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Just Like Rudy if He Had Been a Bike Wheel
February 28, 2008 11:21 AM   Subscribe

I Finally own a Zipp Wheel… A little story of how a bike racing fan came to own a fancy, schmancy carbon race wheel during the recently concluded Tour of California.

A photo of Hank's work-a-day wheel going pro.

The rider was veteran America pro Bobby Julich of Team CSC during stage 3 of the ToC. He managed to come in 32nd just ahead of Astana rider Vladimir Gusev, the other guy in the photos.
posted by turbodog (48 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

That's an awesome story. I wonder how many non-bike-riders are going to understand it, though. I'd explain, but that would spoil it for the folks who get it.
posted by ardgedee at 11:43 AM on February 28, 2008

Thanks for that. Glad both Julich and "red jersey" were both cool about the whole situation.
posted by jaimev at 11:47 AM on February 28, 2008

Non-bike rider. Not getting it.
posted by mrnutty at 11:50 AM on February 28, 2008

This is a great story. Thanks turbodog!
posted by hindmost at 11:52 AM on February 28, 2008

excellent story, would have loved to've had the chance...
posted by dorian at 11:56 AM on February 28, 2008

Must be a biker thing. Either his retelling is a bit abbreviated or there's a camaraderie I just don't get - my reaction to "I need your wheel" would involve a little more "WTF" and "who do you think you are" than his story involves...
posted by phearlez at 11:57 AM on February 28, 2008

Great story!
posted by OmieWise at 12:06 PM on February 28, 2008

So... a pro (Julich) busted his crazy expensive graphite wheel and then finished the race on this guy's (relatively) cheap yellow-tired wheel? I'd love to have the rest explained personally; seems like there's a good story in there somewhere with a few more facts.
posted by supercres at 12:07 PM on February 28, 2008

phearlez: since you're a self described code-monkey, imagine Richard Stallman runs by and asks to borrow your laptop for a coding emergency.
posted by hindmost at 12:07 PM on February 28, 2008 [3 favorites]

man... that's a great story. that broken zipp wheel is probably worth more than 99% of the bikes that are owned by mefis.

i just got a new set of rolfs the other day, and i certainly can say that there's something to good, stiff wheels. i love that julich got 32nd with an exchange and a 9speed cassette.
posted by mrballistic at 12:08 PM on February 28, 2008

phearlez...absolutely it is a biker thing, but probably the same as in any other sport. if you were a passionate fan, you'd be ecstatic it if you could contribute to the success or survival of an athlete in an event.
posted by randomstriker at 12:09 PM on February 28, 2008

imagine Richard Stallman runs by and asks to borrow your laptop for a coding emergency

...and in return gives you his brand new macbook pro that has a run-down battery. And then people take pictures of him using your laptop. And then he promises to hook you up with a bunch of free (as in beer) stuff.
posted by JohnFredra at 12:12 PM on February 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

supercres, you sound incredulous.

it's not hard to believe he finished the race on a cheap wheel. most equipment on the market is actually pretty good, even the cheaper stuff. it would be hard to win though with sloppy incompatible shifting, the extra weight and poor aerodynamics.
posted by randomstriker at 12:12 PM on February 28, 2008

Some explanation: posted by turbodog at 12:13 PM on February 28, 2008

Cool story.
posted by everichon at 12:23 PM on February 28, 2008

Very cool. Hopefully he gets a nice signed jersey in that box.
posted by caddis at 12:24 PM on February 28, 2008

I'd have trouble resisting the urge to stab Stallman in the face at the best of times. If he stormed up to me and demanded an expensive piece of property - particularly given his usual impeccable grooming - I think my version of this story would go a lot differently. And involve more bail money. For someone.

Besides, Stallman having a coding emergency would mean he was actually doing something other than flapping his gums, which also challenges credibility.

Your point, however, is taken. I get the willingness to help, I think there's just some context and expectation around interactions in this story that I didn't see in it and maybe a race enthusiast would understand immediately.
posted by phearlez at 12:28 PM on February 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Can anybody who followed the Tour of California tell me why there weren't any support vehicles available to bail Julich out? In video coverage of the European tours (all I've seen, I'll confess), they seem to be thick enough on the ground to cause their own traffic jams, and there are neutral support vehicles to help riders out of range of their team cars. From the little I know I can't envision somebody having to ride a kilometer on a damaged wheel.
posted by ardgedee at 12:32 PM on February 28, 2008

ardgedee, the broom wagons are generally at the front and back of the pack, anyone in the middle is often sol.
posted by dorian at 12:41 PM on February 28, 2008

ardgedee: there were CSC team cars, neutral service vehicles and wheel-carrying motorcycles, but as someone in the original forum post mentioned, they stick to the lead group and the peleton. At the time, Julich was in a no man's land between the leaders and the pack so it was faster for him to chase down red jersey guy than wait 3 minutes for a new wheel.
posted by turbodog at 12:47 PM on February 28, 2008

Your point, however, is taken. I get the willingness to help, I think there's just some context and expectation around interactions in this story that I didn't see in it and maybe a race enthusiast would understand immediately.

Okay, how about Linus Torvlads, or John Carmack.
posted by delmoi at 12:53 PM on February 28, 2008

you sound incredulous.

Not really; just the opposite, in fact--- I'm more taking a bit of amusement at the fact that the skill, and not the tools, make the athlete.
posted by supercres at 12:54 PM on February 28, 2008

Wow, that's awesome. I'd give my right leg for a set of Zipp 404s, and my other leg for a Cervelo SLC-SL. I wouldn't be able to ride at that point, and I'd probably wish for the days when I had two legs, a Specialized Allez, and a set of Mavic Open Pros.

I read the forums at a lot and "Josh at Zipp" continually gives kick ass customer service. Zipps are expensive, but worth it (or so I hear from all the people trying to justify the cost). It's pretty amazing that Bobby Julich rode 1.5 miles after smashing that wheel.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 12:56 PM on February 28, 2008

OK, that's awesome, I wish that had happened to me.
posted by Eekacat at 12:59 PM on February 28, 2008

fir killing system* > zipp
*sadly, FIR seem to have taken the "killing system" language (can't even find a link to the awesome original design, sorry) off their wheels :(
posted by dorian at 1:04 PM on February 28, 2008

Lightweight (now known as CarbonSports) > fir*

but come on, at that point, it's just ridiculous

posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:07 PM on February 28, 2008

hey, you're talking to someone who still uses 6spd freewheels (cassette? wazzat?) and will forever mourn the loss of sheldon brown. i.e. I will likely never own a single piece of any of this fanciness -- even if I were at the race, my wheel would totally never fit in some guy's bike.

lightweight is pretty awesome aka ridiculous, I have to agree.
posted by dorian at 1:15 PM on February 28, 2008

Also: non-pro weight wienies, wienies.

posted by everichon at 1:17 PM on February 28, 2008

Cool story.

Almost on topic, here's a video clip showing how fragile carbon wheels can be.
posted by cog_nate at 1:21 PM on February 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

cog_nate, almost any wheel would have buckled in that crash. The rider has the wheel turned slightly at the moment of impact, so the wheel folds like that. I ride aluminum rims (Mavic Open Pro...heavy but extremely durable) and have destroyed them crashing into a curb. Had the rider plowed straight into the dog, that might not have happened.

Two dogs took out riders in the '07 Tour, here's the second.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:28 PM on February 28, 2008

This conversation is weird. So now everyone has proof that a pro can race and finish on low-end, misadjusted equipment; but the author is ecstatic that he is now the proud owner of a broken, unnecessarily complicated and fragile wheel.

If this happened to me, I'd be kind of pissed off that I traded a hand-built, box section wheel with 32 normal, repairable spokes for a broken carbon fiber, deep section aero wheel with damned worthless tubular tires (looks like).

Sidenote: I used to race road bikes, Category 4 and 5. The only riders with nice equipment (fancy carbon fiber rims, shiny bikes) were weekend warriors with too much money. Me, I had a filthy bike (rode in rain and mud), mismatched wheels, a hodgepodge of equipment, and a clunking headset. I never had time to wash it or fix the bar tape.
posted by meowzilla at 1:35 PM on February 28, 2008

Neat story! Thanks.
posted by chinston at 1:54 PM on February 28, 2008

meowzilla, read to the end. CSC is sending him a new Zipp and some lagniappe. So, presumably he'll have a mangled wheel, a new wheel and some unspecified hotness at a later date.
posted by bonehead at 2:19 PM on February 28, 2008

Awesome, awesome story. I've drooled over Cervelo bikes and Zipp wheels for the past two years, wondering if I'd be really much faster on a lighter/aerodynamic setup like that (I bet I wouldn't but hey, it's fun to dream).

It's a great story, like having Michael Jordan ask if he can use your basketball to finish a game at the park.
posted by mathowie at 2:30 PM on February 28, 2008

What an excellent story! Put a smile on my face.

But all the people suggesting that he send the rim back in to the factory to get a new one -- crazy! Why the hell would you give up a wheel with a story, ridden in a big-name stage race by a big-name pro with serious US name recognition for something you can buy from any ol' bike store? (People pay ridiculous amounts of money for stuff like "ball used in world series".) If it were me I'd frame that wheel with a picture of Julich riding my wheel (and then I'd try to get Julich to sign it).

Hell, I bet you can sell that wheel+photo combo on ebay for much more than a new Zipp would cost.
posted by phliar at 2:32 PM on February 28, 2008

I'm more taking a bit of amusement at the fact that the skill, and not the tools, make the athlete.

Supercres, it's both. Keep in mind that finishing is not the same as winning.
posted by randomstriker at 3:00 PM on February 28, 2008

When I drove the Mavic car in the snowy US Cycling Open in Richomnd VA last spring, my mechanic (aka jumper) stuck a piece of masking tape and used a Sharpie to write the rider's bib number on the flat. After the race the DS or their soginuer of somebody came by with our Mavic loaner and picked up their team wheel.

But good on ya, that's a great story and free bike goodies rule.
posted by fixedgear at 3:02 PM on February 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Judging by some of the truly awful neutral service wheel changes I saw while watching the online coverage of the ToC, this was probably one of the fastest all week.
posted by afx237vi at 3:09 PM on February 28, 2008

That's bad-ass!

Nice picture, too. That's some sweet race memorabilia, way better than a discarded waterbottle.
posted by jstef at 4:00 PM on February 28, 2008

agreed, and it comes with such a great story, and perhaps even some more swag when his own wheel gets returned.
posted by caddis at 6:14 PM on February 28, 2008

I'd have trouble resisting the urge to stab Stallman in the face at the best of times.

I dunno, I met him at a party at Bruce Sterling's house after the CFP (Computers, Freedom, and Privacy) conference in Austin in 1998. (Sterling invited everyone at the conference to the party). We talked rather intently for a couple of hours. He didn't bristle when I told him I really disliked emacs and was a vi girl.

He has really beautiful eyes (up close, anyway), and he seemed well groomed to me (he smelled nice from a few feet away, and his hair was quite clean-looking). He's also quite short. But then I'm quite tall (6 feet - I go years and years between sightings of women my height).

I don't really remember much of what we talked about though. He's the only famous person I've gotten to talk to (I'm a nobody). So this is the end of my namedropping. Sorry.
posted by marble at 7:19 PM on February 28, 2008

Great story.

I don't even own a bike, but a hockey goalie I play opposite actually went down just to watch this event. We're from Toronto. I asked him, 'You're going just to watch¿' "Yeah' he responds.

I asked him today how the race was. 'It rained a lot' he said.
'Well, was it foggy too', I asked. 'No'.

A short conversation with a fanboi. He didn't want to start explaining to an uninitiated, it seems.

Now I'll be able to ask a few more questions.

Another guy on another hockey league team I play on is a serious cyclist. He has a permanent long shorts, short sleeved wearing tan the whole year, that's how much he rides in the summer here.

Come to think of it, then there's the guy I know who rides a fixed gear in the city. Now that's rad.

I can totally understand gear whores and tweakin' gear. Many goalie's I know do modifications to their gear, just because off the rack just won't quite cut it.

Some goalies with their shiny new pads haven't the athleticism or stamina to make them good though, I see the parallels and get it.

Funny how the guy described his jersey colour as being pearl red. 'Hey Red jersey¿' 'Who me¿, nah, couldn't be.'
posted by alicesshoe at 8:58 PM on February 28, 2008

that was an interesting story, especially as someone who is trying to break into the whole road biking thing (i don't even have a bike yet--still doing the research). there was a lot to learn here...
posted by pandemic at 9:33 PM on February 28, 2008

# The pro's bike had a 10 speed drivetrain while the guy's had a 9 speed, meaning that the gear shifting doesn't quite matchup. The pro probably only had a few gear combos that would keep the chain from grinding against either of the derailleurs.

Pros use indexed shifters? I sound incredulous!
posted by gum at 9:38 PM on February 28, 2008

alicesshoe wrote: Funny how the guy described his jersey colour as being pearl red.

"Pearl red" may refer to the brand of Jersey.
posted by Songdog at 2:29 PM on February 29, 2008

Cool story, thanks for the post. I can't wait to see what schwag he gets in return.

For those who think the coolness is only in the trade of value, or that the lack of coolness is that he gave up a working wheel for some broken carbon, keep in mind that he's on the sidelines and gets treated as a (neutral or same-team) pro rider: It's like being at a concert and the drummer says, "The show can't go on since I only have one drumstick," and you rescue the entire concert by loaning the guy a drumstick.

For those who don't understand giving up anything to help someone in immediate dire need, imagine you're the guy in the first Terminator movie who Arnold walks up to naked and says, "Your clothes. Give them to me." Like that guy wasn't telling that story to his buddies forever afterward...

Yeah, I'd love a pair of Zipp 404s, too. But not until I'm fast enough that it's not just taunting people to pass me.
posted by lothar at 4:26 PM on February 29, 2008

Now he's selling it¿

thanks for the name brand tip, songdog, I wouldn't have guessed.
posted by alicesshoe at 6:28 PM on February 29, 2008

a copy of the original forum post is now on

rest assured that the wheel donor will be well compensated
posted by randomstriker at 9:30 PM on March 2, 2008

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