do you remember when owning a bike was just a rite of passage in your youth? a bike that was just a bike, no matter the colour or style, with or without gears and with an anonymous set of tyres that were on it when you got it? if it was second-hand, the tyres might not even have matched back to front. but it was your bike, and it would do whatever it was you wanted to do on your bicycle. you could ride down country roads, back streets, main roads, farm tracks; whatever lay between you and your intended or unintended destination.
and if you set out with a group of friends, nobody paid that much attention to what everyone else was riding. yes, one of them would almost certainly have been on a ten-speed racer, but that only made you wonder why. possibly even engendering a smidgeon of unrequited envy. those were the days when you simply went for a bike ride, with little thought for carrying a spare inner tube, even though there was a pump attached behind the seat tube. tyre levers were metal things that sat on the shelf in the garden shed, just next to the three-in-one oil can and two packets of lawn fertiliser that your dad never used.
no doubt i'm speaking of an era that excludes several of those reading. i don't quite get the notion that life's quite so simple these days, even for the children and teenagers of our era. those days have pretty much gone for the rest of us; we're way too sophisticated for such simplicities nowadays. obsessive compulsive disorder never arrives alone. nowadays we have different shoes for different kinds of pedals; the road bike travels exclusively on tarmac while the mountain bike and 'cross bike may take us out to play in the wilderness, but there is a distinction between one and the other. seatpacks hold spare inner-tubes, tyre levers, multi-tools, a pound coin in case we need to phone home, and mini pumps the size of an aa battery with the ability to inflate a large dirigible have their own special pockets in that merino jersey.
perhaps one of the truest statements made by grant petersen in his recently reviewed book 'eat bacon, don't jog' was that we should ride our bikes for the enjoyment factor, making it an end in itself rather than a means to an end. ostensibly, that's what i take from the latest cycle fad to arrive from across the pond. there's no denying an incredible similarity between cyclocross bikes and the latest gravel bikes being touted by several of the world's principal manufacturers. frames featuring hydraulic or cable disc brakes, mostly with drop bars and wide, faintly knobbly tyres while encompassing the sloping top tube endemic in the road bike trade but eschewed by true 'cross bikes due to the need to heft them onto a shoulder every now and again.
at the risk of stating the obvious, gravel isn't mud. hardpacked gravel oftimes presents a similar surface to that of many british roads. we do not have the substantial gravel tracks that inhabit the backwoods of the united states. but we do have so-called fire-tracks which wend their way through acres of forestry. sometimes they may descend into gloop, but for the best part, they'll suffice as a british euphemisim for gravel. and as has been advertised on many occasions, there are one or two british based sportives that welcome the road less travelled with open arms. but in truth, so you really need a special bicycle to enjoy such riding?
maybe, maybe not.
few road bikes nowadays have clearance for much more than 25mm tyres, while 'cross bikes have just been given sanction to race greater than 32mm width. but if we accept gravel at face value, while tyres designed to clear mud with great alacrity will undoubtedly cope with pretty much any kind of off-road, they're not always the best choice if you've a way to ride on tarmac to get there in the first place. i've a couple of pairs of just such tyres and i always sound like a small landrover when riding road. aside from which, if fashioned from a soft compound, road-riding can't do other but accelerate the wear rate.
so what if we take what we need from the latest craze and fit it to the bicycles we already own?
italy's challenge tyres, beloved of helen wyman and richard sachs have been quick to spot the trend and offer their gravel grinder tyre sporting a file tread with modestly knobbled edges in a 38mm width. unusually black sidewalled, i fitted a pair of these to the ibis hakkalugi and went out to approximate the feeling of going wherever the notion took me irrespective of road surface.
several years ago, it was decided due to popular demand, to create a footpath alongside the main road from ballygrant village to that of keills only a few miles north. terminating at the road end up from caol ila distillery, this allowed access to the very pleasant walk back through ballygrant woods, or possibly even onward access to the ferry terminal at port askaig. dunlossit estate, the property of bruno schroeder, kindly made land available and even surfaced the new footpath with gravel from ballygrant quarry (which, incidentally, is also owned by dunlossit estate). disappointingly, the gravel used was of an incredibly chunky variety, providing a surface that hardly made for smooth, effortless walking.
quite possibly due to the vagaries of the latter situation, it is very unusual to see anyone using the footpath, and it seems the necessity of maintaining the path was not included in whatever budget was available at the time. so it is now something of a white elephant, with patches overgrown with grass and/or moss, while sections of the drystone wall bordering the road-side have collapsed onto its surface and providing the occasional obstacle for any who may have had the temerity to walk that way. what it is good for, however, is as a three mile test track for either bicycle wheels or tyres or both. the gravel surface has compacted in places yet remained disturbingly loose in others, and features short, sharp climbs and descents.
it also has the benefit of being great fun.
getting to the northerly start point can (and did) involve a ride through ballygrant woods, a favoured haunt for dog walkers and just walkers, also featuring several sections of gravel, though mostly these have been placed there to fill in muddy ruts engendered by the estate vehicles and quad bikes. several of the shortish but steep descents are a few inches deep in grey gravel, and i cannot deny that in most of these cases, the challenge tyres were far more in control of my destiny than was i.
the sidewall label recommends a minimum 3 bar inflation pressure, which is exactly the level at which i set my track pump gauge. this provides good pressure for road riding (eleven miles to get to ballygrant woods) but also enhances bike comfort for the offroad gravel sections. i'd love to profess excellent bike-handling skills, but then i'd be telling fibs. yet despite impressive cack-handedness on my part, not once did the rear tyre lose traction, even when i found myself ascending a steeper gradient than i'd expected in completely the wrong gear. similarly on hitting an unexpectedly deep section of gravel at speed, the front wheel remained pretty much straight and true, resulting only in a drastically increased heart-rate and much scanning as to the best place to fall off that might incur the least physical damage.
to round off my day of derring-do, i hopped onto the grassy strip that constitutes uiskentuie strand, because i like to act as if i just don't care. though the sheep seemed totally unimpressed by my lack of forward speed across the green stuff, even on the portions that remain disturbingly wet, there was still no apparent loss of traction. maybe a touch more speed would have forced some errors, but there's a limited amount you can do about a south westerly gale.
there are plenty of narrower file-tread cross tyres on the market, but these are the first i've found with such an exaggerated width. if you fancy recapturing a lost youth, or intend to create one in the first place, a set of these seems unlikely to let you down. and if you've already succumbed to the hype and bought your very own gravel bike, might i tender that challenge's gravel grinders would make the ideal partners. now that i have embraced devil may care and all that such entails, i have every intention of riding wherever and on whatever i please. though in a concession to modernity, i intend to carry spares that might get me home if i over-reach my minimal abilities.
'tis the only sensible, grown-up thing to do.
the challenge gravel grinder race retails at £35. there is also a similar but slightly heavier version for £5 less. challenge tyres are distributed in the uk by paligap
monday 16 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
only the other week, the mighty dave and myself were reminiscing over the multi-page advertisements that used to fill the back of the comic. if ever there was a compelling reason to look forward to each thursday, those advertisements were it. at one time in its life, so popular was britain's sole weekly cycling magazine, that their own adverts featuring old monochrome photos of cyclists from days gone by crowding round a copy of cycling weekly which had been photoshopped in place, were entitled 'when thursday comes', a deliberate pastiche of the football magazine 'when saturday comes.'
though the interweb has been responsible for changing the face of western society, arguably for the better, its influence on the comic is not one we'll remember with glee. the advertisements of which i speak more often than not featured pretty much every item of cycling trinketry you'd want to hang on your bicycle. campagnolo groupsets, shimano groupsets, individual components, wheels, bars, chains, tyres, tubulars, clothing; you name it, it was in the list, each of which was priced. deesside cycles, mel bentley, parker international, ribble cycles and several others now long forgotten. many a happy hour could be spent, mentally building the next bike and comparing prices across several well-thumbed pages.
and then the internet happened.
nowadays the comic is but a shadow of its former self (in more ways than simply predicated by the loss of several pages of advertising). i doubt there was much that could be done about it, but i know that the mighty dave t and myself find trawling web pages far less enjoyable than the paper that preceded it.
however, one thing on which we are both agreed is the entirely beneficial state of the cycle clothing industry nowadays. included in those long lost adverts were often trade team tops of the day, many of which could be had for a few pounds more than £30. there was always the more expensive non-trade stuff (isn't there always?), but for those of us who weren't ready to be quite that serious, ceramica ariostea, motorola and wordperfect pretty much had to do. the fact that many of these rarely matched the size label inside the collar and were often thinner than mrs washingmachinepost's kitchen roll was simply the way of the world.
then rapha happened.
here was a new clothing company which sneaked onto the market without so much as a hello, even finding one early-days customer who was convinced they'd been around in europe since paleolithic times and had now made it to the uk. rapha's modus operandi was made clear from day one; they were an online company, selling from their own website and simply didn't do bricks and mortar. in fact, in the first few years, they didn't even do press advertising. you'd scarcely believe that nowadays, for after only ten and a bit years, it's hard to think of the road-racing world without them (though there are still people who try). plus they now have cycle clubs throughout the world which, aside from the big screen tv and coffee, sell many items from the rapha catalogue.
though rapha currently features quite a wide range of clothing for sale across their pro team, standard, womens' and city riding collections, if they'd kept offering everything they ever proffered over those ten years, their cycle clubs would be the size of macy's in new york. sadly, the reality of modern retailing often means that items change from year to year, are removed from stock or morph into a new improved garment altogether.
i still own one of their pink mortirolo sportwool jerseys from around 2005/2006, a jersey for which i was even offered money a few years back, rather proving my point. though i can't promise that you'll find one or two of those on a coat hanger, rapha are presenting an archive store in somerset's kilver court, opening on 3 april (easter weekend).
as rapha ceo, simon mottram explained "After the first few years of retailing predominantly online, we've fallen in love with our own Cycle Clubs and have realised how valuable it is to have a physical showcase. Like all retailers we end up with unsold stock at the end of each season and it's attractive to be able to sell that in a branded space rather than through other channels.
"Kilver Court provides a sympathetic environment to do this, and it's great to have the opportunity to show some of our archive that we've accumulated over the last ten years, alongside end of season bargains."
in a physical sense, this promises to resurrect at least a part of the luxury of perusing the back pages of the comic, only this time in colour and with the ability to take away any purchases there and then. if you're late to the party, or missed out on any of rapha's offerings over the past ten years, easter weekend might be the time to pop over to somerset with a big suitcase in tow. (younger members of british cycling will receive a 15% discount on presentation of their membership card.)
the rapha garments shown above are purely for illustrative purposes. there is no guarantee any of the above will be available at the archive store in kilver court.
sunday 15 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i am very fortunate in my geographical location, for here, bicycle crime is almost unknown. one reasonably priced cycle disappeared off the back of a visiting mobile home last summer, but in that instance, the police were convinced its disappearance had nothing to do with any locals. this means that, though i have several expensive bicycles in thewashingmachinepost bike shed, and occasionally very expensive machines when there's a review model in place, the likelihood of them being released from captivity is rather small. however, just in case you think i'm being rather cavalier in my approach, the shed is kept securely locked nonetheless.
it does mean that should i forget to remove the key from its keyhole due to over exhaustion on returning from yet another twelve hour training ride (a guy can dream can't he?), and that has happened on more than one occasion, the bicycles will almost certainly be still tucked up cosy in their beds come morning time. and when out and about and in need of froth topped sustenance, leaving whichever bicycle leaning against the wall at debbie's, i am all but guaranteed to find it still there aprés supping time, despite the fact that it is never locked.
there are few places across the world where this is still the case, and i am forever grateful that my home is one of them, for it would seem a tad iniquitous to spend lashings of my hard-earned on super-light carbon trinketry to then have to carry about the substantial weight of a u-lock to ensure its safety when surveying the estates from behind a cup of coffee and a double-egg roll. others, are considerably less well off in such matters.
but i do have a lock of sorts in the bike shed, one that was purchased several years back ensuring the security of a dromarti steel bicycle loaned in order that i might ride london's tweed ride. the lock still still hangs on its peg, but where the keys are that might make it more than a hardened chain and closing mechanism are nowhere to be seen. in short, i haven't a dicky bird as to where i put them, rendering a not altogether cheap affair now utterly useless. and that's sort of where the chaps and chapesses at nokē (pronounced no-key) come in.
having already proved the technology in a simple padlock, they have now turned their sights towards the bicycle market, currently crowdfunding via kickstarter the nokē bicycle lock. this stylish yet secure lock uses the power of a bluetooth enabled smartphone to unlock. simply press the btton on the end of its hardened steel casing and it searches for a nearby phone with the appropriate credentials to immediately unlock, even working when the phone is asleep. the phone can be in your pocket or bag; there's apparently no pressing need to remove it to open the lock.
it can even be opened via apple's recently released watch.
but if it's possible for me to forget where i placed the keys for my old-fashioned chain lock, it's eminently possible that you might leave home without your phone, only realising on return to a securely locked bicycle. the folks at nokē have already thought of this, allowing the owner to create a custom access code that can be input via the buttons on the end of the lock. and if you happen to be visiting or domiciled in amsterdam or other cities where there are thousands of bikes parked everywhere and can't remember precisely where you left it even that's no problem. every time you close the lock, the smartphone app stores its gps location.
in those places where folks think nothing of attempting to steal your pride and joy, the nokē bicycle lock also features a tamper alarm. this uses a motion sensor to detect when the lock is moved for longer than three seconds, emitting a surprisingly loud noise to deter would-be thieves. as cameron gibbs of nokē points out "Setting the alarm activates an internal accelerometer to detect motion. This will reduce battery life but you will still get several months of constant use with the alarm enabled. When the battery gets down to 20% you'll receive notification in the app to remind you to charge it."
so far, it looks as if they've thought of pretty much everything, but what if you don't like taking your phone with you when cycling, or suppose you're like me and don't own one of the darned things in the first place? for an extra nineteen dollars, you can purchase a key fob that will take the place of your phone, though obviously you can't call, text or update your facebook page with a key fob. the battery included and fitted to the lock will last a good few years without charging, but when necessary, that can be done via a micro-usb port.
bicycle locks are rarely picked in the manner that you might atempt to open a door lock. more often than not, large bolt cutters or a hydraulic jack are made use of, and there's not a lot on the market that can survive that sort of force. however, it's not easy to conceal those in an inside jacket pocket, so perhaps we ought to fear the more technologically advanced miscreant. through the magic of digital programming, surely someone could hack the code to allow them free access to all bicycles protected with a nokē lock?
however, according to gibbs "Nokē uses Bluetooth 4.0, which has 128bit AES encryption on all communication to and from your smartphone. We have added another 128 Bit layer of encryption on top of that. We also have a custom protocol for communicating with the lock on top of all the encryption that includes unique session IDs, session keys and a digital key that is unique for every lock. All of which are required for a valid unlock command to be accepted. In addition, Nokē rejects sniffing attempts by disconnecting any unauthorized communication."
innovation such as this may just give me cause to reconsider my respect for smartphone technology, though fortunately currently i still have no immediate need for either a lock or a phone. your mileage may vary; maybe it's time to provide some of the final monies needed to bring this innovative device to fruition. go watch the movie.
saturday 14 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
though cycling has its sponsors, the music world has its endorsements, sponsorship by any other name, but inferring that so impressed is the musician with his/her instrument, that they wish to return the favour by endorsing it in public. the other oddity, relative to the sponsorship model endemic in cycling, is that it is often the musician who decides to switch allegiance rather than the endorsed. top session drummer vinnie coliauta played yamaha drums and zildjian cymbals for many a long year before switching rather abruptly to gretsch drums. then even more abruptly, he not only changed to ludwig drums, but unceremoniously dropped zildjian in favour of switzerland's paiste cymbals.
this situation, for vinnie is not the only percussor to inhabit this game of musical chairs, would seem only to undermine the validity of this as the ideal model of artist recommendation. if yamaha was perfectly ok for so many years, what was it that gretsch drums offered, other than perhaps an increased salary? and why should we care?
tony williams first came to the world's attention as the 18 year-old drummer chosen by trumpeter miles davis in 1963 and described by davis as "the centre that the group's sound revolved around.". his ability to cope well with polyrhythms and odd time signatures ideally placed him to be a major part of what came to be known as jazz fusion, and even to this day, some 18 years after his untimely death from a heart attack, a canary yellow gretsch drumset has a significance well beyond its importance as simply a set of drums.
williams was a lifelong player of zildjian cymbals, though the state of those decorating his yellow drumset would probably have many a contemporary drummer chucking them in the bin. heavily tarnished, cracked and broken, they look nothing like the shiny metal discs to be seen in many a drumstore across the world, and certainly not the cymbals you'd expect one of the world's finest drummers to be playing in public.
however, those of us with an interest in making merry with percussion are well aware that appearances can be deceptive, that it is more a matter of the sound as opposed to vision. despite the above mentioned fact that williams spent his career hitting bits of metal with zildjian stamped on the top, his widow permitted a well-respected turkish cymbal company to borrow tony's ride, crash and hi-hats in an attempt to create a limited edition set of facsimiles, a set that has now become available for pre-order.
i have no idea how far your appreciation of all things percussive extends, and to the amount of money you'd expect such items to cost, but it may surprise you to learn that istanbul mehmet are rather hoping that the suitably impressed and well-heeled will be happy to spend £1,895 for these four quality cymbals. to place this in perspective, it's around double what i paid for the cymbals on my own kit, and they're regarded as being of excellent quality themselves.
is this too expensive? and considering the volume at which many gigs are carried out these days, would anyone in the audience notice? would i notice?
those are, however, rhetorical questions, for no matter your opinion or mine, that's what they cost. no amount of moaning are sharp intakes of breath on our behalf is going to cause istanbul mehmet to reconsider the price tag hanging through that centre hole. and that is precisely the same situation that exists in the world of cycling. the colnago c60 recently reviewed in these very black and yellow pixels would have cost around £6,500 - £7,000, a situation that many will view as iniquitous, for there is little doubt that there are a number of similarly tricked out carbon bicycles on the market that can be had for at least a couple of thousand pounds less. and some of those are colnagos.
it's a situation that basically boils down to precisely what it is you want to spend your money on. those who complain bitterly about the cost of rapha or assos clothing, or pinarello or bianchi cycles, are more often than not those who simply cannot afford to purchase any of the foregoing. despite the fact that this includes an awful lot of us, that's the way it is. if those brands didn't exist, surely there would be nothing to which we might aspire, even if it meant saving like a miser for a decade or more?
i'm all too well aware of the law of diminishing returns, that though a colnago cx-zero could be classed as brilliant, paying nearly twice the money for a c60 is unlikely to result in twice as brilliant. similarly, though there's a distinct gap between a budget pair of bibshorts and those offered by rapha and assos, could the latter be perceived as three times as good? maybe they can, but you'd need a bagful of money to find out. if you already own a pair of the expensive ones, you might well feel that the investment was well worth it. chamois is in the bum of the beholder.
despite the attraction of owning a set of tony williams replica cymbals, it seems highly unlikely that i will be upsetting my bank manager by acquiring a set. because in truth, there's absolutely nothing wrong with those i already own; they sound truly marvellous. and likewise, though a super-record equipped colnago c60 would be most welcome in the bikeshed, the bicycles already inhabiting this sadly worn structure give every bit as much velocipedinal satisfaction at considerably less cost.
and that goes for all of us.
friday 13 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i finally managed to achieve vegetarianism at the age of fourteen, very much against the wishes of my parents who were firmly of the belief that the mantra 'meat to live' was a thoroughly necessary requirement. it took them to pop off for a couple of weeks' holiday to allow a substantial degree of dietary subterfuge. this change in eating habits has lasted ever since.
only about three years later, when studying to be the next big thing on the british art scene, i met a boyfriend and girlfriend in my year at college who both claimed to be vegans. yes, we did indulge in the usual star trek jokes about them apparently not possessing pointed ears, but so into this exaggerated vegetarianism were they, and obviously not into star trek that i fear not even a smile was raised. the bloke in particular was tall and stick-thin, the very figure of a man who likely had to run around in the shower to get wet. though veganism has infrequently been an attraction, i've always figured it to be probably a step too far, for me at least.
grant petersen's latest book 'eat bacon, don't jog' is the sort of volume that would have vegans scurrying to find a pair of organic cotton gloves to lift it off the bookshelf. if, like me, you have operated under the cyclist's necessity of stuffing our faces with every carbohydrate known to mankind, whether constituted in breakfast, lunch, dinner, energy bar or gels, mr petersen's contention that we are doing it all wrong, might well come as something of a surprise. as the man says in his introduction "(this book) will derail your thinking on food and workouts. In it, I'll explain why your attempts to lose weight permanently have failed, and how eating nutritious fat and enduring short bursts of intense exercise will reverse that."
yes, you did indeed read that correctly; grant petersen, owner of hippy dippy rivendell cycles did actually promote the eating of fat. and nutritious fat at that.
the basis of this contention lies with an entirely different approach to what you and i have been given to understand "...your body converts carbs into a kind of sugar called glucose, and the glucose goes into your blood." so far, so good; that pretty much falls into the basis of the system under which we have all laboured for most of our cycling careers. however "Your body treats glucose in your blood as poison, and your pancreas leaps to the rescue by secreting insulin, a hormone that that determines where your energy comes from; what you burn for calories."
once again, mr petersen tells us nothing that we didn't already know. or, if you're sufficiently immersed in dieting to gain power and stamina, probably should know. the book continues in this vein to assert that it is this insulin that prevents your body from burning fat as its primary energy source, and also the very stuff that keeps you hungry, pressing you to consume more carbohydrates and start the process all over again.
to exit from this loop, petersen's solution is that you cut back on those carbs to lower your insulin levels and thus promote the use of fat as a source of energy. "...eat loads of fat and almost no carbohydrates and don't get fat." we're probably all very much aware that the never-ending series of articles pushed in our direction via the cycling periodicals and seemingly endless number of athlete's cookbooks, generally advise very much the opposite. and bearing in mind grant petersen's previous book 'go ride' which often seemed contentious for the joy of so doing, there's the sneaking suspicion that he relishes every minute of this contrary stance.
that, however, doesn't make him wrong.
you need only read a few of his single page chapters to start making comparisons with the atkins diet, and petersen himself makes no bones about this juxtaposition citing this as the first of four low-carb diets in chapter 13. sadly, there's no way that i can check the veracity of his dietary contentions, not even in the short term, for it seems that eat bacon, don't jog has no tolerance level for any form of vegetarian, let alone vegans. i daresay the clue was in the book's title, for a quick scouring of the index reveals no instance of any non-carnivore diet and in fact only references mention of vegetables on pages 41 and 42.
thus, the recipes contained in the rearmost section are rife with cheeses, butter, ghee, eggs and cream. few of them would agree with either my vegetarian stomach or philosophy. vegans would be well advised to steer well clear. (in the bibliography he cites lierre keith's the vegetarian myth as one of his influences.)
however, no matter how eccentric and reactionary i think grant petersen may delight in being, his logic might take some beating. i am well past the point of having any great desire to train for anything; i cycle because i enjoy cycling. however, according to grant "(exercise) is a good thing for many reasons, but weight loss isn't one of them. So enjoy your hikes, walks, rows, bike rides, and swims without any regard for the calories they burn up" that alone ought to raise more than one or two hackles. this is based on the apocryphal notion that because we burn so many calories riding our bikes, we're hungry enough to immediately replace them when we get home.
but petersen vociferously advocates his recently discovered dietary knowledge with perhaps too little perspective. and though i doubt it would bother him much, he comes across just a tad too self-righteous and dogmatic, something that all but verges on arrogance. he decries conventional thinking as "...the biggest lie in health." perchance a tad paranoid? the author is now sixty and claims to be the healthiest and fittest he's ever been. but i'm rapidly approaching the same age, having been a vegetarian and carbo loader for over forty years. i still fit into the jacket i wore on my wedding day, i take a size small in bibshorts and i like to think i too am fitter and healthier than i've ever been. the last time i visited my general practitioner was in 1994, and i've not had a day off sick in twenty years.
perhaps i'm the exception to petersen's proposed new rules, but i very much doubt i'm the only one, the existence of which seems not to be taken into consideration in 'eat bacon, don't jog'. i mean this as a criticism right enough, but assuming his logic and science are sound, there's every possibility that this may be the ideal diet and exercise book for many a velocipedinal carnivore.
i'll have to leave it to someone else to verify.
thursday 12 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the guys sitting in the team cars at the back of the peloton are suddenly beginning to look slightly marginalised. with both belgium's omloop het nosebleed and italy's strade bianche coming in under the uci's headroom for race radios, the standard and excitement of racing displayed in both events surely undermines the expressed consternation of the directeurs sportifs that the world would fall apart without the accepted communication channels?
had boonen's etixx quick-step team been able to look up the faq section in lefevere's team car, ian stannard may not have been able to outwit terpstra on the finish line. the lack of two-way communication with the cars where there will inevitably be a tv screen advising of the all-round situation might just have been the decider in this case. had the etixx lads known how close the chasing group was, their total lack of strategy may have taken on a different face altogether.
similarly in saturday's strade bianche, eurosport commentators rob hatch and brian smith made several observations that the chase group had little idea of the composition of those they were intent on chasing, nor indeed, just how far ahead they actually were. having access to this information, once more might conceivably have altered the final outcome of the race, though beating stybar would have probably have been a bit of a tall order.
but with monday's much vaunted and anticipated launch of the apple watch, already the racing landscape may show the potential for change that does not necessarily rely on a directeur sportif with a telly in the car.
apple is not alone in partnering with other software or technology companies prior to the launch of any new product. there is little doubt that as a company it has sold so many iphones in recent times mostly due to the wealth of apps that are available to extend its usefulness. how many folks do you know that still use their smartphone to make voice calls? precisely. and in order that they hit the ground running, many of these so-called partners have been provided with early access to the latest trinket, that they might have something new, innovative and desirable that will entice apple fans and even the naysayers to part with a not inconsiderable amount of their cash.
in the case of the apple watch, the guilty party is strava, a word i use with almost the same disdain usually reserved for facebook. it has accompanied apple's launch with news of an app that will hook into the device's fitness functions, allowing riders to view metrics on their wrists as they chat merrily in the peloton, or consider how to make the breakaway that finally sticks. available to premium members, (and who amongst the world tour professional peloton isn't?) is the watch's interaction in real-time, notifying the rider of specific segments and offering instant results by way of elapsed time. it will also be capable of displaying heart-rate and power output.
apple have gone to great pains to point out that the watch takes its marching orders from an iphone very close by (otherwise it's just an expensive digital watch), meaning that only a modicum of lateral thinking would allow the wrist borne device to receive specific details from the guy in the car wielding his very own iphone. information such as the gap to the breakaway, the constitution of that breakaway and the time rapidly being devoured by the inseguitori ought to keep any rider more than adequately informed without necessity for a race radio.
racing with a smartphone in one hand bears comparison with driving under similar circumstances, but a wristwatch is surely far less onerous. and considering those unsightly lumps on rider's backs during events that allow race radios, a comparably svelte iphone ought not to ruffle the polyester to the same degree, yet keeping the weight weenies from apoplexy. as evinced by strava's brian holcombe, the app will allow individuals to receive real-time directions, and though he probably wasn't thinking of the lower steps of uci categorisation, i wouldn't bet that someone else isn't. after all the lads from sky already benefit from a hefty chunk of apple gear and there's always sir dave's marginal gains
wednesday 11 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i know that you will laugh at me for this, but if any of you ever repeat it in public, i'll deny ever having said so. there were days when rather than attempting to emulate sven nys, jeremy powers or robert millar, i was the intrepid explorer, going where no man (other than calmac staff, citylink bus drivers and thousands of visitors) had gone before. with a young daughter to consider, when time came to make a visit to scotland, mrs washingmachinepost would head off with child in tow via the accepted form of public transport. i, on the other hand, would load up the muddy fox courier with all manner of stuff for which i would find little use along the way.
though i hadn't remembered this up till now, my obsession with clean shiny bicycle chains must have lurked in the background for longer than i'd thought. during the pre-departure maintenance stage i found it necessary to clean the chain prior to the lubrication part of the equation; there really is little point in adding lube to ground-in dirt. except, over and above the usual laugh-a-minute degrease and clean, i decided that i'd impose the 'don't leave home until i can see my face in it' state of affairs.
i'm well aware that the coatings placed on chain links vary according not only to brand, but to the amount of money initially spent, so my choice to use dura-glit to polish it within an inch of its sprockets was one fraught with danger. there was every possibility that my chainlinks would be simply a brighter shade of matt. however, in the case under discussion, the little swabs of polish infused wadding fulfilled every millimetre of promise, resulting in 110 links of mirror-like surface.
i'm happy to accept just such an accusation, for there really is no imaginable defence for carefully polishing every single chain link with a bona-fide metal polish, before dripping it carefully with three-in-one oil. such eccentricity was further enhanced on discovering that, by the time i'd reached the morning ferry, the chain had managed to re-acquire much of the dirt i had painstakingly removed less than 24 hours earlier. still, perhaps one of the best bits about riding a bicycle is that it's not too easy to view those shiny sideplates from the saddle.
there are, of course, several simpler means of degreasing, cleaning and lubricating a bicycle chain. the current method, at least up till this point, has been to spray some wd40 or gt85 onto an old black t-shirt that usually lies just inside the bike shed door, and give the chain a good scrubbing. once that's over and done with (preferably on a workstand to alleviate any potential back pain), a drop of pedros syn-lube on each link seals the deal, as they say on the street.
but now, obviously released to satisfy the clamorous demands of peppa pig admirers everywhere, comes the pedros chain pig. cutely designed to resemble the profile of a cartoon pig, its pink tinted transparency reveals a heath-robinson affair of brush wheels and a thick wad of sponge with a v-shaped chain-width channel.
the device is manufactured in two distinct pink parts; the lower half is placed under the chain and the upper section clipped over the top, a metal hook sliding alongside the lower jockey wheel to hold the agglomeration of parts in place. inside the box is a small bottle of pedros chain degreaser a remarkably small amount of which can be squirted in through a hole over the big brushy thing. it's then a simple case of running the pedals backwards several times (the box advises 25 times) until you can see your face in the sideplates.
i previously owned a similar device when dinosaurs roamed the planet, and attempting that which i have just detailed above resulted in several broken bits of grey plastic and a couple of tiny round brushes that refused to return from whence they came. the pedros chain pig has totally banished thoughts of yet another chain-cleaning disaster. easy to fit, easy to use and easy to store afterwards means it's not looking too promising for that oily black t-shirt.
pedros products are distributed in the uk by 2pure. the chain pig retails for a highly recommended £24.99.
tuesday 10 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................