Brian’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo Recap

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Our coworker Brian just completed Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in Harrisonburg, VA this weekend. It has a reputation as the toughest ride on the East Coast, and with it’s combination of long distances, steep hills, and gravel, has been known to take even very experienced riders to their limits. Fortunately, Brian finished the gran fondo, and we’re checking in with him to see how it went, what he would do differently, and what advice he has for anyone wanting to attempt it next year.

-Hi Brian. Can you tell us a little bit about how you felt going into the gran fondo?

I felt pretty good going into it, but I think I could do better next year. My fitness was generally pretty good, but not having done it before, I definitely wasn’t ready for how difficult the gravel climbs would be, and they took their toll. I also made some stupid mistakes in the first half of the ride that almost undid me in the second half. Other than that, I felt pretty good on the bike, and was overall just happy to have finished.

-What was your favorite part?

Crossing the finish line to find my amazing girlfriend waiting with a bottle of Clif Recovery drink and a plate of food.

My favorite part of the actual ride was the descent off the first KOM section. Wide open highway, gentle curves, and high speeds. It was really exhilarating, and not something I get to experience too often. You truly get a feeling of flying, and it’s one of the most fun things I think you can do on a bike.

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Riders for the Gran Fondo, Medio, and Piccolo routes all started together

-What was your least favorite part?

I think the two gravel climbs might be physically the hardest thing I’ve done, but the last 20 miles was much more difficult, mentally. Even on a really, really hard climb like Reddish Knob you can still settle into a rhythm—you just accept that you’ll be pedaling until the top and get to work. The last 20 miles however was full of short and steep rollers that were just long enough and steep enough to be very mentally draining after so much saddle time.

-What equipment choices worked well?

I think the Gatorskin Hardshell is  probably the single most impressive piece of cycling equipment I’ve ever used. I hit some rocks (not gravel, straight up rocks) and holes that by all rights should have detonated a clincher tire, yet I never flatted the entire ride.

The compact was also a great choice. No, actually, it was the only choice. After the first road climb I thought maybe I should have gone with a 52/36 chainring combo instead of a 50/34. After the first gravel climb though, I realized I never would have gotten up it with a 36.

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The route passed through some beautiful Amish country

 

-What equipment would you change next year?

-I think next year I would definitely ride a cyclocross bike or an endurance road bike. Something like the GT Grade or a Fuji Altamira CX with bigger tire clearance, disc brakes and a lighter weight would have been perfect.

-25mm tires were fine, but next year I’m definitely going with 28mm or 30mm tires

-Lighter wheels. My winter wheels were chosen for their durability, but it didn’t take long before I started feeling the 2150g weight. Having seen the course, I would feel more comfortable using a carbon wheel next year.

- I’ll probably consider using a mid-cage SRAM WiFli rear derailleur with an 11-32 cassette instead of an 11-27, just to get that extra bail out gear.

 

-Would you do it again?

After I crossed the finish line I swore I would never do it again. But I woke up on Monday morning thinking about how I would train and set up my bike differently next time. So I guess the answer is yes, I will probably be on the start line next year.

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Crossing the finish line is usually the high point of the day for the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo

-Any advice for someone thinking about doing it next year?

-Spend as much time climbing as you can! I didn’t this year, and I definitely paid for it. Not immediately, but later in the ride.

-Take full advantage of all the aid stations. I didn’t spend much time at the first two, only stopping to fill up on fluids and that was a big mistake which I blame on race day excitement. I should have stayed a few minutes longer to eat real food and stretch, but instead I ended up bonking around mile 60 and really suffering up Reddish Knob and the last part of the ride.

-Don’t take the “pro pee break” at mile 15. The only people who will stop are the pro’s and super strong riders, so you’ll find yourself alone very quickly, with nobody to pace up the climb.

-Run the widest tires your bike will fit, and make sure you have new brake pads on your bike

-Don’t start all loaded down with your own food. The aid stations are really well stocked, and had Honey Stinger gels and mini Clif Bars you could take with you. I would recommend just having 1 or 2 gels in your pocket at the start, just in case, and then loading up at the aid stations.

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Jeremiah Bishop won. Again. You really can’t put a price on home road advantage.

Performance Visits The Telenet-Fidea Service Course

CX star Nils, team manager Karen, and team owner Hans

CX star Niels Wubben, team manager Karen, and team owner Hans

During our visit to Belgium earlier this year, we got to take a trip to the Telenet-Fidea pro cyclocross team service course with the guys from Ridley. It was by far probably the most interesting experience we had in Belgium.

Let’s start by saying ‘cross is to Beligum what football is to America. The country goes crazy for some CX racing, and and Telenet-Fidea is one of the most popular teams in Belgium, and has consistently generated some of the sport’s biggest stars, as well as National and World Champions.

Telenet-Fidea is own by a guy named Hans, and Hans is a total boss. Not only did he spend over an hour discussing everything from his opinion of American food to who the next CX champ is going to be, but he also gave us a personal tour of the service course.

Hans owns an asbestos removal business, and runs the Telenet team out of the same office. The office garage is divided into two parts: one holds all the asbestos removal supplies, trucks and so one; the other houses the Telenet-Fidea team service course, Hans’s huge collection of cycling memorabilia, his motorcycle collectibles, and his Ferrari. Yes, you read that correctly. While we were there Niels Wubben just kind of showed up to hang out for a bit, we saw plenty of bikes, and Hans gave us some awesome yellow TF Team mittens.

So, without further ado, we present The Performance Visit To The Telenet-Fidea Service Course.

 

FIND A GREAT SELECTION OF RIDLEY BIKES FOR ROAD OR ‘CROSS

 

 THE SERVICE COURSE

It’s amazing what fits into a garage in an office park. Aside from all the equipment of a home-improvement business, there’s also plenty of bikes, wheels, clothing and equipment.

 

HANS’S COOL STUFF

As if having a service course in your garage isn’t cool enough, Hans has gone one step further and transformed it into the ultimate man-cave. Complete with Ferrari.

 

PAYING THE BILLS

Owning a cycling team is expensive. Hans pays the bills by removing asbestos.

 

FIND A GREAT SELECTION OF RIDLEY BIKES FOR ROAD OR ‘CROSS

 

See more about our trip to Belgium Here

Eddie’s 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race Prep

Eddy and his steed

Eddie and his steed

This fall some of our home office employees will be pushing their cycling skills to the limit. The first up is Eddie, a data analyst in our marketing department. Eddie is superfast on a mountain bike (or really just any kind of bike), and has been orienting his training and riding all year around completing the Shenandoah Mountain 100 bike race this coming coming weekend.

Course profile for The Shenandoah Mountain 100 bike race

Course profile for The Shenandoah Mountain 100 bike race

The ride starts in Harrisonburg, VA (where another employee will attempt another big ride later in September). Shenandoah is one of the toughest mountain bike races on the East Coast. Covering a mix of dirt, trail, gravel and pavement, the Shenandoah 100 features a massive amount of climbing, tough terrain, and plenty of challenges.

Unfortunately for Eddie, nobody else in our office has done this ride before, so he’s had to figure out how to equip and provision himself on his own. We think he’s got it pretty well dialed in though.

Check out what he’ll be using for the ride.

 

The Bike

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Eddie’s heavily customized Diamondback Overdrive Carbon Expert is race ready and looking good

 

Frame:

Diamondback Overdrive Carbon Expert

Probably my favorite bike that I own, it is a super lightweight carbon hardtail with 29” wheels. It is an excellent cross country bike, light enough for both long climbs and nimble enough for fast, technical descents.

Eddy has certainly put the Overdrive Carbon Expert through it's paces

Eddie has certainly put the Overdrive Carbon Expert through it’s paces

Components/Drivetrain:

Shimano XT brakes and drivetrain with Race Face Next SL crank

Shimano’s XT disc brakes provide firm, consistent stopping power, even in wet conditions and XT drivetrain gives durable, consistent shifting. The clutch derailleur ensures that the chain will stay on even through the roughest descents. The Next SL crankset is light and strong, perfect for a light cross country race bike.

Shimano XT hydraulic brakes and 1x10 drivetrain

Shimano XT hydraulic brakes and 1×10 drivetrain

Raceface Next SL crank with Raceface Narrow Wide chainring

Raceface Next SL crank with Raceface Narrow Wide chainring

Gearing:

1×10 setup: 36 tooth Race Face Narrow/Wide chainring, 11-34 cassette with e*thirteen 40 tooth extended range cog

I swapped out the 17 tooth cog on my XT cassette for a 40 tooth e*thirteen extended range cog to widen my range of gears for both going up and down.

The e*thriteen 40T extended range cog should give Eddy plenty of gearing for the steepest parts of the course

The e*thriteen 40T extended range cog should give Eddie plenty of gearing for the steepest parts of the course

Wheels:

Easton EA70

These are great wheels. They are durable, light, and will provide plenty of comfort over the 100 mile ride.

Tires:

Schwalbe Racing Ralph Tubeless with Snake Skin protection, (2.35” front, 2.25” rear)

I’ll be putting on some fresh rubber for the race and Racing Ralphs are really the only XC tires that I run. They are light, fast, and provide plenty of traction through corners. The wider 2.35” front provides more traction in the corners and the thinner 2.25” rear helps reduce rolling resistance. The snakeskin provides extra protection for the back country trails at a minimal weight penalty. I run them tubeless with 19 PSI in the front and 20 PSI in the rear.

Easton EA70 wheels are a good mix of durability and light weight. The Racing Ralph tires provide plenty of traction.

Easton EA70 wheels are a good mix of durability and light weight. The Racing Ralph tires provide plenty of traction.

EQUIPMENT

Shoes:

Giro Privateer

They aren’t the lightest or the stiffest cross country race shoes, but they are incredibly comfortable and on a 100 mile race, comfort is king. They also provide enough traction for any sections, such as creeks or steep, wet switchbacks where walking is the best option.

The Giro Privateer provides all-day comfort on the bike...and while walking

The Giro Privateer provides all-day comfort on the bike…and while walking

Socks:

DeFeet Wooleator

For a 100 mile MTB race, wool socks are the only option. With creek crossings, possible rain, and sticky heat, the Wooleators will keep my feet dry and cool. I’m planning to pack a second pair in case I need to swap at the midway point.

DeFeet Wooleater socks will dry quickly and help prevent hot spots

DeFeet Wooleater socks will dry quickly and help prevent hot spots

Kit:

Pearl Izumi Elite Team – Performance Exclusive

This is easily the most comfortable kit I own, and as with shoes, comfort is king. The Performance Bike logos will also let me rep my team colors throughout the race.

Comfortable, breathable, and reps the team colors

Comfortable, breathable, and reps the team colors

Helmet:

Lazer Z1

Lightweight, comfortable and super ventilated, this helmet was made for climbing…so it should be in its element out there.

The Z1 is one of the best new helmets out there. To find out more, check out our review below.

The Z1 is one of the best new helmets out there. To find out more, check out our review below.

Read our review of the Z1 here

Sunglasses:

Scattante Exhale – with Clear Lenses

The glasses are super comfortable and the clear lenses provide plenty of trail visibility, even in rainy conditions. They also store comfortably in my helmet in case I decide to ride without them.

The Scattante Exhale glasses come with multiple lenses to suit your needs

The Scattante Exhale glasses come with multiple lenses to suit your needs

Tools:

-2 tubes

-Spin Doctor Rescue 16 Multi Tool

- Minipump

- Garmin Edge 810 GPS

The biggest concern will be flats, even with plenty of Stan’s Tire Sealant in my tires, so I’m packing two spare tubes. My Spin Doctor Rescue 16 provides all the tools I need for trail-side repairs including a chain breaker and hex wrenches ranging from 2mm to 8mm. The Garmin will help with pacing and planning as I’ll be able to see my distance and average speed throughout the race.

The Spin Doctor Rescue 16 tool has pretty much everything you need to get out of a jam

The Spin Doctor Rescue 16 tool has pretty much everything you need to get out of a jam

Food:

- Peanut butter, banana, bacon sandwich

- 2 sleeves caffeinated Clif Shot Bloks

- 1 Kramp Krusher salt chews

- 1 bottle of plain water

- 1 Bottle Water with Hammer Gel (2 parts water, 1 part Hammer Gel)

This will be my on-the bike food for the first 40 miles, but the course includes 6 aid stations stocked with plenty of food and water, so I’ll be able to restock and refuel throughout the race.

Mixed with water, Hammer Gel gives you all the energy you need for a long day in the saddle

Mixed with water, Hammer Gel gives you all the energy you need for a long day in the saddle

Drop Bags:

The race allows two one gallon zip lock drop bags to be sent to any checkpoints on the course. I’m going to go with just one, sent to the 75 mile station. The coffee will give me the extra kick I need to push through the last 25 miles. In case it rains, I want to be able to swap out for dry socks and gloves. Also, no one is allowed past the 75 mile mark after 4:20 PM unless they have lights, so just in case I’m running behind schedule, I’ll have a lightweight, super bright light to help see the course.

Poc Index Flow gloves will help give Eddy's hands and arms some relief after 75 miles of hard riding

Poc Index Flow gloves will help give Eddie’s hands and arms some relief after 75 miles of hard riding

 

Ridley In Yellow

Tony Gallopin's custom painted Ridley Helium SL celebrates his wearing of the Yellow Leaders Jersey

Tony Gallopin’s custom painted Ridley Helium SL celebrates his wearing of the Yellow Leaders Jersey

On behalf of Performance Bicycle, we’d like to congratulate Tony Gallopin and the entire Lotto-Belisol team for capturing the Yellow Jersey at the Tour de France yesterday. After a hard day of riding, Gallopin was able to take the overall lead of the race from Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Few professional riders will ever have the honor to earn the Yellow leader’s jersey at The Tour, and Gallopin definitely earned it with an amazing ride that saw him finish over 8 minutes ahead of most of the other riders.

It’s a huge accomplishment, and a career-defining moment for Gallopin.

To honor the occasion, Ridley painted up a special bike for Tony. Joachim Aerts, founder and CEO of Ridley, came into the office late on Sunday to personally select, prep, and paint a Ridley Helium SL in Ridley‘s new “retro” paint scheme.. They worked fast, and managed to hand-deliver the bike to the team to be built up for the start of the next stage of the race today (Monday, 14 July).

Check out his new bike below.

Shop for Bikes of the Tour

Shop for Bikes of the Tour

Want to learn more? Check out our articles below.

Ride Inspiration

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A few weeks ago we gave our Facebook fans the chance to win a great Bike to Work Day package by telling us what inspired them to ride.

While the winners have already been notified, we were overwhelmed by the responses we got. Everyone gave us some great reasons for riding, but a few of our favorites really inspired us to get out and ride ourselves. From a wish to be healthier, to the freedom of the ride, to rediscovering your inner child, we hope you find your fellow cyclist’s thoughts as great as we do.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and if you haven’t already, go ahead and like us on Facebook to keep up on the latest at Performance, and the chance to enter for more great give-aways.

Check out some of our favorite comments…

Karen H.

I ride my bike to work every day. I am a much happier person when I ride… Burn of stress, have a little quiet time. I feel like I know a secret that other people are completely missing out on!

Matt B.

I love the freedom of a bike and being to get away from the world for a few hours.  Everything looks different from a bike.

Mike P.

It’s just me, the bike, my thoughts and the road.

Jackie V.

For exercise and fresh air. It’s a fun way to switch things up

Kevin P.

Built in triathlon training. .outdoors. .save gas..wind in my face..destress time..justify bike cost..health..exciting roads alongside deer..

Bill J.

My 3 year old yelling “go daddy go” from the Burley behind me.

Scott W.

Freedom and peace of mind on the open road!

Bob K.

Because it makes me feel like I’m still 12.

Steven T.

Peter Sagan inspires me to ride; ripped calves inspire me to ride; the feeling of fresh air rushing in my lungs; the feeling of flying when I’m on a mountain descent; and reducing my carbon footprint on bike to work day. Biking = Inspiration!

Darren D.

My wife, kids, and career as a firefighter.  Riding keeps me fit so I can do my job and make it home to my family.

John B.

Joy of being under my own power,  and for my health.

Jane B.

Adventure!  You never know what is around the corner!

Terry K.

The burn

Raymond J.

My kids get a chance to see their dad workings towards living healthier….plus there isn’t much better then riding a trail you’ve never been on what an adventure

Jennifer B.

My Husband!  I started riding for Bike MS as he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis

Carl S.

My 9 year old son wants to ride every day with me and its great for inspiration.

Jason R.

To be healthier after beating cancer twice.

Read all the entries here

 

 

Ridley Factory Tour

ridley_officeOne of the many highlights of our trip to Belgium was an opportunity to visit the Ridley Factory.

The cool thing about Ridley, and what really sets them apart from the crowd, is the fact that many of their frames are finished by hand in Belgium. The final frame prep, painting, clear coat, and assembly are all done by a small team at Ridley’s facility in Hasselt, near the heart of Flemish cycling.

We got to see the whole process from start to finish, and it was definitely pretty cool. The best part though was getting to check out all the eye candy at the end :).

Check out the photo galleries below to see more

Frame Prep

Painting and Decals

Clear Coat

Assembly

Eye Candy

Hear more from Ridley Founder Joachim Aerts

 

See more about our trip to Belgium Here

Performance Visits The Paterberg

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This is going to hurt. At over 22% in places and entirely cobbled, the Paterberg is one of the toughest climbs in cycling

Sadly, cycling’s heroic cobbled classics races are now over for the year. Always one of the high points of the season, we were very fortunate to get to see one live this year. While in Belgium, our hosts, Ridley Bicycles, generously arranged for us to to be able to see the Ronde van Vlaanderen from the slopes of the Paterberg– a once in a lifetime chance we won’t soon forget.

Flemish cartpet

Flemish carpet

While only paved and added to the Ronde in 1986, the Paterberg has already achieved legendary status in cycling. This small hill– only about 260 feet tall and rising innocuously out of the Flemish countryside– seems insignificant when compared to giants like the Alpe d’Huez or the Angliru, but the Paterberg is a small monster in its own right: blowing apart races, ripping apart chains, and sometimes forcing even the hardest of the hardmen to dismount and walk.

We climbed the Paterberg as part of the Ronde van Vlaanderen Cyclo ride the day before the actual pro race, and it was every bit as difficult as it looks. Rising steeply at a pitch of nearly 13% and at times maxing out at a leg searing gradient in excess of 20%, all of it cobbled, the Paterberg is truly in a class with few equals. The hill is a devil to climb, with a grade that makes your breath scrape in your lungs and cobbles that don’t lightly forgive the rider who loses his focus, but it offers unparalleled rewards. At the top, you find yourself in a broad meadow covered in tall, waving grasses. Looking out from the Paterberg’s summit you take in a vista of rolling Flemish farm country, often viewed under the shifting light from racing clouds. Sheep and cattle graze in lush green fields that have been farmed for thousands of years.

A view of the race is open to all...provided you get there early enough

A view of the race is open to all…provided you get there early enough

Climbed twice in the race’s finale, the Paterberg is often the scene of an attack that detonates the race and truly separates the weak from the strong. And seeing that the Paterberg’s second ascent is also the final climb before the finish, it’s definitely where we wanted to be to witness what’s frequently the race’s deciding move.

When we got to the Paterberg, it was like arriving in cycling heaven. In a pasture field alongside the narrow road, hundreds of Belgian, Dutch, British and French cycling fans milled around, watching a giant outdoor video screen, waiting for the race to come through. The Lion of Flanders, the iconic yellow flag with a black lion that has been a symbol of northern Belgium for centuries, was on display everywhere. Lotto-Belisol and Omega-Pharma-Quickstep supporters waved small flags, and everyone wore the cycling cap or jersey of their favorite team. Nearby, a small stand was set up to sell Jupiler beer—a staple of Belgian cycling events, and another to sell frites in wax paper cones. Small children wandered around waving multiple Flanders flags and chanting “Tommke! Tommke! Tommke!” (Tom Boonen, the hometown favorite).

These guys have probably been enjoying Jupiler and frites on the Paterberg since way back

These guys have probably been enjoying Jupiler and frites on the Paterberg since way back

We settled into a decent spot where we could see both the screen and still be close enough to the road to get a good spot when the race came through. We could always tell where it was by watching the hovering helicopters covering the race. The closer the race got, the more crowded the hill became and the more the energy built.

Belgium is a country with cycling close to its heart. It’s difficult to explain how deeply two wheels run in Belgian culture– but these guys grow up riding, spend their autumn watching ‘cross, and come out by the millions to watch the Ronde. By the time the women’s race came around, the crowd was already pretty fired up, and cheered loudly as the first riders charged up the hill. One of the last riders in the group, a rider from Estado de México-Faren Kuota, broke her chain and was forced to walk. The crowd began to chant “Give her a bike! Give her a bike!” as team car after team car drove past.

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Riders in the women’s race are cheered on up the Paterberg

Several hours later when the men’s race came by, the crowd was in full-on party mode. As Tom Boonen came charging in with a group including Fabian Cancellara, Peter Sagan and other favorites, the crowd rushed to the barricades, cheering for their hometown hero. The biggest show of support, though, was for a virtually unknown Cofidis domestique. His rear derailleur broke less than half way up the hill. With no team car in sight to get a new bike, he was forced to sit by the side of the road. By the time his car got to him, the rest of the peloton was far out of sight. At this point in the race, there would have been no shame in stopping. The Cofidis team was completely out of contention, and what remained was over an hour of brutal cobbled hills and roads with terrible headwinds, all of which he would have to ride alone. When his team car finally showed up, instead of getting inside he pulled a fresh bike off the roof, got back on and started pedaling. The crowd went nuts. Belgians love this kind of stuff. The guy who doesn’t give up, who keeps on going even when there’s no hope of winning.

The crowd loved this rider for not giving up, even when the race was lost

The crowd loved this rider for not giving up, even when the race was lost (he’s waiting for a new bike)

After watching Mr. Cofidis get to the top, everyone moved back into position at either the Jupiler tent or in front of the big TV screen. Shortly after the first run up the Paterberg, Boonen found himself flailing and out of contention. At this point crowd allegiances switched to everyone’s favorite adopted Belgian, Fabian Cancellara. This subtle but quick shift didn’t seem to particularly bother anyone, so we just rolled with it too. When the race came around to the Paterberg the second time, the crowd rushed to the rails to watch Cancellara and Sep Vanmarck duel it out on the climb, trying to chase down a breakaway, then immediately proceeded to ignore the rest of the peloton and  ran back to the video monitor.

In the closing kilometers, the crowd packed in tighter and tighter to watch. People cheered on their favorite riders in a cacophony languages, and the crowd took on a collective energy that felt almost overwhelming. It was without a doubt the most intense excitement we’ve ever felt during a bike race. In the final meters, as the race came down to a match sprint, the crowd roared and the tension built. When Cancellara finally edged out Greg Van Avermaet for the win, it felt like a wave finally broke over us, the tension released with a huge rush of cheers.

Fans of Swiss rider (and eventual winner) Fabian Cancellara were out in force

Fans of Swiss rider (and eventual winner) Fabian Cancellara were out in force

Walking back down to the car, we stepped over discarded paper Lion of Flanders flags, crushed Jupiler cans and lost Lotto-Belisol team caps. The dust from the race still hung heavy in the air over the cobbled roads. The people we passed seemed subdued, spent somehow from the excitement of watching the race. In the absence of the cheering crowds, the Flemish countryside seemed oddly quiet and empty. To watch  live and in person that we’d seen so many times on TV was an experience that would take us a long time to really full comprehend. The riders go so fast, and the race is so frenetic, that it’s not until long after the riders have passed that it sinks in what you’ve just seen. But it’s not something we’re ever likely to forget.

A Visit To The Lotto-Belisol Service Course

Last week we were fortunate enough to have an opportunity to visit the Lotto-Belisol team service course in Belgium. It was only a few days before the Tour of Flanders (Flemish: Ronde van Vlaanderen) and Tour of the Basque Country (Spanish: Pais Vasco; Basque: Euskal Iztulia) so the place was pretty cleared out, but Chris, one of the team mechanics was there, and was nice enough to take the time to show us around.

Lotto-Belisol is a strongly Belgian team, so of course they ride Ridley bikes. Most of the bikes were gone to either Oudenaarde or Bilbao for the races, but we did get to see some pretty cool stuff there, with plenty of eye candy for the bike geek in everyone.

Beyond Andre Greipel’s distinctive Gorilla bike, Adam Hansen’s Helium SL with a set up no bike fitter would ever recommend (but hey, it works for him), and plenty of Dean FAST time trial bikes, we saw the new custom-built Ridley X-Night cyclocross bikes the team will be riding at the 2014 Paris-Roubaix (April 13, 2014). For most classics races, the team opts for the Ridley Fenix, which is more than equal to the cobbles found in Belgium and the Netherlands, but the cobbles of Northern France require a more specialized machine.

Check out this video tour of the Lotto Belisol team bus by CyclingTips, with Adam Hansen as the guide, for a better look around their home away from home on the road:

Paris Roubaix Special Edition Ridley X-Nights

Special Paris Roubaix edition Ridley X-Night bikes

Special Paris Roubaix edition Ridley X-Night bikes

According to Dirk, the Ridley product manager, all of the frames are stock off-the-shelf Ridley X-Night’s– like all the rest of the Ridley bikes the team races. The only change made to the frames was the front derailleur hanger was mounted slightly higher to allow for a 53T chainring, instead of the usual 46T chainring used in cyclocross.

The bikes were also specially spec’ed to handle the rougher cobbles of Roubaix. Instead of the standard Campagnolo Super Record 11 EPS electronic groupsets and deep-section carbon fiber Campagnolo Bora Ultra wheels the riders usually use, the Ridley X-Night bikes were built up with the just released mechanical Campagnolo Super Record RS groupset and lower-profile Campagnolo Hyperion wheels with specially-made Continental tires, with a unique tread profile and casing that can handle the tough cobbled sections. Instead of the usual cyclocross cantilever brakes, the team opted for TRP Mini-V brakes, which offer more powerful stopping and better cable pull with road levers.

For those of you who are already salivating in anticipation, don’t worry. The Ridley X-Night frameset will be available from Performance Bicycle later this year.

Before the Tour of Flanders, we visited with the Lotto Belisol team mechanics at the team hotel as they were getting the bikes and team cars prepped for the big race. If you thought that the team mechanics kept everything organized and tidy in the service course, that was nothing compared to how diligently they worked while on the road, on their bus and mechanic’s truck.

2013 Year in Review – From Cyclocross Worlds to How to Climb

While we’re already looking ahead at 2014, but as we close out 2013 we wanted to take a moment to look back at some of the best stories and posts that we’ve shared throughout the year – we’ve got even more planned for the coming year, so stay tuned!

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Real Advice: Commuting by Bike

Our coworker Aaron’s story of his 20 mile commute struck a chord with many of you out there – check out the comments for tales from fellow commuters.

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Fuji Pro Bikes at the 2013 Amgen Tour of California

In May we were lucky enough to catch a few stages of the Tour of California, where we got an up-close look at 2 very different professional rider’s Fuji bikes.

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Event Recap: 2013 UCI Cyclo-Cross Worlds

Of course we weren’t going to miss seeing the very first Cyclocross World Championship held on US soil – we summed up the craziness in this post from a very chilly and wet Louisville, Kentucky.

chris_peru_creek

Cycling First Aid Essentials – What to Pack

We don’t like to think about, but riding bikes means that sometimes we’re going to crash. Our first aid essentials for cyclists post covers the basics of what to carry to be prepared.

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Our Take: 10-Speed vs. 11-Speed

If there’s one post that generated much heated discussion, it was definitely our take on the 10 vs. 11-speed debate – you might be surprised by what we have to say!

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Real Advice: How to Lock Your Bike

There aren’t many worse feelings than having a bike stolen – our Real Advice column breaks down a robust locking strategy to make sure that it won’t happen to you next time.

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Real Advice: An Intro to Climbing

If there’s one thing that most of us would like to do better, it’s learning how to improve our climbing skill – it turns out that it’s not as hard as you think.

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Real Advice: Weight Loss

One of the great side effects of a love for cycling is being able to maintain a healthy weight – but another one of our Real Advice posts covered some straightforward tactics to help you keep the pounds off.

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Real Advice: Wheels

Another great conundrum of cycling – what upgrade provides the best bang for the buck? It’s no secret – we think that it’s all about the wheels.

The Scattante CFR Race

Product Profiles: The Scattante CFR LE and Scattante CFR Race

Finally, we profiled some great gear this year as well – including the latest iteration of our always popular Scattante line of road bikes.

Cycling Stories: Winter Riding

It’s no exaggeration to say that every fiber of my being rebelled at the idea of getting out of bed. It was cold in our barely-insulated farm house in rural North Carolina. Hoarfrost coated the window panes, and thin grey morning light dimly illuminated the bedroom. Under the down comforter it was snug and warm. But I know I should get up. As I shifted to slide out from the covers, my wife threw a warm arm over me and sleepily said “you don’t have to get up…just ten more minutes”. I was sorely tempted, and if you asked me why I would want to get out of a warm bed at 6.30 AM on a Saturday morning to go ride a bike outside, I couldn’t answer. I would have shrugged and said “I love the ride.”

The shock of the cold air hit me, I wrapped up in my robe and shuffled out to the dark kitchen. I put the kettle on to boil, ground some coffee for the French press and switched the space heater on. A few minutes later, I was sipping on a cup of coffee, eating some oatmeal, and thinking about the ride ahead. ‘Should I do the long route or the short route? Should I stop for lunch? Do I really feel up to climbing today?’

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The weather app on my phone said it was 23 degree outside. I checked the other app, which promised 24 degrees. The high would be 37 with 10 mph winds. I finished my breakfast and began getting ready. I laid my clothing and equipment out. I took some things out, added other things in. Eventually I was satisfied. I would be gone for at least five hours, and needed to be ready.

Thick wool socks, bib shorts, sleeveless wool baselayer, long sleeve wool baselayer, WindStopper tights, softshell jacket, wool neck warmer, skull cap, merino wool glove liners, heavy insulated gloves, cycling shoes, and shoe covers.

Into my pockets I shoved my phone, some cash and cards, a few gel packets, a set of lights, a spare set of liner gloves, a spare skull cap, and spare sleeveless baselayer.

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Winter is the season for LSD (long steady distance) riding, and this ride wasn’t going to be an exception. I left the full carbon race bike on the rack and pulled down the rain bike, the one with the metal frame, nice relaxed geometry, compact crank, and alloy wheels. I filled up two bottles, put my Garmin in its mount and checked the saddlebag contents, ensuring I would have all the tools necessary.

The moment I stepped outside it hit me like a slap in the face. 23 seems like just a number, but this was a real, physical thing. Again, I felt half tempted to just forget it. To go back inside, remove all these layers and get back into bed like any sane, rational person. But I did’t. I would miss the ride. I headed onto the road, and instantly felt chilled. The muscles took forever to warm up. There was no hurry, no need to push it. All I have to do is pedal. I felt the deep peace I always feel on the road begin to wash over me, and I began to settle into the rhythm of the ride. As I crossed the bridge over the lake, my mind cleared of all the work worries I’d carried with me into the weekend, the worries about budgeting for the holidays. This was my time to sink into myself and let my mind quiet for a few hours, and the cold only intensified the feeling.

There is a certain beauty to riding in the winter. Anyone can get up and ride on a sunny 80 degree day, but it takes fortitude to get out and ride when you don’t want to. You will be cold, you will suffer like a dog, and you will at times question why you do this. But, like anything else, the joy is found in the small things. A warm coffee shop. The empty roads. A beautiful vista, a hot meal, the feeling of flying when you find a nice straight stretch of road behind you with the wind at your back all take on a new significance that will stay with you for the rest of the day. And believe me, home has never seemed so inviting as when you pull up in the fading, cold evening light to see the windows lit, throwing warm, welcoming streaks of light on the snow.

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30 miles later, I hit one of my favorite stretches of road. I was riding into the headwind, and was working hard, every turn of the cranks feeling like an immense effort. But I didn’t care. I crested a hill, and it came into view. It’s an area where the usual dense pine forest opens up into empty farm country. At these higher elevations bits of snow still clung to the side of the road, and stuck to shadowy spots. The fields were barren and covered in frost. The roads were empty. In the distance across the fields smoke rose from the chimney of a farm house, ascending into a leaden sky. I could smell the faint scent of wood smoke on the air. Something about this sight makes my breath catch in my chest. At the bottom of the hill, I pulled over, and watched an unkindness of ravens peck with purpose at the fallow fields around the house, until for reasons unknown to me they rose and took to the air, indistinct black shapes wheeled higher and higher. I watched them until the cold became too much. These are moments you never have in a car. You might catch a glimpse, but you don’t experience it the same way, and much is lost.

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At 45 miles, I passed through town, the half way mark. By then I was thoroughly damp and chilled, and I couldn’t wait to get to the coffee shop. Smells carry further on the cold, dry air, and the smell of roasted coffee beans was never so delicious. I leaned my bike against the window, noting the other bikes there. Two were familiar, one was not. I walked in, nodded hello to the other cyclists, asked them about their rides. I ordered a coffee and a cookie, and refilled my bottles. At my table, I piled up my helmet, gloves, and neck warmer, then headed to the bathroom, where I changed into my dry baselayer. Back at my table I hung my soaked liner gloves, baselayer and skullcap on the back of the chair to dry. My first sip of coffee was beyond delicious. The chocolaty smell, the deep rich taste, and the warmth suffusing through me. It was a small cup of heaven, and I prolonged it as long as I could. I sat back, took a bite of cookie, and relished in the feeling of being warm. Finally though, cookie and coffee done, it was time to go. I pulled on my spare cap and gloves, helmet and glasses, repacked my pockets, and headed back out into the cold.

As I remounted my bike, I wondered again why I do this. For a split second I contemplated making The Call.  The cold, the suffering in the wind, the long day spent away from home, is it worth it? It doesn’t matter, not really. I pedaled through the intersection and began the long climb out of town. Soon, I reached the place again where where all the worry disappeared and I found my rhythm again. I left the outskirts of town, and the wind gusted. My thoughts turned to warm soup, a cold beer, and the indescribable pleasure of my legs turning in circles. I pulled my neck warmer up to my nose and the brim of my cap down a little further.

I’m out here for the ride. It need only be as simple as that.

Sometimes it's looking forward to simple things that keep you motivated.

Sometimes it’s looking forward to simple things that keep you motivated.

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