Saturday, September 22, 2007

Odd Fellows

In one of the odder postal coincidences, the latest issue of Bicycling Magazine and Bicycle Quarterly arrived on the same day:

The cover of Bicycling featured beautiful people posing astride gorgeous bikes in a breathtaking desert (all exposed flesh shaved and oiled, male and female). Whereas the front page article in Bicycle Quarterly was headlined "The Aerodynamics of Real-World Bicycles." And it turns out that in the real world, fenders and handlebar bags actually improve aerodynamic efficiency.

Now, I haven't checked the archives, but I can't remember the last time I saw a review of handlebar bags or fenders in Bicycling Magazine, let alone any aerodynamic testing of real-world components...The testing in Bicycling Magazine seems to consist of gushing enthusiastically about the latest top dollar, variable modulus carbon, ceramic bearing wonder bike. Not that there's anything wrong with those bikes when used for their intended purpose (racing), but the reviews sometimes border on bike porn.

Bicycle Quarterly, on the other hand, actually goes out and tests stuff- proving, for instance, that ceramic bearings have negligible performance benefits. There are no four-color, double-page ads for SUV's, and only the most utilitarian of illustrations. Their wind tunnel article concludes that "experimenting with a lower position- while maintaining comfort- and carefully selecting clothing will provide greater benefits than even the most expensive aero wheels."

It is only the precious few thousands of the randounneuring and touring communities who read Bicycle Quarterly, as opposed the the millions who read Bicycling Magazine, (modestly self-proclaimed the "World's Leading Bike Magazine"). So we need not expect the aero wheel market to collapse, nor will the Aerospoke Crisis of '07 end any time soon.

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