thewashingmachinepost




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intrigue

pro-lite bella

due to extensive research on your behalf, i have become the repository of a serious amount of bicycle related information; some of it of great interest to the world, and some of it bordering on the trivial. however, one man's floor being another man's ceiling, the nomenclature is interchangeable depending on need and point of view. much of this information arrives completey accidentally, lest one have the notion that the post has entered the world of investigative journalism - two words, in fact, that are probably incongruous bedfellows in this virtual location.

let me elaborate. earlier in this timeline, my island accomplice (a bit further north than here), mr d graham of mull, off-road tested a pro-lite piemonte cyclo-cross bicycle - a particularly smart delegation on my part, since i know little about testing something that prefers mud and grass. this led to the need to know a bit more about the pro-lite brand, and i thought i'd share what i learned, because there's some nice stuff at equally nice prices.

first off, the man who can tell you even more is barry parker (below), and not ony can he tell you more about pro-lite bicycles, wheels, frames etc. but also polaris cycle clothing. bet you didn't know that. the two main uk distributors of the pro-lite brand are the aforementioned polaris, and triathlon specialists, tri & run, who sell re-badged pro-lites both online, and through their two london stores in chigwell, essex and wimbledon. frames are, however, merely the top of the tree as far as the taiwan made pro-lite brand is concerned: wheels, seatposts, stems, headsets, saddles - short of a groupset, there's not much missing from a complete bike build.

barry parker

shiny kit in the bikeshed as far as those of us on skinny wheels are concerned, is the full carbon monocoque galileo frameset for a rather impressive £999, all the way down to £250 for a 7046 alloy frame. the illustration above is of the 2009 bella frame (available from september 2008) which is already being put to good and effective use by mr parker, currenty racing a pre-release version (nattily kitted out with a set of pro-lite wheels and campag groupset). while we're on the subject of wheels, which we almost were, the como wheelset starts the bidding at £120, and top road version, the gavia, can be had in clincher (£1249) or tubular (£950) and all sensibly available with shimano or campagnolo freehubs.

so, based on davie graham's recommendation regarding the cyclocross piemonte, pedalling augurs well for the roadgoing versions. amazing what you can discover when you're actually looking for something else. in keeping with their aggressive stance in the uk world of cycling, the plan is for a racing team to enter the fray in 2009 - interesting times, don't you think? only bit i don't really understand is why there are two websites fro the same brand.

pro-lite.in

pro-lite.net

triandrun.com

polaris-apparel

posted on thursday 17th april

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grumpy old man

cobbles

it must be national moaning week or somesuch, because i'm at it again: paris-roubaix this time, or at least the lack of tv coverage of same. british eurosport produced around one hour's coverage of what is probably the finest classic one day race of the season; the one-day equivalent of the tour de france (yes, i realise how odd that sounds). let's be honest, one hour is not enough. meanwhile, over on cycling.tv, virtually the entire race was being shown, but only to north america. as i understand all this, the race organiser/owner (in this case, amaury sports organisation) allocates the televisual rights to interested parties, but often with geographical restrictions.

with paris roubaix, it seems that eurosport had the rights to show throughout europe, except belgium, and because of this, cycling.tv while willing to broadcast the event, did not have the rights to do so in the uk. unfortunately, it's the cycling fan who suffers (i believe eurosport's coverage on mainland europe was identical to that of british eurosport). it is perhaps unfair to criticise british eurosport, since running a tv station costs money, and certain sports (on sunday it was motor cycle racing) bring in more money than others. but british eurosport are perhaps the ones who have shot themselves in the tubular, since they frequently promote themselves as being the finest station for cycle sport (based mostly on their excellent tour de france coverage), and someone from the company did go on record a few years back at the advent of british eurosport 2, stating that if there were two competing schedules, they could simply switch the cycling to eurosport 2. only it seems they don't - or can't.

since i like to be fair in these matters, i did attempt to contact the head of british eurosport with some questions regarding this state of affairs, but so far, no reply. and it seemed prudent to write this article while sunday's race was still at least vaguely fresh in everyone's minds. apparently, during the tour of flanders, eurosport placed coverage of the race on their website, due to an unforeseen, and lengthy stoppage in the scheduled motorcycle racing. again something i asked about...

it's also unfair to praise cycling.tv at the expense of eurosport - the former exists purely to serve the cycling fan, where eurosport have to be all things to all people, even if we don't see it as a level playing field (there's another of those dislikeable phrases).

the guy i feel sorry for is eurosport commentator, david harmon: much like the sales rep when the order fails to turn up, he's the guy catching most of the flak, despite the fact that he has no influence or control over scheduling or race coverage. hopefully, the continued march of technological progress will render many of the current restrictions obsolete, and we can all enjoy the races we want, whatever our geographical location.

maybe.

i have since been informed that at least some parts of mainland europe received a darned sight more than our paltry hour of pr coverage, albeit in the native language of the broadcasting country

posted on wednesday 16th april; updated thursday 17th.

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favouritism?

rouleur exhibition

it's a rather delightful state of affairs (for me, that is) that so many people spend at least part of their week, reading these continuous outpourings. but the surprising part (again for me) is that this reading takes place over so many continents; the joy being that this allows me to expand my own horizons, and confidently write about cycling and associated events in places i haven't even been to. in fact, sad to relate, i had to look up a map of the usa to find out where oregon is (geography was never my strong point).

so, in order that i can be seen to treat everyone with a degree of equality, having broadcast the british premiere of the rouleur photo exhibition at the host gallery during the uk cycle show last october, it is only seemly that the post trails the continental debut of same across the pond. on april 25th, in cadence cycling & multisport, tribeca, new york, the jet setting mr andrews will open the north american debut of the show. of course, in the intervening period, we have had the opportunity to avail ourselves of three different editions of the rouleur annual, depicting many of the photos from the exhibit.

however, much like the difference between seeing cezanne's bathers in a book of impressionist art, viewing the rouleur photos large size, framed, and on a wall (a new york wall, come to that) is an experience worth savouring. i know large distances are regarded as a mere doddle in the uniteds, so i would encourage you to board whichever transport is at your disposal, and visit at least once between opening (april 24th) and closing (may 18th). as an added attraction, the introduction of an east coast rapha continental and ride schedule will also feature.

go on - if guy can do it...

posted on tuesday 15th april

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overture and beginners

cycling beginners

i just know i'm going to get in bother over this one, but steaming ahead still seems like a practical, knee-jerk reaction, so let's just get it over with. the folks at factory media, purveyors of magazines such as ride bmx, surf, dirt, moto - well, you get the idea, have a new bi-monthly on the cards for launch this september entitled the bicycle buyer, and it's aimed at bicycle buyers.

not, as you may suppose, a trade publication assisting harrowed cycle shop owners in their choice of next season's stock; bicycle buyer will be aimed at 25 to 35 year olds who are keen to ally themselves with a fit and healthy lifestyle activity. such as cycling i suppose. prognostications are good for essential buyer information, expert guidance, and workshop tutorials available online when the associated website launches (presumably simultaneously).

so, as the joke goes, why the long face? well, in january 2007, a magazine not a million miles away from the above philosophy, entitled enjoy your bike, folded after only a year in existence because, despite spending serious pennies with w.h.smith, it failed to get a foothold in the market - (allow me to digress slightly; how come it costs magazines money to have their publication on sale in w.h.smith? is it not supposed to work the other way?) - having briefly seen a copy of enjoy your bike, the articles seemed to be concerned with pleasant country rides, which type of bike is best for you, which saddle to plonk your backside on - sound familiar?

a few years back, concerned that thewashingmachinepost might be incomprehensible to the cycling newbie (and probably a number of oldies too), i had considered setting up a beginners' page that would offer the benefits of my experience (it was going to be a very short web page) to those very pedallists - so it's not that i'm knocking the premise, just that something that might make a fascinating article or two, doesn't necessarily translate into a regular periodical. and despite my admiration for at least two of factory media's current roster (ride bmx and dirt), i wouldn't have figured them for producing a start-up cycle magazine.

of course, none of this is my problem, and nor is it yours; unless of course you are a 25 to 35 year old interested in allying yourself with a fit, healthy lifestyle. but there are a heck of a lot of cycle magazines on the news stand, many of which have been doing all this for years. and there are also more than one or two websites proffering the advice that factory wish to commit to paper. in fact, a swift google search brought up timeoutdoors.com containing an entire beginners' guide to cycling sub-section presented by the not unknown oli beckingsale, and dealing with how to start, how to choose a bike and select appropriate equipment, getting fit, nutrition, health and hygiene. there's that familiarity again.

however, back in the day (agreed - terrible phrase) i was berated by robert garbutt of the comic for complaining about a lance armstrong features a week before it appeared. so i am wholeheartedly willing to undergo the same from the chaps and chapesses at factory media for conceivably undermining their forthcoming publishing venture. after all, i'm sure they know a lot more about the market demographics than i do. and let's be honest, if it can be undermined by a moan on the post, it's probably already in trouble.

told you i'd get into bother.

posted on tuesday 15th april

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scoff not, lest ye be scoffed at

tom boonen

cycling has its clothing traditions, much like any other sport or pastime; for instance, unless you're either anquetil or armstrong, you'd probably never consider wearing long socks. even rapha have seemingly discontinued the lengthier version. and you'd be unlikely to think of (or find, for that matter) a jersey with pockets at the front - though admittedly that's more of a practicality than a tradition. however, in the world of the weight weenie, most traditions likely have their origins in pragmatism.

but then the world moves on and some of these endearing frailties or conceits fade, and future generations fail to see the point. such can almost be seen to be the case with the casquette, particularly with the advent of compulsory helmet wearing in the professional peloton. and as is our imitation of our heroes, the amateur seeks to emulate (otherwise where did www.lancewearsit.com spring from? - strangely, still present four years after its genesis) and another part of cycling's heritage bites the dust.not completely of course; prendas and rapha still do their level best, and virtually every professional team offers a sponsored casquette as part of the uniform, perhaps more out of habit than dress-code. but it does still have its adherents, and it does still have its uses. we need not revisit the greats of the forties and fifties to witness its part in the series great victories of our time - sunday, april 13th 2008 is far enough.

with around 35km left to the velodrome in roubaix, the podium trio of boonen, cancellara and ballan moved away from their erstwhile company, making the strategic winning move of the day. while commentators and pundits continually reviewed each rider's possible options, all three ignored every one of them and entered the track together. now those in the know will pontificate with the benefit of hindsight, that boonen was always likely to win due to his superior finishing speed, but it's not quite as simple as that. scrutinise, where you can, photographs of the trio as they stretched and broke the elastic out on the cobbles; who is the only one wearing a casquette?

i rest my case m'lud.

by the way, congratulations to rider andrew fenn of kent, who won the 122km junior paris-roubaix. - and just to undermine the above, he won casquette-less.

posted on monday 14th april

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got it covered

magazine covers

unless you're david bowie or madonna, change is probably not a welcome state of affairs, an observation somewhat at odds with change being one of the certainties of life. naturally, cycling and the world that it inhabits, is not immune to this feature, (not a bug) and none more so than the publications that either wait for us at the newsagents, folded inside the daily read, or drop through the letterbox once a month. i can sort of see why they do it, and it does tend to parallel the finishing sprint: once one goes for it, the rest are honour bound to follow, but are we really so fickle that we demand such change every so often. can it not be allied to rearranging the deckchairs on the titanic? i buy the magazines for the writing and the photos; it's nice to have it all pleasantly arranged on the page (not something, i fear, that can truthfully be said about all), but i'm really quite happy if the song remains the same over time.

future publishing's procycling re-invented itself a few months ago, and as of the may issue (why do they do that - it's only april?) of cycling plus, another future publishing magazine undergoes a facelift. in between, cycle sport had a less drastic makeover, leaving the comic as the only one still the same as it ever was. unfortunately, same as it ever was is looking a bit tired, though not because of any deficiency in the design department. in days gone by, the comic was the weekly bible for cycle race fans; the advent of cyclingnews.com (now also owned by future publishing) rather diluted the eagerness for each week's issue. but instead of fighting back, the comic has continued to plough the furrow of pretending to be all things to all cyclists, while its content blatantly isn't.

a cursory glance of cycle magazines on whatever passes for a news stand near you would lead the casual cyclist to infer from the comic's covers, that sprightly pedals along country lanes, clad in the latest from any one of a series of noteable clothing manufacturers, was only a few page turns away. the reality is that the comic still covers cycle racing with the breadth and depth that it always did, but race reports are now hidden towards the back, just in case our casual browser gets a fright.

the tour of flanders was won in fine style by quick-step's stijn devolder, and being one of the major classics of the season, it wouldn't be too much to hope for that our favoured weekly read would emblazon its cover with the two armed salute of the belgian national champion. instead, with just a nod to the cobbles of flanders, young matt cronshaw of the kinesis racing team - featured in the rides section of the same issue - received his fifteen minutes of fame. except matt - who doubtless enjoyed the exposure - was probably nowhere near flanders all weekend. tom boonen has just won the 2008 paris-roubaix by outsprinting cancellara and ballan in the roubaix velodrome to take his second career pr victory. i await with interest the cover photo on this coming week's issue.

as to the cycling plus redesign, it's a sight more successful than its sister publication, procycling, which unfortunately seems to have lost the plot a bit, while cycle sport seems to have got it just right; it's noticeably different while remaining just the same. just the way it should be.

just don't get me started on the subtle invasion at cyclingnews.com.

posted on sunday 13th april

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campagnolo heritage jersey and windjacket

campagnolo heritage wind jacket

my first pair of proper wheels were bought from mel bentley's in leeds (whatever happened to mel?) and were built with mavic rims on campagnolo croce d'aune hubs - roughly equivalent to the present day centaur, in campag's scheme of things. now, at the time, being a bear of little brain (not much changed there, then) i just thought this was a really cool name for a pair of hubs; in fact that's the main reason i bought them. of course, now that some of the gaps have been filled in regarding cycling history, i know that the croce d'aune pass was the very place where tullio campagnolo was unable to loosen the rear wheel nuts because of frozen hands. the follow through was his invention of the quick release skewer which we pretty much take for granted nowadays.

so if anyone has the right to name a range of clothing heritage it's the chaps from vicenza, and it will surprise you not at all that this is exactly what they've done. of the various items in the range (which includes full and half zip jerseys, windjacket, a polo shirt, bibshorts and a waterproof jacket) jim walker, the uk distributors of campagnolo clothing, sent up a very stylish, half zip heritage jersey, and a heritage wind jacket. i need hardly point out that anything with the name wind incorporated will just be ideal for a whistle round the estates. and so it turned out - sort of.

i almost feel as if i have cheated with this road test; despite both items being from campagnolo's spring/summer range, there is little evidence to suppose either of those seasons have made it to the far west of scotland. the hope had been that i would start my 100km ride covering the jersey with the wind jacket, before the internal and external heating systems would match and the latter would be consigned to one of the jersey's rear pockets. not so. in fact after fifty kilometres, despite having pedalled through bright sunshine and a temperature of ten degrees, i had to shelter for ten minutes from a rather fierce hailstorm at port charlotte.

campagnolo heritage jersey

enough of the weather forecast; the jersey is manufactured from what the tag tells me is tri-function fabric: it is anti-bacterial, dry effect wicking performance, and offers uv protection. the only one i can easily attest to is the wicking, that definitely worked. having it concealed under the wind jacket meant that uv rays probably never admired it, and i'll let you know about the last one after a day or two. construction is exemplary, as you would expect, with an easy pull zip, three stretchy and fillable rear pockets, and even a space to write your name inside the collar. but the coolest bits are the black flock logos over white hoops, front and back (no dye sublimation here - tullio's heritage is flock, or nothing), and a beautifully placed 3d flying wheel shield. ok, neither of these make the jersey fit or perform any better, but they're nice touches on a £54 ($110) jersey. the sleeves and collar are trimmed in black, with red and white hoops on each sleeve. there is some debate as to whether i'm medium, or mediocre, but the jersey fitted just fine - no problem getting it on or off, and very comfortable on the bike. if a negative absolutely has to be found, it's the lack of a zipped rear pocket, something i think ought to be mandatory on every jersey, heritage or not.

the heritage windjacket is so light, it's almost not there at all; but i can attest to both the windproofing and, surprisingly, an excellent degree of water resistance. ok, i wouldn't want to have spent the ten minutes cycling through the aforementioned hail shower, but in the five minute aftermath before it went away altogether, the jacket bore nothing but little bobbles of water, while the jersey stayed dry. in the way that only cyclists would understand, with virtually no wind at all on islay today (strange, but true) every direction fired a headwind, particularly travelling at speed (try proving i didn't); the heritage wind jacket shrugged it all off. if you'd seen just how thin the fabric is, you too would wonder how they achieve this.

having tested a campagnolo textran winter jacket last year, it seemed possible that sleeve length would be an issue again; happily that isn't the case - these run the full length and are more than happy to meet your track mitts' fastening coming the other way. there's a full length central zip, a high, soft lined collar and a thick white stripe down each sleeve. similarly to the jersey, a 3d shield features to the top left of the zip fastener, while campagnolo's unmissable script logo is subtly screened in silver along right and left side panels. very chic (in a heritage sort of way). the elastic at the waist is sufficiently taut to prevent it riding up when emulating tom boonen across the cobbles (a guy can dream can't he?). but the clever, clever bit is the internal toggled sac pocket. this was excellent for carrying a fiver (sometimes i like more than one double espresso) and a compact digital camera. but assuming that you have somewhere else to put these, the whole jacket stuffs inside - i would never have believed it if i hadn't managed to stuff it myself (if you see what i mean).

jacket in stuff-sac

assuming summer ever makes it this far, the combination of heritage jersey and heritage jacket would seem to have all bases covered. the jersey can be purchased in the sky blue as tested, as well as black, lake, sun and white costing £53.99 ($110). the jacket, unbelievably, costs only £39.99 ($80) - colours available are lake (as tested), fire, sun and black. obviously neither of these can be worn with shimano or sram equipped bicycles (everybody knows they're incompatible); the rest of us can show our connoisseur status and cycling nous with style.

jimwalker.co.uk

posted on saturday 12th april

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research and development

bikestack print taliah lempert

research and development is probably a foreign concept if you're a member of status quo - even when i was at school, pupils were making jokes about the possibility of them having learned a new chord. and at the risk of alienating a portion of my readership, i hear no evidence of that having become the case today. however, it's also a fact of artistic life that what we regard as progress is not necessarily that as experienced by the artist. a painter such as howard hodgkin, seems more than happy to stick more or less to the same style; so rigidly in fact, that his works have a rather alarming similarity (but continue to sell for astronomical sums).

however, it is possible, and in some cases desirable, to make some sort of visual progression - a bit like training on the bike. it would be nice to think that covering 50km in two hours in january could be superseded by the time bike, rider and pedalling speed have reached early april (a whole nuther story). such is the work of brooklyn bicycle artist, taliah lempert. if you have enough savvy to check out her website on a regular basis, taliah shows us stuff she's been working on, and how it has progressed from initial marks on paper or canvas, through to the culmination of days, or weeks of effort and ability.

visits made years ago would have shown a substantial body of work consisting, more or less, of paintings of other folks' bicycles. but, as we all know, the bicycle is a fascinating thing - an object of beauty that means different things on different days, and so it is to ms lempert. the work depicted above is entitled bike stack printed on 11 x 30 paper. it's a monotype which, as the name suggests, is pretty much a one-off image. taliah made rubber cutouts of many of the full bikes in her paintings and used them to print onto the paper surface. she enjoyed printing many of them together until they became almost one object:

"with bars and bits poking out, catching my eye, the way bikes do in real life. i also like them printed so each shape is visible, and they seem more like symbols."

and lest you think that she simply uses bicycles as artistic objects, when i contacted taliah on thursday of this week to find out more about what i think are superb works of art, she said she'd tell me more later - "it's the nicest day, so i'm gonna ride my bike"

an excellent idea.

taliah has also started to experiment with screenprinting similar images as shown in the smaller illustration (below). the monotypes can be purchased from her website for an incredibly reasonable $125 (around £65) - and there's plenty more research and development where that came from.

bikestack screenprint taliah lempert

bicyclepaintings.com

posted on friday 11th april

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are friends electric?

solenoid

in engineering, the term solenoid may also refer to a variety of transducer devices that convert energy into linear motion. the term is also often used to refer to a solenoid valve, which is an integrated device containing an electromechanical solenoid which actuates either a pneumatic or hydraulic valve, or a solenoid switch, which is a specific type of relay that internally uses an electromechanical solenoid to operate an electrical switch; for example, an automobile starter solenoid, or a linear solenoid, which is an electromechanical solenoid.

did you understand any of the above (and i mean any of the above)? despite having a higher physics certificate, and what i would like to think of as a reasonable degree of mechanical knowledge, i'm afraid that if i'd been handed a manual with that in it, i may have taken up basket weaving. but this is something we may have to get used to if the chaps from campagnolo and shimano eventually get their evil way; and for once, we can lump the two together.

in the early days, when i actually sold bicycles for a living, shimano equipped mountain bikes (and probably road bikes too - although i didn't sell too many of those) came with little fold-up booklets attached to the right-hand gear lever (rear derailleur) explaining how to adjust the gears. on a new bike, the cable was always going to stretch, so beautifully set-up gears at point of sale would soon degenerate into the rattley, slipping variety that we have all experienced at some time or other. however, based on the number of bicycles that re-visited after a short space of time with the gears so out of sync, i started removing the booklet. because although i find indexed gears very uncomplicated and easy to adjust, it seems that, even with instructions in black and white, few others share my appreciation.

generally speaking, the bicycle is a simple machine; or at least an agglomoration of simple machinery, for which spares are fairly readily available (even here, on the outer edge), and which can often continue to operate in a useable manner, even when in considerably less than its optimum state. and i rather like that. the advent of hydraulic disk brakes on mountain bikes, at least on mountain bikes for general consumption, never quite struck me as a great idea, but since they cannot be considered as the progenitors of global warming, and i don't ride a mountain bike, i figure i'll live.

but i'm not sure about this continued development of electronic shifting systems, development that continues apace by both of the big two. so far, sram haven't entered the fray, but it remains to be seen just how long that can continue to be the case. it's a fascinating game they're playing, but it seems somewhat at odds with campagnolo outfitting all its sponsored teams with the infamous red levers, apparently at the behest of a majority of riders who prefer a stiffer gearchange. one of the defined aims of electronic shifting is to lessen the effort, and even to allow the system to learn from your habits and achieve predicatble shifts; a bit like the ability of some mobile phones to second guess what you are about to text.

certainly, there is no compulsion about the advent of such electronic mastery - if you'd rather not adorn your carbon fibre with bits of electrical wire, nobody's forcing you. at least not yet. early adopters of index gearing on mountain bikes may recall the small button at the base of the rear change lever, allowing the owner to revert to friction shifting should such have proved necessary. but after a year or two, both suntour (remember them?) and shimano figured that the indexing worked, and there was no need to retain the friction option. today, it's indexing or nothing. you can't even revert to downtube levers (not that i know anyone who wishes to do so) because bicycles no longer come with bosses for the levers.

maybe in ten or fifteen years, we'll all read this again and laugh out loud at its naivety - maybe this will all become a moot point; campagnolo record currently costs around £1000 ($2000), so perhaps none of us will ever be able to afford the electronic version anyway.

and for the benefit of those (self included) who stare with blank expression at the opening paragraph, both shimano and campagnolo employ solenoids in the rear gear mech to push the jockey wheels and chain across the sprockets. so if it all comes to pass, and we find that we can afford it, guy andrews will have to add a further chapter to his road bike maintenance book.

i can wait.

solenoid info from wikipedia.org

posted on thursday 10th april

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pro-lite piemonte alloy/carbon cross frame

pro-lite piemonte

yes, i thought that might make you sit up and take notice. after only a couple of seasons watching cyclocross on cycling.tv, what the heck do i know about testing cyclocross bikes? absolutely nothing, actually, so that's why this review is written by davie graham. you probably don't know davie, but he lives on mull, the next island up past jura, where the roads are even worse than they are on islay, but the mud's likely just as muddy. and davie's quite an accomplished cross rider, even though he wouldn't tell you that himself.

read on...

i had seen these pro-lite piemonte cyclocross frames at the national championships in birmingham, and not knowing much about them, i researched on the interweb to find out more. the piemonte (a region in north eastern italy) was designed by martin eadon, a gb cyclocross coach, member of the cyclocross commission, and still a very good racer. so he knows a bit about 'cross. we made contact by e-mail, and subsequent conversations convinced me that this could very well be the frame for me.

it came supplied with headset, seat clamp and carbon forks. a 31.6mm prolite carbon seatpost is a purchaseable extra. pro-lite advise the running of a tap through the bottom bracket, as they are apparently a bit tight for first time brackets; not a bug, just a feature. subsequently the bottom bracket eased into place with no problems, and it was on to the headset. i measured stem and front brake hanger, added a couple of millimetres for safety then cut the aluminium steerer to size. one of my pet hates on a race bike is mudguard eyes, a feature happily absent from this pair. The fork fitted snugly and with an integrated headset it was no problem to get it set up.

the carbon rear end is absolutely beautiful; the seatstays describing a sort of m shape and seeming to flow into and out of the brake bosses, narrowing to mirror the chainstays.

pro-lite piemonte

building the rest was a simple process - this level of quality on a frame and fork costing less than 500 is very impressive. the carbon tail end definitely looks the business with chainstays fitting into the bottom bracket shell via a large block, fitting closely into the tyre and acting as a blade to scrape away the mud.

i used various tried and tested bits to complete the build: spooky carbon frogleg brakes, mavic ksyriums bearing schwalbe pro tyres, and a mixture of dura-ace, ultegra and 105 gear, all of which i know works a treat. my main worry was the closeness of the frogleg splitter to the carbon seatstay, I changed the nut and bolt version for a rounder, flatter variant and placed a strip of tape on the frame for protection - there seemed enough of a gap to prevent rubbing.

this is a no nonsense race bike: it felt taut and very responsive. i initially pedalled on the road to get used to it, and was very surprised at how easily i could lift the front wheel and dodge from side to side. still, for a decent hammering, you can't beat the local park, and accelerating down the main drive, it took me faster than i had ever dared go, the piemonte's stability inspiring me to go harder. off tarmac and onto grass it just kept going - my confidence was now sky high.

now what's the old saying? ah yes - pride comes before a fall. i knew all was going too well when i started hearing a rattle from the rear. it turned out to be a loose saddle which, in my haste, i figured imust have forgotten to tighten properly. of course i had no tools with me, so it was standing room only, all the way home. attempting to tighten the saddle, it transpired that the bolt was catching on the underside so i'd to trim about 5mm off and run a die over it before refitting. problem solved.

pro-lite piemonte

a second outing flagged up just how well the pro-lite handled. i was faster along rough paths, faster round corners and most importantly faster up hills. on loose gravel out of the saddle, the weight distribution was so good, that wheelspin was negligible. in fact it was hard to get any spinning at all. the only time there was any significant slip was over wet, flat rock.

shouldering the bike was no problem; it just seemed to fall into place on my shoulder and was barely noticeable, seeming to find the right balance point. again good weight distribution i suppose. deciding to test out the mud capabilities by riding it back and forward through a good peaty muddy section, the rear end was perfect, the front only clogging marginally at the brakes but that soon cleared itself. the carbon joiny bit at the bottom bracket definitely seems to do its job - on fast, bumpy, pave sections, it was far comfier than i expected, being more used to a far harsher ride, even from a bike with carbon seat stays. this allowed me to go so much faster, that my legs were killing me afterwards due to the effort i'd been putting in. this ended in my going over an eight inch drop off, way faster than i meant to. realising what had happened, i braced for the fearful bang i was used to hearing from previous headsets of the integrated variety - but there was nothing! i even checked the headset when I got home; not loose in the slightest. fantastic.

pro-lite piemonte

the piemonte is not one of those cyclocross bikes designed to cover all bases: it has no bottle cage fittings, no mudguard eyes or rack mounts and i think that, on a daily commute, it would simply kill you by making you go faster and harder. as a race bike it's very hard to beat on value for money. mine will, of course, be very easy to beat as i'll be riding it; but i am so happy with this one, i am saving my pennies to buy another to use as my spare race bike.

niggles? the seatpost bolt. maybe my saddle doesn't have as much of a gap as others, but on a race bike you'd expect to fit a racing saddle. The rear brake cable holder is rivetted onto the carbon rear end, but it does make the splitter sit awfully close to the frame. moving it a wee bit further out so that other types of splitter can be used would be a welcome improvement.

if you fancy a pro-lite pemonte of your own, email martin at martineadon@ukonline.co.uk. he has all sizes in stock, but remember to get a front brake hanger and a 34.9mm band-on front mech to fit the seat-tube.

davie graham 2008

pro-lite.net

posted on wednesday 9th april

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