Wednesday, January 17, 2018

DeLonghi Esprsso maker review

REAL Italian espresso on-the-cheap

Regular blog readers know we're partial to GAGGIA espresso machines, with a Francis-Francis model (named STEWIE for it's Stewie Griffin-like look) as a backup in Italy.

Last year we flew down to Sicily, leaving our Gaggia and Stewie up north. Heather had a machine shipped down here, but it was a piece-of-junk. Some kind of new-fangled gizmo that used a pressure-increasing gadget as part of the filter housing. I'd get a decent espresso out of it, followed by 3 awful ones. I checked out online tech videos but the poor thing just didn't work.

So off we went down to the local consumer electronics shop, finding this DeLonghi model on sale for about $150 US. Based on what was written on the box, Larry thought it would be worth a try,

As you can see, this thing is rather ugly but at this point we no longer cared! We (meaning Uncle Larry) just wanted a way to make a decent espresso at home. Yes, there are great coffee bars all over this island (and Italy) but when you like to spoil your wife with cappuccino in bed each morning, having a machine in your own kitchen is the way to go!

Uncle Larry didn't much want to like this thing - but it works pretty well for the price. We're using the "pod" (cialde in Italy) filter to make one-at-a-time cups. We've tried a bunch of cheaper alternatives to our favorite ILLY caffe to reduce our long-term expenses with pretty good results. The steam wand works fine though Larry prefers just the steam tip since it's easier to clean. Not an option with this one, but it's not to hard to clean, just blast it in a cup of water a couple of times after steaming the milk.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Leaving LA


A few people on the Palos Verdes Peninsula are bike-friendly as you can see above, but they are far from the majority.

Meanwhile, the air quality leaves a lot to be desired as you can see in this view from the highest point on the peninsula looking inland. UGGHH!

We stopped by our old friend Tony Bonello's NY pizza place in Lomita. Tony still knows how to throw the dough! He's originally from Sicily and we're trying to talk him into coming to visit us.... Sicily, where we'll be next week!!!

Thursday, January 4, 2018


FAVALORO in the media

The January 2018 issue of Road Bike Action Magazine contains a feature on one of our favorite cycling artisans,  Michele Favaloro. RBA's editor Zap compares him to Ernesto Colnago. 

The multi-page feature (photos here shot of pages in the magazine) included a photo taken at NAHBS 2017 where Favaloro entered two bikes in the Best Campagnolo-equipped category, one of which was our "Belloni" as you can see above tricked out with Bora wheels and a rare Campagnolo carbon seatpost. The black Puma NTO took home 2nd place in the competition.

More details on Favaloro and our new full-carbon bikes HERE, HERE,  and HERE.

Friday, December 29, 2017

SLO riding, slow food

We decamped from the in-laws in Santa Barbara for San Luis Obispo to escape the fire smoke (thankfully gone now) and to explore some new roads.

Today we headed out on this loop. We're playing around with the RidewithGPS website with an idea of making our Piedmont Cycling Resort routes available in this fashion.

We started climbing right away, up Pefumo where this cow greeted Heather.

We eventually sweated our way to the top to enjoy some nice views of the coastline.

The skies were not-so-clear way out there but for us it seemed just about perfect when taking in the fact that it's DECEMBER!

The road was so peaceful and traffic-free we started to wonder WHY? This unpaved section was the second clue, the steep grades being the first. We did see a few cyclists descending as we'd climbed but we figured a road like this on a day like this would have been filled with cyclists, but what do we know?

Soon enough we came down near the sea but a sharp uphill turn treated us to some fantastic views.

Some unpaved trails kept most off this section except for a few hikers. Who says you need a "gravel bike" to ride in the dirt?

And who can NOT smile when you see a sign like this?

Once back to our lodging it was time for some grissini wrapped in Prosciutto di San Daniele, egg pappardelle with roasted red pepper cream sauce and grilled ahi tuna steaks.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Five, ten, fifteen, twenty---percent?

This started out as a lovely ride as you can see below. Zero traffic once we turned left onto this quiet road along the creek. There was even some water in the creek at times. We kept wondering why nobody else was cycling out here on a sunny Sunday?

We would soon find out!

Heather had noted a bit in one description of this ride that claimed there was a 17% grade but we discounted that and cruised along, chatting away....until we hit "the wall" as they call it. We should have looked HERE before!

We DID see one cyclist coming down who warned us just as we reached the first steep section. 10% was pretty common, then we started to see (and feel!) 15% before a section just after the above photo at 19%!  Our legs said there was more but the GPS unit only measures these things as long as you keep up a minimum speed - which we weren't.

Thank gawd it was only about two miles of this to the top! Since we have pretty much zero fitness this time of year, we proved that "gearing and attitude" are pretty much all it takes to climb like this...but it's DECEMBER and we really didn't need to be doing anything this crazy.

Most simply ride back down from the top,  but we donned our vests and headed down the other side towards Highway 46. This part was again very pleasant, but perhaps not worth the boring return on 46?  We either slogged along up 5-6% grades with traffic whizzing past or sat on our bikes coasting down at 40+ kph, with traffic again whizzing past at only a slightly smaller speed difference. 

Eventually we reached the coast and Highway 1 back to Cambria where the BBQ was again fired up, this time with a pair of meaty pork chops following some spicy pasta. 
I think we'll need an easier day tomorrow!

Monday, December 18, 2017

California (cough) Dreaming

California Dreaming?

As usual we escaped the frozen plains of Iowa for Southern California to celebrate the holidays with Heather's family - and to enjoy some cycling in the warm sun. But California was having a giant BBQ and we didn't want to be the main course! Above you can see some hills in the background through the smoke. Normally at this time of year that view is crystal-clear, but the wildfires have covered a large area with smoke even if they're not actually on fire.

We bunked with the in-laws one night with the original plan to take up lodging nearby but not under-foot until the holiday festivities began in earnest. We quickly realized our bikes could just stay in the car, there was simply too much junk in the air for normal breathing, let alone any active exercise!

So "Plan B" was quickly formulated.  Get outta Dodge...or in this case the fire area or any area covered with smoke. Cambria turned out to be the closest place with decent air to breathe and available lodging, so here we are. Above you can see Heather on the famous Highway 1, at present blissfully traffic-free due to road closures further north.

The skies are clear and sunny up here. Above you can see just how clear in this vista shot of the Pacific Ocean. Winter days like this are some of the best in this area with very little haze or fog to obscure the views. 

And thanks to the road closure, there was almost ZERO traffic! We decided to ride more than we probably should have given our lack of fitness, but how often can one ride California Highway 1 under these conditions?

We kept going to Ragged Point, more-or-less as far as you can go at present. We hoped there might be something there, as in a place to enjoy a drink, but neither one of us could remember what was up there since it's been so long since we'd been up here. Above you can see our bikes posed with a gorgeous view.

Above you can see Heather in the same spot. It was truly a spectacular day, made even greater by the lack of traffic.

Above you can see the nice dining spot at Ragged Point. We had a small snack and some drinks to earn our spot in the sun, then headed back along the coast the way we'd come, stopping to view the elephant seals along the way..

Our lodging has a tiny BBQ grille so we cooked up a couple of swordfish steaks for an early dinner and collapsed into bed with dreams of sun and cycling for tomorrow. 

Speaking of sun and cycling, don't delay in making your reservations for 2018 at our Piedmont Cycling Resort. Just click HERE.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Carbon clinchers - an oxymoron?

Finally, a dirty little secret is revealed

Photo from Cycling Tips

Twenty years ago, pretty much about the same time we started CycleItalia, clincher wheels made from carbon fiber started to appear on the market.

Uncle Larry was skeptical (some would say cynical) from the beginning about the claims being made for these products. He remembered attempts to make square-taper bottom bracket spindles using titanium, which contrary to popular belief is NOT as strong as steel. 

Simply making a part in the same shape and dimensions using a material inferior in strength is at best a foolish gamble. The bottom brackets failed, sometimes to the point the rider was left on the ground with a pedal and crankarm still attached to their shoe!

A redesign was in order, with far larger diameters and different specifications, something that can't be done with a clincher rim. It must be made to a specific shape to retain the tire and its internal pressure no matter how much of an aerodynamic wind-cheating design is used.

Tubular rims on the other hand, do not face these issues as their tires are simply glued onto a depression molded into the rim. ALL of the internal pressure is contained inside the sewn-up tire carcass so the only downside of these was less-than-great braking performance, especially once the tire size was increased to reduce impact damage. We've probably all seen a caved-in aluminum rim, usually caused by hitting a large pothole in the road.

Carbon tubular rims these days offer performance under braking good enough, now that carbon-specific brake pads have improved, for the pros to use them pretty much exclusively with no major problems, though of course they usually have a follow-car with spares.. just in case.

The sexy look and lighter weight claims associated with anything made from carbon fiber proved too hard to resist for the bike industry.  But with so few willing to put up with the hassles of tubular tires these days, sales would go nowhere unless clincher versions of these wheels were available so every Joe and Jill Crankarm could ride around looking like a pro.

Photo from Cycling Tips

The first versions were aluminum rims bonded to carbon fiber. You might remember the ill-fated Spinergy Rev-X? They had plenty of issues, the aluminum rim separating from the carbon portion was just one of them! Most makers eventually solved that problem but there was still the thought that all-carbon clinchers would be big sellers, despite not being all that much lighter than their aluminum cousins.

Twenty years ago, all-carbon clinchers were first offered for sale. The braking surface was carbon fiber, far from ideal from a friction or heat-dissipating point of view.

Based on this piece over at Cycling Tips it seems not much has improved in 20 years?

The design of an aluminum alloy clincher rim can't simply be duplicated using carbon-fiber. The thin sides of a clincher rim (unless of course it's a disc-brake design) simply can not handle both the braking friction and temperature increase combined with the internal air pressure of the tire/inner tube.

Claims of special resins or brake pads are band-aids that can't cover up the problem. Of course this isn't a problem if you always ride in flat places and never have much use for your brakes.

We suggested from CycleItalia's beginnings the use of carbon clinchers was a bad idea. This piece at Cycling Tips suggests we were right at the time and nothing much has changed, so our suggestions stand.

*Disclaimer: While neither wheels from Ursus or Campagnolo (both official suppliers to CycleItalia) were mentioned in the linked article we can not endorse their use on our tours. Put the aluminum clinchers your bike came with back on and enjoy piece-of-mind.