For many professional cyclists the Spring campaign is the toughest of the season; it means training from October until March in the worst, character-building weather conditions Europe can dish out. This weather and the suffering that is bicycle racing breed characters known as “hardmen”.
Select cyclists tackle these conditions in shorts, long sleeve jerseys or short sleeve jerseys with arm warmers, wind vests, and shoe covers. A true hardman opts to forgo the knee or leg warmers and instead chooses an embrocation, or liniment to cover the knees. This liniment provides warmth for the legs and keeps the blood circulating and muscles supple. Embrocation and the sheen created is affectionately known as “Belgium knee warmers”. The hardest of cyclists will sport bare legs in the most ruthless of conditions.
Belgium Knee Warmers are indicative of the many subtleties that make professional cycling so enthralling.
I spent 20 years of my life working in the bicycle industry, turning wrenches and selling bikes for some of the industry’s best shops. I have extensive experience designing and constructing frames in both steel and titanium and have performed thousands of bike fits. I am passionate about bicycles in all forms. The bicycle provides me with physical and mental health and taps me into a social pipeline that allows me to share my passion with others. I ride as often as possible and love the flow of a hard group ride. Check back for musings about all things road cycling and, especially, the Spring Classics. The devil is in the details and I am an expert in the useless minutia that makes up our discipline. I created BKW back in 2006 as an outlet for my unbridled love for cycling and over the past three years, BKW has offered up a number of wonderful opportunities that I never dreamed possible. I look forward to bringing you the adventures that will write the next chapter of BKW.
Peter Easton is the founder and Director of Velo Classic Tours, a tour company focused on providing an unmatched cycling-centric experience. Whether knee deep in mud and manure in the French countryside or atop a Hors Categorie climb, Velo Classic Tours strives to bring its clients as close to cycling’s inner circle as possible. Peter’s access to the races and PROs that make up our sport gives BKW a perspective few can match.
TK’s passion for the Classics burns brighter than a three alarm fire and that may be fitting given that his day job is fire fighter and first responder. TK loves Belgian brews, Mapei’s glory years, high volume tubulars and the ride of a classic 32 hole wheelset. Ty’s experiences chasing the Classics has brought BKW some amazing content in the past with a promise of more to come. Past contributions include the interview with Scott Sunderland and some great shots from the edge of Roubaix’s cobbles.
Patrick Brady (Padraig)
Cycling is a sport that appealed to my sense of fun in a way that few other things do. First, there’s the toy: I love the bicycle itself and its immediate, mechanized glory. Then there’s the thrill of human-powered movement at a rate no foot can match. We have the ability to devote ourselves in a nose-to-grindstone way to the pedaling without it ever actually seeming like work, and yet, you know you’ve worked; no one in a cubicle has ever strained to the point of forgetting his own name. And while each of those things is lovely, riding a bike downhill is one of my most favorite endeavors in life. From the first time I did it when I was six up to, well, earlier today, riding a bike downhill is as simple and gleeful a pleasure as my son’s smile.
So that’s they why of cycling for me. I can’t imagine not doing it. But my path to this point has been … oblique. I began working in bike shops in 1987 and it was a great way to finish undergraduate school and make rent when I went off to graduate school. But I soon became interested in more than just selling and working on bikes. I wanted to work in the industry. I got my mechanic’s license, became certified in the Fit Kit, and started freelancing for a little East Coast mountain bike magazine you might know: Dirt Rag. Back then it was black-and-white and saddle-stitched, not the full-color, perfect-bound lovely it is now. I got involved in another regional called The Ride and was introduced to Important People, some of whom remain forces in my life.
For the early to mid-1990s, my professional life embraced racing, wrenching and writing. It was an odd mix, but one I was determined to make pay off. My credits began to grow and include bigger publishers, such as VeloNews and even Bicycling.
In 1996, I was offered my dream gig: to join the staff of Bicycle Guide magazine. I left New England for California and set myself to the task of really learning what makes a great road bike tic. But as they say, all good things get squashed, and after just a few years the magazine was folded by our publisher. No worries, I had ideas of my own.
In 2002 I launched Asphalt Magazine. It was the realization of yet another dream, to publish a magazine befitting the quality of the world’s finest road bikes. Our run was cut short due to a disagreement between my partner and me. I’ll leave it at that. I still take pride in the work we did and smile when someone tells me it was the best bike magazine they ever read.
It was in promoting Asphalt at a VeloSwap event that I met Radio Freddy. We quickly realized we had crossed paths in the past and were kindred spirits. We discussed him becoming involved in the magazine, but the stars didn’t quite line up.
In 2006, Radio Freddy dropped me a note to let me know he had started a little cycling blog and invited me to contribute to it. At the time, my understanding of blogs—especially cycling blogs—was that they generally consisted of minutiae about one’s day-to-day travails. I wasn’t sure what I had to contribute; my life is only interesting to me (and my mom and dad).
He persisted and I dropped by the obscurely tagged Belgium Knee Warmers from time to time. Gradually I began to see that it wasn’t about Radio Freddy, it was about cycling and celebrating the sport we can’t live without. “Well,” I thought, “I can get behind that.”
The turning point came with the hubbub surrounding Tom Boonen’s back troubles after moving from Time to Specialized. I knew a fair bit about how the company pursues product development and had a great deal of respect for their work. I knew there was more to the story and saw the opportunity to investigate my favorite thing in the world: The Why.
That was the beginning of the beginning. Radio Freddy made me a regular contributor to BKW and even prompted me from time to time to explore something. In my tenure here I discovered an untapped vein for cycling meditations, ideas that had been brewing without my even knowing it.
Of all the work I have ever published, BKW holds some of my most cherished pieces, works for which I’ll remain proud all my days. There’s nothing more satisfying than when I think I’ve tapped a universal truth and shined a light on an experience we have all had, but may never have put to words.
My departure to begin my own blog, Red Kite Prayer, came as a result of wanting to pursue my own creative and entrepreneurial vision for a blog. I didn’t want to end the collaboration with Radio Freddy, but we couldn’t both be captains of the same ship. And while blogging can be a great hobby to pursue in the evenings after the kids are asleep, I saw the opportunity to create an alternative to the big publishers; I wanted to put the whole of my effort into it.
Radio Freddy and I have agreed to find opportunities to continue to collaborate; we’re not sure what form it will take, but we have ideas. You’ll probably see my name here from time to time and his name over at RKP on occasion. You’re a great readership and it has been your support that gave us the chance to explore and grow.
Oh, and my nom de plume? It’s an old nickname from a mentor and in it are echoes of the Irish priest who baptized me. I adopted it just to see if we could gather readers simply on the quality of our work.