Friday, August 13, 2010

Cipollini Does It Again.

It's  great to get out for some sneaky bike practice before work. I love turning up at the bureau knowing that I have already done something for myself before I got there. I look around the office at my non cycling co-workers all bleary eyed, still waking up and sometimes still eating breakfast. At times I pity them because they will never know the simple joy you and I experience when we ride our bikes. I’m sure it’s a feeling many cyclists share with me. Of course the flip side to all these endorphins and positive energy is that I fall in a heap soon after lunch and have to drag myself like a stubborn mule through the remainder of the day.

If you have been reading my blog you will know that I am a huge fan of seeing celebrity cyclists in the media for reasons other than racing results. I thought I would share something which arrived in my inbox today just as I was reaching my post lunch slump.

Many of you would know that former professional cyclist, master of style and lovable rogue Mario Cipollini has entered the world of bicycle manufacturing.

With the Italian ISD professional team already using his bikes Cipollini has now released a short promotional film in an effort to boost sales of his bikes and related paraphernalia. Of course we all know and admire Cipo for his reputation as a gadabout town and for his general skylarking behaviour. In this film we get to see Mario's serious side as he promotes his various products by basically riding around looking fabulously fit and meticulously groomed as always.

In the opening scene we find Mario comfortably relaxing on the terrace of his Tuscan villa and catching up on the sports news of the day while wearing a three piece suit. Everything seems in its place until the countryside beckons like the mythological sirens of old and Mario is lured away from his sophisticated domesticity and into his Lycra. A situation I'm sure we can all relate to.

See how he pensively surveys the Tuscan landscape before he embarks for his ride, much like an artiste may look upon an unfinished painting. I wonder what artistry he’s going to unleash on the windswept and emotively filmed countryside.

After changing into his cycle ware we join Mario as he embarks on a journey filmed to show off the qualities of his product. After some fast cornering and promenading (not to be confused with pomade, of which there seems to be lashings of) he then arrives in a delightful piazza for some more contemplative gazing.

You may notice that the camera angle being used seems to have us viewing our hero from below thus giving the illusion of  him towering above us with all his might and glory, I wish my rides were as cinematic as Mario's.

Of course the bikes are made in Italy and to prove it in this scene we see an Italian looking and fashionably unkempt tech specialists pondering a newly minted frame.

Surprisingly Cipollini's Italian made bicycle seems to be equipped with components of non Italian origin, which I always thought was frowned upon by the Euro style establishment, evidently Mario can do as he pleases as he set many of the standards held so dearly by the aspiring Euro pro wannabees (I'm counting myself as part of that group) and so therefore has the right to trifle with the very tenets of tolerable bicycle related conduct… Even riding topless.

Somehow the lovable rogue gets away with it all and I find myself wanting to own one of these machines, maybe he will send one over for me to review. If you would like to view the film for yourself you can find it here.

To many people Cipollini is the epitome of manliness on two wheels, our sport needs men like him to help affirm its image as a tough masculine sport worthy of interest. For those of you not convinced of this I would like you to compare this picture of Mario in his square jawed, race winning prime.
To this photo of current Italian road champion and rather effeminate looking Giovanni Visconti who seems to be up to date with the latest depilatory techniques.

 Who do you think would capture more public attention? The charming cad or saucy knave?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fast Times, New Roads

Modern life can get pretty hectic. As a youngster I listened with fascination as I was told that the advances in computer technology would give me innumerable hours of free time “when I grew up”. Sadly the promised life of leisure I was led to believe in never came to fruition and instead life just seemed to get busier and more complicated as I got older. Technology allows us to be instantly connected to whoever we choose in many more ways than we could once imagine. Does anybody remember what life was like without a mobile phone? All this connectivity can be useful but it has led to a need for instant gratification which can be a little annoying if you are the one being pursued. Recently my carefully crafted, quiet anonymity was foiled as I had been caught in technologies sticky web and was forced into attending some work related demands, when I happened upon this chap.

I snapped this photo over a week ago and it has been playing on my mind ever since. This guy is so connected and demanded upon that he has seen fit to drop his bike between parked cars and squat awkwardly in the filthy city gutter as he bows to another of life’s demands. What is he doing? Could he be running a quick colour coordination diagnostic on his computer to make sure his white deep V’s are still an acceptable match with his black frame? Could he be bidding for a frame in an online auction for his next build so we all get to see another piece of junk road frame turned into a fixie? Or perhaps buying some colourful tyres online? Maybe he's reading my blog! Any other suggestions readers? Whatever it may be I’m sure glad that my life isn’t as demanding as his.

Everybody just seems to fit more into life these days with "growth" and "increased productivity" being the buzzwords of our time. Well how much can we grow before we split our metaphoric pants? How much productivity can be squeezed out of a human being before they become an empty husk? Sometimes it feels like wherever I look somebody is demanding my attention, it may be work related or even social, quite often it’s “some company” vying for a slice of my interest trying to push their product in front of me. Stop reading right now and look around you. How much branding and advertising can you see? I’m tipping that unless you live in a cave then the answer is plenty.  Most of the time this sort of thing just washes over me, I treat it like current affairs programs on any commercial TV network and I pay no attention to it but every now and then it has the power to drag me down slightly. I know, I'm part of it, I advertise on my blog. When this happens there is only one thing to do. Put on my team kit covered with sponsors logos and go for a ride. I suppose this makes me part of the problem (again) but I console myself with the knowledge that I seriously doubt if any of my clubs sponsors have seen a return on their investment.


One of the nicest things about cycling is discovering new roads to train on. Sometimes this can really give your motivation a boost when the same old training routes are getting a little tiresome. Its great linking up a few newly discovered roads into a loop and showing a few select friends your secret ride. I normally begin with the words “I’m going to show you a loop that’s gonna blow your mind”. Just be sure they can keep it to themselves or you will end up seeing energy gel sachets strewn all over your previously undiscovered ride, as has happened to me recently.

Stop being too precious about your bike and start enjoying it more. Don’t be afraid of venturing down dirt roads, some of my favourite rides include some sections of dirt. Just make sure you bring enough spares (I carry 2 tubes and a patch kit) and I would also advise you bring some extra food just in case you get lost.  Recently I decided to venture down a dirt road which I had not ridden for at least five years, when I got there I discovered that joy of joys it had recently been sealed. I was so excited I took some pictures to share with you.

This recent discovery now provides me with another loop within a loop to keep me eager and my training partners mesmerized. Part of the reason I find exploring new roads so refreshing is because it takes me back to one of the reasons I started riding in the first place, adventure. Sometimes its good to forget about training for competition or bragging rights or personal fitness and get back to just enjoying the pleasure of riding.

The road in these pictures looks like it could be in the middle of nowhere when in fact its only in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.  Stop venturing down that same “road” every weekend (Melbourne cyclists will know which “road” I’m alluding too). I challenge you to open a map, do some research and put together a new training ride before this weekend.

You might see me out there.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Quiet Roads & Chemical Cocktails

Quiet country roads are everybody’s favourite place to train, if you are like me and live in the centre of a large city then you savour every moment you can spend some time on one. I’m sure many of you would remember a time when the only clue to alert you that another cyclist had been out training on your favourite back road would be a discarded banana peel by the roadside. How times have changed.

These days I’m alarmed at the amount of discarded energy gel sachets I keep seeing when out training. Since when did going for a ride require such technologically advanced nutrition? Those little foil packets seem to be everywhere these days, I have even seen them strewn about my local suburban cycle path. It makes me feel a little bit like this..

You may be interested to know that the crying native American in the commercial was actor Espera Oscar de Corti, who was in fact not a native American at all but the son of Sicilian immigrants, he was however known for his portrayals of native Americans in Hollywood films. His native Italian ancestry was not made public until the end of his life. Damn, TV lied to us again!

As cyclists we need to be extra careful to tread lightly wherever we go. Why?.. Because basically everybody pretty much hates us. I don't want to lapse into stating the obvious (its so boring) but littering really doesn’t do us any favours as a group, think of it as another excuse for “motorists” to bleat about how irresponsible cyclists are. Of course we all know that the amount of littering done by cyclists is insignificant when compared to the amount of drink cans, fast food wrappers and cigarette butts tossed away by everyone else. Oh and that lone shoe you keep seeing by the roadside? Its mine, I’ve been looking all over for it. If you have any sense of responsibility towards your fellow cyclists put that little packet back in your pocket and dispose of it thoughtfully.

“Motorists”, I love that term. It sounds so quaint, whenever I hear it I imagine one of those vintage cars being driven by a gentleman wearing an overcoat and airmen’s goggles. Or perhaps a villainous scoundrel and his henchman as can be seen in the rendering below.

I might also add that we need to be extra careful with our litter when racing, all it takes is an angry resident to complain about our roadside refuse and before you know it another permit for a racing circuit is revoked by the officialdom. Just like dangerous riding on the road or running red lights its always just a few bad eggs misbehaving. Of course the problem is we all get tarred with the same brush, so lets start helping ourselves by trying to do the right thing. End of tiresome rant.


Energy gels are great because they allow you to get a quick hit of fuel in a few seconds instead of fumbling around with wrappers and choking on inhaled pieces of food as you struggle with the speed of the peloton, I know, I've been there too. For this reason I totally recommend energy gels for racing, but for training? They are convenient yes but personally I think its overkill to use them while training when you are probably better off just eating real food.

In our modern world we are exposed to all sorts of nasties on a daily basis whether they are in the air we breathe, the water we drink or even what we wear or put on our skin. I don’t want to sound alarmist but chemicals are everywhere and we should be trying to minimise our exposure to them when we can. What does all of this have to do with energy gels? It’s all in the ingredients…

I have done some basic research into some of the ingredients listed on the back of a popular energy gel I just happened to have at home. Chemical cocktail anyone?

Potassium Chloride (KCI): Found naturally in the human body and vital for functions including the beating of your heart, used in food processing as an alternative to salt. Too much of the stuff can cause side effects such as irregular heartbeat, stomach pain and my favorite, weak or heavy legs (just what every cyclist wants). Of course its only used in small quantities in your energy gel but how much are you getting from other sources? You may also be interested to know that it is also used as fertiliser and is the same deadly substance used to administer lethal injection. Fun! Don’t be too afraid, almost any substance can be lethal in a high enough dose.

Potassium Sorbate (202): Commonly used in food processing to curb the production of yeasts and mould in cheese, yogurt, dried meats and sometimes wine. Not really considered to be too much of a problem unless you have an allergic reaction but in large quantities can cause nausea, diarrhoea and in an ironic twist, nutrient loss in food (just what every cyclist wants).

Sodium Benzoate (211): Naturally occurring in some fruits but chemically manufactured for use in food processing, used as an ingredient in many foods and soft drinks because it works very well at killing bacteria, yeast and fungi. Recent scientific research has shown that this stuff can actually damage DNA which may lead to neuro-degenerative diseases. I suppose its logical that if it can destroy yeast cells then in can at least damage human cells. Boffins have also discovered that the chemical reaction between sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid (300), also known as vitamin C, creates benzene which happens to be a known carcinogen. Nice! Some energy gels combine the two but you should also consider if you are taking vitamins as well as consuming sodium benzoate from other sources. Recently banned in the UK.

I never really looked at the ingredients of the food I consume too closely as I assumed that I have always eaten pretty well and avoided processed foods where I could,  but after having just a little look into the potential problems with food additives I will definitely be switching the brand of my energy gel and pay more attention to the labels of the food and drink I consume.

Oh and don't get me started on the phthalates which might be leaching out of your bidon as you have been reading this. As if going for a ride wasn't already dangerous enough.

Stay healthy everyone.