Zap's column Archives - Road Bike Action Road Bike Action Mon, 21 Nov 2022 14:26:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 ZAP’S COLUMN: THAT THANKFUL FEELING OF PEDALING Mon, 21 Nov 2022 14:26:51 +0000

The Mammoth Mountain Gran Fondo reminds

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It’s a certifiable truth that it’s awfully hard to be off the bike for any amount of time. But, let me just say that sometimes it can also be difficult to get back on it. Case in point: These last few months that I’ve spent sidelined due to a longstanding knee injury. As bad as it was not being able to ride through the spring, not riding in July was especially tough, as each day began by watching the Tour de France. 

Happily, it would only be a few weeks later when my daily routine would turn for the better. By mid-August each day started with a long bout of watching the Vuelta Espana. The big difference now was that thanks to finally getting a bike fit, after watching the pros I would actually be riding myself. And quite simply, there are not enough words to describe the joy I felt for being back on the bike. 

And by being “back on the bike,” I’m not talking about taking pulls on the Montrose ride or accepting any of Jack Nosco’s steady invitations to bag some steep climbs in the mountains. Having gone through more than a handful of recovery periods over the years, simply feeling the celebrated “wind in the face” was my first priority, so slow and easy pedaling would be enough. 


Due to an antagonizing heat wave where the temps in my neighborhood rarely broke out of the triple digits, I decamped for the cooler climes of Santa Monica, where a fresh ocean breeze could animate each pedal stroke. My route would be repeated laps on San Vincente Blvd., which climbs gently from the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean through a posh neighborhood before hitting an even posher business district where I would make a U-turn to start another lap. 

This being the west side of town, the sights and sounds are very different from those found in the east-side digs that I call home. Awash in obviously higher levels of fortune, everything from the cars to the bicycles and motorcycles that passed by were of a wholly different level of value. Given that San Vincente cuts through a corridor of Gucci-like mansions, there was an ever-present collection of Latin gardeners and laborers toiling about while spectating a steady stream of Lycra-clad athletes riding and running by. What must’ve been running through their minds, I can hardly imagine! 

Despite purposely not pushing hard on my first day back, I still managed to catch one guy on the slight incline. As I pulled up on his rear wheel for a short tow, he yelled out, “Am I going too slow?” I soon rode up alongside him and replied, “No worries, friend, for me there is no too fast, nor too slow; it’s just about going!” 

As I was finishing my second lap, it was amazing (sad really) to realize just how out of shape I had become. But, despite being winded early with increasing pain in my lower back, the dreaded feeling of having a screwdriver jammed into my knee joint was no longer there—yes! Right about then I was passed by a family of visiting Aussies riding e-bikes who seemed happy to comment on the ease of their power-assisted effort compared to my self-induced pedaling—nice! 

One week later I returned to San Vincente, and midway through the ride I decided to add some distance and fun by hanging a right turn on 7th Street, which drops down into Chautauqua canyon that has a stretch of road that resembles the treacherous “corkscrew” descent of the Laguna Seca racetrack that’s home to the annual Sea Otter Classic. I well remembered this section of road from decades earlier, as it was where my friend Chris and I once landed in a pile of bloodied flesh after locking handlebars at speed. 

As a reminder now of how months off the bike affected my bike-handling skills, my first go at the normally high-speed, arcing turn was a slow and stumbling effort. It took repeated attempts on this and the next week’s ride before I could hit the turn doing my best Valentino Rossi imitation without using the brakes. In a word, yee-haw! 


The morning start with over 1200 riders.

The culmination of all this effort was my desired goal to accept the challenge of my friend Gary to participate in the Mammoth Gran Fondo. Like myself, Gary, too, was just getting back on the bike, and as much as we hated to admit it, neither one of us was ready for the 102-mile-long ride, let alone the 70-mile-long Medio course. Nope, since the priority was still building back slowly, we signed up for the 42-mile Piccolo ride. 

The feeling of being back in a group ride was sensational, and the scenic high-sierra loop was all I needed to feel whole again. Despite a red light that stopped my forward progress just shy of the finish, I still finished second in class and sixth overall at 2:24. Best of all, there was no knee pain to speak of. Was I a bike rider again? Hopefully.


This is just a slice of the scenic magic that Mammoth Mountain provides.


Any trip to Mammoth should include a breakfast stop at The Stove. Simply the best.


Even the celebrities – like Jack Nosco – come out to Mammoth to get in some solid altitude training,

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Taking a look at the domain of an Italian icon where art, politics and bicycles, meet



By Zap

Luckily for the sport of cycling, there are still quite a few “legacy” brands in existence that act as fruitful doorways to the past. And luckier still is that most are found in Italy. Bianchi and Campagnolo are among the better known within contemporary road circles. Cinelli is another. An Italian brand with a vaunted past, Cinelli is a bit off the radar compared to the aforementioned brands. However, with a different mission statement in mind (and a much different CEO), what Cinelli has been able to do better than any other legacy brand is bridge a generational divide of cycling enthusiasts, from dyed in the wool road geeks to millennial mashers on their urban singlespeeds.

Founded in 1948 by former Pro rider Cino Cinelli (winner of Milano-San Remo in 1943), the brand built its reputation on history making road bikes as well as an array of popular products like the famous Cinelli 1a and Alter stems, Unicanitor saddle and cork handlebar tape among many others.


In 1978 Antonio Colombo bought the company from Cino. This is the man himself, Antonio Colombo. Raised in a house of steel that was started by his father Angelo Luigi in 1919, Antonio and his family  have been industry mainstays for providing advanced steel tubing for some of the biggest bike brands.   Previous to World War II, Columbus had also become highly successful in providing steel tubing for the modernist furniture world. Into the early 80’s, Antonio would eventually take both his namesake tubing company and Cinelli to even greater heights of popularity.

“Well, my company is not so big. But my obsession, my idea, is not to become big, it’s not to become so spread around. It’s just have more value, more things on a bike. More ideas. It’s just that point.”

I first met Antonio Colombo back in the mid-90’s during the heyday of the mountain bike. I’ve been smitten ever since. Antonio is unlike any other industry chieftain I’ve ever met. Not the least bit straight-up or uptight (though I have heard word of his mercurial behavior), Antonio is a man who answers to style and design above all else. He understands what the impact of the bicycle can be on both the individual and society at large. And, he is reluctant to apply any strict interpretation to what a bike, stem or handlebar looks like or how it is designed.

In fact, as I followed him through the factory floor, I was reminded of watching scenes from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory where Gene Wilder would traipse along, there, physically among the production machines, but not really there. As with Wilder’s character, in Antonio’s eyes I could sense a level of wonderment and mischief. Antonio is there, but his mind seems somewhere else. Not calculating, but creating. He is answering questions, but still, he seems somewhere else. As much a bike aficionado as the next guy, my impression is that Mr. Colombo is constantly straddling two conflicting worlds; one filled with the banal realities of bike production and the other being a wondrous, non-determinant world of art and design where anything is possible. No matter which world he finds himself, the sport of cycling is indebted for his co-habitation and all that the Columbus and Cinelli brands continue to bring to the sport.

Despite his Italian road roots, Antonio has always been drawn to American cycling culture and was close with many of the pioneer mountain bike designers, like Ross Shafer and Salsa Cycles.

To the untrained eye, this is just a funny looking bike with funny looking wheels. However, the Laser pursuit frame with hand painted wheels by Keith Haring (circa 1987) probably makes this bike one of the most valuable in the world today.

This way to the factory floor where you’ll find that steel is indeed still real.

As renowned as Columbus is for their steel frame tubing, they have always been equally innovative with aluminum products as well.

Here’s a trusty diagram that makes the point about how much work goes into the Columbus tubes.

If only these carts could talk, think of the tales they could tell of being part of the manufacturing process for some great steel frames through history.

Some of the machines drawing the steel tubes in the Columbus factory have been in operation for decades.

For many new cyclists who only know carbon fiber, this is what steel looks like.

“My obsession was always art and design. And that was a very big challenge, to introduce design into an arena of industrial tubing. But it was something we were able to do, with over-sized tubing,with elliptical shapes.”

Real world research and development as only the Italians could be capable of!

Although the Keith Haring Laser is the most recognized, there were actually a handful of different models, each of them revolutionary in their own right. The first was a standard road bike which was eventually joined by a track bike and then the pursuit bike.

As well as the manufacturing taking place, there is also plenty of frame R&D to be found.

Antonio holds up one of his beautiful XCr stainless steel frames.

“I came to bicycles from a more social point of view. I was not a racer…but I always felt there was so much to the bicycle that could be transformed into design and fashion, and that’s what inspired me to work toward that. And somehow, thinking about how a bicycle can be a design object and a fashionable object and an art object, I transformed what I had in my hands – Columbus Tubing and Cinelli.”


The XCr frame is made in Italy and with a Columbus carbon fork sells for $4600. Custom geometry is also available.

The Cinelli line includes road, ‘cross, urban and TT bikes. Not all the bikes that are available in Italy are brought into the states.

The Zydeco ‘cross bike is made with triple butted Columbus Zonal aluminum tubing and is outfitted with a mix of Cinelli parts, a Shimano drivetrain and Fulcrum wheels. The frame & fork sells for $799 while the complete bike sells for $2150. Go to Cinelli Bikes.

Cinelli bikes always stand out from the crowd due to their infusion of style and design that has remained a priority of Antonio’s through his entire career.

Seat binders are rarely given much thought or appreciation. That does not hold true for the classic Cinelli lugged seat binder that was used on the SuperCorsa.

Cinelli continues to produce a wide variety of handlebars and stems, most that have have new-found favor with the urban mashers. The Mash Bullhorn sells for $125.

The Spinaci handlebar extensions were born in 1994 and saw service at a TT in the ’95 Giro d’Italia under Marco Pantani and Claudio Chiapucci. At one point in 1998, Cinelli was selling upwards of 20,000 sets of his Spinaci handlebar extensions.

And then on October 26, 1997 the UCI banned them. It didn’t sit too well with Antonio and he did his best to fight the ban with a guerrilla campaign. In the end, Spinaci remained an outlawed product.

One of the best cycling books we’ve seen in quite some time. The Cinelli book is full of 280 pages that tell of the grand Italian marque’s rich history along with fantastic photos and entertaining first hand accounts. A must read for all cycling buffs.

Here’s Antonio doing his best to resemble the famous Dadaist Marcel Duchamp.


For more info: Cinelli Bicycles.




THE MIKE NOSCO MEMORIAL RIDE GALLERY Sat, 05 Nov 2022 16:03:58 +0000

Hundreds of cyclists gather again for a day of remembrance and celebration

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After missing in action for two years during the Covid era, the Mike Nosco Memorial Ride came roaring back to life on November 3 has another reminder of what a positive impact a community of cyclists can have on the world.  Much as been spoken about a local cyclist by the name of Jack Nosco. It was his brother Mike who was killed in a crash that eventually set the MNMR in motion.

In the years since, and with an army of dedicated volunteers helping out, the annual ride has raised hundred’s of thousands of dollars to help a wide variety of recipients in need of some assistance as they deal with ill health. And unfortunately, there have been many – like  Tate MacDowell – who have not survived. It is in their memory and struggle that the Nosco ride continues to attract so many devoted fans.

Unlike every other massive group ride, what makes the Nosco ride special  beyond it’s stated aims to provide aid, is that it is free of charge.  What other group ride is there that offers a marked ride with sag stops, neutral support and sumptuous post-ride feast for nothing more than a signed release?! Welcome to the Mike Nosco Memorial Ride – where passion and care for others is the rule of the day.


This is Jack Nosco…there are not enough words to describe how much good he has done for the world…oh yeah, after retiring from a decade’s long stint as a fireman, he’s now ridden his bike for 685 consecutive days. Yes, Jack likes to ride his bike.


Having served two tour of duties in Iraq, the Nosco ride was proud to have local color guard present the flag for the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner.


Each year the assembled riders are treated to a solemn, reflective moment courtesy of this piper who kicks-off the day’s festivities.


Each year it is the legion of volunteers who turn out in the morning cold to ensure that the riders get signed-up…for free.


As a sign of the mutual respect and admiration that the community has for Jack and all that he has done, the local firefighters come out each year to lend their support and encouragement for the riders.


Just a few miles into the ride comes the spine tingling Portrero descent. It is steep and curvy and acts as the ride’s first wake-up call.


There are three routes available to choose from, and each offer up that which the Nosco ride is (in)famous for – wicked climbs! The scenery afforded by the beautiful Santa Monica mountains helps take away some of the pain…but not all.


Given that the ride has a big SoCal following, there of course is no shortage of fancy, hyper-expensive modern bikes. Luckily, a few proud souls show-up with some specialty bikes like the beautiful 1991 aluminum lugged carbon Cadex.


Due to the steep grades, not many people would dare attempt the ride on a tandem, let alone one without disc brakes! Then again, for SoCal cycling legend Dave Lettieri and his stoker, it was no issue. Dave ‘s history as a racer looms large and he was out celebrating the 25th anniversary of his Fastrack bike shop in Santa Barbara.


As always , RBA’s own Troy Templin was out to have fun.


There was no shortage of riders showing up in any one of the many memorial jerseys that mark each of the annual rides.


Former National Champ, Tour de France rider, and all around nice guy, David Zabriske (l), is local to the mountain roads and comes out each year to support the Nosco ride.


Thankfully, Mike Wilson  and his Elite Racing Service was there to provide neutral support.


We spotted this guy and his beautiful steel LandShark from a distance and up close noted the Hunt wheels with rainbow spokes.


RBA test rider John Perry drove from Colorado along with the same Alchemy Lycos AU project bike that he raced at the Big Sugar Gravel race in Arkansas just a few weeks prior. We weren’t sure how the gravel bike with  a 1x drivetrain and 42mm WTB tires mounted on Lun wheels would handle the 80 miles of pavement, but JP finished in his best time ever at just over six hours.


Another great feature of the ride was seeing the Media Motos TV crew with veteran race photographer Brian Hodes from VeloImages shooting from the passenger seat.


Now here’s a tandem that makes sense! In addition to the disc brakes, this sweet Calfee tandem was using a rear hub motor for added assist up the climbs.


Last, but not least, there was this guy with his beautiful Colnago to remind just how bitchen bicycles are!

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A text message reminds us that life is full of challenges and moments of joy

The post THROWBACK THURSDAY, 2021: ZAP’S COLUMN – WHY A SKINNY GUY NAMED TATE IS A HERO appeared first on Road Bike Action.


Of the hundreds of columns I’ve written over the years, there have been just a handful that were hard to write because they came from a painful place following the passing of loved ones. One was for my mom back in 2005, and one was for my wife in 2011. Fair warning: this column will be another sad one but also, I hope, celebratory.

Regular readers of RBA might recall our annual reporting on the Mike Nosco Challenge, which has taken place every November 3rd. The ride actually started on that day in 2004 when, following the death of his younger brother in a car accident, Jack Nosco decided to go for a bike ride to find some solace and expel his grief. 

Five years after that solo ride, Jack had the idea to create a public ride that, in honor of Mike’s charitable legacy, could bring some benefit to others. And by “others,” I would have to include my wife, who was a memorial honoree in 2011. 


It was in the days following the 2018 Mike Nosco Challenge that Tate MacDowell and I began exchanging text messages. We engaged in back-and-forth messages for a week because our respective travel schedules made an actual phone call difficult. 

After Tate and his wife had finally arrived in Mexico for a short vacation, he wrote that he was stuffing himself with guacamole and that it would probably be easier to talk when he returned to the States.

My next message to Tate still has its 11/23/18 12:10 PM time stamp on it: “Enjoy your vacay. Let’s talk when u get back. I want to take my time with your story.”

Tate responded the same day: “OK, sounds great and thanks for taking an interest.” A few weeks later, he texted me again: “I’m available all week for a call.” That would be the last time I heard from Tate. 

Even with my own firsthand knowledge about how quickly cancer can take a life, I’m still wracked with a sense of both guilt and sorrow that I never got the chance to do that interview and properly tell Tate’s story.


Tate and Laura celebrating a brave & empowering moment on the Mike Nosco ride.

Like many of the Nosco honorees, Tate, too, was diagnosed with cancer and was one of the recipients of the Nosco charity that year. He had been sick for a while, but in a truly heroic effort, in the months preceding the event, he and his wife Laura decided to not just attend the event but participate in it. 

For that 2018 event, old friend and former throttle-twisting national champion Eric Bostrom had conceived a “sherpa” program whereby less experienced riders could ride in the company of an experienced rider for any needed support. Eric was the designated sherpa for the couple, and it was at one of the rest stops high up in the Santa Monica mountains where he introduced me to them. 

With a brilliant blue sky and forever view of the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop, it was that moment that best epitomized the essence of the Nosco Challenge—a vexing and emotional inner section of personal challenge and the calling of a greater good.

“His smile and courage reflected the essence of how sports can not only make you feel human but superhuman.” 

Standing among all the fit and tanned roadies, Tate stood out as someone not well-versed in cycling. In fact, prior to Nosco, he and Laura’s most frequent rides were aboard beach cruisers! Skinny and—gasp—riding with flat pedals on a borrowed bike, he looked all the more awkward owing to his home remedy of taping over half of one side of his glasses to deal with the double vision caused by a tumor in his optic nerve. But he was there, and after briefly telling us his backstory, all we could do was re-mount our bikes and ride on in stunned amazement. 


Tate is gone now, and as I sat writing this column, I realized the best I could do to get close to him and that day was to ask Eric to recount his thoughts about their shared experience. Even over the phone Eric was getting emotional as he thought back to that day riding alongside Tate and Laura.

“The three of us rode our own route, which skipped the Deer Creek climb, but as we were climbing up Mulholland Highway, Jack and all the fast guys came pedaling by. And just as a joke, Tate decided to ride up behind Jack and start pushing him up the hill. That was a moment I will never forget, because it epitomized why we were all there captured in Tate’s own painting (above).

“No one knows how long we are here for, and for Tate, the quality of life he led was paramount. His smile and courage reflected the essence of how sports can not only make you feel human but superhuman. Everyone hurts on the Nosco ride, but it was moments like that when you realize that you can be part of something much bigger and more important than just your own experience.”

For more: Mike Nosco Memorial Ride


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ZAP’S COLUMN Thu, 13 Oct 2022 11:04:18 +0000

By not fitting into what his prescribed notion of what equipment a proper road rider is supposed to use, I seemed to have lost all validation as a real cycling enthusiast...

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It was another sunny SoCal weekend, and instead of heading east on my usual loop, I decided to head west to take in the car-less climb that leads to the famous Griffith Park Observatory. Just as I rounded the corner down by the park’s merry-go-round, I spotted the tail end of a group ride headed in the same direction. Always interested to see what people are riding, I put in a short sprint effort to catch them so I’d have some company heading to the hill-climb to come.  

The group was made up of about eight riders, all of whom were aboard fancy, modern bikes. In contrast, I was riding a 2009 Giant TCR that thought light and agile was as unmodern as could be. When one guy asked me about my bike and wondered why it looked so new for being so old, I told him about it being a one-time Road Bike Action test bike that had been hanging in a garage for almost a decade.  

As it usually does, mentioning that I worked for RBA struck a chord with him, although he came across as being somewhat suspicious. When the group stopped at the gated-off road that split from the main road and led up and over to the Observatory, this same guy took a longer look at me and began peppering me with questions. His first line of inquiry was a frequently heard one: “How many miles do you ride a week?” 

I replied, “Not really sure.” 

Next came a somewhat accusatory query: “Don’t you ride with a computer?”

 “No,” I replied. 

“Are you on Strava?” 

“No,” I again replied. 

“You say you work for Road Bike Action; how come you’re not wearing a Road Bike Action jersey?” 

“I don’t need to.” Finally, he ended with the silliest question of all: “Why don’t you shave your legs?” 

“I don’t want to,” I said, shaking my head in amusement. Obviously, I didn’t pass his test, and the guy just seemed flummoxed. 

By not fitting into what his prescribed notion of what equipment a proper road rider is supposed to use, I seemed to have lost all validation as a real cycling enthusiast to him. Oh well. To me, the silly encounter was just another reminder that it’s not about the equipment or appearance that counts; rather, the amount of enthusiasm and joy you bring to, and get out of, each ride. 


I’m sure all of you, at one time or another, have heard someone ask a really dumb question before. I’ll never forget the time I heard a lady ask a K9 cop if the burly German shepherd he held on a tight leash would bite. Really?! Lady, it’s a police dog! It was like asking if his gun fired real bullets! 

That memory came to mind recently when on the weekly Montrose ride I unfortunately incensed a fellow rider when I had to spit and some amount of the spittle hit him. Oops! Next thing I know, the guy starts calling me out, “Bro, hey, bro, what the heck?!” As the pack was pedaling along handlebar to handlebar at 30 mph, I didn’t jump at the chance to acknowledge my accidental indiscretion other than to barely look over and say, “Sorry.” Apparently, that wasn’t good enough.

As we continued to roll along, he just carried on, “Bro, are you kidding? Bro, what the heck!” At this point I decided to simply ignore him and focus on the wheels and pedals rotating around me. 

Sure enough, when we finally hit a red light, he rode up next to me to carry on the argument. “Bro, what the #@#@?! 

By this time I had had enough: “Hey, broken record, I got it, but I spit down under my arm, and maybe you shouldn’t have been between me and the curb. Besides, this is a group ride; it happens!” 

Undeterred by the realities of a group ride, it was then, when in seeking some form of retribution, he uttered one of the dumbest questions ever asked of me: “Hey, bro, do you want me to spit in your face?” 

I mean, what kind of answer do you think he was expecting for that query?! Not knowing if I would soon be wiping my face clean or not, all I could do was remind him that it was an accident and that I had not actually spit in his face.

Thankfully, he resisted the temptation, and with the green light, we just clipped in and went about doing our best to avoid one another for the next 30 or so miles. Still, the encounter reminded me of some “forever” rules of riding in a pack: 1. If you have to spit or blow your nose, always look back for other riders first, be as close to the curb as possible (or swing wide), and do so in the direction of under your arm to minimize flight. And 2. Hey, bro, no matter the infraction, it’s a safe bet that nothing was done to you on purpose. We all make mistakes, so lighten up and ride safe.


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An annual gift that never stops delivering

The post ZAP’S COLUMN; FLOYD LANDIS & THE IMPACT OF THE TOUR DE FRANCE appeared first on Road Bike Action.


As fabulously wonderful as the Tour de France is, there’s actually more to its greatness than just the race itself. I remain fascinated about how a three-week race in France can have such a direct effect on SoCal group rides. No different than the annual gathering of swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano each year, so, too, do the local rides heat up every July. Coincidence? I don’t think not.

At least with the Saturday-morning Montrose ride that starts well after the race coverage has begun (and frequently finished), most riders arrive seemingly fueled up after watching the breakaway exploits of Wout van Aert and the explosive climbing of Tadej Pogacar. As we sit in the Trader Joe’s parking lot waiting for the ride to start, “Did you see when…” seems to be the standard precursor to most conversations as one rider after another recounts their favorite on-screen moment. 

And then the time comes to click-in and roll. Thankfully, things remain calm as they normally do for the first mile until we take the left turn onto Huntington Ave. It’s at that point when everyone’s noses point down and the air is filled with the cacophony of downshifts reverberating through all the carbon wheels. In short, it’s on! As early into the 45-mile ride as it is, if the group gets the next few green lights, this is where anyone lacking fitness will immediately get flicked. I’ve lost track how many times I’d be looking up hoping to get a red light only to be forced to maintain speed following the pack through a yellow. Ouch!

“Let’s all be as fast and fit as we can. But, let’s also remember to be friendly and recognize that not every moment on the bike is about beating one another.”


There’s no television coverage or throngs of spectators cheering us on. We’re all just a bunch of two-wheeled local maniacs filled with our own visions of speed and fitness. We’re not in France but inspired thus so by the pro riders participating in La Grand Boucle. There’s an obvious trickle down of their passion, dedication and effort into the minds and legs of so many Johnny nobodies. Vive le Tour!

Of course, as much as I celebrate the Tour-inspired mindset, there is also another competitive side that is not so fun. And, knowing SoCal riders being SoCal riders, maybe this once incident had nothing to do with the race. The moment came during a mid-week ride when I was coasting down a shallow descent when some guy in a murdered-out ensemble rode by close enough to make me jump. As he rode by, he didn’t bother to wave, nod or even speak a word. Of course, it’s SoCal. About a mile later, when I attempted to veer into the left-turn lane as he did, my egress was thwarted by a line of cars not turning left. To best maintain my forward progress, I decided to ride around the non-turning cars and poke out near the front of the left-turning traffic—and, as it turned out, a few cars ahead of my friend.

As I made the left on Orange Grove (where the Rose Bowl floats line up each year), there’s a gentle climb that I love powering up. Thanks to my head start, I made it over before he did, but this time when he rode past me, he suddenly found the gumption to speak: “You know, you cut to the front ahead of me.” Really?! Not “Hey, how are you doing?” or “Nice day for a ride” or—gasp!—“That was a cool move you made around the traffic.” 

The moral of the story? Let’s all be as fast and fit as we can. But, let’s also remember to be friendly and recognize that not every moment on the bike is about beating one another. Vive le Tour! 

Unfortunately, after attending the Tour a dozen times over the years, I haven’t chased the race in a few years. But, thankfully, the memories of those July festivities still flourish in my mind—shooting photos dockside in Monaco during the 2009 time trial, all the seedy hotels, arguing with the gendarmes for parking access, standing in a sea of orange insanity in ’99 at Dutch Corner on the Alpe d’Huez, sitting on the Champs for the 100th Tour parade, and so many more. 

Meeting up with my old pal Floyd Landis is always a good time.

One of my best came on July 7th in 2004 when the Lance-led Postal team swept the Cambrai-to-Arras team time trial in dominating fashion. As memorable as the race was, as well as the raucous Mexican food dinner with U.S. journos afterwards, what I most remember was standing outside the U.S. postal team bus when the winning riders returned from the awards ceremony. It was then that Floyd Landis handed me the stuffed lion doll he had just been given. I was touched by the gesture, which I think was based on all the years I spent covering his exploits on the mountain bike circuit back in the ’90s.

When I got home, I realized the stuffed doll was not really my style, so I gifted it to Trek president John Burke after learning that, despite all the winnings that Trek had done in the Tour, the guy who owned the winning bike brand had yet to be a recipient of one of those dolls. I hope that lion is still sitting somewhere on a shelf with a good view of Lake Monona. Vive le Tour!


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Make sure it's on your 2023 schedule

The post TEN REASONS TO RIDE THE MAMMOTH GRAN FONDO + VIDEO appeared first on Road Bike Action.


By Zap

Between injury and Covid I’d been unable to attend the Mammoth Gran Fondo for a few years. But thanks to a recent pro bike fit, I started turning pedals again and figured that  the 40 mile “piccolo” route at the  Mammoth Gran Fondo would be the perfect way to both test the knee and escape the triple-digit SoCal heat.  Between racing motocross and mountain bikes, I’ve been heading up Highway 395 since 1979….and all these years later, Mammoth Mountain  still refuses to disappoint.

In preparation for the ride I pulled out the one bike I call my own, a six-year-old, aluminum Turner Cyclosis ‘cross bike that in addition to numerous ‘cross and gravel races,  already has a Levi’s Gran Fondo, a Campagnolo Gran Fondo, and a Big Bear Gran Fondo to its credit.

Nearly 1600 riders gathered in the iconic “Village” for the start. Riders had three different length courses (40, 70, 100 miles) to ride


You know the 100 mile course is challenging if Jack Nosco shows up to ride. The world famous cycling philanthropist was getting in some high altitude training for his own event – the Mike Nosco Memorial  Ride on November 3.





Few things beat traveling away from the local roads and taking in the sights, sounds and adventure of a new locale.


If there is one thing that Mammoth Mountain invites any cycling enthusiast to do, it’s to leave the bike in the condo and go out for a scenic hike. The natural wonders in this town are endless.



Curiously, despite its well-deserved legacy as a mecca for mountain biking, road bikes actually started the town’s love affair with cycling back in 1984 with  the Mammoth Cycling Challenge. Mammoth has been hosting mountain bike races since 1985 and from racing came the creation of a huge “bike park” that gets inundated with the padded set…funny thing, unlike the roadies, they seem to have a certain fear of pedaling uphill!




The Stove has been serving up breakfast and lunch since 1973 and it’s been a regular stop ever since I was racing in the annual Mammoth Motocross race in the late 70s. The service is excellent and the place is usually packed for good reason.


In addition to the friendly service, The Stove is famous for their sumptuous portions…and they serve real syrup!


There a handful of places  in town to get coffee, but Stellar Brew was the one that most felt like home with  bright colors, a laid back atmosphere and big menu.


That’s “Uncle Ed” ahead of me as I was trying to stay on his wheel after we exited the Scenic Loop road and  started hammering down Highway 395.


Young an old, fast and slow…there’s a little bit of everyone to be found. Make new friends.



By noon-o-clock the free food and beer arrived to bring needed aid and comfort to all the riders – oh what a setting!



Thanks to Unchained Bicycle Garage for being there to help fix flat tires along the route.



Every rider had a folder of different event photos of themselves ready to download within two days.



For more: Mammoth Mountain


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ZAP’S COLUMN: WHY MAGAZINES STILL MATTER Wed, 24 Aug 2022 05:54:22 +0000

Note the irony here - print's not dead!

The post ZAP’S COLUMN: WHY MAGAZINES STILL MATTER appeared first on Road Bike Action.


If there are two things that I hope have been evident in everything that I’ve written in this column it’s that, simply, I love bicycles and my job. In fact, after nearly 40 years spent in the two-wheeled trenches that have stretched from Mammoth Mountain to Alpe d’Huez, every new day still feels like day one. And, despite how unfashionable as it may be, I’ll also have to admit to just being in love with the magazines. 

After I started riding road bikes in the late 70s, it was Winning magazine that rocked my boat with all of its sensational coverage of Euro road racing – what the heck is a Joop Zoetemelk  (above) I wondered?! In the years since, whether via pedals or throttles, I’ve remained obsessed with all things two-wheeled (except bike polo), and magazines have remained my most cherished source for following along.


Of course, right about now some of you might be wondering if in my zeal for reading magazines I may have neglected the news that for the last few years print journalism has been enduring a severe downturn. Why yes, I have. In addition to many mainstream mags, over the last few years I’ve been pained to see one favored niche title after another go the way of downtube shifters. Despite its legacy under the brilliant editor Ted Constantino, Bicycle Guide was one of the first of my favorite magazines to depart. Next came the demise of Cycle World, which spoke genuinely to the wide world of road- and dirt-loving motorcycle fanatics. 

A couple of years ago, facing challenges no different than we do (paper and printing costs), the venerable East Coast mountain bike mag Dirt Rag called it a day. And then, just today, after being assumed/consumed by yet another big-vision venture capitalist guy (ho-hum, them again!) last year, the road bike mag Peloton also hit the deck. A little secret here, but Peloton actually got its start at RBA after OG RBA editor Brad Roe departed to produce a mag more in line with his vision of road cycling. In mission and production, Peloton was a mag that was the antithesis of what you’re holding in your viewing. 

Although I admired Brad’s gumption in creating a new style of cycling magazine, it always bordered on a more esoteric side of the sport, which I felt was a tad out of reach for most contemporary cyclists. Where we would spend pages distilling the nature of aero bikes, disc brakes and competing at the Belgian Waffle Ride, Peloton would use their pages to celebrate riders from the ’50s and rare Irish malt liquors.  Not my cup of tea!

In the dog-eat-dog world of print journalism, we had to fight tooth and nail with Peloton for the coveted ad pages that keep the lights on. The first sign of trouble for them was when they  followed in Bicycling’s tire tracks and went from a 10-time-a-year print schedule to six. Reducing your print schedule is never a good sign. But, of course, the fallback for them was all things digital. Well, apparently, that didn’t work out so well either because in addition to killing Peloton’s print edition, the visionary rich VC guy also gutted the entire staff and fired a handful of legacy cycling editors to help mend his profit loss. Follow the money indeed!  


And just so we’re clear on what we’re doing here, RBA is RBA due to what is both the business model laid out for us by Hi-Torque Publications and the editorial package that I oversee. I know we have our critics; ironically, one being a higher-up at Specialized who told us they had no interest in advertising with RBA unless we better resembled a “coffee table” magazine, which is what he saw Peloton as. Putting aside for a moment that he was also a former editor there, it meant little to him that, compared to Peloton, RBA had far better circulation, a $3-cheaper cover price, and provided more editorial for Specialized. Oh well. For me, longevity has value, and for us, it’s been not attempting to be a “coffee table” magazine that’s helped keep us in business.  

I know I often come off sounding defensive about topics like print versus digital and sponsored content, but the defensiveness is there because I so love what I do. I believe in the tactile experience a magazine provides with big pictures and no need for a wall socket to keep reading. And, as often as I hear so many modernist loons crow that “print is dead” as some sort of paean to all things digital, I just shake my head. Print is dead?! Does that mean we should  close all the libraries and bookstores, and just install more charging stations in every city so more people can live, learn and love via a handheld screen?! Maybe when my daughter is as old as I am that sort of frightening Twilight Zone reality will take place, but until then, I will continue to be a fan of magazines and the type of storytelling they provide.


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Over the years RBA has tested more road bikes than anyone else—these are the bikes that we still dwell on

The post EDITOR’S CHOICE: ZAP’S TEN BEST ROAD BIKES TESTED appeared first on Road Bike Action.


Yes, it is safe to say that in Road Bike Action’s  decade-plus existence more road  bikes have passed under our editors and  test riders than any other print or digital entity that talks about bikes. And we believe it’s that legacy which can best provide consumers with a level of confidence and comfort in relying in our opinions.

As the trio of RBA editors recently sat around thinking about what new test bikes were were expecting to ride this year, the question arose – what were some of the best bikes that we’d already tested?  And so it was decided right then and there to come up with our respective lists of what our favorite test bikes were.

Kicking of the trilogy of editor’s best test bike choices is Zap with this penchant for Euro brands obvious for all to see. To find out what bikes made  the “best of” lists for Troy and David, stay tuned.


Talk about a bike that truly lived up to its model designation, the sub-15-pound 695 was my first taste of a bike with a true Formula 1 feel. Sure, the following year’s 795 Light had an even more radical level of integration and visual appeal, (especially the frame-integrated stem), but this French race bike nonetheless had a magical feel to it. Despite our doubts about the integrated brakes, they worked better than we presumed they would. Although Look designers went a tad overboard with the graphics, there was no taking away from the appeal of the bike’s sultry frame shape. For $7000, you’d get a frame, crank, stem and seatpost. Today’s version is the 795 Blade, which is available in seven models starting at $4200.



My first ride aboard an Aeroad came back in 2014, and even beyond the red paint, I was smitten with the bike’s looks, handling and compliance. Best of all, it didn’t have the clunky rear end and overly stiff ride quality that so many other aero road bikes exhibited at the time. Although the popular aero bike continues to evolve and become more specialized with faster lines and deeper wheels, I liked the earlier, less aero-ized model the best.



It was such a simple bike—small-diameter tubes and external cable routing. In short, nothing fancy. Well, there was the Sunrise paint scheme, which did bring a smile just by looking at it. Designed by renowned frame builder and mountain bike pioneer Tom Ritchey, the Road Logic was another reminder that no matter the black-plastic-obsessed world we live in, a well-engineered steel bike can still also be a delightful, durable and low-cost ride that anyone can enjoy.


FACTOR 02 (2018)

We tested this bike back in 2018 when disc brakes were just starting to become more commonplace, but the fact that the Factor got it done with a package that weighed under 15 pounds was what was so impressive—and still rare to find today! In 2018 the bike sold for $11,050, but by using their bike-build configurator, you can now get a base-model 02 starting for around $5650. Looking back, with its 98.8cm wheelbase, the 02 was simply a straight-forward, fast-handling, minimalist but potent race bike that (even then) had room for 30mm tires.



Sometimes I like a bike as much for the ride as for the man behind the bike. This is true with all things Colnago as it is with Craig Calfee. For me, both men are visionaries who stand apart from all others. The difference between the two is that where Colnago frames make me swoon with Cambiago delight, they’ve all been too stiff for my liking. Calfee’s NorCal-made steeds, on the other hand, have always had just enough compliance/flex to provide as much long-day comfort as needed. And just knowing that the Tetra is a descendent of the bike Calfee built for Greg LeMond to make carbon history at the 1991 Tour de France makes his bikes even more enthralling. Plus, how about a legacy, handmade carbon frame for under $5000?!



Not unlike the similar thoughts I have about the Ritchey Road Logic, the Ritte Phantom was a four-year-later steel ride with similarly impressive ride qualities, but now with the modern stopping power of disc brakes. Owing to the combo of its Tom Kellogg-penned geometry and Reynolds steel tubes, the Ritte was a bike I not only enjoyed riding, but also used to embarrass all the carbon bikes by bagging a “first-over” accolade up the steep Winston climb on the Montrose ride! The Phantom had a plethora of nice, artisan-like frame details and a complete bike price of just $4600 (frameset for the $2450).



While there are many Class 1 (18 mph max) options on the market, the Class 3 (28mph) options are limited. And not to come across as some sort of speed demon, but where I would get dropped on the group ride riding any similarly heavy (30-pound) Class 1 bike, aboard the Class 3 Creo, I was not only able stay on with the group ride but actually take a pull on the front, too! Remember, it’s not about cheating, but for some it’s just being able to ride longer, which is never a bad thing! Typically, Specialized has many over-the-top-spec’d models at a hefty price, but the same bike/motor package that sells for over $13,000 will sell for less than half the price just with less fancy parts.


OPEN MIN.D. (2021)

Funny thing coming from a guy who, of late, has made more of a name for himself with a series of first-rate gravel bikes, but then I’ve learned to always expect the unexpected from Gerard Vroomen. Despite its rather non-plussed appearance, in our modern age of oversized this and aero that, with its shallow DT Swiss wheels and small-diameter frame tubes, the sub-16-pound Open was simply a revelatory flashback to the way traditional road bikes could look and ride. I know integrated seatposts (and minuscule clamp bolts) aren’t ideal, but the downsized 25mm seat tube played a key role in the frame’s appreciable level of compliance. Two versions of the frame to choose from—an 890-gram Asian-made model ($3900) and an American-made, 775-gram model for $7500.



 Sure, laboratory test results have their place in distilling the merits of any bike’s design and fabrication. Still, I’ve always made a point of emphasizing the importance of the frame of mind that riding any bike evokes. Although a tad under-geared and a bit overpriced at $12,500 given the lower-line wheel spec, the Specialissima still brought out smiles, thanks to its 16.21-pound weight, subtle yet effective holographic downtube graphic, sweet handling and, of course, the head-to-toe slathering of the brand’s legacy Celeste paint. Yummy!



Like the 2020 Dogma 12 that preceded it (which, like the F, also got my annual “Best of” nod), the sightly Pinarello was as curvy and asymmetrical as ever, but, more important, beyond its space-age looks it simply had a ride that was out of this world. And, as I’ve reported time and again, as favorable as I found the bike, the reaction of everyone else who rode the bike was unanimous—simply superb handling! No wonder the Dogma lineage has won the Tour de France so many times. Available in 11 sizes, our test bike priced out at a crazy $13,000, and although there’s no shortage of spendy, Asian-made frames on the market, for me, having one that says “Pinarello” is worth more than most others.



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ZAP’S COLUMN: NO TIME FOR TWEETS Mon, 11 Jul 2022 18:36:49 +0000

One way to stay busy is to choose to not be too busy

The post ZAP’S COLUMN: NO TIME FOR TWEETS appeared first on Road Bike Action.


There I was, slicing up bananas and bagels at the neutral feed zone atop the Belgian Waffle Ride’s notorious Double Peak climb that acts as the final salvo of brutality for riders trying to finish the 130-mile Waffle ride, when some random guy walked up to me and popped the question: “Hey, you’re Zap, aren’t you?” When I answered in the affirmative, he followed up with an additional query and demand: “I read your stuff in the magazine, but why don’t you have a podcast? You should have a podcast.”   

Since I was earnestly trying to concentrate on making sure one of my fingertips didn’t end up among the evenly sliced foodstuffs that I was preparing for the soon-to-arrive 2000 riders, I barely bothered to look up to offer a reply. “Oh, for a few reasons,” I said, “but it mostly comes down to not being able to find the time to do it.” Lame as that may sound, it’s true.

No fingertips were lost in the feed zone bins.

Despite my trying to stay focused on the knife, he next asked if I had a Twitter account, and again, I had to use the same excuse about not having the time in admitting that I was not a “tweeter.”

As we all know, social media has provided the world with no shortage of new forms of communication. From websites, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Strava to name just a few, there is no shortage of platforms to talk about bikes. The problem, at least for anyone desirous of hearing and seeing my podcasts and tweets, is that neither exists.


Coincidentally, the Twitter query came in the same week that Elon Musk made public his desire to purchase Twitter for the lowly sum of $44 billion. And, it was after listening to a local TV news anchor break the Musk/Twitter news (alluding to a false fact that “everybody” is on Twitter) that I was reminded of my enmity to having a place in the Twitter nest. Everybody?! How could “everybody” be on Twitter if I wasn’t?! Neither was my friend Tommy or my daughter, which then makes three people who aren’t tweeting. And call me crazy, but I’m gonna go out on a limb here and presume there are probably others, too, who aren’t tweeting. In addition to having neither the time nor the interest to be on Twitter, it was this newsman’s supposition who “everyone” was supposed to be that irritated me enough to instill an even deeper intent not to be. 

The number-one reason I avoid all these additional forms of talking about bikes is simply that the time needed to produce and consume it – for all of us – would be much better spent actually riding a bike.

In cycling terms, it’s as bad as when I hear people say “everyone” must use a heart rate monitor. Really?! I’ve been riding bikes for decades and I’ve never once strapped a monitor to my chest. I know there are people who know me well and who will read this and simply conclude that my avoiding Twitter and HRMs has more to do with the notion that I remain a Luddite of the highest order. They wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but neither would they be entirely right. 

Admittedly, I am somewhat less than adept at mastering all things digital (my daughter will be rolling her eyes when she reads that!). While I do like (and appreciate) new technology and the uptick in communication that it’s allowed, my preference is to simply not obsess over it. There’s no doubt my phone has hundreds of tools to make life easier. I probably use seven. For me, relentlessly staring into a 3×5-inch screen is not how I like to while away the day. I prefer to look up and around to observe the world at large. And not to digress, but on a very personal level my distaste for today’s popular high-tech trappings includes a preference for extended earlobes versus having two little pieces of white plastic sticking out of the sides of my head.


All that rationalizing aside, it’s not that I don’t believe in the value of podcasts and tweets, but, really, beyond our magazine, website and the occasional IG posts, the main reason I don’t partake in all the other platforms simply comes down to a matter of time management. To me, hearing the guy ask about podcasts is no different than the many people who’ve said I should write a book about all I’ve seen, done and heard in my 30-plus years as a cycling journo. As lofty as being an “author” might be, I get paid to provide my maximum efforts for anyone who reads Road Bike Action. Of course, there’s also the time allotted to writing for our sister ‘zine Mountain Bike Action and overseeing Electric Bike Action, but as long as it’s for a magazine, call me “old-fashioned,” but I’ll always enthusiastically find the time to do it. 

But, honestly, the number-one reason I avoid all these additional forms of talking about bikes is simply that the time needed to produce and consume it – for all of us – would be much better spent actually riding a bike.


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