With the Giro d'Italia starting this weekend, the Grand Tour season is officially upon us. If you think of professional cycling in terms of popular entertainment, the Classics are kind of like Neil LaBute plays in that you watch them in one sitting and they're all about suffering, whereas the Grand Tours are more like Lifetime miniseries since they take place over a span of weeks and are full of schmaltz and melodrama. Another hallmark of the Grand Tours is the rumor, speculation, and controversy they always generate. One particularly controversial rider is Alexander Vinokourov, who was suspended for doping but is hoping to return in time to contest the Vuelta a España. And in another journalistic coup, a reader has forwarded me a photo of what appears to be Alexander Vinokourov training stateside:
Vino appears to have accumulated some leg hair during his suspension, and he's also clearly grown a foot or two (in height--he always had feet), but he hasn't lost that look of determination:
Nor has he gained any eyebrows:
Speaking of eyebrows, as I predicted on Monday, this is indeed turning out to be a wet, wheelbrowy kind of week. Indeed, the New York City metropolitan area is like a drunk on a bender right now in that there's no way it's going to dry out before the weekend is over. As such, I'm keeping the Peter Gallagher Wheel Eyebrow Advisory (PGWEA) in place through Friday:
For Saturday, I'm replacing the PGWEA with a Noel Gallagher from Oasis Fudguard Warning (NGFOFW). It looks like the rain stops on Sunday, but I'm guessing the roads will still be wet in places, hence the Intermittent Vanilla Icebrow (IVI). The sun finally comes out on Monday, at which point hopefully we will finally experience clear Vinokourov wheelbrowless conditions.
In the meantime, New York City cyclists continue to cope with the dampness in a variety of ways. If you ride a designer track bike or a Dutch city bike, you simply leave your bike at home. (I'd been seeing lots of Dutch city bikes around town until the rain began. I guess the bikes are good for the rain but the cycle-chic wardrobes aren't.) If you ride a more pedestrian track bike, you rock a low-riding beaver tail-style filth prophylactic. And regardless of what you ride, you might even opt for a makeshift saddle-mounted rain bonnet:
This is a common sight on bicycles parked in New York City on rainy days, and it makes sense since nobody likes to sit on a wet saddle. Moreover in New York City it's nearly impossible to purchase even a tiny item without the shop proprietor shoving it in a plastic bag. Pack of gum? Bag. Purple Drank? Bag. Not buying anything but just need a bag for your saddle because it's raining out and you don't have one? Well, they'll give you one, but they'll put it in a bag. (Yes, you can say you don't need a bag, but the bagging process is so deeply ingrained in their muscle memory that they can't stop themselves from doing it.) As such, we've been forced to find uses for all these bags, and making rain bonnets is just one of them.
Obviously, the bodega bag rain bonnet is free (unless you count the price of the Purple Drank), but I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before someone starts making them and trying to sell them to you. After all, Brooks saddles and vintage Turbos are all the rage, and you wouldn't want to sheathe one of those in just anything. Oh, wait, someone already is making them:
Never mind. (Interestingly, of all the things the Brooks owner apparently feels the need to protect his saddle from, his own ass isn't one of them.)
Speaking of contagion, nothing is easier to catch than the upgrade bug. Upgrading is a disease, and once you start upgrading your bike it spreads so quickly and easily that it makes the swine flu seem like ice cold cream cheese. No sooner do you put that fancy Brooks (or vintage Turbo, or Arione crabon) saddle on your bike than you start thinking about how crappy your seatpost is in comparison. Fortunately, giant headtube specialists Seven have finally come to the rescue with a new $325 titanium seatpost:
Price aside, I'm not sure what the point is of a "custom" seatpost that is only available in 27.2. I can certainly understand not being able to find a post in the right diameter for your frame and thus needing something custom, but you can change the length of pretty much any seatpost:
Yes, "customizing" your seatpost really is that simple. Buying this Seven seatpost is like buying a pair of "custom" shoes that only come in size 10 1/2--but you can "customize" the length of the laces.
But you can't really blame Seven for a gambit like this; after all, their tall headtube supremacy has been challenged by Serotta, as you probably noticed on Conan the Vinokourov's bike above, which features a truly monumental headtube:
Maybe if I had a lofty, intimidating headtube like this then "stroller salmon" would be afraid to play chicken with me (pardon the mixed animal metaphors) in the bike lane:
Though I'd also probably be too far away from the road to spot potential hazards:
Yes, glass can obviously damage your tires severely, so should always palp a top-tube serape:
This way, if you encounter glass, oil slicks, or rough pavement, all you need to do is unfurl your serape, lay it down over the obstruction, and then safely pass. Once you're across, simply shake out your serape, roll it up, and continue on your way. It's also especially handy for old-fashioned bike-date chivalry. (Note that you can rub an auxiliary serape on your headtube if yours is sufficently tall.)
Less useful in my opinion than the top-tube serape is the top-tube pad, which amazingly people continue to rock:
Not only that, but apparently they continue to covet Deep-Vs and Aerospokes, too. Frankly, I'd think these trends would be dying off by now, but it looks like they're not. Perhaps I was wrong and the new practicality is still a long way off.
Or is it? I was heartened to come across this entry from a frequent commenter on this very blog:
I enjoyed this entry for a number of reasons. Not only am I a fan of wheelbrows and easy-to-read diagrams, but the bike also appears to have Ortlieb panniers, and if I were a European pro I'd like my name to be Ortlieb Pannier since not only am I full of random crap but I can usually be found hanging off the back. Still, I did find this bike severely lacking in the headtube department:
Puts things in perspective, doesn't it?