Wednesday, September 17, 2014

2014 Interbike Best of Show: SOMEC

Rather than wait, save the Best of Show, for the final post from this years' Interbike, I decided to throw it somewhere in the middle. Maybe I will beat everyone else to the punch. Then again, may everyone else was focused on this years lightest, or the most recent technological advancement that they forgot to look at anything that hinted at tradition.

It is not every year you see a leather wrapped bike, heck I don't believe I have ever seen one. But, then this is not simply any year's model, it is a special creation for SOMEC's 40th Anniversary. How many bikes have you seen that come finished with a hand-stitched leather wrap? I am not talking about a wrap for the bars, no, this wrap covers the tubes - top, seat, head, and down. The dark leather merges seamlessly with the lugs and is accented, and complimented, by the decorative stitching. If that isn't enough, the build comes fully outfitted with pantographed Campagnolo components - stem, seat post, brake calipers, crank arms, and chain rings all come impressed with the SOMEC name and stars and bars, and highlighted in the red, white and green colors of Italy.

This is a bike you buy for its looks, and treat with all the pampering it deserves. Just don't forget to ride it, it is first and foremost a bicycle which, after all, is the reason SOMEC does what they do.

Somec, is a family-owned Italian manufacturer of bicycles in the Romagna region of the country. Company founder, Oliviero Gallegati, began to produce his custom frames in 1973 chosing the name SOMEC, an acronym of the Societa Mecchanica. Signore Gallegati's SOMEC lays claim to several design developments over the years. Among them a new seat collar design integrating the seat stays and binder bolt behind the seat post, an arched rear brake bridge paralleling the arch of the brake caliper, and internal routing for brake and derailleur cables. The company made their name building custom bikes of steel, aluminum, and titanium. Numerous teams have ridden SOMEC bikes over the years, and in 1988 Monica Bandini won the World Team Time Trial Championships on a SOMEC. Since 2007 the company has also offered custom carbon fiber models.

I show this not just for the company logo,
but for the bike as well - that is the frame hidden under the leather wrap.

If you are in SoCal, Gary is the local SOMEC agent extraordinaire.
I got him to pose with his 25th Anniversary SOMEC.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Interbike 2014: Cross Vegas

That 'wheelers and dealers' race was one big field, probably the largest of the night. I walked around the course, lingering here or there, where crowds had gathered, seeking emersion in the festival. The natural lighting had begun its evening fade and the park lights had yet to become effective when the race left the upper portion of the course and made its way into, and around, the bowl. Led by the eventual victor, and runners up, a long line quickly snaked along, and up and down, the darkened slopes. It took minutes - minutes - for the line to make its way over the run up where I stood; from first rider, to last wheel, there were no gaps, just a continual procession of faces and striding forms. 

Vuvuzelas sounded somewhere. Belgians for a day, with flags wrapped like capes from their shoulders, shuffled through the grass. Around the course pockets of light illumine the swelling ranks of spectators like little islands in a dark sea. Shouts rise and fall in a staccato as racers swirl past. Judging by the way roars burst forth from various distant parts of the course, beer hand-ups are taking place. At least one racer comes by chewing a dollar bill to appreciative hoots from the sidelines.

Belgium in the house

preview - i would later read an estimate of some ten thousand spectators

Even though I headed out the gates early, after the Wheelers and Dealers race, before the Pros, it would have been clear to anyone that the crowd intensity was going to be turned up several notches for those later two premier events. This may be mere preview, but I swivel at a burst of laughter from behind me in time to see a spray of foam, a can spinning to the ground, a rider dashing away, chased by heckles for his missed opportunity. The throng is already in good form and getting more worked up with each passing set of wheels.

Shuttle buses, not the dinky ones mind you but the full-size, cross-country tourist kind, continue to pull up to the curb and disgorge their masses. Many of those who fall out the door or stumbled down the steps seem to, already, be full of swagger and beer - no doubt many have helped drain the kegs back on the showroom floor. Some proceed straight (straight being a relative term) to the gates, while others take a moment away from watching eyes to stuff bottles of their favorite brew deep into backpacks and extra-large purses while muttering prayers that the clinking will somehow be overlooked. Not that there were any lack of taps inside the gates, but this is Las Vegas, and Vegas comes with a price.

 Another hour, this place is going to be packed. It is going to be wild, maybe reckless. And at the same time a professional athletic event will be taking place. National champions, World champions, and challengers to their crowns will compete. Cyclocross in America.

They hit the run up with long strides. Not everyone was able,
and every once in a while someone would ride up the steps instead.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Interbike 2014: The Hard Eddie

The Hard Eddie, a hardtail 29er by the folks at Intense in Temecula, California. Intense categorizes their Hard Eddie as a light trail bike built for cross country speed and lightness. I don't think there is any question it would be perfect for the trails I ride around home. Intense offers it in three builds, and I believe the one they were showing at Interbike was the Pro build, with SRAM drivetrain and Shimano XT braking. I would still prefer more than a 1x, but that is the direction the industry is moving right now, and that is what this one happened to be built with.

This review, as with all the reviews from Interbike 2014, is as honest as I can make it. I have received no payment, nor any promise of remuneration for my opinions and observations regarding the product being reviewed.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Interbike 2014: New Fat - 11 Nine

It hasn't taken very long, a few years by my estimation, to see a complete progression in the fat bike market. Once the earliest experiments moved onto standardized frames and fat-specific components the pace quickened. Fully rigid bikes one year, gave way to front suspension the next, which in turn became fully-suspended ones. Though still largely viewed as an adventure bike, fatties also became everyday recreational rides. Some folks even raced them. 

This year marked, what is believed to be, the world's first downhill-specific fatty.

11 Nine offers four fat bike models - the Epicyon, Simus, DireWolf, Hemicyon - each distinguished by their system of suspension, color, and build material - for instance the DireWolf model is only available in titanium. The young company has been putting all their effort into product development and perfecting their offerings. As a result their website is not yet ready (I was assured it would be sometime soon after Interbike), however you can follow along via their Facebook page, and when the site is ready I am sure it will be announced there. If you are lucky enough to live in Southern Nevada don't be surprised to find them demo'ing at your local trail some weekend. Now that would be cool.

This review, as with all the reviews from Interbike 2014, is as honest as I can make it. I have received no payment, nor any promise of remuneration for my opinions and observations regarding the product being reviewed.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

2014 Turn and Burn Six-Hour MTB Race

and with one photo i could have saved so many words. says it all.

Once again, the organizers (Cycle Events Company) of the annual Turn and Burn race succeeded in selecting one of the most ungodly, uncomfortable, unforgiving days of the year to hold a mountain bike race. The day's temperature was predicted to stretch beyond the century mark, as in 100º Fahrenheit. I had thought the fire in Cleveland National Forest might cause some air quality problems, but whatever currents were swirling through the great blue yonder were moving the smoke in a direction away from Bonelli Park. 

Instead of smoke, riders had to contend with the lung choking dust that Southern California's hillsides often cough up this time of year. The water coolers were both popular and a necessity for riders, whether they raced as a team or solo. Unfortunately they frequently were not enough to stave off the onset of cramping leg muscles. Throw in those steep hills that characterize the Bonelli landscape and riders were faced with the very real potential of being turned into buzzard bait, face down in some lonely backside draw or hollow.

Riders who enter the Turn and Burn Six Hour race can do so as a solo rider, or as part of a team, teams with names like Blazing Jack Rabbits, Dumb and Dumber, FatSnails, White & Brown Sugar, Team Fart Bags, B.A.D. Goats, and 2 Big Fat Dicks - the announcer couldn't convince himself to say that last one, and I can only hope it referred to a couple guys named Richard. Most people raced geared though, as ever, there were some brave, or foolish, souls who raced single speed. Either way, solo or teamed, single or geared, you would probably have ended this day scorched and burned. The difference, of course, was if you entered as a team you could share that scorching and burning, trade off lap by lap, rather than suffer it all on your own.

As the day wore on and the sun rose higher, racers seemed to retreat into themselves a little more each lap, a survival mechanism. While the descents were a welcome relief, they were all too short, and inevitably were followed by another grueling climb. Maybe it was the mutual suffering, maybe it was the spirit of the sport, but no matter how hot and tired they may have been, riders found the ability to joke; they did so in the team area, at a hilltop water station, along a dirt road section of the course where they could ride side by side for a moment before turning into another single-track descent. They may have been competitors, but they were competing together, through the sweat and sunburn, through the leg cramps, through the questioning of their own wisdom - a camaraderie in every sense of the word.

I finished with four hundred fifty-five photos from the day; from those I selected one hundred five for the Flickr album, which you can access by clicking here. Don't see what you are looking for? Let me know.

fast turn

full speed

a blur

throwing a little water into the background lowers the temperature by ten degrees

up on the hills

talk around the water cooler

duel at diablo

she has her own socks (if you know who this is, you might know what i mean)

steaming along

Shaka, brah - hang loose

first photo of the day. funny how a total mistake can end up as one of the most interesting

Interbike 2014: Dario Pegoretti

If it says:

There is a very good chance it is:

Handmade, painted, and sooooo good looking. Signore Pegoretti was showing multiple frames and complete bikes at the show and, as expected, there was plenty of oohing and aaahing from the assembled faithful. Mouths were salivating as people beheld the beauty before them. If I am not mistaken some of that drool splattered off the floor and onto my leg as I stood in close to take that top photo. Pretty gross, in contrast to the bikes, but totally expected. At some point during the mid-week festivities, everyone seeks out the Pegoretti space.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Geared Up for Advocacy: Portal Bikes

As you may recall from previous years' write-ups from Interbike, I always make an effort to visit with the advocacy and philanthropic groups - those who use the bicycle to improve the lives of others. A relatively new organization I discovered this year is Portal Bikes.

Organizations have used the humble bicycle to empower people in all corners of the world. Best known, perhaps, have been the efforts taking place in Africa. Others operate in Eastern Europe and Asia. Portal bikes is one of the latter, focusing specifically on the country of Nepal. Portal bikes are used to create opportunity and combat poverty. They are used for the transportation of people and goods, as you might expect, but they go a step further with the addition of a rotating shaft built into the rear of the elongated cargo frame. This shaft, what they call a bicycle Power Take Off (PTO) provides a connection point for various machinery, and has been used to pump water, grind grain, generate electricity, and even wash clothes. The application potential goes even wider; if a machine has rotating parts, it can likely be connected to the PTO.

Portal Bikes are manufactured in Nepal and used by the Nepalese people in their everyday lives, providing real change for individuals and their communities. For more information, check the Portal Bikes website, and like their Facebook page. If you are able, consider a contribution to their mission and efforts.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Interbike 2014: Cogma Bikewear

More and more we are seeing cycling clothing created for a more casual look. Not that you can't take a series ride while wearing it, but lets go ahead and call it casual wear anyway. Even larger companies, those who have made a name at the sport-oriented side of cycling are getting in on this bandwagon. This is a market that has encouraged many smaller start-ups to join the fray (no pun intended). One of those newer companies making stuff you could wear both on and off the bike is Cogma Bikewear, out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. 

Lets say you are going to bike night at the local art museum or, better yet, lets say it is not bike night, but there is an opening and you want to ride on over. A perfect choice for you to pull out of the closet would be a Cogma outfit. The museum is just far enough that you don't want to wear stuff you will get all sweaty in, but you also don't want to wear your cycling kit. You will already be click-clacking along the concrete floors, and bright kit will draw even more attention to you. People may think you are some kind of exhibit. Cogma Bikewear would do nicely for the ride over, and then for walking the galleries, viewing the masterpieces. 

The Ladies' miniskirt, "rawr, rawr" is sexy. Guaranteed to draw attention. For modesty, it does pair with a sleek short. The skirt is either pleated, or comes with a slit so that it is not constricting while in the saddle. Ladies' tops come with pockets. Mens' button-up shirts came with hidden, zippered pockets at the sides. The material used is light, breathable, and quick-drying. There is also a certain amount of stretch to it, and the cut is such that the shirts won't constrict movement when hunched over the bars. Speaking of bars, there are a couple craft breweries nearby that would make for an outstanding destination while wearing one of Cogma's shirt/jerseys. While the look may say casual, there is no reason at all you couldn't wear one of these outfits weaving along the local dirt trail, or huffing and puffing up that climb just out of town.

I hope some of the dealers made it around to the Cogma booth, they were rather out of the way, which was unfortunate because they, like their clothing, deserves to be seen. Check out the Cogma Bikewear website, but keep in mind that the 2015 line is not yet up. While you are at it, go ahead and like them on Facebook as well.

This review, as with all the reviews from Interbike 2014, is as honest as I can make it. I have received no payment, nor any promise of remuneration for my opinions and observations regarding the product being reviewed.

Side pocket of the mens' jersey. Red on the inside only shows when unzipped.
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