let me introduce you to the world of the modern drummer from behind the cymbals. having placed bum on appropriately padded stool, with snare drum between knees, the co-ordination part is added to by the presence of pedals on the floor. assuming the drummer to be, as i am, right-handed, the pedal under the right foot activates the beater connected to the bass drum. the pedal to the left is connected to two cymbals on a stand; the hi-hat. however, in a vain attempt to convince the passing guitarist or stray member of an audience that i have co-ordinational abilities beyond their wildest dreams, i bought myself a double bass drum pedal. this places two beaters on the right foot pedal which operate independently of each other, the left actuated by a pedal sitting to the left of the snare drum stand, and linked by an extendable rod.
it is common practice amongst the percussively inclined to nudge the hi-hat stand several centimetres to the left to accommodate this extra pedal. however, as has been successfully pointed out by a professional drummer of my acquaintance, those of us who spend any amount of time in the paradiddle driving seat, spend way more minutes/hours with left foot on the hi-hat than will ever be the case with that left bass drum pedal. in fact, if truth be known, most drummers play the double pedal very rarely during the art of music making, unless a member of some sort of metal band, or perhaps something involving prog rock.
his solution and suggestion, therefore, was to place the hi-hat pedal nearest the snare, and move the leftmost bass pedal outboard of this arrangement. this greatly eases the comfort zone by having the left leg in a more ergonomic position during the average gig, and diminishing the effects of the back-ache that ultimately affects most of the drumming fraternity. it's a stunningly obvious notion, but one not even on my horizon until it was pointed out, and certainly not taken notice of when drum companies photograph their catalogues. the same drummer, however, also pointed out that photographers are rarely great drummers, if indeed, they are drummers at all.
strokes of genius and the existence of the obvious are almost always seen to be simplicity of thought only in hindsight, and despite many years of bicycle and attendant trinketry development, the stunningly obvious is still being discovered by strokes of genius.
enter purple harry.
if you are as fastidious as i, you will have marked in the diary, or a calendar on the ipod/ipad, the dates on which the bicycle chain ought to be replaced. this fastidiousness, in my case, extends only as far as six months, though in the winter i have a feeling i ought to be a bit previous and change it between three and six months. anyway, it makes very little sense to apply a shiny new ten speed when the ten sprockets at the back resemble a window box, the gaps between sprockets being filled with enough agricultural detritus and oily sludge to qualify for a farming grant (actually, these are always known as schemes for some unknown reason). if i can be bothered, i'll remove the cassette from its splines, apply something approximating degreaser, and polish each with gusto.
more likely, however, i'll find that scrap of an old beach towel lying in the corner of the bikeshed, cut/tear a strip off the edge and try to slide it in between each sprocket. in theory, this method has much to recommend it, but in practice, the teeth rip the poor thing to shreds, and instead of a clean cassette, i end up with a fluffy mess. there has to be a better way. not entirely suprisingly, given the amount of words i've applied to this already, there is, and purple harry's your man.
purple harry's bike floss resembles the pipe cleaners of yore; in fact they're damn near identical, apart from some purple flecks and an abrasive quality. there are three variations of purple harry bike floss: thin, thick and fluffy. the first two comprise the purple-flecked variety, and are abrasive to the touch. the fluffy one is pristine white and soft enough to be used on carbon without scraping the paint or clearcoat. take the narrower version, spray some degreaser on the cassette, and proceed to twist, turn and pull the floss bewteen each pair of sprockets. it works almost too good to be true. and it's so stunningly obvious, that i am left wondering why i didn't think of it years ago. or more to the point, why didn't you?
richard hargreaves and his partner did, giving up full-time employment to bring the product, and a full supporting cast due in the fullness of time, to market. i've used each for a variety of jobs all around the bike: cleaning between chainrings (oh how i've longed for a solution that avoids dismantling), under the brake calipers, inside the front and rear gear mechs, between the jockey wheels, and i even used one of the larger abrasives to polish the brass head tube badge on the cielo (much easier to avoid the brake and gear cables)
i feel i need not detail every last use to which purple harry's bike floss has been put. it seems only right and proper that i leave the joy of discovery and invention to the rest of you, because if you haven't already rushed out to buy some, then you will only be inches away from doing so. each pack of five flosses retails at £4.50, but each one lasts for several tasks before reaching the bin. as inferred above, several accompanying products are due for release quite soon, including a wash and polish mitt, degreaser, detergent, polish and lubricants. perhaps not so much of a brainstorm, but i figure you only need one great idea to get started.
quite superb, but i still wish i'd thought of it.
posted thursday 5 august 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i know, i know, i highlighted the advent of these on the post last week, and i'd hate to become the bbc and constantly repeat myself, but if that's what it takes, then we'll just have to put up with it together. this repeat performance has been brought about by the generosity of martin at dromarti who, after my last post on the subject, was kind enough to send a real pair of the new black and red italian leather shoes to investigate from the inside, as opposed to simply window shopping with jaw dropped open.
i have ridden with a pair of the original brown leather dromarti shoes for about a year or so, shoes that have elicited many a 'wow! i gotta get myself a pair of those' almost everywhere i have chosen to tread. in the manner of the finest leather saddles from brooks, these shoes have built up a lasting relationship (did you see what i did there?) with both feet, and i confess to taking strange joy in lacing up a pair of cycling shoes as opposed to twisting, clicking or pressing some new-fangled closure invented with the sole premise of keeping sprinters' feet from extraneous movement come the last few hundred kilometres. the black variation seem intent on continuing this relationship.
there are, according to mrs washingmachinepost, many too many old wives' tales and superstitions surrounding what should and should not be attempted with a new pair of shoes. don't leave them on the table, don't wear them for the first time in the rain; you know just what i mean. these old wives may not have been cyclists, but had that been the case, no doubt there would be warnings against wearing them for the first time on a century ride. in fact, despite the lack of any proximitous old wives, i did have one or two misgivings about doing so myself.
however, i am supposed to be a fearless tester and reviewer of all things cycling, one who laughs in the face of adversity, and used to treading the high wire without the benefit of a safety net. so in the interests of my readership, and to heck with personal discomfort, i wore the new black and reds to the ride of the falling rain. new leather is often stiff, and the black was no exception, perhaps a tad stiffer than the brown had been at the same stage. this was certainly true of the heel section, but i am of a similar opinion regarding shoes as of gloves and shorts: they should be slightly difficult to put on, otherwise they're likely either too big, or have the seeds of their own over-flexibility built-in.
the red external stitching contrasts very favourably with the very black leather without leading to ostentation. however, ostentation cannot be said to be missing from the lining, spilling over to present a red frame for your ankles. it is, as has been said, the biz. the leather body is perforated with variously sized holes which, yes, will let water in, but also let the heat out. the trick is to exude sufficient heat to evaporate any rain on the way in.
the soles, rather than being woven carbon fibre as has seemingly become the rigid fashion, are of carbon resin. perhaps slightly less isambard kingdom brunel than a pair of mavic zxelliums, but more than adequate for those without a domestique contract for next season. in fact, considerably more than adequate. my pedals of choice are from mavic, in the case of the falling rain, feet were clipped into mavic sprints, though almost not unclipped, since the right cleat loosened off after only a few miles, entirely due to incompetence of the mechanic with a 4mm allen key. tightening completed at a debbie's pit-stop, the undersides remained trouble free for the remaining eighty miles.
in fact, the shoes remained trouble free throughout; despite the stiffer leather and those martial heel tabs, both feet were well cossetted. i mentioned to martin at dromarti that, such was the comfort, unless i looked down every now and again, i forgot i had them on. bare feet. this is not to say that similar sensation (or lack of) cannot be experienced while wearing alternative footwear, but modern synthetics generally won't improve after that first ride. if any disadvantage could be pinpointed, it would be the propensity for that red colour of the inside to transfer its affections to your socks, specifically at the extremities; the heel and base of big and little toes. but as my mother was in favour of lecturing, pride bears no pain.
i have continued to wear the shoes on exploratory rides through this week, while testing more wonderful bits and bobs that will enhance our appreciation of riding on two wheels, and already it's possible to feel the leather engaging in superior dialogue with my feet. the conversation has been mutually beneficial, and i look forward to a lengthy transcription as symbiosis continues in the coming years.
the dromarti black and reds are roughly a tenner dearer than their brown leather counterparts. those tested retail at £150, give or take a penny, considerably cheaper than many other top range cycle footwear, utilising synthetic fabrics. style is something inherent in the pedalling action of the rider, but should you find yourself bereft of such, and pretty unlikely to acquire it in the foreseeable future, a pair of dromarti leather black and reds will provide a very satisfactory distraction, while instilling a degree of pride of ownership for many a year to come. meanwhile, brace yourself for foot envy.
posted wednesday 4 august 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
you can ask anyone you like, but i think you'll be hard pushed to find someone who would describe me as an organised person. while i imagine that the professional cycle press have everything marked out on a wall planner as to when review items are due to arrive, who's going to test/review each set piece, and the deadline as to when the end result with accompanying photography should be on the editor's desk, my life is not like that. i'm not saying those deadlines are necessarily met, and if my own experiences are anything to go by, i'd be surprised if every requested item turns up at the appointed hour. however, the very existence of some sort of a plan is a good start, one sadly missing from thewashingmachinepost.
perhaps, of course, i am letting go of secrets that should be kept well hidden; in much the manner of a jazz drummer, there's a distinct difference between me noting what it was i intended to do, and your appreciation of same. it's really only a mistake from my point of view; you've no idea what i intended in the first place (have you?). so therefore i will now attempt to convince you that my continuity has acceded to another and hitherto unattained level, by following yesterday's piece on the ride of the falling rain with a review of pete tomkins' latest mudguard offering for the race bike enthusiast who wants to keep bum and feet dry.
roadracers mark 2
version one seems to have been, by all accounts, well received by the you're not putting mudguards on that brigade. their sleekness, blackness and minimal design often encouraged a double-take amongst the pelotonese, just checking whether they'd actually really seen guards/fenders on that trek madone/pinarello dogma/specialized tarmac (delete as applicable). the non-existence of anything like the kind of clearances you'd need for guards on a road bike, meant that a degree of assembly was required. this was underlined when fitting a pair of full wood fenders to the cielo, the latter arriving with stays in place and in one piece. roadracers are going to be positioned on machines that laugh in the face of mudguard eyes, should it even be possible to fashion such in carbon fibre in the first place. if you have a wee look at the space between the top of the tyre and the underside of the brake caliper, there is a less than evens chance that an assembled fender is going to slide in there from front to back.
therefore, roadracers consist of a big bit, two smaller bits, and some flexible stays. and some incredibly footery screws and nuts. it would not be overstating the case to say that a modest degree of patience is required when fitting, as well as wheel removal, and some electrical tape near to hand. the latter ought to be wrapped around the rear stays and front forks to prevent marking of perhaps fragile paintwork. in the absence of the aforementioned mudguard eyes, roadracers arrive with four that are double bungied in place. if the front forks are of the chunky variety (as was the case on the test bike), add some finger strength and nimbleness to the list of requirements.
the mark twos now have the benefit of little spongey, sticky dots to place fore and aft of the zip tie to take out any annoying buzz, as well as protect calipers and paint. since the guards cannot be held in place by the usually recessed brake bolt, the roadracers are zip-tied to the brakes to retain the assumd position. mark one had basic, use once zip ties; number two arrived with re-usable ties, which can be released by means of a tiny moulded lever allowing continual replacement if necessary without needing a constant supply of zip-ties.
but apart from all that, what's the difference? one of the often asked for features, missing on version one, was the shortness of the rear guard forward of the brake. i do find it quite humorous that squillions of roadies, long aghast at the idea of putting mudguards anywhere near their beloved carbon fibre, were sufficiently incensed to e-mail pete at crud to point out that the rear guard still allowed accumulation of road grit and splashing of water into the front mech and its associated cable. some folks are never satisfied. it was also noticeable that, when following a roadracered bicycle, the curve did not head rearwards and roadwards far enough, and it was still possible to experience a constant stream of rainwater heading towards those oakleys or rudy projects.
version two has solved both problems in one swell foop. the guard now continues all the way down to the junction of the bottom bracket shell and the chainstays, stabilising against the seat tube with more of those spongey dots and a couple of larger, re-usable zip ties. this latter grips between the two seat tube bottle cage bolts, thus getting in no-one's way. on the drive side, the moulding has been extended in an aesthetic curve towards the front mech, thus granting one of those three wishes. the tail-piece, bearing the liturgy of number two, travels a long way round the wheel. i had no verbal complaints from stragglers in my wake.
the front guard fits in similar fashion, but version two has options available for the terminally indecisive. you can have two lengths on that little bit front of the brake, the bit that never seems to sit straight, and you can have long and trailing or not so long and trailing on that wheel curve to the rear.
one or two of my accomplices favoured fitting their original roadracers minus the little brushes designed to keep the braking surface clear and to stabilise the guards against the wheel rim. in order to test this theory, i fitted the new roadracers and omitted the brushes. i will attest to a modicum of shake, rattle and roll, but nothing untoward. however, pete tomkins aka mr crud said "i recommend always using the pilestrips. they keep the guards centred, even on a sharp out-of-the-saddle climb. they also definitely keep brake surfaces free of grit in bad weather." i am of the opinion that the designer often knows best, and mine are now fitted.
version one seems also to have suffered from tyre rub on occasion, particularly on the rear. it's something i confess to having experienced myself, and something that brought pete to post a video on the crud website showing just how such could be avoided. fitting the mark twos, without any hocus pocus at all, resulted in a complete absence of tyre rub, something that has continued throughout the test, despite the intransigence of deep carbon rimmed wheels, and even a set of tubulars. the result we were looking for.
sneak back a few months and there would have been cries of sacrilege from any self-respecting roadie. one doesn't clad oneself in rapha or assos to have such style negated by the affixing of mudguards to sleek and very fast carbon, though as michael hutchinson was wont to point out, it was seemingly quite acceptable to have sartorial elegance interrupted by a long brown stripe up the back of the rapha or assos jersey du jour. that pete tomkins was able to attack this climatic prejudice by offering fenders that almost weren't there, is testament to a mind willing to bang itself off a brick wall long enough to gain a modest degree of acceptance. version two is less invisible than version one, but there has to be a trade-off when adding bits; in terms of the benefits conferred, any heightening of profile is to be welcomed with open cleats.
i cannot tell a lie; despite the earnest scene-setting in which i have indulged over the years, and the naming of our annual ride after a mode of precipitation, torrential never quite made it this far over the test period. rain i did have, along with copious quantities of surface-water, and the rain-jacket gained an outing or three, but undoubtedly the best time to report on the efficacy of mudguards would be as autumn merges into winter. that doesn't happen for another couple of days over here; your mileage may vary. however, on the basis of the success gained with roadracers mark one, it seems a safe bet that more bits will mean less rain. i can now happily transfer the rest of the test over to you. fit a pair of these and observe the dryness that back, bum, feet and bicycle nether regions enjoy as summer becomes a distant memory.
to help at least a couple of you do exactly that, mr tomkins has graced me with two pairs of mark two roadracers to give away to those who can successfully answer the question listed below. answers should be sent to email@example.com, and please include a full postal address to show that you're confident of winning.
in which country does the rain stay mainly in the plain?
crud roadracers mark 2 should be available soon at a cost of £29.99 | crud products
posted tuesday 3 august 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i believe it may have been sometime in 1992 when, lying next to my bed was a copy of bicycling magazine with a red bicycle on the front. as seemed to be an american obsession in those days, and may well be now, for all i know, there were several pages within detailing all the necessary training that required to be undertaken to ride a century. as our counterparts across the pond seem unwilling to accept the metric, this referred to 100 miles rather than kilometres, and the inference was very definitely that riding this distance was a rite of passage; one was not a true cyclist until such was accomplished. from that point, i was going to ride 100 miles around the islay countryside, completely unaided, if only because indigenous cyclists were very thin on the ground at that particular time. and in common with most of you, i completely ignored the manual.
setting off on a mountain bike, albeit with drop bars and road style tyres, i had a small packet of sun maid raisins, a banana, a full bottle of water and a five pound note. that should see me through. less than half-way through, my back hurt, and in straightening myself against a small, stone bridge, i pulped the banana into a gloop that was very difficult to extract from the pocket in any meaningful way. things failed to get too much better, when i stopped off at what is now debbie's cafe for provisions, to discover that my five pound note was nothing more than a supermarket till receipt. i had just enough change to buy a small mars bar and another banana. by the time home was on the horizon, i was pedalling squares.
that was the inauspicious start of what we now refer to as the ride of the falling rain.
island life is somewhat itinerant for many, and though at one point there was around a dozen in the mid-nineties who participated in regular sunday rides, all left the island within the next few years. however on the first sunday of every august, we rode 100 miles, but by the time the end of the century was reached, i was back to pedalling on my own. it's a lot more fun riding with company, so in the early part of the noughties, a mentioned on the post and in the local paper, that i was going to ride a century, and if anyone was over on islay at the time, i'd be happy of some company. tom hunter and tom webster joined me for a couple of years, and three of us circumnavigated the globe (well, nearly). i have the poster to prove it.
the ride has waded through a succession of names (though i wish i'd thought of quebrantahuesos first) because these kind of rides, popular in europe for a good while before the current explosion in the uk, had odd names; thus we had the gran fondo bruichladdich morphing to the gran fondo d'ardbeg. about four years ago it rained from start to finish, and its present accolade became set in stone. in year two it rained for half the bike ride, and last year we had blazing sunshine from top to bottom.
you just can't rely on the weather these days.
as referred to above, the constituents increased from solo mio, to a trio and then seemingly exponentially as the years intervened. last year, 53 people signed on at the start; this year the signing on sheets (note the plural) recorded 89 riders. now i appreciate that numbers such as these are mere tiddlers in comparison with such as the dragon ride, the etape caledonia or the bealach na ba, but we rather like it that way.
the falling rain is relatively flat, though i will admit that the opening miles might not seem that way (as was pointed out to me on sunday). there is, however inadvertant, method in our madness; believe it or not, there are very few cyclists who can climb, so a 14% at the beginning splits everyone up, thus lessening my concern that local drivers would be incensed at meeting a mobile traffic jam all the way to ardbeg. it truly warms the bearings of my semi-integrated headset to see so many people cluttered outside debbie's on a sunday morn, clutching their bikefood bottles and bars (thank you gentlemen) and supping the last dregs of cappuccino from their cups, before heading south for the winter (a touch of artistic licence there). after five miles you'd hardly know there was anyone there unless you'd witnessed the exodus from the ferry in prior days.
the new slogan du jour has become one hundred miles or less and i'm so happy to see that many took me at my words, covering as little as seventeen miles all the way up to the full hundred; or if you're me, and need to ride home again afterwards, slightly more than the tonne. it is also very encouraging to see so many youngsters joining mum and dad, riding a far greater distance than i would have managed at that age, and still putting away a hearty repast at ardbeg's old kiln cafe. and mention of such is likely an opportune moment to type out the obligatory, but nonetheless most sincere, thanks.
without debbie, the ride of the falling rain wouldn't be half the event that it has become. a soya cappucino at the end of a hundred miles has never tasted so good, and along with consuela and eileen, it would be difficult to find better hosts for start and finish. having thought that the numbers would be much in line with last year, i had only alerted ardbeg to expect around 55 riders for lunch. this is the hight of islay's season, and ardbeg is the only place for miles in which to dine, so probably the last thing they needed was a bunch of cyclists descending at lunchtime to complicate matters greatly. if that was the case, you would not have known; islay hospitality at its best. and having described how we have cunningly contrived to split folks into small groups, we held the popular apres ride pasta party to allow interaction and sociability between all those too slow or too fast to converse in mobile fashion during the day. this year's was held in the croft kitchen in port charlotte, where we were ably catered for by jane and staff. to them, grateful thanks for stepping into the breach at rather short notice.
however, the very biggest vote of thanks must go to all those who braved the enforced inadequacies of caledonian macbrayne (our second ferry was up north, filling in for a broken one) to travel to islay and join us for the ride, particularly those from germany and new zealand; endeavour above and beyond the call. it would be nice to preserve the informality of the falling rain and refrain from the need to invoke an entry fee, marshals, timing, feed stops and the like. at present it's four blokes from islay going for a bike ride, happy for others to join us.
it is the finest annual sportive ride on islay (apart from the ardbeg gourmet ride in june, but that's a bit different because there's a lot more food involved and it costs money, but let's not split hairs). and it did, however, briefly, rain. see you on the first sunday of august next year.
a gallery of photos here
posted monday 2 august 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it's the eve of the ride of the falling rain, and trading standards have gone home for the weekend, happy in the knowledge that all of islay woke up to falling rain this morning; lots of it. while i listened to the weather chappie on radio four proclaiming that only the far north of scotland would be receiving large quantities of falling rain, northern ireland and south west scotland (that's us) was simply to be overcast with the threat of an occasional shower. as he was saying this, i could hear the rain dripping off the guttering and bouncing mightily off the front path. since every second saturday requires an early rise to distribute boxes of newspapers to the post van, this is the first time since i don't know when, that i have needed to don waterproofs to complete the task.
and i still got soaked.
it became apparent at last year's ride of the falling rain, that there were a number of folks arriving off the boat either friday eve or saturday morning, and had thus bicycles and time on their hands before the 100 miles or less on sunday morn. as hospitable islanders, we felt it our duty to provide some form of bicycle oriented entertainment that would suitably occupy the post meridian. but what?
we bounced numerous suggestions back and forth, some of which seemed way too energetic prior to a bigger ride come the morrow, and others, despite careful scientific analysis, were deemed completely unworkable for one reason or another. the final decision, reached in one of those eureka moments last sunday morning, was heavily influenced by rollapaluza and simon warren. for they had the foresight to run a hill-climb up swains lane in highgate, london, an event that was evidently competed in, and enjoyed by, a wide selection of riders and abilities. so a hill-climb it was. and as luck would have it, there's an eminently suitable hill between debbie's and bruichladdich distillery; not too long, not too steep and open to old and young alike.
training has never been my strong point, nor, come to that, the art of the warm-up. the get-go was nominally at 2pm or thereabouts; first came lunch and coffee at debbie's, likely too much too late, and a subsequent influx of cyclists with ensuing sociability factor, completely put paid to any sort of warm up.
kit was good. a bicycle that is undoubtedly way too fast for the likes of me, and a pair of carbon wheels that only exaggerated the effect. not ostentation, merely a confluence of serendipities. bright yellow mavic shoes (in case i have to ditch in the sea, the helicopter will find me first), on a fine pair of mavic sprint pedals, and the all important grip on reality facilitated by a pair of dromarti black leather, crocheted back mitts. black, in this case, is important. the bar tape on the carbon handlebars is of soft, matt black, and on a hill-climb, grip, along with leg-power is the only way that bottom to top is going to be achieved in reasonable time. but at least a part of the process is looking like you mean business.
dromarti crochet backed mitts are the business; with an oval gap to provide the secret cyclists' tan, and carefully crafted holes to do likewise for the knuckles. it is this latter feature that connects with the greats of the past. it makes no nevermind that i have never attempted a hill-climb before; it makes no nevermind that the bike was far more responsible for a subsequent fourth place than were my legs. the gloves meant business. the successful competitor needs to feel the bars, to make sure that the grip is as permanent as he/she needs it to be, and they need to be a close enough fit to stop a sweaty pair of palms from moving about inside.
of course, power, failure, winning, competition are only a small part of the panoply. there are moments of joy, moments of despair, and moments when you realise that you really do need that carrot cake and soya cappuccino. these moments are as much a reflection of the man/woman as is the way you carry yourself when one place short of the podium. with style, but with uncontrived style. not that there's anything wrong with cognac brown leather, but black shows you mean business.
i love it when a plan comes together.
dromarti hand crafted grande mitts in either black or cognac retail at £99 ($138)
posted saturday 31 july 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
allotments. the very core of existence for many of an evening or weekend. a small strip of land in which to grow a smattering of vegetables, and an ageing garden shed in which to sit while the vegetables grow. on the shelves, a multitude of empty jam jars filled with bits of twine, an odd assortment of nails and screws, and cans of stuff that have either lost their labels or are so-stained that they're now illegible anyway. who can remember what they were for? the window may as well have frosted glass; a mix of cobwebs and dirt let the light in, but obscure the view of those growing vegetables. seen from the air, these allotments make for a pleasing, geometric pattern, if a little ragged round the edges.
peace and earth.
we, on the other hand, ride our bicycles too often to have time to watch vegetables grow, and we're in too much of a hurry to keep anything in an orderly fashion. puncture? strip out that inner tube, throw it on the floor alongside the empty box that the replacement came from, and get back on that bike. there are so many different lubes on the market nowadays: oil, spraylube, dry lube, wet lube; who knows which is the best for the job, so best to have a variation on a theme. to keep that bicycle clean requires more effort than the honed athlete has time for, so we avoid the bucket of soap and water, and rely on a a conglomeration of sprays, brushes and other stuff that has a pretty colour. those tyres that wore out last year might just come in handy at sometime, so it would be silly to throw them away, and let's be honest, you can never have too many allen keys, tyre levers and spare spokes.
then, of course, there is the bike, or rather bicycles plural, for no obsessive worth his/her salt would have only one. these bikes have designations, which doesn't change that some of them spend much of the year unemployed, but helps justify their existence; road bike, training bike, winter bike, bike that still needs to be built, and any number of other definitions that should be rehearsed in case they need to be quoted on the spot. it's not always easy to get at the bike you want without taking all the others out first.
there's a comparison here, and it doesn't work out in favour of the cyclist. but the one bit that allotmenteers and cyclists have in common is that the shed is our refuge. that goes double at this time of year, when there's still enough light to find that tiny screw, that shimano insist on fastening the top of an sti unit with, when it falls on the floor. what a good idea it was to put a black carpet over the wood floorboards. when there might be the odd chore needed around the house, chores that you know will come back to bite you later, it's always handy to have some obscure but highly technical maintenance to perform in the bikeshed. a chair somewhere would be good, but all those boxes kept at the back, just in case they're ever needed again, can often make it difficult to find some floorspace for four wooden legs. and anyway, the only time it's really needed is to sit down when truing wheels. there is a truing stand in there isn't there.?
marital bliss, despite trying to keep it at arms length, hence the need for the shed in the first place, will undoubtedly have intruded. despite years of effort trying to emulate a formula one workshop, or the back of the radioshack truck, garden rakes, lawnmowers and that fireguard which became redundant when the central heating was put in, all occupy much needed real estate. where on earth is that new colnago going to go? that last sentence should always be said in hushed tones, and never within earshot.
which brings us to the question of purpose. what is the bikeshed there for? is it merely a repository for your bicycles, is it a carefully fashioned workshop, or is it a whole lot more? my contention would be the latter; that definition gets my vote. for despite the washingmachinepost bikeshed being chock full of stuff i'll never need, and boxes that i might need but probably won't, and i've never quite figured out just what i'm supposed to do with more than one bicycle anyway, it's just too hard to admit that it's only storage. granted, i do stock bits and bobs for those hapless cyclists who arrive unprepared, but if i'm truly honest, it could be one whole heck of a lot tidier. i'm not a tidy person.
but in order to maintain an air of more than, the bikeshed must surely be considered in a similar light to the one calmly residing on the allotment. for if not, a whole dimension of cycling is surely missing? the bicycle has often been cited as a vehicle of escape, a means to get away from the humdrum, to leave daily reality behind, but there has to be an area of transition, much like the airlock in sci-fi movies. switching from washing the dishes or wallpapering the spare bedroom, directly to elevating the heart-rate on skinny wheels is not to be recommended; think of it as a form of translation. likewise, at the end of the day's outing, there's nothing worse than being brought down to earth with a bump.
what on earth did you think the bike shed was for?
posted friday 30 july 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
many, many words have been written about lance armstrong, and i have little doubt, particularly after this year's tour de france, that many more will make it to print. you can be an admirer of the man, or you could hope never to hear about him again (though you will), but it is impossible to rationally dismiss his contribution to cycle sport. nobody wins the tour seven times in succession by luck or by accident, and his life outside of cycling has garnered a similar amount of attention from the non-cycling press.
his comeback from retirement last year had more than one or two authors scurrying to discover, to analyse and to report, but there may be one or two of those who are wishing they'd waited until this year. however, fear not, for lance's last tour will make it into print before you know it.
john wilcockson, one of the more astute amongst his peers, published lance-the making of the world's greatest champion which i reviewed during the tour of 2009, and you will be eternally grateful to know that i have no intention of reprising that review here. what i do intend to review or mention, is that what was available in hardback last year, has now been re-issued in paperback, and if that were all, i would sympathise with your feelings of being short-changed at this point. however, it has become the saviour of many a publication, that re-issuing, offers the author and publisher to update.
you may infer from my remark above, that john wilcockson's lance was written and released prior to last year's tour and his comeback to top level racing. popping it back on the shelves during, or prior to this year's tour has allowed mr wilcockson to educate us as to to lance's state of mind and activity at the point when bertie had started to put him under a bit of pressure while he sat in second position on gc (a position relinquished to andy schleck prior to reaching the champs elysees). it's one of those i was there moments, followed up by wilcockson e-mailing lance one or two questions when his 2009 season was all over and 2010 in a radioshack jersey beckoned.
as inferred above, you may love the guy or hate him; both emotions were on show on twitter when the man in red with a big 'r' on the front, failed on a couple of occasions to keep his trek rubber side down, then slipped backwards on the ascent. but he has been the pre-eminent cyclist of our era, and as the old guard changes to the new, prejudices ought to be set-aside; if you don't, either you or your children may wish in later years, that you had; if it's only going to be one book that you save for documentation, this might well be considered a good choice.
posted thursday 29 july 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................