From my small experience, this is the mother of all Belgian bike shops: it is really big, it is really cheap and the service is really crap.

You can tell that cycling is the national sport of the northern half of Belgium. This store is about as big as a medium sized supermarket. I went during the sales: it was totally packed, like the H&M on rue Neuve on a Saturday afternoon.

So why go to this shop?

You go there for the choice. They have a huge selection of textiles (Assos, Pearl Izumi, Gore, Bio Racer, Castelli, all the way to the cheaper brands: you name, they got it), helmets, shoes, socks, gloves, underwear, sunglasses, a great selection of bikes and of accessories (wheels, cranks, tools, etc). It really blows your mind.

And you go there for the prices. Just as an example, I was so proud of the deal I got on a set of tires from Probikeshop.fr: Vittoria Rubino Pro for 19€! Well, they have them for 15€ at Van Eyck Sports. You basically have lower prices than on the internet, without having to pay shipping fees and with the possibility to see the goods (and try on the clothes).

But you clearly don’t go there for service. It is not so much that they are not nice (one actually smiled and said hi, and none of them bit me when I spoke french!), but they don’t really have the time to advise you, nor, for some of them, any real competences. You basically have to know what you are looking for. But it’s pretty much the same thing on the internet, no?

So if you need advice (and I think that as a noob, you often better get advice), go to another shop. But as far as I can tell, nothing beats Van Eyck Sports on price and choice.

Website: http://www.vaneycksports.com/

Address: Gentsesteenweg 89 – 9300 Aalst (Tel: +32 (0)53 78 12 78)

Address 2: Waterstraat 31 – 2440 Geel (Tel: +32 (0)14 58 93 17)

Address 3: Meensesteenweg 168 – 8890 Dadizele (Tel: +32 (0)56/54 04 40)

An absolutly fascinating video to watch, documenting the fabrication of a steel bike by Soulcraft in Petaluma, CA.

FROM STEEL: The Making of a Soulcraft.

Quite quickly after having bought the bike, I realised that I would need a bike stand. It is quite indispensable to clean your bike post-ride and to do basic maintenance tasks, such as adjusting your gears. You could manage without, but it means carrying your bike with one hand and doing stuff with the other. Which is a pain in the arse, really.

There are mainly three types of bike stands:

1. The classic stand where the bike is clamped at the seat post:

2. The stand where the bike is maintained at the (front or rear) fork and the bottom bracket (so-called “Euro style” or “team race”),

3. The stand where the bike simply rests on the bottom bracket with a clamp around the down tube:

At first, I was convinced I needed a clam style bike stand. They are expensive and thus must be much better, no? And those are the stands you often see in bike repair shops as well. Then, by looking at race videos, I noticed they often use the second type of bike stand. They are slightly cheaper, but also look very good. But finally I read an article about building your own workshop in the April 2010 Cycling Plus issue (you can find it on the zinio.com app to read it on your iPad).

The article presented basically three types of workshops: the pro, the expert and the budget workshops. For the pro workshop, you need the crème de la crème: the PRS25 Park Tool, portable and tough (but at around 350-400€). For the expert workshop, you can go with the Topeak Prepstand Elite, sturdy but not as stable for heavier bikes (at around 200€). For the budget workshop, they recommend the Tacx T3000, which is Tacx’s entry-level bike stand.

The Tacx T3000 could be labeled as outdated by the more trendy and clever stands out there, but as they say, “there’s no getting around the low-cost effectiveness of this scissor design steel unit to provide a well planted and robust work base that’s unmatched for heavier operations“. It might be a bit bulky and heavy, but “it’s sturdy as a tree stump“. And the best part: it costs around 50-60€.

So that’s what I bought a couple of weeks ago and I put it to the test this week end. I wanted to clean the bike and the chain, and do a bit of adjustment on the rear derailleur.

Pros: It is indeed sturdy as hell and very stable, even on the uneven cobblestones of my sidewalk. It is very easy to set up and does not take up a lot of space when folded. The weight is totally reasonable and it is easy to carry around when folded.

Cons: Firstly, you can’t swing around the bike to do both sides. So you either walk around the bike, or just lift and rotate the whole stand with the bike on it. But that’s really no big deal. Secondly, if your bike is heavy (like my 18kg Fahrradmanufaktur city bike), it is a bit tricky to put it on the stand, especially the first time, as you have to maintain the bike balanced on the stand with one hand while screwing the clamp around the down tube with the other. But you get quickly get the trick and it is no real issue with a 8-9 kg road bike.

My conclusion? I’m happy I bought this and didn’t spend more one something else. If one day I have money to spare and space in my cellar for a workshop, I might upgrade to something else. But for all practical purpose, this is really a great work stand.

I was never a big fan of Armstrong, to say the least. I don’t like his holier than thou attitude. And he belongs to a generation that doped a lot. Sure, Contador or the Schlecks probably use doping, at the very least auto-transfusion. But somehow on a more reasonable scale.

Yes, I believe doping has become reasonable again, like it used to be in the good ol’ days. Like in the days when Federico Bahamontes preferred hot weather, because Charly Gaul couldn’t take as many amphetamines.

Anyway, I am having some Schadenfreude seeing the statue slowly being chipped away. Even if you like Armstrong, an interesting read, synthesizing the evidence against him: The case against Lance Armstrong, in Sports Illustrated.

The most damning new accusation, as summarized by the Boulder Report column in Bicycling, is basically that:

“one of the most famous sportsmen of the last half-century stands accused of buying stocks of a tightly controlled investigational drug – manufactured by an American pharmaceutical company and intended for use only in clinical trial settings under the regulation of the FDA or its European counterparts and which is illegal to use for any other purpose, or even for a private citizen to possess, much less transport internationally – to pull off a monumental sporting fraud.”

I would also recommend (re-)reading the very good (even arguably better) piece in the Wall Street Journal from last summer, Blood Brother.

“Training is like fighting with a Gorilla. You don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when the Gorilla is tired.”

Greg Henderson (via Velominati)

I really can’t help myself, I have to post this now almost classic video. At the same time, the 5000€ time trial bikes they are riding buying, allow the bike companies to come out with “cheap” bikes like the one I’m using. So thank you, triathletes! And keep on being funny!

As mentioned in an earlier post, my solution for eyewear is now to wear contact lenses with non-prescription sunglasses. I purchased the sunglasses during the christmas break, and did a few stores in and around Brussels to try out all the models I wanted to see (the ones with the best choice are Van Eyck Sport in Aalst and Optique&Vision in Toison d’Or Gallery).

I had more or less settled on Oakley, mainly based on their reputation of quality, their looks and their PRO factor. I knew I was not going to buy the Jawbones or the Split Jacket, as I was simply not ready to spend 200€ or more on a pair of sunglasses that are difficult to wear outside of the cycling context. The Radar and M Frames are just too dorky to my taste and I wanted to be able to use it for other sports or just for casual wear. Flak Jackets and Half Jackets were my most serious options. But in the end, after trying them on, I decided on the Straight Jacket. The latter model is a bit more bulky and is branded as “active” and not “sport”, but it simply looks better. I also feel more comfortable using it for skiing/snowboarding as the rim goes all the way around the lenses.

Oakley Straight Jacket

So I put them to the test last weekend.

As expected, they do fog up a little bit when you stop riding. They are not as well ventilated as the above mentioned “sport” models and that has a price. But they only fogged up when I stopped riding, and de-fogged after ten seconds, so no big deal.

As concerns the lenses, the “black iridium” are quite dark. It will not be an issue when the spring and the summer will be here, but I had to take them off after the sun started to go down. I guess I’ll just buy a cheaper pair with light lenses for the darker days.

Otherwise, nothing to say. The lens quality is simply amazing, there is no distortion. They also protect very well from the wind, so that was super comfortable with the lenses. And the visibility angle is good, the think-ish rims did not bother me.

So the conclusion? I think that if your budget (or personal taste) allows for it, go for a model with interchangeable lenses. But for a good looking and more discreet pair, you can definitively go with the Straight Jackets.

The temperature has gone up again (around 5-7°C) and we had a beautiful week-end, especially on Sunday. I also had also taken Monday off, and took the opportunity to ride on a second nice day in a row.

On the first day, I went to my usual starting point in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw (point 68 on fietsnet), and went up north, all the way to Dilbeek/Groot Bijgaarden. It is a nice ride, with just a tricky part around Gronenberg (between points 18 and 21, in orange on the map bellow), where the road turns into a muddy trail, impossible to ride with a road bike. But you quickly spot the trail when you get there, and it is easy to avoid by continuing on Lenniksebaan and making a right at the next crossing or the one thereafter. There is also a long paved areas, but these are clean pavés and the gutter is super wide and easy to ride. And finally, they are working on railroad trakcs near Dilbeek, which means you have to walk for a few meters through a very muddy patch.

Anyway, a pleasant and easy going parcours (marked in yellow on the fietsnet map bellow).

From a touristic point of view, you pass by two of the Lambic producing breweries (the Girardin Brewery in Sint-Ulriks-Kapelle and the Lindemans Brewery in Vlezenbeek), and very close to the Timmermans Brewery in Itterbeek. It’s always surprising to see these tiny artisanal breweries (more info on the Lambic breweries here).

 

 

On Monday, I went off in the afternoon and had less time. I went for a shorter ride I had wanted to try out for a while: South on the Canal de Charleroi, and then West at Lembeek. This brings you into very rural Pajottenland, as you will see in the pictures bellow. It is a nice ride, with some muddy parts and some pavé sections. But nothing particularly problematic to ride with a road bike, it just adds a bit of spice. The sights are really pleasant, I was pretty much alone out there. No cars, no cyclists, no tractors. I hope the pictures bellow convey a bit of that.

 

Let us be honest with ourselves: woman cycling has a lot of resonance on the interwebs because it is pleasant to the eye and it works well in “edits”.

Liz Hatch is somewhat of an icon in that regard. On the web, she is a proper star, with a DVD (trailer here) and 10.000 followers on twitter. Every new video she appears on makes the rounds on the cycling blogs. In “real life”, she is a domestique in the Lotto Honda team. But who cares, right?

Liz Hatch – Every Single Piece… from Dovydas Augaitis.