Archive for October 2010

Best Tyre Ever?

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

As my medical staff have given me the go ahead to ride as much hilly terrain as I’d like, I decided that as our local weather is freakishly good right now, I’d do a ride up the Sea to Sky Highway today.  Quite oddly, I awoke in the small hours last night think that I should bring two spare (tubular) tyres along today. As I almost never puncture it seemed weird, but I am one for following a feeling.

Well there I was, about seventeen miles (or about 2,750,000 cm) into the ride and that sinking feeling came upon me. Yes indeed, the almost bulletproof Tufo had let me done. Pulled out the spare from under the saddle (another Tufo..used) stuck it on the rim only to find that the valve had become frozen during its retirement and was not keen on allowing much passage of air. A few ’sumbitch’ type words later, out came an old example of what a lot of fossil and semi-fossil riders may recall as one of the greatest tyres of all time. Its the fabulous Clement Criterium Seta 220 gm matt tread, circa late Sixties to late Seventies.

AVR bow 1170

I sometimes stick this lovely old 1972 rendition in my pocket for a back up as it folds so nicely. As you’ll note from the appearance of both the tyre and even the label, its seen a few Easters.

Its funny how something like a bicycle tyre can turn into something to covet. What’s wrong with people (like me for eg) that can get emotionally involved with a silk and rubber membrane thats main purpose is to merely keep you slightly elevated from the tarmac whilst propelling one’s self on a bicycle? There ain’t nuthin’ wrong with them (or me). Its everyone else: all those poor unfortunates that have never had the chance to ride the tyre God would have chosen.

As any lad getting into racing would do, I would survey that publications and see the superstars of the day riding Clement Criteriums and upper scale  Seta (silk) versions. Some of the same magazines would have adverts from vendors that supplied these mystical items but at prices that were far out of my budget. I think by the time I got my first real job and acquired a pair of exact model of tyre, they were around $48.00 apiece. BIG dough for the day, when a complete Record equipped Cinelli Super Corsa was about $400.00

Clement made a wide range of silk tyres but this particular one was at the top on a lot of riders favourites list. The silk casing provided unparalleled smoothness and complance even at high (140+ psi) pressure. That same case gave fabulous road feel and response in climbing  and sprint accelerations. The matt tread and roundish sectional shape gave great grip in tight corners too. If there was any drawback, it was riding in the rain as when the silk got soaked It could get kind of stretchy and the tyre would expand a bit, getting a bit squirmy and effectively losing pressure because of increased volume.

I used these lovely tubulars almost exclusively for several seasons and probably a couple of hundred races (there was a lot of racing in BC in those days) and I don’t recall ever flatting one. These tyres became your friends: although there was one day we certainly didn’t get along. The ‘76 National RR on the Montreal Mont Royal course. About a dozen and a half laps of that rigorous hillside we’re required. Well RC showed up on the line with his best Mavic Medaille d’Or 259 gram 28 spoke wheels respendent with the aforementioned Seta 220’s.

First thing that I was dumb about was the fact that there was a sssmokin’ fast decent on the course. For what ever reason, a spoke in the front wheel let go on the first lap. In those days, a rim that light was light because there was bugger-all to it. So with a spoke gone the rim was fairly out of whack but it did go through the released caliper OK. Well then two or three laps later the rain started. I didn’t think it rained in Montreal in the summer? Well the 220 twins didn’t like that much and were a bit slippy to be sure. Caution prevailed and steady riding kept me upright. The difficulty of the course had shredded the field and having not ridden many bigger time races and not knowing who was who, I was fairly uncertain as to my overall placing in the race. On the second to last time up the big hill the great Ronnie Hayman caught up to me and said “you’re doing great, let’s go”. Well when I went for the power application that damn Seta just spun on that wet road like a Fueler in the burnout box. “See yuz after the race Ron”. He eventually got third and I nabbed a ninth but hey, ” I coulda been a contenda huh?”

Sadly these tyres went out of production and the Clement factory eventually packed up although the name is still on some tyres from the Orient…which are supposed to be pretty good.

For those that think a Vittoria CX or Conti Tempo or Sprinter is as nice to ride or as fast…….fuggahbowdit. Stop thinkin’ like that or maybe Vito’s gotta come and see you. For those that think ANY clincher is close, seek counseling.

Even though I’d pulled of a pretty snappy 210 gm flat today, the ride home was faster than the way out even with only about 90 psi in the vintage Clement….didn’t have the heart to stress it too much.

Well gotta bolt. Change the tyre and put Grandad Clement back in pocket mode.

Miscellaneous Musings

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Things have backed off a bit of late and the girlfriend is off at choir practice for her church’s Christmas extravaganza so I find myself with an evening I could be doing paperwork but am opting for a bit of rambling vis-a-vis, bicycles.

First off I must give a huge congratulations to Tara Whitten for her accomplishments at the Commonwealth Games. Three Bronze medals on the track and the Gold in the women’s  TT. Well done dear lady!

I guess my last bit of a posting was about the steel bike I had put together that had been a ‘frame only’ since I made it eight years ago. As my first rides were early ones in my recovery from the busted bones, I could only really comment on the ride quality….which is very good if not just a bit bumpier than my Deda scandium unit. Also I think I said it wasn’t quite as lively….which I still think. Now a few weeks into riding again I’m hardly a Coppi incarnate but its pretty good on hills too, up and down. I’ve ridden some all carbon bikes that are noodles in comparison and never been on a titanium bike as good. My hill test is to find some rolling terrain with reasonable grades and see how long I can carry the speed in an bigger gear once the hill has started. A good frame will act like a pole vaulter’s pole and snap back to centre between pedal strokes, springing energy into the drive train. Just because a frame is stiff, does not necessarily mean its snappy.

So I’d have to say that the lads at Columbus S.p.A got it right with with their thermochrome steel. Too bad mainstream doesn’t accept such things anymore… a way, mainstream loses.

Some one asked me the other day how long I spend with each new bike customer. I never really thought about it but when I did, it made me realize (or at least realize again), that are better ways to make money with one’s time than this sort of bicycle biz. Obviously it varies from client to client but for any in town customers and indeed some out-of-towners, the straight one on one time yakking, fitting, riding with, averages about 4-5 hours. This of course does not include paint, assembly or acquiring any specially requested parts. The only way to make real dough in this business is selling out of the box…but how much fun is that?? What we’re doing now makes a much closer relationship. SO many of my current friends come from my customer pool.

A long time customer, Mike Moult who got one of my 853 frames years ago recently ordered the new frame pictures below.

AVR bow 1120

After thousands of training and randonneur miles, the cast BB shell on the 853 bike cracked (to my defence, it was a bad batch of shells as two others did it too….arggh) and Mike went and got a titanium frame…and that cracked too. What was that ZZ Top tune, “Rough Boy”? Anyway, did up this 12 K weave, bit heavier carbon frame for him. These are ultra stout carbon units, the kind you don’t have to think about replacing at the end of the season. He was by the other day and surprised me by saying it was a lot more shock absorbent and smoother than his titanium frame was. Not surprisingly he said it climbed better. Here I thought the titanio was always the ‘Cadillac’ ride of two wheels. Never too old to learn.

So what about this Contador thing? Does it have you bugged? Not me. Don’t get me wrong for a second, no way I condone ‘le doping’ but even if Al is on the level here, drugs are in nearly all top sports to some degree. Football, track and field, soccer, tennis, XC skiing, baseball (wudda joke…most of those guys could use appetite suppressants) and even in your local gym (look for zits on the back and bad moods). Cycling is the hardest sport in the world and the TdF and the Giro are the hardest races. Bernard Kohl recently said it was not possible to to win Le Tour without help. Indeed Jacques Anquetil said decades ago, “you can’t win the Tour on mineral water”. I don’t believe either of these fellows speak the absolute truth and the Tour may be a lot easier than it used to be but its still freaky hard. I also think there are way more clean riders in the last few years which is certainly a good thing. Not to say that every rider in the ‘old’ days were on something, by no means. I know ex-pros from the Sixties through the Eighties that would get the Mr Clean award. One of the fellows that raced in Merckx’ time said ” In the change room, you never saw a needle mark on Eddy” (jabbing was the way to go then). His tearing reaction to that Giro thing (I always figured it was the Mob) in ‘69 to me underlines he had no need for embellishment, he was born so far beyond normal humanity.

My point of this tirade is simply to say, cycle racing is a fabulous sport. To me, the only thing that compares in the overall visual beauty is a fleet of sailboats racing….both powered by nature. Its a sport that can be appreciated by all those that can ride a bicycle, and that’s a lot. So enjoy the sport for all that it is in every aspect.