Reflections on New and Old

Fiamme Red Label; Binda Extra; Christophe; Super Record; Cinelli Criterium; Benotto; Vittore Gianni

If you can identify these brands, then you have an appreciation of the ‘old days’ when we rode with 5 speed, downtube friction shifters and shifting gears was an art form…if you didn’t time it right, the chain just came off the chainring for no apparent reason! We also learned how to glue ‘tubs’ on ourselves because we had to…and when we flatted, we cut the threads, patched and re-stitched them for training tires.

Now, I could get all nostalgic and pine for those good old days when everything was simpler and we didn’t have to worry about whether or not to use a wide or narrow profile rim for the next ride. But, I’m not. In fact it’s the opposite. Over the last 20 odd years, there have been some incredible advances in cycling technology that have been tested in the pro racing field and have become relatively affordable at the consumer level.

I now work in the information technology field where innovation is a necessity. If a company doesn’t stay ahead of the curve, it will die…simple as that. Conversely, many of the afore mentioned brands have simply gone away, never to be heard from again…Binda had captured the market in toe straps but didn’t react when the clipless pedal came about…it took a ski binding company, ‘Look’ to bring the revolutionary concept of snapping your feet to the pedal to a very conservative market. It took a while but look where we today.

Shimano’s clipless pedal has evolved

Today, Ryder Hesjedal won the Giro on the final time trial. On his bike, he used Shimano Di2 electronic shifting which allowed him to shift from his aero position AND when he was accelerating with his hands on the brake hoods. A small but distinct advantage over his rival “Purito” Rodriguez. The difference was 16 seconds. Did you know that Mavic was first to market with electronic shifting in the early ’90’s? Shimano continued to do their meticulous research and have come out with a system that just works, period. Di2 is now out as Ui2, a less expensive option of e-shifting with a very small weight penalty.

Electronic shifting has changed the game in so many ways

Using aluminum rim clinchers was always a compromise for us. Racers used tubulars for the responsiveness and feel of the road that they gave you. Enter pure carbon rims. The first time a used a set of carbon rims, I was astounded. My bike came alive like I’d never experienced before. These wheels (tubular and clincher) have changed the game and brought us a new level of cycling experience. Sure you can spend $5K on a new set of wheels but you can now get similar technology in the $1K range.

Carbon rims make my bike come alive!

Framesets have evolved incredibly as well. It used to be that a custom cro-moly steel frame made in Italy was the only bike a pro would ride. An off-the-shelf version wouldn’t do. It’s taken a generation of cyclist but now, you can buy the same frame that a pro rides at your nieghbourhood pro shop. When I first saw Lance changing bikes during one of his winning Tours, I couldn’t believe it. No self-respecting pro would ever think of doing that…there was too much at stake. Turns out these were standard dimension frames that would be auctioned off to charity (who had heard of the LAF then?) after the race for $100K plus! Lance changed the game in so many ways. Now every team has a pink or yellow bike ready in the wings in case their team leader takes control of a leaders’ jersey at the Giro or the Tour!

German engineering at its finest

My new ‘Focus’ frame is engineered in Germany – not your traditional hotbed for cycling design…but, the German attention to detail and quality is second to none…and the ride, the ride is incredible. Makes me think of taking out my racing license again…or maybe just enjoying my next social ride with the lightest and most responsive bike I’ve ever had…probably the latter.

Hope to see you with the wind in your face – Feel the Road.


About alexstieda

Cycling fanatic, Olympian and IT geek. Claim to fame: 1st North American to wear yellow jersey in the Tour de France.
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2 Responses to Reflections on New and Old

  1. petermaser says:

    Lovely piece, Alex. Full of interesting details — a German-made frame!?! — and easily accessible to non-gearheads like me. Cheers, Peter Maser

  2. Shawn says:

    Great story Alex, I remember you racing when I was a kid!

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