Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hells Angels (sp?) suing Alexander McQueen designer firm for misuse of logo

From Clutch 'n' Chrome, but you can find it anywhere, here's the story. What's next, swastika lingerie?

Today's NY Times Frugal Traveler writes about the original

Mexico or Japan on $5/day? Remember? Here's an interview with the guy who went there and wrote that!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An excerpt from Ben Spies's "diary" on

Ben Spies is World Superbike Champion and rookie of the year in MotoGP, the elite class in motorcycle road racing. A Texan, he trains on a road bicycle and appears to have fallen in love with road cycling. He's a Cat Two rider in Texas, and...

Off the track, I'm starting an amateur/pro cycling team in the States next year. It's all come together pretty well. It's going to have about 12 guys on it. Six under contract, the heavy hitter squad. They'll be the guys that'll go on the road to race. They'll do the USA National Criterium Series, the National Road Race, and some big road races. 

We've got a couple of guys based in Texas, but then a bunch of other guys, too. I'm going to have a Sprinter van and a trailer. I'm working with Specialized; Yamaha is going to be a sponsor; and I've got a couple of other sponsorships that are being finalized. The riders and everything else are pretty well locked down. I'm pretty excited about it. It should be fun. 

I've got one really, really good rider on the team - all the riders are good, but one is going to be more the mentor for the younger kids. Really, it's just a thing for me. I'm into cycling and it's something I can do without spending money - I'm not making money on it, it's a nonprofit deal. Just basically giving some young kids a chance. Once we get all the posters and stuff knocked out and ready for the year, I'll be able to update everyone in the racing world. 

Right now I'm starting off small but really professional. Three years from now, we might have a team that can go to the Tour of California and things like that. But right now, it's just going to start out as a small, amateur/pro team, and work their way up.

Everyone likes and respects Ben Spies. Let's wish him luck and cheer for his guys in 2011 and beyond!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wonderful UK hillclimb audio slideshow

From Owen M to Tena G to me and now to you, the Catford Cycling Club Hillclimb Classic. I resist using the hackneyed word awesome, but if I were gonna use it, I'd use it now. Click right here and enjoy.

Pee-Wee Herman in Sturgis...from Hell for

Is an explanation in order? I think not. Here's the link.

Oh, "potato, potato, potato." That's the (copyrighted) sound of a Harley-Davidson V-twin, just as "chugga-chugga" is the sound of a steam locomotive struggling up a grade.

My friend Larry's Colle delle Finestre story

Written by Larry Theobald, lightly edited by this blogger, here's a fine piece (from the Italian Cycling Journal) about a fabled pass that will be part of 2011's more-demanding-than-ever Giro d'Italia.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cyclist-Pedestrian Wars - I missed this in mid-September

From the NY Times. Did you know that riding the wrong way is called "salmoning?" Worth reading...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

If I told-ya, you wouldn't believe me...

Thanks to William H in Austin for the link, here's an item on a non-cycling site about a remarkable new bike helmet. Well, it's sort-of a helmet. Read the text and watch as much of the video as you can tolerate. Can this succeed?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Health Care and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - from the NY Times

We motorcyclists get SO much bad press - Donorcycles, Hells Angels in the drug business, guys riding on one wheel at 100mph on the Interstate, loud can imagine my delight at reading this piece.

Retired racer Randy Mamola, perhaps the inspiration for this scheme, has been a significant and visible benefactor for African causes, perhaps like Bono. If you have watched MotoGP racing on TV or live, he's the guy who takes VIPs for one- or two-lap rides on an extremely fast Ducati converted to carry two people.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Run whatcha brung at the abandoned velodrome in Detroit!

Bicycles, mopeds, motorcycles and scooters, all racing (not at the same time) on a disused, beatup concrete velodrome in the Motor City. Read the article; watch the Hellforleather video (for sure).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Friend Donald on his classic Schwinn in action in Mexico! Ole!

Here's Donald, photographed on a descent during what was supposed to be a marathon ride from Mexico City, where he lives, and Acapulco. Petty confusion among local bureaucrats shortened the ride and soured his experience, unlike last year, when he was a proud finisher.

Donald's on his old Schwinn Superior, equipped with wooden Ghisallo rims he bought from Ric Hjertberg and built up himself.

Allez, Donald!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Maybe you don't care about cars.

Two years ago I visited my friend Steve M in Muncie, Indiana. He took me to his buddy's house, where we saw three collector Jaguars, all three with racing history. His C-Type was the standout, and would be in any automotive company. What a car!

50 Years On, Jaguar’s Sexy C-Type Still Seduces

The firm that would become Jaguar Cars Limited was founded in 1922 by two young British entrepreneurs, one of whom later would be knighted. In the decades that followed, the company’s fortunes would wax and wane, its fast, sexy cars dogged by issues of quality and public perception.
This wasn’t always the case. In the early 1950s, there was a period when Coventry seemed incapable of failure — when its street machines were strong, quick, and beautiful; its racing cars were gorgeous champions; and its financial well-being was secure. From this period came a handful of legendary cars.
Among them was the Le Mans-winning XK-120C, or C-Type. Just over 50 were built between 1951 and 1953, all intended for competition. They are widely regarded as one of the most beautiful British cars ever made, and even the tattiest example will set you back hundreds of thousands of dollars. Good ones can command millions.
I recently had a chance to ride in a C-Type. My life will never be the same.

A 1948 Jaguar XK-120, the C-Type's predecessor and the car that put Jaguar on the performance map.
Like all great cars, the C-Type has its roots in a good story. In the late 1940s, Jaguar was a solid, moderately successful car company. Its XK-120 roadster, a sleek missile introduced in 1948, had jump-started sales. It offered a remarkable (for the era) top speed of 120 mph — hence the name — and sexy bodywork so refined and futuristic it may as well have fallen from the moon. No manufacturer, domestic or European, offered anything like it.
The Jaguar C-Type of Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt passing under the Dunlop bridge at Le Mans in 1953. The car won the race.
Unsurprisingly, the XK-120 had a knack for winning races. At the 1950 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a near-stock example driven by Leslie Johnson ran as high as third before retiring due to a broken clutch. Johnson’s car wasn’t the only Jaguar in the race — another 120 finished the French classic, albeit in 12th place — but it had been watched closely by two very important men. One of them, William Heynes, was Jaguar’s chief engineer. The other, William Lyons, was Jaguar’s co-founder.
The two men were spurred to action. With little precedent — Heynes once said that, until the ‘50 Le Mans, he had “never seriously contemplated designing a [competition] car” — they decided to go racing. And they decided that they were going to win Le Mans in 1951.
The car is the closest thing we will ever create to something that is alive.  —William Lyons
Starting with little more than an XK-120’s driveline and a clean sheet of paper, Heynes drew a tour de force. The tube-framed pinup that appeared on the Le Mans grid one year later was dubbed the XK-120C, for Competition, or C-Type for short. Three C-Types started the French endurance classic in 1951, and while only one finished, it did so in first place, a whopping 77 miles ahead of the next closest car. Over the next decade, Jaguar would win Le Mans five times.

As racing cars go, the C-Type’s guts were relatively ordinary. The four-speed transmission, independent torsion-bar front suspension, and 3.4-liter, twin-cam straight six were borrowed from the XK-120. The driveline was shoehorned into a tubular steel frame, and everything was cloaked in a Malcom Sayer-designed, hand-beaten aluminum body.
If Sayer’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he would later pen Jaguar’s legendary D-Type, E-Type, XJ-13, and XJ-S. The man had an eye for pretty.
Judicious tuning bumped power from the 120’s 160 hp to around 200 hp — later C-Types would produce as much as 260 — and, free of carpets, a windshield, or other creature comforts, weight dropped to around 2100 pounds.
The C-Type's engine, a 3.4-liter, dual-overhead-cam straight six, was essentially a modified version of the production XK-120 mill. Twin SU carburetors (the two towers at upper right) fed high-lift cams and a Harry Weslake-improved cylinder head.
“It was a big moment. I was just in awe of the C-type when I first stepped into it. The steering was light — almost scary light. It was the first car I ever drove that had a really precise feel about it. It really felt like a racing car.”  –American Formula 1 Champion Phil Hill
The C's elegant nose is one hand-hammered panel. It pivots forward like a clamshell. The svelte grille echoed contemporary Jaguar street cars.
In many ways, the C was a landmark. At a time when companies like Ferrari were attacking the speed problem with ever-rising horsepower and displacement, bludgeoning the wind into submission, Jaguar focused on aerodynamics and reduced drag. The C-Type broke speed records (first car to average over 100 mph at Le Mans, 1953), it marked the first use of disc brakes in competition (1953 again), and, in the hands of privateers, it proved to be one of the most competitive and well-rounded sports-racing cars of the 1950s. It was also the last world-class racer that could truly do double duty. If you had the means and the talent, you could drive your C to any race in the world, compete for the win, and then drive home again.
And it was, lest I repeat myself, so pretty it hurt.
What we have here is not just one of the most beautiful cars ever built. This is one of the most beautiful things ever built. Period, end of sentence. To stand in front of a C-Type and gaze into its undulating curves and fluid, muscular haunches is to gaze at a masterpiece. This is the Mona Lisa’s arched smile, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and the Sistene Chapel rendered in hand-crafted aluminum. It is a study in contradictions: Sexy but brutish, lithe but masculine, simple yet complex. And impossibly, almost heartbreakingly beautiful.
So yes, I got to ride in one. As part of Jag’s 75th  anniversary celebration (the company marks its founding as 1935, the first year the Jaguar name was used on a production vehicle), the cats from Coventry hauled out a few of the cars housed in the nonprofit, state-owned Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust. One of those cars, British registration number NDU 289, was XK-120C chassis 45. On a cloudy day in Gaydon, England, at Jaguar’s proving-ground test track, I sat passenger while a white-haired British man woke the beast.
At a time when the average family sedan struggled to top 80 mph, the Jaguar lapped Le Mans at 100-plus-mph average speeds. Note counterclockwise tachometer.
The starting procedure is simple, essentially like rousing the world’s randiest Camry: Ignition on. Wait for the fuel pump to prime the lines. Foot off the throttle. Push the starter button. Wait for unholy crackling sound to split your brain open. Lather, rinse, and repeat, as time and bank account allow.
The C's cockpit, all bare aluminum and steel tubing. It's narrower (and hotter) than it looks. Photo: Sam Smith/
Here’s the thing about a C-Type’s muffler: It doesn’t exist. A short, stubby pipe pokes out of the car’s left rocker panel, roughly two and a half feet below the passenger’s — all C-Types are right-hand drive — ear, and if it has any muffling baffles in it at all, you wouldn’t know it. When a C lights off, the world goes out of focus. Your ears, bludgeoned by three and a half liters of midcentury British explosion, simply give up and refuse to hear anything else.
“We’re going to have to let it warm up a bit,” shouts my driver. I am not allowed to drive the car myself because A) it is owned by the British people, and I am not one of them, and B) it’s worth more money than I make in ten years. I have no problem with this. We pootle around, careful to not lug the engine, as the coolant warms. I smell leather and leaking oil. Bare aluminum and painted steel tubes fill the cockpit; a short, stubby gear lever pokes out of the center console, and a cereal-bowl-sized tach and speedometer live in front of the driver.  There’s a hole in the floor where I can see the pavement whiz by. We pass a bus stop, gargling and crackling along in third, and two grade-school kids waiting there look at me like I’m wearing a hat made of Margaret Thatcher’s face.

Leaving Jaguar's Gaydon, England proving grounds. Photo: Sam Smith/
“It doesn’t like running slow,” shouts driver. I nod, or maybe just twitch uncontrollably from the noise.
And then he nails it.
For the most part, I don’t remember most of the important moments in my life. I can recall the monumental ones, of course — meeting my wife, the day I got married, and so on — but everything else, from birth to graduation and all other points, eventually fades away. But I will never, ever forget this. At full basso roar, a C-Type Jaguar sounds like hell’s own blender. Each and every cylinder’s firing comes smack out of that rocker pipe and hits you in the chest like an anvil. It’s a cross between Unholy Gatling Gun of God and Who Put Led Zeppelin Turned Up To Eleven in My Nuclear Bomb Test?
On the road. Photo: Sam Smith/
Because my driver is a nice man, a kind man, a gentle man, he does this repeatedly, and I cannot stop grinning. I begin to laugh uncontrollably, the car bounding down the road in manly, angry leaps. We blast past ordinary traffic just to watch soccer (football? cricket?) moms swerve as they get hit with the C’s wash. The trees go all blurry. My driver is unperturbed, but I can’t stop giggling. This might, I think, be the best thing ever.
XKC.045, “my” C-Type, is one of the later production cars, a customer vehicle delivered on April 9th, 1953. It is now painted British racing green, but it was originally red, and unlike the 1953 factory cars, it features drum brakes and SU, not Weber, carburetors. The Italian driver Tadini entered it in the 1953 Mille Miglia but crashed out, and while the damage was repaired, the car has never been restored. As such, it sports a fascinating patina, the kind of well-worn, lived-in look you only find on much-loved old cars.
The Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust bought 045 in 1983. People who should know claim that “runner” C-Types — decent drivers with less-than-perfect cosmetics and no real competition history — can be had for as little as $700,000. This is, in case you needed reminding, more than twice the cost of a nice house in the midwestern United States. For reference, it’s also several hundred thousand dollars more than it would take you to buy many other iconic cars. Original Shelby Cobras, for example.
In light of what you get, it seems like a bargain. Jaguar may never again reach the heights that it hit in its ’50s and ’60s heyday, and just under a million bucks seems like a small price to pay for one of the most amazing crossroads of technology and beauty ever created. Expensive, as it so often is, is relative.
Pardon me while I buy a hundred lotto tickets, sell a kidney or two, and go rob a bank. If there was ever a reason to be rich as hell, the C-Type is it.
The author, stone deaf and deep in the throes of an exhaust-note-inspired freak-out. Photo: Sam Smith/
Photos: Jaguar Cars Ltd., except where noted.
See Also:

A review of a charming book about food, thanks to friend Khal

From the NY Times this past February, a review of Food Rules: An Eater's Manual, by Michael Pollan.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A ride up (and down) the Stelvio...on a (brakeless) fixie

Here's the link. I suppose that by putting this video up on my blog page, I'm suggesting that you watch it. And I guess I am. There's nothing elegant about this video. Watching it makes you wonder why anyone would do it or want to watch it done. The climb is what you'd expect, but the descent...?

How Bad is McDonalds Food, from the Huffington Post

This piece includes a video of a dramatic short ad warning against fast food, a shot directly across McDonalds' bow. The writer asks if the ad is in acceptable taste...or over the top. Here's the last sentence in the article:

You would have to walk for seven hours without stopping to burn off the calories from a Big Mac, a Coke and an order of fries. 

What Columbus Day Really Means

Is it all about the tubing? This piece, from American, never mentions the tubing but defends the holiday if not the man. Interesting stuff, I'd say.

If you scroll down the page, on the left side, you'll see several links to other pieces from American Scholar. I found one of them, Teaching the N-Word, by Emily Bernard, to be wonderfully written and laden with insight. See what you think.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rival NYC Spin Classes - Who'd have believed this?

I don't know that I have anything to add. Check out this NY Times piece, please....

Friday, October 8, 2010

BikeRadar seems skeptical....

...but I can think of a thousand times I'd have given anything for these. Be sure to check out the foot covers.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Let's leave Florida...and go to Italy!

Here's a Guardian (UK) piece about a retro-style bike ride in Italy....on old bikes, in cold clothes and on old unpaved roads. Sound wonderful? I thought so too....

Real progress from Florida...finally!

You'll be relieved to read that after half a dozen cyclists have died in St Petersburg since the end of July (and one in six cyclists killed in the US is killed in Florida)...sound of trumpets...a committee has been formed!

Let the sun shine in!

More sadness from Florida

Friend Khal sent me this newspaper report of not-very encouraging progress at identifying the hit/run driver who killed Neil Smith in St Petersburg.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sad story from Florida

Here, thanks to a heads-up from friend Khal, is a fine piece from the St Petersburg Times/ It's a fine piece but it's a sad piece. Never say I didn't warn you....

Friday, October 1, 2010

Robert Mackey of the NY Times on doping in cycling

Cycling fans wish they'd been to medical school.... Did Alberto Contador dope? Did he transfuse his own blood? Who knows? Will we ever know? Here's a terrific Times piece on the confusion and sadness of it all.