Archive for February, 2010
Kalkhoff is one of Europe’s largest and best know bicycle brands. They also make high-performance electric bikes that are unlike any other currently available in the United States.
Today Greenlight Bikes, the exclusive U.S. importer of Kalkhoff bikes, officially announced the availability of these popular machines to the North American market.
If you live in Portland, you owe it to yourself to visit the Kalkhoff showroom and test ride one of these bikes. They are a complete blast to pilot and are guaranteed to make even the most serious hammerhead smile.
Disclosure: Greenlight bikes is a client of KoiFish Communications, the sponsor of PDX Cycling Online.
This week I had the pleasure of attending an incredible cycling event. Its official name is La Vuelta Lighthouse Tour of Puerto Rico, but most people simply call it La Vuelta. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t there to ride — there’s just no way I could handle an event like this (at least not right now). Instead, I rode along in the Tour Director’s comfortable and air-conditioned mega-truck, which gave me the absolute best seat in the house from which to watch the whole ride unfold. I’ve often wondered what it would be like be in a team car in the Tour de France or La Vuelta a Espana. I think this was probably pretty close. Either way, it was amazing.
Calling this event a “bike tour” is kind of like calling the New York Marathon a jog. I imagined it would be something like Cycle Oregon where people cover a lot of ground, but have the chance to stop, chat with the locals, snap a few photos and, perhaps, get an ice cream cone at some point. It wasn’t like that at all.
La Vuelta seems more like a multi-day stage race minus the sprint finishes. If you’ve ever fantasized about riding in the Tour de France and happen to be an extremely fit and capable cyclist, you will simply love La Vuelta. They hammer all day every day with a few quick stops for water and fuel.
In 3 days, La Vuelta encircles the entire island of Puerto Rico. The total distance is 375 miles. The shortest day’s ride is 94 miles. And, while the total elevation gain for the entire ride is only 11,000 feet, the few serious climbs on the route are STEEP. Some of the grades exceeded 15% and go on long enough that they’ve got to hurt. Riders are divided into three pelotons. The fast group rode at 25-30 M.P.H., the middle group at 20-25 M.P.H. and the “slow” group at about 18 M.P.H.
Police escorts and emergency vehicles formed rolling roadblocks so the pelotons could keep moving. Motorcycles carrying photographers darting everywhere and, for a while, even a helicopter added ambiance.
Every rider – including the slow pokes in the 18 M.P.H group – is an elite athlete. The only place you are likely to see more Iron Man Triathlon bracelets, jerseys, shirts, skullcaps and tattoos is at an Iron Man Triathlon. They are beautifully sculpted and bronzed and are a sight to behold in cycling gear. Most were wearing full team kits, which did a lot to add to the illusion of this being a stage race. Watching them ride was educational and inspirational. Most of them barely seemed fazed by the heat, mileage and difficulty of each day’s ride (though I’d like to think that at least some of them were at least a little tired). I do know that the maniac who founded La Vuelta got up at 3:00 a.m. the day after the event for an hour-and-a-half “spin.” I suspect he wasn’t the only one to do so.
The 30-person pre-ride the day before the big event was representative of the kind of bikes ridden in La Vuelta. High-end bikes all around. Many were pro team models. I’ve never seen this many Colnagos, Pinerelli’s, DeRosas and custom Ti bikes in one place in my life. Specialized was also well represented. To my surprise, there were very few Treks. It would seem style plays as important of a role at La Vuelta as does performance. There were also three Bike Fridays, which stood out like turds in the proverbial punch bowl. However, all three foldiphiles rode admirably, which I’d bet gave them a great deal of satisfaction.
It is clear that, as a spectator sport, cycling gets more respect in Puerto Rico than it does in the U.S. Cheering fans lined the streets in most towns. More importantly, most of the drivers caught in the rolling roadblocks, many of whom were more than a little inconvenienced by the ride, took it all in stride. It would sure be great if that same sort of attitude worked its way to the States someday.
While there was very little time for sightseeing, there are many beautiful parts of Puerto Rico. Some of the most stellar towns apparently get very few foreign visitors. Instead, they serve as weekend retreats for locals.
Puerto Rico is definitely a place I’d like to go back and visit. Who knows, if I remain as inspired by the whole event as I am right now, I might even someday attain the level of fitness required to ride this mother. That would be something. The travel editor from Bicycling Magazine who was there to write about the event old me if I ever did, he’d come back again and ride with me. Be careful, Bill, I just might cash in on that promise someday.
To see more photos, check out my flickr page. There’s a great photo montage done by a real photographer in 2009 on La Vuelta’s Website. To see the short posts I did during the ride, check out La Vuelta’s blog.
Update: I checked with some of the riders who were using Garmin bike computers. The steepest bits were somewhere between 17% and 20%.
Greetings from sunny (and warm and humid) San Juan. I’m here helping out with La Vuelta de Puerto Rico this week. La Vuelta is a three-day bike tour that is not for the faint of heart. This is a 3 day, 375 mile bike ride around the entire island. And that tally doesn’t count today’s optional 40 mile spin around San Juan. Tomorrow’s ride goes from San Juan to Ponce. This leg alone is 148 miles. Riders are split into three pelotons. The fastest group averages 20 M.P.H. The slowest group averages 12 M.P.H.. In my mind, that’s still a far cry from slow — particularly when you are talking that sort of distance in the heat.
It is not surprising that the riders getting ready for tomorrow’s challenge appear to be extremely fit. Not a clydesdale in the bunch. These guys and gals are also packing some serious hardware. High-end, high-dollar bikes as far as the eye can see. Lots of Colnago, Pinerello, Campagnolo, Dura Ace, custom Ti and carbon fiber to go around. There is even a wood-framed Renovo (Portland, OR in the house!).
Oh yeah, there is one dude keeping it real on his Bike Friday. I saw him drop a guy on a Pinerello on the one climb this afternoon, which should please the lovers of these peculiar foldable mounts.
These cyclists have inspired me to redouble my fitness efforts in hopes that I might be able to come back next year as a rider. This time, I’m happy to hang out in the rear with the gear in an air-conditioned vehicle and take in the sights of this beautiful place. I’m exhausted, so I’m going to leave it at that. I’ll be posting updates when I can over the next few days. In the meantime, you can check out my photos on flickr.
Update: I was very wrong about the speeds — the “slow” group averaged 18 M.P.H. The Fast group was 25 – 30.