Farewell to All That? Not Until “Drafts” is Clear!

So, it has come to this:

Big S is putting out disc versions of some higher-end road bikes next year. Quelle surprise, and now we can see if Specialized’s own gravity/market share succeeds in quickly sinking small ships like Volagi, even if they weren’t downed by Specialized’s legal power already.

No, they aren’t hydraulic. Yet. Wait until 2014, right?

Where does that leave us on here on BliggityBlog? No longer as a self-styled lone evangelist (read: I felt alone because I wasn’t bothering to dig in to other places where, no doubt, others were saying the exact same things) for hydraulic road disc brakes. No longer interested in paying that much attention to new product announcements for the unending and overwhelming tsunami of really cool but totally unnecessary bike shit that flows through the industry every week. And – dammit – most frustratingly with a couple of link-oid posts still in Drafts about disc-related road stuff. These should see the light of day: one on thinking through fork design in the new era of disc brakes (and thru-axles on road bikes; you had to have known that was coming), the other on English’s “show-stopping” NAHBS bike from last year.

The BB interest in bikes and builders has not really died, though. In fact, as vaguely referenced a while back, BB is in the process of starting (the very early parts of the process, that is) a new scholarly project on handmade bike builders. That might be the grist for another round of BliggityBlog activity in the next couple of years. By the way, that last target is not hard to achieve when one posts at the rate of once a month or so! Or we could talk about the other stuff that was supposed to be here: green/modern/innovative house design and building, the meaning of life in middle age, productivity, whatever. We’ll see.

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Guess What? Lance Armstrong is Still a Sociopath

I was all set to post a tiny link to a recent interview on pezcyclingnews with former US pro, Mike McCarthy. McCarthy was an interesting track-to-road “cross-over” (a designation he rightly rejects in the interview, by the way) in the mid-80s to early-90s, often gracing the pages of Winning magazine. And, the track-to-road path is going to be discussed quite a bit this next month, with Brad Wiggins now a bona fide Tour threat. My little tidbit of note was that, like a number of former American pros and cycling big-wigs from that era and just beyond (e.g. Jim Ochowicz, Darren Baker, ??), McCarthy apparently ended up with a job in finance through, you guessed it, Thom Weisel. I know the whole omerta/mob thing with cycling, doping and US Cycling gets tiring…but, shit, if it isn’t true that Weisel’s money and power weren’t/aren’t the tentacles running through the sport for the last 25-30 years!

However, what comes along but the US Anti-Doping Agency’s much anticipated case against Armstrong and, as it turns out, Bruyneel, Ferrari and a number of other doctors and trainers (first came out in Washington Post, so here’s the original).

The usual “let it alone/it serves no purpose/why just Lance?” talk is of course bubbling up (articulated, for instance, and in typically overblown and just-a-little-too-wordy fashion, at Red Kite Prayer). But, I’m having none of it. Sure it drags on; that’s Armstrong’s fault, largely. Everyone else confessed and ate their big bowl of shit, it’s Armstrong who keeps pushing it back away from his place setting.

The thing I get most irritated by – and this brings us back my whole “Armstrong is a sociopath” meme (ok, it was like two blog posts) – is the endless sanctimonious duplicity from him. It was only a month or two ago that we got (in the aftermath of the federal inquiry being mysteriously dropped) the “I’m not fighting it any more” line – classic “I’m bigger than this and walking away” talk from Armstrong. But, of course, Armstrong had an immediate and aggressive response to yesterday’s announcement. We will see, though, if this is actually followed up with any true resistance to the USADA proceedings and hearings.

The most interesting bit from the USADA material is that they directly allege blood manipulation from his comeback period as well. You know, the comeback that was intended to “prove to his children” (a rough quote, but that was basically what he said) that he was a clean winner, dispel all the doubts, etc., etc. The irony – and the indicator for a sociopathic disregard for risk and the reality of how others might actually perceive you – is that the comeback was what actually set the Landis confession in motion and kept the inquiry relevant and alive. On top of that, and despite the massive attention devoted to the comeback, Armstrong still had the confidence to think he could play the “preparation” game and it would never get out. With everyone else having confessed, and now Bruyneel pulled in on this inquiry (and the speculation about him stepping out of Radio Shack/Trek/Whatever It’s Called already beginning), I’m not sure what options Armstrong has left. I figured that last interview, with the “no more fighting” talk, indicated a strategic non-resistance strategy, leaving Armstrong open to the option of saying “I’ve got this black mark from USADA…but I didn’t even contest that, so it’s a technical rather than substantive smudge on the record”. So, we’ll see what the real strategy is, rather than just the rhetoric, as the process drags on.

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Hydraulic Road Disc Brakes: TRP Hywire Edition

No sooner had I spoken about being behind on the hydraulic brake lever news than another round of information on this TRP system pops up. I guess it is the TRP “Hywire” that will integrate with either Dura-Ace or Ultegra Di2. Bike Rumor – which somewhat out-of-the-blue has become a favorite destination for tech-ish info – has some interesting shots, for instance:

While this is neat to see (as it becomes more production’ish rather than purely proto)….is this not just a brake lever with the Shimano “satellite” Di2 shifters glued on?!

And, from the front:

This last angle is most interesting, for it demonstrates the big advantage I’ve been pointing to in my earlier posts: that is, the more you can pare down specific parts to a single function (or fewer functions), the more refined they can be for that specific function. In this case, the lever here only needs to function for braking (at least in as much as the shift buttons are placed in a reasonable position). No need for the brake lever to also initiate shifts and so forth. And, if the brake lever is really about braking, then why not radically reshape it to maximize ergonomics for braking from the hoods as well as the drops? Not very pretty, I’ll admit, but definitely demonstrates the great potential with this approach.

If you want more shots and information, Bike Radar has also posted an update on the system (including the calipers they have paired with these levers).

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Classics 2012

Classics season never gets old, even if I can’t be bothered to pay much attention to most stage races. How Nico Eeckhout manages to stay in the mix after all these years is beyond me – particularly given he must have the worst muscle tone of any pro:

I’m finding, over the past few years, that PezCyclingNews’ “Roadside” reports provide the perfect combination of behind-the-scenes/art-of-spectating texture with candid pics, and not just from  the “tete de la course”. Most recently, you can see reports from Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Het Nieuwsblad.

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Hydraulic Road Disc Brakes Carnival/Extravaganza/Roundup

You take a few months off from blogging and, damn, stuff changes. So it is with the hydraulic road disc brake world. Many, many developments since my last writing. So many, in fact, that I bet we are in the midst (and will be able to say so with certainty, looking back a year or two from now) of a big upturn/inflection point in the “adoption curve” for disc brakes on road bikes. At this stage, we are really talking about the “acceptance” curve for disc brakes on the road…but, once accepted and understood as reasonable, the actual adoption will likely quickly follow. Particularly, of course, if there is hardware out there in the market and in the pipeline….bringing us to a bit of a roundup:

The first big-name product announcement (well covered, so I’ll skim) in this respect has been SRAM’s update to the Red line. Interestingly, they are bringing out both hydraulic rim and disc calipers. SRAM covered up the shots quickly, but there are plenty of places to still find them online:

(Source: Daily Grind Cycling Journal)

Kind of what you would expect for styling, frankly. Or, it’s hard to imagine how else they are going to fit the reservoir and whatnot in there without a bit bump on top.

Moving away from SRAM, rumors of some non “Big Three” manufacturers moving in on the hydraulic market are materializing. The most recently hyped of these was Magura’s “big” announcement (they at least made a big deal out of it) of an hydraulic rim system. BFD, IMHO. What is more, the Red hydraulic rim calipers look better than the Maguras anyway and will integrate with one of the

More interesting was this talk about some alternative hydraulic disc options…possibly with Di2 integration of some sort.

Well, here it is, apparently. This was a TRP (read more on the link to Bike Rumor) prototype (hence the funky hoods, etc.) but with Di2 buttons:

(Source: BikeRumor)

I still don’t really understand the Di2 hacking techniques (but, check out the crazy tuner forum at Fair Wheel Bikes if you want to learn more), and it seems like some of this is changing with Ultegra vs. Dura Ace, but, as I’ve been saying for a while now, if/once the Di2 “brain” is opened up, just about any option is possible.

In other words, I think the “paradigm” for electronic shifting is still set for a big shift (ha!): thus far all of the thinking (like with Di2) has held to the unquestioned assumption that shifting actuation must be controlled by something that, for all intents and purposes, conforms to the brake/shift model created by Shimano STI back in 1990 (or whenever). That’s what is going on with the TRP prototype. But, how long before those buttons will essentially be a kind of “cut and stick” customized model…in which case you just take any existing hydraulic lever and put the buttons where you want.

So, there we have it with the direct road disc material. But, even in the time spent drafting this little update, new material has rolled in from the North American Handmade Bicycle Show this week (NAHBS 2012) that should get me back to the “bike o’ the future” theme here as well. A couple of hints where this is going: internal gearing and electronic actuation.

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Apologia, Ad Infinitum

Fancy!

Anyhow, just had to get something up here as a placeholder on the BB. Usual excuses for not writing apply as always: work, life, etc. The real thing this semester is that I am teaching a brand new course. This is invigorating in many respects, but it also means you actually have to read everything you’ve assigned! More than once, in fact. Often more than twice! [To be clear: I always read things I’ve assigned. However, once you’ve read things 3-4 times for a standard class, you don’t really have to go back to the text as often or in such depth]

Teaching new stuff is meant, at least in theory, to also invigorate one’s scholarly mind and ambitions as well. Thus far, it has mainly caused me a lot of anxiety. But also fun stuff and challenges. And, then, out of the blue the other day, maybe even some real scholarly invigoration. This will hopefully be the source of a more extended post in the relatively near future (and may become something of a new focus for Bliggity Blog in the coming year) but, here is the gist of it: I am thinking my next “project” or stream of research will focus on handmade bike builders. Basically there are a number of threads that can be pulled through the general domain of handmade builders (markets vs. capitalism, innovation and market niches, production in the “North” of the world-economy) and I am fairly well situated to do it – based on my own knowledge, experience, connections and so forth. I want to do something next that links some of my passions together, and this seems like a cool way to make it work.

In the time since I’ve last blogged we’ve seen a number of very interesting developments in the realm of hydraulic disc road brakes. I’ve been bookmarking and drafting some of that, so I’m aiming for an update on that front.

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