i was going to regale you all with a review of graeme obree's autobiography 'the flying scotsman' but since i have yet to finish it (lots going on on islay these days and nights) it will have to wait until the next post. if you can't wait, the half that i've read so far is fascinating, and you wouldn't have to be interested in cycling to appreciate the writing, honesty and tenacity of graeme, the book is available at a cost of 9.99 uk pound notes published by birlinn publishing, with a foreward by francesco moser (yes, the francesco moser) and should be available from amazon or your nearest bookseller.
meantime, we move back a few steps and return to the thorny subject of bicycle frame materials, mainly because i had an e-mail during the week from a reader who was looking to purchase a new frame that would give him comfort and respite from a painful back - which an uncommonly large number of cyclists seem to suffer (oscar freire for example).
since i mentioned in my review of the shiny colnago c40hp (and wouldn't you just know they brought out a c50 only a couple of months after i bought the c40) that i had spent the last six years pedalling a now forlornly ignored colnago superissimo steel frame, the correspondent wanted to know how the comofort factor registered on this material.
well, i have to say that i too figured that steel was the material to go for in order to maintain comfort during lengthy cycles, and had spent many an hour on the internet and rifling through many a cycling magazine to find out all i could about the few remaining steel frames on the market (by which i mean 'quality' steel frames) and had looked at not only the colnago master x-lite, but also the derosa corum, pegorettis and others i now fail to remember.
there is also an invaluable website that runs from (i think) roadbikereview.com or some such - you could find it on google if that's the wrong url - where owners of almost every bike imaginable have written detailed accounts of what the bought, what componentry was fitted and how they rated the ride factor. now all this is very geeky stuff but a great help if you know what type of frame you are approaching and just what you hope to get from it.
the comfort factor was uppermost in my own search, and to this degree, even though i only looked at a few aluminium frames (aluminum if you're across the pond) the remarks were enough to satisfy that alu was perhaps not the material i would spend my pennies on. bizarrely enough, my directeur sportif rides a coppi aluminium frame after decades of steel frames and has pronounced it the most comfortable bike he has owned, so perhaps some of these remarks should be taken with a pinch of salt.
the great shame is that road bikes are rarely sold in a road ready state - it's difficult to walk into a bike shop and ask if you can take a 56cm colnago c40 with record groupset, ksyrium wheels and a fizik saddle out for a spin round the block. aside from having to leave a rather sizeable deposit, it's unlikely that the spec referred to would be sitting ready and waiting. and it's even worse if you live where i do, since the nearest colnago dealer is dales of glasgow and i don't think they'd be too keen on a test ride no matter the size of the cheque at the end. and how much time would it take to try out all the frames that match the criteria (i know i'd still have several years to go)?
so after approximating all the gathered information, do you have a clear idea of the purchase? no, not a chance, so a bit like colour proofing, you go through all the profiles and then take a leap in the dark. in my case, i got it one hundred percent right, size and all, but judging from the amount of ads in the comic where the reason for selling a several thousand pound, state of the art velocipede is often 'bought the wrong size' though i worry about the number of folks selling things like pinarellos with every conceivable extra while comfortably admitting that it's only four weeks old (it's a worry).
so to return to the, by now, almost forgotten point of this column (i do that rather a lot you know), i was considerably surprised that the c40, all carbon frame and forks, was even more comfortable than my steel colnago. admittedly part of that is due to a longer top tube - i have disproportionately long arms) - but the frame is unbelievably stiff; when hammering out the saddle, it's almost possible to throw yourself off the bike because there is no flex whatsoever. and despite this stiffness, it appears to glide over what passes for road surfaces on islay (most make the m1 look like a motorway).
so i felt it only fair to point out that despite the street cred that steel frames have, and rightly so, the colnago c40 has comfort in spades. though in the process of my previously mentioned research, many owners of other brands of carbon bikes reported the stiffness to be at the expense of comfort. so ernesto appears to have got it right first time and i'm still enjoying owning one.
and if you've been to islay, or the west coast of scotland, you would realise that owning a carbon frame means that it will avoid the plague that is ferrous oxide.
just while i've got you here, today's islay tryathlon was generously sponsored by bruichladdich distillery (and yes, i won the tean event again).
this whole website got its name because scotland's graeme obree built his championship winning 'old faithful' using bits from a defunct washing machine.
on a slightly different note, my regular reader will have noted the addition of a 'colnago c40' rollover to the left. this contains a reprint of a recent article featured in cycle sport magazine, which they were very kind to let me present here (because i'm a colnago geek) i have also found an excellent review of the colnago c40hp here
i have been asked to add the following link to the post by wheelygoodcause. they're a cycling club dedicated to arranging epic rides for charity and do not charge charities for the pleasure. They ride because they want to. here's the link.
Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here
any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com
as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.
this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.
on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh powerbook g4, and imac computers, using adobe golive 6 and adobe photoshop 7. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.