and the new Super Record. I put "levels" in quotes because, for all intents and purposes, they are basically the same. The internals for all of them are borrowed from the flat bar shifters, and the Super Record gets some titanium plates. Otherwise they're the same inside.

And, yes, parts are available for everything on the lever.

From this side the levers are pretty much all the same. The bars were taped well, by the way.

I didn't like the appearance of the grooves on the hoods, but Campy claims that the grooves work to wick away moisture from under the hand. I'll have to check it out on my own since my hands weren't sweaty enough while I was at the show. Yeah, I liked touching the group, but my palms didn't get that sweaty. Really.

Note how long the main lever is - it's substantially longer than the current Ergo lever. Note the dry hands too.

If you really, really want to put the new shape shifters on your otherwise "old" 10 speed Campy drivetrain bike (say, for example, a SystemSix running '08 Campy 10 speed), you can retrofit the Centaur 10s internals into the Chorus/Record/SR levers, but, honestly, you're better off either with the 2009 10s Centaur levers or just going to 11 speed.

Campy worked with pressure sensitive sensors on the levers, measuring where your hands press against the hoods. In those areas they put air pockets in the hoods, giving them a bit of spring, to lessen road shock.

You can see the grid which make up the air pockets under the hood. You can also see the smaller housing openings and the white sticker. More on both later.

They also made the body lever taller, allowing riders riding on the hoods to put three fingers under the lever, not two fingers, or two and a really squished third. This requires a taller lever and therefore a touch more cable housing. Campy cautions against cutting the housing too short when fitting these new levers on a bike - usually those warnings come after some lessons learned the hard way, so I paid attention to the words of caution.

Note three fingers between the lever and the "bar", with room to spare. I could squeeze three fingers there before but my pinky didn't like it too much.

Although I'm seriously against encouraging riders to ride on the hoods when running into potential "situations", the new levers also raise the brake lever pivot substantially. This, along with an aggressive inward curve on the lever, allows you to brake firmly from the hoods.

The "fourth" hand position.

The taller body gives another handhold on the levers, one familiar to Shimano users, that where you grab the top of the hoods, and only the tops. Apparently the pros liked this, and to be honest, so did I.

Eddy B would beg to differ since he recommends always having a finger hooked around something on the bars - a lever or the bars themselves. It takes one little bump, one careless error, and your hands could go flying off the bars. It's a minor detail in racing, but it's like wearing a seatbelt - you don't get into your car saying, "Boy, today I'm going to smash into something and test out my seatbelt." Likewise, you never place your hands on the bars and say, "Well, today I want to slide my hands off the bar in a moment of inattentiveness, flip over the bars, and lose a bunch of teeth. Yeah."

So, yeah, that new position is nice, but it's not for close quarters riding. More like cruising along next to the canals in Belgium or something like that.

Previously riders with smaller hands consistently complained about the reach to the Ergo brake levers. Campy addressed this by reducing the reach by 4%, and for those ham handed riders, an 8% reach boosting kit.

The levers also use much smaller cable housing openings - you must use the 11 speed cable housing, a narrower housing than the already narrow 10 speed housing. In addition you do not need to use a housing end - a brass ring sits inside the brifter at the base of the cable housing opening, negating the need for the end. This very tight fit reduces housing movement and therefore increasing shift precision and speed, going back to that goal of improving rider performance through groupset changes.

Finally, and I thought this was interesting, Campy clearly states NOT to put the levers on the straight part of the bar, i.e. the straight bit just above the hooks of the drops. They have a term for it, but as soon as the tech guy mentioned this, I thought of my own term.

No jacked levers.

Sweet. Then I thought, "Oh, this must be the 'Lance can't ride this lever" thing, because he puts the levers so far up I'd find it hard to ride.

The next thing is the front derailleur. Although it's not a sexy derailleur, hard to see even in bike photo shoots, it cannot be ignored. The front derailleur is the key to gaining the market's confidence. Everyone's rear derailleurs work extremely well - in fact, when shifting my current rear derailleur, I can't imagine rear derailleurs working magnitudes better than they do now. They shift at any time, under load, in whatever weather, with very little effort. The only significant improvement would be multiple shifter locations and perhaps a more stealthy shift (i.e. quieter).

The front derailleur is different.

They misbehave in many ways. Under load it is difficult to shift into the big ring, unless one finesses their pedal pressure. The chain can drop off on the inside, avoidable if using a chain "stop". The shifting is relatively slow, and it is virtually impossible to shift while in a 100% hard, standing effort.

With Shimano's Electronic front shifting system's incredible reliability, the only way that Campy can fight back is to have either an electronic or mechanical system that matches or exceeds Shimano's performance and reliability. In addition, since Shimano's electric front derailleur broadcasts its shifts with a mechanical "Whirrrr" (think of a robotic arm noise), a mechanical or electronic shifter that works silently would be a tactically superior shifter.

I didn't ride any new bikes at Interbike, nor have I examined Shimano's (or SRAM's) front derailleurs at length, but a side by side comparision would be very interesting.

At this point, I can only point out that Campy has done three things to address shifting the chain across the chainrings more effectively.

The first is the aforementioned shift lever body treatment with the super tight cable housing mount, reducing cable housing slop.

The second involved some tweaking of the front derailleur cage. They made the narrow bit narrower, decreasing shift time, along with redoing the pull geometry. In fact the front derailleur shifts 18% quicker than the current QuickShift, which is already pretty quick. The narrow shape makes this an 11 speed only derailleur only, but the cage is compatible with both compact and regular cranksets. In addition, the carbon cage is lined on the inside with metal, increasing cage life span. The Chorus cage gets an all metal cage, the two Records get the Carbons.

Incidentally, I saw that circlips held together the front derailleur - parts should be available here too, to tighten up a sloppy used derailleur.

The third change to improve front shifting is the set up on the chainrings. There are two things - the ring spacing and the ring shape.

The rings are spaced closer together, kind of like the rear cassette, so the chain has less distance to travel. Campy doesn't recommend using the 11 speed rings for a 10 speed drivetrain because the downshift to the small ring is so close that the wider 10s chain and 10s front derailleur will more frequently dump the chain into the bottom bracket. If you want to use the new cool rings, you'll need to upgrade to 11s. The 10s Centaur rings are not the same material, although they have the the extra ramps.

Chainrings, baby. You can see the bearings peaking out from the races.

That brings us to the cranks. I thought they were the same, because, well, they looked the same. And, yes, the crank arms are the same. The rings, though, differ substantially, and not just in spacing.

You'll notice the grey finish first - it's a hard annodization, something in racing harking back to the Mavic SSC rims. The coating significantly reduces wear by a factor of three, making a 3000 km 11 speed ring look like a 1000 km 10 speed ring. It also makes corrosion almost nonexistant (only the ramp pins corroded in long term salt water spray tests).

Note the pins and ramps everywhere.

The rings also have a lot of shift ramps, both in the down stroke as well as the top/bottom of the stroke. Instead of waiting half a revolution to shift, you can force it to shift almost anywhere on the ring. I'd guess that most experienced riders would still shift at the top and bottom just out of habit, but when you're twiddling along in the small ring and your riding buddy launches a surprise attack in the 53x13, you may find yourself desperately looking for the big ring - and the extra ramps and pins will help you get there quickly.

Finally, to address the tendency to cross-chain (use the big ring and big cog) when using a compact crank drivetrain, Campy designed their rings to be used in the cross-chain combination. Extra cutouts and tooth shapes allow the chain to make the severe angle to the big cog. Again, although it's not something you want to do on a regular basis, it's something that inevitably happens in heated situations, whether a race or a competitive group ride.

The bottom bracket remains the same, but Campy is introducing their CULT (Ceramic Ultimate Level Technology) bearing system for 2009. Ceramic bearings are fine, but the super hardened stainless races are new, and, for the next three years, an exclusive for Campy. They need little or no lube (no grease for sure) and they spin smoother than anything I've seen, at least when there are no seals on it. With no corroding materials in the bottom bracket, you can actually ride with no lube.

Although currently available OEM only on Super Record components, the bearings are available as service parts (of course), and since many of the bearings are interchangeable, they can therefore be retrofitted into compatible bottom brackets and hubs.

Now to go to the rear derailleur, the crown jewel of any component group. The carbon pulley cages added some bling to the 10s Record group, but Campy has gone to a whole new level with their 11s rear derailleur.

Massive bling.

The most noticeable thing is the oversized carbon outer plate, but there's more to the derailleur than just the bling. The (replaceable) wide outer plate, combined with massive (replaceable) brass pivots, makes the rear derailleur 150% stiffer. This stiffness makes the derailleur move more positively, making shifts quicker and more precise.

Big brass... pivots.

The pulleys are now 11 tooth oversize pulleys. No, they will not interchange with your new 11T on your cassette - the pulleys are full of holes and have their own CULT (ceramic) bearing system. In addition Campy has coated the pulleys with a rubbery coating which reduces vibration and chain bounce.

Big, hole-y pulleys with ceramic bearings.

Prototype, do not ride. That is so cool. Note titanium hardware.

In the above picture you can see the A screw to the left, between the pulley cages and the main derailleur body. This adjusts the pulley-cog distance (minimal is good) so that the derailleur shifts better. It exists on the current 10 speed rear derailleur and replaces the B screw that used to serve that function.

Let's get back to the chain that runs through the beautiful rear derailleur pulleys. That beautiful 10 speed chain tool I have won't work on the 11 speed chains. Instead, you'll need to use the new big boy on the block.

11 is the new 10.

The silver trim in the handles is new. The feel is the same, the function almost the same. Solid, extremely precise, feels like something that belongs in a bank safe mechanism. There's an extra piece on the chain tool specifically for the 11 speed chain.

The Anvil (sticking out to the right).

The piece doesn't have a name, but we'll call it the Anvil. With the super thin side plates on the chain, it's imperative that the special 11 speed connecting pin be properly inserted and secure. The chain tool takes care of inserting the pin in a square manner, but the secure part, that's the Anvil's job. Once the chain is installed, you put the anvil in place, and using the big turn handle, you mushroom the pin head. This permanently secures the pin in place. The only caveat? You can't push out a pin that you've put in.

Campy recommends replacing the chain every 2000 miles, and if you do that, the cassette should last 20,000 miles. The chain interval is pretty short, but it makes sense to keep a worn chain from prematurely wearing out the expensive cassette. The Campy chains are "pre-stretched" so they will not alter length significantly over the recommended life of the chain.

Finally, the white sticker on the brifter body from way back up the post.

Campy is determined to get rid of the grey marketers destroying the market value of Campy components. In order to help dissuade such parts, Campy is labeling every part out there. The white sticker on the Ergo lever is one such label. Without a proper label in the proper country, the part will have no warranty.

As the missus just said, it's like putting the VIN number on every piece of a car. You can track where it came from, where it belongs, and whether or not it should be in use here or not.

Now for some fun stuff.

Campy has a few food related items in its line up, some unintentionally. For example, the 15 mm crankbolt wrench was fondly called a "peanut butter" wrench for the alleged second use of the handle - apparently it was a perfect utensil for spreading that sticky stuff on bread. Now, who would use a greasy handle to spread peanut butter on bread is beyond me, but the story has its cute points. Maybe Tullio liked peanut butter, I don't know.

Campy also had a nut cracker. Although Tullio was probably a ball buster in races (his frustration with wing nuts famously led to the invention of the quick release), the nut cracker destroys with finesse - it's designed to break the shell, not the nut. This way you won't have to pick through the pieces to eat the nut, getting those inadvertent pieces of shell that threaten to undo all that expensive dental work you've had done. At least if you've had expensive dental work done like both the missus and I have. I'm sure the instigating factor in this tool's invention had something to do with Tullio hollering while holding his cheek, nursing a painful jaw, pieces of shell and nut in his mouth.

Finally, Campy has a corkscrew. They've had it forever, actually, because I remember them in the shop in the early 80s. Although it's sort of infamous for being a severely overpriced piece of machinery, Tullio made it for a reason. One day, looking forward to his glass of port a little too enthusiastically, he drove the corkscrew into the cork a bit crooked. Instead of a satisfying "Pop", he heard the sickening sound of cork breaking. With half a cork left in the bottle, he demanded that a better cork remover be made.

Presto, the Campy corkscrew.

And would you believe it, you can get small parts for it.

Finally, to close the Campy 11 speed review, a story from the show.

One IB day I strolled past the Campy booth, on a mission, when my peripheral vision yanked my head to the side. An older gent stood in conversation with a younger one, both of them standing in the corner of the booth. I stopped and looked.

Valentino Campagnolo.

Son of Tullio. Boss of Campy. Standing there, a couple feet away from me.

I looked around for something to sign. I wanted to tear down a piece of the booth but I figured that wouldn't go over too well. The Campy booth had catalogs and a dealer brochure. That would do. I grabbed a tech brochure, but the booth girl told me the bags had the larger Trade Catalog as well. I snagged a bag, dug in for the 2009 Trade Catalog (it's a good half inch thick, chock full of pictures and specs and stuff), and spun around.

He was still there.

Grabbing my trusty Sharpie, I walked up to Mister Valentino Campagnolo.

I wasn't sure if he spoke English. I think now that he does, but he acted like he didn't. Of course, since I didn't know if he spoke English, and I was too shell shocked to ask, all I could do was mime him signing the tech guide. I never said a word so maybe he thought I didn't speak either Italian or English.

Maybe I was some Shimano guy to him, I don't know.

His smiling aide stepped back, silently laughing.

Valentino, positively amused, looked at me in astonishment. I can imagine what he's thinking. "This guy takes one of my catalogs that costed me $10 to print and he wants me to sign it? The gall. And he doesn't even speak English. Or Italian. Or maybe he's mute."

So, after sizing me up, to reward my gall, he very carefully and deliberately opened the Trade Catalog. After flipping through a number of pages (he apparently flipped forward and back, because he signed the page immediately behind the cover), he stopped and carefully poised the Sharpie. Then, a quick dash, and the brochure had been gifted. Now it was an autographed Trade Catalog.


Properly stunned, I said the only Italian I could remember - it popped into my head just then.


A smile crinkled his bright eyes.

"Prego," he replied.

And he wasn't talking about the spaghetti sauce either.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Interbike - Day Three

A good friend calls this the "Exhibitors' Day". With the end of the show in sight, and a lot of retailers completely burnt out after two long days at the show, the vendors start to wind down. They finally get a chance to wander around, to look at the stuff out there that they've only heard of, yet never seen, just because they haven't had the chance to get out of their booth. Hence it's the Exhibitors' Day.

Too, with the light "retail" load, many vendors have extra time, they are looking to dump their extra goods, and they'll start packing up a couple hours before the end of the show. It's prime time for schwag pickin's.

After the very long day yesterday, the dismal race, and long ride afterwards, we woke up pretty late, still bleary-eyed. I started to write the preliminary stuff for the prior post, then remembered, that, oh, hey, I don't have any digital media here - it's all in my laptop, all at my friend's at the Palazzo. So although I have two laptops, I can't lug the second one around just to move a few dozen bytes of data.

We did have our cameras though, so I used the card from one of those to save my prelim post. Luckily I didn't corrupt any image data so the show pictures and videos were safe.

The missus and I got ready to go, but I padded around in my socks for a bit before finishing up the rest of the post. I sat on the bed, looked down at my socks, and said, more to myself than anything else, "Shoes would be good." I looked around.


My stomach sank a bit. My shoes were in my backpack. In the Palazzo.

So, like any other guy in Vegas, I left the hotel room in my socks, carrying my Sidis in case I had to put them on. You know, "No shoes, no shirt, no service", stuff like that. As we waited for the Deuce I snapped the following picture.

Walkin' in LV, walkin' in LV. This is a block from Fremont Street.

I didn't do as many miles in my Sidis at this guy did.

Nor this guy. Very cool little display at Sidi.

Red is the new yellow.

Since red doesn't do TV very well (a Winning Magazine photog guy told me this, but that was before HD and stuff), I figure we'll see a new color soon. I say Green, like Liquigas green, or Orange, like Euskatel. Blue is out, pink will be too hard to sell, but bright colors will work as Crocs have proven.

Anyway, back to our trip... I made it to the bus before someone (the driver) asked me to put my shoes on. I took them off after I clopped up the stairs and sat down in the upper deck. The missus and I shared stories of our separate trips home last night, and when we got to Treasure Island, we hopped off the bus.

A few minutes later, after flashing the "Get in free" card to the guard, we got to our "storage room" in the Palazzo. I felt like one of the Irish brothers in Boondock Saints, one of the 'bestest' movies in the world, but one that all my friends ridicule. Feeling like soldiers going into battle, we carefully picked and chose what we'd bring. Cameras, yes. Laptop, with internet wireless broadband modem, yes. IB badges, yes. Poster tube, yes.

And, of course, shoes. The rubber soled kind, not the cleated ones.

We left behind all our schwag, books, DVDs, helmet cam stuff, my clothes from yesterday. Back downstairs at IB, we hung out in the media center for a while. I finished up the post and posted it, and the missus started talking with the guy Butch. He asked if I'd done the Industry Cup, showed me a clip of a crash there, then lamented that his batteries died right after that crash. I couldn't tell him much, my extremely short race not worth too many tales.

I went to a Campy seminar, which warrants a long post for a later date. The missus kept networking on my behalf, getting a bunch of guys hyped up on my helmet cam clips and such - she was showing them my YouTube clips, this blog, stuff like that. Actually Butch talked up the clips and got them hyped up, I guess he really liked them, especially the text commentary.

At some point we decided to gut out the rest of IB, to call it a day at 5 PM. I made some more travels around the floor, spotted some stuff, ignored others, took pictures of various folks and things, miscellaneous stuff like that.

At the beginning of the show we guessed how many Dahons fit in a Prius.

A lot.

A surprisingly low key Mark Cavendish autograph session netted me a nice picture and a nice autographed little card. If he couldn't draw a big crowd, then IB was really over for the year. 3:15 PM on the third day of IB is not the ideal time for an autograph session.

One booth that really caught my eye was that of the Ridley bike folks. They had this very tough, very flahute kind of booth. Simple, straightforward, and to the point. We're Belgian and we're tough mofos.

Tough flahute mofos.

Talk about a tough mofo in a tough mofo picture. I wish I had a mural of this in the bike room.

Or of this. I thought it weird to have the Helium (a climbing bike) in front of an obviously flat Spring Classic kind of road.

I love those background pictures. I can imagine something like this in my bike room, maybe a surround-type mural, riders coming at me from one end of the room, riding past me in the middle, and riding away from me at the end. Who's up for making this stuff up - I'm sure you could sell bunches of this wall paper to college students, single bike racers, and attached bike racers with their own little indoor training area. Heck, just sell pictures you print out on a printer on 8.5x11 paper. I may just have to borrow a projector for my laptop and trace the pictures on the wall.

Extremely narrow seatstays in an up-down direction, surprisingly wide in a lateral way. Comfy until you stomp on the pedals, then really stiff. Or so it seems anyway.

Along the Belgian theme, the missus and I traveled over to the Museeuw booth for some pictures. His was a more simple booth, one that a fledgling company would have. He was there, talking with his clients, so we left him along. We drooled over some of the bikes appropriately and I took pictures of a bunch of them.

The sports utility bike.

I have two friends that ride such a bike, and one did quite well in one of those race/events that follows a Tour stage (brev-something). Both have problems with their neck, back, or hips, and both cannot ride dropped bars. I don't think Museeuw built this bike for them, but I guess it's the Euro version of a hipster bike.

Interestingly enough, the clamp is made by Ritchey.

I like that the frame comes in a bag. I also like the track bike in the background.

The bag was crumpled up so I straighted it out for this picture. White doesn't seem quite Belgian to me, but covered in mud in a rainstorm, no one would know what color it was anyway. I suppose that was the point.

The frames, as I mentioned before, lack the aero high tech appeal that I'd been searching for during the whole show, but they had something else. They longed to go bashing over cobblestones, to be ridden hour after hour under dingy grey skies in the Belgian countryside.

I like the lugged look. Part of it is the fact that it implies "I can be customized". One piece molds scream, "You have to be Boonen to get a custom frame."

A close up of the floor bike reveals the flax tint (brownish color) deep in the tubes, a contrast to the all grey, all carbon lugs. Can you make a 50 x 56 for me? Lugs mean custom, right?

Aero wheels wouldn't be appropriate, and a semi-aero wheel would be pushing the limits. Box section would be more like it, with big, squared off bars more like narrow mountain bike bars than the delicate sprinter bars the smooth-road roadies like.

Although Museeuw seemed to be engrossed in business talks, the missus piped up that he was just talking with his buddies. So, after we gathered the courage to tap him on the shoulder (our friend did, we didn't), he gladly posed with his pride and joy bike for a picture.

The man with his machine. And his piece of flax cloth.

Then, to my happy astonishment, he also included me in the shot, putting his hand around my waist like we were long time buds. Okay, I admit we asked him if it was okay, and he agreed. But he agreed happily, so that's got to count for something.

I, being extremely "sponsor" conscious, carefully held up the flax-carbon fabric sample they'd been showing everyone, and that Museeuw himself had been holding in the picture. He laughed when he saw that, pleased, I'm sure, that this blogger guy was doing his part in return for the picture with the star.

And when the first picture didn't come out, he made us take a second, so that counts for something double.

And that was that. We ran into some friends and aquaintances from back home, including the official from Bethel. His advice - "Next year come here in shape!" I couldn't explain my feverish illness since I didn't feel that way today, but let me give you a tip.

Never, ever, ever eat the buffet food. Ever.

We had a nice meal (again) in the Grand Lux Cafe, collected our stuff from upstairs, and headed back to the hotel.

IB 2008, for us, was over.

Interbike - Day Two, A Day Late

Interbike. The middle day. The tough day. If IB was a stage race, this was the long day after the opening stages of the race.

For us it was a long, long day, with some technical or scheduling difficulties that made posting things impossible during the evening.

My first issue was getting my bike down to the convention center so that I could ride from there to the race. My bestest friend said it would be okay to leave my bike and gear in his very spacious suite in the nearby Palazzo so I rode my bike down. My quads were twinging hard, my throat was a bit sore, and the lactic acid built up right away.


Because I wanted to get to the show early, I rode over early. When I went to change into my street clothes, I realized I forgot an important piece of clothing.

Let's just say that if "Chamois time is training time", I trained from 8:00 AM to about 11 PM in my Connecticut Coast Cycling Verge shorts.

(I will point out that I wore my Carpe Diem Racing Verge shorts on my ride down, so I wasn't in "just ridden" shorts all day, I was in "just washed" shorts all day)

Our first goal that day was to catch the early-ish Lance press conference. Being the star struck kind, that was something I really wanted to do.

But then a different star struck.

Actually, I didn't know who it was, but when I called to find out the Lance room number, my suite-space lending friend just told me, "Get to the media center NOW."

Usually he's very level headed, very calm, and very good at explaining himself, but the curt, tense voice made my Spidey Sense tingle. The missus and I barged into the show entrance, expecting our magical (media) passes to do the trick, but alas, they didn't. A kind soul, overhearing our predicament, realizing our (well, okay my) desperation to get in, offered to escort us in.

The same guard that diligently blocked our way just a minute before now diligently let us through, the Early Entry Pass the newest greatest pass ever invented.

We walked quickly to the media center, our rescuer explaining why he chose to rescue us. Suffice it to say that when a good friend of yours is "good people", inevitably his friends are also "good people".

We strode into the media center and I stopped, slack jawed.

The Lion of Flanders sat there.

No, not a lion lion. But better. Now, to those that didn't know the kid inside me, this was like seeing, well, Johan Museeuw. Oh, right, he is Johan Museeuw. But it's hard to convey the significance here. Yes, he won a bunch of World Championships, a few Paris Roubaixs, even Tour of Flanders a couple times.

But this is what I remember of him.

First, as a young rider, he was on Lemond's absolutely decimated 1989 Tour de France winning ADR team. The team, at full strength, gave Lemond a great base by placing an incredible fifth in the team time trial, but in the mountains they just melted away. Only a few ADR guys finished the Tour, but one of them won it by eight seconds. Museeuw finished a bit worse (106th, 2:13 down), but he was one of the few guys that can say that he finished.

Second, as a slightly less young rider in 1990, he jumped out of the field on the Champs Elysee and sprinted to an easy looking win in the last stage of the next Tour. I thought he'd be the next big sprinter.

His name stayed on my radar.

He joined a team that sported wild looking glasses (Brikos), even wilder looking kits (the Mapei colorful block kit, complete with colorful block shorts), riding colorful Colnagos, and, for a short time, Spinergy RevX wheels (!). I was probably the biggest fan of the Mapei team at that time - kick ass kit, tough as nails look, and a team that worked togther. Here was a team that used teamwork (and, as I realized later, very strong racers) to win the biggest classics out there.

Probably one of the most well known wins was their 1-2-3 at Paris Roubaix, one given to Museeuw (they rolled across the line in predetermined order). It would have been 1-2-3-4 except that the strongest rouleur ever in Paris Roubaix (Ballerini, who could even put Museeuw in trouble) missed the break because he flatted literally seconds into the break.

The kicker for me, though, was the 1996 Ghent Whevelgem, where two Mapei "non-sprinters", Museeuw and Ballerini (Museeuw had lost his finishing kick at this point), take off early, forcing a lot of very strong teams to chase. Then, when they're caught, Ballerini and Bortolami infiltrate the next break, again forcing the big sprinters' teams to chase. Then, with 2 km to go, when things finally get back together, Mapei set up a till-now-invisible Tom Steels for a thrilling win.

Museeuw, ever the team player, took Steels to his jump off point.

I watch this tape over and over in the winter, every winter, while I pedal away on the trainer.

At that time a kid in the shop, equally awed by the show of strength, teamwork, and the incredibly obnoxious kit, told me he'd talked to a friend of ours named Nick (both a friend and customer of the shop) about this wunderteam.

"Nick says he wants to buy some Mapei kits, go to Gimbles, and kick everyone's butt."

We liked Nick's plan so we decided to adapt it.

Specifically we'd go there to attack like crazy and lead me out for the Route 120 sprint, my preferred sprint (but not the "final" one). We all got kits and I trained like mad in mine. Night time downtown sprints, Gimbles, whatever. It's a kit that, in a country like the US, makes you look like a clown, so you'd better be really fast if you're going to earn any respect from the locals.

(My suite-loaning friend, a bigger fan of the Francais des Jeux team, decided to get that kit instead, but, to his credit, he had the first ever 1-2-3 Paris Roubaix team kit, the Gewiss one).

I ended up wearing out two pairs of Mapei shorts (I raced in them regularly, believe it or not), one jersey, one pair of socks (gift from my best friend), and countless jerseys. I could never wear the Brikos (again, a gift from my best friend) because my prescription insert was too thick and my lashes squished up against the lenses. But I bought fresh jerseys just to get signed, and over the years I got Tom Steels, Fred Rodriguez (now of Rock Racing), a couple others.

I'd been carrying a Mapei jersey everywhere in Las Vegas, hoping to run into Museeuw.

And now, here he was.

I didn't know if he was about to leave so I quickly dug up the jersey and a fat Sharpie. Our Early Pass savior was even more prepared - he had big books, a jersey, all sorts of things to sign - I guess we caught him when he was leaving the show area to retrieve it all. I lent him my Sharpie as he didn't have one.

When Museeuw asked him to pull on the top part of the jersey, our savior looked puzzled. I knew the drill so I explained that if he held the top, Museeuw would hold the bottom, stretching out the jersey so he could sign the stretched part.

Ah, that worked well.

My turn, and he took a lot of time to not only sign the jersey but to add "Lion of Flanders" at the bottom.


His handler/manager then regaled us with details of the bike and of the new Museeuw wheels. My suite-loaning friend picked up the wheels and showed me the decals.

"You're the one that hates the sliding off decals, right?"

I murmured my consent. You know those decals on frames and wheels where it looks like the decals slid a bit before they dried? I hate them, just hate them.

"Check these out"

The rims were carbon (and flax I guess), laser etched with "Museeuw" and a stylized lion head. And the letters ran nice and parallel to the brake surface.

Now that's what I'm talking about.

We checked out the rest of the bike, but, alas, in my shell shocked state I didn't take any pictures. However, unfortunately for my aero road bike kick, it's a Belgian bike. It's meant for cobbles, for steep hills, for long rambling rides across dirt roads between farmers' fields. It's not a Tour of California bike, one for wide, smooth roads. And therefore it's not an aero road bike.

My friend left for the Lance press conference, Museeuw went into the early morning IB show, and I sat shell shocked at the printer. The missus and I printed and collated a bunch of stuff related to my primary (and heretofore secret) mission here, deciding to skip what ended up being a historic press conference. As a BikeForums member posted, "Lemond Lance Steel Cage Death Match in Las Vegas"

Oblivious to the fireworks taking place just a little bit away from us, we got ready to do some stealth autograph seeking. See, we'd gotten word that Lance would be signing some stuff at the Oakley booth after the press conference, and so we sort of dilly-dallied in that area until a square jawed Oakley guy (the missus thought he looked like Lance, and although I think everyone looks like everyone, I didn't think this guy looked like Lance at all, but I kept my mouth shut) started talking to passers-by out of the side of his mouth, Popeye like. One of the words murmured was "Lance".

My ears perked up.

"What was that?", I asked him.

The Lance-lookalike sized me up. Hesitated for a moment. Then decided I was okay.

"Want to get something signed by Lance? He'll be here in 15 or 20 minutes," the words came out of the side of his mouth.

"Okay!", I replied, trying to put on my best "wow I'm so lucky" face on. I don't think I had to try too hard regardless of our dilly-dallying.

The guy slipped us some wristbands.

"Without these bands he won't sign so put them on."

We diligently put them on.

I realized in a minute or so that we had nothing for him to sign. No yellow jersey, no book, no nothing. I found the drug, uh, wristband dealer guy and asked him if there'd be posters or something.

"Yeah, yeah, but you gotta get in line", he replied. "And put your band on!"

I hurried back in line, we put the bands on.

A very pissed off looking Lance signed things for us, very nice, very patient, lots of cameras going off in his face. We'd find out later why he looked so angry, but at that moment I thought maybe he didn't like something I wrote.

It was only about 10 o'clock in the morning. Now what?

I had a short agenda for the day. One was to find Robin Zellner, the guy that I worked for in ToPA, say hi to him, pick up an autographed picture from his new team Vanderkitten (he's managing it, it's not his team, but whatever). I also wanted to track down Michael Z from SRAM since he commented on the SDC blog.

I ran into Robin pretty early on, along with the owner of the Vanderkitten team. They were on their way to a meeting of some sort so I declined his offer to get the team to sign something, take pictures, etc.

We ran into Andrea, another ToPA person, so that was nice. She met the missus, we caught up on news and such, had a great little chat.

I went looking for Mike Z but he seemed really busy. The first time I went he wasn't even there, and the SRAM guy I spoke with told me, "Well, he's really tall so he's easy to find, and he's wearing a shirt like mine," pointing to his red (of course) SRAM shirt. With this in mind I kept an eye out for a tall guy in a red SRAM shirt.

Finally, on maybe the third round at the SRAM booth, the missus found him sort of free, and approached him with that "mission" look on her face.

"Hi, you're, uh..."


Michael is not only a tall guy, he's both friendly and funny. We chatted briefly too, before he had to go do real things.

I also ran into a long time Gimbles rider at a booth. I was so focused on my mission I didn't realize who I was speaking with until the guy put his hand up.

"Aki, Aki, who do you think you're talking to?"

I actually assimilated who I was talking to.

Oh. Hi Chris.

I guess I get mission focused.

Our show closing mission was to visit the Velopress booth and pick up a book written by Joe Parkin. He's a US pioneer in the Euro scene, and he wrote what I hope will be an interesting book. He raced for Tulip, a team I associate with my all too brief Belgian racing trip.

I rounded the corner and saw a lone guy sitting on a chair, a pile of books beside him, no one in front of him.

How depressing.

I decided I'd try and make him feel better by walking right up to him. Then the missus piped up.

"The line's over here."

I looked over at a line of people stretching around the corner.


Gotta ease with that mission focus.

Joe Parkin's long shaggy hair, bandaged right wrist, and shaky handwriting belied his patience and the brief insightful comments I read while walking away from the booth (I put the book away before I ran into a person, place, or thing).

The missus and I had another meal at our new favorite place, the Grand Lux Cafe, and then trekked over to our friend's suite where we'd stashed my bike and all my gear. I changed to get ready for...

The Industry Cup Crit.

By then I'd started feeling alternating chills and heat, my forehead was drenched in sweat, and I felt so quesy I wasn't sure if I could make it to the race itself. The missus actually asked if I was going to race, it was that bad. I thought of all the time and effort and money I spent to get the bike here, and of the opportunity to race with Museeuw. I figured there wouldn't be another chance like this, so I really had to race. I had no choice.

After changing and getting outside, my head cleared up. Maybe it was the Dayquil, but whatever, I felt a bit better. I caught up with the bikehugger group, following a pack of assorted jalopies, one pulling a bike powered blender (drinks at the course), another loaded down with a thumpin' sound system pumping out some bass heavy tunes, with more than a few DLGs. I started talking to the guy sitting by the blender thing (he was just a passenger) and it ends up he's from, the DLG's makers.

The course itself was a crazy loopy course, doubling back on itself to extend the course and to offer some challenges to the racers. My first stop was with the SRAM neutral support, where I lubed my chain (I cleaned it before coming out here but didn't lube it) and pumped up my tires. In the dark I pumped until the gauge pointed to about 2 o'clock, about 110-120 psi on my pump. As I pumped up the rear tire, I realized the tire had been really low, so I picked up the pump and looked at the gauge.

The 2 o'clock related to about 160 psi.


I could pump up the rear to a more reasonable pressure, but then the balance between the front and rear would be messed up, and the rear wouldn't act as an early slide indicator. Or I could fiddle with the front valve and release some air, but if I pulled the valve out that wouldn't be good. My mission focused mind didn't realize that I was next to two cars full of spare wheels and bikes, but, hey, I was really focused.

I warmed up a bit, trying to convince my body that I felt okay. I started wondering, are these nerves? Am I actually nervous for a race? Or is the bile in my throat, the churning stomach, and cold sweat indicative of another West Coast cold?

A hard jump confirmed that I wasn't feeling good - my calf almost locked up and I veered right as my leg, refusing to stretch out, yanked me down a bit. After that incident I decided that I'd take it easy, spin a bit, get the blood flowing, drink Powerade, and hope for the best.

At some point I realized I needed to get to the line and asked a passing rider where we stage.

"SRAM pits"

I looked and, yes, in my mission focused mind, I also missed the lane going from the pits to the course. The twenty or thirty racers there obscured it, so that's my excuse for missing it. I put my foot down next to a big non-bike racing guy talking somewhat fervently on the phone.

"Yeah, tell Johan he needs to get his butt down here now."

I glanced at him, and with more pressing things on my mind, pulled out the ice cold bottle of water I scored from yet another friend who did me yet another favor. I broke the seal, poured what I could into my bottle, and sprinkled some on my head.

I heard the guy again.

"Yeah, they're doing stuff down here. They're all here, the racers are getting read. You know, like filling bottles."

I lifted the rear wheel to get the chain onto the big ring.

"Checking gears."

I looked up at him. Sprinkled more water on my head.

"Spraying water on their heads. You know, racer things."

We rolled to the pre-line up line. I took my standard "20 feet off the back" spot. The first racer called up was someone that, forgive me, I forget. The second one was no other than the very famous Johan Museeuw.

No one budged.

The guys in the front row looked at each other, looking for Museeuw in disguise. Everyone behind them craned their heads to look forward because, you know, if you're the Lion of Flanders, that's where you'd be.

He wasn't.

So everyone looked towards the second row. I was one step ahead, scanning the rear of the field. As everyone started scanning further and further back... I thought, uh oh.

Suddenly, as if on cue, everyone turned and looked at me.

No, I'm not Johan.

Everyone quickly figured that out and looked away.

But, for one brief moment, all eyes were on me.

With that out of the way, the rest of the call up went ahead, and we got going. I thought we'd start pretty slowly because the first turn was tight, the field was fence to fence (the whole course was fenced off), and it was sort of dark. But, as slowly as I thought we were going, guys started doing lurid powerslides as they braked into the turn, me being no exception.

"I shoulda taken air out of the tires. SRAM was there, I could have taken a wheel."

How the mind works as your bike slides into Turn One.

Every single turn on the course caused my rear tire to skip, hop, and slide across the pavement. The second left, the third left, the 270 degree right, the next two 90 lefts, and the long sweeping left into the finish. Only the shallow left at the far end of the course was anywhere near stable. I felt like I was driving a car in Gran Turismo with flat tires, the rear end of my bike went anywhere it felt like.

I had to rethink my cornering, slide back a bit. I briefly contemplated sliding out on purpose so I could take a lap and reduce my tire pressure, but that was a brief desperate moment.

I ended up behind a guy from ToPA so I thought, oh, this guy is good, I'll hang out here. Ends up he's aerobically good but technically terrible. We went backwards through the field, he went slow through the turns, fast on the straights, and I couldn't get around him or the guy directly in front of me, a guy with 1.5 legs. Before a couple laps were up we were off the back.

Suddenly guys were hollering "Up, up", and we flew into Turn One and a scene of chaos. Guys were all over the road, bikes, and my skittering rear wheel barely got me through without running over some guy laying on his back. A guy rolling away from the crash told us to mellow out, take a lap.

But we weren't in the field when they crashed, so I thought we wouldn't get the lap. Plus the official from Bethel was here and I knew he couldn't cut me any slack. So after 30 seconds of softpedaling I decided I'd do the comet thing and go out pedaling hard.

I was far enough behind that people were crossing in front of me, and I took some perverse pleasure in simply riding as fast as I could through the turns with blatant disregard for anyone running across the course. My escapade lasted only two laps before the Bethel official blew the whistle, pulling me from the race.

Spectators scrambled to let me off the course, the whole sweaty red-faced bike racer thing giving me right of way almost anywhere around the race course.

I met up with the missus at the bikehugger VIP booth and regaled her with tales of daring and stuff. Okay, I said I almost got sick out there and I had too much air in my tires. As the book Roadie states, racers tell the same story over and over again right after a race, and I was no exception.

We went looking for Nelson Vails with our good friend I spoke with in the morning, along with our Early Pass friend (good guys stick by each other). We found him, he posed for pictures with the missus, and we were on our way.

I rode back to Binions, the missus took the Deuce. We left our bags at our friend's suite in the Palazzo.

I got back, brimming with post ideas, and booted up the computer. Then I realized. No Wi Fi here. That's why I brought the broadband wireless modem. But that modem was sitting in my bag... at the Palazzo.

Forcibly knocked off the internet, I thought about riding back up, getting the modem, and riding back. But I figured that forgetting about the modem and stuff was a sign, and the missus and I settled in after a very, very long day and night.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Interbike - Day One

Day One for the indoors Interbike.

We started out the day pretty casually - the late night yesterday really didn't help out, and with three long days ahead of us, we decided to pace ourselves and sacrifice a few moments of show time to make it through Friday without having a melt down of sorts.

Since it's almost 11 PM local, that plan went right out the window. But at least I'm about to fall asleep, not stranded on the Strip like last night (took over an hour to catch a Deuce back to Downtown).

I have to admit I didn't see everything. I also admit to not taking brochures and such, so I have very little in technical specs, other than what I saw or read. But I did take a few pictures. I was surprised by a few things:

- Fuji has a really radical TT bike. I can't believe it's legal but it's on display.

Rad ride.

Some features:
1. Reverse mount front brake
2. Proprietary front brake

Front brake hiding from the wind.

3. Bulbed head tube
4. The funkiest rear stay arrangement. Let me illustrate:

Funky funky baby.

The rear brake sits inside its own little trench, protected from the nasty, swirling air. The sides of the trench serve to fair in a lot of the seat stay to seat tube junction. This is the bit I'd think would set the UCI on its ear.

The frame in all its glory.

- Scott also had a radical TT bike, with some very funky tube shapes and formats. This I have an easier time believing as far as legality goes, but it's certainly pushing the limits.

Scott TT bike.

The rear stays look particularly twisted from this angle.

I won't go into as many picture details but the cool/odd/unusual things include, from the rear, the chainstay bend (right side is hollow for the cable), a P4 like downtube-seattube reinforcement piece, aero bottle cage bolts (the bolt reinforcements run parallel to the ground), faired downtube/tire area. No reverse front brake but otherwise you can check off all the "aero" checklist boxes.

- Cervelo had their P4 (TT bike) on display. This seemed much more plausible with legality, but man, what a crazy format bike.

The P4.

The rear brake in detail.

From the side.

- Pinarello, who I consider to be a company that emphasizes looks more than performance, seems to have a BB30 on their frame.

Pinarello copying Cannondale again. BB30? I didn't check the specs but it certainly looks like it to me.

- Giant, to my surprise, didn't display any earth shaking frames or bikes.

Giant did have the squarest downtube I've ever seen though.

In other news, thoughts I had and the products that inspired them.

After paying $175 one way for flying my bike, I think folding bikes will be a huge thing in the near future. Ritchey's Breakaway Bike format is proven and gives you a full size bike, a full size ride, and a regular size suitcase. A home run.

The future is now. Electric shifting is here to stay, and Shimano has it down.

That's Wayne Stetina emphasizing the front derailleur's performance - "I've ridden the system for almost three years and have never dropped the chain." He later added, for good measure, that he power washes his bike to try and wreck the electronics. No success - the system works flawlessly.

FSA has raised letters on their rims. Does that count as dimpling?

I think these brakes are new. Very cool. SpeedRacer-esque.

Specialized was interesting. Extremely protective of their booth (only dealers and media allowed, i.e. no exhibitors), the folks at Specialized were extremely accomodating for us, assigning a woman to follow us around, answer questions, make suggestions, and clear the way.

It's Interbike so I also got some star's bikes on virtual film.

Valverde's TdF Stage One winning bike. The yellow was a bit much but I liked these details.

Specialized showed Tom Boonen's Paris Roubaix bike, complete with 46T inner ring (outer was a normal 53T). Long, low, flat position. The gold "floor" is a whole lotta Hershey Kisses.

The woman assigned to keep an eye out for me (she aggressively moved people out of the way in the small booth area so I could take pictures) grabbed one while we were in there. "Feel free", she told us. A great way to keep your people energized. All they needed was a soda fountain with Coke (or Diet).

Contador's Giro bike.

Tyler's bike in the Fuji booth.

Tyler's bike in the Rock Racing booth.

Highlights of the day include a meet and greet with Phil Liggett. The missus and I are on a mission to get permission to share a "greetings" clip with all of you, and one of the folks we had to check on was Mr. Liggett. He's as nice a guy as you'd ever meet, willing to talk and say hi and joke around with perfect strangers.

When we asked about the clip, his eyes lit up. He remembered (vaguely, perhaps) doing it, and he asked us what we were doing on our anniversary. The missus and I looked at each other. Actually, we'd figured on just taking it easy, this trip was the big thing for our fall season. So, in all honesty, we told him we had no idea what we were doing. Then the missus piped up.

"What do you do for your anniversary?"

Without missing a beat he fired back.

"Well, I usually take someone else out. It'll be 36 years coming up."

We both laughed, but we also both congratulated him. 36 years. Wow.

We also met one Greg Lemond. He also came across as a completely open guy, intent, friendly, and always smiling and making cracks. I decided that I'd re-buy his three Tour wins as well as his 89 Worlds win on DVD so he'd have something to sign, and he dutifully signed it, generous with his time, open to a fault. A really, really nice guy.

The missus had a special request, so we trekked over to the Felt booth to hit up Christian Vandevelde for his John Hancock. She also made what has to be the strangest request ever made to him. It's a long story, but, hey, I like writing.

The missus recently took up knitting, taking to it like I did cycling. She joined a group of knitters who happen to have cycling spouses. During July, in order to keep themselves occupied while their spouses live, breathe, and eat the Tour, one knitter started a Tour de France "knit along".

The participants are knitters, assigned to teams, and aim for a particular jersey. A new knitter would aim for the White Jersey as a neo-knitter, creating something like a sock, for example. A more seasoned knitter might knit a sweater in the quest for Yellow. Each knitter is assigned a team, with each team having various Jersey contenders.

The missus was assigned the Garmin Chipotle team (which has previously been the Slipstream), and so the team followed the GC candidate Christian Vandevelde carefully. He had an excellent Tour, of course, and the team were happy for him. The missus managed to knit a pair of socks, finishing literally as the real racers were sprinting down the real Champs Elysee.

So, with such sweat equity in the Garmin team, an American GC rider in Christian Vandevelde, when we saw that he'd be signing autographs she decided she had to introduce Vandevelde to his hidden team of knitters.

A properly baffled and bemused Vandevelde good-naturedly held a spool of yarn with a hugely happy Missus SDC while I took a picture for our album. Before we got a few feet away I could hear Vandevelde commenting to someone, "That has got to be the strangest thing I've been asked to do."

Mission accomplished.