We love cycling and we’re all about riding bikes in cities around the world. Our products are intended to help improve every bike journey you take, with smart design features specific to cyclists and lots of little influences from the heritage of the sport. One of the most obvious places where we’ve been inspired by classic cycling is in our product names – many of them are taken from Dutch and French, because those two nations have such a strong connection with the sport.
STRAAT means street in Dutch and is the name of one of our urban-centric pairs of pants. DRAAI is the name of our courier-style military shorts, and it’s taken from the Draai van de Kaai bike race – an elite criterium that has been won by Quintana, Contador, Kittel and Valverde in the last few years. Then we have MUUR, which literally means wall, but is also used to refer to a super-steep climb – the most famous example being the Muur de Huy, which is always decisive in La Flèche Wallonne.
Crankk’s PLAKKER is a warm hoodie for wearing when the weather is cold or at night and it’s named after a Dutch expression meaning ‘someone who sticks on another rider’s wheel without sharing any of the work’. We all have at least one Plakker as a friend! The KISSMISS is a 100% cotton denim shirt, inspired by the Dutch nickname for podium girls.
OMLOOP is our unique combination of shirt and hoodie, which will be available shortly, and it’s named after the famous Classic race, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. RENNER is another Dutch word, meaning racer, and it’s the name we gave to a couple of our lightweight shirts – smart enough for meetings, but comfortable for riding in.
From France we borrowed names like ETAPE, COURSE and PISTE (which mean ‘stage’, ‘race’ and ‘track’, respectively), and applied them to three of our different styles of pants.
We named our first collection of T-shirts after the great cycling classics, so you can wear a ROUBAIX or a LOMBARDIA, both featuring graphics inspired by vintage cycling posters. Paris-Roubaix is considered one of the toughest of the Spring Classics, with riders tackling the dreaded pavé of northern France. Il Lombardia is the last monument and the traditional curtain call of the road season. Taking place in Autumn, it’s nickname is ‘the ride of the falling leaves’.
There’s a funny story they’ll tell you on the Buenos Aires walking tour – it concerns the pigeon population of the city.
As the legend goes, the founders of the city were so desperate for B.A. to look and feel like a ‘true’ European city that – along with aping the architectural styles of Paris, Venice, Vienna and Florence (to name a few) – they also paid to have pigeons brought across the Atlantic and introduced here. Obviously the pigeons took to life in South America, they multiplied in number and quickly flourished. The rest is (slightly dubious) history.
In the past five years or so, cycling in the city has enjoyed a similar flourishing and, while bikes have been commonplace as functional modes of travel for many years, their popularity as a leisure or lifestyle item has never been greater.
Rouen is a bike shop in the Palermo neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. The area is bristling with cafés, artists’ spaces and boutiques. It’s a creative hub and a highly desirable neighbourhood, especially with the young. Rouen opened its doors in 2012 and has enjoyed success by bringing fresh and modern-looking bikes onto the market, modelled on global trends for single-speed city cruisers and elegant town bikes.
Most of the frames in the store bear the Rouen badge of honour, but they also have a few other second-hand bikes – including this beautiful (but tiny) vintage Pinarello. If I were about 20cm shorter I might have been tempted to buy it!
A few blocks away, Michael, working at Muvincorp, another of Palermo’s hip bike stores explains that local government has had a part in the rise on popularity:
“The bike lanes have been here for about five years now and people who wouldn’t have felt safe before to ride in the street are now riding a lot. I see a lot more women riding bikes now than before the lanes.”
At Muvincorp one of their biggest struggles is importing top quality products from outside of Argentina – the import tax is so severe that they have to add big mark-ups just to keep things profitable. So if you want a Brooks England saddle you’re much better skipping over the border to Uruguay and visiting one of their sister stores.
The Uruguayan connection is the reason behind one of the store’s coolest pieces – a spray-painted single speed created by a Ururuguayan graffiti artist called Pum-Pum. The eye-watering paint scheme may not be for everybody, but we like it a lot.
Tom Owen is a cycling writer who travels the world in search of two-wheeled adventures. He’s ridden bikes in Bali, Vietnam, Andorra, Spain, Cambodia, Thailand and the UK. This winter he’s going to South America to explore the cycling culture of Bolivia, Argentina, Colombia and many more places. Tom is going to be writing about his experiences for us, so make sure you check out our blog to keep up to date with his travels.
Cycling journalist and friend of Crankk, Tom Owen, rode the Eroica this year in Tuscany, Italy. It was some of the worst weather they have ever had at an Eroica event. Eroica means heroic in Italian.
If you want to ride in the Eroica there are some rules you have to follow. First, you must ride a ‘heroic’ bike – a bike that was built before 1987, has the gear shifters on the down tube and is made from steel. You also have to ride without clips on your shoes (toe baskets only) and you have to dress in appropriate vintage cycling gear – that means wool jerseys and shorts, classic ‘casquette’ cycling caps and (if you can grow one) a big moustache on your face. Ladies don’t have to follow this last part.
There are four routes you can test yourself on – 46km, 75km, 135km and 206km. The last one is for only the true heroes, though. Some of the people who did 206km took more than 15 hours to finish.
We rode the 135km, and it was perhaps one of the hardest things I have ever done on a bicycle. All the routes start in Gaiole, a small town in the Chianti wine region. We set off in the darkness before dawn and the first thing we do is descend 330m into the town of Gaiole. It was terrifying and really fun at the same time.
Once the sun comes up, the scenery is incredible and you spend most of the day riding the famous ‘strade bianche’ roads, which are basically just farm tracks. When it rains on the strade bianchi they turn into rivers of mud and dirt. It felt like riding in a cobbled classic, like Roubaix or the Ronde. It was hardcore man!
The only respite from the rain comes at the food stops. Instead of gels and energy bars though, everything is authentic Italian cuisine. Jam tarts, salami, olive oil and hot peach tea. We arrive and descend on the food tables like ravenous animals. Stuffing cake and nutella into our faces before we can chew. It feels good to be out of the rain, but eventually we realise we have to set off again.
We pass over and around the rolling Tuscan hills. We see a bunch of vineyards and so many ancient-looking monasteries and castles.
Somebody in the group gets a flat and we have to beg strangers for a spare tubular tyre. Eventually somebody gives us one and we can carry on. Thank you Mauro from Milano. You are a true hero!
At the next food zone we eat steaming hot bowls of rigoletta, a specialty of the region. It’s a thick soup made with bread and spinach. It gives us strength. We also drink a lot of red wine at the stop. That gives us strength too.
Finally the sun comes out for the final 50km.
With the sun on our backs we feel inspired to carry on. To attack the climbs as hard as we can. I get off and push my bike a couple of times. I feel sad and unheroic, but then everybody else is pushing too it doesn’t feel quite as bad. Someone tells me, “There is no shame in pushing at the Eroica”.
In the last few kilometres I get separated from my group. I continue on alone and get my reward – an incredible winding descent back into Gaiole. I hit every bend at the apex. Maximum speed. My old steel bike flies like an eagle.
The finish line is one big party. I find others from our group who rode the shorter distances and have been drinking for hours already. I join the party.
After riding 135km around Tuscany in woollen cycling kit I’m super grateful for modern fabrics and gear. Wet wool against your skin is the worst thing in the world! Especially when it won’t dry out and you have 60km more to pedal.
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