some of us are born with a sense of adventure, and some of us just aren't. happily (most of the time), a number of those adventurers end up writing about their exploits, either in blogs, in magazines or in book form, and if well written, the rest of us can live the dangerous stuff all the while sat in a leather armchair. to gain the same sensations, the same excitement, the same wondering just what's round the next corner, the words really need to leap off the page, grab you by the helmet strap and slap you on the face with a pair of track mitts. no arguments; that's the way it has to be.
dominic gill has that spirit of adventure, and the writing's not half bad either. there are moments in the first chapter where you get the notion that this might turn out to be a very short book. "the macho man in me - the part that had decided to cycle the length of the americas - had vanished hours ago, and now the idea of setting off alone into that wilderness gripped me with a numb dread." that sort of sums up my sense of adventure, but i usually come to my senses before attempting to buy an airplane ticket to somewhere i've never been. well, at least until i wake up.
dominic gill's launch into the unknown consisted of landing in alaska, with plans to cycle all the way down to the southern tip of south america. in fact, a remarkably similar route to that of scotsman mark beaumont; the adventure bit is what makes this book different, and the hint is contained in the title. mr gill's velocipede of choice for this lengthy journey was a tandem (nicknamed achilles), which in itself is not that odd, until it becomes clearer that he was riding this two-seater alone. you are now trying to figure out why on earth a man, sane enough to be offered a publisher's advance, would consider riding a two seater bicycle from top to bottom of the americas. here's where the adventure bit kicks in.
implementing one of those ideas that probably seemed like a brilliant notion at the time, dominic gill planned to ride around 18,500 miles, inviting those he met along the way to occupy the rear seat of achilles, hoping to enjoy a wide variety of company on his way towards the pointy part of argentina. fundamentally, this sort of goes against the grain of everything that our mums have warned us about during our collective formative years. attempting this sort of adventure in great britain would be worrying enough; doing so in north america a bit concerning; doing so in south america would seem to most of us like attempted suicide.
yet much of our belief system about the plunderers, robbers and cut-throats that supposedly inhabit those parts of the world, is filtered through the media, a part of modern life often concerned with selling more to the great unwashed, and in order to do so, feels less than conscientious than concentrating on the seedier side of life for a bit of drama or melodrama.
throughout his substantial number of miles covered, dominic relates only one example of seriously threatening behaviour, one that he successfully ran away (or cycled away) from. while there were obviously lengthy periods of solo cycling, either due to a scarcity of human population, or simply a dearth of available stokers, there were shorter periods when companionship was acquired. in fact, by journey's end, dominic had been accompanied by 270 strangers, many of whom had managed a shorter than expected/hoped for distance, often due to experiencing more painful posteriors than they had believed possible. there will be a number of us who can sympathise, or know several civilians who certainly would.
gill's adventures are hardly the stuff of legend. no undiscovered tribes were found deep in any jungle; there were no life or death situations, and the weather, while regularly changeable, didn't threaten to immerse in floodwater, or blow achilles and rider from clifftop into the pacific ocean. but once i'd settled into the writer's daily routine, his expectations, mechanical difficulties and endless possibilities to meet new and incomprehensible people, immersion was complete. addictive it certainly is, and suddenly i am dominic gill, living his adventures through the printed word. that's good writing. and that's also good reading.
"i began the journey full of machismo, hungry to prove that i could do it, come what may. but slowly, ever so slowly, my priorities had changed and i learnt the real worth of the journey. company. sharing. faith in those around you."
this might not be the sort of book that we, as weekend warriors astride shiny carbon, would necessarily choose to pick from the bookshelf to fill those moments of cycling downtime. but that would likely have been our first mistake, because though this book concerns a tandem rather than the latest time-trial machine from specialized, it does every cyclist good to remind themselves that, in a world rapidly filling with cars and the isolation that those imply, the bicycle is still one of the fundamental underpinnings of world society. maybe the sooner more people realise that, the better.
an inspiring and adventuresome read.
posted thursday 6 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there are untold numbers of people involved in the bicycle industry plying various trades to keep the rest of us satisfied on the weekend ride. and all the cycley bits in between. i'm sure there are even more than those of which i'm aware, but it's probably enough for now to be going on with. and an untold number of those are just like you and i, except with a bit more talent in directions that we wish our own talents lay. not for them the strange and contrived acronyms that decorate many a carbon seatstay, proclaiming features that we don't understand, and to be honest, probably don't actually need. at the industrial end of the market there is a growing need to differentiate, and if that means inventing new technical features that only pretend to exist, then so be it. marketing will do that to you.
but returning to those who inhabit the same level of humanity as the rest of us, the art of conversation is not yet deceased. if the daily travail imposes a lengthy degree of flying solo, the opportunity to converse with consumers, would-be consumers, or simply the passingly interested, might be just the opportunity needed to lighten that load, or spread the infectious enthusiasm. this all sounds plain and simple, but unless those eager conversants happen to drop by the shop, words may be slightly stilted or even non-existent.
as aspects of cycling, such as wheelbuilding and framebuilding, return to their roots and inhabit the place of the so-called cottage industry, it may well be the case that any spare cash is being ploughed into buying more spokes, rims, tubes or brass. or whatever. there may be little capital abounding that would allow the necessary proselytising of one's honed skills. thus, alternatives need to be sought, even if there is no time available for soughting. of course, not all framebuilders are created equal, and some are possessed of a greater degree of altruism and fatherly concern than others, engendering free access to the very conversations already discussed above. it should perhaps be no surprise to the faithful that mr richard sachs has the fortitude and perspicacity to foster such progress.
i have, over the period of my own conversations and contact with richard, been referred often to questions and answers that have appeared on velocipede salon, a forum that concerns itself with the art of the framebuilder, and those with a vested interest in the intricacies thereof. as is probably the case with many a forum, whether concerned with cycling or not, there is likely a great deal of useful information and important discussions taking place within its pixels, but as i'm sure we're all aware, there is also a lot of dross and vitriol too. forums are generally not on my horizon for subject matter of any particular incarnation, and i have to admit that i cannot claim velocipedesalon to be one with which i have a suitable amount of experience with to comment one way or the other. i'm not a signed up member of the forum, so while i can read the various posts, i do not have the permissions to reply, or originate a topic. this situation generally suits me well, because i know that my technical knowledge of framebuilding, or lack of, would merely cause ripples of humour, rather than progress the dialectic taking place.
however, a recent innovation by mr sachs on the boards (so to speak) may just have given me cause to revise my sign-up policy. named smoked out, this section of the forum offers framebuilders of varying art and experience to state their raison d'etre at the outset, then sit back and eagerly, or apprehensively, wait for the questions to roll in.
conversation and dialogue.
let me allow mr sachs to explain in his own inimitable style; "we have over 120 folks registered at velocipede salon who are framebuilders, be they career pro or hobbyist.
i decided it would be wonderful for each and every one of them to tell his story. not all of it. but some of it, enough so readers would get a sense of the cat, his beginnings, muses, experiences, and even favorite colors if they exist. the board created is called 'smoked out' because that's the intention. the way it works is this: all 120+ folks were told of the project, and on a first come, first served basis, the builder gets to start a thread about himself and hold court. threads will be added once or twice a week. the newest framebuilder's thread will always be stuck at the top of the board and once it's replaced by the next in line, it goes into the mix of all prior threads. these older threads are kept alive by new traffic, or older viewers who come back and ask more questions, or even when the framebuilder has some news to report and uses his own thread to broadcast it."
with more and more of us re-discovering steel through the frames of those who never saw it go away, it is, i feel, incumbent on every one of us who fits that description, to avail ourselves of this opportunity. many of the majors who have their carbon monocoques assembled in far off places, can be all but uncontactable, often only through their authorised dealers. that can often lead to purchases based entirely on somebody's race results or an anodyne advertisement in the monthlies. i'm not suggesting that there are any unforeseen pitfalls in so doing; two such machines reside in thewashingmachinepost bikeshed, but the third has become resident through unprecedented dialogue with its progenitors (chris king cielo). that dialogue was very satisfying, hopefully for them as well as for me.
to name everyone on the list would take several thousand more pixels, though if you're really intrigued, e-mail me and i'd be happy to return the list as i have it at present. on the boards as of today are jonathan greene cycles, zanconato custom cycles, nash cycles-baltimore bicycle works, foresta frames and signal cycles, conversations with whom extend to several pages. even if, at present, you have little or no intention of availing yourself of a new custom built frame, there's no harm in storing a little or a lot of pertinent information, or asking a few questions.
didn't i tell you richard sachs was the best friend we've never met? his latest word on the project; "the list is growing almost daily, atmo"
posted wednesday 5 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm not a great fan of posting youtube or vimeo videos other than those that i manage to film myself. somehow it seems a bit like taking the easy way out, though i have no real qualms with those in the so-called blogosphere who fill their pixels in this fashion. we each have our contributions to make, and the whole is undoubtedly greater than the sum of its many, many parts.
however, it's the exception that proves the rule (or words to that effect) and i have two unimpeachable reasons for breaking my own regulations. firstly, the film stars a beautiful red steel colnago with campag deltas, worth the price of admission alone, and secondly, the clothing is amongst the worlds finest. combine the two, and i will broker no argument.
and as an acquaintance of mine rather succincltly put it "it's my blog and i'll post whatever i like (if that's ok with the rest of you)"
posted wednesday 5 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
when first introducing myself to the world of road cycling, my naivety and often lack of colour and design sense led me to the advertisements populating the back pages of the comic. it's likely that many of us purchased our weekly fix just as much for those pages as for the race coverage that frequented the opening salvos, but with the advent of the interweb, those oldies but goodies are no more, and the comic is but a shadow of its former self.
aside from the overweening necessity of checking price comparisons for components, the worth of which i had little idea, there was the need for suitable attire to be considered for accompanying one's persona on the spindly road machine of the time. having lovingly melded frame, wheels and components into something resembling those employed in the annual grand festivals of the sport, it would have been very unseemly to parade the highways and byways clad in a hooded sweatshirt and a pair of rugby shorts. thus, the back pages of the comic.
we more or less take it for granted nowadays, that there is an enormous choice of cycling apparel, covering pretty much every taste and style, whether that of the replica team kit or, at the other extreme, everyday clothes designed for practicality with little in the way of show and tell. urban is the contemporary epithet, i believe. this is exactly as it should be, for our tastes are less molded today than they were when i was knee high to a chainset, and the comic was still a compulsory purchase. there are a number of folks to thank for this situation, and i think both they and we know just who they are.
but the perennial mystery, through all the intervening years, has been the continual offering of yellow, green and polka dot jerseys year upon year. my understanding of the unwritten code of road cycling is that one would be very likely admonished for appearing anywhere near a bike ride wearing one of the aforesaid, unless of course, your name was kelly, armstrong or millar. year on year, i still see these three jerseys advertised and wonder who on earth it is that purchases any of them in sufficient numbers to make it a commercial likelihood that they will be offered again the following year. or is my observation so diminished that in fact the same jerseys have been proffered since the early nineties, by way of retailers trying to shift stock that they mistakenly bought in greg lemond's time?
either way, the mystery is not softened by the fact that it is seemingly perfectly acceptable to wear the pink leader's jersey from the giro d'italia. in fact, this may even be positively encouraged. while there is no way on this planet that i would ever purchase or wear a yellow jersey, i'd be more than happy to have an entire wardrobe of pink giro versions, and just as happy to wear them with pride.
so while we're on the subjects of pink, giro and pride, the very solution to all three is currently on offer from mick and andy at prendas ciclismo, in the shape of a rather exotically must have pink santini wool jersey with the magic words fausto coppi emblazoned across the front. while the ubiquitous three rear pockets of modernity have many praises to sing, there can be little to offset the style of a bygone age that placed two buttoned pockets on the front , satisfyingly interpreted on this celebratory garment.
and if, like me, you are less than confident of carrying off the pink of the man at the front of an italian peloton in may, you may be a tad more comfortable in the black equivalent offered to the rider who occupies the furthest point from the podium. this too is on offer from prendas in the same grand style as the pink, but perhaps offering a lesser measure of ostentation.
costing a reasonable £129 for such woollen italian style, there's also a likelihood that a size with your name on it won't be too far away; from xs to 6xl. get the order in quickly enough and you could spend the next three weeks suitably attired to watch one of the greatest shows on earth, either from the front or the back, depending on you choice of colour. the pink version is limited to 500 worldwide, while the back one is exclusive to prendas. order quickly.
posted tuesday 4 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
It was typical that upon opening my sealed fresh black vinyl package from Rapha, the weather decided to take a decided turn for the better, where down here in the south we were enjoying temperatures of up to 18 degrees. I say it was typical, because inside my package was the new Rapha women's Stowaway jacket. I found myself willing the arrival of a cooler climate, perhaps even a few specks of rain?
Having ridden an older generation 'Lightweight Softshell' jacket from Rapha, this piece felt lightweight in every sense of the word; a quick glance at the label confirmed the construction to be 100% nylon. Rolling up the jacket to test its packability, I was quite blown away at not only how small it packs down (under 150g for my UK size 8), but also how little this item would weigh down the rear pocket of a jersey. My old lightweight softshell was great during the colder months when a jacket would stay on the whole ride, but its lack of packability impacted its versatility as a garment in which to ride; if I left the house wearing it, I had to wear it for the duration. This is one of the reasons I have loved riding in the stowaway; I could wear it when leaving the house at 7am when the air was still fresh and crisp, yet when the sun had done its heating thing by 9am, this layer could easily be disposed of to my jersey pocket, only to unfurl and don again at the café stop.
The shell does a commendable job in regulating temperature, being thin enough to provide breathability, yet simultaneously a decent windproof and water resistant layer when battling the showers. It's truly a three or even four season jacket, which does go quite a way to justify the price tag. This is an incredibly stylish outer layer that will cope with April, July or November trips of the two wheeled variety, keeping out light to rather moderate showers and retaining an excellent level of protection from a chilly wind.
The tailoring of the stowaway is perfect for a ladies frame. The fluted cut hugged the areas I desired to give a sleek racy look, but also provided a flattering 'sit' for the jacket around the hips, with a grip cord at the bottom to dial in your preferred tightness. Darts have been inserted around the chest area for comfort, a small refinement on their popular men's version, along with a slightly different placement of the useful front pocket, again in keeping with the flattering close fit. The pocket was trés useful, fitting keys or access cards for my commute, or cash and cards for the weekend rides. It's worth noting that the jacket can actually pack into this pocket when turned inside out, providing a neat little square for storing when not in use, or when thrown into a commuter bag in anticipation of a rainy ride home from the office.
The arms are skinny and tight fitting, again enhancing that racy pro-fit feel, and they are crafted with ample length to provide coverage when stretched out on top of the bars. Lycra cuffs ensure no chilly air or road spray will penetrate up the arms.
The Stowaway is offered in a rich red colour and a translucent cream, both excellent visibility choices for those of us wishing to forego the ultra-fluorescent look. Visibility is further enhanced by two reflective stripes running from shoulder to wrist on each arm, with pocket detailing and a Rapha logo on the rear also visible when hit with light.
The only shortcoming from my point of view was the lack of a rear pocket for items I need to access on a ride, such as energy gels. But the stowaway was designed for lightness and packability, meaning only essential features remain on the jacket; and it's not like I don't have the option of the small pocket on the front. I have to remind myself that sometimes in life, I cant have it all!
Out riding, I tested how easy the jacket was to remove and pop on again, finding a nice long straight (the Brampton straight mile to be exact), and away I went. The jacket features a bite tab so I was able to unzip easily, peel off and then fashion into a roll before stuffing into the awaiting back pocket. Perfecto! For the remount, I grabbed said stowaway sausage, unfurled and aided by the black grippy seals on the shoulders (For added water resistance and also to provide robust protection from a courier bag strap), I was able to wriggle back into the jacket with relative ease, confirming its use as an on-the-go protective shell. Overall it's a very good jacket for the ever changing weather system in the UK, and just as importantly, provides a flattering pro feel due to its racy aerodynamic cut.
rapha's women's stowaway jacket retails at £165, can be purchased in either the red tested, or cream and in sizes ranging from x-small (women's uk size 8) to x-large (women's uk size 16).
© gem atkinson 2010
posted monday 3 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
for those of us without an inbuilt wanderlust, but with a cycling obsession that needs to be regularly fed, television, video and photography are necessary accoutrements. getting the miles in, as the cliche goes, is all very well and in many a case the bit that keeps it all real, but if we'd like to keep tabs on what the rest of the world is up to, media is the answer. television, at its most basic, ticks the reportage box, and to be honest makes few pretensions to do otherwise, but photography, in the right hands, has the ability to be so much more; to create atmosphere, to inspire, to inform and to help buy into the whole cycling philosophy from back to front.
but the secret ingredient is that phrase in the right hands. if you're at all like me, the ability to nip off to the continent at the drop of a lens hood to watch the spring classics and the grand tours gets in the way of work, the very drudgery that would provide the financial wherewithal to get there in the first place. so we have to rely on those who not only do this for a living, but have the same eyes as we do, returning with imagery that is the next best thing to being there.
i first came across new hampshire based photographer chris milliman through my contact with jeremy dunn of rapha usa and embrocation cycling journal. chris provided a superb cover photo of a cross race for embrocation issue three, with such clever manipulation of depth of field that the whole thing looked like a sophisticated scale model, then followed that up in issue four with another creatively observed photo of scarred knees (tell me you've never been there).
i make no apologies for frequently filling these pixels with photography and interviews with its practitioners; it has become such an inseparable part of the sport, that i hope you'll find it as interesting a subject as i do, eager to find out what it is that seemingly attracts such expertise to such a minority sport/activity.
chris milliman is one of the finest.
posted sunday 2 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
an erstwhile friend of mine, now sadly demised, owned a music shop in which i used to teach drumset a great number of years ago. it was one of his most vaunted observations that, when a drum set was on display in the front shop, almost nobody, irrespective of their musical ability or preferred instrument, could resist drumming their fingers across at least one of the toms, or giving a cymbal a bit of a bish in passing. i'm not sure that we ever worked out why this was the case, because there was no corresponding observation that similar happenings were randomly applied to guitars or keyboards, though doubtless a psychologist worth his/her salt could relate this back to man's ancestral past and the recognition that the drum was the very first musical instrument.
the notion to rattle those snares, however, tended to diminish once any student of mine (or anyone else's for that matter) discovered that playing drumset even barely competently, required as much skill and practice as any other musical instrument, not least because it required the integration of two hands and two feet, which may not always be attempting to do the same thing. rudiments will pretty much always separate the wheat from the chaff.
sanford 'gus' moeller (1886-1960) developed a method of drum instruction based on that originally taught and used by marching drummers during the american civil war. it is a well used quote by the man that, 'the belief that anyone can beat a drum is discouragingly popular' a sentiment with which i would readily concur. but aside from quotes, moeller's method allowed drummers of any era and style to play properly without hurting themselves. that those practised in the percussive arts should be prone to doing so may come as a bit of a shock, but the correlation between beating the stuffing out of a hollow piece of wood, and pedalling a bicycle are a lot closer than you'd think. at least, as richard sachs would say 'according to my opinion'.
the moeller method, as it has come to be known, very basically revolves around the relaxed use of both arms and wrists, effectively flinging the drumstick towards the drumhead and being ready and willing to catch it on the rebound. of course, you don't actually let go of the drumstick at any point in this process, but the idea is to allow the stick to do the majority of the work, thus saving energy (drumming's a busy business you know) and not straining any of those necessary tendons. perhaps the most famous adherent of this method was the great gene krupa, but watching any drummer who has mastered the technique is almost as entertaining as listening to the sound brought forth by its implementation.
now i have no history or practice of bio-mechanics, so i am not in any position to argue with the experts, but that's never stopped me before. when pedalling hard in order to either increase or maintain a speed relatively higher than my more ususal meanderings, pressing harder on the pedals would seem an obvious method to employ. this is because the experts referred to above have determined that we do not, in fact, produce any notable power output on the pedal upstroke. all our power (as it is laughingly referred to in my case) is produced during the downstroke where we are pushing the chain round the chainrings and driving it across whichever sprocket has been chosen at the rear.
however, i have found that, when i remember to do so, effectively 'lifting' my knees on the upstroke not only appears to give me more speed, but lightens the load on my lower limbs, effectively the cycling equivalent of sanford's drum method. i have no power readouts or other illustrative graphs of many colours that could even begin to prove that this works, however, employing this method into an islay headwind along uiskentuie strand felt a whole lot better than mashing those pedals into submission.
there will of course, soon be a plethora of e-mails arriving at my inbox from qualified physiologists, and people who have spent many a year developing systems for formula 1 racing cars, providing equations, videos and rude words to prove that while i may manage more a passable pastiche of an art blakey drum solo, i should stick to what i think i know, and leave them to their substantial consultancy fees. but just remember, when dave brailsford trumpets his use of the moeller method for all those gold medals at london 2012, where you read it first.
i look forward to my increase in consultancy remuneration.
posted saturday 1 may 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
during my years at art college, the existence of several bands amongst the students was, it must be said, not of particularly note; art college and rock or jazz bands go together like chainlinks and sprockets. so at weekends, when we were on holiday from being the future of scottish art, we were the future of scottish rock, and as such, needed somewhere to hang out, be cool and speak in tongues that would underline not only our undoubted musical ability and technical comprehension, but also our impending megastardom.
thomson's music shop in union street.
the guy behind the counter was called doug (don't remember his surname), an affable and besuited fellow with long hair and a beard, who seemed more than happy to let us clutter up the first floor showroom, hitting drums and strumming guitars that didn't belong to us. that we rarely bought anything didn't seem to matter either, though if a regular string of gigs came along, doug's cash register was the one that would benefit. megastars need this kind of environment to help foment their future.
with cyclists, it used to be the local bike shop, and in many cases, it still is, but such have become the refined tastes of the cognoscenti and peloton at large, that an environment more befitting the sportwool and carbon brigade was perhaps long overdue. that's likely the case in many a city and large town, but it's probably a less economically demanding call in central london. if it was possible to amalgamate 400 cyclists for the tweed run, i would think it the proverbial no brainer to open a cyclists' hang out in the country's capital.
if you were opening just such an establishment in the month of may, what would you be looking at featuring? food and coffee almost goes without saying, perhaps an exhibition or two, and almost definitely at least one large screen television showing the giro on a daily basis. those of you with a history of reading the post will be well aware that this couldn't possibly be my idea, particularly if you've ever seen the inside of the bikeshed, and of course you'd be bang on the chainring. but by what seems to be a strange and unrelated quirk of fate, you sit dreaming of just such a facility, then two of them arrive at once. not only that, but you'd barely have time to change into eleventh gear cycling from one t'other.
opening this morning (friday) at 8am in old street, london, is the very attractively titled look mum no hands! comprising cafe, bar and cycle workshop geared (pun intended) entirely towards the velocipedinally predisposed. live screenings of all the cycle season's great races will be projected on a big screen; the giro, vuelta and tour de france. also in the pipeline is a calendar of events including film evenings, exhibitions, cycle jumbles, book launches and bicycle maintenance workshops.
square mile coffee and fresh pastries will be served in the morning and homemade cakes, salads and sandwiches during lunch and afternoons. the bar will offer wines from france, italy, and spain along with a selection of belgian beer. staying true to the continental theme, look mum no hands! will also be serving up cured meats, pate, cheese and olives with freshly baked baguettes.
those involved in the existence of look mum no hands! are lewin chalkley, five years a manager at pret a manger, matthew harper the licensee, and sam humpheson who will oversee the workshop end of things. lewin chalkley said "we have long felt that london was missing a meeting place for cyclists and we want look mum no hands! to be somewhere that all london cyclists can enjoy, irrespective of which 'cycling tribe' they belong to." (hopefully there is no barring of cyclists from outside london).
the second set of premises to fulfil the manifesto is rapha's cycle club; not, as i originally surmised, another sportwool clothed peloton which we had all been invited to join, but a 'real' club, through whose doors we are all welcome. in rapha's case, this is being referred to as a pop-up, by which they infer, and indeed confirm, a cyclists' facility that will not be there for long. till the 31st of july to be precise, presaging the opening of a similar club in new york city.
the rapha cycle club will, i am told, be more than just a retail space, featuring live screenings of road races, starting with the giro, and a full calendar of exhibitions and events as well as the celebratory and obligatory citroen 'h' van. this will be a home for the sport, the epicentre of cycling, where visitors can get their fix of riding, style and culture while enjoying a cup of rapha blend coffee. i rather like the fact that 'epicentre' contains the word 'epic'; most appropriate. the rapha club is situated in clerkenwell road, and opens to the cycling public on saturday may 8th. i was very kindly invited to the press launch of both, and i'm in a really bad mood that work has yet again prevented what would be a very fine way to spend two evenings drinking coffee, getting in the way, and talking cycling (just like debbie's, come to that).
posted friday 30 april 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
with the advent of the bicycle shaped object, fewer bicycles arrive at my back door for repair. the reasons are somewhat obvious; if the bso only cost around £50 ($76), replacement of any of the major bits is likely to outweigh the cost of purchasing yet another bicycle shaped object. replacing a gear cable or brake cable, even a tyre or tube is doable within a reasonable budget, but factor in a chainset that resembles a potato crisp, has as much in common with cycling, and with labour it would be cheaper throwing the whole kit and kaboodle in the skip.
as a result, most of the stuff i get asked for these days revolves around the easy bits; i've mentioned the cables, and touched on the tyres and tubes, but 'tis these that, even in this day and age give cause for concern. many years ago, i learned to ask further of telephone enquiries, having bought in an entire rear wheel for what turned out to be a need for an inner tube. it seems that the rural mind often equates one with the other, and i have no intention of getting caught with that one again.
similarly any enquiries after brake shoes. most of the machinery plying the road between house and the supermarket is modelled after the ubiquitous mountain bike, none of which would recognise a mountain if it were placed in the front garden. with shimano's prodigious habit of improving' the cantilever brake every five minutes, there are at least three different fittings that i know of for mountain bike braking systems (and that's without factoring in the mechanical disks that seem to have flooded the wannabe market of late). road calipers are less fussy, but there's not too many of those about these here parts. therefore the question has to be asked, though i know the answer pretty much in advance.
but the question that scares me the most is that concerning the valve fitted to inner tubes. it does little for my reputation as an easy-going, happy-go-lucky bicycle maintenance technician that i have to ask too many questions to find out exactly which size of inner tube is required in the first place, but when that is followed by the which valve do you need? question, i can almost feel the smartass emanate under the breath. yes, you and i understand the relevance of this question, but to the casual enquirer this likely fulfils all the stories of arrogance applied to bicycle store staff they've ever heard.
but allow me to step sideways a touch. it has been my great misfortune to have ridden on more than one occasion with fellow riders who have been carrying not only no spare inner tube of a sunday ride, but no appropriate inflation device either. neither are forgivable sins, because one would really be dependant on the other; a spare inner is as much use as a chocolate fireguard without a pump, and a pump is just a liability with no inner tube to inflate. but inexplicable situations occur, as we are well aware; pumps break, fall off the bike or drop out of rear pockets, and there are occasions when a presta valve meets up with a schrader pump, more often than not, in a filling station forecourt.
brass valve adaptors have long been available to solve this latter problem, but these are easily lost. go on, argue with me. but richard at urban hunter has found the very way to solve this part of the problem in the shape of a bullet key ring with a screw in presta/schrader adaptor. fear not if the necessity for yet another keyring makes you cry out loud, for it's just as easy to fit this to a backpack loop or belt loop so that it resides in a location easily found. every road cyclist should have one of these, and i fully intend to lobby the uci to make it a mandatory requirement at the one day classics and grand tours. can you not just see pat mcquaid strutting to the finish line with one of these swinging on his backstage pass? (that's not a euphemism by the way)
the next step will be to point out that forecourt air lines put o2 into inner tubes with a touch more force than the average framefit pump.
the bullet valve adaptor and keyring costs a measly £5 from urban hunter. as recommended by pat mcquaid
posted thursday 29 april 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................