Dec 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Cheers to all!

Wishing everyone a joyful & prosperous 2009!

Dec 30, 2008

Pump it up for the new year!

A metaphor to a better new year...
I can't help but feel 'pumped up!'

The holiday season is truly the time for sharing and giving. I 'gave' myself a very useful floor pump. It works effortlessly well, inflating my tires to around 100 psi, without any strain. The aluminum barrel, Filzer Zephyr Pro Team Floor pump is very lightweight. Comfort and joy comes to me when gripping the nicely balanced wooden handle. I admit, I never got around to buying one since returning to cycling. My mini frame pump required gobs of time & all my strength to reach maximum pressure. Most of the time I couldn't, due to sheer exhaustion. With it, I can finally relax & (maybe meditate) while quickly pumping up my tires. And its arrival is at a symbolic time...

As the ever hopeful optimist, I'm feeling 'pumped up' for the new year!

Dec 29, 2008

Exercising the pleasure for reading.

Joe Parkin's revealing & often zany read of pro cycling in Belgium!

Now that I'm in full holiday mode I'm reading some fine cycling books. Ecstatically, I have a few days off. As the snow is slowly melting away, I haven't touch the bike in a few weeks. My only exercise is walking to the local food store or cycle shop. This morning, I dug out the car from all that compacted snow and put in a real good sweat. Call it exercise as I spent around an hour pushing & clearing away the heavy white stuff. I'd rather be on the bike.  

So, I'm reading some fine books borrowed by Guy Wilson-Roberts(aka. Le Grimpeur). I just finished the enjoyable, 'A Dog in the Hat,' by American ex-pro, Joe Parkin. Parkin does well in his storytelling as an American racer riding in 1980's Belgium. Throw in gutsy realism of surviving the professional cycling ranks and the volatire mix of doping all with a dash of humor makes a great read.

My next two books are, 'Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape,' by Paul Howard(thanks again, Guy!) and 'Push Yourself Just a Little Bit More,' by Johnny Green. 

I'll go back to enjoying the books but I'll tell you ... I can't wait to push the pedals, once again!

Snow & more snow...
All the better to go in and read!

Dec 28, 2008

The Italian way.

I'm a classic Italian fan.
The retro Bianchi sticker on my toolbox.

The other day I came across the Italian handmade framebuilder, Zullo from this fine blog. Italian frames are my weakness and I admire the beauty, high craftsmanship and place in cycling history. In fact Italy’s rich history for the racing bicycle is worthy of a look...

Around the year 1500, Leonardo Da Vinci may have come up with the earliest drawings of the modern bicycle. However, critics intervene and say it was from one of Da vinci’s apprentices. We’ll never truly know. By the 1800’s, designer Edoardo Bianchi took the bicycle further. Bianchi envisioned the bicycle as sport. And he wanted to introduce this new sport to the uninitiated public. He was an innovator; the first bicycle with wheels of identical size and pneumatic tires. Bianchi sponsored a racer, Giovanni Ferdinando Tomaselli, in the 1899 Grand Prix of Paris. What was the predecessor to the Tour de France, Tomaselli won the event and Bianchi rose to cycling prominence. And, Italy was plunged to the forefront in bicycle design and construction.

Could this be Da Vinci's bicycle sketch?

Thanks to Bianchi, many Italian master frame builders came to the fore and helped bolster the ideal of bicycles as an art form. I for one agree and I know that many others do, that the beautiful racing bicycle has that characteristic Italian swagger quintessential to her excellent designers.

Tiziano Zullo sponsored the Dutch pro team, TVM from 1986 thru 1992. Beautiful bikes, made of steel, with that classic Italian touch. I remember looking at images of that strong TVM team with stars: Phil Anderson, Robert Millar, Gert Jan Theunisse and Dimitri Konychev(just to name a few).

Dimitri Konyshev cruising on the classic 'Tour 91.'

I was pleasantly surprise to discover that the 1991 replica TVM frame, ‘Tour ‘91’ is currently produce. Made with Columbus Spirit tubes and painted with the gold marbled finish, it is a classic throw back of the nineties superb road machine. I'll just add this beauty to the others on my ever growing wish list!

With my love for Italian steel frames, I've found a  fundamental trait.  From the long, lineage of fine cycling craftsmanship comes;  polished, precision & enduring bicycles ... Italian style!


The gorgeous, steel TVM replica, 'Tour '91.'

Dec 27, 2008

Now is the winter of... content!

Spotted on Main street, Vancouver.
It reminds me of the old Olympic cycling logo.
I like this fancy shoulder bag with the retro cool bike design!

To paraphase Shakespeare's, 'Winter of discontent.' I ventured out merrily, after a few days of holidaze overindulgence of eating and drinking,  looking for something.

Vancouver's now in the midst of thawing out after a high deluge of the white stuff (around 70 centimeters). I'm looking at my bike and pondering the fact that it will be sometime until I ride, again. Feeling a touch of cabin fever or is it bike envy?  I ventured outside with camera in hand and at the ready...

Spotted down the street. 
Thawing out, that's a good thing.

Dec 22, 2008

Christmas Cheer to all!

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!"

With Christmas fast approaching, I'm getting ready to relax and enjoy the holidaze. Especially, special thanks to all that have stopped by to read and leave comments. Always appreciated. I'll take some time off to recharge and will be back soon enough with more cycling stories.

We wary Vancouverites will have a truly white Christmas as my image reveals. I for one am secretly wishing for that magical rain to fall. But meanwhile, I'll celebrate the festivities with plenty of fun!

So, I wish everyone many X-mas cheers(clink!) & a prosperous 2009!

Keep ridin' & smilin'!

Dec 21, 2008

Il Coppissimo, Mr. nice guy!

After winning a grueling Giro d'Italia, 
Coppi opts out of this 1953 Tour. The Campionissimo(pale shorts) relaxes on the sidelines photographing Louison Bobet!
From: 'Le Tour.' 

In 1949, Fausto Coppi had what is probably, his finest season. Among his big wins: first ever rider to win the Giro/Tour double(overall & mountains classification), World Championship track pursuit title, Italian national championship, Milan-Sanremo, Giro di Lombardia. The gifted rider then was voted Italian Athlete of the year.

"He had everything going for him. He was a nice guy, had a certain aura about him. I don't know anyone who didn't like him."

Raphael Geminiani.

As the 1950 Paris-Roubaix arrived, self pressure to win the Queen was immense. "I absolutely had to win that one. If one wants to make the list of great champions, a win in Roubaix is a must," Coppi would later say. Wearing the National Italian jersey, Coppi took over the race and with 34 kilometers to go, took off on a solo breakaway. Legs like pistons he powered away from the hapless Frenchman, Marcel Diot to a very convincing victory almost three minutes ahead!

"On the bike, he would have an evil streak. Like all the greats, he would make you hurt for the joy of it. But, off the bike he was a great guy to be with."

Antonio Maspes.

Coppi was certainty... the Campionissimo!

Dec 20, 2008

Unsung heroes: THE voice of the Tour.

A fitting tribute to the voice of the Tour.

Here's another of my 'unsung heroes' of cycling. La voix du Tour, the golden voice of the Tour ...Daniel Mangeas.

The 59 year old former baker is the commentator of the Tour and various other races since 1974. He has an resounding & captivating voice, commentating at 200 events a year. His encyclopedic knowledge of each rider in the peloton is so vast that he never uses notes, working entirely through improvisation. For the breathless Mangeas, he must maintain a running commentary for at least an hour at the beginning and end of each stage. Quite an attribute.

Each time I watch and listen to him as on the great documentary, 'A Sunday in Hell,' Mangeas provides that special touch... that he's only capable of!

The young sportcaster at work.
Twenty seven year old, Daniel Mangeas at the start of the 1976 Paris-Roubaix.

Dec 17, 2008

The Unsung Heroes of the Queen.

Rolf Wolfshohl gets a needed hand from his trusty mechanic in 1965.

Let’s picture bike and rider going through a long, arduous, mind-numbing, body shaking torture of Paris-Roubaix. The ‘Queen of the Classics,’ is seven years older than the Tour. Its reputation comes from the fact that a third of the route takes riders over centuries of old pave, following a path flattened by Napoleon’s armies. Unlike the battered rider that over time can mend, a damaged bike will probably see its last life in 'The Hell of the North.'

‘After several hours of abuse and extreme conditions on the brutal roads of Paris-Roubaix, most bikes will never be ridden professionally again,’ as mention on the fine film, ‘Road to Roubaix.’

The bikes are given every ounce of care, just like the riders, with hope that they will, despite the cruel conditions, somehow carry their riders over the line in the velodrome. Eddy Merckx’s former mechanic, Julien DeVriesse proclaimed, “Paris-Roubaix is especially a hard race for the mechanics.”

Three more for the mechanics.
Mechanic Gregg Geater added, “Realistically, it’s not a race that these bikes are built for. The race is almost a mountain bike race on road bikes and it’s rough on gears. Wheels get damaged, they (the riders) finished the race on them, but really not good enough for the next races.
Both images: 'Paris-Roubaix, A Journey Through Hell.'

Their hours are long, well before the race starts. Meticulous attention of setting up each bike for the war on the pave. Afterwards, they are back taking apart the abused bikes stripping it down completely. These exemplary people are a vital cog in that huge wheel called Paris-Roubaix. And, I don't think they  get the full recognition they deserve.

So I say, in my humble bit of gratitude; here's to the hard working mechanics... the unsung heroes of the Queen!

Dec 16, 2008

The 250th blog, DIY mud flaps & my wish for rain!

The front mud flap fastened with black tie wraps & the perfect wire rope clamp!

I'm feeling in a celebratory mood, today. What better way to honor my 250th blog by showcasing my DIY mud flaps! 

Vancouver is in a deep freeze. We got hit big time with snow & sub zero temperatures,  - 7 Celsius today. It seems to be staying put until next week and the forecast is without rain. Here, in the 'wet coast' when it doesn't rain it's a cause for celebration. I can't truly test my mud flaps until the roads are actually wet so I figure that I would a least pickup the materials. And, what better way to have a functional mud flap on to keep the grit and soggy grime off from potentially damaging the drivetrain.

It all started out quite innocently last Saturday, as I ventured out to Tandy Leather Factory in Surrey. I went in looking for a piece of scrap leather roughly 1/4" thick. I did find one piece, although only 1/8" thick. The cashier looked at it and said, "Oh, just take it. Its too light for the scale!" Happily, I left with a free piece of leather!

Yesterday, I cut the leather to shape and saturated it with mink oil. Two advantages; waterproofing & preventing the leather from rotting. Next I drilled  holes in both fenders for the tie wraps. I was suspicious that the mud flaps wouldn't be heavy enough. With the spray off the tire & road would cause the mud flaps to ... flap! So, off I went to the hardware store and looked around until I discovered the weight I needed. I picked up a pack of galvanized 'wire rope clamps,' (costing me only $2.68) and secured it on the bottom end of both mud flaps acting as a mini weight. 

As I look up at the clear, blue skies, I can't help but think, "heres to another 250 blogs (clink!) and I hate to say it... my wish for rain!" 

That's the both of them. Now I'm awaiting the rain!
Both images by yours truly.

Dec 13, 2008

That Classic Look.

Back in 1986.
Jean-Francois Chaurin (Miko-Carlos). Note: Clothing pins keeping it together.
From: http//

Only a short while ago, the simple clothing pin was all that kept a rider protected. Sure, pins are commonly used to attached the number bib to the jersey but it sure helped out, although awkwardly, with the arm & leg warmers.
These days, elastic seams are sewn in to keep the warmers from falling and are used throughout in cycling clothing.

But you know, back then it sure gave the rider that rough hewn look!

Merckx at the 1977 Tour of Flanders.
Note: The pins keeping the arm warmers together. Couple with the Cannibal's intense gaze & barely hanging on arm warmers... it's definitely a classic look!
From: 'Eddy Merckx.'

Dec 11, 2008


Hermanus Berserik.

I have this wonderful postcard from years ago. It's titled, 'Wielrenners,' (The Cyclists) by Dutch artist, Hermanus Berserik. I bought this postcard in Amsterdam  back in 1985 and have kept it ever since. A little worst for wear but its still a fine example by the talented artist.

Hermanus Berserik was born in the Hague, Holland (1921-2002). I love his paintings especially of cycling. All very nostalgic, self-exploratory &  leaning heavily on surrealism. His other paintings examined  a playful, child-like dreamworld of dolls, ports, townscapes & landscapes. And the humble bicycle was a popular theme. 

Warmly rendered, 'Wielrenners,'  has to be  one of my all time favorite cycling paintings!

The Dutch realist painter, Hermanus Berserik.

Dec 10, 2008

The Phoenix.

The haunting eyes & leg of 'The Phoenix' after a frigid stage of the Giro.

Felice Gimondi, nicknamed "The Phoenix," is one of five riders to ever win all three of the Grand Tours during a career. He even won the 1973 World Championships, placing second in 1971 and third in 1970. Classic-ally strong as he was, the 1966 Paris-Roubiax, the 1966, 1973 Giro di Lombardia & 1974 Milan-Sanremo was his victorious Monuments.

Always an elegant and superb rider in the time-trials, mountains, in all terrains he was one of the handful of talented rivals to ride in the deep shadow of Merckx. If it wasn't for the Cannibal, his palmares would be more amazing.

He was asked why he waited until he was 31 to win Milan Sanremo...

Gimondi replied, "Because Merckx had abandoned that day!"

Dec 9, 2008

Meeting the Yellow Badger.

Years ago...

The Merckx Tandem.
A very cool 'like father, like son' image. I love the customized 'Merckx' that young Axel is riding. Lucky kid!
From: 'Eddy Merckx.'

Axel Merckx was asked the question, "Did having Eddy Merckx as your dad put you off having sporting idols when you were growing up?"

"Not at all. VHS came out at the right time so I could see a few of my dad's wins, but growing up I was a big fan of Bernard Hinault. I like him a lot. He was always friendly towards me; I remember visiting him during the Tour de France as a young kid. He let me come into his private caravan and say hi to him. As a kid, seeing the yellow jersey close up was a pretty big deal," he answered.

Fast forward...

Like son, like father.

Dec 7, 2008

Le Patron des Vélos.

Merckx's 'Obsession'...

With framebuilder, Ugo De Rosa.
Le Patron measures one of his 17 bikes for another epic

Can't sleep?
The cure: late night fiddling eased his worries.

With tires prep.
In deep concentration before his attempt at the world hour record, Mexico City 1972.
Above images: 'Eddy Merckx.'

I must admit that I'm a bit of a gear nut. In fact, my bike and I are fond friends. I'm always tinkering on it, cleaning, tightening this & that and generally taking good care of it. It gives me a sense of satisfaction to have a well cared for bike.

Back in his racing days, Eddy Merckx was to put it mildly, obsessive. His long time confidant/soigneur, Guillaume Michiels said, "He had such energy. He could never sit still. He was always busy doing something. And it was nearly always connected in some way with a bike. I watched him for years in hundreds of different hotels. His waking life consisted of racing, showering, eating and, if he had no other commitments, busying himself with something to do with his job. Any moment there was nothing else he should be doing, he spent concentrating on his bike. It was pure obsession."

Eddy's wife, Claudine added, "It is a cliche, but Eddy was and is always obsessed with bikes. I've known him get out of bed in the middle of the night on more than one occasion and go into the garage to change something on his handlebars or his saddle or gears or something like that. Even when Eddy bumps into a touring cyclist, he starts to chat with him about his position on the bike."

"Eddy had been a pro for one year when he bought all of mechanic Jos Janssen's equipment out of his own pocket. Besides the equipment he received from the team, he also had personal bikes and accessories, too. He always had around 500 tubular tires and 100 wheels, and he kept 35 bikes in his workshop, 15 of which were always ready to ride. I remember us once setting off for the Giro with 17 different bikes of his. He tried out everything and more and was never completely satisfied with a particular solution," Michiels says.

Eddy admitted, "It's true that I kept hundreds of tires at home in the cellar for months on end. I was asked in 1971 if it was true that I had taken a bike apart to find out how many parts it comprised. I answered that it was. I must have been mad. I did find out, though, that a bike is made up of around 1,125 separate pieces."

With this obsession for the bike, he was always ready to race. His professional commitment was inspiring. No wonder he notched up the most cycling career victories ever... 525!

Putting it to good use...

Doing what he loves best, hammering away on one of his trusty steeds.
Merckx at the 1973 Giro. Number 4 out of 5 Giro wins, also taking the points competition and six stages.

The superior look on one of his many De Rosas.
Both images: 'Cycle Sport.'

Dec 6, 2008

The Third Belgian.

Power in Pink!
Classy winner: Johan de Muynck, 1978 Giro d'Italia. 

After Eddy Merckx's last Giro d'Italia win in 1974, Belgium was anticipating her next victor. Merckx rose to living legend with number five. Then, Michel Pollentier won in 1977. 
Thirty years ago, Belgian climber Johan de Muynck took over the 1978 Giro d'Italia. When he won Stage 3, La Spezia-Cascina he proved a worthy wearer of the maglia rosa. He wore it well and kept it right to the end in Milano. A brilliant win for de Muynck, third and the only time a Belgian rider last won the Giro d'Italia!

Two great climbers up in the soggy Dolomites.
de Muynck(Bianchi-Faema) riding side by side with rival Giambattista Baronchelli(SCIC) who finished 2nd overall, 59 seconds behind.
From: 'Fabulous World of Cycling.'

Dec 3, 2008

'Tryptic: cool weather ride 001.'

"Tryptic: cool weather ride 001."

Its been a long time since dabbling with my photography in an slightly artistic bent. Ok, here goes...

Today, for my very cool weather ride, thankfully without rain, I present my piece entitled,  "Tryptic cool weather ride 001." Thankful because its December and we haven't any rain, here in the 'wet coast' of Vancouver. Can it last? We can only hope it does.

And something rewarding that  I don't mind dealing with... after my very cold ride, I quickly slipped into my soothing hot bath!

Dec 2, 2008

1976 Montréal Olympics: 'Swede' Smell of Success!

Above is the wonderful cycling poster from the 1976 Montréal Olympics. Its very progressive incorporating design elements of the hip, colorful seventies. Great artwork!

The road race was held on the 26th of July covering 12.5 kms long, 14 laps totaling 178 kms. But, the real drama started on the final lap. Sweden's Bernt Johansson was in the leading bunch of ten cyclists and decided to make a move. The bunch countered and reel him back in. Again, he tried to breakaway this time with only the Pole Mieczyslaw Nowicki able to respond. But, Johansson decided to pick up the pace once more. This time he shed away the unresponding Nowicki. 

That last unexpected breakaway for the Swede occur with 5 kms to go. He was alone, tantalizingly in front of the rapidly chasing bunch as he approach the finish area. Johansson couldn't help but smile and shook his head in disbelief of winning the Olympic gold medal. He crossed the finish line... 31 seconds ahead of the other cyclists! 

Hard work at the 1976 Montréal Olympic road race.
(left to right): George Mount(USA), Bernt Johansson(Sweden), Fons De Wolf(Belgium), Joe Waugh(GB), Klaus-Peter Thaler(Germany).

How swede it is!
Johansson's gold medal winning bike on display at the Westgota Idrottsmuseum, Sweden.

Dec 1, 2008

Un beau Cycles Marinoni!

I love this Marinoni. A very beautiful &  artistic design. It was an one off custom design made by Cycles Marinoni for a window display at the Adidas store in Montréal. To celebrate the anniversary of the Adidas Originals!
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