a logical chain of events

park tool pliers

the current issue of rouleur features a photograph of a well-used campagnolo toolkit in its original wooden box, a selection of necessary implements that has reached megastar proportions in its own right. next time you're in tour de ville in london, ask if you can see their very own campagnolo tool set residing upon the workshop pegboard and still in daily use. in the case of tour de ville, the many bicycles in stock are of the era when campagnolo tool sets were particularly apposite. cup and cone bottom brackets, external one-inch headsets, 27.2 seatposts, quill stems and rivetted chains.

progress brings many changes to bicycle components, not always for the better, but sometimes very much so. however, change inevitably means a different way of doing things, and therefore a different way of taking things apart and putting them back together again. the old square taper bottom brackets required a particular tool to remove the press fit cranks from same, before that was superseded by the splined/isis bottom bracket which required a variation of that very same tool to remove cranks during maintenance activities.

since the bulk of any repair work i receive tends to come from visitors on bikes never before seen on the island, it's sometimes necessary to gaze ahead and prepare for the worst. i purchased a park tool for removing cranks from splined spindles, and it currently sits unused on the workshop tool board. this because, before any bicycle machinery bearing just such a bb spindle could break it this far, shimano moved the goal posts, stuck the axle onto the chainset and moved the bearings outboard. so then i needed even more tools (though thankfully they have been well used).

and it's not just tools that change or upgrade, it's the knowledge of how to use them that has to be currently revised. around twenty years ago i purchased at great expense, barnett's bicycle manual and a copy of sutherlands', at one time the bibles necessary for any practising bike mechanic (and perhaps still to this day). however, in a bicycle desert such as islay, training and updating of both hefty volumes is just a spoke wrench too far, and as of the last decade or so, i have just had to accept that there are some areas of cycle maintenance that i simply cannot afford to carry out, the most notable being suspension forks and hydraulic brakes.

i have not once been called upon to fix either of these, so you can imagine just how i and my bank manager would feel had i invested in professional training and the necessary tooling to carry out such work. i doubt that too many of the offroad fraternity read the post, but just on the offchance i'd like to point out that if you break your springy forks or disks on islay, you're on your own.

however, one aspect of bicycle life that has improved immeasurably over the past fifteen or so years is the method of joining the chain. campagnolo currently and obstinately refuse to remainder the rivetted link, necessitating the purchase of an astonishingly expensive chain tool to fit their latest eleven-speed chains. meanwhile, everyone else has arrived at the twenty-first century and implemented the safety link, an easily fitted snap link that is almost as easy to remove as it is to fit.

until recently, i was with campagnolo all the way, having experienced a broken chain many moons ago when one of the earlier versions of this super link decided to part company with the rest of the chain.


but faced with ever narrowing chains and ever more difficult fitting of rivets, i decided to break with tradition and try a kmc ten speed chain with a safety link. that was three months ago, and it is still in place, still handling everything demanded of it, and subsequently pretty much forgotten until now.

fitting one of these links is simplicity itself, particularly because the chain, at this point, is shiny and new and most amenable to being joined. however, while i remove and replace my chains at least every six months, that stil leaves time for crud and other not nice stuff to invade all the links on my kmc. so that super link might just be a tad less ready to come apart than it was to cohabit with its fellows in the first place.

to cut an incredibly long story not even a smidgeon shorter than you'd like, it appears that park, and indeed kmc themselves, manufacture appropriate pairs of pliers to aid the removal of that link either for chain replacement or cleaning, without the necessity of purchasing a set of links and a mortgaged chain tool to put it all back together again.

don't you just love progress?

park tool | kmc chain


posted thursday 10 september 2009

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you didn't read it here first

chris king cielo mtb

i don't do mountain bikes. really i don't. no matter that the world of offroad has decided, after at least two decades of mud plugging, that 29ers are the way forward. and for the benefit of those who fail to realise the significance of such terminology, this is the tag used to describe a wheel size identical to that of the 700c road bike, except a bit wider. and with a knobbly tyre on it.

while my cynicism would have me believe that there is a healthy dose of marketing behind this shift, the magazines, forums and websites have been full of arguments as to which is better for chugging around in the gloopy stuff. much like my appreciation of islay single malt whisky, i really have no idea, having not set cleat on a mountain bike for over 15 years. and at that time their wheels were still normal sized.

however, provided you keep this a secret and don't tell anyone at singeltrack magazine or mbuk, i am about to sing the praises of a mountain bike that i, and many, many thousands of others have never ridden. this is because at present, there are only four in existence, and two of those are currently occupied on this side of the pond.

chris king components in portland have, as i have iterated before, branched out from the safe world of headsets and hubs and stepped (back) into the world of bicycle frames. i know that i'm travelling over well-worn ground, but these bicycle frames, up till now, have consisted of road and cross variants in two flavours: those tig welded at north west nela street, and those hand brazed in chris king's garage. as i am still honoured to relate, ck components lent me one of the former for a week during my visit in may, but at that time, parts and frames in the factory were definitely road and cross only.

chris king cielo mtb

so it came as something of a surprise to receive an e-mail from chris distefano relating to his (at that time) forthcoming trip to eurobike, for which he and sales manager jeff menand were supplied two cool bikes. these, as you can perhaps see from the photos, were/are single speed 29ers sporting the s&s coupler system to allow for the impending transatlantic flight. and as if that were not enough, the cielo chaps had outfitted them with the new chris king inset, semi-integrated headset.

on receiving these photos and details, i enquired of jay sycip as to whether cielo mountain bikes would soon be available. they give little away at nela st: all i could find out was that there are four prototypes in existence, three of which are travel ready and forerunners of availability in 2010 in very limited numbers. these will be bereft of couplers, but with inset and coloured grey with cielo blue graphics. cost? hmmmm. and i forgot to ask if they could also be had with gears but i figure i'll find out before next year.

so that's it really - no more mountain bikes unless i find out a few more details from cielo. i know that a number of you like either or, with a trip to the dark (and knobbly) side now and again, and i aim to prove myself understanding of such aberrations.

not a word to anyone.


posted wednesday 9 september 2009

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back to school

pdx cross school

my good friend davie (the snake) graham sent me an e-mail at the weekend containing a link to a youtube video of himself demonstrating basic cyclocross technique to, believe it or not, dag otto lauritzen for a film crew from norwegian television. for those of a younger disposition (lauritzen is about a month older than me), dag otto won the stage to luz ardiden on bastille day, 1987, and thus could be considered to have a reasonable grasp of this bike riding thing. cyclocross, of course has techniques of its own, not generally required in the art of being a roadie.

while the techniques of getting your cross bike through mud, through sand, through water and round the occasional tree trunk may be seen as the (necessary) icing on the cake, the two basic moves required would seem - to me at least - getting on and off the bike without falling flat on your muddy dace in front of a huddle of admiring spectators. practicing such moves would undoubtedly be better done as far away from the public gaze as is possible; perhaps easier said than done unless you've the luxury of living in a rather remote space. and of course all would be far better accomplished under the expert tutelage of someone who knows what the heck they're doing in the first place.

and the process is undoubtedly more satisfactorily underwritten if it's fun.

but then it is a generally accepted fact that learning new stuff in a group of similar incompetents can bring hours of endless mirth and a large dollop of encouragement, more than you'd ever get in that lonely field in the middle of nowhere. i think, unbeknownst to even the more earnest and alert readers of the post, i have just described the yakima school of cross.

yakima manufacture high quality racks for a wide variety of outdoor pursuits, including cycling, and their north american headquarters are based in beaverton, oregon, not a whole lot of miles from portland; in fact i think i could safely say that beaverton is a suburb of that fine city. yakima's creative marketing manager is dylan vanweelden (excellent cyclocross name, definitely not followed through by his accent) who has had the truly inspired idea of running the pdx school of cross over three consecutive mondays: 21st/28th september and 5th october.

week one will concentrate on those two basic moves: getting on and off the bicycle as quickly and safely as possible. i'd dearly love to be able to leap onto the saddle with feet accurately clicking into cleats at first attempt, but i fear the phrase 'here's mud in your eye' would likely take on too literal a meaning during this process. dylan has assembled an impressive list of coaches to teach the hundred wannabes who have signed up, including embrocation magazine's jeremy dunn, portland bicycle studio and veloshop's molly cameron and dylan himself. the classes - if that's not too formal a description - are being held at portland international raceway, 1940 north victory boulevard, but it's not all endless practice in isolation.

pdx cross school

as we have now entered autumn/fall, the nights get darker earlier, meaning that with classes running from 6pm, it'll likely be dark when participants start to get the hang of things, encouraging dylan and accomplices to set up practice races lit only by knog frog lights in place of cones. as dylan explained: 'if you can race on the night course, you can race any cross course', a philosophy i find it hard with which to disagree.

dylan told me that he has run less 'official' schools over the past two years, and it seems the ideal way to encourage newbies into the sport, and into cycling itself, an activity that has become such a core feature of portland in oh so many ways. by garnering the skills necessary to compete or simply ride cyclo-cross, away from the rush of traffic and over relatively soft ground makes for a more comfortable and secure introduction.

but it's not all serious study and concentration, as vanweelden has plans to demonstrate the finer points of applying embrocation to the legs, easily as important an aspect of cross as the art of jumping on and off the bike, as well as the technique of bunnyhopping the inevitable track obstacles, starting with cardboard for that pain free experience. the cost involved is minimal: $10 (£6) per class and following practice race. you can sign up for all three or pick and choose as circumstances dictate, though with 100 already signed up, there's not a lot of mud left to spare. pdxcross school is supported by yakima, shimano, rapha, embrocation cycle magazine and the words of richard sachs' acronym: cfr

yakima school of cross


posted tuesday 8 september 2009

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if some of your earlier school years were the same as mine, when it came to exam time, there was almost always at least one bloke (at that age, talking to girls was just something one didn't do - but i'm sure the experience transcended the sexes) who claimed not to have studied at all, or certainly not anything like as much as i had. yet come the results, they always, and i mean always, passed amongst the highest marks in the class. darned annoying at the least, and downright unfair at best.

life doesn't actually change that much.

i can hold my hand high and admit without embarrassment, that training is not something that occupies my every minute on the bike; i don't doubt that the opposite ought to be the case, but i'd have to work up some serious motivation for that to become the case. so despite this lack of application, and not reading those weekly articles in the comic, i still find myself harbouring feelings of inadequacy when someone who claims to be of similar mind is able to leave me standing when i've already reached peak performance. i think that, in both the above cases, those that claim not to have studied or trained are telling fibs in an effort not only to aggravate my aforementioned paucity of velocipedinal abilities, but to also flatter their own je ne sais qua. devil may care indeed.

so having admitted to this carefree and care less attitude to training, it perhaps ill behoves me to test products specifically designed to assist with this particular mode of cycling. however, providing one retains an intelligent perspective on one's cycling, it is possible to improve or, at the very least, to remain at the same level without a dropping off as age advances. this would mean spending at least a suitable amount of time working harder than is absolutely necessary or, at times, than you'd really rather. it's noticeable that those who cycle the same route day in day out by way of a commute or whatever, tend to do so at the same pace or effort, meaning that the body becomes used to this relatively stable degree of physical output, and standing still becomes flavour of the month.

but if we're going to push ourselves farther and faster, even if only on occasion, something is going to have to fuel those efforts: sticking to a piece and jam and a cup of coffee before leaving is just not going to do it. the average male requires around 2500 calories to get through an average day, while the fairer sex should be looking at nearer 2000, but if you ride your bike on a regular basis, you're not average and could reasonably be looking to ingest a tad more. there is a considerable array of products on the market that promise to fulfil the function demanded of such calorific intake, particularly on the bike, where it is very difficult to balance a plate of pasta or a soya cappuccino.

liquid form is undoubtedly the easiest way to grab those sustaining calories, but there comes a time when munching just has to take place. either way, the job will not be completed if neither are pleasant to take, and in the case of long rides, they need not to become sickly after a couple of bottles and an emptying of the back pockets. step up to the plate, bikefood.

a relatively new name on the tour bus, bikefood currently offer three different munchy bars in cherry, cacao, and fig flavours, as well as an orange flavoured energy drink. on the sachets received, there are clear instructions as to how to gain maximum benefit from this carbohydrate/protein mix: drink one sachet in 350ml of water before beginning exercise, mix another sachet in 500ml and sip every 15 minutes on the bike (if you're going out for a long one, you'll need to figure this out correctly before departure), then mix a couple of sachets with 650ml of water on return and drink as much of that as you can within 15 mins of striding manfully (or womanfully) into the kitchen barely out of breath and not having broken alluded to above, i really have nothing to train for, but i am more than willing to suffer for my art: i followed the instructions to the letter, interspersing my bike ride with a couple of the bikefood energy bars at strategic locations along the way. of course, none of this stuff is going to have any effect if the taste is not to your liking; the first slug of energy drink had a distinctive tang that wasn't as palatable is i'd hoped, but that may well have been simply the newness of the very nice bright yellow bikefood water bottle, because the rest tasted uncannily like one of those cartons of orange juice with bits currently on offer in bowmore's supermarket. very pleasant indeed.


i don't really like cherries, so continuing with the artistic suffering, that's the bar i ate first - better to get it out the way early in the ride. except it tasted great: soft, moist, munchy and just the right size for a back pocket and a cycling stomach. the other bars have followed this trend: you'd have to have very restrictive tastes not to enjoy. all are vegetarian and vegan friendly, as well as gluten free.

i cannot claim to have carried out the test under anything like scientific conditions - i'm quite sure i could convince myself that there was a momentous change in physical output, that i continued for hundreds of kilometres past my norm, but i'd be fooling me as well as you. the flavour of the energy drink did encourage me to drink waaaay more often than i usually do (i am particularly bad at drinking even water when on the bike), and i did rather wish i'd taken three bars instead of just two because the taste was good. following up with a 650ml drink after home was reached, definitely made a difference. i have long been not so much suspicious of this proclaimed recovery period, as feeling somewhat pretentious that i would consider it applied to me, but it seems i have been fooling myself in the wrong direction.

if bikefood's products can have even a tinsy beneficial effect on a confirmed non-trainer (though i could be fibbing) such as myself, there can surely be little doubt as to their efficacy on the more serious and fit amongst you. if you're of similar mind and effort as i, you can simply eat and drink, safe in the knowledge that improvement might just creep up unannounced.

a 500g tub of energy drink costs £10; a box of ten 47g sachets £12; one 47g sachet £1.30. a mixed box of 24 natural energy bars costs £28; an eight bar refill £10; a three bar taster pack £4, and one bar £1.45. all these can be purchased online at

i'll be at the braveheart ride at the other end of october if you want to find out if i was kidding about my training regime.


posted on monday 6 september 2009

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gentlemanly conduct

rgr 2009

having just finished watching today's stage of the vuelta, aside from increasing my admiration of spanish graphic design, which surely must challenge the oft praised dutch school (irony indeed, since the first few stages of this year's race took place in the netherlands), it is all too obvious just how much of a machine the professional race circuit has become. i am not decrying this, because without the three grand tours and those classics that are firmly lodged in our annual appreciation, there would be little collective appreciation of cycle racing at all. there are many events held in an ever increasing number of countries across the world, but proportionally fewer, particularly in these strained economic times, have the clout to engender full television coverage. even in britain, our national tour which kicks off next weekend will not garner live coverage, and we would like to thnk of ourselves as one of the world's economic superpowers and thus well-heeled enough to do so.

cycling may wish to identify itself as one of the greener activities achievable by humankind, dependent not on fossil fuels or any great annual operating expense; at least, once you conveniently disregard that carbon fibre is but burnt plastic and thus an oil based product. even manufacturing from steel or aluminium takes not a little energy so to do, though considerably less than its four wheeled counterpart. but watching damiano cunego cross the line with arms aloft at alto de altana, i couldn't help but notice the phalanx of motorbikes and motor vehicles that all but obscured david moncoutie pedalling in to take second place. cars are handy things because you can fit them with bicycle racks, but take a snapshot of any aerial shot from pretty much any professional race, and the number of petrol dependent accoutrements remove any greenery that may have been proposed.

but of all the world's cyclists, few are fortunate enough to eke out a living from racing, and to be honest, a greater proportion have no real interest in doing so at all. this still leaves a considerable number who enjoy their competition and who are doubtless inspired by the exploits and victories of the pros: it is likely those that inspired many to cycle faster than absolutely necessary in the first place. it may not be too much of a generalisation to portend that placing two individuals on bicycles and sending them off to any given destination, will lead to competition at some level or other; one of them is likely to want to reach the end-point ahead of his/her compatriot. such is racing.

however not all road racing needs to emulate that of the professionals, nor need any teams involved in such require to replicate the strategies or tactics employed in a grand tour or one day classic. there are ways to enjoy a day in the saddle with like minded team mates competing in a more gentlemanly manner, and an event fitting this somewhat loose description is about to take place from otis on portland's pacific coast to an unspecified location in downtown portland. it is the 2009 north west rapha gentleman's race, following on the tradition of the rapha continental and the previous west coast and east coast running of this event.

the basic premise is close to that of a team time time trial: each team consists of six riders, but the difference between the often abhorred (by the riders) version employed in the major tours, is that all six members must be present at the two checkpoints and again at the finish to claim the winner's prize. total distance is 220 kilometres, which must be covered with no outside assistance; there are no following cars with spare bikes stacked on their yakima racks, no handing up of bidons, musettes or peanut butter sandwiches wrapped in alcan foil. either each team carries with it the food and drink they require to complete the ride, or they must stop at stores and markets en-route for necessitous replenishment.

rgr 2009

this is where the gentleman's bit comes into play. there can be no columbia cavendish sprint train, shedding riders in the last few kilometres to get the strongest man/woman across the line in first place; rather each member is dependent on his/her other five team-mates to make sure all are fit, well, and not struggling more than is good for the team effort. and if one rider suffers a mechanical or puncture, it is incumbent on all to wait or assist, for there will be no mechanic leaping from an open car door to replace a wheel.

doesn't this just sound like bicycle competition as it should be?

twenty three teams will take part in this, the second northwest gentleman's race, starting in staggered formation to head homeward (in most cases) to portland, just over double the number participating in the 2008 inaugural version. while i don't doubt that all those starting fully expect to win, or at least challenge for the win, i detect several tongues firmly placed in cheeks when i asked key members of each team to describe their strategy for world domination:
daniel pasley - rapha continental: "there is no opposition. what we are doing is so different and so much "higher" than simply racing, it's as though we are in our own field. a field that we intend to dominate."

mr joe staples - embrocation cycle team/hup united: "at first i thought "joe be careful, there could be rival teams reading this", but then i thought "what the heck, this is about being gentlemanly, i should help everyone".
you can't lose a race in the first 20 miles, but you sure can win it there. we suggest going out really hard. for anyone with an srm, our target watts for the first hour will be in the 370-400w range; so should yours.
riding in a slim paceline seems like the way to go, but this is actually wrong. ideally you ride three up, in two rows. this is so that more riders get to see the amazing views in each rotation.

chris du roy - indesiderati: "we have thought long and hard about our strategy. initially we considered the age-old approach of simply being well-trained, but that idea was dismissed almost as quickly as it was considered. as is more our collective nature, we spent more time and effort getting around the hard-work than the work would have taken on its own. finally, in a tactic that goes back at least to world war ii movies, we have decided to cloak ourselves in the attire of the enemy. we will be racing the event in rapha clothing. we anticipate the top-seeded team, rapha racing to do the same, so we feel that as we pass some of the other riders or perhaps are caught by those faster than us, our clothing alone will serve as some sort of discouragement to the others as they assume that they have come across the rapha team. we're working on our portland accents as we speak. as long as no one asks one of us who hit the most home-runs in 1938 we should be fine..."

rgr 2009

perhaps not the line taken by either bruyneel or bjarne riis in those huddled meetings in the directeur sportif's hotel room or in the luxury coach on the way to the start line. if the idea of this gentlemanly conduct is one that appeals, you can watch a video of last year's starter for ten on my ipod or here. it's racing jim, but not as we know it.

joe staples again: nutrition is another important area. we have been working hard with riis and the boys up in denmark. new research seems to suggest that the body works really well in what they are calling "dry form". this means that between bidons you should leave at least two hours with no fluid intake. this will give the body time to dry out fully before it is resoaked. We suggest having a bidon before the start and then riding in "dry form" until the second checkpoint at about 100miles.

unfortunately, this is the nearest most of us will get to being 'inside' the minds of such fabulous athletes, gaining an insight into how they prepare for the strains and stresses of competition, and just how much concern can be shown at such an elite level for each other's wellbeing in such a gentlemanly fashion. as oklahoma's chris du roy said: "were you hoping for something more serious?"

i hope to have some sort of a report on this event in the fullness of time


posted on sunday 6 september 2009

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the left hand of the electron

portland zipped pocket

how many of you have seen the will smith movie i robot? yes, me too, and although some of it has been over dramatised or altered somewhat to cope with the plethora of special effects, and product placement by audi, it's still a very enjoyable film. it's probably also somewhat re-jigged to cater to the abilities and star qualities of mr smith. altered? well, yes, because the story was originally written as a series of nine science fiction essays by isaac asimov and published in book format in 1950. the essays themselves appeared in a couple of science fiction magazines during the previous decades and though the book appeared as i robot, asimov wanted to call the book mind and iron and was a bit miffed when gnome publishing preferred the ultimately released title. thank heaven for publisher's diktat.

while the stories themselves are comfortably in the realm of class science fiction, as is the majority of asimov's fictional output, what they are subtly famous for is their influence over all subsequent science fiction writing by way of the three laws of robotics, introduced in the 1942 short story runaround. would that british cycling, the uci and the road time trials council be this brief through their regulatory authority. i can feel your pain at the thought of my publishing the three in an article ostensibly about bicycles in some way or another, but on the basis that several of you may be unaware of these laws, i feel honour bound to educate:

a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
a robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law.

and there you have it - necessitous information should you ever find yourself in possession of a positronic robot, and if shimano have anything to do with it, that day may not be too far in the future. however, aside from being a writer of quality and perceptive science fiction, isaac asimov was a professor of biochemistry and well versed in the laws of astro physics, on which he also published. one such volume written in 1972 was entitled the left hand of the electron a title inherited by chapter two in the book. this considered, debated and propounded on the likelihood of symmetry in the universe, seen from the perspective of sub nuclear particles; the opposites of particles such as electrons (positrons) display symmetrically opposite properties, thus apparently balancing the space/time continuum as we experience it. however, cooling cobalt-60 nuclei to almost absolute zero demonstrated that electrons were dispersed from one point only, leading to the revelation that electrons are left-handed as, apparently, is most of our portion of the known universe.

gilet zipped pocket

therefore when we climb aboard the velocipede du jour, it copes with left bends as well as right and exhibits no more frictional resistance pushed forward as backward; all details we take for granted and provided for by sub-atomic particles and their weak nuclear interactions. isaac asimov died in 1992 at the age of 72, meaning i am now left to my own devices, and very limited knowledge and comprehension of nuclear physics. yes, i understand how an ergopower lever carries out its function, and i may even manage to strip one down and re-assemble in less than a week, but there are many facets of this universe that are way over my head.

and one of those facets manifested itself today.

i mean not to castigate rapha in this diatribe, but the incomprehension and perhaps symmetrical implication rests at their door. i have long reviewed the jerseys and jackets from a wide variety of manufacturers and praised or damned same on the basis of whether the selection of rear pockets includes one with a zip. in the 21st century i feel this is just as much of a necessity as spokes in the rear wheel, or pat mcdaid present at a seminar on proportional representation. however, perhaps i imbue the process of designing quality cycle clothing with more research and ergonomics than is truly the case. (would mr lamont care to expound?)

today dawned wet and windy, meaning that the morning was spent checking e-mail and indulging in a spot of writing; fortunately, while the wind failed to abate to any significant degree, the rain passed on over to scotland, and it was possible to nip into a headwind on the way to debbie's for an afternoon cappuccino. the autumnal weather, which i secretly rather enjoy, meant that aside from a portland jersey and armwarmers, it was time to lift the softshell gilet from its hibernation for added climatic security. it was only on my return that i noticed the zipped rear pocket on the gilet opens by pulling the toggle to the right, while the jersey operates in the converse direction.


maybe time for the three laws of zipped pockets.


posted on saturday 4 september 2009

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cobble wobbles with velo jam

cobble wobble

heading over to the west coast of islay, the road between loch gruinart flats and loch gorm is little used apart from by farmers, the velo club peloton and visitors who have no idea where they are during the summer months. it has, fairly recently, been surface dressed which, to an extent, has evened out the surface both up and down, but prior to this it likely formed part of the disasters that have classified argyll and bute possessors of the worst roads in scotland (and by quite some margin).

to those of us honed on character building headwinds, the road's formerly appallingly poor state of repair - it consisted principally of tarmac patches applied over the last decade, leaving little or none of the original road which likely had its origins in viking times - was regarded as more of a challenge than an inconvenience. negotiating this neglected rural artery without destroying a perfectly healthy pair of tyres could be worn as a badge of honour, and was often referred to as paris roubaix on a slope. granted, not a cobble was to be seen but it's likely that the riding experience was not much different.

but now, a very real paris roubaix on a slope has emerged in a far more southerly portion of the british isles; frome in somerset to be presact. on 17th september, the tour of britain teams will depart from this fine town heading on to a stage finish in bideford, devon after competing across 184km, and so enamoured is frome with being a part of the tour, they have organised a wide variety of cycling related activities for the evening of 16th september.

velo jam 2009.

one such is a race up the cobbled slopes of catherine hill, an event that has been dubbed the cobble wobble and i doubt that it is beyond the intellect of many to understand why. keeping the affair true to the spirit and tradition of racing on cobbles, the winner's trophy has been constructed by local framebuilder brian curtis, consisting of a miniature brazed frame, lacquered but unpainted and mounted atop a lump of cobble. while the latter could be seen as the hub of the evening's entertainment for the cyclerati (thank you mr bethell), there are a number of other pastimes that will keep the velocipedinally affected more than content for a while.

velo jam

inventor and engineer, alex moulton will be found in conversation with moulton rider and aficionado, david duffield, a trackstand competition (which i'd watch, but never manage to take part in) and a very clever identification competition that will present the winner with a complete bicycle. this has involved placing bits of a road bike in various shop windows in the town of frome, bits that eagle-eyed competitors are required to spot. when all of the list has been ticked, the winner chosen from the collected entry forms will win the bicycle (which i assume will be all joined together again). there will be roller racing, rapha are sending along their citroen h van, and presumably there is the possibility of bumping into one or two of the riders from the tour of britain, as they try to find out what all the noise is about.

i am compelled to declare a point of self-interest in all the goings on in frome, for despite the fact that the velo jam is just a cobbled hill too far for a swift visit, the road adjoining catherine hill at the top, is known as palmer street. probably remnants of the family estate before we lost our fortune investing in aircraft grade lycra.

16th september, frome, somerset


posted on friday 3 september 2009

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