Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bike lights for pedestrians.

Man, this happened to me on my way back from work, Monday. I chose not to ride that day, but now I believe I would've been safer riding. It was dark, raining hard, as I waited for the crosswalk light to change... The light changed for me to walk and I stepped off the curb and proceeded to cross the street. I watched as a car from the oncoming traffic approached and signaled for a right hand turn. At this time I'm past halfway through the intersection when, though and behold, he doesn't see me crossing and almost runs me over!  Yikes, although I was wearing a dark jacket, I was equipped with a rather large RED umbrella!  The driver had a surprise/dumb look on his face as he slowed down... probably to put his heart back into his chest.




Now, if I wore my flashing bike lights he would've actually see me and stop!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Watercarriers and other refreshments.

As much as I admire the stars of a cycling team, I have a keen respect for the watercarriers! I regard these riders in high esteem for their tireless efforts and ensuring a long standing custom.
Traditionally, cycle racing is steeped in old fashion virtues; bravery, stamina, sacrifice, courage, honor, and pride. In the hey days of the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France, it wasn't unusual for rider's to drink, along with water, wine, beer, port, and cognac. In fact, roadside spectators often handed riders champagne, widely believe to be an effective stimulant. One of the most popular tonics was "le vin Mariani", which combined with wine and coca leaves was even recommended by the medical establishment including the French Academy of Medicine! I'm surprised that most riders didn't develop Cirrhosis of the liver. Topettes or hip flasks were also used to conceal these medicinal drinks and conveniently hidden in jersey pockets. In the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France, tradition dictated supporting riders would fetch refreshments for their star's from no other than, small cafe's and inn's! Riders would rush into cafes and take as many cold drinks as one could carry. Cafe owners considered it an honor to have their stock pillaged. Since next day they sent a bill to the race organisers, asking for compensation. Riders packed their jerseys full with bottle's of Coca Cola, fruit juice, carbonated water, and yes even beer as they rush back to the peloton to their thirsty leaders! Imagine the sheer weight of liquid and glass as you have to drag it back to the pack! The ingenious ones would carry a bottle opener attached to a cord around their neck! Thus the name, "watercarriers." In fact, it was  against the rules to obtain drinks except at the designated cafes. Often, riders would break this rule and be penalized with fines.

This charming tradition of the Giro and the Tour introduced the watercarrier as not only a good cyclist, but best of all... valuable at supplying water and other refreshments!

All three images from www.wooljersey.com

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fritz and his collezione


With the help of my friend Hans, I was introduced to a rather unique fellow, Fritz. I never ask his last name but, what's important is what I witnessed. When we drove over to his home, he welcome us by opening his garage door and I entered through a portal to a fantastic museum of bicycle history! By sheer volume, it should be housed in a museum, but it was in his basement of his modest home. To say the least, his Pinarello Montello's were cause to faint! A candy apple red with chrome forks and chainstay similar to the one ridden by Reynolds during the 1983 Tour! What an incredible site, all prestine well maintained and in near to mint shape! I even saw a replica to Alexi Grewal's multi colored bike that won the gold at the L.A. Olympics! But, his main collection of Italian thoroughbred's was in the next room!

Fritz used to race his vintage Alfa Romeo's in the States around the seventies and eighties. He has the ability to collect and restore anything from four to two wheels. It is evident from his mint Alfa Romeo's, various racing motocycles and his bicycles. We move into the main room where the other fifty or so sit. Where can I start... a Lousion Bobet, Battinglin with 50th anniversary Campagnolo gruppo, Eddy Merckx's, Colnogo's, Frejus, Marinoni, Vitus, De Rosa's, Masi's, Gios Torino, Bianchi's, even a Roger De Valminck! I hope I haven't forgotten any! All the bikes were bought locally in various states of disrepair. Fritz lovingly restored them and during the years grew to have an intimate knowledge of each one. I still can't get over it, you would believe him if he was an ex-racer to have such an collection. But no, he's a passionate, loyal fan of racing bicycles with a knowledge of bicycle history. He reminds me a little of Giovanni Pinarello, very astute of his love for his bicycles.
British bikes are also here, Legge and Holdsworth. I was impressed how each bicycle was propped with it's own stand. Sort of hey look at me, I look sooo damn good! And, it's true, there's a sense of order and history here where a slice of time is frozen. I was transported back to the fifties - eighties. They are all steel, except for a carbon Alan. "You can go in any bike store, order one off the wall and take it home," Fritz says, " But, with steel, you must look for it." It's true they are harder to find and when you do find one, you keep it! I'm glad that I have my steel Marionni SL, and you know... steel is real!
Fritz tells me that he would love to get his hands on a Bennoto! And, I can't imagine where he could put it! He invites me to ride with them and I mention that it would be great to ride in a peloton, again! He replies, "Oh no, we are not that serious, only the debriefing part is!" By the way, the debriefing is the beer after the ride!
I look forward to that!

Again, thanks to Hans and especially to Fritz... for his historical look into the past!

All photos by Richard Lee

Friday, November 9, 2007

Forza! Pinarello & Van Impe.




Here's another picture from Treviso, Italy, 1984. One of the only in color, in fact, this is from a Kodachrome! After my enjoyable visit at Cicli Pinarello I snapped the team car parking in front of the factory! Bear in mind, that this is November and the cycling season is well over and during off season training and riders transferring to other teams, and teams getting ready for the upcoming season, not much is happening. This is the official team car of 1984 Metauromobili Cicli Pinarello. A rather nondescript car with full logo's equiped with the quintessential bike rack. It was an Italian base team(1982-'84) with a talented pool of Italian and non-Italian riders.

I admire grimpeurs and one of my favorite's is Lucien Van Impe. He won the green jersey for best climber in the Giro d'italia, 1982 and 1983! And continued on and won the polka dot jersey in the 1983 Tour de France all under the Metauromobili Pinarello jersey, at the age of 37! He moved onto the Italian squardra of Santini Krups Conti(1985). Where, in his last Tour de France, he would finished in a respectable 27th place. He started 15 Tour's and would finish 15 Tour's!(second for record Tour finishes) The following year, 1986, he would join Spain's, Dormilon Team and in 1987 to the Belgian Sigma Team. This was his last year and at the ripe age of 41, after 18 years in the peloton he decided to call it quits! His legacy; one Tour de France(1976) overall win, six Tour Mountain Jersey's(1971, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1981, and 1983) and two Giro d'Italia Mountain Jersey's(1982 and 1983).
Forza, indeed!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Cicli Pinarello revisited.


These pictures are taken by me on a visit in 1984 to the famous bike builder, Giovanni Pinarello in Treviso, Italy! This is the first time ever that I shown these photographs to the public. I feel as if I just opened a vault and found something quite precious! I kept the equipment simple, a Canon F-1,  85mm, 50mm lenses on Ilford HP-5 film.  Quite a different set up from my new digital camera!  Signor Pinarello was very generous and I was given carte blanche to photograph in his factory.  I can only imagine that it wouldn't be the same in this day and age in a modern bike factory! The two photographs is Signor Pinarello closely supervising a worker carefully brazing shows his attention for  meticulous detail on his bikes. The other is an overall shot of two workers and their tool bench.  I remember the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Men's road race won by  American,  Alexi Grewal on a multi colored Pinarello Montello SLX! And, it was a joy to see the same multi colored  models finished and ready for shipping.  His bikes had captured many distinguish international races: the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, Vuelta di Spagna, world  time trial championship, Olympic road race, an many other international wins.  As I look back on this wonderful time, I admired his beautiful handmade bikes and met a understated man that is  synonymous with a winning tradition and  fine Italian craftsmanship!  
'Fatti con le mani' -  Italian for 'Made by hand'. 

© 2007 Richard Lee - All Rights Reserved.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The History of the Tour de France...


I have just returned from a few days in Edmonton visiting my ailing dad.  With more time to shake a stick at I found myself at one of those big box bookstores with a hope of finding a book on the Tour.  I found it!  A nice hardbound book on the history of the Tour de France! It stated that it is "fully illustrated, with rare removable documents and items of Tour De France memorabilia".   Indeed, it is! It's about 64 pages and if it had more pages then it would be too heavy to bring back on board the plane!  It is beautifully illustrated, rich with historical facts documenting the great race!  There are facsimiles of postcards from Dali, 1959, the rules of the 1910 Tour, by Henri Desgrange, official 1953 Tdf map, and one of my favorites; Liqueur manufacturer Cointreau created masks of the most popular cyclists from the 1930's,  Andre Leducq and Charles Pellisier! 

A fascinating collection of memorabilia and ...a well written history of the Tour!
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