Sunday, December 27, 2009

Quality Speaks for Itself

Santa was extra good to me this week; maybe I actually managed to subvert/sublimate my naughty nature just often enough in 2009. I must have, since they say you can’t fool him.

First up was something I’ve been jonesing for since I asked my friend No One Line where he got his dapper cycling cap. He referred me to Walz Caps. When I first visited their Web site, it seemed as if someone had been designing headwear for me for years, but had mischievously kept it a secret from me. I had a very hard time choosing a cap. (I settled on the black and gray wool model pictured at the bottom.)

I’d been shopping for just the right one for months, but with no luck. I owned a mass-production cotton Castelli job already; I’d used it for countless rides. It’s okay, but I was looking for quality -- and here it was. You can tell at a glance that a Walz cap is special, but until you think about it, you can’t say exactly why. It just makes a person look more… I don’t know… stylish, but in a quiet, European way? Unself-consciously cool? Maybe just good? Yeah, that’s it: Walz caps just make you look, and feel, good.

You can pin this down to specific details, such as a better cutting pattern, better materials, better craftsmanship, better esthetic, and so on. You can compare their subtly different look to more “unique,” hand-made caps out there made from baroque, colorful fabrics that just scream, “Look at me! I‘m so artsy, I can‘t stand myself!” You can even sit down to write a blog post vainly attempting to define ephemeral notions like quality and craftsmanship.

Or you can throw down your coin (and not much of it, by the way), wait breathlessly by the mailbox -- and then wear the thing everywhere until it falls off your head in tatters.

I’ve tried both approaches, and, as of this moment, I’m sticking with the latter.

Once you lay eyes on it, there's no doubt.

Next up: The other quality wool gift.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Registration Open for Levi's Gran Fondo

Would I pay $130 for what basically amounts to a century ride? Hmm...

If it took place on the most remote and challenging roads in one of the most beautiful regions of California...

If I had the chance to meet and support my man Levi Leipheimer... (I harbor no illusions I'd be able to ride with him for more than the first 100 meters, along with 3,000 other folks)...

And if someone would go the cab-fare from Western Mass and put me up when I get there...

I'd be there.

Another one for the bucket list.

(True, the video below is a puff piece. But if it doesn't make you sigh with envy, I can't imagine what would.)

Monday, December 14, 2009 'Cross Nats Coverage

Well, the coverage of the 'Cross Nats over at this weekend ranged from the ridiculous (nearly all of one race was covered with the microphone battery dead -- no sound whatsoever) to the sublime (The Elite Men's was an exciting race and the boys had gotten most of the bugs out of the system by then). I encourage Colt and friends to keep up the good work.

Now, clearly there is room for improvement. I had to surf like crazy around cyclingdirt to find the actual page on which the live video was showing. Operating on a shoestring budget, the guys ran from vantage point to vantage point during the races. They were constantly out of breath, and the video ended up blurred and frozen. It looked like Blair Witch Project meets A Sunday in Hell. However, the core of the coverage was strong. Up-close views of the gaps and the run-ups were particularly enjoyable. And Colt's commentary was suprisingly taut and informative. For a young, inexperienced guy running around with a buddy holding a vid-cam, he was pretty eloquent and knowledgeable, and he kept me in the know. During the closing interviews after the Elite race, he asked a couple of unexpected, penetrating questions ("When the performance stats of the top five guys are so similar, what makes the difference on a day like today?"), and forced racers to think and be interesting on camera. Not a common phenomenon.

Finally, there was a charm to some of the rough edges, too. Walking up to riders' tents minutes before or after a race, and finding them in various states of preparedness for and disposition toward a live public appearance. Colt's moxie in butting to the front of any line, elbowing past journalists undoubtedly from media outlets more respected than his own. And just the general, jovial "Can you believe where I'm standing/who I'm talking to/what I'm doing??!" atmosphere was very refreshing. At the end of the day, I felt like I'd been hanging out at Bend -- not like I'd been watching slick coverage of a race that could have happened anywhere.

So, however fast your Web site and accompanying coverage grows, Colt, I hope you keep that good stuff. Keep it raw.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Word from Bend is that there's snow on the ground there, so the 'Cross Nats live coverage coming your way this weekend (which I gave you a link to here) are probably going to be delightfully messy -- something, perhaps, like this:

[Thanks to Heidi at for the vid link.]

Streaming the 'Cross Nats

Those of you reading this while the snow is flying (most of you, I think), take heart! Cyclocross may have ended for us, but there's still a drop or two of fun to be extracted from the ever-lengthening outdoor cycling season., which I recently learned is a hub (pun intended) for 'cross information, videos, interviews, etc., will be streaming coverage of the National Championships in Bend, Oregon, this Saturday and Sunday. I can't vouch for the quality, but go here for the streaming schedule, and here for the Cyclingdirt overview of the event. And feel free to weigh in with other streaming opportunities coming up.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Truth, Justice and The Roadie Way!

Beware, Fixie Fashion Fools and Faux-Pros!
~~ Two-wheeled Terror of the Tarmac ~~

Sunday, December 6, 2009

So True

First snow of the season in the Pioneer Valley yesterday, and this a.m., the trees all glimmer and gleam against a cobalt sky. If it really does get up to 35 degrees, I’ll pop out for a ride to enjoy the beauty. Whether I’ll need the face-mask remains to be seen. (Don’t laugh, youngsters; as Mel Brooks, playing the Two-thousand Year-Old Man, said, “We mock the thing we are to become.”)

I’ve long since hauled out the winter bike, and have been enjoying giving it overdue TLC:

Stock photo of winter squeeze.

Some links in the chain were a bit stiff, but then, I guess you could say that about me, too. Also, the Giant and I took a fall a couple weeks ago, fooling around on the branch-strewn grass, and my wheels got out of true. That part actually made me happy, because I'd had real fun and suprising success truing the wheels on my main (cycling) squeeze this summer:

Decidedly non-stock photo of summer squeeze.

Of course, those are Ksyrium Equipes, with the low spoke-count; the Alexrims on my Giant have the traditional spoke-count and present a bigger challenge. Well… I did it, no problem, and on the bike, too. (I don’t own a truing stand.)

There’s something soothing about truing. It’s purely tactile, so different from the conceptual, high-pressure work I do day-to-day. I like the cold metal of the spoke wrench against my fingertips, the “ting-ting-ting” as I tighten and loosen, the zongg of the spokes when I pluck them to check the tension. Best of all, I love spinning the wheel and seeing the smooth, fractional gap between rim and brake pad when I’m done, and the reward of knowing, without doubt, that my task is complete. That's hard to find in this life, eh?

So here’s to trueness, freedom, and the cyclistic way.

And a warm winter.