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The retro and the modern at Sea Otter

Before I leave for the Giro d’Italia and everything becomes grand-tour-related for a while, I wanted to make sure I talked about new products I thought significant. There were a few final items that I saw at Sea Otter that I thought were interesting enough that I wanted to share them with you before I clear my hard-drive of those notes and photos.

Dromarti’s Marresi-made retro Race road shoe has a composite sole with three-hole drilling for modern road pedals.
Dromarti’s Marresi-made retro Race road shoe has a composite sole with three-hole drilling for modern road pedals.

In the retro arena, Dromarti offers cycling shoes, gloves, clothing and frames the way they used to be made except that they work with modern components. It dates me that the kind of equipment that I started racing on has become quaint to the point that it not only draws looks of amazement at the handmade work and traditional materials, but that it takes a committed company to even keep some of these manufacturing methods and traditions alive at all.

Dromarti’s Le Grand Mitt gloves have hand-crocheted backs and hand-worked leather palms. They are made in Somerset, England, formerly the glove-making capital of the world, where craftspeople can still be found who make gloves the old-fashioned way. Each piece of leather is hand-stressed and cut from the ideal parts of the hide. While soft and luxurious on the palms, they still look just as rough for wiping your nose as crocheted backs were in the 1970s.

The full-grain leather lace-up shoes Dromarti offers, made by legendary Italian cycling shoemaker Marresi, have stiff soles, yet from above look like the shoes of Fausto Coppi’s day. From the bottom, however, they don’t, as two of the three models (the Race road and Sportivo MTB shoes) don’t have leather soles or hobnails that dig into your feet on rainy days, and there are no nail-on cleats on any of them. These shoes beckon you to do L’Eroica, and if you set up a retro bike for it, Dromarti offers slotted cleats that mount on the modern threaded holes yet grab onto traditional road pedals with toeclips. Yet you can adjust the cleats and are not destined for relentless knee pain as you would have been with nail-on cleats that you hadn’t nailed on at the correct angle.

If you want to ride really retro or want some dress shoes only appreciated by your older cycling buddies, the Storica shoe has a leather sole with a low leather heel and works in toeclips without grabbing the pedal cage with a cleat.

Now that BMC has set up its own North American offices and warehouses, it is going dealer-direct, rather than through QBP. It claims to have already doubled its dealers and equaled its total 2009 sales already in just the first quarter of 2010. Every BMC Team Machine SLR01 was sold out within hours of becoming available in this country. It attributes this to lower prices and improved service by eliminating a middleman.

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