like many a teenage boy, i was for a brief moment in time, enthralled with formula one motor racing. the days of graham hill, jackie stewart, jochen rindt and emerson fittipaldi, all names from the past, and drivers who had the necessary cojones to wrestle a recalcitrant racing car round many of the world's most famous circuits. the fact that rindt is no longer with us, having died in a crash at monza in 1970 is perhaps an indication that the safety aspect of formula one and perhaps motor racing in general had not reached the almost draconian health and safety standards in place in modern times.
safety is not a subject for spurious debate, for though those who entrust their lives to the safety aspects of the racing circuit and the construction procedures of the teams' mechanics are under no misapprehension as to the danger their profession engenders, everyone has the right to assume their profession in conditions as a safe as it's possible to create. however, many of the developments year on year are geared (pardon the pun) towards making the cars faster, presumably in the quest for an ever-enhanced spectacle for the spectating public, yet often can be seen (with hindsight?) to produce racing that borders on the processional.
if you can cast your minds back to the opening sequence from chitty chitty bang bang you may gather an idea of how exciting motor racing originally was, conducted by gentlemen drivers wearing goggles and leather helmets. unlike the uci, i'm less than keen to impose unwarranted dogmatism upon any sport, but if it provides the excitement that an audience wants, i cannot necessarily see the point in meddling with it. particularly if not regulatory or technical demands that emanate from the riders themselves (or drivers, to briefly return to the formula one simile.)
the need for bottom brackets that resemble the sort of constructs nasa have developed for launching space missions apparently satisfies the riders' needs for minimal or zero flex from the frame when sprinting or climbing hard. apart from that, i can think of few recent developments that arrived in answer to rider requests, other than, perhaps, an overweening need to make the bicycles lighter than air. the uci have effectively capped that at 6.8kg based on apparently nothing at all, and enforced so long ago that it really has little to do with the current (and safe) state of the art.
however, the weight of the bicycles has barely, if at all, impacted upon the spectator enjoyment, though the spin off to the more pedestrian amongst us has been the fostering of an inherent weight-weeniness, both literally and figuratively. other than those, it seems the world's cycle marques may be guilty of the 'once we've sold everyone double-glazing, then what do we do? mindset. external bracket bearings morphing to press-fit bearings; external headsets becoming internal headsets becoming tapered steerers with oversized headsets and fork legs resembling aircraft undercarriage struts.
and now hydraulic disc brakes.
perhaps i am becoming too cynical in the pursuit of these scribblings, though i'd prefer to think of it as acute perception. as many of the above have been fostered by the manufacturers, trying hard, like apple computer, to offer us the very thing we always knew we needed even though, in fact, we didn't need it at all. do not think me one following the path of ned ludd too closely; i delight in many of the trinketry offered to us all, but i think much of the development has more to do with commercial aspirations than with either safety concerns or rider needs. is it not just remotely possible that this worship at the feet of the great gods rigidity and stiffness has removed the heart of much that was inherently exciting about cycle racing in the first place?
cycle racing, in common with many a sport, is pure entertainment. we all watch it from the roadside and on television, for if we did not, there would be few willing to dip into their commercial pockets to pay those who like to race bicycles. thus, the professional class would likely cease to exist. if you're willing to accept this proposition, then it seems a condition of this entertainment that we are entertained. to my mind, this does not condition itself by the need for pure speed; racing is racing at whatever rapidity it proceeds.
contemporary component and cycling manufacturers are likely even as we speak, queueing up outside the uci headquarters in switzerland intent on lobbying for the legalising of disc brakes on road bikes for the 2014 season. this is perhaps the ultimate development, for there is no realistic method of retro-fitting disc brakes to existing bicycle frames; guess what you'll need to buy if you want them? and should these discs be of hydraulic flavour, you are double stuffed; there is no way on this earth you could ever use your existing frame(s) or wheels to become a disc rider. the benefits seem more economically weighted towards the folks with the catalogues.
do we need disc brakes on road bikes? almost definitely not. the tour de france commenced in 1903, the giro in 1909 every iteration having taken place without the benefit of hydraulic discs. of course, i leave myself wide open to accusations of wishing to return to fixed wheel racing, for it was 1936 before derailleurs were allowed in the tour, and i'm sure there were others aside from henri desgrange who argued that the racing was more intriguing and testing with only one gear on each side of the rear wheels. however, the desire to fit gears received at least a modest pressure from the riders, if only to make their job a touch less problematic.
discs are a whole nuther bucket of fish.
i am willing to set aside my loudly voiced prejudices for a moment to point out some of the technical issues that present themselves in the name of providing an improved means of slowing down and stopping. if we accept that hydraulic discs are an unabashed improvement on dual pivot calipers, it would seem likely that they will allow appropriately equipped riders the opportunity to descend at hitherto unrealised speeds, secure in the knowledge that slowing down sufficiently for the corners will present less of a problem. the likelihood of tubulars rolling off the rim because the glue melted ought to be a thing of the past, but one that will surely reduce the skillset and thus potential spectator excitement of our top riders.
first, however, disc equipped bicycles have to be ridden to the top of these climbs, where the weight weeniness comes back to bite us.
so, rather than embarrass myself by making rash technical statements that i would then be hard-pushed to justify, i feel it only right and proper that i quote from a recent article regarding disc brakes by velonews contributor and mechanical maestro, lennard zinn. "in the interest of reducing weight and air drag, the calipers, pads, master cylinders and rotors will be small, and the rotors may even be made of a less dense material than steel to further drop weight. Have you begun to see the problem? It's heat dissipation. The less the mass in the system, the less the system can get rid of heat. And if the fluid boils, the brakes don't work, because what was liquid is now gas, and gases, unlike liquids, do compress.
I know I'm throwing ice water on the enthusiasm I see among cyclists licking their chops at the advent of road disc brakes, but I'm not sure that enthusiasm isn't clouding some important issues."
if you combine my contention that not only do we not need disc brakes on road bikes, the possibility that road cycling could conceivably become the procession that is formula one motor racing with the technical iniquities that mr zinn has described above, there seems the distinct likelihood that we are all being made to ride into a headwind for the sheer hell of it. technology being what it is, i have little doubt that most, if not all the above current problems will be dispersed by rigorous testing and improvements in materials science. but that, to me at least, is the pig-headed approach, very much a case of 'you're going to have discs no matter what you think and no matter what it costs us to make it happen.'
rant over (for the moment at least).
(lennard zinn graciously allowed me to quote from his excellent article on road bike discs, which can be read in its entirety here.)
monday 27th august 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
a few days past i paid lengthy tribute to the processes involved in upgrading a pair of chris king r45 hubs from their pretty damn good bearings to a set of jaw-droppingly brilliant ceramics, followed by the subsequent crafting into a magnificent pair of wheels that all but guarantee me a place in team sky next year. i am currently trying to justify such excellent componentry on my cielo, and there's no doubt i can make it sound all true by means of several well-chosen words. i could be kidding of course, but since you weren't out riding with me today, you'll probably never know.
which is just the way it ought to be. an athlete needs to protect his sources.
those careful words will have to wait a day or two until i find appropriate language to describe how these wheels are benefitting my velocipedinal perambulations. i like to create a sense of tension, almost like the end of each episode of emmerdale. however, as many of you will doubtless concur, adding new or alternative components to a well-fettled bicycle can be fraught with tension of its own, less because it can all go horribly wrong (though that is always be borne at the back of my mind) but more because bicycles are human too.
if you doubt the veracity of this last statement, try riding someone else's bicycle for a day or two; though they could outsprint you while reading mark cavendish's autobiography astride the very same machine, you will spend an inordinately long time just trying to clip the left foot into the pedal. bicycles know you know.
though perhaps i am in a more favourable position to comment, rescuing new bicycles from their cardboard boxes, the essentials wrapped carefully yet randomly in polystyrene tubing, cardboard and bubble wrap has that christmas morning appeal to it. different manufacturers pre-assemble their machinery in slightly different ways, but the basics left to the box-opener usually concern placing the seatpost and saddle in situ, placing the handlebars in the stem, straightening up the latter before affixing the front wheel. i have learned to my cost that it is a prudent idea to check the tension applied to the rear q/r, but other than that and fitting your own pedals, it's pretty much that simple.
new componentry that only met the bicycle frame fro the first time in a taiwanese factory before the wrapping procedure will almost inevitably take a moment or two to bed down for the night. it's what the word creaking was invented for. though i am in the habit of carrying a multi-tool under the saddle, for the first ride or so, i have the set of allen keys in my back pocket, for at the risk of emulating eddy merckx, there are always measurements and settings to be messed with on a frequent basis.
so, to return to my well-bedded in cielo, removing the substituted mavic ksyria and replacing them with my new sugar built wheels was, to put not too fine a point on it, probably inviting a modicum of trouble, either by way of a tightening up of those titanium skewers (the originals were kept by a pair of shimano dura-ace q/rs, but i have forgotten where i put them), re-seating one of the vittoria open paves, or just taking care of squeaks and creaks that weren't there before.
comparable to the disappointment on discovering that a brooks colt saddle was 100% comfortable from day one, the silence that loudly emanated from the sparkly black cielo was almost tangible. doubtless an administrative error that would right itself as the roughness of the roads took its toll. it's always necessary to discount the occasional rattle from the park tool frame fit pump, because that's one of the things it does for a living, but otherwise: nothing. though today's headwind was less than onerous, it still caused sufficient draught noise to obscure many of the awkward sounds a bicycle likes to make, yet flip round for the aid of a tailwind and again: nothing.
in fact, the loudest noise that came to light all morning was my crunching a gratefully received piece of millionaire's shortbread accompanying the soya froth mid-ride. i just know it's not going to last, that there's an irritating sound just waiting to pounce as i lull myself into a false sense of security. perhaps one of those vittorias will take exception to the proximity of a full wood fender, or a titanium skewer will remember an inadvertant squeak. or maybe the coating will rub quickly off the rim braking surface engendering a rubber/aluminium interface moment that will startle small animals at fifty paces.
the glass is always half empty.
i am, however, fervently hoping for nothing at all.
sunday 26th august 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the nature of the beast these days is that i often am left to do the weekly shop all by myself, a state of affairs i have in part engendered by having divested the household of its motorised transport several years ago. bowmore main street sits upon a reasonably steep hill running from the round church at the top down to sea level at the harbour. about two thirds of the way down is our sole supermarket, the one with high prices and everything you want or need mostly out of stock. the conspiracy theory has the staff checking the shelves of an evening to see what is no longer available and placing it on special offer. there is always also a seeming discrepancy regarding the buy one get one free offers; there is frequently only one item on the shelf.
though i am one third of our household, and thus guilty of devouring at least that proportion of food and drink, i have standards to maintain as that of a mere man, thus incapable of composing anything resembling an efficient shopping list. unfortunately for my purposes, mrs washingmachinepost seems just as inept, though in a different way. were i the composer of such a list, i would mentally walk around the store, making a note of foodstuffs required along the way and thus in some sort of order. mrs twmp uses the scattergun approach, meaning one is lifting a couple of bags of oven chips from the freezer, before needing to retrace one's steps to the vegetable racks on the other side of the shop.
it is a wonder that the cupboards in washingmachinepost cottage are ever full.
in all honesty, gathering the shopping in either a trolley or a couple of baskets is the relatively easy bit. that descent from the round church has, rather tautologically, altered profile to that of a climb on the way home. many a touring cyclist has let the side down by getting off half way up that hill and pushing all the way to the church; this in spite of having a set of gears that would climb the side of a house. thus, arms straining under the weight of four or five everlasting carrier bags, it is possible to channel an all too lengthy, yet ultimately brief period of weight-training on the way back home.
as far as lists go, that's about it as far as the twmp household goes. none of us are overweening obsessives when it comes to this sort of thing, preferring instead to work a tad more randomly. it doesn't always get the job done, but we feel it a more relaxed way to go about our daily business.
therefore, on receiving a copy of zahid sardar's 100 best bikes, equating one's lifestyle with that of someone else's view of the bicycle enters a form of culture shock. the author, of whom i had no prior knowledge, is apparently a writer on architecture and design for the san francisco chronicle as well as contributing to several other design and architecture periodicals. having had prior experience of architect friends and colleagues, i begin to see something of sardar's approach to the bicycle as evinced in this laurence king publication.
it is subdivided into several sections encompassing race/tour bikes, bmx/mountain, city/utility and folding/innovative, augmented by an entire section dealing with accessories. to be brutally honest, this last section is the most fascinating, comprising an eclectic selection of intriguing luggage solutions and the occasional wall mount to hold a bicycle in compact and bijou conditions. though i hate to be considered dogmatic, the rest of the book is somewhat pointless, if not downright quizzical.
to base my criticism on a subject with which i am well-versed, i might draw your attention to the chapter concerning colnago bicycles. to date, i have ridden almost every model recently produced by cambiago with the exception of their time-trial and offroad models, and i feel i have an appreciation of their machines that is the equal of many. in which case it confuses me utterly as to why mr sardar would choose the taiwanese made colnago cx-1 as the best that cambiago has to offer. there can be little doubt that its ride and build quality are easily superseded by that of both the epq and c59.
i would not for one minute disparage any of the bicycles illustrated within the book's 160 pages. they are all unique and interesting in their own way, particularly one or two of those included in the innovative section, but the notion of the collectively assembled being a definitive 100 best is a somewhat laughable notion. let's face it, if laurence king had polled even a small proportion of those who read thewashingmachinepost, they would be lucky to find any agreement amongst the subsequent lists. and to be quite honest, that's exactly how it should be. it confuses the heck out of me just why an author whose claim to cycling fame rests within the brief biography on the back cover: "he is an avid cyclist, navigating the hills of san francisco on his ten-speed motobecame mirage" had the clout to be offered a book deal such as this in the first place.
my fellow pedants will have taken note of the fact that motobecane has been incorrectly spelt. the same error appears on the accompanying press release.
on the plus side, the illustrations are of high quality, and there will be many examples previously unseen or unknown to many readers. i consider myself reasonably well informed in such matters, yet there are several bicycles here i have previously never heard of. in that sense, the cover price of £12.95 might not be too outlandish if the contents add to the knowledge pool. however, i'd either try to find a copy in a bookstore near you, or take a look inside at amazon.co.uk to check that you're likely to find the contents of interest.
personally, and regretfully, i'd leave it on the shelf.
saturday 25th august 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
one hundred miles all in one sitting is still something of a cycling accomplishment, perhaps not for a professional rider, but as they inhabit a parallel universe, it doesn't really count. as the years roll by, seemingly each one quicker than the last, an all you can eat one hundred miles, even if bookended by a pair of cappuccinos, becomes chronologically an achievement worth testing on at least an annual basis. the secret, however, is to take advantage of those miles and put them to good use.
unfortunately, in terms of immediacy, i have rarely had the good fortune to inherit subsequent miles the following day, but this year, after riding pretty much all of the ride of the falling rain, i took matters into my own hands. though the daily grind, come monday morning really ought to commence around 9am, there is enough slack built into the process of producing a newspaper to allow for a modest amount of bunking off. you would not think me an astute cyclist were such truancy not to incorporate at least one cup of coffee, so on the day after rotfr, i sped at speed from bowmore to bruichladdich and back, pausing only momentarily for some soya froth.
by golly did that feel good.
however, it is only a matter of hours before drudgery in front of a computer takes its steel grip upon proceedings, and the gains acquired by honed muscle becomes flabbier by the minute. the result upon reaching the freedom of the following weekend is a return to human form, the super powers have deflated to normality. at least, that's the theory of the process, oft underlined by reality, but maybe not quite as clearcut as one would imagine.
my last three weeks have been aboard a colnago clx 3.0, the review of which you may have seen on these pages a matter of days ago. much like the armchair in front of the tv, one becomes accustomed to one's own bikes according to the laws of flann o'brien. the third policeman by this perspicacious author avers that rider and bicycle become inseparable in more ways than emotion and attachment would dictate; that of molecule exchange between man and bicycle.
therefore, however many cycles are resident in the bike shed, velocipedes which may or may not have experienced interchange at the sub-atomic level, the advent of a new machine takes a wee bit of getting used to. i have my sheet of measurements from cyclefit and it is therefore easy peasy to setup any review model to fit my athletic form. however, a review bike has not reached the point of maturity that would have our molecules talking to each other. one has to follow protocol and be formally introduced at the very least. therefore, when out and about, throwing cambiago's progeny around with unrestricted abandon, it is not entirely unusual to feel just a teensy bit out of sorts.
relatively speaking, you understand.
however, it was hard to get over the apparently obvious fact that, when climbing ascents more normally leapt in a singe bound, there seemed a shortness of breath and a creaking of legs. as most of you will know, it is not unusual to experience the occasional off-day, when the mechanical and physical aspects of cycling do not appear to be lined up all in a row. the concern is when the same experiences continue for more than just a day or two. does this mean i am being more than slovenly in the regular day to day? am i not eating correctly? am i going out without a hat on? am i getting enough sleep?
the prospect that the body is ageing more quickly than make believe says it is, is not only a less than appealing notion, but it's something that happens to others, but never to me. after all, there's still rio in four years to deal with. the little niggle with all of the above is that the onset of pathetic-ness was somewhat quicker than any slowdown ought to be taking place. surely ageing happens slowly and gracefully rather than just creeps up behind you one saturday morning in august?
the folly of my assumptions materialised this past weekend, and it gives credence to the untested theory that the occasional century ride may just have longer term benefits than a lack of scientific theory would suppose. as three of us instigated the sunday morning ride, we turned off at foreland, willing to accede to the short, sharp ascent that brings the fortunate rider to one of the most appealing vistas this side of easter island. riding at the level concomitant with that which generated thoughts of the slowdown, i found myself further ahead of our mini-peloton than expected.
though i doth protest too much perhaps too often, i have a level of sociability that belies my reticence to be the life and soul of the party; i have no wish to be the solo breakaway, so i slowed to the communal pace. at this point, i began to realise that the statement attributed to greg lemond was as true as the day he formed the words: "it doesn't get any easier, you just get faster". yes, the problem is not necessarily that of the ageing process, but one of an increased notion of what is acceptable as cruising speed. cycle alone, as many of us do, and there is no real gauge of how quick is normality.
i do not ride with a computer on my bicycles, and i certainly do not affix one to a review model. many of us are guilty of false modesty regarding our regular sunday morning velocity, while some of us are just convinced that we're always slower than everyone else. that doesn't mean that it's true.
of course, having brought a smile to my face due to inadvertant acquisition of speed above and beyond the call of duty, come this weekend i will doubtless be dragged back to normality, no longer a super hero with powers to benefit mankind.
unless i pass a telephone box.
friday 24th august 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the prevalence of a prevailing wind on islay is either something you embrace or fiercely rail against, refusing steadfastly to partake of any open-top transportational activities while the anemometer whirls gaily atop my neighbour's shed. it still occupies the upper regions of all reasons and excuses provided as to why few ilich spend any hours aboard their bicycles. long have i made it known that if i were in receipt of a pound for everyone who attested to childhood miles on the bicycle, only to have renounced the saddle when the driver's licence was gained, or when the working day intervened, i would have no need to work the rest of my days.
i too spent those childhood days, filled with rain, wind, snow and ice aboard my raleigh twenty shopper, delivering newspapers to the residents of my home town. those cycling hours and miles have continued since my early twenties, initially due to commuting needs but very soon at the behest of endorphins and an ear to ear smile whenever the bike came out of the bike shed. my standard riposte has always been to query why they gave up the bicycle in the first place, given their half nostalgic, half regretful look when recounting the one time affection for the bike. so far, none have responded with a suitable reply.
nobody said it was going to be easy.
there is no denying that one of the biggest obstacles to forward motion is that of aerodynamic drag. this is a situation that affects all moving objects, becoming progressively more obstructive the greater the speed required. the average cyclist has no chance whatsoever of equalling the velocities achieved by the motor car, but then modern examples are possessed of a greater power delivery than one man (or woman) and his/her bike. add to that the existence of a shiny, aerodynamically fashioned outer skin, and the motor car is better equipped to cheat physical drag created by moving a large object through a static body of air. add a vicious trajectory to that air, and all bets are off for the cyclist.
however, few are the cyclists who reach the peak of diminishing returns with regard to aerodynamic stalemate. bluntly put, we just can't impart enough power to our vehicles.
the mighty dave t has long maintained that his peculiar ability to freewheel downhill probably further than the other members of the velo club is down to superior weight. though possessed of a highly developed and mischievous sense of humour, he could be partly correct, but the accompanying factor in this pyrrhic victory is that of friction. there are a few components of the modern bicycle that produce this retarding force, one that works against the efforts of the rider, vainly trying to outdo the effects of an unknown drag co-efficient and a searing headwind. the most directly connected to rider input is that of the bottom bracket, or to be more specific, the bearings contained within.
if any of you have attempted to maintain a regular cadence in the face of either a badly adjusted set of bearings or, as could often be the case in the days of cup and cone examples, collapsed races, the importance of well-adjusted and maintained bearings cannot be too greatly underlined. this is the first point of entry for all that energy carefully cultivated during the winter's training. at least, that's what the manuals would have you believe. at the risk of stating the glaringly obvious, if you don't pedal, the bike is going nowhere.
once in motion, it's the wheels that can make life hard, easy or easier. many years ago, i was foolish enough to not read the manual properly when it came to replacing the bearings in a campagnolo rear hub. the outer bearings were a fairly standard 0.25", but those fitting inboard of the freehub should have been a slightly smaller 7/32". i did not know this and thus fitted another set of well-greased quarter inch spheres. of course, the freehub failed to seat properly, but in the face of personal stupidity, i cobbled all back together, re-fitted the rear wheel and went bike riding anyway. it was bike riding jim, but not as we know it.
if i can just make myself heard above the hysterical laughter of the nation's bicycle mechanics, it pains me to point out that not only did the cycle travel the path of greatest resistance, you wouldn't believe just how warm the inner edge of that highly polished alloy hub became in the course of ten or so miles.
in a nutshell, friction in either of the cycle's two hubs is going to produce a restraining effect on just how fast any rider can go for a given power input. in the autobiography of ireland's favoured son, nicholas roche, he admitted with carefree nonchalance that he had found a stage of the tour de france harder going than had been expected, a slowness he put down to heavy legs. having had to change bikes midway through the stage, he suddenly found himself with greater ease of motion and thought the heaviness to have righted itself. at the stage end, his team mechanic informed him that the bearings in his rear wheel had all but collapsed, rendering his efforts of less use than ought to have been the case.
aside from the fact that i think a professional rider ought to have a better perspective on mechanical matters than this admission demonstrates, if i'd been nicholas roche, i'd have been inclined to leave the anecdote on the cutting room floor. but it does graphically demonstrate the effect a negative amount of friction can have on even those with a professional souplesse.
chris king hubs, methodically cnc'd in an anonymous grey plant in nw nela street in portland oregon have always been famed for the quaility of the installed cartridge bearings. chris king's opening career involved that of quality medical instrumentation, and it is not too much of a leap to accept that his celebrated headset was equipped with medical grade bearings, imparting a smooth frictionless-ness to the art of steering that followed into those hubs and eventually the chris king bottom bracket. the precision of those bearings is of world renown, and having ridden a cielo for more than a couple of years equipped with every example emanating from nela street, i can testify to the gliding properties inherent in each component.
you could be forgiven for wondering how this could be noticeably improved upon, though i have already had something of a hint.
during my visit to portland in march of this year, aside from being given the royal tour by jay sycip, kyle von hoetzendorff and dylan van weelden, i was presented with a ceramic bearing equipped chris king bottom bracket to adorn the cielo on returning home. to an extent, i had already mentally written the review; in no way could the ceramics prove less efficacious than the standard issue, but it seemed unlikely that any improvement could be other than marginal. perhaps there would, in fact, be no notable difference.
those of you who have read my words regarding this item will know that i described the difference as being the equivalent of adding a larger sprocket at the rear. at the time of writing, this sensation has yet to subside. chris king precision components did not, however, stop short at putting ceramic bearings into their renowned bottom bracket; the hubs came in for the same treatment. at the suggestion of jay sycip, i was invited to return my existing chris king r45 based wheels to the factory in order to have the standard bearings removed and replaced with a set of ceramics.
shipping a pair of wheels across the pond presents problems of its own, but these were all but mitigated by a simultaneous offer by jude kirstein of portland-based sugar wheelworks to build me my ideal wheelset for subsequent review. this is where the cunning plan commenced. the old wheels were dismantled, the r45 hubs packed up and sent through to the chris king plant in oregon. once there, the existing bearings were factory upgraded to ceramics and the revamped hubs passed over to jude at sugar for the final stage in producing an extremely desirable wheelset.
the little balls of ceramic material are one of the few items not produced in house at nw nela street, but they are hand assembled via an ingenious system into those chris king produced bearing cartridges, allowing the ultimate in quality control before each is adjudged suitable for use. each cartridge is individually pressed into the hub shell by means of the very same hub tool available to the end user via the chris king website. one of those resides in thewashingmachinepost bike shed, and exhibits the same level of quality as applied to any of the components it is designed to service. it's also quite innovative in use.
sugar wheelworks in portland's north williams avenue houses the brian palmer tasting room, an edifice i never thought would see the light of suite 134. when jude kirstein moved from her original premises in south east portland, she hoped to use the increased space to incorporate a display of wheelbuilds that prospective customers could fit to their own bicycles for trial. in doing so, she asked me for the specification of my ultimate wheels, a set subsequently built and which can be seen in the rack in the tasting room to this day.
one of my specifications, apart from the use of chris king hubs, was that the spokes be tied and soldered, a feature i had never experienced at first hand, but one formerly beloved of classic specialists before the factory build all but took over the early spring races. when jude offered to create this current wheelset, i was keen to ride my own pair of tied and soldered, so that was added to the mix. the rims are the black version of the dt swiss rr415 laced twenty eight spoke, two cross to the upgraded r45 hubs, apart from the rear drive side which is laced three cross. it is hard to describe the substantiality yet lightness of being possessed by these wheels.
i have shod the pair with vittoria's open pave 24mm tyres in preparation for carrying out my own season on islay's roads. these words cannot describe the appreciation due to the guys at chris king's nor to jude kirstein at sugar wheelworks for providing me with the ultimate pair of hoops on which to ride my cielo.
i'll let you know how i get on.
all photos courtesy of chris king's dylan van weelden and used with permission.
thursday 23rd august 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i am a great believer in travelling light, more for reasons of security than for any reticence to exercise those arm muscles at buchanan bus station. additionally, if you've ever travelled on the m v finlaggan, those steps up to the passenger deck are steeper than the north face of annapurna and i'm less than excited at the prospect of clambering upwards while carrying all my worldly possessions in a bag. or bags.
the security to which i refer has no bearing on external sources, but everything to do with my own. i generally travel with one relatively small rucksack in which i might carry my macbook air, lunch for devouring on the bus and copious amounts of reading material. many too many have advised that a man with such faith in products from apple inc. really ought to have an ipad in tow with obscene numbers of books and magazine apps in order that i may travel a tad lighter than paper will allow. however, paper and ink have qualities that have me enthralled for the time being at least.
this level of travelling light benefits my personal security because there is pretty darned close to nothing to forget, misplace or lose completely.
a single rucksack will generally suffice for the lightning trips i have recently made to scotland and to the great metropolis, mostly through judicious packing and a cultivated ability to minimise any amount of clothing that might suggest itself prior to travel. however, there are obviously going to be occasions when such minimal accoutrements are simply not enough, especially if the likelihood of a bike ride features prominently on the horizon. i am fairly sure, without the need to try, that my sole rucksack would be hard pressed to eat a whole helmet, let alone cope with a pair of cleated shoes.
for reasons of uncertainty regarding the transportation of bicycles to and from the island, or perhaps simply my fear of those uncertainties pointing the finger directly at me, i have tried manfully to arrange for a loaner or review model to be waiting at the other end. though this does divest me of the need to consider quick release levers, track pumps and allen keys, it in no way removes the need for appropriate clothing to last a period of several days, a pair of pedals that match the cleats on my shoes and the helmet that wouldn't fit in my rucksack. and maybe, just maybe, i'd need a couple of bottles for that review bike's bottle cages.
there are a number of bags on the market nowadays that will cover most if not all of those eventualities, one or two of which have been carefully ascribed to the cycle market. others are perhaps simply referred to as sports kit bags, appropriate in many cases, but perhaps not all. the former is the preserve of the latest offering from rob and paul at ventoux wear. it is of pertinent note that the company was named, rather obviously, after the french mountain oft featured in the tour de france, but related to the point at which bradley wiggins secured his fourth place in 2009.
coincidental, but perfectly true.
straying purposely from their origins as progenitors of notable cycle t-shirts, ventoux have recognised my potential plight in travelling along with nearly every item of cycle clothing i own (just in case, you understand). their event bag, constructed from waterproof polyester and rip-stop nylon sells for the obscenely low price of £50, the sort of expenditure that it is easy to justify whether you actually need one of these at the moment or not. the 70cm length and 33cm width are festooned with pockets adjoining the capacious central space that almost requires a tour guide of its own.
there's a full length waterproof pocket in which to place the grubby stuff once you've worn it (remember, 'cross season is not that far away), there's a huge pockety bit on the zipped cover, two on the opposite side to the waterproof enclosure which have numerous internal slots for pens, allen keys, multi-tools, phones, wallets, money, possibly even a saddle. but the piece de resistance is surely the insulated cooler packs at each end of the bag, with room for filled water bottles and extra ice packs to keep them from becoming hot drinks.
the latter is a less than palatable option in the heat of battle.
carrying all this lot about could demand maybe the occasional gym session, depending on how heavy the mud is on the soles of your spd footwear. but this is ameliorated by a padded hand grip that can be separated for access to the bag's contents and a shoulder strap that will surely allow the other hand to wheel the bike in a forward motion. it is a comforting benefit of modern cycle paraphernalia that much of it is incredibly well designed and more than fit for purpose. the ventoux event bag is no exception. you need only look at the quantity of relevant items that made their way into the bag to see just how pragmatic an item of luggage this truly is.
go online right this minute and order before rob and paul realise what an elementary error they have made by pricing it this low. this applies just as much to those who have yet to buy their first bicycle.
wednesday 22nd august 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i have my saturdays pretty much off to a tee now, even if repetition is something of an unvarying factor. though arising mostly around 07:15, sometimes for reasons and sometimes not, there seems always a myriad of adventures, diversions and tasks that require to be slotted into those following hours. i cannot claim uniqueness in this, for no doubt those in rather close proximity to a brace of superstores or maybe worse still, a garden centre, are less than well-placed to resist the imposition of family necessities prior to or maybe even in place of a thoroughly necessary bike ride.
islay is less mechanised in that manner, for there is really no sensible way that our local supermarket could be pre-fixed by the word super, and rarely are there enough products on its shelves to involve more than an half hour shop. i believe that is what might technically be regarded as a result. of course, shopping cannot be specified as the sole interlocutor of a saturday morning, but if push comes to shove, always assuming mrs twmp to be possessed of a benevolent disposition, chores such as vacuuming can be carried out a later time.
the route varies little. i can pretend that i have set off in a quest to reach port ellen in the south, but once the doubters have been placated, 'tis but a simple matter to slip off to the left past the airport and head upwards to the high road. i cannot deny that there is a simple satisfaction to be gained from chuntering along the abbatoirenberg forest road, with its graciously uneven surface imparting a sense of achievement, even if such only exists in the mind of the beholder. if the imagination will stretch to greater accomplishment, i can inhabit polka dots up to ballygrant via storakaig, but more generally hunger grabs the upper hand, and the bike takes a left and then another to head for a cheese and chutney sandwich accompanied by still the finest soya cappuccino money can buy.
if ever there were a time for cycling during which one could throw aside the need for any degree of sartorial exactitude, it would clearly be saturday morning. those in their tin boxes are more intent on the shopping that no-one actually wants to do, and at this time of year any remnants of velocipedinal activity is concentrated on making it through the unexpected headwind to reach the ferry in time. no-one has any time to appreciate the well-dressed cyclist. on the basis of yesterday's convoluted ride to debbie's, that was a real shame.
swiss-based cervo rosso, like many in their particular line of work, have not rested upon their considerable laurels, having brought themselves from the obscurity that predictably accompanies any new kid on the block, to a level that places them on the same road as many of their competitors. for summer 2012 they have brought the corsa s3 jersey to our attention, decorated in three judiciously chosen colours, very much in keeping with the unique style cultivated in their short existence. from a choice of white with black/red, mint or a decidedly attractive light blue, again accompanied with the same black/red, cervo rosso's carlyle ware sent the limited edition mint.
sometimes the words limited edition are more of a temptation to purchase than inhabiting the strict definition of the phrase, but the cr website states 'The S3 CORSA in Mint is a limited edition production and is only while stocks last' and at the time of writing, there were only eight left in stock. by the time you read, there could well be an empty space on the shelf.
islay occupies its own micro-climate, ignoring the forecasts provided by all and doing its level best not to take on the meteorological clothing of our near neighbours in kintyre and northern ireland. at present, it's all sun, sea and sand over here, with an ambient temperature considerably higher than was expected, something that truly favoured this particular jersey. the top section is composed of a perforated polyester, doing its level best to keep the athlete within (who laughed?) as cool as he'd really rather like to be. a full length zip is ideal in such warm conditions, allowing a chance to cool while sitting at the coffee bar in debbie's. by golly it was hot indoors.
the sleeves are of a well-chosen length, a tad longer than regular, but very welcome; i am nothing if not a complete wimp when faced with the prospect of several hours in the saddle around the principality. apart from the showers pass waterproof stuffed in the middle pocket, i was reluctant to be out and about without a pair of cervo rosso armwarmers, and the extra few millimetres on each sleeve obviates any likelihood of skin on view between the end of one and the start of the other. inside the cuff is a series of gloopy dots preventing the sleeve from heading upwards if its elasticity is unnecessarily ruffled. the jersey's hem relies principally on elastic to keep it firmly planted across the bibshorts.
in practice, the jersey is almost not there, by which i mean it accomplishes its job almost transparently. no matter my sprinting prowess (that laughing is going to have to stop), climbing acuity or downright rouleur-ness, there was no restriction of movement, and in my opinion, that's exactly what a cycle jersey ought to be doing for its owner. however, it is not without the occasional fault, none of which substantially reduce the return on investment, but i feel are worth pointing out. firstly, there are only three rear pockets, when i think we're pretty much all agreed that a fourth zipped variant, if not an actual necessity, is certainly highly desirable in the age of mobile phones, car keys and coffee money.
the second was brought forcibly to my attention when zipping up on leaving deb's. the collar bears no zip garage, exposing the innards of the zip to the remarkably sensitive skin on my neck. ouch. it may be unfair to level this accusation purely at cervo rosso; they are not alone in this omission, and removing minor portions of skin is not something likely to be repeated after the first nip, but a zip garage would obviate the problem at source. my last carp is purely personal and one i brought to the surface when reviewing the cr strada doppio 2.0. many a commercial concern has a slogan used to identify itself from its peers and competitors, something almost taken for granted. however, it is my contention that these slogans should inhabit only websites, catalogues or garment labels. i'd really rather they didn't occupy a black stripe down the centre of the middle pocket. cervo rosso are correct; it is my ride, but can we keep that to ourselves please?
aside from my superficial carping, these do not seriously detract from what is a truly excellent cycle jersey. though geared predominantly towards summer riding, the composition ensures that it will gain additional seasonal use under the aforementioned strada doppio or in colder weather, and intermedio jacket perhaps using the armwarmers to mediate the temperature. if you're really, really quick, you might just nab one of these limited edition mint editions, but if not, the blue or white are surely more than equible alternatives.
the cervo rosso corsa s3 jersey is available in the three colour variants mentioned in sizes small through to xxl at a cost of £107.10 ($178.50)
tuesday 21st august 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................