to paraphrase brian smith, this is not just a coffee table book, it's a coffee table without the legs. weighing in at 256 pages encased in a substantial hardback cover, this book is an impressive sight, and an impressive undertaking. obviously not all of these climbs appear in every edition of the tour de france, but chris sidwells, well known for his articles and writing in the comic and cycle sport, has completed a mammoth task by documenting every climb ever used in the tour since time began. or at least, since the tour began.
and it doesn't stop there. no mean cyclist himself, sidwells has written up how to attempt these very climbs: which gear to be in, how to approach the gradients; and as i know to my cost, having gone up, you then have to come down (unless we're talking mountain top finish - not something that really applies to us mere mortals), and there's just as much an art to mastering gravitational pull as the escape. photos of how to enter and exit the downhill bends, riding position etc. a very fine introduction the tour's bumpy bits.
however it's not just straightforward mountain descriptions and photos; many of the climbs are placed in context, highlighting many of the victories or great escapes that took place on many. unfortunately, some of the photo captions are verging on the trite: on the joux-plane, a photo of a (non-tour) rider on an anonymous bit of tarmac manages 'a rare easy bit'; on the col di'izoard, a photo of a brick altitude signpost showing 2360m - 'it's high'.
while this colossal volume is ideal for dipping in and out, as you munch on a part baguette spread with camembert or brie, wearing the obligatory casquette, a modicum of proof-reading wouldn't have gone amiss. guzet-neige is subtitled 'miller's masterpiece' except as every washingmachinepost reader knows, robert's surname is spelt with an 'a' and not an 'e'. a rather unforgiveable error in a cycling book. there are several others that could have been avoided, and i would have thought that in a work of this magnitude somebody would have paid a touch more attention, however, unless you're seriously pedantic (as i am), then it may not bother you at all. the cover also states that there are maps to illustrate each climb; only if you count a blue squiggle (reminiscent of the nokia sportstracker squiggle) as a map. the ordnance survey need not worry just yet.
£25 is a not inconsiderable amount to pay for a book, but you do get a lot for your money, even taking into account the criticisms above. even better, order it from amazon where it's currently half-price.
posted on tuesday 8 july..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i write the following out of concern for your mental wellbeing and cycling sanity, just in case it's part of a growing mechanical trend. having returned from paris last monday (i don't think i will ever tire of that phrase), it was straight into a week of work with nose permanently tethered to the grindstone. meaning that it was saturday before i was able to retrieve the colnago from the bike shed in order to transport self to the other side of the island - on business believe it or not.
throughout the 18km outward ride, there was much creaking emanating from the transmission area; nothing serious sounding, but darned irritating nonetheless, and when i stood up to climb the odd bump or two, it sounded as if everything were about to disintegrate.
business done for the morning, the return trip offered no respite from the noise, in fact, due to a stiff headwind and having to press harder on the pedals, the creaking was at a higher volume than the outward, and climbing was positivey scary. not wishing to burden the sunday morning peloton with undue creaks and bangs, i popped the colnago on the workstand, removed cranks and extricated the bottom bracket (luddite that i am, things are still in the square taper era here), before slathering everything in anti-seize compound and putting it all back together again.
since i'd taken both wheels out to make life simpler, i thought i'd check the cassette lockring before putting the rear back in the dropouts - it wasn't loose, but it wasn't tight either; almost a full revolution. since the lockring is a rather super chris king titanium, it appears that the looseness of same, may well have been the source of the crunching. now i'll agree that this could be taken as another of those so what? trinkets of useless info, were it not for the fact that the mighty dave t suffered a similar problem only a week or so ago. in his case, the lockring had unscrewed itself completely and the bottom two sprockets were in the process of leaving the freehub altogether.
coincidence? perhaps, but then again, perhaps not. so if you have any unidentified noises creeping around the rearward portion of the bicycle, have a check at the cassette lockring - you just never know.
you can thank me later.
posted on monday 7 july..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there was a letter in the comic last week from a gentleman, not unnaturally miffed at the fact that having broken a spoke in his campagnolo factory wheel, there was no service centre or support of any kind that would enable him to either buy the necessary spoke and fix it himself, or have somewhere that the wheel could be sent for the repair to be carried out by qualified personnel. this has been a bit of a gap in campagnolo's strategy for a while; they did have appointed service centres/shops throughout the uk at one time, but latterly it seems that having bought from vicenza, you were pretty much on your own. well, no longer is that the situation
as of 1st july, velotech cycling has hoved into view, as a joint venture between graeme freestone king, weldtech and jeff beach. the new company will be responsible for continuing delivery of the successful weldtech cycle maintenance courses and will also be the campagnolo appointed provider of warranty and servicing requirements throughout the uk. services provided are available to both the trade and us normal punters. velotech cycling will run alongside graeme's current import business which has supplied me personally with eddy merckx test bikes, wheelsbike wheels and vista pedals; fk:marketing are also suppliers of gist clothing, alan and mondiale bikes and modolo components.
so now we're in safe hands; graeme is one of the finest mechanics it has ever been my good fortune to meet, and someone who curently delivers training on behalf of park tool school. with the advent of campag eleven speed and probably at sometime in the not too distant future, an electronic groupset, it is comforting to know that none of us with campagnolo proclivities need be left holding a very expensive carbon fibre dud at any point in our cycling careers.
if you need to contact about campagnolo matters, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
and now the cognoscenti can sleep easily at night.
please note that this only applies to the uk
posted on monday 7 july..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it seems pertinent for you to ask why, after such a short period of time, here i am reviewing yet another jersey from the endura fs260 range - well most of it comes down to incompetence at this end of the chain. due to not navigating endura's website very well, i mistakenly priced and labelled the standard fs260 as the pro-lite, an error which matthew at endura very diplomatically pointed out. and damn fine chap that he is, sent me a pro-lite jersey to remedy my error; that it is one of those please turn it down a bit, it's hurting my eyescolours is entirely down to me. if pink is the new black, then acid green is the new pink.
in my original review, i criticised endura not for naming the range of products as fs260, but for going so far as to print it on the apparel, particularly across the shoulders and sleeves of the jersey, and not just because i'd no idea what it meant. i still think it's a silly idea, but at least i now know what fs260 represents, and i'm about to let you in on the secret. fs stands for toray's field sensor, a material frequently used in performance clothing; it has excellent wicking properties and flexibility is one of its finest characteristics. the number 260 refers to the weight of one square metre of the stuff, apparently pretty light and intended to inform the end-user that they had acquired a premium lightweight fabric. i'm probably not alone in thinking that this sort of thing was/is completely lost on most cyclists, but at least i have new peace of mind when cycling about with the alpha numerics stuck on my shoulders.
however, in a similar faux pas to the casino team of yesteryear, the fs260 on the sleeves/shoulders is upside down. strangely, the standard jersey has the lettering placed so that it can be read from the front when riding the bike, and the tag attached to the jersey when it arrived shows the fs260 as it should be. but on the real item, if seen from the front, it's upside down. oh my gosh.
however, such is the stuff of superficiality, since none of this has anything to do with how the jersey performs, and it does that very well. the plan had been for me to test this jersey on the way to paris, but such are the vagaries of islay transport, and the postal service, i had already left the principality by the time the jersey (and a pair of fs260 aerogel mitts) arrived through the letterbox. so, instead i cycled very brightly around the roads of islay along with the velo club peloton.
similar to the standard offering, the jersey features a full length zip, with a fold-over flap at the top to prevent nipping the neck. the collar is reinforced around the inner seam and on the medium sent for test, it was a commendably relaxed fit. strangely, despite being the same size, the pro-lite was also a more relaxed fit than the previous fs260 jersey, though not worryingly so. three pockets at the rear is the very least you'd expect on a road jersey, but the pro-lite has a slight variation on a theme; the two outer pockets are relatively small, while the centre is big enough to carry a spare wheel (well, almost). there's also a small, angled, zipped pocket on the right. as there should be on every jersey. the body is well provided with ventilated sections, seemingly random, but probably not; in a very clever piece of detailing, the left side features ventilating pinholes that show up as the endura logo - nice. the outside rear takes care of visibility (as if the colour wasn't enough) with reflective stripey bits.
it's a really great jersey; the fabric feels almost silky, the fit treads that fine ground between figure hugging and relaxed, and happily didn't flap in the islay wind. despite my ostentation in choosing the brightest colour on offer (the pro-lite is also available in black or white), it was well admired by those who had no choice but to cycle with me, and at a price of £54.99 ($110), you'd be daft not to consider it when looking for a new lightweight summer jersey.
the future's bright - the future's acid green.
we're all pretty much agreed that the fs260 mitts are very mountian bikey by which we mean no disrespect to the knobbly tyre brigade, just that, in comparison to roadie specific offerings from others, these have lots of bits on them. these justify the fs260 description (above) by, being constructed principally from fieldsensor fabric with big(ish) blobs of gel pads on the palm to soften the buzz. each finger has silicon grips screenprinted to stop the digits slipping from contact, and there's a big splodge of terry towling on the back for those 'i've lost my handkerchief' moments. in a departure from the norm, the velcro strap used to close about the wrist, fastens at the front not the back
many years ago, i owned a pair of gel palmed mitts that made me feel as if i were holding an extra set of handlebars when riding, however the strategic placing of the endura blobs were, not to put too fine a point on it, pretty darned perfect. for many a long year, i have endured slight discomfort at the base of the left hand when riding (caused by other than the bike, i hasten to add); one of the blobs was in just the right place and brightened up my sunday ride no end. endura sent me a pair of small mitts, and i figured i would have to exchange for a pair of mediums, since i have slightly larger than small hands. surprisingly, the fit was spot on; in fact, they even fitted the mighty dave-t, and he has larger hands than i. it may be worth bearing this in mind if buying mail order, when you don't have the opportunity to try them on first.
so, despite looking as if they'd be more at home on the downhill at fort william than on the champs elysees, these are just fine by me. the fs260 aerogel mitts are available in xs through to xxl, in black, blue or white with red stripey bits for a mere £23.99 ($48)
posted on sunday 6 july..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the great god in cycling today isn't alberto contador, nor is it alejandro valverde or cadel evans; it's stiffness. it pervades every aspect of the game - cannondale increased the bottom bracket diameter for their bb30; our headsets increased to 1.125", handlebars and wheels are made from carbon; the seat-tube goes all the way up to the saddle. i'm sure i could think of a few more if i put my mind to it, but i dare say that will do for now. i'm not sure that any of us asked for any of this increased stiffness, and i don't think i'd thank anyone for it if i lived on cobbled streets, but it's here, and it's probably here to stay.
but how stiff is too stiff?
sure, we could ask our favoured bicycle manufacturers for figures to prove their claims, or you could do as i did, and look up wikipedia for the mathematical formula that defines stiffness, except that brings us into newton metres, harking back to torque wrenches. not too many of us have the ability to work out the formula, even fewer actually understand it, and probably none of us could be bothered anyway. however, what if there was an easier way based entirely on intuition, fruit, and the fact that david harmon explained it to me on a quiet road on the way to paris?
it's quite ideal that the fruit involved is the banana, much favoured by cyclists as an alternative to the sticky power bar, and probably in plentiful supply in the fruit bowl on top of the sideboard. to conduct this scientific experiment, you need one banana, one bicycle, and at least a 500 metre stretch of quiet road. the surface need not be too smooth, but neither should it be a stretch of pave, because that would just be silly. you will need to be outfitted in your regular cycling gear, otherwise this is going to look even more stupid than you're already figuring it might be, and already astride your bicycle. remove the banana from your jersey back pocket, and peel it half way. if you're one of those folks with obsessive compulsive disorder, you will already have measured the banana and marked the half-way point - otherwise, just guess.
now holding the banana in one hand, rest it on the top of the handlebar, and start pedalling at a comfortable pace, not too fast - we don't want to bring aerodynamics into play. so what happens next? well, assuming the frame to be within the realms of relative comfort (not too stiff), by the time the 500 metres is covered, the banana will still be intact, and perfectly edible. however, if the frame is too stiff, you will now be looking at the lower half of a banana, the top having been squished under the rear wheel some distance back. the longer it takes for the top of the banana to yield to gravitational pull, the less stiff the frame.
by the way, it might be an idea to find your 500 metre stretch of road some distance from the nearest population centre; it's bad enough explaining this to cyclists, let alone a civilian. you know it makes sense.
would david harmon lie to you?
posted on saturday 5 july..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
readers of a certain age and disposition will remember the monty python song 'eric the half a bee' - well this is going to be nokia the half a test. purely because i have the nokia n82 handset for another three weeks or so, and i have already had e-mails asking how i am faring (or not as the case may be), i thought i'd split the test into at least two parts - one bit now, when i still have little idea of what i'm doing, and a bit later on when i've hopefully figured out a bit more. it seems prudent at the moment to point out that this is beta software and could therefore not be considered as a shipping product, but since it is free, that seems considerably less of a problem.
in favour of nokia, i am willing to ascribe initial difficulties to my being a total mobile phone agnostic, and little preparation time. i set off to ride 600km on the london-paris last thursday, but i only received the nokia the morning before. a very knowledgeable chap by the name of neil watts gave me a twenty minute rundown on the phone's features and basically how to use the sportstracker software, and that was it, until imber court at 6:45 the following morning.
so what is sportstracker? simply put, it's a piece of tracking and recording software that runs on nokia's gps enabled mobile phones. it can be set for a variety of activities, including running, walking, skiing and other. i'll not go through the various buttons and clicky bits that have to be negotiated in order to get to the point of operating the programme, but eventually the small colour screen is filled with a blank space on the left and surrounded by big, black numbers indicating speed, distance and time, along with an indication as to whether there is a valid gps signal on which the phone can base its display. since it would appear nigh on impossible to pick up a satellite indoors, you'd have to wait until you're out and about before the little section turns green to let you know all is well with the firmament.at this point, all you need to do is press start and bob is, indeed, your uncle. of course, if you're using this for cycling (and what else is there?) unless you plan on sticking the phone in a back pocket - and you'd never see what it's doing - you're going to have to fix it on the bike somewhere, and where else but the handlebars. indeed, where else? unfortunately, the bracket that comes with the phone (or maybe you have to buy one, i don't know - the test phone came with the necessary) is designed to hold the phone longitudinally on a standard pair of bars. the merckx i was riding, featured a pair of modolo kx carbon bars which are heavily swaged as they head towards the stem clamp. meaning that the only practical place to fit the bracket was transversely on the stem. stylistically it's akin to having a thin brick clamped to the bicycle - functional but verging on the hideous at the same time. i'm willing to bet that we've all been rained upon at some time when out on the bike, but it turns out that while the phone is water resistant it's not waterproof, though it seems possible that some sort of waterproof casing can be purchased. in fairness, garmins also claim only to be water resistant.
of course, now that the phone is sitting the wrong way, it's necessary to change the screen orientation, which is managed by a selection on the options menu. the disappointing part about the bracket, is the strong rubber strap that holds the phone (very well, i might add) to where it's meant to be. unfortunately, and particularly for the newbie mobile phone hater, it covers the buttons that you need to press to operate the software; or it sits on top of the mouse buttons, or it's in danger of pressing on the green button you'd use to make a phone call (though, to be honest, pressing the latter while in sportstracker mode doesn't seem to do anything). i don't think this was designed by a cyclist. however, let's assume that you have the big black numbers in front of you, and you're ready to head into the hinterland and be tracked.
pressing start gets things going. i fitted the n82 on the first leg from london to dover and let it run all day. unfortunately, the day's riding (including stops) took over eight hours, but apparently the battery, on a full charge, lasted only six and a half hours, so i didn't manage to save a record of my day's work. i couldn't find any info in the manual that states what the expected battery life should be, but i would figure that anything less than about ten hours is less than useful for cycling as an activity. garmin quote twelve hours for their most basic cycling model which seems much more realistic. but let's not forget, this is a phone with a gps unit, not a dedicated get me out of here device.
while the sportstracker is running, the blank section that i mentioned earlier on, traces a squiggle to show you how convoluted or otherwise, your route is. i have absolutely no idea what the point of this is, though the manual does describe uploading to google earth, so perhaps this will overlay on a map. i haven't tried this yet (hence the likelihood of a part two). and while the phone has a maps selection in the applications cupboard, it seems that the sportstracker cannot access these - or at least, i haven't found a way to do so. and again, perhaps due to pilot error, i have not found a way to stop the screen going to sleep, so after a few minutes, the big black numbers are no longer visible to the honed athlete pedalling for all he's worth (i was, i was). personally, i would like to see a permanent display all the way through the ride, though that would probably have an even more detrimental effect on the battery life.
i didn't use the nokia on the second day, because we were due to ride over some of paris roubaix's cobbles and i didn't want to find out that the bracket wasn't as grippy as i hoped, though in retrospect i don't think i had anything to fear. day three, the brick was on the bike again, and after about an hour and a half, we stopped for a break, so i paused the sportstracker. unfortunately, i couldn't figure out how to re-start it as we headed further into the french landscape, and at that point, there wasn't time to find out. so once pedalling was underway, i decided to switch the phone off. except a message in small print wouldn't let me do so, and i couldn't read whatever it was telling me. it turns out that the keypad was locked (something the phone decides to implement after a few minutes of inactivity) and until it was unlocked, it couldn't be switched off. what kind of twisted logic is that?
judging from the autosaved info from my first session, sportstracker fairly piles up the info: there's a series of graphs showing speed vs time; speed vs distance; altitude vs distance and the squiggle that was your route. this is preceded by a whole list of numbers such as start time duration, distance and other meaningless data. i apologise for my cynicism here, but personally, i cannot see the value of all this; it is certainly a novelty at the start, but i can see it wearing off very quickly. however, if you need this sort of information, and i'm perfectly willing to accept that you might, the apparent ability to upload sessions to the sportstracker website may just tip the balance in its favour, especially if you already own a gps enabled nokia phone.
i just like to go for a ride on my bike
despite perhaps treating nokia's sportstracker with a bit less grace and enthusiasm than it deserves, i intend to persevere with this and post a follow up before the phone goes back to nokia. on the plus side, it does have a rather nifty five megapixel camera, but it has done nothing to persuade me that i need/want a mobile phone.
posted on friday 4 july..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
on the first day of the tour de france in 2004, the new company of rapha racing was launched, and launched with a style and manner that led several people to believe that the marque had been around for decades. the arrival was announced with an exhibition entitled kings of pain and the infamous citroen h van, all the brainchild of current executive director simon mottram and creative director, luke scheybeler who were the company's only two employees.
roll forward to the present, and they have sixteen employees, an office in portland, oregon, one of cycling's finest journals in rouleur, the uk's best racing team and sales that are currently increasing by more than 75 percent per year. the h van is still there and rapha are even making a small profit. and in the finest tradition that afflicts the best cycling establishments, perren street is one of the friendliest places on the planet. jez and i dropped by prior to the london-paris ride, and were greeted as if it was something we did every day. and when it came to london-paris itself, there were many not only wearing rapha, but happy to discuss the jackets and jerseys as we pedalled along. and they deserve it.happy birthday rapha.
posted on thursday 3 july