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Friday
Jul112014

Disappointed but not Heartbroken

I am sorry to see Chris Froome out of the Tour de France. Disappointed but not devastated. Froome is a rider who can be exciting to watch, but at other times annoying and frustrating.

He is exciting to watch when he is going uphill fast, and the likes of Alberto Contador can barely hold his wheel.

On the other hand, he can be extremely frustrating because he seems to lack the basic bike handling skills needed to keep the rubber on the asphalt.

He has this annoying habit of riding with his head down, even when around other riders. Holding your head up, and looking where you are going is “Bike Riding 101.” One of the basics that every novice first learns.

One can argue that Wednesday’s Stage 5 that included cobble stone sections used in the Paris – Roubaix race should not have been included in the Tour, but the race organizers could not have predicted the atrocious weather, wind and rain. And they did cancel two sections of cobbles that were deemed too dangerous to ride in the wet.

That said, Chris Froome fell twice and retired before he even reached the cobbles. The main problem was, he was nursing an injured wrist from a fall during the previous day’s race.

Despite reports to the contary as to who was to blame, I was watching the race live that day, and as I saw it the fall never should have happened. It came on a straight section of dry road, Froome was riding in a safe place at the front of the pack, when he simply ran into the rider ahead, fell and brought down another rider.

The other thing about Froome is, he is obsessive about his weight, almost to the point of anorexia. Those pencil slim wrists will not take a lot of beating. All the more reason to stay upright.

Vincenzo Nibali rode a great race. Not known as a classics rider, and not that experienced on the cobbles. Never-the-less Nibali is a superb bike handler, and the other thing is he seems to excel in cold, wet conditions. He did so in 2013 when he won the Giro d’Italia.

He had two of his Astana team members with him for most of the race, but at the same time Nibali often took the initiative, and chased down riders when gaps opened up, rather than just sit on the wheel of his team mates and let them do all the work.

Belkin rider Lars Boom won the stage, with the Astana duo, Jacob Fuglsang and Nibali (Picture above.) second and third, 19 seconds down, but ahead of Cancellara and Sagan, (Both experienced classics riders.) just over a minute down.

Chris Froome’s Sky Team members, Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas after initially waiting for Froome, fought their way back to finish 20th and 21st on the day. American riders Andrew Talansky and Tejay Van Gaderen were within seconds of the Sky duo.

Big loser of the day was Alberto Contador, who is now 2 ½ minutes down. However, there is a long way to go, and the mountain stages still to come. Anything can, and no doubt will happen. All the afore mentioned riders are still in the running.

Had Froome not quit he probably would have lost a ton of time and been out of the running anyway. This year’s Tour still promises to be a cliff hanger, plus I will not have the frustration of seeing Chris Froome constantly fall on his ass.

Which is why I am not overly disappointed that he is gone.

 

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Tuesday
Jul012014

A traditional hip flask with a cycling design

Some of the finest whiskey in the world comes from Scotland, so it is fitting that a company that specializes in hip flasks to carry the precious liquid, is based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

When the company contacted me offering to send me a flask with a cycling design, I was a little reluctant at first to accept their offer. I know very few cyclists who actually carry alcohol with them while riding.

However, there are some objects like this that are just nice to own, or to give or receive as a gift. So I thought why not, and accepted.

When the flask arrived I was immediately struck by the fine workmanship. The flask itself is stainless steel, with a “Captive” screw-top that you can’t lose. It is covered with a faux leather material that is printed with a bike race scene from the late 1800s when the bicycle and bicycle racing was in its infancy.

The picture itself is intriguing, the cyclist front and center races so fast he meets himself on the back of the flask where the picture joins perfectly.

A lesser quality object would not (See picture right.)

The design is by Ted Baker, also fitting as I understand he started out as a men’s shirt designer in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Ted Baker name is embossed in gold on a brown leather label that is actually stitched to the cover with the picture, before it is glued to the flask. Just another small attention to detail that went into the design and making of this flask.

The flask holds 6oz of liquid and measures 3.75 inches wide x 5 inches tall. It is 7/8 inch thick and is curved to fit in a hip pocket as is traditional. It comes in a gift box that has the same cycling design.

The cost is 27 (British Pounds.) $46.19 US Dollars. There is a 5% discount for my readers by entering code: thanksfor5

For this particular cycling design flask go to http://buyahipflask.com/6oz-bike-hip-flask

There is also a huge choice of other more traditional designs here: http://buyahipflask.com/  These flasks would make a very nice gift, to give or receive. Or for a special presentation they could be engraved.

Finally the company suggested I give one of these flasks away as a prize for a Tour de France competition. I thought that was a great idea. So send me a list of your top ten finishers in this year's Tour.

You can go to this web page http://www.steephill.tv/tour-de-france/ and scroll down the right side of the page for a complete list of teams and riders. Pick out 10 of them and email the list to me.

Please don’t post the list here in the comments, or others will copy it. My email is davesbikeblog[AT]gmail.com (Of course put @ instead of [AT]

The winner will receive one of these fine flasks, pictured above. The winner will be the one with the most riders listed that actually finish in the top 10. In the event of a tie, I will choose the list that has most riders nearest to the correct order of finishing. So pick your top 10 in the order you think they will finish.

The TDF starts this Saturday 5th July. And because we are getting so close I will accept entries up until next Tuesday 8th when the Tour will have left the UK and Stage 4 will be on French soil.

 

Update 7/9/14: Entries for the TDF Competition are now closed. Thanks to all those who participated. Your lists have been saved and the winner will be anounced when the Tour ends. 

Update 7/29/14: The result of the competition is in the comment section below.

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Tuesday
Jun242014

New Fuso: Back to the future

After my last article about building up vintage Fuso frames with modern components, longtime friend and regular reader of my blog, Steve Farner sent me pictures of his brand new custom Fuso built by Russ Denny.

Russ revived the Fuso brand name two years back and customers can have one built in pretty much any configuration they wish.

Modern oversize tubing, or as Steve chose here, the traditional size tubes with brazed lugs.

Steve also went with the original Fuso seatstay caps, and a level top tube.

A classic style flat fork crown with square shoulders completes the traditional look. (Picture right.)

The steel fork has a 1 inch threadless steerer, with a Thompson 1.125 in. adaptor fitted. It has a Chris King 1" Sotto Voce threadless headset, and the English threaded Bottom Bracket is fitted with Chris King ceramic bearings.

The component group is Scram Red, and with a Mavic Ksyrium wheelset, the bike weighs in at 19 lbs. Who wouldn’t be proud to own and ride such a bike? A frame like this will easily last 50 or more years, the last bike anyone need buy. Here are some more pictures.

 

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Monday
Jun162014

Mixing the old with the new

Last year I managed to find a 49cm. Fuso frame for $350, Shipping cost rounded it up to $400. The frame built in 1985 was in mint condition, at looked like it had hardly been used. I built the bike up for my wife to ride. (Picture above.)

I spread the rear end to 130mm, all frames I built in Southern California were 6 speed 126mm. I bought brand new components, 11 speed Campagnolo Athena Group, new wheels with Mavic rims, Modern bars and stem, fitted using a Deda quil stem adaptor so the original fork was used. (Picture below right.)

I don’t have the exact dollar amount, but the whole bike I think came out around $1.500 or $1,600.

My wife loves the bike, it fits her perfectly.  In recent months other Fuso and Recherché owners have written and sent pictures of bikes built up in a similar fashion.

It is a way to get on a nice riding, top-of-the-line bike, with all the advantages of modern gearing, etc., for not too much money. That is providing you are not obsessed with the weight of your bike. Most people riding for exercise and pleasure, find their bodies to be at least 10 lbs overweight, so what difference will an extra 3 lbs on the bike make?

Fitting a carbon fork would cut the weight considerably, however, it will add to the cost, and you won’t find a carbon fork with the original 35mm rake, so the handling would be compromised slightly. Not enough to be a real issue as such a bike will probably not be used for racing.

A 52cm. 1st. Generation Fuso recently built up with Campagnolo Athena. Owned by Martin Worsdall.

Fuso and Recherché frames were built with shorter top tubes than other frames of the era. My theory was, use a longer stem, get the weight over the front wheel, and the bike will handle better.

Today it means if someone is building a bike with a more upright, relaxed position, they could use a slightly bigger frame, which would bring the handlebars higher in relation to the saddle. The shorter top tube might be nearer the smaller frame that person rode “back in the day.”

Another consideration: Instead of raising the handlebars level or even above the saddle height, use a shorter stem, set just below the saddle height. This means the same relaxed back and neck angle, but better weight distribution, with some weight on the arms, and less on the saddle.

A Fuso FR1 circa 1989, with modern equipment. Owned by Elijah Lyons. This bike has the tire clearance issue mentioned below.

One small issue has been brought to my attention. The wider 25mm. and 28mm. tires that are popular now, were not in general use back in the 1980s when these frames were built. The chainstays were a standard length across the range of all size frames.

On the larger frames that have a 73 degree seat angle if the larger size tires are fitted, the tire hits the seat tube when removing the rear wheel.

This is a fairly easy fix. (See the picture on the left.) Use a hacksaw and a flat file, and remove the bottom tip of the rear dropout on both the left and right sides.

This will not compromise the frame structurally, and will give as much as a quarter inch of extra clearance when fitting and removing the rear wheel.

This is not an issue with the smaller and mid-size frames as these have slightly steeper seat angles, resulting in more clearance.

 

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Friday
Jun062014

70th Anniversary of D-Day

Seventy years ago on the 6th June 1944 the Allied Forces invaded the beaches of Normandy, France, otherwise known as D-Day. It was the turning point of WWII.

At the time I lived in rural Hampshire, in the middle-south of England. We were not far from Portsmouth where most of the invasion fleet set out. I was eight years old, not old enough to fully understand what was going on, but old enough to have clear memories of the events of that time.

I remember the American soldiers coming over to England in the months prior to D-Day. Suddenly appearing one afternoon as I walked home from school, arriving in what seemed to be an endless convoy of army trucks, each full of young men, smiling, waving to us as we waved back.

In the weeks and months that followed that is how I remember the Americans, always smiling, laughing, goofing off, a lot of horse-play and kidding around with each other. At the time they seemed like adults to me, but I now know that most were only 10 or 15 years older than I was.

They were teens or early twenties, goofing around as teens will do. To get it in perspective; if this were today an eight year old would have been born in 2006, many of these young soldiers would have been born in the mid to late 1990s. No age at all, really.

Prior to the arrival of the American Army, roads were pretty much devoid of all motor traffic because of petrol rationing. When the Americans came, there was a constant flow of army trucks, Jeeps, and even Sherman Tanks going up and down the roads.

Soldiers were training, playing war games, in the local fields and woodlands. I saw paratroopers jump from airplanes, and I can still visualize the sky filled with hundreds of descending parachutesThey fired blank rounds during these exercises, and after we would go out colleting brass shell casings. 

There was a large US Army camp close by and we would go hang out there at the weekends. The soldiers would give us chewing gum and candy. This was a big deal because sugar was rationed during the war, and we had to make do with 2 oz. of candy a month. I had never seen chewing gum until the Americans came.

Just as suddenly as the Americans appeared, they all disappeared. I came home from school one day around the first week in June 1944 and they were all gone. I went to the army camp that weekend and it was completely empty. It was a surreal experience that I didn’t understand, any more than I understood anything else that went on during that period of my life.

It wasn’t until ten or so years later when I became a young adult myself did I realize what had happened. To an eight year old it was all a game, an experience, and those young men with their happy, smiling faces never led me to believe it was anything else. But after they left and things got serious, they died in their thousands on the Beaches of Normandy, and others in the months that followed.

It had a profound effect on me. Because today I still see the happy faces of those young American soldiers. I will never forget the sacrifice they made; a sacrifice not of their choosing. But one they made none the less so I would never have to do the same.


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