The detritus of professional cycling often ends up in the oddest of places. There are strange European Ebay auctions for all manners of used garbage that may or may not have been used by professional cyclists. Syringes and vitamins found in a hotel Ibis rubbish bin could mean an Ischia International Journalism prize to a staffer at Gazzetta dello Sport as much as it could mean a tetanus shot and an HIV test for a garbage man from Trent. If the recent Armstrong affair has made anything apparent, it’s that pro cyclists are not only, not at all like us but they’re even less like whom we might imagine them to be. An exposition on doping in the sport is not in the purview of this article. My thoughts on the matter would most likely anger and incite any serious fan of our sport and confuse and distress any more casual observer of the current shit show. Suffice it to say, they may look like us (sort of)…but they are not like us. Their lifestyle and training regimes have nothing to do with the healthy activity of recreational cycling and domestic bike racing. It is a hard, miserable, flash in the pan galloping drive towards realizing an impossible potential. The resources required have no relevance for the average person and the moral ethics created around a universe of solipsistic sacrifice, limited rewards and superhuman physical and mental efforts may as well belong to another species.
When it comes to these resources, I am not particularly interested in the training programs, the medicines, the diet and the majority of support systems employed by the professional cyclist competing at the ProTour level. I wish there was a 2012 version of the CONI manual - a comprehensive bible of a book published in 1972 by the F.I.A.C. and Roman Central Sports School - but the chapters I would be most interested in are not on physiopathology or nutrition or sports hygiene. The modern manifestations of these topics as realized by the best cyclists in the world are almost wholly unhealthy, irrelevant and useless to even the most serious cycling enthusiast. The reason I would seek this book out is to learn about the one resource a pro cyclist and an enthusiast can both utilize with impunity, the racing bicycle and the biomechanics of pedaling and proper position on a bicycle. Beyond the terrain, how we sit and ride on a bicycle and the equipment itself, is all we can hope to share with these guys.
A racing bicycle is the ultimate sporting good. With a moderate amount of fitness, anyone can utilize it for hours with little to no pain or discomfort. The skill set required to properly operate a racing bike is, despite a chorus of inarticulate fetishizations, rather minimal. Crochet or SCUBA diving or tennis or skateboarding all require far greater diligence, coordination and skill. As a tool, it can bring the casual user fitness or the professional victories and wealth. It allows any user an escape from the banality of life or for the pro cyclist an unhealthy escape into a world of potential stardom and success and for the rest of us an escape from stasis, both geographic, mental and physical.
This article started as an attempt to write a fluff piece about the tubes we use to build my Cazzo race bike. I apologize for the wandering, but there is an almost psychopathic complexity of experience that informs and dictates my processes as a bike designer and a writer. I’m a master at neither vocation, but I do believe they both further the other’s development. Again, my intention was to use all my knowledge and experience, the history and myth of the sport and my gut to produce what I believe to be the ultimate ProTour race bike. I want to make the bike a modern CONI manual would dictate; the bike an Olympic federation with unlimited budgets and the engineering resources of Draper Labs or FES would produce.
My resources may be different but they are nonetheless vast and up to the task. Columbus, the most storied manufacturer of bicycle tubing, was one of the first companies to see the writing on the walls. Large scale manufacturing of bicycles was increasingly no longer an Italian concern. After a brief flirtation with designing and producing materials for the new Asian manufacturers, Columbus took the decision to focus on producing tubing for custom frame builders. For years there had been builders of confidence working under contract to both pro teams and pro team equipment sponsors or even to the athletes themselves. More so than the large companies, these small builders- building bikes for the best cyclists in the world, forced the development of new tubesets and new technologies at Columbus. SL, SLX, SPX, MAX and numerous other tubesets came in to being to improve the race bike at the behest of small builders and their clients. A renewed emphasis on the small builder was not a retreat from the grand stage of professional cycling nor was it a return to the past. It was a logical, practical decision to spearhead the devlopement and evolution of the modern race bike in partnership with the best builders in the world and the history, knowledge and sporting experience they and Columbus could bring to the craft.
The frame building community, particularly those at the vanguard of building racing bicycles are along with suppliers like Colombus, among my greatest resources. The PegoRichie UOS tubing we use on the Cazzo came about from demands by Richard Sachs and Dario Pegoretti, two of the world’s preeminent builders of racing bicycles.
Richard describes it best:
''This material set was co-invented by Dario Pegoretti and me way back in late 2004 and entered the market about a year later. We each shared the concern that our material of choice, steel, had not evolved with the times, and that all small frame builders were living off the old inventories and dead stocks of our suppliers. For most of the 90's through to Y2K the only changes made for ferrous lovers was in the form of pipes made for high volume users, most all of whom were using TIG welding or other industrial methods. For the artisan shops that were making frames to order and for whom the ideal was the perfect frame, time clocks and model years be damned, it was a stale era...''
I do not build lugged frames but I do share the ideal of the perfect frame, time clocks and model years be damned. When Richard introduced the larger diameter UberOversize version of PegoRichie, it was natural that Gaulzetti Cicli would make bikes with these pipes. This tubeset allows me to build the best race bike I can. The sport, the history and experience of those who surround me are the true designers of my bicycles. The economics which forced Colombus from Procycling and have Cavendish riding a carbon super bike rather than re-branded Pegoretti have advanced the quality of the racing bicycle be they made on a Chinese assembly line or one at a time in a Medford Massachusetts machine shop. Columbus has never made better pipes than they are making today. Richard and Dario have never made better frames than the ones they are producing today. Honestly and thankfully, the detritus of professional cycling is allowing me to build the best race bikes in the world.