Anatomy of a Photo: Awkward Adolescence


Evolution is a slow, gradual process, punctuated by sudden change. For the first 80 years of our sport, riders rode contra la montre on their regular road bikes. For certain, the bikes were carefully cleaned and tuned to remove all possible resistance, but these were their standard, daily machines. Then, in a span of barely ten years came the skin suit, aero helmet, and the coolest time trial innovation ever, the cow horn handlebars. Then it was on to aero bars, and since that innovation, we've been back to gradual change, thanks in large part to the UCI declaring creative thought to be against regulation and banning all but the most conventional bicycle designs.

For a time, however, it was as though Pandora's Box had been cracked open, and from it sprung countless innovations that would change our sport for ever. Some were good, some where bad, some were altogether too much, but all of it was exciting and all of it was cool in its own right. It was a thrilling time for cycling.

We did, however, enter a very awkward adolescence as the Pro Road Racing scene struggled to adopt the aerobars which had permeated the Triathlon world. The challenge was, of course, to integrate a handlebar made popular by men and women wearing Speedos and doodle on themselves in an appropriately sophisticated European manner. But things were to get worse before they got better; in the span of a single season, Sean Yates went from doing the one-eye V-Squint to wrestling with the Scott Noodles of Death. Even the ever-classy Johan Museeuw couldn't manage to make a graceful transition.

We figured it out eventually, but it wasn't exactly a painless process. For your review, I've collected a handful of examples from the progression.

[dmalbum path=”/velominati.com/content/Photo Galleries/[email protected]/Aero Bars/”/]

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72 Replies to “Anatomy of a Photo: Awkward Adolescence”

  1. The front end of Yates’ bike in pic 10 is one unholy mess! The comparison to #13 is astounding. it’s interesting how quickly things become outdated. eg LeMond’s helmet in 1989, or the air attack in #8.

    The crazy looking Bianchi is kinda cool – never seen that one before. Looks like it’s got a really long wheelbase.

    Coincidence that Frank put this together and that the image that is the epitome of aerobar coolness features a Cervelo? I think not . . .

  2. @RedRanger

    Is that Jens on the Bianchi?

    No, that’s Evgini Berzin, the quintessential EPO junkie. Came out of nowhere, smashed everyone (beating Indurain at the Giro) and then pulling a Kaiser Söze.

    @wiscot

    The crazy looking Bianchi is kinda cool – never seen that one before. Looks like it’s got a really long wheelbase.

    Funny you like it; that Bianchi is an abomination to my eyes. Bianchi, such a company of tradition, building a bike like that. Crazy. Around the same time, they also built this full suspension ride for Museeuw for Roubaix.

  3. LOVE that photo of Hinault. One of my all time favorites of him (another one is the one where he is punching the dude out in the protest!).

    “Sean Yates went from doing the one-eye V-Squint to wrestling with the Scott Noodles of Death” … this line killed me at work. Everyone wondering what the hell I am laughing about.

  4. Look at the chain in the Sparticus Specialized photo! As @bigringriding would say he certainly has his cottage of wattage fired up!

  5. I’ve never been into TTing much – probably because I suck – but my training partner gave me some TT bars. I was being slow to put them on until I got the A Ride With George Hincapie DVD and saw that he sits on the trainer in the aero position. So now I got the aero bars on the Crack-n-fail. I still don’t like TTing.

  6. Nice. But you forgot these gems, which, in my limited knowledge of pro cycling, was the reason that the UCI created the “triple triangle” rule:

  7. @Buck Rogers
    Sean Yates is still a scary beast. He is thinner now than ever and I believe he is the defending British 50 mile TT champ. If you ever see him, don’t make eye contact, ride away slowly.

    @frank
    Cool photos, you should own a TT bike, yes? You would look good on one. Lemond’s position looks awfully good in his ADR kit photo, wasn’t that the fastest TT ever in the TdF? Mien Gott, faster than Faboo?

  8. Softride. I actually have a buddy that got a free one for getting Softride tattooed on his leg in the 90’s. I’m sure he’s regretting that now.

  9. Hey, I have a set of those Death Noodle bars! :) The future was 1996… and then the UCI ruined everyone’s fun.

  10. @Nate

    @scaler911
    What an abomination. With a triple chainring. And no nipple lube on the spinergys. The horror.

    Ya, when those things (notice I called em things, not bikes) came out and people started riding them, I just smiled and shook me head. I’ve always thought, since even before this site, or Al Gore invented the internet, that bikes were supposed to look a certain way. Those ain’t it.

  11. @scaler911
    Come clean. That hipster fixie must be yours. “Your Friend” with the tattoo? Can’t hide your dirty, dirty secrets round here for long.

  12. @Minion

    @scaler911
    Come clean. That hipster fixie must be yours. “Your Friend” with the tattoo? Can’t hide your dirty, dirty secrets round here for long.

    Sure. Im a hipster from way back. But, if I am the one with the poorly thought out tat, you can bet Sir Frank will be posting a photo of it after the Cogal.

  13. There’s something about that black Lotus that’s strangely compelling. The GT, on the other hand, with it’s unisex step through design looks like an early prototype of the Boris Bike from when the designer only hear the “we want something that will get the commuter around town quickly” and didn’t hear “that will also have benign handling, be robust and cheap to produce”

  14. Imagine showing up at a group ride with that purple Waterford spinergy triple combo contraption. If you pair that with some vintage big oakleys, old giro helmet and some garish kit, would have people chomping at the bit to crush you.

  15. @scaler911

    Softride. I actually have a buddy that got a free one for getting Softride tattooed on his leg in the 90″²s. I’m sure he’s regretting that now.

    Damn, that’s the funniest thing I’ll hear this month. Poor bastard, that’s a hard one to live down.

    The Waterford frame builder must have been shaking his head the whole time he was soldering it up, “serenity now, serenity now, it’s paying the bills” That is a most terrible abortion of a bike.

  16. @Chris
    That GT Superbike was designed for track events at the ’96 Olympics in Atlanta, and I don’t believe it ever saw the street. Anyhow, the Swiss quickly banned it for being too fast and too ugly. :)

  17. “…made popular by men and women wearing Speedos and doodle on themselves…”

    *sobs quietly*

  18. @frank
    Frank, Kinda cool. Not fully cool, just kinda. And it’s being ridden by a doper so I guess it an appropriate pairing. At least they got the color right.

  19. Hi, I’m new here *waves*

    I, along with I’m sure many other perusers of this fine website, would love to read an article about the God Of The Road that is S Yates. This true Hardman epitomises everything that we mere mortals aspire to be: incomprehensibly fast, a demon descender, and feared by every member of the peloton, all while managing to be effortlessly stylish both on and off the bike.

    frank, sir, I beg of you.

  20. @scaler911
    My dad has four – count them, FOUR – softrides. Two mountain bikes and two road. They’re actuall not bad for mountainbiking; you develop an incredible stroke because if you don’t pedal round, you’ll bounce. And the descend like a set of downhill skis; you can load it as you corner so it carves like a ski.

    Oh, and yes: they are a total abomination of all good taste and sensibility.

  21. @Chris

    There’s something about that black Lotus that’s strangely compelling. The GT, on the other hand, with it’s unisex step through design looks like an early prototype of the Boris Bike from when the designer only hear the “we want something that will get the commuter around town quickly” and didn’t hear “that will also have benign handling, be robust and cheap to produce”

    I had a poster of Boardman rolling that Lotus in my room for ages. Agree, it’s somehow very cool – probably for te same reason Obree made his abominations look good: they just oozed class from their pores.

    Shit, Boardman even made Mektronic look good.

  22. @Routier, @Gianni
    We’ll do it, promise. His awesomness has graced these pages before, but a full retrospective indefinitely overdue. As a fellow tall guy, I have mountains of respect for the dude.

    @Gianni
    And he’s graced with the unique Merckx-given gift of just looking more and more badass with age. What a fucking stud. The dude is so awesome I’m not ashamed to say I’d prolly do him if he asked. Partly because I’d be scared to say no, but still.

  23. @Gianni

    @frank
    Cool photos, you should own a TT bike, yes? You would look good on one. Lemond’s position looks awfully good in his ADR kit photo, wasn’t that the fastest TT ever in the TdF? Mien Gott, faster than Faboo?

    Yes, I should. I think it’s the only part of this sport I’d ever be good at. Thankfully, I don’t have TT bike, so we can’t disprove that assertion.

    I think that was the fastest ever TT, although it’s possible that Dave Z set a faster time in 2004 when I took the yellow jersey. He had a tail wind the whole way, everone else had a headwind. Still, a great way to enter the Tour. He then promptly crashed out of the jersey by hitting his bars with his knee during the TTT.

    LeMond’s position in photo 7 of 14 (where did the captions go?) but that is not the final TT; that is the one from mid-race, when he surprisingly took yellow, riding mostly in the rain. You can tell that the aero bars are not fully taped down as in photo 6 of 14, and the arm rests are black – those are home-made arm rests; Boone Lennon made them up for him and then made him some better ones for the final TT. I think the ones in photo 7 are actually wrapped in electrical tape!

  24. @frank

    Speaking of old guys who are fast, Cyclops is 50?!

    I just turned 35. I can probably smoke that old fossil.

    FTFY.

  25. Let’s not forget about these:

    I actually remember racing against some pros riding these in the 90s. I wasn’t sure what to think of them at the time.

  26. Slingshot is still around believe it or not. Strangely I can’t find any good photos on their own website. I’m not surprised.

  27. @michael
    Awesome! Under what circumstances are those bikes supposed to not suck? Surely there was one the could think of? Maybe for riding down a slip n’ slide?

  28. @frank
    Jesus, Frank. Just for posting that or even knowing where to find it, I think you need to take a time out.

  29. @Gianni
    Isn’t there an amazing photo of Yates suffering like a dog in Graham Watson’s “Images of Cycling”? The one of him in, I think, MSR, when he looked over at Graham and Graham snapped the photo, then felt guilty b/c of the suffering that he had just captured? Such an amazing photo. Pretty sure it was Yates. (Don’t have my book with me at work).

  30. I think I’m pretty happy I missed out on a lot of these since I had yet to become a Follower. Wow, lots of ugly bikes in here.

    Damn, a Softride tattoo? That might be worse than the cunts with aerospoke fixie tattoos.

  31. Damn, riding a one-piece yellow bike in a red Speedo. That’s tough.

    At that angle his bottle appears to have elephantitis.

  32. @Gianni

    I think Sean Yates has modelled himself on The Man With No Eyes (Cool Hand Luke).

    @frank Sweet Jesus, my eyes, my eyes….

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