Arizona Road Cyclist News

Welcome to the fourth issue of Arizona Road Cyclist News. Feel free to forward this newsletter to your friends. If someone has E-mailed this newsletter to you, you can sign up for your own free subscription by visiting our Website, Back issues are also available on the Website and are usually posted two days after the newsletter is sent out by E-mail. Arizona Road Cyclist News is a bi-weekly publication that attempts to cover topics of interest to cyclists who ride the streets and roads of Arizona, be they racers, club riders, or commuters.

In this issue:
                Update on the El Tour de Tucson Hit-and-Run Accident.
                Product Review, Zipp 404 Clincher Wheels.
                The Yearly Meeting of the Arizona Bicycle Racing Association.
                Why Should Cyclists Care About Bicycle Racing?
                Cyclocross Explained.
                Another Free Cycling Newsletter

Update on the El Tour de Tucson Hit-and-Run Accident:

As we reported in the last issue of Arizona Road Cyclist News, this year’s Tour de Tucson was marred by crashes, the most serious of which occurred when an elderly male driver made a left turn in front of a group of about 60 cyclists on Ina Road and took down ten of them. After surveying the scene and the damage to his car, the driver fled the scene. Luckily there were no fatalities, but five cyclists were transported to the hospital, and as this was written, one of the cyclists, Gary Stuebe from Surprise, Arizona, near Phoenix, is still in serious condition with a head injury including a fractured skull. Gary is being treated at a hospital in Phoenix.

Since the last issue, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department has named 91-year-old William Arthur Wilson as a “person of interest” after he turned himself in through his attorney. The Sheriff’s Office confiscated Mr. Wilson’s car, which had a damaged front end, and also confiscated several rags, which may have been used to wipe the car clean.

The Sheriff’s Office concluded its investigation of the matter late last week and turned its findings over to the Pima Country Attorney’s Office, which must decide whether or not to prosecute Mr. Wilson. According to the Tucson Citizen Website a Sheriff’s Department Deputy said that the investigation was “inclusive.” Why the Pima County Sheriff’s Department did not make an arrest for leaving the scene of an accident is unclear from the information published in the press. The Pima Country Attorney’s Office has also not yet determined if it will prosecute the suspect and will not even mention the suspect by name to the press.

I have been updating this story on the Website ( as more details become available, so check there periodically between issues of the newsletter.

You can read today’s article about the investigation in The Arizona Daily Star by clicking on the following link:

Product Review, Zipp 404 Clincher Wheels:

After having witnessed several instances of spoke breakage on Mavic Ksyerium wheels, I decided to trade my Ksyerium ES wheels in for something sturdier. I didn’t want to be one of those riders sitting alongside the road with a broken wheel phoning his friends in an attempt to get a ride home.

After researching the many wheels available, I decided to purchase a set of Zipp 404 clincher wheels. The biggest obstacle to overcome was the price tag. The 2008 version of the Zipp 404 clincher wheel set carried a list price of $2,100 (currently marked down 20% by most dealers to make way for the 2009 model), although it is possible to finagle a discount or to find the wheels cheaper on E-Bay, which is how I purchased them. The price does not include the skewers, which must be purchased separately. Dealers are asking $2,285 for the 2009 model, which has a new hub design and fewer spokes.

The Zipp 404 wheel set is an aerodynamic design featuring a mixture of carbon, Kevlar and aluminum that Zipp calls its “Carbon Bridge” construction. The rim itself, where the tire mounts, is made out from an aluminum alloy as is the braking surface. This means that Zipp wheels, unlike most carbon wheels, have excellent braking characteristics and do not require special brake pads. The carbon surface is dimpled, which Zipp claims further lowers air resistance, much like the dimpling on a golf ball. The carbon, in addition to giving the wheel much of its aerodynamic characteristics, acts as a shock absorber, compressing slightly to reduce the vibration caused by riding on rough roads. Zipp claims that these wheels transfer 10.9% less road impact force to the rider than do conventional alloy wheels and that vibrations dampen nearly 30% faster.

Like other high-profile wheels, the Zipp 404s are susceptible to gusty side winds. The first time I rode them in a blustery, heavy side wind, I was a bit disconcerted by each gust of wind that hit the front wheel, and I found myself riding more slowly, especially on descents. However, now that I have adapted to the wheels, I seldom find side winds to be a problem, but that may be because I have the wheels mounted on a Specialized S-Works Tarmac, which is a rock-stable bicycle that quickly recovers from any jolt to the front wheel. I suspect that side winds might be more of a problem if the wheels were mounted on a less-stable bike.

Zipp wheels can be purchased individually. That is, you can purchase just a front wheel or just a back wheel. Many riders chose a Zipp 404 wheel for the back, and a lower-profile 303 as a front wheel to improve stability.

A second disadvantage of high-profile clincher wheels is that the valve stems of conventional inner tubes are not long enough to reach through the rim. To solve this problem, Zipp ships the 404 wheels with stem extenders that screw onto the presta valve of inner tubes. I tried the valve extenders and found them to be less than satisfactory. Luckily, tubes are now available with an 80-millimeter valve stem, which makes valve extenders unnecessary.

The Zipp 404 clincher front wheel weighs 750 grams, and the real wheel weighs 865 grams. The front wheel has 18 spokes in the 2008 model and 16 spokes in the 2009 model. The rear wheel has 24 in the 2008 model and 20 in the 2009 model. The wheels are also available in a Clydesdale model for heavier riders.

The Zipp 404s are the best clincher wheels I have ever ridden. After comparing them with the several other wheels that I own, I have convinced myself that they are more aerodynamic, more forgiving on bumps, and laterally stiffer. They were expensive, but I spend many hours on my bike every week, and having a good set of wheels under me is worth the price.

The Yearly Meeting of the Arizona Bicycle Racing Association:

The Arizona Bicycle Racing Association (ABRA) held its annual meeting of racing clubs on November 30 at the Holiday Inn in Casa Grande. The meeting approved the preliminary 2009 calendar of tier one through tier three races, which you can view online in PDF format at The racing season begins very early in Arizona. The first race of 2009 is scheduled to be the Swiss criterium on Sunday, January 25.

Why Should Cyclists Care About Bicycle Racing?:

I suppose the main reason for non-racers to care about racing is that racing drives bicycle technology. The technology that the professional racing teams are using today will be used by our local amateur racing teams next year and will be available in the future on the bikes that club riders, tourists, and commuters use. It is also in bicycle races that the pack-riding techniques are refined and perfected that filter down to group rides. Having a few racers in your group ride can motivate everyone in the group to improve their cornering and drafting techniques and leads to safer rides.

Another reason to care about bicycle racing is that some races are exciting to watch, especially a criterium with a skilled race announcer who is not only a good talker but who is able to explain the tactics to the spectators. Races become much more exciting when the spectators understand how the riders are trying to outsmart each other and work with each other at times and against each other at other times. Success in a bicycle race, especially in a criterium, depends not only on the riders’ being in superb physical condition, it also depends on strategy and team tactics. A weaker rider who makes an intelligent and well-timed move can often beat riders who are in better physical condition. Unfortunately, some local race promoters use non-professional announcers or professional announcers who do not understand bicycle racing, and often crank the hard rock music up so loud, that spectators who value their hearing move out of range of the loudspeakers. Absent good announcing or if the announcing is drowned out by loud music, for many spectators these races seem to be little more than a bunch of riders incoherently peddling around the course, which is a great shame.

As we move into the road-racing season, I will try to alert you to upcoming races that might be exciting to watch, and I will try to attend those races myself, perhaps as a participant, and report on them.

Cyclocross Explained:

Winter is the time when bicycle racing moves from the streets and roads to the open fields of Arizona. The Cyclocross season generally begins in September and lasts until January. Cyclocross racing, which predates mountain biking, consists of racers repeatedly riding and running around a closed course that is generally 1.5 to 2 miles long and features grass, steep hills, mud holes, and sections that require riders to dismount, pick up their bikes, and run with them. The sport thus puts a premium of being able to dismount and remount on the fly.

Cyclocross bikes look like normal road bikes, but there are a few differences. Wheels are often sturdier, tires have knobs for gripping the soft ground, and there is increased wheel clearance to keep the wheels from becoming clogged with mud. Shifter and brake cables are often routed over the top tub instead of under the bottom bracket, again to prevent their being clogged by mud. In addition to mounting and dismounting skills, good bike handling is important to cyclocross, whereas drafting is less important than in road racing, due to the lower speeds. Riders are allowed to change bikes during the race, so having a pit crew on the sidelines with a fresh bike can be important if the real derailleur becomes so blocked with mud that it will no longer shift.

In some European countries, cyclocross is considered an important part of the racing season, because it enables road racers to maintain conditioning and improve their bike-handling skills during the off-season. Cyclocross is much less popular in Arizona, where people who might otherwise participate in the sport often prefer mountain bike races. There are three categories of cyclocross racers in Arizona, open women, open men, and master men 30+, where 30 refers to the men’s age. You can view the current standings of Arizona’s cyclocross racers at this URL: (Just a note of puzzlement, the results are a bit confusing, because Travis McMaster is listed three times, twice in the same category. How can the same person be in both first and fourth places in the open men category?)

Another Cycling Newsletter:

Some readers of this newsletter may be interested in another free publication aimed at Arizona cyclists called The Velocity Group Cycling News. This is a print publication that is sent out free of charge by U.S. Mail and that focuses solely on the Arizona cycling community. Prior issues have included local rider interviews, best training rides, the current race calendar, and training tips from local coaches. If you have a racing license from USA Cycling, you may already receive this publication. However, even if you are not a racer, you can subscribe to this free publication by sending an E-Mail with your name and postal address to