Thankfully we've progressed beyond legwarmers made of baby buck sea monkeys.

Progressively Retro

by / / 61 posts

Innovation is a beast that lurches in leaps and bounds, fueled by its own momentum and restrained by its own progress. It lays dormant for ages before springing to life and briefly disrupting the world around it. And, just as suddenly as it appeared, it ambles back to its cave to slumber once again.

Until 1984, eyewear protection in Cycling was governed by the same parameters that remedied the average librarian’s poor eyesight and kept airplane debris out of the Red Baron’s eyes. But then Oakley solved that problem and within a decade, the riders that had spent a century picking road grit out of their eyes universally were wearing badass shades that simultaneously made them 97% more intimidating and got them 74% more chicks.

That’s just one example. Have a look at Gino here, shadowed by his pal Fausto. On what was apparently a brisk morning during the Giro d’Italia, he had to have his mother stitch a pair of legwarmers together from what appears to be soft underbelly of baby buck sea monkeys. Or burlap sacs, although that seems a bit far-fetched. Not to mention his jersey and bibs are made of wool, which is a terrific material so long as it isn’t used anywhere where holding its shape when wet matters. And, although you can’t tell from this photo, he’s wearing oxfords – literally wearing dress shoes – with cleats nailed to the soles. I’m nostalgic for the look, but I’ll be fucked if I ever wear any of that on a bike, and not only because I’m fond of baby buck sea monkeys.

Right around the same time that Oakley was contemplating how to better shade a rider’s eyes, some bright spark at Castelli realized that elastic would do a better job accentuating a rider’s curves than wool ever could and the Lycra bibshort was born, forever changing the way Cyclists cultivated their tan lines. As with Sunnies Revolution, within the decade synthetic fabrics took over nearly every aspect of Cycling kit, with the Giro d’Italia being the last stronghold of the wool jersey and not giving way to a synthetic leader’s jersey until 1989. I might also mention that prior to the invention of the synthetic jersey, no one needed to install mudguards on their bikes because whenever it rained, wool jerseys stretched out below the saddle, making fenders unnecessary.

This innovation in kit was mirrored in bicycle technology, which had laid similarly dormant since the invention of the parallelogram derailleur. Seemingly all at once, aerodynamic equipment, composite frames, clipless pedals, and brifters arrived on the scene, easily making the 80’s the most innovative period in Cycling, apart from the 1880’s (when the bicycle as we know it today was actually invented).

In my own journey as a Velominatus, this was the most exciting time in the sport. The cyclic nature of innovation suggests that I will not see another such period in my lifetime, and 50-100 years is a long time to wait, unless you’re a Grail Knight. The problem with innovation, if we can call it a problem, is that disruptive change tends to polarize; we either love it or we hate it, and in order to accept accept change we have a tendency to reject the old in order to justify the new. The trouble is that we can’t tell the difference between innovation that solves a real problem and innovation that feels exciting because it’s different. But irrespective of that, legacy is brushed to the side and rejected as antiquity.

The Velominati are often accused of being luddites, praising the ride of steel and espousing the merits of wool over modern fabrics. But Legacy and Innovation are two ideals we hold equally in our hearts; we desire the latest, lightest carbon innovations as much as we cherish the steel rides we also keep in our stables. (Rule #12, remember?) We are judiciously skeptical of new developments like disc brakes and electronic shifting, but also re-evaluate what worked well in the past that perhaps doesn’t work as well today. I don’t see the need for electronic shifting, but admire the change in paradigm that SRAM’s eTap provides. And I will go kicking and screaming into the disc brake world, but if time demonstrates the value, I will change eventually.

Contradiction and myth occupy the gray space between absolutes where we find the most interesting revelations in life. I live in yesterday’s future; I have no intention of going back. But I will always respect those who have laid the path upon which I ride today.

// Defining Moments // La Vie Velominatus // Musings from the V-Bunker // Nostalgia // Technology

  1. I’ve never ridden a carbon framed bike.

    I did used to have an old fashioned steel race bike that my father-in-law put flat bars on then gave to me. That had DT shifters, and as I used it for commuting I remember not really thinking about shifting. I certainly didn’t look!

    I knocked the pedal on a kerb, and some time later the whole crank snapped off the BB spindle – I’d cracked it and corrosion got inside. Bike shops I spoke to said there was no way to repair/replace any of the parts because it was so old but I wished I’d tried harder. Wish I still had that bike, actually.




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  2. I hung onto friction shifters until the mid aughts (2005 or whatever the hell we call that time period). Making the move to index, brake lever shifters completely changed my riding: from masher and infrequent shifter to spinner and frequent shifter.

    I don’t know about disc brakes, I try not to use my rim brakes now as it is. Maybe in 2025…




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  3. Steel (Reynolds 653, to be exact) … check … and still using a downtube shifter for the front derailleur
    Carbon … check

    It’s all good.




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  4. @chuckp

    Steel (Reynolds 653, to be exact) … check … and still using a downtube shifter for the front derailleur
    Carbon … check

    It’s all good.

    What’s that….THING…on the top tube of your Trek?!




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  5. Talk of carbon vs. steel frames, downtube vs. brifter, etc makes me think of my record player.

    I like listening to old vinyl records, and I’ve got some really great albums, but when I get in my car I don’t haul out the turntable. That’s what the phone is for. We embrace new technology (within reason, as Frank notes above) because it makes some aspect of our lives better and/or easier.

    I doubt Merckx in his heyday would have turned his nose up at a full carbon rig with Di2 wireless. He’d have gotten on and crushed fools.




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  6. “I might also mention that prior to the invention of the synthetic jersey, no one needed to install mudguards on their bikes because whenever it rained, wool jerseys stretched out below the saddle, making fenders unnecessary.”

    This is exactly WHY mudguards were needed. It’s exactly why an EPMS is needed. Wet wool, shit load of stuff in your back pockets – that’s a mini dress not a jersey you’re wearing. Once stretched, acrylic and wool stayed stretched.




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  7. Damn, Frank. As a historian I feel like I need to point out, based on your first sentence:

    Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

    I had to read this in graduate school and his biggest argument is that science(tech) changes not gradually, but in big leaps and jumps. Interesting idea, interesting book. The history of science and medicine was a reading field for my comp exams, so I read a bunch on this area, though I’m far from fully versed.

    Cool to turn what I read there in school back towards bikes.




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  8. @RobSandy


    What’s that….THING…on the top tube of your Trek?!

    That’s my wife’s Trek Madone WSD. Top tube bag that she puts her phone, ID, etc. in when she rides. Yes, she is a heathen (she loves wearing sleeveless jerseys). :-)




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  9. @chuckp

    That’s my wife’s Trek Madone WSD. Top tube bag that she puts her phone, ID, etc. in when she rides. Yes, she is a heathen (she loves wearing sleeveless jerseys). :-)




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  10. @chuckp


    That’s my wife’s Trek Madone WSD. Top tube bag that she puts her phone, ID, etc. in when she rides. Yes, she is a heathen (she loves wearing sleeveless jerseys). :-)

    Oops. Hit submit before typing anything. Correction. It’s a Trek Domane WSD.




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  11. @chuckp

    @chuckp


    That’s my wife’s Trek Madone WSD. Top tube bag that she puts her phone, ID, etc. in when she rides. Yes, she is a heathen (she loves wearing sleeveless jerseys). :-)

    Oops. Hit submit before typing anything. Correction. It’s a Trek Domane WSD.

    After I posted I looked again, I thought it must be a VMW steed, but I wasn’t convinced enough about the difference in the saddle heights to correct myself. Or care enough.

    My wife’s Bianchi looks like a child’s bike next to my Felt.




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  12. @RobSandy

    @chuckp

    @chuckp


    That’s my wife’s Trek Madone WSD. Top tube bag that she puts her phone, ID, etc. in when she rides. Yes, she is a heathen (she loves wearing sleeveless jerseys). :-)

    Oops. Hit submit before typing anything. Correction. It’s a Trek Domane WSD.

    After I posted I looked again, I thought it must be a VMW steed, but I wasn’t convinced enough about the difference in the saddle heights to correct myself. Or care enough.

    My wife’s Bianchi looks like a child’s bike next to my Felt.

    My wife’s saddle height is almost the same as mine. But I have a long torso (relative to inseam length) and she has a short torso. So her bike is a smaller frame with a shorter top tube (plus relatively short stem). And due to bike crashes resulting in different neck/shoulder issues, she has to have her bars pretty high up (almost level with her saddle). Not very “pro” but I’m happy that she’s able to ride a road bike. And happy when we go out on rides together.




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  13. @RobSandy

    I’ve never ridden a carbon framed bike.

    I did used to have an old fashioned steel race bike that my father-in-law put flat bars on then gave to me. That had DT shifters, and as I used it for commuting I remember not really thinking about shifting. I certainly didn’t look!

    I knocked the pedal on a kerb, and some time later the whole crank snapped off the BB spindle – I’d cracked it and corrosion got inside. Bike shops I spoke to said there was no way to repair/replace any of the parts because it was so old but I wished I’d tried harder. Wish I still had that bike, actually.

    I’ve never elected to ride a carbon frameset either. There is still no need to change my investment and commitment from Columbus Tubi nivacrom steel to carbon. I need to see and feel lug construction. I’m with you in the sense that we can continue to rescue and save steel frames. Those experienced guys at the bike shop may have had a connection with steel, but did not have the passion to save your frameset. It would be expensive and something not to consider – maybe. It could be worth it despite those opinions. Realizing that it was just the bb becoming fused to the shell, someone could remedy that and bring it back to life. We should both get busy finding the “right” frame allover again.




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  14. @RobSandy

    @chuckp

    Steel (Reynolds 653, to be exact) … check … and still using a downtube shifter for the front derailleur
    Carbon … check

    It’s all good.

    What’s that….THING…on the top tube of your Trek?!

    Looks like just the right size to keep a shrunken head.




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  15. @RobSandy

    … but I wished I’d tried harder. Wish I still had that bike, actually.

    this reminds me of Roger Waters’ Amused To Death (the actual song) where he included an interview, a story telling, the narrator wishes “there must have been something more that I could’ve done.” Amused To Death re-release 2015 is very good and has a strong effect.




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  16. @chuckp

    I’m curious to know if your wife has a similar penchant for handbags? (I am fortunate in that my wife is a minimalist) It might serve to explain the size of that thing on the top tube.

    That said, it’s great that she gets out and rides with you. Hopefully you have been leaving photos of The Divine Ms. V, Armistead, and Ferrand-Prevot laying around for her to notice and realize that proper jerseys really do look better than anything her friends are wearing to spin class.




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  17. @DeKerr

    @chuckp

    I’m curious to know if your wife has a similar penchant for handbags? (I am fortunate in that my wife is a minimalist) It might serve to explain the size of that thing on the top tube.

    That said, it’s great that she gets out and rides with you. Hopefully you have been leaving photos of The Divine Ms. V, Armistead, and Ferrand-Prevot laying around for her to notice and realize that proper jerseys really do look better than anything her friends are wearing to spin class.

    Nope. She’s not really a purse girl/woman. But when she rides, she doesn’t like stuff in her jersey pockets. Hence the top tube bag, which is actually more practical for her than a seat bag since she can put everything she needs, i.e., spare tube, tire levers, CO2, ID, phone, etc. in it. And as for proper jerseys … What can I say? She just prefers sleeveless jerseys. That said, she’s been known to wear a “normal” jersey. Even a proper one. :-)




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  18. @chuckp

    @RobSandy

    What’s that….THING…on the top tube of your Trek?!

    That’s my wife’s Trek Madone WSD. Top tube bag that she puts her phone, ID, etc. in when she rides. Yes, she is a heathen (she loves wearing sleeveless jerseys). :-)

    Yeah, but sleeveless jerseys still have pockets, non? Does the “etc” imply a tent and a stove? (emoticon here)




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  19. @chuckp

    I hear ya. My wife’s madone had a “bento box” thing like that on the top tube. She could keep her gels, sunscreen and phone. Visually, an abomination. Luckily it “disappeared”. Enough said.




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  20. All three of my bikes; steel, ti and carbon have the downtube shifter braze-ons on them. Everything is ergo shifter now but jesus, either I’m old or cheap as fuck or both.




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  21. @wiscot

    Yeah, but sleeveless jerseys still have pockets, non? Does the “etc” imply a tent and a stove? (emoticon here)

    It’s funny. Even though my wife gave racing a go (back when I was a full-bore racer), she’s really not a “racer girl.” She prefers sleeveless to sleeves. When she does wear a “normal” jersey, she prefers solid colors or simple patterns over logos (the exception being when she wears her Revolution Cycles jersey, the store she is the HR and social media manager for). As for stuff in her jersey pockets, she just doesn’t like the feel/weight of having stuff in her jersey pockets. What can I say? Women, especially wives, are allowed to be different. :-) But she’s not what I would call a girlie-girl and all my male friends would characterize her as a guy’s-girl. If we, the Velominati, are the V then to riff more on Dan Brown and “The Da Vinci Code,” my wife represents the inverted V. :-)




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  22. @Gianni

    @chuckp

    I hear ya. My wife’s madone had a “bento box” thing like that on the top tube. She could keep her gels, sunscreen and phone. Visually, an abomination. Luckily it “disappeared”. Enough said.

    It’s OK for me to “work” on my wife’s bike, but I know better than to f**k with the stuff on her bike. :-) Plus if she didn’t have the “bento box” I’d be the one with even more stuff in my jersey pockets. And like mother, like daughter. My daughter has one on her Felt ZW95.




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  23. @Gianni

    @chuckp

    I hear ya. My wife’s madone had a “bento box” thing like that on the top tube. She could keep her gels, sunscreen and phone. Visually, an abomination. Luckily it “disappeared”. Enough said.

    Did the tooth fairy leave a stick it note on the top tube with “Rule 29.2” no EATS? *

    * European Anterior Toptube Satchel




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  24. @Frank

    Too funny @Frank. The bits about the wool kit had me laughing out loud.

    I believe that holding on to nostalgia is an admirable pursuit as well as embracing modern and arguably better technologies. Case in point: I own a vintage motorcycle, which I painstakingly restored, as well as a modern motorcycle which is reliable and much safer. Both are a pleasure to ride and each has its own essence. When it comes to cycling, we should have a health mix and affinity for the past and present.




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  25. @Sparty

    Interested to know what the two motorbikes are ? Perhaps a Norton and a R1 ?




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  26. @Sparty




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  27. @Barracuda

    @Sparty

    That looks like what the boomerang throwing dude from Mad Max would ride.




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  28. @Ccos

    Too much fortnight at the end of my money sadly, but if the reverse would to happen, Id be building a cafe racer quick smart.

    Oh, and a black interceptor, last of the v8’s.

    Speaking of which, our home state hero’s shutting the doors soon, the last of the v8’s produced here is a bit of a bucket list job also




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  29. @Barracuda

    1971 Honda CB750K2 that I modified into a cafe’ racer. Engine is now 910cc. Wicked quick. The modern bike is a 2014 Triumph Tiger 800XC.




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  30. @Sparty

    Well played, the Honda is very nice.




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  31. @chuckp

    @chuckp

    @wiscot

    One of my cycling buddies (who is a she, and is tough as nails by the way, recently did LEJOG with no training at all) rides with one of these monstrosities hanging off her saddle, which is always full of stuff.

    She’s also often seen taking a full rucksack of ‘stuff’ to a track session at Maindy. No, we have no idea what she’s lugging around with her the whole time.




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  32. After migrating my MB from V to disc brakes I will be extremely slow to do same for road riding. The V brakes simply worked and were easy to adjust/maintain. The disc brakes have less consistent power and I can’t stand the occasional squealing. I’m using mechs. Maybe both of those problems can be fixed with properly installed hydraulics, but pouring good money after bad?

    As for the RB, I try to do as little braking as possible on the road, so brake type of little consequence. The rim brakes work fine.




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  33. Love both the Mad Max Triumph and cafe racer Honda. When I quit bike racing (and riding altogether before getting back on the bike last year), I got into motorcycle riding. Eventually, however, my sense of mortality caught up with me. But I miss doing this. And I have to remember that I can’t corner like that on a bicycle. :-)




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  34. My first sportbike. The last year of the Suzuki GSXR-750 in its double cradle frame incarnation. At my first California Superbike School (subsequently matriculated through all four levels) at Virginia International Raceway. My previous pic (on a Kawasaki ZX-6 school bike and also at VIR) was my post-Level 4 class, i.e., grad school.




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  35. Correction. My GSXR-750 was a ’93. Suzuki kept the double cradle frame through ’95 before introducing a completely re-designed twin spar frame model in ’96.




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  36. @Ccos

    if you find a moment, watch this documentary “the madness of max”




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  37. @universo

    @Ccos

    if you find a moment, watch this documentary “the madness of max”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DcqnkzGEFQ

    A quick look into my head as I mash the gears…..

    Next on my list will be having a seat made of Baby Buck Sea Monkeys, but it will have a way to go if its going to take the place of my Baby Panda two tone seat….




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  38. @universo

    @Ccos

    if you find a moment, watch this documentary “the madness of max”

    or

    https://youtu.be/hiNZbcEzogU




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  39. The latest mech group sets perform 11-sp shifting exceptionally well for fair cost. The rim brakes work very well when you pull the levers. And especially if using box section AL rims. And the latest AL wheel sets with C fairings can provide the aero benefits with a small weight penalty and lower costs than C.

    Therefore, no one needs electronic servo motor assisted shifting, carbon wheel sets and hydraulic disc brakes… But, the fact is, these things can provide better performance.

    Aesthetically, disc brakes and little motors ? Meh… C wheel sets? Well, they can look really good.

    The perfect lines and custom paint on a steel frame bike vs C ? Easy choice. Mech Campy? Oh man it just doesn’t get better when comes to looking good.

    If only interested in all around flat-out performance: C fiber frame set, C aero wheel set, push button battery powered motorized shifting and hydraulic disc brakes.

    And I will NOT ever again use a lightweight steel frame set for CX.

    Cheers all.




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  40. Wow how quickly these threads can turn…must be the contamination of disc brakes. Fossil-fuel burners get lost!




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  41. @Ccos

    @Barracuda

    @Sparty

    That looks like what the boomerang throwing dude from Mad Max would ride.

    No doubt. Or this boomerang throwing dude. That thing looks badass as hell.




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  42. @Owen

    Talk of carbon vs. steel frames, downtube vs. brifter, etc makes me think of my record player.

    I like listening to old vinyl records, and I’ve got some really great albums, but when I get in my car I don’t haul out the turntable. That’s what the phone is for. We embrace new technology (within reason, as Frank notes above) because it makes some aspect of our lives better and/or easier.

    Airplay is super convenient at home, and iTunes makes it so easy to list to eclectic playlists.

    My turntable makes listening to music a ritual, cleaning the record, flipping the record, making sure the correct speed is set etc. For any serious listening, it’s always the turntable.

    Speaking of which, they released the Zep records on 180 gram vinyl. I finally completed my collection of old Zep records, and now I have to buy them all again.




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  43. @frank

    @Owen

    Talk of carbon vs. steel frames, downtube vs. brifter, etc makes me think of my record player.

    I like listening to old vinyl records, and I’ve got some really great albums, but when I get in my car I don’t haul out the turntable. That’s what the phone is for. We embrace new technology (within reason, as Frank notes above) because it makes some aspect of our lives better and/or easier.

    Airplay is super convenient at home, and iTunes makes it so easy to list to eclectic playlists.

    My turntable makes listening to music a ritual, cleaning the record, flipping the record, making sure the correct speed is set etc. For any serious listening, it’s always the turntable.

    Speaking of which, they released the Zep records on 180 gram vinyl. I finally completed my collection of old Zep records, and now I have to buy them all again.

    Let’s not speak of having to buy 180 gm records. My used bookstore Neil Young library is strong and I don’t want to think about spending more than a few bucks for each one. If, however, you feel the need to rehome your Zep I know a guy.

    There’s something to be said about rituals and respect for our elders (both people and technology), but I’ll never understand those who are willfully anachronistic just for the sake of being anachronistic.




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  44. Before Rule #14

    My first bibshorts were some kind of black acryl with a crappy chammy. Never heard of chammy cream back then. The next pair of shorts were the ones in the picture: lycra with a nice soft anatomical leather chammy. Kept them all these 25-odd years but never wore them again after having read Rule #14. When reading this article and having bought yet another pair of black bibshorts, I threw them away after taking this picture last Saturday.




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  45. @KogaLover

    Before Rule #14

    My first bibshorts were some kind of black acryl with a crappy chammy. Never heard of chammy cream back then. The next pair of shorts were the ones in the picture: lycra with a nice soft anatomical leather chammy. Kept them all these 25-odd years but never wore them again after having read Rule #14. When reading this article and having bought yet another pair of black bibshorts, I threw them away after taking this picture last Saturday.

    My first pro-quality bibs were blue Santini’s, bought in a bike shop in Zeevenaar. We all have to stray from the path in order to discover it.




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  46. @frank

    How right you are, and thanks for fixing my post. No idea how the text ended up in the caption.




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  47. @frank

    @Owen

    Speaking of which, they released the Zep records on 180 gram vinyl. I finally completed my collection of old Zep records, and now I have to buy them all again.

    Could you pretend you’ve never heard them before so you can enjoy that again?

    I remember collecting all the Led Zep albums, one by one, when I was about 17/18. Mind blown. I still can’t imagine having the affection towards any band, past, present or future, as I have for LZ.




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  48. At last, something we can agree on! Led Zeppelin are the best.




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  49. @Owen

    Exactly!




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  50. BB30 threaded BBs.

    Just wanted to leave that combination of words here. Hopefully, goodbye bearing drag from excessive seals! For realistically pretty lame weight savings that press fit bearings offer.

    Sealed BBs for the win.




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