a combatant in the games

kapelmuur independent

wassily wassilyevich kandinsky is credited as being the first artist to create purely asbtract works, perhaps a task that seems not outwith the abilities of your average three year-old yet alone a man who did not begin his painting studies until the age of 30. it would not, however, dawn on the archetypical three year-old to create artwork that exists in and solely of itself. however the end result of a frenzy with coloured crayons or felt-tip pens appears to the more refined aesthete, most kids are actually trying to draw something. or at least, they think they are.

additionally, total abstraction is a concept not fully understood by what we shall, for now, refer to as the layman. for in no matter how disjointed from reality the imagery or sculpture is conceived, those without similar sensibilities will endlessly attempt to make sense of it by means of referral to the environment and understanding that surrounds them.

in my early years on islay, i was a fierce adherent of charcoal drawing as demonstrated by david bomberg and many of his students. granted, abstraction was not my ultimate aim; the plan was to create works that would at the very least come under the heading of expressionism. to this end, not only did i exhibit finished works in oils, but frequently the charcoal studies that aided the final works on canvas. the modus operandi in charcoal was to refine my efforts until i was able to describe the scene before me with as few strokes as possible.

if you've spent many a long hour faced by the subject of your ministrations, whatever ends up on the cartridge paper behind glass is easily identifiable. however, seen for the first time by those less educated in the way of the modern expressionist, i would concur that those pages probably looked remarkably similar to pictures of charcoal. it's a very selfish and artistic attitude to take, but i was often impressed by the lengths to which spectators would go attempting to comprehend whatever the heck it was they were viewing.

reaffirmation of the human spirit.

though rejecting the apellation abstract expressionist russo/american artist mark rothko even stretched incredulity far enough to deny his classification as an abstract painter. however, it would take a far more perceptive person than i to explain to which portion of reality rothko's rough edged slabs of colour on canvas were intended to represent. titles such as red, orange, tan and purple were hardly designed to impress upon a quizzical, but often admiring public, just what the artist had in mind.

while most of us at art college struggled with representation, agonising over our lack of skill with a brush, charcoal or 2b pencil, one enterprising chap opted for abstraction at an early point in the four year proceedings. a bit like backache, it is remarkably difficult to deny the existence of sincere credibility in works of abstraction, and if any of our lecturers doubted the veracity of the finished works, they hid it carefully. however, such inscrutability is expected to be the result of inner anguish, of agonism, a torment that, if not resolved by such art, at least a palliative that may placate the spirit until the next canvas happens along.

kapelmuur independent

however, we now find ourselves in modern times, where oil paint upon canvas can be seen as passe at best, archaic at worst. now are the days to present artistic output on substrates other than primed cotton duck or, for the more economically challenged art student, hardboard with a splash of undercoat. witness the jersey attributed to the hinault/lemond years under the direction of bernard tapie; that of la vie claire. piet mondrian would have been proud. the existence of sponsors' logos cannot but have given the game away that here was not a team of artworks given to mobile display across the roads of france.

in the light of some truly appalling jersey designs over the past few years, it is perhaps of little surprise that those possessed of a higher aesthetic degree, coupled with a true appreciation of the inner torment that allies the abstract expressionist with the modern day roadie, have decided to retract and retrench in the face of grandiose adversity. commercial constraints aside, it is hard to undermine a desire to have one's race kit embody the truly spiritual, the agonism, the incomprehensibility of the mundane within the peloton.

though outward display of stoicism, hardiness and a reluctance to slip below the lactic pain threshold for even a moment can inhabit many a contorted face, there is a time and a place for everything. compressing all the foregoing into a graphic representation displayed either by way of cotton t-shirt (even that of a limited edition) or eventually the garb of pelotonic brusqueness seems one of life's ideal solutions.

to quote mark rothko "(it) is only the child producing mimicry of himself". or words to that effect

kapelmuur independent

posted monday 20 february 2012


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specialized 74 road shoes

specialized 74 road shoe

if you're a follower of comedian billy connolly, you may recall a sketch in his earlier years which referred to and made fun of a bizarre type of slipper into which both feet could be placed at one time. pragmatism was perhaps not uppermost in the mind of the designer or manufacturer, for though we are blessed these days by more infra-red remote controls than you can shake a stick at to change channel from a resting position, there are likely one or two points of an evening in front of the telly when some poor soul (that would be me) who has to make their way to the kitchen in order to get the cups of coffee and green tea during the advert break. though it's likely an evening in the safety of our own homes is bereft of an audience, it's still hard to retain a sense of decorum hopping through to carry out the task of making any form of hot beverage.

and by implication, there's an evens chance that every last drop of hot liquid would be trailed across the hall carpet while hopping back through to the sitting room. you can perhaps understand the root of billy connolly's humour.

specialized 74 road shoe

however, there is perhaps little to compare with the comfort and cosiness offered by a pair of fluffy slippers, though most of us are far too macho and tough to admit to owning a pair. though my own are a considerable distance from such cossetting, even i will regularly remain slouching about in a pair of trainers in case an unexpected visitor may rumble the carefully crafted man about town image. this is a cloak and dagger subterfuge that can easily be extended to the hardened roadman image that i have long cultivated. i laugh in the face of materials compliance, opting at every turn for that of resilient stiffness, substantially inflated narrow tyres and wheels that wouldn't know the meaning of deflection if it were stamped on the tyre sidewall.

at least, that's what i'd have you believe.

specialized 74 road shoe

the reality is that my colnago rides way too fast for my muscle fibres and it's all i can do to keep up. there is every likelihood that, by mid-summer, the colnago will be arriving for coffee a few moments before i do. in the face of such adversity, i am constantly scrabbling for every last eke of comfort that it's possible to find, wherever that may be found, to ameliorate the hardship of maintaining pace with the molteni orange bike. though the part about tyres being inflated to the point of hardship is perfectly true, in reality those are 24mm vittoria paves which find extra grams of cushiness in their width and pressure. the fsa bars provide good old traditional british comfort via brooks leather bar tape and i have one of those saddles with a hole in the middle to relieve any pressure on my bits.

the colnago is of columbus steel with a carbon rear and its heritage as a race bike does exactly what it says on the tin. however, it would be a naive rider who equates simple comfort with technical ergonomics, and there may not be a man in a better position to build upon the difference than the inestimable andy pruitt. he is the chap in co-operation with the specialized bicycle company, who has taken a long hard look at how accessories such as footwear can be modelled in favour of the way that human beings ride their bicycles. fast.

specialized 74 road shoe

around 1974, specialized founder, mike sinyard, sold his volkswagen bus to finance a cycling adventure to italy. his experiences and searches brought him into contact with so-called specialized components. however apocryphal and nostalgic this story may be, there is little to undermine the importance of mike sinyard's bicycle company in the 21st century. it's nice, however, that companies such as this take a design look back every now and again and incorporate what they find into a combination of retro styling, luxurious construction and modern features. with all the foregoing in mind, the specialized '74 range (presently consisting of only two items) fulfils pretty much every reasonable expectation i can think of.

constructed from supple and sumptuous kangaroo leather, andy pruitt's input has ensured that the insole holds the foot in the ideal mechanical position for an optimal pedalling technique, while a metatarsal button contrives to reduce the all too common hot foot problem experienced by many a road cyclist. the fluffy slipper-like comfort of the shoe's upper is sharply contrasted by one of the stiffest carbon soles i have come across; stand up to give it some welly on the hills and every effort made goes directly into propelling the bicycle onwards and upwards. though doubtless of great entertainment to passing motorists, i spent a couple of kilometres bouncing on my mavic pedals trying manfully to elicit some sort of flex from the soles, but to no avail.

specialized 74 road shoe

the concession to modernity is well made; closure is performed by means of a double boa system, so-called because turning each coin-sized button gradually constricts the shoe about the foot, something that can be accomplished with microscopic ease. i'd be the first to admit that i am probably the least serious trouble a pair of specialized '74 shoes has experienced. but it's quite probable that i'm representative of the many who may wish to shell out around £250 ($400) for a pair in the quest for comfort and joy. i am a great believer in spending your money on the three points of contact on the bicycle, for all the flash you may acquire will come to naught if performance is hampered by less than optimal comfort and mechanics. shoes may well be the top of the pyramid in this respect.

these are an example of beautifully designed and styled footwear that do not disappoint when push comes to shove. they have elicited approving glances and remarks from members of the pelotonese and are all but transparent in their efficiency.

thank goodness mike sinyard sold that vw bus.

posted sunday 19 february 2012


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lost opportunity

prendas phone sock

with an honours degree in hindsight, i can see that i'd done the wrong thing at the time. in fact, i'm rather surprised that it hadn't happened several times previously over the years, but i'd always been really lucky not to incur loss before. you see the jacket i had worn for the ride over to port ellen had the usual three rear pockets, in this instance filled with a portion of mrs washingmachinepost's christmas cake (the very last piece, i'm sad to say), and my digital camera. the day was a tad overcast despite the promise of sunny weather after the early morning islay mist had cleared, so i had a windjacket stuffed in the remaining third pocket.

i had planned to devour the cake as accompaniment to a rather excellent lavazza double espresso at the islay hotel, but lord carlos, for 'twas he who accompanied me on the port ellen expedition, was wont to purchase two slices of equally excellent lemon cake along with the espressos. our predicament was a simple one; having been invited to arrive in time for an event commencing at mid-day, in characteristic fashion, for me at least, we had arrived fifteen minutes early. our arrival time, however, became one hour and fifteen minutes early on learning that the appointed hour was, in fact, 1pm.

hence the coffee and cake.

prendas phone sock

i mentioned last weekend about our marshalling efforts for mr lutomski's fun run, but i fear at the time, i neglected to incorporate one or two salient points that would have enhanced my narrative not one whit. at least, not at the time. though those clad in reflective jackets and wearing professional looking trainers run at a pace i find exhausting to watch, lord carlos and i travelled at a considerably lower cycling speed than was our norm. february is a cold month, so i had clad myself in a brightly coloured windjacket to stave off the shivers while riding rather slowly, meaning an involvement of faff to extricate the aforementioned digital camera when deemed necessary so to do.

and it was now rather obviously during one of those moments of faff that the neglectful incident can be seen to have occurred.

digital compact cameras are one or two flavours of ruggedness hardier than you'd think. my lumix has been dropped on more than one occasion, once knocking open the battery compartment and ejecting both battery and sd card to face the elements alone. and yet it still works. many of the images captured for the purposes of twmp illustration must, of necessity, be taken using the in-built timer. the camera thus needs to be sat alone on top of a fence, wall or gatepost while i try to pretend it isn't there. in the depths of the islay wilderness, where the wild things are, along with a howling wind, it is safe to say that the digital device often goes with the flow; it follows the pattern of the wind until gravity takes over.

prendas phone sock

yet i have owned the same six megapixel lumix camera for almost five years, feeling no desperation to replace it anytime soon. the reason its lcd screen remains unscathed, the leica lens unsullied and the shutter button as shiny as when new is principally because it has been safely encased in a prendas world championship banded phone sock. and now, as it had all but attained heirloom status, it is probably languishing midst the seaweed on the beach adjacent to port ellen maltings.

like i said earlier: faffness. having removed the camera from its designated rear pocket and from under the tailflap of the windjacket, snapped the requisite number of images, i attempted to return it to same, apparently losing the sock in the process. you can doubtless see how it all happened, and one of these days there will probably be a channel five documentary about how it all happened, featuring a slow-motion replay.

after many years, cycling around various parts of the world (not that many, i will admit, but various nonetheless) the thought of that poor little blue lumix surviving the elements ungarnished is not one i particularly wish to savour. i was, therefore, anxious to replace the prendas world championship sock at the earliest opportunity.

port ellen fun run

it is said there is little certain in this life but that of change, and the stock of the so-called prendas phone sock is no exception. the world championship bands are gone, and in this context, most likely gone forever. depending on your own personal proclivities, their successor is either a diminishing of its worth, or a whole new exciting horizon in which to place a digital camera. from my point of view, the replacement is more than visually and empirically equal to its predecessor, featuring as it does the italian tricolour around its midriff.

so, most satisfyingly, this story of inadvertant faff has a happy ending, for the little blue lumix can now be safely and cosily ferried to and from its various assignments, safe in the knowledge that its liquid crystal display is protected from the chafing and scratching occasionally engendered by wayward energy bar crumbs and leftover gel gloop.

the real quandary is who will play the part of mick tarrant in the channel five documentary?

prendas ciclismo

posted saturday 18 february 2012


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size matters

mavic crossmax

when bicycles were invented, in whichever country they were invented, by whom and which nationality can lay claim to all, or at least most of the credit, i doubt that wheel diameter was uppermost in the mind of whoever we think we're talking about. granted, the so-called penny farthing opted for two different sizes, the front constrained by the fact that the pedals were attached and pretty much took care of the gearing. until folks got fed up falling off such a lofty perch and the ordinary was surpassed by the safety bicycle with two equally sized wheels propelled by chain drive. it's at this point that somebody somewhere has to have figured out an appropriate diameter that could be adopted as standard.

in great britain we seemingly found ourselves in possession of a 27 x 1.125" rim; not so very different from the european standard of 700c, but just a smidgeon larger. from what i can gather, these two sizes were/are based on the premise that they offered the convenience of a decent frame size, allied to an apparently low rolling resistance. though the 27 size is pretty much defunct as far as the modern bicycle is concerned, it lives on in the homely formula for calculating the gear inches of bicycles despite almost all having gone metric. and as far as the world of the roadie is concerned, 700c has become where it's at, for the time being at least. though tyre widths vary by only a few millimetres, it seems many of the pros prefer a 22mm width (to the extent that certain manufacturers have been labelling 23mm as twenty-twos just to slip them past pelotonic security).

for those of us who simply order based on what the adverts tell us, 23mm is pretty much the standard fare, though vittoria seem happy to add millimetres on while our backs are turned, offering a strangely unique animal at 24mm. the 25mm variant, mostly through snob values, finds itself relegated to entry level values and can thus be discounted from serious and intelligent discussions such as this.

650b mtb

mountain biking was born in places where they have hills referred to as mount tamalpais a country and state that prefers to think in imperial terms such as inches, feet and gallons. therefore, for no fathomable reason, mountain bikes emerged from the bottom of the repack wearing 26" wheels, and tyres that acquired knobbly bits on being introduced to good old british mud. it is possible, however, that the uk was usurped in this manner by the pacific northwest. they have mud too. however, adopting this smaller diameter than that favoured by the skinny wheel brigade meant that on being called to enquire whether i had an inner-tube in stock, it was sufficient to respond 'road or mountain'?

but it seems it may have dawned on someone that the 26" standard might just have been a decision made in haste, and a few years back the same someone thought maybe 29" would be much more fun. as you can understand, you don't just add three inches onto the diameter of a wheel and expect that it'll slide easily into position on frame and forks designed for 26". this, of necessity, results in much lobbying of those who build the darned things and the chaps that make the springy bits, to acquiesce and change their templates. give it a bit of momentum and suddenly 29-ers, as i believe is the correct technical definition, are the best thing since sliced bread.

650b mtb

i'm not professing to be an observant observer of mountain bike trends, techniques and technology, but i assume that there are those on both sides of the crankset who still stand by the original 26" in direct opposition to the new adopters. and no doubt there are those who straddlle the fence post by owning at least one of each. it was not i who described them as indecisive.

you may, however, have inferred from the progressive length of this narrative that the world may not have ended at the choice of two mountain bike wheel sizes, and in this respect, you'd be right on the money. for now there is a new standard emerging from the gloop; fitting comfortably between 26" and 29", the new 650b wheel size has already garnered sufficient momentum to have the world's principal fork manufacturers give the go ahead to fit tyre shod wheels into their existing 26" compatible forks. this, it appears, has made it somewhat easier when it comes to preaching to the unconverted. for many this will not necessitate the purchase of a third size of bicycle, though the big, bad commercial world will likely offer fine-tuned 650b bicycles in the fullness of time.

i'd take this as comfort and joy from the standpoint of confirmed roadie, for should my inner-knobbly clamour to get out, by way of a cyclocross hakkalugi, i'll still be on a set of 700c wheels, hoops that can serve just as easily on the ibis as on the colnago.

700d wheels


however, it concerns me that a form of cycle sport that has existed since only the early nineteen eighties now has three distinct wheel and tyre sizes to choose from, and we're stuck with only one. so if no-one else cares enough to challenge this unprovoked taunt from the dark side, it looks like it's left to me to drag us kicking and screaming into the second decade of the 21st century with an utterly pointless and thus guaranteed to succeed, new wheel size for the bendy bar folks. i'm far from technically competent enough to pull together a diameter that will broker new found glee in the peloton, so i have trawled the archive for a previously nominated rim size behind which we can all place our proverbial weight, however little of that we might comprise.

to this effect, i can see no good reason not to demand that 700d be revived, of which the late great sheldon brown claimed 'oddball size formerly used on some gt models. no longer available'. yes, it's 35mm smaller than a 700c, but that will only emphasise the sense of achievement when it emerges as the latest in a long line of technical standards that are anything but.

you can thank me later.

posted friday 17 february 2012


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darn, there goes another excuse

circus skills

there are a number of traits that would mark one out as a professional road cyclist, aside from a two year contract signed by johan bruyneel in one of three rear pockets. most of these relate to bike handling skills; bunnyhopping kerbs at speed, easily clambering aboard a stationary bicycle from behind and clipping in immediately, and as tweeted by david millar just this afternoon "leading the boys into the last corner with 1.3km to go. it wasn't scary it was f***ing terrifying". in other words, the ability to cycle your way into terror because that's what you're paid to do.

some of us could manage one or two of those, though perhaps not with the practiced ease demonstrated by our betters, but i think it unlikely that many will have been placed in david millar's situation. the boss tends to look less than favourably on a mummified worker behind the imac on a monday morning. however, i am not only bereft of all three of those skills, the chances of my acquiring them in the foreseeable future are minimal at best. with the excpetion of leading the boys into the last corner, i have selflessly classed many bicycle handling skills under the heading of circus acts, even though i am aware that such abilities are handy to have should the need ever arise.

circus skills

my classifying them thus is as a result of being marginally incompetent in the saddle, convincing myself that tricks such as the above, and more, are the preserve of the ostentatious and exhibitionists among the pelotonese. so doing provides, by my reckoning, a perfectly reasonable excuse as to why i am not blessed in this department without actually losing face in public. i doubt anyone other than me is fooled by this rationalisation, but i've got away with it so far, so there must be something in the delivery.

in the days when i plied my trade as a seller of bicycles, road bikes featured very low on the scale of sales; mountain bikes easily held the upper hand, while a brief flurry with freestyle bmx paid justifiable dividends. as any cycle dealer will tell you, profit margins on cycles are remarkably low; the main money arrives via the value adds: pumps, mudguards, seatpacks, bottles and cages, plus, at that time, videos.

circus skills

only recently i was privileged to review the entire dvd output of canada's collective who have spent a number of years this past decade recording and subsequently displaying the antics of a group of young lads on full-suspension mountain bikes carrying out activities that would frequently bring tears to your thighs. sponsored by specialized, the possibility that such activities could be undertaken on bikes purchased from the very retailer i was pretending to be would likely not be lost on members of the bicycle trade.

it seems that as a reliable method of increasing sales of particular brands and the genre as a whole, both mtb and bmx manufacturers were wont to throw a pile of money at the gymnastically skilled, then film them throwing their products hither and thither with free abandon. and i cannot refute that the ploy seemed to work, for i often found myself spellbound by the circus skills displayed by riders who may well have broken every bone in their bodies more than once, in the pursuit of not actually getting anywhere. and this is where my staunch defence of a complete lack of such abilities originated.

circus skills

similarly to drummers who regularly twirl their sticks mid paradiddle, i cannot quite see the point. admiring those with demonstrably finer bike handling skills than i seems to have little relation to actually travelling anywhere purposeful and thus perhaps somewhat surplus to requirements. i have retained this point of view ever since, still ashamedly unable to ride a bicycle no-hands. in support of this standpoint, it has given me great satisfaction to exclude the road bike from danny macaskill like stunts. for why on earth would any of us trick out that lightweigh carbon frame with similarly constructed wheels and possibly even a pair of silk tubulars, then leap on and off walls, park benches and random rocks decorating the village centre?

'twould be unassailable madness would it not?

unfortunately, those carefully honed excuses are now all for nought on the evidence of the moving picture shown below. some people have no measurable sense of propriety when it comes to undermining the athletically inclined. (one has to retain some sense of decorum).

posted thursday 16 february 2012


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we have the power (well, almost)

docklands light railway

some of you will be well used to the concept and the reality if you ride the docklands light railway in london, though it took me a few trips before the worrying reality dawned.

these trains have no drivers.

though travelling on the london underground or even one of the trains that runs from glasgow queeen street to perth obscures the existence of a driver behind locked doors, their existence is rarely in doubt. nor, in fact is there any suspicion that the latter is without a guard, because they regularly step out at each station to check everyone is aboard before blowing a whistle and waving a flag or table tennis bat at the driver whom we already know exists.

whether either or both the aforementioned are indeed an absolute necessity is a moot point. but it's a comfort to most that the train is under apparent human control rather than operated from some distant control room in an anonymous concrete building sited nowhere near the railway itself. it may be that computer automation is more accurate and efficient than a bloke leaning on a dead man's handle, but somehow the human touch is, rationally or otherwise, more confidence inspiring than intel's pentium chips.

google's self-drive car

in this context, i have just finished reading an article in the american issue of wired magazine about the advent of motor cars that drive by themselves. aside from the scary thought of sitting in the passenger seat, or, heaven forbid, in the rear seats while the motor car calmly negotiates random pedestrians, changing traffic lights and obscure road signs taking you safely from point a to point b. somewhat inexplicably, one of the principal progenitors, with an altogether autonomous motor vehicle, is search engine maestro google, while mercedes are also dipping their toe in the observational water. in fact, according to the author of the piece, it would be naive to think that the bulk of the world's car manufacturers are not investigating the possibilities of having their cars drive by themselves.

there seems little reason to doubt that this is the case; which amongst the great and good of the automotive world are willing to allow their competitors any kind of a commercial lead in the world of research and development. not unnaturally, there are a number of idiosyncracies to overcome; while sensors can detect a moving vehicle, there appears one or two glitches in having them recognise a vehicle that may have come to a complete halt in front of you. the thought of sitting in a passenger seat while the car in whch you're travelling attempts to drive over the top of a stationary porsche doesn't bear thinking about.

electric bicycle

i have little doubt that somewhere in the future of di2 and campagnolo eps are thoughts of a greater degree of automation than is currently the case. on a purely individual level, i cannot quite see the point of electric bicycles; while there are several more infirm personages who could doubtless benefit from a bit of electrical assistance when travelling the highways and byways, it hardly seems deserving of an entire industry that bike-biz magazine assures us is only a smidgeon away from world domination. you will pardon me if i issue a brief cough.

however, if the prophesied inevitability is inevitable, conjoining electronic shifting with electrical motor assistance seems like the logical next step. the fact that shimano and campagnolo are currently aiming at the racing cyclist is nothing new; abs, traction control and fly-by-wire gear shifting in the automotive world, were featured on formula one cars long before they appeared in the showroom. it often pays to have professionals give the bits an unrelenting workout prior to handing them onto the rest of us.

it is therefore somewhat serendipitous that i should receive an unsolicited e-mail today which, aside from being totally off the wall (for which reason ii will preserve the anonymity of its sender) campagnolo eps gives credence to the existence of an implanted device intracranial oltre technology (just check the resulting acronym) "A rice-sized chip, implanted directly into the brain, can compute the mathematical parameters of distance & time. In a mysterious way, beyond the scope of this article, the magical speed necessary for the peloton to ride down the escapees, is determined.
"Catches will now be made mere millimetres from the line causing fans to think that for once, this breakaway must succeed. Implementation date is uncertain, as glitches with 'face recognition' have resulted in teams chasing down their own solo breakaways.
"It is rumoured that Oakley will soon produce heads-up display glasses showing 'the riders up the road' on a miniature blackboard."

on receipt of the above, i cannot deny that i had a brief chuckle, but as a result of my previous reading material, perhaps someone soon will be doing the chuckling, while i hold my head in my hands. my correspondent went on to say "SRAM has developed the first AUTOMATIC electric drive train! The optimum chain ring/cog combination is selected according to cadence & power output, and all the selected ratios have a perfect chain line! Release is pending SRAM's PR dept coming up with a replacement to the 'I would have won the stage but my chain dropped/mis-shifted' excuse."

careful what you wish for.

posted wednesday 15 february 2012


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scary money

colnago ottanto

my son, entirely of his own volition and with no assistance whatsoever from yours truly, has incurred what seems like an islay disease, if you will, and shown allegiance to glasgow rangers football club. those who keep an eye on the news will be perhaps aware that, due to debatable administration of their accounts and salaries, they are on the slippery slope to bankruptcy, owing millions to not only the inland revenue, but more than a few creditors to boot. personally, i have no truck with football (soccer, for those across the pond), and i do find it quite incredible that such sums of money can be discussed as if they were loose change in the back pocket of a pair of jeans.

to celebrate ernesto colnago's eightieth birthday last week cambiago brought a lovely gold bicycle out of the cupboard in celebration, limited to eighty in number and on sale to the great british cycling public for five pence less than £11,500. quite uncharacteristically, and by means of stony silence, mrs washingmachinepost expressed a sense of disapproval at my suggestion that one of these machines would look particularly fine in our sitting room.

some people just don't get it.

colnago ottanto

bearing in mind mrs twmp's lack of engagement with the trinketry from colnago, perhaps it is worth taking a brief look at just how the numbers add up. the ottanto is based on the c59 italia frame which retails in the uk at £3,500 (give or take the odd five pence). though the paint scheme on the ottanto is a limited edition, i doubt it costs a serious amount more than that normally applied to a c59. however, we'll be generous here and allow £500 bringing the total to £4,000. that means we still have to account for £7,500 to reach colnago's total. there is, of course, the disagreeable amount of value added tax on the total figure which at 20% equates to around £1900, leaving £5,600 to justify.

the photos i have of the ottanto show a pair of campagnolo painted wheels that look suspiciously like boras, costing around £2,250, leaving £3,350. take out the bars, stem and saddle and it seems likely that the campagnolo super-record electronic groupset might well be a £3,000 spend. a lot of money to change gear, considering a campag chorus eleven-speed groupset arrives just this side of £900.

anti-schleck device

do not get me wrong here; while some of the above is based on conjecture, if i had £11,500 to spend on a bicycle, peter nisbet at windwave would be receiving my deposit round about now. how we all justify the amount we do spend, or the amount we'd be willing to spend if we had it, on our cycling passion (your other half is more likely to refer to it as obsession) is between ourselves and the bank manager. in the case of the ottanto, you can add up the figures any way you want, but if it says colnago on the downtube, i care not what anyone says, the cachet demands our pound notes.

however, i'd be very surprised if any colnago fan were to do as i have just done (purely in the interests of narrative you understand) to figure out where cambiago's accounts department apportioned the figures. but for those with considerably less than the price of an ottanto, there are still opportunities for fruitless, yet undoubtedly justifiable expense in the direction of the assemblage already sitting in the bikeshed, one of which is attributed to a most unfortunate incident in the 2010 tour de france.

allow me to offer a reprise.

on the 187.5km stage 15, approximately 2km from the summit of port de bales, andy schleck attempted to drop his accompanying peer group, unfortunately resulting in an unshipped chain and allowing bertie to scoot into the lead. andy lost 39 seconds due to this incident, the eventual time gap between himself and bertie in paris.

bike tuning parts of germany currently offer a so-called carbon anti-schleck device to ward off bertie's kryptonite aura. weighing only a measly three grams, after even an extended period of study, accompanied by a complete lack of understanding of the german language, has failed to elicit how the darned thing works. still, just in case i find myself 2km from a summit at any time...

carbon front mech

however, schleckist distraction aside, when it comes to spending pointless money, a carbon front derailleur might just be it. if you were to spend too many hours perusing the specifications of lower priced bicycles, you would soon come to the informed conclusion that, in order to manage a middle road between price point and customer satisfaction, chainsets, shifters and rear derailleurs are of prime importance. brakesets, seatposts and front gear mechs are whatever is lying about the factory floor.

front gear mechs don't have a very hard job to accomplish, particularly on the cycles of the more competitively challenged; we don't use the big ring for half the year. and due to their small size, they don't weigh much in the first place. btp offer a tuned version of campagnolo's record front derailleur that weighs a scant 53.5 grams, yet listed below, there is an entirely carbon front mech with alloy screws, weighing only 35 grams for £255. and were that not enough, replace the allow screws with carbon (?), drop another two grams, and the price rises to £280.

how did it all come to this?

posted tuesday 14 february 2012


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