the first time i came across the name, richard sachs, was on the pages of campyonly.com several years ago, when they had commissioned a frame on which to hang some campagnolo components. since this was america, and my knowledge at that time was considerably less than the present, it really meant not a great deal. since then, however, richard has been on the ascendency, with a much-proclaimed waiting list, a successful cyclocross team, a short dvd documentary (imperfection is perfection), involvement with the rapha continental (via jeremy dunn) and pride of place at the annual north american handbuilt show. richard is also one of the founders of the recently announced framebuilders' collective.
having corresponded with the man since the release of the dvd, i asked if he's be interested in partaking of a washingmachinepost interview.
posted on monday april 13 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
having just returned from a saunter round loch gorm over easter sunday, this book is quite pertinent in an interesting sort of way. islay's a busy place at easter, particularly on a pleasant sunny day, though i have yet to find a rational explanation for the phrase 'it's a lovely day - let's go for a drive. at times on our anticlockwise circumambulation of the loch, there were veritable convoys of vehicles travelling in a converse direction. skip back a few years to when the same situation occurred, and there's an odds-on chance that motor vehicles would have continued on their merry way, in the expectation that cyclists would give way. today, however, there were only a small minority of vehicles expecting such behaviour from our mini peloton.
now there are not enough cyclists on islay, nor is there any sort of vehicle/bicycle conflict of any real nature, to have created this effect alone; but the majority of these easter visitors to islay have come from the cities, and are quite rightly off to spend some time on the island's atlantic beaches, something it is very difficult to do in buchanan street, or prince's street. so it seems likely that the apparently regular deferment of the car drivers has come about for perhaps two reasons: the rapid increase in cycling's popularity since beijing 2008, and the activities of various environmantal and cycling bodies in britain's inner cities.
jeff mapes, political correspondent for the oregonian, lives in portland, and counts himself as an active cyclist - active in the sense that he uses a bicycle to commute to and from his home and workplace. in pedaling revolution he traces the the upsurge in bicycling advocacy, perhaps surprisingly, considering the book's subtitle, not just in north america. much of what is happening in his part of the world is based on the advances made in europe, particularly in the netherlands, where most cycling activists look to for their inspiration, either to disagree with the dutch notion of separating cyclists from motorised road users, or to study how they can adopt or improve this method of increasing cycle use.
america suffers a major disadvantage that does not afflict many european cities, and that is the distance factor; while this side of the pond is compact and bijou, across the atlantic big is almost a by-word, giving a large proportion of the population a comfortable excuse to remain within their metal boxes. some cities have taken the bull by the horns and adapted their road system to give cyclists as much equality as it's possible to attain in a car dominated world: portland is perhaps the de facto example, a city generally regarded as the cycling capital of the united states. but also heading in a similar direction are the cities of boston, new york, davis, and perhaps one or two others.
it would be a rather simple equation to write a similar tome by relying on anecdotal evidence, and heavily studying the available statistics thoughtfully provided by each state or city. granted, these statistics can be skewed in either direction, depending on the proclivity of each state department, but jeff mapes has avoided such a pitfall by visiting each city, and riding with and interviewing some of the more prominent cycling activists and state employees with a remit that encompasses transportation. he also travelled to holland for a first hand view of just how the dutch system has become such a paragon of virtue.
and he has not missed the junior element or health benefits. there are many within the environmental and cycling movements who recognise that a country's youth is the way to effect change. for many of america's adults, it is probably too late, since little short of an enormous hike in the cost of petrol is likely to get them from behind their steering wheels and onto two wheels. however, ostensibly, those currently in the early years of state education are still susceptible to positive influence (though doubtless there are those from the motoring lobby who would disagree with use of the word positive in this context - in 1969 a study confirmed that 42 percent of the nation's children cycled or walked to school; by 2001, this had dropped to 15 percent). the health benefits of cycling are legion, but here jeff mapes can provide personal evidence from his own switch from car to bike and at the head of this chapter comes what must be one of the finest pro-cycling quotes it would do you well to remember: "elvis would have needed to cycle 160.74 miles at 17mph to burn off his 65,000 calorie daily intake. conclusion: what killed elvis was his chronic lack of cycling". i have used this on several occasions already this past week.
i can see only two downsides to this book: firstly, i am not aware of mr mapes having spoken to any state departments in which cycling provision is nowhere near the top of their agenda, though in mitigation, the book's raison d'etre is to explore those locations in which cycling has gained and is still gaining, a greater foothold in the american transportation psyche. and secondly, in much the same way as thewashingmachinepost and most other cycling publications gain readership, there's a strong possibility that he's preaching to the converted. however, so well has the evidence been presented, and so well has this evidence been written in easily appreciated and digestible format, that its very existence may well promote the very revolution about which jeff mapes has written. cycling worldwide is very much in the ascendency, and much like vauxhall's band-wagon jumping bicycle rack built into the new corsa, there will be many an urban area and city in north america eager to join the club. i would tentatively suggest that pedaling revolution might well be their first step on that cycle path.
for cyclists who live and work in the usa, this is compulsory reading, even if you already think you know everything there is to know. and, to be honest, same goes for the rest of the world (with the possible exception of holland:-).
posted on sunday april 12 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i still have on long-term test a garmin edge 705, which has seen an excellent tour of duty over the winter months, which to my mind is just the right time to be trying these things out. plug a garmin onto the stem over the summer months and, other than the continuous glare of the sun (a guy can dream can't he?) there really isn't too much to trouble the electronics and the casing. however, at the risk of boring you all to locational death, islay sits on the edge of the atlantic and receives much of which this ocean has to offer, as did the garmin. this even stretched to having to sit out in the elements, still switched on, for at least an hour while it teemed down outside debbie's. yes, we were all huddled inside, warming ourselves over a hot cappuccino.
not that i've checked too closely, but i think the battery in the cadence sensor has seen fit to cease normal function; since just after christmas, the cadence panel on the display has shown nothing at all, despite my best efforts to shift the pedal magnet and sensor up and down their respective clamping areas. if this is indeed the case, then the battery survived around five months; i confess to having not the slightest idea whether this is par for the course or not (to employ a well used golfing simile), but if i had to replace the sensor battery every five to six months, i could live with that.
the other shortcoming, of which i have heard elsewhere from other 705 users, concerns the bracket that clamps to the stem. sliding the garmin onto this bracket when new, results in an audible click as it snaps into place before setting off. in order to remove the edge from same when the ride is over, necessitates pressing down on a very small lever to the left of the bracket to release the clip lock. sadly, the plastic of which this is made is not as rigid as it might be, and the elements have not helped it any in its simple life's vocation. thus, over time, the plastic clip no longer engages the garmin as it should: this resulted in one or two mishaps, where the unit bounced off the stem while traversing a particularly unkempt road surface (pick a road - any road). if you look closely at the photo above, you'll notice a small mark on the elevation reading (sorry mr garmin). that the lever has softened a bit, means that i now have to employ a small screwdriver to release the garmin from the stem. (if mr garmin is reading, you might like to have a look at this).
other than its recent connection to a saris powertap rear hub for a chance to check out how appallingly low my wattage actually is (i'm not getting any younger), the garmin has only had to cope with heart rate numbers, which it has done commendably well. however, while out and about today, covering a satisfying eighty kilometres both against and with a cold 40kph wind, i found mysef climbing the hill at storakaig; always a pleasurable chore, particularly with the wind at my back, and wondering just how steep the road actually is at that point - a not unnatural thought i'd venture to suggest. and it makes perfect sense that this information should be calculable by a gps unit, especially one that is already capable of showing nice little pictures on one of its display screens relating to elevation information.
so, on arriving home, i clicked through the various display setting to discover that, not only can you set one panel to enumerate the gradient in percentages, but yet another to show elevation in feet or metres depending on the units selected in the settings menu. i can see that there are one or two of you sitting at the back sniggering as to the amount of time it's taken me to discover this, but some of us are not only not good with numbers, but like many a purchaser of shiny gadgets, i neglected to read the manual all the way to the end.
as a result, i will be boring the cleats off all on the sunday ride tomorrow with detailed readouts of just how far above sea level we are at any given point of the pedalling, and how steep it is on the approach to blackrock. who knows, we might even ride up storakaig again.
won't that be fun?
posted on saturday april 11 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
at the time of the last roman occupation of britain, while the americas were still undiscovered and unknown continents, the method employed for forward propulsion of a bicycle was similar to that of the present day, except the chunk of sprockets on the rear wheel was a freewheel. not only was the idea of building the freewheel mechanism inside the hub not thought of, but if you'd suggested it in any language other than japanese, you'd probably have been laughed at. of course, we didn't refer to it as a freewheel (one or two mechanics may have done so, but probably only for effect), the cyclist slang for this implement was the block (a solid chunk of sprockets bears an uncanny resemblance to what most of us would refer to as a block), an epithet you may still hear uttered in the direction of a cassette, but quite obviously incorrectly. the sprockets on a freewheel were individually threaded onto the freewheel body, only removable, if at all, by means of two chain-whips straining in opposite diirections: in all the time i have been fixing bicycles, i have only had to attempt this manoeuvre twice, and it only worked once. doubtless my physique is lacking in this department.
the fascinating thing about freewheels, to me at least, was/is the method of removal. having droned mildly a day or so ago about the mythology of standards in the bicycle industry, it is comforting to know that things have moved on towards improvement. believe it or not, you can actually remove the cassette lockring from either a shimano badged cassette or campagnolo version with the same tool. sadly, the same could not ever have been said about freewheels, to which a large portion of my toolboard will attest. shimano (two types), suntour (two pin and four pin), huret (almost a block in its own right) and regina/atom. sadly, that last one is not strictly speaking true, at least not at the time i needed it to be so.
with lord carlos of mercian requiring a new pair of wheels, it was decided to build a pair of touring hoops four cross onto a pair of old style threaded campag record hubs: thirty six hole. to match the style and ethos of the hubs, a regina six-speed block was purchased. wheels built, freewheel threaded in place, the disappointing factor was the inability of the mercian touring frame to be happy with six sprockets in place of the five it was designed for. the smallest sprocket not only arrived too close to the dropouts to allow the chain to connect with the teeth, but the mudguard eye was also too close, and the bolt holding rack and guards in place stopped the freewheel spinning at all.
simple solution: move the small spacer from the none-drive side to the drive side and re-true the wheel slightly; except that didn't work either; it just added to my woes. having threaded the freewheel on finger tight, i now needed to remove it again to gain access to the locknut flats. of course, finger tight turned out to be too tight, and the regina freewheel remover that i remember hanging patiently in the middle of the toolboard, was nowhere to be seen. and i must shamefully admit that thewashingmachinepost bikeshed is so much of a shambles, that searching for it in a timely fashion really wasn't an option. i will not recite the technique used to overcome this problem because park tool will refuse to sell me any more stuff, and i can't take that risk.
but why is it that, in the days when we remember life being so much simpler and verging on monochrome, did the worlds cycle component manufacturers, several of whom no longer inhabit this rarefied atmosphere, find it necessary to have so many variations on something as basic as the method of getting the block off a hub?
thank goodness someone still makes removers used by those occupying romans.
posted on friday april 10 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
around 1820, john loudon mcadam pioneered the use of what we would now refer to tarmac, though it wasn't, in fact, patented as such until 1901 (and not by john mcadam). however, apparently the first city to have its streets paved with tar was, believe it or not, baghdad in the 8th century. there have been variations on the theme ever since, predominantly due to the demands of the motor car and its development over the past century. because as we all know, bicycles do not trash roads to anywhere near the same degree as their four-wheeled counterparts. in fact there's a good case for believing that bicycles don't really wear the road surface at all, not that it's hard to figure that skinny 700c rubber suffers more from the tarmac than vice versa.
sadly, much of the conversation amongst cyclists and motorists alike on this little isle, revolves around the appalling state of the roads, seemingly a characteristic of argyll and bute council. and if you'd ever been privileged to watch argyll and bute roads department place a dod of tar in a hole on the road, then hit it with a shovel before reversing the truck over the top to flatten it, you too would understand how they manage to remain that way. there's no doubt that the road surfaces have deteriorated substantially in the last decade, partly due to constant pleas of poverty by the roads department, as well as the rapid increase in the number of heavy trucks now ploughing across roads built on peat bogs. granted, some of the bumps, dips and gaps are more readily avoided when on a bicycle, if only because they are more visible from the saddle due to slower speeds, but it would be preferable that they were not there in the first place.
but on the run up to a weekend featuring one of the finest cycle races to grace the international character, is it possible that we doth protest too much? paris-roubaix is run over what's left of a network of cobbled roads used to service france's northern farming network. such roads were probably never as smooth as a newly laid stretch of motorway, and considering the farm vehicles that travelled across these large stones, it is unlikely that this was ever the intention of their constructors. it is also unlikely that any stretch of tarmac that was laid at the same time as the original cobbled roads still bears the same original surface - yet the cobbles have survived the centuries well. granted, they are perhaps not as level as they once were, but they're still there, even though some have now been buried under the ubiquitous tarmac. paris-roubaix still exists because there is a substantial body of professional cyclists eager to race across the cobbles, and it is still regarded as a badge of honour to have finished the race, let alone to have won or stood on the podium.
but while we could stretch credibility just a smidgeon and accept the fact that these professional cyclists are simply carrying out the conditions of their team contracts, and would really rather be somewhere else mid-april, how on earth do we account for the colossal numbers of ordinary joes like you and me, who eagerly enter the paris-roubaix sportive organised every alternate year? nobody's forcing them. same goes for the eroica sportive in italy, held across italy's equivalent of the french farm interconnectors, this time on white gravel and the esteem in which the east midlands international cicle classic is held in britain.
so if an awful lot of us love watching pelotons of riders bouncing across roads that make bowmore main street look like a motorway, and would jump at the chance to ride the same route on our favourite hunk of carbon fibre, why do we moan like stink when our own roads begin to resemble the above? yes, i agree with the observation that commuters can be injured, being forced into the corners that cars cannot go, rife with potholes that could easily be used as echo chambers in their own right. it is a tad unacceptable that britain's roads are not maintained to the standard that they should be, but can we, as confirmed roadies, really reconcile our love of the cobbled classics and their ilk, yet lose the ideal of pain and suffering on the sunday ride or the route to work?
posted on thursday april 9 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in case it has escaped your notice, or you don't really care anyway (a perfectly acceptable reaction), i live on an island. an island that does have its own airport, and therefore a means of flying to and from glasgow should the need arise. however, since that does nothing for my carbon footprint or bank balance, i am much more inclined to travel by caledonian macbrayne ferry; a far slower method of reaching scotland, but pleasantly relaxing. and aside from a friend of mine who owns a screamingly powerful rigid inflatable on which i have had a few white-knuckle rides, that is the sum total of my seagoing experience. car ferries and ribs.
so now that i have made you aware of this state of affairs, why am i reviewing a book about sailing on thewashingmachinepost? you perhaps thought this was where you read about cycling in all its road-going facets? those of you with an affinity for walloping up and down dual carriageways on stealth-like carbon fibre while leaning your elbows on tri-bars will doubtless be well aware of who michael hutchinson is, as will readers of the comic. but for those of you not familar with the name, michael is one of the fastest men on two wheels on the british time-trial scene, who's previous book for yellow jersey press was entitled the hour, concerning his unfortunately failed attempt at the hour record. michael is a very funny guy, making his books (and weekly column) massively entertaining. of course, you may well have inferred this from this book's title.
so what is a renowned time-triallist, a competitor at the commonwealth games, and hour record attempter doing writing about sailing? well, many cyclists (and civilians) have the luxury of being multi-faceted in their present careers, and prone to having a history before today arrived on the scene. michael hutchinson grew up in northern ireland, where his first obsession was, surprisingly enough, sailing. possibly like many a youngster who aspires to a career as a sportsperson, while the dreams were of the massive yachts that inhabit the upper reaches of the world of water, and sailing single-handed around the world, the reality was a mite more mundane for a young hutchinson: carrick fergus sailing club and playing about in a dinghy on belfast lough. scribbled schoolbooks and weekends on the lough, all the while acquiring anorak status with a head full of sailing knowledge continued throughout michael's school years, but drifted the way of the dodo when further education beckoned.
similarly to horse riding, it's a common (mis)conception that the sailing world is populated by captain birdseye and the extremely rich. apparently the sailing club at university subscribed to just this very theory, discarding the young hutchinson's sailing experience and his application to join, because he hadn't been to the right school. and so ended michael's initial period of sailing, with studies and subsequently cycling taking up the slack. but the hankering for a life on the ocean wave never quite disappeared and when the notion sublimely eased its way back to the hutchinson psyche, it was love at second sight.
the bulk of this book is about that second wind, and it is utterly brilliant. michael hutchinson is a master not only of self-deprecation, but of droll humour at its very best. there can be little less disconcerting to loved ones, while they watch endless soaps on telly, to have the cyclist in the corner continuously laughing out loud, and for that to persist over a period of several days.
if i travel by bus to glasgow, it has no option but to take me through tarbert, a dingy little town in which i doubt anything much happens; it's just somewhere you pass through. however, it holds an annual regatta, with a marquee on the pierside with a bar and a band - i know because one year, i played in one of those bands. at that point, a substantial proportion of the world's sailing population seemed to have descended upon this little fishing village, and it then became a busy, dingy little town. in one of those skillful demonstrations of writing talent, michael manages to make tarbert seem the equal of st tropez. that alone is worth a round of applause. from there it could only venture upwards; in the words of jiminy cricket 'there's more', and it is a more than enjoyable voyage.
as portrayed above, i have no real desire to sail anywhere than to scotland, and certainly not for fun, (though i did design a brochure for stormcats of lagavulin), so thewashingmachinepost bookcase holds a complete dearth of books on the subject; in fact hello sailor is the sole occupant under that heading. so if you, like me, are less than interested in messing about on the river, rush out to your nearest bookseller and get a copy of this - you will love it forever. michael hutchinson, i would venture to propose, is the new bill bryson, an epithet of which you will already be aware, should you have read his book, the hour.
a level of humour and brilliance to be admired.
michael hutchinson's 'hello sailor' is published by yellow jersey press at £12.99, and doubtless available from amazon and other sources.
posted on wednesday april 8 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm a bloke in a bloke's world, at least as far as the world of cycling is concerned. that is not to say that i feel that women's cycling, or even that women cycle at all, is subordinate to the male side of the equation - on the little coverage of women's racing that has been aired on television or on ctv, it is every bit as exciting as the male version, and occasionally even more so. and in that spirit, i would be more than happy to feature more female related cycling, and associated paraphernalia on thewashingmachinepost. this is, of course, quite difficult to do when you're a bloke, as i'm sure most of my male readers would accept. this fine volume bicycling for women, released by velopress, and distributed in the uk by cordee, was therefore far better and ultimately more realistically reviewed by a female lady of the opposite sex: mrs hastings, in fact. so you need not settle for a male impression of a book for women - you can have a female impression of sam.
I have absolutely, completely and thoroughly enjoyed reading Bicycling for Women from cover to cover. I thought it would be a breeze to scan it, but no way could I have done it such an injustice; every page is worth reading.
Whether male or female, cycling enthusiast or just about to start, interest in physical well-being or .... OK if your partner, sibling, other family member cycles... or not, it's just a great read.
The text is incredibly well differentiated, hitting every level of physiological and/or technical understanding; you can take or leave as much as your interest/brain cells allow. The book is split into two parts: Part 1-Make the most of your training, and Part 2- Cycling as a woman.
Make the most of your training' has many principles of training which, although are bike specific, could in fact be lent to many different physical activities. I read it with gusto as it brought memories flooding back in my sporting life before nasty ski-ing accident stopped any future competitive or physically demanding activities. Anatomy and bike fit is a fairly obvious bike specific chapter which had my stamina tested, however, maybe now I may be a little wiser as my dearly beloved talks to me in this special language; a phrase book for the non-cyclist, or in my case the ever ready "stoker" albeit a one-legged plus swinging crank variety . The next few chapters on Training and Fitness, Training Plans, Strength Training and Stretching, Nutrition and finally Mental Tools are all easily transposed across to other activities as well as being relevant to cycling and women's cycling too.
Cycling as a woman covers areas specific to, strangely enough, women but again Bernhardt writes so well that any woman would benefit from reading this part. Physiology of a Cyclist was interesting to see developments and current thoughts in this area over the past decade or so. A section on evaluating research claims was in fact something we should all bear in mind with any information given to us in many walks of life and presentations. The chapters Menstrual Cycles, Pregnancy and Exercise and finally Master Cyclist again were so real, relative to any females particular stage in their lives.
"..... at that time in the month when she feels as personable as a saber-toothed cat, as fast as a snail and as sleek as an elephant." Bernhardt G. 2008
Yep, I'm sure we all know that one .... but the fact that at this time we can put in personal best times too. Actually, these chapters are well worth a read for you men too!
In conclusion a fabulous book full of sensible, realistic and interesting information and advice, clearly set out with personal experiences and a great quote at the start of each chapter to set you on your way. A book to read thoroughly and then gladly have on the book shelf to dip back in and out of. I have been saying " did you know......" so many times to my poor "cycling book widower" husband, it's been great; real get your own back time. I'll be lending it to him next.
Oh and sorry brian but I'm afraid you're really not getting this book back!!
Tink Hastings 2009
posted on tuesday april 7 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................