Monday, December 29, 2008

FSA's 11-speed road group coming into focus?

When SRAM was making the debut of the Force group a couple years ago, there was nearly equal level talk about Full Speed Ahead bringing its own complete road groupset to market. Of course, SRAM went gangbusters, and FSA, well, the line "it's coming" has been getting long in the tooth.

Then I came across this, at

By the looks of these patent drawings, something is in the pipeline for an 11-speed road shifter. I have contacted FSA and while they don't deny that they're working on something, they are quite mum about any details whether regarding function, dates of release, and what the group is to consist of.

Regarding the shifters, Roues Artisanales makes an interesting note: while conventional shifters sees the cable wind mechanism in the shifter in a perpendicular fashion (since the levers push and pull in that direction, the cable spool on this FSA shifter lay in front-to-back parallel with the cable run. How the shift lever winds the cable in that orientation (since the inboard shifters typically push inward will be interesting to see, as will shift cable placement, which may port directly out the back of the shifter as it does with the brake cable, eliminating the need for under bar shift cable routing, thus making for an even cleaner, potentially easier-operating cable run, with less cable and housing needed.

The rear derailleur, instead of pivoting up and down the cassette via a standard parallelogram, has mechanical pivot on either end of the spanning bar that would normally be a parallelogram.

There is also word that there will be a bar end shifter that will go with this group, and that it may very well depart from standard function—but no further details were provide.

I guess we'll have to wait and see, but I am sure Interbike next year will be an interesting one—if the drama lasts that long. The media—well, at least me—will be harassing FSA at Sea Otter at the very latest.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas...

...and enjoy the wonders of the season (even you guys paralyzed by snow in Seattle)

Cheers, Jay

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Perfect Last-second Gift

If it wasn't for my wife, I would be, as they say, late for my own funeral. If I say I'm gonna be somewhere in 10 minutes, add 20 minutes to that, and that'll be my arrival.

So with days till Christmas, I announce the wickedest holiday gift for a triathlete, the one who has everything. It's not a $12,000 carbon thing. It's not even a $200 carbon thing. It's a jacket. Not just any jacket, mind you. If that was the case, I'd be pimping my wool-lined, corduroy O'Neill jacket that wards off cold, chill and hollow-tip bullets.

No, this one, the T-Zero is better. I used this tri-specific transiton area jacket just before one of notoriously chilliest—and bone-chilling—races in North America: Escape from Alcatraz. It's put together by the guys at True Motion, and took design and feature cues from pro triathlete Jordan Rapp, a guy who is one of the most tech-saavy athletes out there. True Motion sent me one to test, and my first thought is "how do you test a jacket? It zips up, it zips down."

Well, with Rapp's involvement (as well as that of Paul Bashforth of True Motion, a guy I finally got to meet at Ironman Arizona No. 2 a few months ago when he numbered my wife before the race), it goes without saying that the thing will be tech loaded. But the biggest feature for me: two zippers. At Alcatraz—shit, at any cold-ass morning race—the one thing I look forward to least beside the line for the porta-loo is the line for body marking. Because once you make the front, you have a minute of unendurable chill as you take off your hoodie and freeze as the volunteer puts your number on your arms.

The T-Zero solves for it with a simple solution: zippers on the shoulder. No need to take off the jacket, just unzip, number, and zip up. As we waited to board the Hornblower, with the cold air coming off the bay, it was a pleasure to get to "test" this jacket.

But the thing is packed with other stuff. First, it's inside is a nice, warm, brushed twill. But the outside is a nice windblocking outer. Points there. There's a clip inside one pocket, allowing you to lock your keyring to it, so after the race you're not hunting around for your keys that fell out of your jacket.
MP3 pocket with internal cable run and external headphone port, check. Partitioned rear zip pocket, internal mesh pockets for your phone..... there's a place for everything on this one. A long tail, a high collar... there's no way cold is getting in.

It's $130. Not a bad price to pay for a jacket that will keep you focusing on just the porta-loo... and your start. And if you are looking for that last holiday gift for a loved one, just order it direct online at, drop an IOU in their stocking to let 'em know it's coming, and tell them you were late... but that it was my fault. I'll take the hit—I'm used to it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ain's High-tech Sponsorship Search

I remember the first time I saw Ain-Alar Juhanson race, at Ironman Lanzarote. The Estonian, six-foot-three or something, was just grinding his teeth down, riding up to Bjorn Andersson and away from else. Sitting on the back of a moto, I quickly snapped a couple pics and bailed out, for fear he'd bite my head off. Once on the run, I was shocked to see this big, focused guy moving pretty good down the road on the run.

He won the race, like he typically has at Lanzarote, which, with its heat and wind, is largely regarded as the toughest Ironman on the circuit.
But for his gap-toothed grimace on the bike, I expected someone with the charm of a NFL linebacker, a typical cold Eastern European. I found interviewing him he was quite the opposite; he was friendly, comical, an all-around good guy. I had heard he had been on a ferryboat that went down, taking some of his triathlon colleagues with him, and he spoke openly about it—it was clear his motivation was to honor them.

The above shot is from Kona this October; I had been faced down the Queen K awaiting the lead women when I heard "Jay!" from behind—Ain had clicked off the fastest bike of the day (an amazing 4:26:14), and was running out of the Energy Lab and back into town to a great 14th-place finish. If you can go well in Lanzarote, Kona can—can—be an easier prospect.

He recently pinged me on Skype and proved that while our Triathlete mag publisher John Duke is espousing how our sport is so vibrant, that we are not the ones being laid off, we are doing the laying off, it sure ain't recession-proof for the pros. He lost his previous title sponsor, and the hunt was on.

But instead of doing like most pros, sending resumes out, Ain went tech. Posting a YouTube video, he wondered what I thought. If I could figure out how to put a YouTube video up, I'd do so.

But it's just as easy to click HERE to check it out. I thought it was a pretty clever way to seek out a brand that might want to align with a big, smiling monster.

While some thing the life of a pro is a luxurious one, I can attest, it is as close to the poverty line for many of these guys, even Ironman champs like Ain. Hopefully it's just a blip in his program. Because while there's lots of good guys in this sport, there are few like Ain, who can win with a massive, gap-toothed smile.