iBike 2012: Tools, not toys

2013 Bianchi Volpe

The venerable Bianchi Volpe gets another makeover for 2013, including a nifty powder-blue hue and retro decals.

BIBLEBURG, Colo. (MDM) — The times, how they do change.

Once upon a time my bicycle sprang from sound racing stock — first steel, then aluminum and finally carbon fiber and/or titanium — and the gearing was as manly as the showers at Paris-Roubaix. 52/42 and 12-21 constituted the standard until I moved to Santa Fe, where I was informed that 53/39 and 12-23 were better suited to the hillier terrain.

The fabled straight block came out for pan-flat time trials, of course, and for truly insane climbs one kept a cogset with a 25 or even a 27 handy.

Tires, naturally, were 700×25 — sewups for racing, clinchers for training — though I kept a pair of 28s around for one race that involved a half-dozen miles of dirt-road climbing, and for no good reason occasionally used 19s in a race against the clock.

But this was long ago, and that man is no longer with us.

Today if the bike is not steel it’s probably not mine. And the gearing — good Lord, the gearing! — has devolved to 46/34 and 12-28 on some machines. Two sport triple-ring cranks and mountain-bike rear derailleurs.

Tires likewise have ballooned. 700×28 is now a minimum rather than a maximum, and the max has gone all the way to 700×45, though the sweet spot lies somewhere between 32 and 38.

And the coup de grace? Racks and fenders. Got ’em on three bikes. Oh, the humanity.

There were lots of utilitarian machines like mine at this year’s Interbike show, from the likes of Co-Motion, Bruce Gordon, Yuba, Pashley, Velo-Orange, Bianchi, Opus, Volagi and others. And more companies are tooling up to hang useful bits on them, such as racks and fenders, panniers and trunks, bells and whistles.

What’s behind all this? Beats me. Maybe folks are sick of watching unrepentant dopers perform impossible feats on otherworldly machinery. Perhaps someone figured out that the Adventure Cycling Association has 45,000 members. And don’t forget Peak Oil — it might be nice to have something to ride to work when the last well starts farting dust.

All I know is, if this is a trend instead of a blip, I like it. A guy gets tired of staring up at lug nuts while inhaling a snootful of fragrant particulates.

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24 Responses to “iBike 2012: Tools, not toys”

  1. Libby Says:

    Good timing! This year’s Interbike nicely intersected your interests.

  2. Larry T. Says:

    Maybe it’s just us old-farts finally being proven right? I remember a few years ago when the pros would turn their nose up at any tire marked larger than 22 and gearing lower than 39 X 27. Now they’re putting fatter tires on (supposedly for the aero benefits with a wider rim) and finding out the ride is much better with no rolling resistance penalty, while “Il Pistolero” fits up a 34 X 32 for the monster climbs in this year’s Vuelta.
    Steel bicycles are even making a bit of a comeback for those who think every gram saved doesn’t count as much as great ride-quality. The gorgeous Fondriest steel frame in the Albabici stand may be the most photographed bike at the show based on what I’ve seen so far on the ‘net, and my blog post/photo hasn’t even gone up yet!
    I’d bet there are some frame molds being tossed out over in China right now in favor of new ones with more tire clearance? I’ve often wondered why the average cycling consumer is so enamored with a bike optimized for racing up Alpe d’Huez when he/she really would be better served by one optimized for Paris-Roubaix or the Strade Bianche?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Larry, I recall reading somewhere that even the pros are migrating to bigger tires, whether for lower rolling resistance or greater comfort. And most of the bikes I looked at in Vegas were capable of taking monster rubber, up to and surpassing Bruce Gordon’s revived 700×40 Rock ‘n Roads — some of them with fenders yet.

      What’s the impetus? Beats me. Gravel racing seems to be a factor — that’s the flavor of the month with a lot of the shaven-legged crowd. But an aging customer base and a crumbling infrastructure may play some role, too.

      I know I don’t roll on anything skinner than 700×28, and most of the fleet is on 32s or 35s. You should see the Conti’ 37s on this Space Horse. They look like coiled garden hose. If I hadn’t already flatted the rear twice I’d be seriously impressed.

      • Larry T. Says:

        The wider rim “aero advantage” seems to be behind the pro embrace of wider tires but they seem to have noticed how the fatter rubber with larger air volume takes some of the sting out of the ride of their super-rigid plastic bikes as well. The bike makers seem to be noticing and offering frames and forks with more room for ’em. Great idea! Most of my bikes won’t take anything larger than a 25 but a high TPI open tubular tire in a 23 (as in Vittoria’s Open Corsa or Torelli’s Arezzo) offers a nice ride – but then I’m NOT riding any of those super-rigid plastic bikes. These tires pumped up to 90 psi work just fine for me, even on the frost-heaved slab pavement we have here in Iowa. In Italy of course, they ride like, well, butter I guess. Challenge has a 25 open tubular called Strada that I want to try next.

      • Khal Spencer Says:

        Both my Cannondales will take a 28 but just barely. Currently, the CAAD-5 is shod with 700-28 Conti 4-Seasons in honor of the recent chipsealing of NM Route 4. I have the Open Corsas back on the Six-13 because as Larry said, they take some of the edge off the bad road surface. If they were more worn down, I would look for some of those open tubulars with 24 or 25 mm sections used Over There on pave.

        On the commuter bike side, the Long Haul Trucker has 26 x 1.5’s and I’m about to take off the Specialized 700-23/25s on the La Cruz and put back the 700-32 Panaracer folding Paselas. They rice very comfy and are reasonably light. I’m open to suggestion as to other good commuting tires that can fit under fenders.

  3. patti brehler Says:

    “Oh the humanity!” Love it! Bring back those racks and fenders, it’s high time.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Damn’ right, Patti. And don’t forget baskets. I have a nifty made-in-USA Wald wire basket that I can zip-tie or toe-strap to any of my bikes equipped with racks.

      But I mostly use it on the Vespa for beer runs. You wouldn’t believe what the scooter crowd will pay for bits of this and that which add carrying capacity. Twenty bucks plus a couple of old toe straps from an elderly pair of cyclo-cross pedals and I was good to go.

  4. swell Says:

    I’m not in the league of most of youse guys, bike-wise, but I am old! I bought my first new bike ever this Summer – a Specialized Tricross which is perfect for road duty with 28’s on it. But my favorite bangin’ around the neighborhood ride is my Schwinn Criss Cross with lightly knobbed 42’s on it. It is steel framed, and now I know why you guys say “steel is real”. Oh, and I have 2 bikes with racks on them!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Swell, new bikes are good, and so are old ones. They’re all good, as far as I’m concerned. I prefer steel for ride quality, but I like riding my Jamis Supernova (kinesium and carbon) when I want to feel fast. It’s only about 6 pounds lighter than every other bike in the garage save the DBR ti’ road bike, which pegs in at right around 20 pounds.

      Did I mention that I have a kickstand on one bike now? I’m tellin’ ya, it’s a slippery slope. …

  5. Derek Says:

    As nice as it is that the utilitarian nature of bicycles is coming back into the common view here in this country we should still be aware of where we live.
    A fellow cyclist was killed yesterday riding in Canyon City, His family is still being notified. He was hit and run by someone in a small blue or black pick-up truck. If you live down there and saw something please help find this person.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Derek, if this is the accident to which you refer, it seems that an arrest has been made. Condolences to the friends and family of Kyle Keefe. And may justice be done. It’s a rare bird in these cases.

      • Derek Says:

        yes it was and I am glad they got them. It is rare, I once was ticket for causing an accident on south Tejon after a woman hit me I managed to stay up, bunny hop the curb and some parking blocks get back on the road chase her down and yell at her. She then swerved off the road, drove over the curb causing some damage to the vehicle. I was stupid to stay but I thought the cops might like to know about her hitting me several blocks earlier and continuing to drive. Won’t be doing that again.
        I didn’t know Kyle but he dated my friends sister for years. It is a great loss. Thank you for your thoughts.

  6. BenS Says:

    I love the schizophrenic world of cycling. At least there seems to be a thread of split personality running through my slice of it. Never had the lungs or the ability to ignore consequences to race like you Patrick, but a fast bike has always meant a better chance to ride with my type A friends and a touring bike with full complement of racks meant no car needed to commute or shop.

    Just as my favorite cars were a 1966 Land Rover and a 1979 VW Sirocco my favorite bikes are 2012 Giant Defy with Force and 2006 Volpe with full racks and panniers.

    Getting old doesn’t mean you can’t have it both ways, well as long as your expectations get re-evaluated from time to time.

    Now does that inter bike Volpe have mid fork braze-ons?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Hey, Ben,

      Yup, it does indeed, as did the 2012 edition. The ’13 model is a nice bit of eye candy, much prettier than some earlier editions. I should’ve gathered more information, because it seems the Bianchi website is still stuck in ’12 mode.

  7. khal spencer Says:

    Its good that the bike biz is finally building and marketing stuff that doesn’t reek of skinny guys climbing European mountains while turbocharged on EPO. Maybe the rest of the country will take cycling seriously.

    Sorry about the fatal, but it is easy to amplify every death into a holy terror due to our ability to transmit every fatal across the Intertubes. Actually I have not seen any data to suggest cycling is more dangerous than driving, on a death per exposure hour basis. Its easy to think it is deadly because we all amp up the concerns, esp. given its a small world, but no one has put out numbers to support that anyone is at high risk compared to say, driving or living. including Steve Magas in his most recent posts. If you want to live on the edge statistically, I’ll sell you the K1100RS (Larry??). Now on that thing I do feel like I am living closer to the edge compared to cycling. Or I can leave the wreckage to you in my will….

    If you don’t live in Florida, you are probably OK–chances are, some lunatic will get you in a movie theater first. Besides, every one of us probably knows someone who has been greased while driving. Its not what you are riding in or on, but the fucking idiot you run into.

    • Derek Says:

      You are right about the odds, although I did get rid of the ZX-11. You could be killed on your couch when someone drives through your living room. Most of my anger stemmed from the running part. You don’t leave someone to die in the street. I have no intention of stopping my bike rides of either type but I do try to pay attention. It is the other guy and you will always lose the argument with the car, I spent a couple years in a wheelchair after a motorcycle/car argument. So yeah, let’s be careful out there.

      • Khal Spencer Says:

        We recently had a hit and run up here. The cyclist was badly bruised from a sideswipe but she is OK, and the motorist was chased down after calls to the P.D. and arrested. The guy seems to not get it–I heard that a week after he was conditionally released to await trial, he was arrested again for violating his release conditions. Back in the Hoosgow he went.

        You are right-the failure to render aid part is unacceptable.

        Violent deaths of all types are too high in the USA. Whether killed by car, gun, or whatever. We seem somewhat uncivilized.

      • Derek Says:


    • Larry T. Says:

      No grazie on the BMW…if I was tempted by a motorcycle it would certainly be Italian and get ridden in Italy where you can still (for now at least) have fun with them on great roads. But I decided years ago, after winding up my pro racing career that I could get some of the same enjoyment with a bicycle on a twisty descent, with far less risk and while getting some good exercise on the climb. When I think of motos now all I can imagine is the cops chasing me around as soon as I start to have fun…something pretty unlikely on a bicycle! As to getting run over, as an ex-moto pro I subscribe to the fatalist theory – when your number’s up, your number’s up, whether you’re having fun on a bike or at home sitting on the can.

  8. Charley Says:

    Interesting reading all the comments;youth is running away from all of us. Sometimes our brain catches up with our bodies and we get smarter for a short while..

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