Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Stupid Belgian Fans and Other Observations:

Watching the Three Days of De Panne on Cycling.tv, I noticed that the Belgians still paint “VDB” all over the damn road. Yeah, they’re cheering for Franck Vandenbroucke (Unibet.com). For some reason. I remember watching Liege-Bastogne-Liege from 2003, won by Tyler Hamilton, and painted all over the road was, “VDB, VDB, The King is back!”

No, he’s not. Seriously, guys, it’s over. I’m happy that Vandenbroucke is making another comeback, getting over depression and drug use and whoever knows what else. Sure, he had some decent wins, and you could chalk up his problems once to being a troubled youth. That was when he was a 20-year old whiz kid. That was over 10 years ago.

All right, so he’s Belgian, and the Belgies have been looking for their “next Eddy Merckx” since the Cannibal hung ‘em up.

Um, hello? Guys? You notice the other guy in the race, the tall Belgian with the World Champion’s jersey on? That would be Tom Boonen, of course. Belgian? Check. Winning races? Check.

The King is dead. Long live the king.

Some might say that yours truly spends far too much time ranting about stupid, broken things that people do. So, for today, a realization that is the opposite of a pet peeve: Speedplay is a company that has it all together. I ride Speedplay’s Zero pedal system, and I won’t spend too much time singing that system’s praises for the moment. It’s good, it’s simple, it works. What rocks about Speedplay is the little things. Like the fact that they include a quick-lube grease port on the pedals, so you don’t have to totally disassemble them to service ‘em. The other thing is the thoughtful attention to detail.

It’s vogue, not to mention profitable, for producers of cycling gear to create hierarchies of product lines, in ascending price, theoretically ascending quality, and typically descending weight. Campagnolo does it by inventing some great stuff, calling it Record, bumping last year’s great stuff to be called Chorus, and demoting the previous Chorus into Centaur. Shimano does … well, it does something that makes people pay lots and lots of money for things it labels “Dura-Ace.”

Speedplay numbers their “X” pedal system – X/1 is the best, then X/2, and X/3 got dumped all the way down to X/5. With Zeroes, it’s the metal of the spindle: Titanium, Stainless steel, or Chro-moly steel. They could’ve left it at that – swapping spindle materials, same mold. Instead, they are slightly different: on the axle Chro-moly version, the entry-level pedal, has large, octagonal wrench-flats. One could, and I did, use a standard toolbox 15-millimeter wrench to install and remove them.

I recently picked up some Titanium pedals. At a glance, they’re identical, but upon closer inspection, you’ll notice the Titanium version has very thin wrench flats, round for most of their circumference except in two places. This means that you need a pedal wrench to install them, a tool any decent cycling mechanic will have, but is specific to bike riding. In short, if you’ve bought the pro-level pedal, they assume you’ve got the host of cycling tools to back it up. The entry-level version can be handled by the contents of anyone’s garage.

This is smart. Thanks, Speedplay.

Oh, and the thinner wrench flats means a slightly reduced Q-factor; that is, the cyclists’ feet are closer together, and thus so are his legs, giving him better aerodynamics and increased cornering clearance. The recreational cyclist might appreciate the increased Q-factor of the Chro-moly pedals, which is a bit easier on the knees.

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