Saturday, December 26, 2009

De Rosa...


Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas...

I had an extra special present. I contacted Marcello of Bikeadelic fame when I came across a website almost entirely dedicated to De Rosa bicycles... asking him if he was interested in pictures about my De Rosa Slx.

Well, he was. He actually dedicated an entire blog post to my beauty. Makes me feel extra special!

So, if you have a moment click on over to Bikeadelic and check out some of those beautiful De Rosa bikes! And yes, I have added him to my blog roll (I am not very subtle, am I?)...

Grazie Marcello!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas! Buon Natale!

Just a quick post to wish all of you and your loved ones a very, very merry Christmas.

Or, as we say here... auguri per un buon natale!

May your holidays be filled with happiness and many wonderful kilometers, with a great wind pushing you along!

* Picture borrowed from check 'em out, they have lots of fun stuff.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Family cycling...

I have been neglecting my blogging duties lately, with work and life continuing to get in the way... sorry about that! Time for a quick 'catching up' post.

A couple of weeks ago we got the entire family out for a nice ride on a short circuit that we have that is more or less 'taken over' by cyclists each weekend. Nice wide roads, with good asphalt and very limited traffic (at least by Rome standards).

It was a lot of fun... riding with my eldest daughter on her race bike, along with my wife and second daughter on her Burley Piccolo 'half-bike'. We rode about 30km... then the complaints started and we headed home.

Daughter number one powering along... yes, she needs a new helmet!

The eldest really enjoyed herself - she is now comfortable on her bike (yes, I know, we will raise her seat a bit) and is getting the hang of working the gears. She is also quite competitive and strongly dislikes other riders passing us. Powerful Pete (that would be me) thinks this is a very positive sign.

Keeping an eye on dad...

Daughter number two loves the Piccolo - she gets to pedal her heart out, and yet when she is tired or distracted (as happens to any five year old) she stops pedaling and enjoys herself. Of course, my wife doesn't quite feel the same way on the light uphill on the circuit.

My wife enjoys the riding (or so she tells me!) and we all like the fact that it is a healthy outdoors activity that we are able to participate in as a family.

So, if you had any doubts as a cycling parent, just get out there and do it! The kids love it - just start easy and remember that a circuit is best, as this allows you to cut the ride short if the kids get tired... And I heartily recommend the Burley Piccolo... A solid, well made piece of kit that is easy to use, comfortable for the child, and very safe. Plus kids absolutely love the flag!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Training ride...

Ok, trained on the Fortius last night. Not feeling too great from the flu and all that, so I did a short (and thankfully flat) bit of the Milano San Remo. Tried to keep it in lowish gears as the moment I tried to up the power the legs immediately fell apart.

Here are the stats (at least, the bits I wrote down)...

1. distance: 24.8 km
2. average speed: 32.2 km p/h
3. average watts: 151
4. average rpms: 93

Have to admit that I like the Fortius more each time I use it. Impressive how I am not considering suicide - the 40-ish minutes I spent on the trainer just flew by!

So, it ended up being a nice agility workout... good to get the heart pumping and keep the legs spinning. No soreness in the legs today. Always a good thing.

Should be able to go for a longish ride tomorrow (off work) if the weather holds (threatening rain)...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Planning for crazy ideas in 2010...

Sicilia No Stop 2010 itinerary

No training last night due to feeling generally miserable, with a lagging earache that won't go away and a sore throat that made me sound like Godzilla when I spoke. Then my wife said it made me sound manly. My daughters giggled and nodded gravely. I puffed up my chest in pride, thinking "... cool, I am a manly sounding man". Fits with the Italian macho image and all that, ya know.

Then I pondered what the comment said about the way my voice must sound normally...

So, with that out of the way, let us return to more germane (or at least, slightly less embarrassing) issues. As I am not cycling today, I will do the next best thing. Plan epic rides with all of you out there on the
intrawebz. :-)

Reading the Italian Cycling Journal, I came across the announcement of the 2010 1,000 km Sicilian Brevet ride. The website, still only in Italian, is here.

For those of you who are not familiar with Brevet rides (the ultimate ride in terms of participation and history being the 1,200 km Paris-Brest-Paris, first run in 1891). A bit more of an explanation can be found thanks to our wikipedia friends here.

Wow. 1,000 kms around the entire island, in September (should be fabulous weather, yet without the summer crowds as schools are in session). I must admit that the thought of challenging myself on these monster distances is something that I find increasingly fascinating. Maybe it's because I am no longer fast and don't have a hope in hell to hang with the fast young whippersnappers. But the idea of marathon-like slogs through days and nights is perversely appealing. Are any of you serious randonnée riders? Can anyone relate their stories of riding through consecutive nights, unsupported?

And the most important question... is anyone interested in participating?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pain and suffering and... the Fortius

Yup. My legs and my bum. On the Fortius.

Ok guys, I must come clean with all of you. I have let myself gain a wee bit... ok, way more than a wee bit, of girth around my midsection. Ehm... how do I say this in plain English? Well, I... errr... hmmm... Ok, ok.

I. Am. Fat.

There. I said it - it is out in the open and I can no longer avoid it. Funny, I had promised myself that I would never allow this to happen after working my rear end off to get into what was probably the best shape of my life about 18 months ago... but c'est la vie. No use crying over all that pasta, cheese, red wine, deserts, etc... well, you get the picture.

But all is well in Powerful Pete's land of cycling nirvana. I now have fantastic equipment, am enthusiastic about riding again (mainly due to my riding with a fun group of guys on the weekends - something that I had rarely done in the last few years), and have read about people like the gentleman on the 100poundsago blog (check it out, well worth it), who has done a fantastic job getting himself thin and fit.

Exactly. Yes. Absolutely.

The moment has come to kick it up a notch. Watch what I eat (within reason, I am still Italian, you know). Exercise regularly. You see, it has finally dawned on me that leading a sedentary lifestyle, eating too much and riding only on the weekends will not keep me fit and trim. My expanding waistline might have told me the same thing, had I been paying attention, but again, no use crying over what has come and gone...

So, I have started doing the logical bits diet-wise. And have set up the dreaded torture machine.

That would be the Tacx Fortius (click to see a corny Tacx marketing video, but it gets the point across... I am, by the way, far more handsome and have way less hair than the guy in their video). Which now graces our living room (the joys of living in small European apartments... and it thrills my wife too as an added bonus).

What is a Fortius? It's like a regular trainer, but it hooks up to your computer, with an electric motor that replicates, in real time, the resistance of uphills and the speed of downhills of a set course that you 'watch' on your screen while sweating like a fiend and (at least in my case) making strange guttural noises that make your eldest daughter giggle (don't ask how I know this). Not like riding outside, but it sure beats staring at a wall with a little bit of paper on your stem indicating the number of minutes in the next 52X17 interval set...

So this was the inaugural night. I plan to post each and every training session from today on, as a way to keep myself honest (and use potential internet humiliation as a motivational tool).

So, this evening was the last section of the Milano-San Remo DVD. Not trying to kill myself (still sore from yesterday's ride in the real world) but the resistance works well, I would lie if I said I didn't finish the session a bit tired. The overall stats are:
  1. Total distance: 33.9 km
  2. Time: 1:20:39
  3. Average speed: 25.2 kph
  4. Average rpm: 82
Ok, enough for today. Over and out, time for bed (feeling hungry... must resist...)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cervelo R3 follow-up review... 2000 kms later

My Cervelo, just back and still dirty after 65km this morning. Bellissima.

As some of you will remember, I purchased my Cervelo R3 this summer (August, to be exact) and have now had the opportunity to put about 2000kms on it, so I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to provide my many readers with what could be called a 'long term review'.

Hopefully my review will be slightly less affected by 'new bike syndrome' which, I must admit, did color my initial review...

First the bits I really, really like.

The bottom bracket area. Fantastic rigidity.

1. The rigidity of the bottom bracket area is simply phenomenal. Every single nanojoule of energy (and, not to boast, but I produce several dozen in an all out sprint) goes to the cranks/pedals. Nothing is wasted in frame flex. I stand by the statement I made in my initial post about the bike; I climb at least one tooth harder thanks to this frame.

2. The weight. Or rather, lack thereof. We are talking about a sub-1000 gram frameset. I thought all reasonably light road bikes would feel more or less the same. I was wrong. You actually notice how much lighter (at least in my case) this bike is. It does go up hills easier!

The Funda. Does the job very, very well.

3. The 3t Funda fork. Quite frankly, the Funda did not inspire a great deal of confidence the first time I laid eyes on it. But I have to admit that the steering is very good and, once again, the rigidity is just fine - no lost energy up front. I also wondered if the width of the forks would be an issue on gusty days - sail effect and flighty handling and all that, but absolutely not. Rock solid. The steering is spot on.

Selle San Marco Mantra. Comfy for my bum and all the rest of the goods down there. Happy Pete.

4. The Selle San Marco Mantra seat. Fine, not strictly part of the frame, but hey, I purchased it with the frame, so... Very comfy for my rear end, with no numbness or other ill effects. The seat is graced with an absolutely massive 'prostate hole' which does its job quite well. The red highlights on the nose of the saddle have 'bled' a bit, which does not make me too happy, but if that is the price to pay for a comfy saddle, then so be it.

5. The Campagnolo bits. If you are here, you have probably figured out that I am partial to Campagnolo components. The bike currently has a hodgepodge of Campagnolo Chorus and Record (all 10v) bits. They are sublime. Perfect. Nothing to add there. And the Record Red bits are now on their way to being mounted on this bike. Heheh... what is better than perfect? Nirvana?

Now, the not so great bits...

Short stays.

How short? This short...

5. Short seat stays. I had read about this before purchasing the frame, but did not realise just how short they are. I have to make a conscious effort not to 'hit' the stays with my feet on the pedal upstroke. I guess that this is a result of the fact that the stays flare out quite markedly - it is not a deal breaker, but this is clearly something that riders with big feet (I wear a European 45 shoe) in relatively small sizes (mine is a 54) have to take into consideration. I know, I know, changing them would mean having to completely rework the geometry and handling, but hey, it is something that bothers me a bit.

6. Fork clearance. As I stated above, I love the fork. I do however, dislike the minimal clearance that it provides. I seriously doubt that I would be in a position to mount 25mm clinchers, something that I might like to do in the winter for a wee bit of extra comfort and puncture protection. For a bike that advertises its prowess in winning races like the Paris-Roubaix, I would have hoped for slightly more thought provided to light 'off roading' potential. Heck, they are even introducing bits of rough gravel road at the Giro...

So there you have it. Overall, I am extremely pleased with the R3 and find it to be a frameset that is fantastically above my capabilities as a rider. I can feel it yawning when I (think I) am hammering up a short steep hill. It handles well. It looks great. I get very positive comments at coffee stops (always a good thing).

So, if you have the opportunity, test ride one. I think you will end up owning one.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tomorrow will be a good day.

Nice, I like the large Vredestein logos.

Friday evening. Just finished replacing my clinchers (tomorrow will be the first ride on my new Vredestein Fiammante DuoComps) on my recently trued Fulcrum 7s.

Tomorrow I will ride with my cycling buddies. Nothing heroic, maybe 75km with the guys with a nice espresso stop halfway through the ride.

The weather is forecast as being wonderful, sunny, not too cold, just perfect. Probably will not even need shoe covers or heavy gloves.

Sitting by the door, ready for tomorrow's ride.

The anticipation is almost as sweet as the ride. I am sure it will be a very pleasant day. Hope your weekend will be filled with many fun-filled kilometers of riding with your friends.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

8th Edition - Ciclolonga Piccolo Bar

I had mentioned that, while I have recently been remiss in my blogging, I had continued to ride regularly over the past couple of months. One of the most pleasant rides I participated in was an informal 'cicloraduno' which is akin to a non-competitive benefit ride. The Albano Runner Bike

It is an 80km ride, which starts and ends in the hill town of Albano south of Rome, escorted by the road police to keep things safe and ensure that people don't start racing one another... a common problem with cyclists!

To make things more interesting, I decided to ride to the starting point from my home in Rome, so at the end of the day I ended up riding 145 km. The longest I have ridden in a number of years.

So, how was it? A lot of fun. Hanging out with a couple of hundred of other lycra-clad weirdos who share my passion is always pleasant... helps me overcome that feeling that I am beyond strange for loving cycling and my willingness to spend inordinate amounts of money and time riding!

I have embedded the video made by the organisers which helps give an idea of the number of riders and what 'regular Roman' guys look and act like on a bike.

All in all a great day on the bike, 145 km of riding on a gorgeous October day with friends. This is what makes riding so much fun.

And a big thank you to the Albano team for having organised the ride, which included a rest stop with mineral water and bananas, as well as a final porchetta sandwich and wine lunch (we are Italian, after all)...

You guys are all invited to participate next year!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rough day...

Today I had hoped to be able to post about a wonderful ride with my riding buddies, but alas, it was not meant to be.

10 kms into the ride I look down to see my front wheel 'snaking' all over the place. I quickly pulled over and realised that a spoke had popped on my Fulcrum 7 front wheel. And as we all know, these pre-built wheelsets with low spoke counts are fine until you break a spoke - the high spoke tension wreaks havoc with things, making the wheel almost unrideable.

So I slowly rode home and realised that I did not have an inner tube mounted on my spare wheelset. I quickly transferred the inner tube from the wrecked Fulcrum, and proceeded to pump up the wheel... and, due to my haste, pulled out the valve from the tube. After muttering a bit under my breath, I understood that this was a sign of displeasure from the cycling gods, took the hint and abandoned the day's ride.

Must admit that this decision was easy, given that I did not have a replacement inner tube, and riding a front wheel without an inner tube is... challenging.

A quick trip to my local shop resulted in a fixed and perfectly true wheel.

Always a thing of beauty to behold.

And, as I was short of tubes and my clinchers are on their last legs, I stocked up on things.

Five Vittoria inner tubes (should not run out for a while now, I hope).
Two Vredestein Fiammante Duo Comp clinchers (Hhhmmmm).
A cassette tool and chain thingie. Hate to have a clean chain and dirty cogs...

Helping the economy...

The weather is turning bad. So I will have my espresso and then settle down to some maintenance, or rather tender loving care for my beloved ride.

So, in the end, the day was not a wash. Got to spend some quality time at the bike shop. Checked out all the new stuff. And will get to lavish much needed TLC on the wheels.

I will let you know what I think of these Vredesteins over the next few days. A bit curious really, as I have been a religiously orthodox Vittoria man for quite some time now. Any thoughts?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Campagnolo Record Red Ergopowers

Ok guys, Pete is back. And Pete is happy. Pete has been riding quite a bit. More about that later. But now for the important news...

Pete has been feeling vulnerable recently. And so, beyond eating pasta (coping strategy No.1), Pete looked on-line for cycling stuff (coping strategy No.2).

And opportunity knocked. Ok, not really. I googled and happened upon a spectacular find. At least for the Campagnolo aficionado. And then Pete spent lots of Euros.

Pete is now the proud owner of a set of Campagnolo Record
Red Ergopowers, with matching QS front and rear derailleurs. This means nothing to you?
Vade retro satana!

Well, let us say that they are special. Very special. Really, really special (hint, click on the link to learn more...).

Euro. Pro. Shifting. Let me repeat that for you.

Euro. Pro. Shifting.

They are beautiful. They are wonderful. They were taken off a bike with fewer than 200 kilometers (I can confirm this given their condition).

Absolutely gorgeous. I can, and do, stare at these for hours.

Functionally. They. Are. New. Nuovo. Nouveau.
Нови. Nuevo. Mpya.

And the are mine. Yup.

Did I mention that Pete is happy?

As these are QS (that's Quick Shift for those ignorant in The Campagnolo Way amongst you), the kit included a derailleur set to match. Oh yeah.

Are you impressed? I know I am.

Jokes aside. I am astounded by the attention to detail and the quality of the parts. Worth every cent. Although my wife, for some reason, does not agree...

A parting sexy shot... I solemnly swear to post pics once they are on the bike.

Can you hear the cycling angels singing? Trust me, even the cardboard box is beautiful!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lagging behind...

Sorry everyone! I have been remiss about posting, but as it often does, life has gotten in the way of my free time.

I have had some decent weekend rides (no weeknight riding now, with the time change, it's dark before 18:00 now)... and there are some new bike bits that are arriving to upgrade my Cervelo.

So I promise to begin posting regularly again (not sure if that is a good thing or not... heh!).

Powerful Pete. Lackadaisical? Absolutely, but still worth reading!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Just a nice ride...

Looking South to Monte Cavo in the Castelli Romani area

I have not been posting lately due to a huge amount of work in the office... but I have been riding - just not letting you guys know about it!

Yesterday was a horrible day here in Rome, with absolutely awful thunderstorms that wreaked havoc with traffic throughout the city. But not today. This morning I woke up to cloudy but sunny skies, with the temperature eventually reaching 26 Celsius.

A country road parallel to the beltway... this is actually formally within the City of Rome

So I went to a short circuit just outside of town (right beyond the beltway) and rode about 75km with a friend. Enjoyable day. Great riding. Happy Pete.

Clouds are getting a bit menacing, but still a great day.

Just felt the need to share...

How was your ride today?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Credit where credit is due...

Cadel Evans, 2009 World Pro Road Champion, Mendrisio, CH

He may not be Italian, and has occasionally been known to be a bit of a whiner, but he shut everyone up with a stellar performance on Sunday. Cadel Evans is the new world champion (a double whammy, if you consider that he is the first Australian WC and that the WCs will take place in Oz next year!).

He did it the old fashioned way, riding away from everyone else on what was, by all accounts a tough course. Congratulations Cadel, may this finally be your consecration in the pro ranks. I honestly hope you will be able to beat the WC curse and am sure you will win important races in the coming year, all while wearing the rainbow jersey.

A few thoughts on the race... yes, apparently a rough circuit. The way most teams melted away (especially the Italian one!) leads me to believe that some underestimated the circuit. or got their tactics wrong. We Italians did what we usually do, trying to control the race from start to finish, but you win some and lose some... although I was less than impressed by Garzelli, Ballan, Pozzato and Basso. Cunego was alone in the last 10km (when the break went) but so were most others, with the exception of the three Spaniards who, in my humble opinion, threw it all away by not 'taking things in their own hands'. With three riders, they did not really attack, but kept one man (Valverde) on Cunego and another (Samuel Sanchez) on Cancellara. Why not make a move with one of the these two captains? Why leave Rodriguez out front to end up with a bronze. They definitely did not look good this time around. Meh...

The guy I do not get is Cancellara. A man that until recently was a top notch time trial specialist is now dropping people uphill. I hope we won't be getting any bad news from him in the future... but I digress. How about his fantastic attack which scared the holy heck out of everyone? To be followed by... nothing when it really counted. Hhhhmmmm... time to sit Fabian down and explain a few things about cycling tactics.

So, with the exception of the Paris-Tours and the Giro di Lombardia, we are heading for the end of the season. Time to wind things down in pro cycling and consider what happened this year and what next year holds in store. How about the Astana/Contador story for starters... LOL.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Grazie Tatiana!

Tatiana Guderzo, campione del mondo, 2009 Mendrisio (CH)

Just a short, ultra-nationalist post. Italy won its first gold medal in the Mendrisio (CH) World Road Cycling Championships, with a solo victory by Tatiana Guderzo. Completed by a bronze medal won by Noemi Cantele. Bravissime! Grazie ragazze!

Let us hope that this is a good omen for tomorrow for the elite men's race!

Both photographs from the website.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Grand Tour Racing...

So, what else bothers me about the recent Vuelta? And Tour, for that matter? The team tactics, that's what.

Now cycling at the pro level has always been a team sport. You don't win a grand tour simply because you are the strongest rider. After all, these days there are at least a half dozen guys who start a grand tour with the legs to win it. The guy who has the strongest team, with the DS (direttore sportivo - coach) who reads the race best and decides what to do each km of each stage, who is 'protected' on rough or windy days wins. Fine then.


You see, the way teams are interpreting the races is slowly ruining pro cycling. It is becoming increasingly boring. Especially at the Tour (and to some degree, this also happened at the Vuelta this year) teams will put all of their eggs in one basket and risk everything on silly gambles. A case in point - a team has a decent (note, decent, not world class!) sprinter. They are up against a Cavendish or Griepel or Petacchi. There is a long flat stage where a break might have a chance to stay away.

The DS chooses to not risk having one of the strong riders attack. Along with another 1~2 desperate teams, the team hammers all day at the front to make sure no breaks stay away. And then the champion sprinter from another team wins the stage. Why not risk it and get one of your guys in the break? The end result is a race where nothing much happens for the first 150 km, followed by 50~75 km of motorcycle like speeds. And the usual winner.

I see, and am increasingly concerned, by the same kind of attitude amongst the general classification riders (translation - the guys going for the win). No one will attack the guy with the yellow jersey. Everyone is simply riding to protect their second, third or fifth place in GC. Logical? No!

For whatever reason, the Giro d'Italia has been less affected by this, and everyone I speak to who follows cycling agrees with me that the recent Giros have been far more exciting to watch than other grand tours. The design of the race has been good, not presenting the usual two weeks of boring flat/hilly stages before the mountains, mixing things up with short nervous days followed by decent mountain stages very early in the Giro. But also because teams are unable or unwilling to shut down the race. And there are a lot of 'suicide' attacks which keep the race interesting, maybe just to get some air time for sponsors, but it still keeps things interesting.

So how do we get back into the true spirit of grand tour races? Any thoughts?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vuelta de Espana victory for Valverde... hhhmmm...

Alejandro Valverde won the Vuelta today, one of the three Grand Tours (along with the Giro and the Tour). He was clearly the best rider in this year's Vuelta, supported impeccably by his Caisse d' Epargne team. Impressive riding and, for the first time, Valverde never suffered from the 'off day' that he has always had in grant tours. Chapeau. I think...

This Vuelta victory bothers me for two reasons. The first is the good old doping story, Operacion Puerto (click here for the background information), and the second relates to the increasingly boring style of racing in the grand tours (which I will touch upon in another post).

The first part of the story, Operacion Puerto, is simple. A bunch of athletes, ranging from soccer players, to tennis stars and obviously to pro cyclists, were apparently (or should I say allegedly) involved in a blood doping ring run by a Spanish doctor, Eufemio Fuentes. Over the course of a long investigation that was poorly handled (rumor has to protect some of the big stars involved), a number of pro cyclists were caught and suspended, with some ending up in retirement, including 'Kaiser' Jan Ullrich, and Ivan Basso. Ullrich retired over the scandal, while Basso returned to professional racing this year following the conclusion of his two year suspension.

Why all this talk about OP (as Operacion Puerto is affectionately known)? Because there is every indication that Valverde was also involved. To the point that, in an independent investigation, the Italian Federation has suspended Valverde from racing on Italian soil for two years (hence the impossibility for Alejandro to race in this year's Tour, as it came over the border). This, to put things mildly, bothers me to no end. Here is another guy who allegedly got caught with his hands in the cookie jar walking away with no penalty because his national federation refused to investigate the case... But given that Basso is back this year and only placed fourth in the Vuelta, I could be accused of writing all this as sour grapes that my man did not win. That may be, but OP casts a shadow on Valverde's victory which will be difficult for him to every overcome.

It says something that this year's Vuelta winner was unable to race either the Giro or the Tour de France. It bothers me. I hope it bothers enough people at the UCI to do something about it...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Si è spenta la luce...

Yep, this is exactly how I felt today.

Heck of a day today. Yesterday I had the opportunity to ride, and as it was a gorgeous day, I took advantage of that opportunity... 95 km worth! I arrived home tired, but very satisfied with the ride. And then Saturday arrives. I figure I would be a bit sore, but decide to ride more or less the same route as yesterday, as it is another glorious day here in Rome. Sounds like a plan, doesn't it?

Well, apparently it was a bad plan. Riding out from home I felt that things were not quite right. No problem, just need a few kms to work the kinks out my legs, right? I could not seem to get comfortable pedaling, but on the outward bound bit of the ride, things were not too bad. I was able to keep a decent speed, pushing a 50 x 16/17 on the flats. Ergo, nothing fantastic, but riding along at a decent clip.

I would eventually understand that this was only due to a very stiff wind that was pushing me along... yes, you can all see where this is going.

As I am not really enjoying the ride (and not that dumb, or so I like to think), I decide to cut things short, and about 34 kms from home I decide to turn around and head home. That is where things went downhill very fast... in short, it sucked. I rode home at maybe 20 kph, struggling on the flats (not able to keep on the wheels of any riders who passed me) and absolutely falling apart on the very short, not very steep climbs on this particular ride. All the while riding into a taut wind which sapped what little my legs had in them. I freewheeled on any downhill (I am talking millimeters here). I was all over the road, zig-zagging on any uphill. Really, really embarrassing. I barely made it home, taking about an extra hour to finish a 68km ride.

In other words, an utter, total bonk. Or, as we say in Italian, si è spenta la luce - which translates as 'the light went out'.

Got home and was barely able to pick up my bike to take into the house. Fortunately a dish of fantastic pasta was waiting for me... followed by a two hour nap (no, I am not kidding). Now I am alive again and will go clean my bike, so that tomorrow's ride can, hopefully, be a bit more positive!

Fusilli with zucchini, parmesan and buttah. Fantastic.*

A few things I learned today:

1. Not even a fantastic bike like my Cervelo is able to make up for bad legs. As a bike equipment geek, I often forget this fact. Days like today exist to point out the obvious in this respect.

2. Corollary to point 1 above: as Alfredo Binda would say... «Per vincere ci vogliono due cose: la testa e i garun» - [to win a bicycle race] you need two things - to think and to have legs. And remember, this is from the only guy ever paid not to race the Giro!

3. Starting a long weekend with a long ride after an entire week of not touching your bike is not always a great idea.

4. Listen to your body and especially your legs. If they are telling you that today is going to be a very bad day, plan accordingly.

5. With reference to point 4, if it is going to be a bad day and you intend on riding anyway, check the wind direction so that you will have it pushing you on the way home. Trust me on this one.

6. My wife and family are lifesavers. I was served a wonderful dish of pasta and allowed to take a nap undisturbed. And then given a coffee with some brownies. What more do you need from life?

Please note, picture borrowed from Rachel Eats, the recipe for the pasta is here. Check it out, other great recipes... just remember to go for a ride when you are done eating!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A new adventure...

I have been neglecting the blog over the past several days, as I have just joined the moderators' team on weightweenies. No, nothing to do with weenies or weight loss, at least of the human kind... Weightweenies is arguably the most in-depth site about light bikes and components on the web.

As I have lurked there for some time and begun posting quite a bit over the last year or so, I was recently asked to join the moderator team. I jumped at the chance - moderating a bike forum is something that I knew I would enjoy. And I believe it would be a great opportunity to get to know other bike freaks, learn a bit more about forums and the web, and have more exposure to cutting edge cycling stuff.

So what can I say? I am very, very excited. Pop on over to the forum if you have a chance. Well worth it... it is actually about a lot more than lightweight parts. I have learned an enormous amount hanging out there... you might too!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

More yummy stuff...

Fresh mozzarella, pomodori, fresh basil, olive oil and some bread.
Yes, I am spoiled.

So one of the pleasures of being Italian is our food (I realise it's not fair, but it's not my fault if I am an Italian, male, only child, and a cyclist... ). One of the reasons that I ride... So I thought that, as I have not been riding much (read... at all... it's that work thing getting in the way of my free time!) I would share with you a few of the pleasures of Italian life.

Sometimes, especially in the summer, I really enjoy a dish of mozzarella with basil and olive oil with some nice bread (as you can see in the picture at the top of this post).

Other times, I need pasta. Preferably with something to make it even yummier. Like seafood...

Spaghetti with vongole... I really like this action shot...

At other times we get adventuresome and decide to make some homemade pizza. The daughters love being able to roll the dough and add the toppings...

Tried to take a picture of the whole pizza. I was not quick enough...

And while, as any good Italian, I am a wine drinker, sometimes I enjoy a beer. In this case, along with the pizza I had the opportunity to drink a wonderful Pietra, a Corsican beer which is flavoured with chestnuts.


Yes. A mindless post. Hope that you found it pleasant. Actually, makes me a wee bit hungry...

Have a great meal all, wherever you are!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Riding in Rome

Ahh... a bucolic ride in the Rome countryside.

If you recall, in a previous post or three I had mentioned that riding in Rome was challenging. And not that picturesque. To prove my point, I decided to take my handy point-and-shoot camera on my ride this morning.

I live in southern Rome, relatively (about 17 kms) close to the beach. Unfortunately, the only convenient and relatively safe road for me to get to the sea and on to better riding is a heavily trafficked two lane road called the Cristoforo Colombo (yup, the guy who discovered the Americas, although the place was then named for a guy named Amerigo but I digress). Unfortunately the Colombo is one of the major thoroughfares to Ostia, a major neighborhood of Rome.

Yes. That means lots of traffic.

She is wearing a cool helmet...

Keep in mind that, while the asphalt is in pretty good shape and there is a safe emergency lane to ride in, the traffic is constant and pretty quick... in the 70~100 kph range. But hey, it's the quickest way to get to the sea road (that goes from Ostia all the way to Anzio). And once you are used to the cars zooming by (as all cyclists in Southern Rome) it can be pleasant.

Minus the cars it would be a nice ride!

Once I hit Ostia, after a ride of about 17km, I then turn South and start riding along the sea towards Anzio, which is about 40 km from Ostia. Today I was surprised to find that I had stumbled upon the Rome sprint triathlon. So I took a couple of pictures to show you that this blog is not just about road riding!

These guys were really moving... isn't riding in a swimsuit uncomfortable?

After all that excitement I rode about 20 kms down the coast, turned around and came home. Nice pleasant Sunday morning ride, got in about 75 km total by the time I got home (have yet to install the bike computer on the Cervelo yet!). The sea road (litoranea in Italian) would be fabulous if it wasn't for... the cars.

Yes. Those cars are parked along the shoulder. I ride in the middle of the road.
People are used to it (both riders and car drivers). Surprisingly few accidents.

The picture above shows what the sea road looks like after about 10AM during the weekend in the summer. The line of parked cars stretches for about 20km on this stretch. To the left, over the guardrail and the dunes, is the sea. Not more than 100 meters.

Occasionally the sea is unreachable along a stretch.
Then the road becomes, magically free of cars.

Then again, there are bits and pieces where there is no easy sea access. So people completely ignore that particular stretch of road. And the riding becomes wonderful again. Happy Pete.

This was not a very deep or insightful post, but I just thought it would be nice to show you what riding in southern Rome means. The good bit (not shown in the pictures) are the literally hundreds of riders who use these roads. So car drivers expect to come across cyclists, and that contributes to our safety. Not much, I know. But the best I can do without taking too much time away from the family on a Sunday morning.

I just liked this picture. Shows my Campagnolo ergos, Deda bars, and the fact that my bike is a...

Oh, there are wonderful roads to ride on around here. Those will come in other posts, do not despair!

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Administrative issue: youtube has taken down the video due to a copyright claim. Even if the version I posted was from Dutch TV. Dog gone it. So you will have to google it... sorry!

This video is very, very sobering. Jakob Fuglsang, a strong Saxo Bank rider, overlaps his front wheel with another rider's back wheel while hammering on the flats in a Vuelta stage. Loses control, swerves (thankfully not taking any other riders down with him) and slams into the back of a tanker truck parked on the side of the road.

And the guy walked away relatively unscathed and is attempting to continue riding the race.

So learn the lessons from this... be careful out there. And show anyone who says cyclists are wimps in lycra this video... the guy got a cut in his leg down to the bone, stitches and intends to continue riding...

Work and life...

Well, I have yet to get around to fixing the Schwalbe on the Kona. And I have not been able to ride my Cervelo all week. Following a relatively quiet August (everyone was on leave!) things have really kicked up a notch at work, with a huge meeting scheduled for tomorrow that is eating into my riding time (ergo, cancelling it).

So, for the second day in a row I have had to drive into work. I take the quickest route (about 6km) and get to steal the wife's new Fiat 500 (yup, that exact color too). so it is not bad... or rather as good as a car commute can be. Traffic has yet to reach full Rome craziness, but it has become almost 'normal' - turning a 6km commute into a harrowing 20~30 minute driving experience.

The wife notices that I become more irritable when I don't ride, and I end up sliding into bad habits - staying up late, snacking, etc. Funny how virtuous activities lead to virtuous cycles, and negative actions lead to... vicious downward spirals.

I guess this is just a quick post venting some frustration about juggling act we all have to deal with, trying to ensure that work, family and riding priorities all balance out. Of course, it never works that way. Kind of like a marriage. Ok, forget that, no need to go there now.... ;-)

I constantly tell myself that my job is not riding, I do not ride for a living. I have an office job, and the rest of my precious little time should be spent on family and a wee bit of exercise to stay in shape. But I must admit that I feel guilty about not riding enough and beat myself up about it. Not logical, I know.

So what's the point of this post? Not sure, needed to vent a bit about reality. How that work thing gets in the way of my free time!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Grrrr... hey! Check it out! Beta tools... only the best for Pete!

This evening, I am annoyed. Really annoyed. Saying lots of bad words annoyed. Grrrr.....


If you recall my review of the Kona Jake the Snake I mentioned the fact that I am now riding on Schwalbe Marathon Plus clinchers. I chose these heavy beasts after a string of flats at rather inopportune times (which raises the question whether there really are opportune times to deal with a flat?). These flats stemmed not from the quality of the clinchers (usually Vittoria) I was riding, but rather terrible Rome roads as well as the heavy load the bike was carrying... especially with the two panniers filled with work related material and clothes.

Why the Marathon Plus model? Well, everything I read indicated that these babies had the ride qualities of a tank tread, and weighed slightly more than that. BUT,
every review I saw indicated that this was the closest one could come to puncture-free nirvana. You see, as is obvious in the diagram below (straight from the Schwalbe US site), not only are these heavy clinchers with a LOT of material, but they also incorporate a special protective layer (Smartguard in Schwalbe marketing speak) which is meant to offer '...particular resistance to shards of glass and flints'.

The Marathon Plus clincher diagram. Notice the blue Smartguard protective layer.

As the Marathons are well nigh impossible to find in Italy, I ended up ordering a set (at significant expense I might add) from good 'ole Germany. To my wife's question regarding their price (well in excess of the higher performance clinchers I mount on my road bike) I responded informing her that flat would now become a thing of the past for me. Never again. Mai più. Plus jamais. Nunca más. Well... you get it.

When they arrived, I was amazed by how rigid and heavy the dang things were. I felt slower just looking at them. The Schwalbe marketing blurb assured me that they would roll as smoothly as any other clincher. They lied. They are heavy with awesome rolling resistance. No chance of dropping anyone when riding with these!

But that's not why I had purchased them! I began to commute on them every day. I declared that I was flat-free. And so it was. And it was good. Jokes aside, I was actually impressed. Nice investment, Pete. Puncture free Pete. From June till... this evening. Pete is not so happy anymore.

This evening, as I was riding home at lightening speed (as always, of course), less than 1 km from my front door, I hear the dreaded 'ppppppssssssssssssss' at each wheel rotation. I make it home with some pressure left in the front tire. Dejected and depressed. To discover this....

Can you see the shard of green glass in the tire?

Yup. A shard of glass in the tire. Looks like it sliced straight through the Smartguard. Hhhmmm. Let's pull this sucker out and see what has defeated our mighty Schwalbe-ness.

Yup, needed the pliers. Gratuitous sexy hairy leg shot. No racing this year, no shaving. Deal with it.

After a couple of minutes I am able to pry the shard out. It is quite large and very sharp - probably it has been stuck in the tire since the start of my ride, slowly working its way through the Smartguard...

There it is. Dog gone it, that is a big shard of glass...

Later this evening I will see if I can still ride this tire (I suspect so) - if the gash is not too wide.

Of course, on a 'normal' clincher this would have blown and the tire would have been a throw-away. Hopefully our Schwalbe investment has not gone down the drain. Any comments on the size of the hole? Is the tire still good? Experienced Marathon riders, what do you have to say?

Can you see the hint of blue? That is the puncture-proof Smartguard layer! ;-)

Disclaimer: I am really rather annoyed at having had a puncture. So when I wrote this post (I meant to take the night off, need to ensure that all you pastatrail readers don't get too used to regular posts!) I slagged Schwalbe, which is not fair. No clincher is 100% puncture proof. The Marathons are a great set of commuting clinchers, and the puncture protection is well worth the significant weight and comfort penalty that is part of the trade-off. I also love the reflective band on each side of the tire - I commute year-round, so I love all the reflective bits that I can get. Better dorky than dead!

So, if you commute/ride on rough glass and debris strewn roads, get 'em. They work... almost always!


Yes. Ordered yesterday. Can't wait (the black 2009 is very nice, but it really isn't that cool for summer weather riding, no matter what Fatty says).

Monday, August 31, 2009

Things to love about Italy...

Ok, sometimes I get annoyed by problems in my country, but then I have to admit that I love it, and the good far outweighs the bad, for me at least!

Of course, the greatest compliment that can be made needs to come from an unbiased source.... for example, an American who has cycled in Italy as a pro cyclist. Interestingly enough, I just came across this entry in the Italian Cycling Journal (one of the blogs that I follow) about just how nice Italy and cycling here are.

Yes, this post put a smile on my face. Especially the bit about the Giro! Nice to see that Italy and our cycling being appreciated!

Mille grazie!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

De Rosa Professional SLX

De Rosa Professional SLX. My original 'specialissima'.

So ladies and gentlemen, today I would like to take you for a ride down memory lane. Yes, indeed, that is a 1993 De Rosa Professional, Columbus SLX tubing, built up with a mixture of Campagnolo Corsa Record (8 speed), Super Record and a wee bit of Shimano.

She (all my bicycles are females) has a rather interesting history. I was attending graduate school at the time, and British Airways bent the back triangle of my previous bike to the point that a wheel would not fit into it. This De Rosa was therefore purchased at a bike shop in Manhattan, NYC, where I was living at the time, with my components switched over from the previous frame (a very nice Rossin SL). Yes, an Italian specialissima bought by an Italian in the United States. A bit complicated, but you get it.

Columbus SLX. Wonder-ride...

So, for the ignorant (or the very young) amongst you, Columbus SLX tubing was the top of the top in terms of steel (really the only serious option, beyond some funny 'beer can' alu frames by some American company called Cannondale... or a French Vitus not to be taken seriously by roadies at the time) and far better, in my humble unbiased Italian opinion, than the similar high grade stuff being made by Reynolds. The peculiarity of SLX tubing was that it was quite light for its time, but without losing its rigidity. This was accomplished by making the tube walls thin, but strengthening the 'high stress' sections with helicoidal (spiral) reinforcements inside the tubes. The ride was (is...) very nice, with little power lost to frame flex.

The geometry was classic pro for the time, and this was rumoured to have been developed by Ugo De Rosa for some Belgian guy named Eddy who won a few races here and there on De Rosa frames (occasionally rebadged)... Which translates into a relatively relaxed frame on which you could pedal all day with no aches or pains. And that was stable at any speed, although probably not the quickest steering bike around (criteriums, what are criteriums? we raced road races!).

Yup. Flat-head fork, along with some dirt and Dura Ace brakes, 1994 vintage, if I recall correctly.

Although there were some sleeker, 'modern' designs coming out at the time, this frame came with the flat-head fork, which was more rigid and never gave anything but the greatest feedback downhill (I descended the Iseran on this bike and hit speeds in excess of 90 km per hour... I was also younger and more reckless then).

Corsa Record derailleurs, 8 speed set-up, with 53x42 Super Record cranks. Look pedals

Components? Well, as I hinted in the introduction to this post, the bike is a bit of a mish-mash - remember, I was a grad student, and had to ask my dad for the cash to buy the frame. I was not exactly in the position to pick up a ful C-Record groupset (although I desperatly wanted to!). So 8 speed C-Record seatpost, derailleurs, hubs, freewheel and chain. Plus the Super Record cranks and bottom bracket that I already had.

Super Record cranks. Still a thing of beauty today.

I then opted for Shimano Dura Ace brakes, which were far cheaper than Campagnolo, as I was hearing rumours about trouble with Delta brakes, and the last thing I wanted riding in Central Park was trouble with my brakes (BTW, are the NYC yellow cabs as homicidal today as they were then?). I had regular Campagnolo friction shifters, which were replaced at a later date with Synchro II (Campagnolo's second attempt at index shifting, works ok, not great).

The original seat was a San Marco Rolls. Replaced by a Flite Titanium and later by this Flite Gel when I became old and fat and worried about my prostate. Hubs were mounted on Mavic GP4 rims and Clements. Replaced four years ago with a set of Open Pros (the GP4s were beyond truing salvation by that point).

The chromed chainstays are suffering...

The bike needs a bit of tlc, and I should probably contact De Rosa about repainting it (the chromed chainstays are starting to rust).

So, you ask, how was the ride. Yes, that good. Still is, matter of fact. I keep this bike at my parent's house, in hill country about 90 kms north of Rome. Quiet country roads with quite a bit of climbing. The bike is wonderful to ride. Really nice. Very comfortable. Descends on rails. A pleasure to look at. Takes a few minutes to get used to the levers on the frame, then you are fine.

My only complaints are the weight (clearly, it weighs a LOT more than my Cervelo) and the gearing - I don't remember, but I think my bailout gear is a 42x25? But that has more to do with my legs and fitness. Or lack thereof.

Still puts a heck of a smile on my face each time I ride the bike (which is not often enough!).

Ok so, tell me about your classic bike (only if it is still regularly ridden)!