Zap’s 2012 Year In Review

As we all know, there are many pluses and minuses to both the magazine and digital world. Timing is one of them. In the February 2013 issue that is on the newsstands or in your mail box now, you will find a complete Editors’ Best Of Everything story that captures all that caught our attention in 2012…only right up until early October when the printed issue was due. Between space and time constraints, what is included there comes up shy of absolutely everything that we liked.

That’s where this edition comes in. 2012 marked another wild & crazy year at RBA. In between all the fabulous new bikes and parts flowing into the office, my going from pedestrian to platinum status with Delta, “Young” Michael White’s late season training ride crash (and resulting surgery), editorial intern Spencer “The Grom” Rathkamp showing up, and Neil’s return victory at Levi’s Gran Fondo, there was much we saw and talked about.

Serious subjects too were tackled, like which weighed more, a glazed donut or twist (see answer below), but now we are readying ourselves for a new year and from what I’ve heard already, 2013 looks to be another doozie of a season. So, before we trip our way into the abyss of a new year, here is one last shot at some of what 2012 brought to me.

THE BEST COLOR COURAGE


It was a beautiful  Thanksgiving Day and there I was, purposely getting lost in the hills of Berkeley as a means of building my appetite for the post-ride meal I knew was to come. Shooting down Ridge Road with an impeccable view of the San Francisco Bay, I  dropped into the mesmerizingly beautiful Tilden Park.

As I was climbing back out, I saw a rider ahead on a bright blue bike. “Ah, color,” I thought to myself, remembering back in the day when any of us would be surrounded by so many steel and aluminum frames that enjoyed a final finish other than the black (of carbon) which now darkens each day on the road like an overbearing cloud of lifelessness. Eventually I caught the guy and as I do with every rider I pass on the road, I began focusing on the bike brand. It was a new Specialized and owing to the bright blue frame, I figured it to be a new Allez aluminum bike. However, as I pulled alongside I saw the word “Tarmac” written on the inside the chainstay. A blue carbon bike?!? I shared my surprise with the guy who said he had the same feeling when he saw the bike on the dealer floor, “Yeah, it was the only bike that wasn’t black or white so I had to buy it!”

Look, I get the age old admission that only black bikes sell well, but, equally, if its all that’s ever offered it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not helping matters is that so many Pro team bikes follow the all black trend. Color – it lives and thanks to whoever at Specialized for realizing that.

RIDER OF THE YEAR


Rider of year? Bradley Wiggins, yea, I dig the Mod inspired sideburns and the occasional curse word. Although I wasn’t too keen on a him a few years ago, Mark Cavendish as wholly earned all of my respect and admiration as a real rider, a real teammate and a REAL fighter for the win. Like Wiggo, the plucky Manx man is not afraid to lob the occasional curser either when he gets emotional. As with many others, Peter Sagan was a real bright star this year with top finishes in the Spring classics, multiple stage wins in the Tour of California and Tour de France, a penchant for great victory wheelies and best of all, such an easy going and happy personality.

But the one cyclist who shone the brightest was one that perhaps few cycling fans know about. Alex Zanardi (center) was an Italian car racer who came up through karting and Formula One to eventually become a two-time CART champion. In 2001 he suffered a horrendous crash in Germany that cost him both legs. However, within three years he was back in the cockpit of a race car. Wow. But last summer he competed on the Italian national team in the London Paralympics and came away with gold medals in both the time trial and road race. Zanardi’s comeback is nothing short of phenomenal. Zanardi embodies the very qualities that make Pro athletes a distinct class of human, different from the rest of us, and worthy of our admiration. Bravo Alex.

BEST MOMENT

Sometimes things just seem to work out for the best. After a long day at the Tour de France when Peter Sagan won his first ever Tour stage, I was lucky enough to be the only journo still at the Liquigas team hotel when the boys broke out a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the Slovakian rider’s true coming of age plus Cannondale’s first TdF stage win in quite some time. Getting the photo and sharing a glass of the bubbly made me happily believe in the value of serendipity.

SIMPLY THE BEST OF THE BEST

The North American Handmade Bike Show remains the most soul stirring collection of bikes and bike people that I know of.  This show drips authenticity and enthusiasm like no other. You REALLY should attend the 2013 NAHBS running in Denver, Colorado on Feb. 22-24.

BEST TOOL

After some fits & starts, it looks like Shimano is finally getting their legs beneath them in marketing their Pro components. So far, everything we’ve seen from them is quality built with a real eye towards performance. Of them all, I like this mini-tool the best. Described in flowery terms on the web site as “extremely small tool with 11 functions”, the (claimed) 96 gram Pro mini-tool has a super luxurious feel to it and includes everything you need without being either overbearing or overweight.

MOST INTERESTING PERSON


I think I have a man crush on Robby Ketchell. He first came into my life at the Mavic press launch in June. Then I ran into him at the Tour (where he was wiping off the riders’ Garmin units). Finally, I bumped into him in a hotel lobby(curled up in a chair eating pumpkin bread after riding 100+ miles to get there) in Maine at the Dempsey Challenge. Each time he has left me amused, impressed and perplexed. As the team aerodynamicist for Garmin, he is one of the smartest guys I’ve spoken to. The team has won races thanks to his knowledge. Unlike the stiffs that make up that make up the Boulder contingent, Robbie stands apart by being open, funny and friendly. I’ve tried to interview him, but have come up short each time as I grasp for the bigger picture that he represents. One of my resolutions for 2013 is to nail that interview.

BEST SHOE FOR HOT DAYS

Ah, cycling shoes, the eternal place of cycling product lust. If ever there was a pedaling version of a Mexican Imelda Marcos, it would be me. Like the former Philippine First Lady, I have a shoe fetish. Unlike Imelda, my likes have never been tripped up by an equally strong acquisition fetish. In fact, as late as last summer I was still riding with a pair of of two year old Gaernes (the special Cadel Evans edition they made before he bolted to Diadora), an act which in itself is breaking the editorial code of of always having the latest and greatest. But, last summer was a warm one and those Gaerne G.Mythos were both hot & heavy (640 grams). Enter the Mavic Huez. At just 400 grams they are built to be light and airy (no, not the most comfortable). But simple with just three straps – they remain the gold standard in lightweight shoes. Lurking on the horizon, the new S-Works shoe from Specialized.

BEST DRESSED


The Tour de France is the biggest, most important bike race on the calendar. Everyone is on their best behavior. The riders, to man, neat & proper, most wearing their team spec tracks suits that make that “swishing” sound with each step forward. And then there was Giro winner & always proud Canadian Ryder Hesjedal. His own man. Hallelujah!

BEST LUNCH RIDE #1

Two days after dominating the Tour of California with five stage wins, Peter Sagan dropped by the palatial, well lit RBA offices to sign some autographs and take in a short two hour ride with a bunch of local hanger-ons in tow. It was a great day and, to a man, everybody came away impressed with how friendly and casual Sagan was. We’re sure that (to himself at least) Sagan would later credit the workout he got with the RBA ride for his stunning green jersey performance in the Tour de France.

BEST LUNCH RIDE # 2

Later in the year we were visited upon by Omega-Quickstep rider Frantisek “Frankie” Rabon who was kind enough to take some time away from his vacation to tell us some good stories and take in some local climbs. The real deal Pro riders always have some good inside stories to tell.

BEST POST RIDE MEAL

True, there was a great, multi-tiered  meal after the Campy EPS ride we did in Sardinia, but that was a short ride so the fresh veggies & pasta only worked half their magic. No, it was after the 80 miler at Levi’s Gran Fondo when I had the most enjoyable post-ride meal of the year – a fabulous bowl of Gerard’s paella
. Man did that do the trick. Paella, it’s not just for breakfast anymore!

BEST LESSON LEARNED

As I referenced above, 2012 involved a lot of travel for me. In total, 12 trips abroad with plenty of domestic trips as well. To talk about it is to come across as a jaded, continent hopping braggart, but in the end, it’s really just part of the job. Turkey, Sicily, Sardinia, France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, yes, each of them a great trip where I learned more about the sport and technology that drives us all mad. Of them all, the most intriguing was at the Zurich wind tunnel where Mavic was launching their new CXR 80 aero wheel. There were plenty of tech details to glean, but the biggest take-away, and the one that should make every performance oriented cyclist sleep better at night, was the realization that, like many other companies, Mavic too is drilling down on tech gains and sweating the details.

THE BEST (DOMESTIC) LESSON LEARNED


Some six or so months later,  I re-learned those same lessons from Switzerland as I stood in the wind tunnel built inside the Faster bike shop in Scottsdale, Arizona. In addition to coming away with an appreciation for people who are smart enough to understand all the aero calculations, I couldn’t help but be wholly impressed with what is clearly one of the greatest bike shops in the world.

MAYBE THE BEST & WORST OF 2012 ROLLED INTO ONE?

Um…

THE BEST MECHANIC (OR THE ONE GUY ALL THOSE SURLY BELGIAN WRENCHES CAN LEARN A THING OT TWO FROM)

At this year’s Tour de France, not only was George Hincapie a big story out of the BMC camp, but so too was the soft launch of their radical TMR01 road bike. That the usually detailed Swiss unit muffed the release of any info on the bike, matters were made worse when we finally tracked the bike down at the team hotel following stage five and were essentially told to “beat it” by a brusque team official who insisted that we were out of place by simply trying to get the story on the new bike. Enter BMC Chief Mechanic, Ian Sherburne who tried to find some middle ground. Hearing somebody at the Tour de France say, “I know what you’re going through to do your job, let me know I can to do to help,” is like hearing someone tell you that you just won the Powerball lottery! Thanks for the help Ian.

BEST BLOODLINES

This is La Familia Tomac. They are a motocross family. Now before any skinny tire devotees decry talk of throttle twisters, you should know that family patriarch John was once a team 7-Eleven prospect who rode the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix with the best of them back in 1990. Oh yeah before and after that, with multiple national & world championships wins & titles in both downhill and cross-country racing, he is also the best all-around mountain bike rider ever. Wife Kathy was a bronze medalist at the 1990 mountain bike world championships. And from such talented parents sprang young Eli Tomac who on January of this year will roll to the starting gate of the 2013 AMA Supercross opener with a big # 1 plate attached to his Geico Honda. You gotta love family dynasties based of talent and dedication. 

STILL THE BEST REASON TO BUY A LUGGED FRAME


For some reason, many bike companies continue to distance themselves from lugged frames in some sort of ritualistic embrace of the monocoque frame. At times, even Trek tries to step away from calling their OCLV Madones lugged – even though they really are. Sure, lugged frames lack the smooth, uninterrupted lines of a monocoque frame, but what people seem to have have forgotten is that two of the most beautiful frames that exist in the world today; the Calfee Dragonfly and the Colnago C59 still use lugs and still exude a beauty and ride quality that is almost unequaled in the market today.

MY BEST PHOTO THAT SHOWS THE HUMAN SIDE TO THE SPORT


Mark Cavendish surprises his girlfriend Petra with a last kiss before starting stage three of the Tour de France.

BEST PAINT

                                 I mean really, how about the artisan handiwork on this DeRosa?

BEST MUSIC FOR DOING MY HOMEWORK

Every night (at 5:01) when the ad slime flee the office and head up to their hillside retreats to watch reality TV shows, polish their vintage car collections or whatever they do after work, like most of my edit brethren, I head home to type some more. And as Michael and Neil have come to realize, I have a hard time typing in silence. I need music. From the Transplants and Minor Threat to Bob Dylan and Toots & The Maytals, I just need some tunes. And of all the music out there these guys, these guys really get my toes, and more importantly, my fingers tapping. The Paladins were one of the greatest groups to never make it big. Just a blues & rock-a-billy inclined trio who belted it on stage with the guitar maestro Dave Gonzalez  at the lead.

BEST OVER-THE-TOP PRODUCT THAT NOT ONLY PROVES THAT THE LITTLE GUYS STILL HAVE IT, BUT ALSO THAT “JUST BECAUSE” IS AS PERFECTLY GOOD A REASON TO SPEND A LOAD OF CASH OF YOUR BIKE AS ANY OTHER REASON. OH YEAH, THERE’S ALSO THE REAL PERFORMANCE GAIN TO CONSIDER AS WELL THE ENVY OF ALL YOUR RIDING BUDDIES.


I think everybody should go out and buy a pair of Kappius hubs. Sure, a pair will set you back $1000, but beyond the fact that they look so, so, so incredibly cool and the fact that the ultra-quick freehub engagement is unmatched by any other hub on the market, the back story to the hubs is what I find so enthralling…a true, small time, American family effort. Oh yeah, did I mention that they look so cool that your friends will hate you?

THE COOLEST WRENCH


Garmin wrench Alex Banyay won my admiration not only for a few reasons. There was the single minded purpose of being that all the best wrenches display on race day (like the above moment at the Tour de France). There was the at times outright surliness and happiness he displayed at the races and there was the time he struggled with David Zabriske’s TT bike at Tour of California (and I’m am definitely showing off my punk rock bias here) all the while listening to Stiv Bators blasting out of the team trailer. Stiv Bators – nice.

AND OF COURSE…ALL THE PEEPS

I never get to spend enough time in the company of my soul brother Bob “Bobke” Roll, but when I do, life is always a joyous and amusing education. From Moab, Utah to Alpe d’Huez, we have had some great moments together living and loving la vida loca.  Bob Roll rules and should be the official mouth for all U.S. Tour coverage.

ESPECIALLY THESE GUYS


Neil (left) and Michael are my solid co-workers. Between the Pandora music blaring from my computer and the succession of dumb questions I ask them in the office, they persist in getting the job done while maintaining a positive attitude…and always at the ready for a lunch ride. Trust me, you are as lucky as I am that they still enjoy the job.

AND THESE GUYS

Thanks to the RBA test riders like (l-r) Anthony, Chris, Michael and Spencer (Raelynn, Bari and Paul not pictured) for taking time away from their jobs, families and training time to help us out. Thanks also to Primal Wear for making the smart looking RBA kits.


Of course, no appreciation of our test riders is complete without giving a big shout-out to John Ker. As much as he drives us crazy with his sense of perfection (and hesitancy to drive in an appropriately enough aggressively manner), we love MFJK…one of the hardest (and happiest) workers in the entire world.


Our Euro editor Tim Maloney will hate the fact that I posted this photo, and if history is any indication, he’ll probably call any minute and ask me to take it down. Regardless, we owe Tim big props as he is an invaluable part of the RBA edit team. Though irascible at times,  Tim is a loveable & huggable bike geek of the highest order. In fact, I’d easily wager that he retains more knowledge about the sport and history in his back pocket than any five journos do in their hard drives.


Last, and certainly not least, I would be nowhere and have no purpose in life with my muse, my inspiration and my very reason for being…my daughter Xakota. No longer a cute kid that asks silly questions, she’s a college kid now who still holds a grudge for my “forcing” her to go to so many bike races when she was growing up. Of course, I made up for all those years of abuse by asking TV actor Patrick Dempsey to pose for a photo with her. I love you Xakota.

AS FOR MY BIKE OF THE YEAR….

Okay, I’m not saying anything different now than what I already said in the Editors Choice issue where I voted the Cannondale Evo as my best bike of the year. What changed in the time since we sent that February 2013 issue off to the printer was that Neil finally let me ride the Project Light Bike (which is reviewed in that Feb. issue). The project bike was based on a 2013 Cannondale Evo Black Inc that is lighter than the standard version due to its use of high modulus carbon. How light you ask? The (55cm) frame is an astonishingly light 718 grams – the lightest production frame we have ever seen. Neil picked through every parts catalog he could find to choose a collection of components that were light and sturdy. In the end, the complete bike hit the scale at 10.9lbs (four pounds lighter than the standard model that I’d already fallen for earlier in the year).

Apart from the Black Inc. frame itself, Cannondale’s new 500 gram SISL2 Hollowgram crank was a true knock-out in both design technology and manufacture. Available as standard equipment on the Black Inc. frame, but also as an aftermarket item in either standard or compact profiles, the chainrings are machined from a solid piece of aluminum. Simple, elegant, effective.

AND TO ALL OF THE REST OF YOU….

Thanks so much for being a part of Road Bike Action. Every day of every week of every month, I invite you to join us on the road and in the pages. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to let me know: Mail To Zap. Ride safe, spread peace and ride some more.

Oh yeah, a twisted glaze weighs 8 grams more than a rounder.

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