for those of us less than au fait with the technicalities of bicycle engineering, the modern method of designing bicycles using computer aided design often gives the impression that many of today's slivers of carbon fibre bear more than just a passing resemblance to each other. this admittedly naive and subjective viewpoint does, however, have a certain internal logic. to wit, if everyone is asking the computer the same questions, there's a reasonable chance that they're all getting the same answers.
the current abode of engineering habitation is that of aerodynamics. endless wind-tunnel tests to reduce the physical drag of the bicycle frame, even though we have been repeatedly told that the biggest slowing factor is that of the person riding the bike. however, in the era of marginal gains, achieving even a few seconds by making the frame a tad more slippery is apparently worth all those hours of smoke and mirrors in the wind tunnel. but another way of looking at it is with reference to friction.
essentially we must assume that features such as ceramic bearings and the surfaces on which they run have already been tested to the point of exhaustion, so now it's time to consider the friction generated by the rushing of air over smoothly constituted carbon. find a way to minimise this and theoretically at least, less effort need be generated by the rider in the attempt for victory.
it is arguably of greater benefit to those of us without the stamina and fortitude to compete at any level, let alone the heady stratosphere of the world tour. for even a short trip to the shops to fill the basket on the front could be considerably eased, once the cutting edge technology has trickled down to the level at which the rest of us subsist. the technological level that does not involve spending several hundred or thousands of pounds to achieve apparently minimal advantage.
yet sometimes we can fool ourselves into thinking that expensive is always going to be shinier. to better illustrate my point, i will, if you will allow, use crank brothers candy pedals as an example.
i have, in my possession, two pairs of crank brothers eggbeater pedals and two pairs of candys. the eggbeaters both feature outboard cartridge bearings and a set of needle bearings on the inboard edge. one pair of the candys runs in similar manner. as i have testified above, i am no engineer, so it may be necessary to take my observations with a pinch of entirely subjective salt, however i am labouring under the i'm right, they're wrong misapprehension with regard to the following narrative.
crank brothers recommend that, depending on your riding style and terrain, you rebuild these pedals at least once every twelve months. and in order to facilitate this, they offer handily packaged rebuild kits, though oddly these are completely devoid of any instructions as to how to employ the kits. those inner needle bearings are usually, in my experience, the very weak link in the power chain; they are protected from the crud that frequents the nether regions of the average bicycle by a rather flimsy rubber seal. both eggbeater pedals have required rebuilds within the twelve month period. one pair of candy's had need of a rebuild under warranty within a matter of months and with minimal use.
as i see it, the metal race that contains the needle bearings is insufficiently protected from the elements and subsequently corrodes; at that point, everything falls apart. i have suggested to crank brothers by e-mail that if the needle bearing were replaced with a cartridge bearing as exists at the outer end of the axle, the problem would all but disappear, but not unsurprisingly, they have not favoured me with a response.
thus, when the rebuilt candys failed for a second time and it proved well nigh impossible to remove the defective needle bearing on one, i opted to purchase a pair of candy 1 pedals. they're the cheapest on offer, but the pedal platform is fabricated in resin as opposed to alloy, and that needle bearing is replaced with a delrin bushing. my experience of the latter is predominantly confined to kid's bikes where headsets and bottom brackets are frequently of this ilk. rarely have they inspired confidence and i confess that purchasing a pair of similarly featured pedals for winter use was something of a leap of faith.
or at least, that's what i thought.
in point of fact, those lime green candys are still running every bit as smoothly as they did when removed from the box. fitted to the chris king cielo, my only bicycle with mudguards, they have seen out an entire hebridean winter featuring sufficient rain to half-fill the atlantic ocean. and given islay's agricultural bent, that rain has not acted upon my velocipede entirely alone. yet, given the remarkably short period during which the original candys' needle bearings survived, despite costing more than twice as much as the candy 1 pedals, perhaps progress doesn't always equate to better.
i mean no disrespect to crank brothers, though i still maintain that cartridge bearings at both ends of the axle would go a long way to solving the (perceived) problem. and i still own and use a pair of eggbeaters on my cyclocross bicycle that are a joy to pedal; i'm sure there are many other examples of more expensive technologies failing to live up to modern expectations. i do not decry the need to service any component on an annual basis, but it seems that the rather basic by comparison delrin bushing may offer better value.
and a lime green option.
monday 3 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in years gone by, it was necessary to inhabit the existential when it came to mechanical compatibilities between the major groupsets. ultimately, it all boiled down to the space between the sprockets and the fact that you really had to love those in order to better equip yourself to appreciate the finer points of disconnection.
with the advent of indexed shifting (and i can appreciate that many of you may never have experienced anything else), the need to finely judge the level of downtube lever motion was removed from the rider's sphere of influence. it may also interest the uninitiated to learn that when indexing arrived on road bikes and mountain bikes, there was still a friction option should anything untoward happen to the gear mech at the back. the fact that that this alternative disappeared very soon afterward, should indicate just how reliable indexing became in a very short space of time.
however, not for the first time in my life, i have digressed. each click at the gear lever pulls the requisite amount of cable to move the gear mech from one sprocket to the next. this cable pull is calibrated on the physical space between each sprocket. shimano and campagnolo still effectively differ as to the measurement of this gap, but as the guys at chris king pointed out to me several years ago, when they got to ten sprockets, let alone eleven, there's not a lot of room with which to mess about. therefore, despite the marketing ploys of both the above (sram have adopted shimano's standard), it is more or less possible to run shimano levers with a campagnolo cassette.
i have no idea as to whether italy and japan talk to each other. no doubt they share a cappuccino at trade shows, but i'd imagine that their development cycles are kept secret at point of origination. there's still that all important market share to be considered. however, there really is little doubt that the differences between the two are as a result of wanting or needing to dominate the marketplace, so far as such is possible.
the same principle would appear to exist when it comes to major road events, even when at the opposite ends of the country. this sunday sees the second edition of ride london, an event that encapsulates not only a sportive for the less professional amongst the pelotonese, but a world tour classic race featuring the cream of the serious end of our sport. but as you will also be aware, the world's premier bike ride in the shape of the ride of the falling rain takes place on islay on the very same day.
now i'm not one to resort to bragadoccio, but the falling rain has been in existence since the mid-nineties, thus surely ought to take precedence in the international calendar over a wholly invented marketing exercise for our over-rated national capital city? and as an example of just how far some teams will go to distance the imagery of a wet bike ride in the hebrides, jlt condor will use the london event to unveil their new team kit.
just how underhand can you get?
according to condor's claire beaumont, "JLT Condor are the first UCI level team to be dressed head to toe by Mavic. Their updated logo and 'La Bande Jaune' (yellow band) debuts on the new kit and will be included in their autumn/winter range." though i have an excellent pair of jlt condor branded bibshorts, this clash of organisation (and it's all their fault) has denied me the opportunity to meet members of the team and view the new team kit which looks like one i'd be happy to add to thewashingmachinepost cycling wardrobe.
i'd have thought that nice man, kristian house would have been better able to prioritise. and just wait till i have words with john herety.
saturday 1 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
several years past, a colleague and i formed port mòr wheelers, a loosely amalgamated group of kids who met at the port mòr centre in port charlotte every saturday morning to ride their bikes. we organised races, obstacle courses, guided trips into the village and a variety of other distractions that might better equip them to enjoy their bicycles while hopefully learning stuff along the way. there was no specific age limit, but the majority were of primary school age and one or two still had stabilisers affixed to their rear wheels.
the latter has been, until recently, the appropriate means of allowing kids to propel themselves at an early age without mum, or more likely, dad breaking their backs holding onto the saddle while junior tried to get the hang of velocipedinal fortitude. however, in the intervening period, an allegedly more intelligent approach to learning to ride a bike has taken centre stage, namely the balance bike.
as many of you may have noted, the perennial problem with stabilisers was their specific design. it is not intended that both stabilising wheels should touch the ground simultaneously, the thinking being that this ought to encourage the little blighters to take responsibility for their own balance. sadly that lies more in the realm of forlorn hope than realistic solution. and that's where the balance bike comes in.
these are usually small but perfecty formed bicycles, featuring mostly 12" wheels, handlebars, saddle and in the case of the frog bikes tadpole a lever actuated set of rear 'v' brakes. the only things missing are a bottom bracket, cranks and pedals. thus junior has the comparative luxury of sitting proudly in the saddle, hands on the handlebars and using both feet to propel him/herself towards various items of furniture as well as parked cars and the flower beds.
my two year-old grandson is in serious danger of being brainwashed by his father into believing that the only outdoor activity worth pursuing is that of football. and in this case, football pertaining to a specific scottish team. mrs washingmachinepost and i are less in favour of this approach and, in our capacity as interfering grandparents, we purchased a frog bikes tadpole team sky edition balance bike. these are, lest you wonder, pretty serious bits of kit, superbly built and finished, yet embarrassingly light enough to prevent our grandson from suffering serious injury should he falter in his efforts to endear himself to the concept of balance.
the sturdy treaded tyres are fitted to a pair of spoked wheels on which the hubs bear hollow axles. while these could conceivably be attached to the dropouts by means of q/r skewers, that would simply mean another potential source of injury, most likely for his mother's ankles. in point of fact, they are firmly secured by means of 5mm allen bolts. on the front pair those are safely augmented by hooked washers that slot into small holes above the dropouts. the frame sports a proper a-headset with a custom sized clamp on stem and a four bolt faceplate to hold the bars in place.
the textured rubber bar grips are secured by means of small allen bolts.
a rear brake is a smooth idea; a sole front edition would likely end in a small face plant if the little boy happens to develop a particularly feisty right hand. the seatpost offers plenty of growth adjustment; grandson is only two years-old - the tadpole was a birthday present from granny and grumps - thus the saddle in its fully down position proved ideal. while he is sat upon the blue centre-striped saddle, both feet can reach the floor flintstones style. in fact, it took him merely minutes to don his waterproof jacket (scottish summers huh?) and wander up and down the section of pavement outside his house.
granted, the idea of balancing seems only to have occurred when his mother started wheeling him between the sitting room and the kitchen. at that point he simply lifted his feet off the ground and made wheeee-like noises. however, it's early days yet; the main thing is that he has acclimatised himself to the thought of the bicycle as being a source of fun, and one that might get from point a to point b marginally quicker than simply walking. transport with a smile.
since returning from my mission of bicycle delivery, i have learned that the tadpole has been wearing its very own track across the laminate flooring, accompanied by a smiling two year-old shouting his own stilted version of 'to infinity and beyond'. i'd figure that to be the beginning of a successful mission, one that might hopefully outdo his father's misconceived soccer influence.
the frog bikes tadpole is available in a variety of finishes other than the team sky version shown. price is a very reasonable £100 considering the quality of the bicycle. this particular bike will not only fend off any bumps and bashes, but probably outlive all of us.
friday 31 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it has rarely happened. almost never have i been sent an item of clothing apparel for review that simply didn't fit. generally speaking, i'm a medium in jackets, jerseys and the like, but small in shorts, bibtights etc. cycling itself is a great leveller, so while the years have passed, the metabolism has slowed and mrs washingmachinepost has subtly increased my portion sizes (at least, that's the way it seems), i have no difficulty in continuing to fit both sizes. in fact, on the odd occasion when i've been inadvertantly sent a size small in a jersey, even those have fitted (if just a smidgeon shorter than desirable).
there is also the distinct advantage, when you're a famous cycling journalist, of being able to phone the appropriate person to ask if a swap might be effected when an error has been made. though there are few, if any cycle clothing providers who will not offer to swap in the event of the customer having ordered the wrong size, when you've spent anything up to a week awaiting delivery of the latest in cycle fashion, it can be soul destroying to discover it doesn't fit, followed by the faff involved in arranging an exchange. that means probably joining the sunday ride wearing last week's jersey.
pain and suffering.
the trouble is, there seems to be little in the way of size comparison between some of the world's major apparel providers. the fact that you can comfortably wear a medium in rapha, does not necessarily mean that you can opt for the same from endura or castelli. granted, if we resort to a finely crafted venn diagram, there's likely to be something of an overlap, but when many of us have little option but to shop online, it would be kind of nice to discover an all but foolproof system for ironing out the irregularities prior to clicking the paypal button.
actually, that day might be a tad closer than you may think.
freda casey, in a worthwhile fit of perspicacious thought has originated the idea of providing a web page into which chest, waist and hips size can be input. these figures are then matched against a database that ultimately shows which brands and size would be the best fit. the sliders shown on the web page allow user input to check how much the numbers (or your figure) would need to be manipulated to effect a decent fit. there's every possibility such a feature could help remove the iniquities involved in buying cycle clothing online.
freda does not, however, profess to have ironed out all the problems. in order to better suit potential users of the site, i have appended two survey links below asking if you figure it's a good idea or otherwise, also providing space for relevant comments.
said freda, "This is just a demo at the moment, showing Brand X as an example. But i hope to develop it to cover all the major brands with the exact sizing detail of each brand i.e. Castelli, Santini, Core, Sportful etc. So the user will be able to see, by the brand that they want, what size, and shape they are for that jersey before they purchase it."
it's a means of bringing that 'trying it on' experience closer to the experience of buying online.
thursday 30 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the three southerly distilleries on islay in close proximity to the village of port ellen are all within one mile of each other over a three mile distance from the village. pretty much within walking or cycling distance. closest to port ellen is laphroaig, then lagavulin and finally, at the end of the chain, our ancestral home at ardbeg. throughout the summer season and quite often at other times of the year, there is a constant stream of mostly foreign whisky aficionados often struggling or staggering along the road in either direction, carrying their expensively gotten gains in appropriately monogrammed carrier bags.
the problem with this until recently has been three distinct speeds along a busy road: walkers, drivers and cyclists. so one or two enterprising individuals, in conjunction with the three distilleries, raised considerable funds to construct an excellent footpath that commences just past port ellen primary school and ends at the 'rest and be thankful' bench at the top of the access road to ardbeg distillery.
prior to the group's presentation to potential funders, i received an e-mail from the chairman asking if i would provide testimony that those of us in the velo club would be happy to use the path as a means of improving safety along this section of road. now, to be quite honest, in principle, i had no problem providing the requested missive; i might even take the 'cross bike along the path sometime soon. however, the (tightly packed) gravel surface hardly lends itself to traversing by colnago or suchlike, and the velo club peloton is more than happy to continue along the road we have ridden for many a long year. we figured that the path was principally to allow walkers to to do so in safety and without interference from lycra-clad insurgents.
which rather brings into question the necessity or otherwise of riding on marked or unmarked cycle paths when such are quite plainly available.
on returning from scotland yesterday, by citylink bus along the shores of loch lomond, i happened to take heed of an appropriately constituted cycle path on the shore side of the road. i know it was at least partially intended for cyclists because at one point i spied a sign stating cyclists dismount. this, in essence, once more brings to mind the conundrum of affixing a sheet of buttered toast to the back of a cat; it will hover in mid-air pretty much forever. for once the bicycle has been dismounted, the cyclist is no longer a cyclist but a pedestrian. and as a pedestrian, the sign no-longer applies and the incumbent is free to re-mount the bicycle. this is what i believe computer programmers would refer to as an infinite loop
however, putting existential meanderings to one-side, only a matter of miles previous to this observation, i had watched a solo cyclist and then a small peloton of three riding the main glasgow to arrochar road. this is a highway that's frequented by large trucks, buses and speeding cars, so the notion of riding a bicycle along a narrow strip of tarmac on the left side of the road rather than along a pleasantly winding, tarmac'd lane offering admirable views of the loch and the scenery beyond, strikes me as something of a no-brainer.
of course, at the weekends there are larger pelotons of club cyclists riding to the transport café at arrochar along the main road. i would willingly admit that the winding lane would be unlikely to offer the cameraderie that a closely knit, speeding peloton would garner on the dual-carriageway. however, there's little doubting the safety factor engendered by the former.
holland, germany and denmark all offer superbly proffered cycle tracks, many of which are compulsory for use by cyclists. the problem over here is the arbitrariness of cycle-lane provision in both what defines such an animal and what options are made to enforce usage.
you've got to admit, asking cyclists to dismount on a track possibly intended for their cycling pleasure is a tad contrary?
wednesday 29 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as an authentic prelude to this coming sunday's ride of the falling rain, the velo club's sortie this past sunday took place in the sort of weather that would be more expected of late autumn/early winter. in fact, one of our number was dressed in a waterproof softshell, bibtights, winter cap and overshoes. he was the sensible one.
the rest of us had opted for normal summer garb, but accessorised with a stowaway rain jacket, one that on this occasion wasn't stowed away. at all.
with fairly hefty north-easterly winds approaching gale force at one point (ah, who'd want to miss summer in the hebrides?), the general consensus was a circumnavigation of loch gorm, taking us out to islay's atlantic coast, before heading inland once more to the safety of hot coffee and cake.
though the city dwellers amongst you would laugh at our consternation, the fact that this is holiday time means a lot more traffic than usual on those single-track roads, though the inclement weather had kept those ruddy great tractors from gathering silage thus easing our ambulatory proceedings. the route decribed above takes us past kilchoman distillery, islay's most westerly and also smallest; it takes the form of a farm distillery.
the daughter of the current owner of the farm on which kilchoman distillery is situated got married on saturday in far brighter and shinier weather conditions. the placement of a large marquee in the farm grounds was intended to play host to a sunday afternoon barbecue, though truthfully, whether that actually happened or not i really have no idea.
large matrimonial proceedings such as this attract a fair number of guests, most of whom it appears, have need of driving large stuff such as range rovers and similarly consitituted four-wheel drive vehicles, all of which seemed hell bent on driving to and fro along the previously mentioned single track road. and this while we pursued coffee along the same windswept, rain-infested road in the opposite direction. i offer no prizes for guessing who ended up stopping at every passing place along the five mile stretch of road.
it's at times like this that conversation often settles on the likelihood of the local police granting total road-closure for the sunday ride in order that we might achieve uninterrupted pedalling. i would imagine the chances are slim to none whatsoever. yet, perhaps such a wish is not as out of the ordinary as you might think.
mobility week 2016, taking place between 16 - 22 september has resulted in (currently) 266 european towns and cities celebrating this event by going car-free for a day. in car obsessed britain, you will be unsurprised to hear that only two locations have decided to participate; lambeth borough in london and aberdeen on scotland's north east coast.
later this week i will be contacting our local community council to see if there is any way islay could be added to this duo, preferably on a sunday morning. mobility week calls on cities and towns to partake in any or all of three measures to boost health, such as the car free day already listed and the less definable a week of significantly boosted activity and a permanent measure.
councillor jennifer braithwaite, environmen and sustainability member for lambeth council said "Getting people out of their cars and using greener transport is a high priority for this council. Roads are public spaces and we are increasingly trying to have them used in better ways than solely for vehicle use."
in our opinion the loch gorm road past kilchoman distillery would benefit from some of the same. and sooner rather than later.
tuesday 28 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................