the mighty dave t and i were left to our own devices on the sunday morning ride. though lord carlos is off enjoying some seasonal visiting down south, those others we had expected to join us failed to materialise. i do so hope they feel all the poorer for this omission.
however, according to the garmin clamped to the pair of carbon handlebars in front of me, the temperature at one point was displayed as three degrees below. that would account for the patches of ice peppering the side roads and those singletrack roads beloved of tractor drivers and the velo club peloton. having made a rather speedy move from one road to another on saturday morn before discovering the latter to be coated in a thin sheet of ice, we had decided to hold fast to the main roads, all of which appeared to have been comprehensively gritted the night before.
we still managed a respectable distance and even a respectable pace, prior to retiring on the leather chesterfield at debbie's. the mighty dave enquired as to whether there might be a television he could watch while supping the weekly froth.
the fellow sat adjacent to our weary bones was, rather surprisingly, leafing through a copy of the comic with an impressive level of interest, turning to us at one point to show a brightly coloured hat, suitable for the winter conditions we've all been experiencing (some more than others). the clincher to this almost mute conversation was this hat's labelling as suitable for the female fraternity. we both uttered well intentioned sniggers, for since when have velocipedinal hats been described in terms that are gender specific?
which leads me rather neatly onto mavic's latest helmet, the cxr ultimate, available in mavic yellow or mavic black. to reach the technical details pertaining to this particular model, it's necessary to select road and cross country icon on the mavic home page. once again, one might query as to why bicycle helmets have need of being categorised according to activity? given the stricture of national and international safety regulations and requirements, is it not a truism that a bicycle helmet ought to protect the bonce of whomsoever is wearing it, irrespective of which bike they are riding?
that is, however, a rather simplistic overview taking no account of the differing demands of cycling's wide panoply. though i can think of one or two individuals who may be prepared to argue the toss, it would not be too iniquitous to define road riding and possibly even cyclocross as a tad quicker off the mark than the average mountain biker. therefore, accepting the validity of such a premise, designing a helmet to slice through the air with the greatest of ease will surely have less impact (pardon the pun) offroad than on?
mavic's cxr ultimate exhibits a smoothness of form that escapes many of its peer group. while many others profile their extensive venting in a remarkably aggressive manner, mavic have retained an overall smoothness of form while impressing its 20 or so top vents within this aerodynamic and smoothed shape. though i'm hardly one renowned for speed that might test this theory to its logical conclusion, mavic attest to the engineering of this shape as an endeavour to maximise speed while leaving ventilation unaffected.
the cxr's internal padding has been cleverly varied to offer wicking properties towards the front, while increasing its density up top to offer both protection and padding. like most helmets these days, there's an integral cradle to adjust the fit by turning a dial at the rear. though the cxr differs noticeably in shape from mavic's plasma helmet, the rear dial on the latter is far easier to adjust when riding than that of the cxr. a minor detail to be sure, but when wearing thick winter gloves, every little helps.
the straps are both comfortable and easy to adjust. i've generally found that helmets arriving for review seem uncannily to be pretty darned close to perfectly adjusted when removed from from the box. the cxr broke this tradition (this is not a complaint; there's no way anyone can predict who's going to be wearing the helmet or their head size). however, it took mere seconds to correct the adjustment and all without reference to the user's manual. the cxr is not mavic's lightest helmet; that position is held by the cosmic ultimate at a mere 210g. however, the cxr is hardly into anvil territory, adding a mere 40g.
if truth be told, i have already returned once to debbie's, convinced i'd left the cxr on the coffee bar. those extra 40 grams are less than onerous.
of course, the one thing no helmet reviewer is likely to check (and that includes me) is just how efficacious the helmet is if taken to its ultimate purpose. i'd really rather not fall off my bicycle head first just to prove a point. if i have any criticism of the helmet it's the lack of the hardshell casing continuing on the underside of the helmet. though this has little, if any bearing on its protective qualities, it does offer a shield to the polystyrene if placed on rough surfaces such as walls, floors etc. it's a tad cold at present to advise whether those vents are doing their job; a condor cycles winter cap tends to exclude unnecessary draughts with great verve. however, even under major exertions, i've had no cause for complaint.
at £150 for either the black or yellow, available in sizes small, medium, large and large maxi-fit, the cxr ultimate fits equitably into the price structure of its peer group. and in view of the impending replacement of rapha by mavic in the jlt condor race team, the only real choice to fit under the cxr would indeed be a condor winter cap (£19.99).
monday 29 december 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
cycling has a subset of murphy's law all to itself. the very day that a member of the sunday ride suggests riding up the steepest hill in the vicinity will be the day you chose to ride the bike fitted with 53/39 matched to a 25 biggest sprocket. everyone else will be riding a compact. and if, like me, you have more bicycles than seat packs, fetching a different one than used yesterday will result in not noticing that the seat pack is still on the bike in the shed until past the point of no return. that'll also be the sunday when it's your turn to pay for the coffees and you can mentally visualise the tenner still sitting on the kitchen table.
but by far the most onerous feature of this variation on the law of karma is the almost inevitable puncture at sometime over that sterling career. for starters, any rapid deflation of an inner tube will almost always be on the rear wheel (the muckier of the two) and it'll happen at the furthest point from home. in my case, anywhere in the vicinity of saligo bay will (not) do nicely thanks. with the contemporary difficulty of fitting almost any new tyre to its matching rim, i can't be the only one who rides far and wide in fear of having to remove a tyre to fix a puncture?
the tried and tested method of shifting a tyre from the rim was mostly to use two tyre levers. force one under the tyre bead and wrestle it over the edge of the wheelrim, and hook it onto a spoke. then do likewise with a the second lever and everything ought then to resemble the effort of slicing a hot knife through butter. for me at least, that is very rarely the case. and even if that second tyre lever manages to be slid under the bead, any attempt to slide it clockwise around the rim to release the remainder of the tyre will utlimately fail miserably, yet result in a remarkably sore thumb.
the ambient temperature will, of course, be just a tad below zero. and it'll be raining.
my last attempt to start the above process, resulted in severe bending of the first lever before it ultimately snapped, leaving the uppermost portion stuck under the tyre. thankfully, the latter process occured adjacent to the bike shed, the only unfortunate result being a flurry of expletives. fortunately, i have in my possession an original pedros milk dud tyre lever, the only surviving example of what was initially a pair.
apparently these were manufactured from recycled plastic milk cartons, advertised by a milky white appearance. they were (and in the case of my sole surviving example, are) possibly the strongest tyre levers known to mankind. if the avengers rode bicycles, this would have been the very pair of levers concealed under the saddle.
thankfully the research and development branch of the tyre lever department at pedros' headquarters in boston, massachusetts has not lost sight of the needs of the cyclist suffering the iniquities of murphy's law. and with one or two tyre manufacturers now offering clinchers made in the image of their tubulars, strength of lever has become ever more paramount. despite referring to them as tire levers (they even spell it that way on the european website), all is forgiven in the face of such exemplary tools. now safely ensconced in my under-seat pack, i lead a far more carefree existence, happy in the knowledge that when murphy invokes his legal necessities near to saligo bay, i have the appropriate armaments to deal with the expected unexpected.
at only around £3 a pair and available in henri desgrange yellow or giro d'italia pink (how i long for a pair of the latter), it would be worth acquiring truckloads of the blighters.
sunday 28 december 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
application would appear to be the key. had i perhaps put in a tad more sustained application at art college, i could have become world famous, and rather than reading words by me, you'd be reading about me. admittedly that is a slightly far-fetched scenario, but i think it suitably illustrates my point. doubtless you'd expect me to continue the fairy-tale by applying a similar set of criteria to my cycling career (such as it is), but we both know that was never going to happen. heck, i even spent a few hours in the passenger seat of the rapha car at last year's british championships, and not once did john herety broach the subject of a potential contract for 2014.
maybe if he'd applied a touch more pressure, i'd have capitulated.
i'm finding the same is true of my technical machinations as applied to the colnago i have for the festive 500. though the weather on christmas eve was quite brutal, but drier than i'd expected, the following days have been a lot kinder. however, if the local roads engineer finds the aerosol tarmac repairs on the loch gorm road to be satisfactory, we're all in a lot more trouble than i thought. it seems that an unkempt road surface spread liberally with gravel is what passes for quality control these days. couple that with the agricultural nature of the isle, and that eleven-speed chain is perhaps getting more than it bargained for.
therefore, no matter the physical condition i find myself in after a shower and some food, i have deigned it an unavoidable necessity to throughly clean the drive train before applying a drop of lube to each link. it is my single concession to ocd; i hate to set out with a dirty chain, even if road conditions will not leave it thus for very long. once again, 'tis but a simple matter of application.
that last sentence might very well be an appropriate slogan for body glide, an american company that offers chamois balm and other friction reducing balms in colourfully constituted applicators. from the onset, these seem like a rather effective solution to a set of problems that most would consider already solved, and disappointingly, you'd probably be right.
taking the orange coloured chamois glide balm as the initial example, twisting the bezel at the base pushes the stick of balm upwards, ready and willing to be applied to your nether regions. as experienced cyclists, we're all well acquinted with this process, though more usually it involves fingers and a tub of cream. the idea of an applicator seems quite sensible, that is until you try using it. for starters, the balm has need of being fairly solid in constitution in order not to fall to pieces at point of application. however, its solidity is not only a smidgeon on the uncomfortable side, but a distinctly less than pragmatic and oftimes uncomfortable means of accomplishing the necessary.
of course, it's eminently possible to reverse the process and apply the chamois balm to the chamois pad itself. this does work better than the alternative, but rather makes the applicator a solution looking for a problem. as far as i'm concerned, there was nothing wrong with cream.
and for similar, yet slightly different reasons, the other two products under review - foot glide balm blister resister and the original anti-chafing balm - seem also to miss the target. if i might take the blister resister first, few of us know in advance where we're likely to get a blister. if we did, a band-aid could be pre-applied prior to riding. however, after riding 80km in heavy rain wearing new shoes with a saddle a few millimetres too high, my left ankle developed a blister which subsequently wore through to the hurty bit. applying the blister resister was a somewhat painful experience, given the balm's aforementioned solidity.
the balm itself does appear to achieve the claims made by body glide; after two days' worth of painful application, it did ease the pain, but it seems less than virtuous that a product designed to alleviate pain, should cause some more in the process. i confess i have yet to find any necessity of use for the original balm. the instructions would have me believe that this product ought to be applied in areas likely to suffer from chafing (other than those already discussed), and i've no doubt that it may be highly efficacious if used prior to need. but yet again, i've no real knowledge of where this is likely to be.
unless of course, i'm doing this all wrong?
bodyglide chamois balm sells for £11.99; the original balm retails from £6.99 - £11.99 depending on size, as does the blister resister.
saturday 27 december 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the routine used to be as regular as clockwork. two of the kids would arrive around 7:45, dropped off by mum who was off to an early start at work. mrs washingmachinepost would make their porridge for breakfast while i completed the morning's ablutions before plonking myself in the armchair with a kid on each side and we'd watch peppa pig. happily, it's a cartoon series in which the writers have realised there are folks of my age watching, and they've incorporated moments of humour that the two kids would never understand, even if i explained it to them. but there is one singular aspect of peppa pig that endears itself to the intrepid cyclist at this end of the year...
peppa and brother george love jumping in muddy puddles. in fact, so do mummy and daddy pig. the only thing they haven't yet progressed to is doing so on bicycles.
the problem, from my point of view is that of transition. on one of the very few occasions i have participated in a team triathlon, there was a designated transition area between being tapped on the shoulder by the swimmer and clambering aboard the bicycle to eventually end up not far from last. the rules specifically said 'no running in the transition area' but from my own observations, i was the only one who adhered to this stricture. mind you, i doubt it would have had any bearing on the eventual result. that was taken care of by the swimmer having completed an extra two lengths, totally unaware of his error.
i have the same problems dismounting from the cross bike after slithering through the muddy singletrack, unclipping that all-important left foot and shouldering the bike before running (i use the word in its loosest sense) uphill. my bete noir is remounting at a velocity in keeping with my cyclocross intentions. i'm convinced it'll work eventually. some day.
what is less than encouraging, but never less than inspiring is watching even the accomplished amateur carrying out all the above manoeuvres at speed, hoping, if not for victory, at least the possibility of reaching a higher finishing position than gained last time out. and just like peppa and family, they mostly seem possessed by the need to jump in muddy puddles. at speed. or at least at a greater speed than yours truly can achieve.
though the four dvd set depicting last year's tour de france or giro d'italia will contain lengthy periods when little or nothing seems to be taking place, the same could rarely, if ever, be said about a cyclocross race, a fact proved beyond a shadow of a doubt by benedict campbell's forthcoming movie 'for the love of mud'. the world premiere of this muddy puddle of a film will take place on 9 january at the stateside theatre in austin, texas and i fervently hope that it becomes available as a digital download or dvd shortly after.
with usa national champion jeremy powers competing well in the uci championship series in europe, america has probably never been so in love with cyclocross, no doubt enthused by the belgian connection. even as far back as 2009, when first visiting portland, the local 'cross team hup united had their jerseys made by vermarc because, well, who else would you get? in fact, if i'm totally honest, the only place i've ever had frites and mayo is in the green dragon pub in porltand town. there's no doubt the americans do 'cross differently than the belgians, but where there's mud involved, who gives a figgy pudding.
if you happen to be in the vicinity of austin on 9 january, the evening's entertainment is already squelched in mud.
friday 26 december 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
all this past year, i have diligently returned from my daily grind, been run ragged by most of the kids looked after by mrs washingmachinepost, before sitting down of an evening to an excellent repast cooked to perfection by the aforesaid mrs twmp. following the above schedule, i then place the macbook air upon my knee and type whatever words will fill the requisite number of pixels to educate, entertain or confuse you further come the following afternoon.
at one point in time, this was not the case. each day's post was written just prior to uploading; thus you read what i wrote only minutes after i'd finished. sometimes you'd have been forgiven for thinking i hadn't (finished, that is). however, that was in the simpler days of yore. life changes, even when you don't want it to, and in order to provide 24 hours of a safety net, i now operate to my opening procedure. at least pretty much so, apart from holidays and the festive season.
as parents and now grandparents, surprisingly enough, time is not always one's own, and arrangements tend to be made that one is not party to. yet once made, no objections will be entered into, and i'm expected to chuckle along as if it had been my idea all along. therefore, on occasion, that safety net could conceivably be found wanting. alternative arrangements have had to be made.
more years ago than i can recall, the specialized bicycle company placed online, an animated ten speed cassette that broke all the directives as espoused by shimano, offering a set of sprockets that could independently rotate in any direction in which they felt moved. in the process of defying mechanical logic, these sprockets were accompanied by a version of 'the dance of the sugar plum fairy', apparently played on other bicycle components.
the existence of this yuletide velocipedinal delight offered an uncomplicated library item that could be dragged from its repository each festive season on the date of my choosing and spread before you as a token of christmas cheer. every year, in the run up to christmas day, i need only click the link posted in the previous year to check its continued validity, and we were, to quote leslie winkel of the big bang theory "good to go."
but this year, clicking the link resulted only in "not found. the requested url was not found on this server." it appears that christmas is cancelled.
this post is dedicated to slate olson. he knows why (or he should do).
thursday 25 december 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
there are one or two occasions every so often when it becomes either necessary or desirable to take stock. i do not mean, however, that a list need be made of all the items in your house, or perhaps more unlawfully, nip into the nearest shop and remove items without permission. life coaches advise that in order to progress through life in an orderly manner, sitting down with even as little as a pad and pen to make notes of the pros and cons of the current day to day, discussing how we feel life is trundling along and most importantly, how we see the next tranche of years panning out, preferably in our favour.
i've been living on this rock in the atlantic for just over 26 years and during that time, there has been not a single new road built on the island. granted, when a new group of houses have been assembled, a short access road has been installed, but on the basis that even islanders are less than impressed with cyclists riding their driveways, i think those could be excluded. so, applying my own logic to the current, twenty-six year-old problem, it's likely time that i cleared the toys off the couch, sat down with my mac and figured out my velocipedinal strategy for the next few years.
except, there's not really a great deal of point. over the course of my quarter century plus one, i've ridden every single road on the isle on more occasions than i could ever calculate. and i've sat at the coffee bar in debbie's often enough to appear on an ordnance survey map. the requisite pattern for so doing is not a logical one; at least not in a regular planning sense. all is based on the weather. the strength of the wind, the angle of rain and the ambient temperature all have a major bearing on where we ride and for how long. happy to relate, the roads never appear the same twice; the weather pretty much takes care of that. so when visiting cyclists ask if we don't become a tad fed up riding round in circles (i wonder if anyone ever asked chris hoy that question?), we can truthfully reply in the negative.
however, the flaneur society may have hit upon a cunning plan that we can all implement into our riding schedule, at least on an irregular basis. the society was created in response to walter benjamin's book berlin childhood around 1900. it's a book in which the author explores the idea of the flaneur, someone who wanders without the need for a destination. that has not unnaturally led to the creation of the guidebook to getting lost, a small, pocket sized volume (also available as a pdf. see link at the end of this article) that defines the concept. for instance...
"Through the concept of the urban safari, the Flaneur Society seeks out people who naturally like to explore the hidden crevices of a city and/or those who have a curiosity to do so."
you'll note the generic fallback position of including only those domiciled in urban areas, but it strikes me that the concept is every bit as applicable to the great outdoors. so when the designated urban safari commences with the instruction '1. Head to the bus stop nearest your house.' feel free to simply substitute 'the first gorse bush' or 'the standing stone just past the white farmhouse.' so doing may provide any number of variations prior to arriving at the tenth instruction: 'sit for at least ten minutes and see what unfolds.'
though the flaneur society seems constituted primarily for the intrepid pedestrian, i can see no particular reason as to why it's not possible to form a a parallel society to benefit the cycling fraternity. there may be more about the latter anytime soon.
always assuming i don't get lost beforehand.
wednesday 24 december 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
monday was our last full day in the office before christmas. today we locked the front door at 12:30 and popped along to the local hostelry for food and refereshments. it is, i believe, the done thing. much of the conversation in yesterday's office revolved around that fact that the festive season is no longer what it was. some of that can be put down to age; the past always seems tinted with a nostalgic sepia as it recedes into memory, but the general consensus was one of change. for instance, in my student days, when employed at the local airport, i was provided with a hire car to transport members of staff to and from work because the buses were off for a substantial portion of the annual holiday.
nowadays, despite the fact that our local averagemarket is closed only for christmas day (even opening on 1 january) there wasn't a single shopping trolley left outside on monday afternoon. the festive season seems more concerned with endless days of food shopping despite substantially increased opening hours. at one time it was a fine holiday, free from retail pressures the minute santa had been down the chimney.
what hasn't changed is the traditional giving of presents; what has changed is the difficulty in finding appropriate gifts for family and friends who seem to already have everything. rampant commercialism has already overloaded the latter, so what to do?
it occurs that taking a leaf from the national lottery while paying tribute to willie wonka and the chocolate factory would be an appropriate response to this ever-increasing difficulty. buying one chocolate bar (or energy bar for us cyclists) for each intended recipient with the possibility of finding a golden ticket inside. the thrill of the chase, so to speak. as christmas and new year are renowned for their inclusion of age-old traditions, it would seem a tad innocuous to have the temerity to suggest a new one.
something closer to home that conceivably might be the start of a tradition, is the expanding joy of exploring the locality on a cyclocross bike. somewhere under the bed, i have a series of dvds showing an agglomeration of cool dudes hammering various stretches of singletrack around the world on what was then, state-of-the-art farm gates with springs. those of us amongst the cognoscenti are more than well aware that such means of transport can be filed under the heading of overkill. granted, i doubt i'd throw myself off a cliff top astride a focus mares or similar, but when it comes to rugged lengths of singletrack, a 'cross bike is more than equal to the task.
the imaginitively named white no sugar productions have, not entirely coincidentally, gathered together five intrepid riders and sent them off clutching their own pennine bridleway golden tickets to explore the projects of pennine prospects. i am naive enough in the ways of the cyclocross fraternity that i see this sort of thing as the ultimate expression on semi-knobbly tyres. someone more versed in the genre will doubtless point out that they've been doing this sor of thing for years. either way, it's an activity that can be readily undertaken by those with perhaps a less than concentrated desire to race.
and it would also explain why they put bottle cage bosses on the downtubes.
i have little doubt that the experience is enhanced by the provision of fabulous scenery, but with beauty in the eye of the beholder, that really only ought to restrict the truly urban. as ben lieberson is oft quoted as saying "outside is free", and there's one heck of a lot of outside in which to ride. however, i really ought to place a health warning on the movie link below. if you happen to view this while still at work, or in the evening prior to doing the washing-up, being unable to climb aboard the 'cross bike right there and then is going to be so frustrating.
and who knew they had stretches of pave in the pennines?
tuesday 23 december 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................