pretty much every sport or activity has a perceived price of entry. what that means in terms of a diminishing bank balance depends partly on your own perspective, but quite frequently on that of your peer group. for instance, there's little doubt that playing golf with friends or colleagues who have a motorised caddy, a complete set of carbon clubs and a rather neat line in pringle sweaters is going to set you in a highly different frame if you're using borrowed clubs and a howies sweatshirt.
cycling is really no different. it may only take one guy in the sunday peloton to arrive on carbon decorated with electronic gearing and suddenly you're all clamouring to read this week's comic in order to find out just how cheaply you could manage the same on your old steel raleigh. perhaps i exaggerate; most cyclists of my acquaint are perhaps individualistic enough not to let such frivolities bother them to the extent of having a quiet word with the bank manager.
nonetheless, peer pressure aside, there's still a cost involved and often a bit higher than a first look might have led the newbie to believe.
the rather obvious starting point is the need of a bicycle. carbon is not a prerequisite, but to be honest with the efficiencies of far eastern manufacture, it can be cheaper to buy the black stuff than it is to search out steel or aluminium. taking the long-term perspective, if it's carbon you ultimately desire, it might be cheaper in the long run to bite the bullet and start at that point. but no matter the type or state of that first bicycle, suddenly a whole phalanx of opportunities to spend opens up after only a few rides.
for starters, there are few cyclists i know who would be happy riding even a few kilometres without wearing an appropriate pair of padded shorts. or, if weather conditions demand (remember just how many folks get a bike at christmas) perhaps a better choice would be padded tights. couple that with the scarily inept breathability of the average cotton t-shirt or sweatshirt as opposed to a bona-fide cycle jersey and there's a couple more items that it might be prudent to put on the list.
and then there's shoes.
looking back over several of my past reviews of current cycling apparel, there are no jerseys costing less than £110, with shorts or tights often costing considerably more. though i'm expressly discussing the requirements of road cycling, i very much doubt that offroad or cyclocross are any more bank account friendly. in which case, perhaps we ought to be thoroughly grateful that those who have already been there, done that and bought the merino baselayer have raised the profile cycling in the uk well beyond its former obscure status.
for this new found popularity appended to cycle sport in britain, has meant that those outside the box have started to think in terms of two wheels. one of the more recent higher profile adherents is that of german supermarket brand aldi, well-known for their stack 'em high and sell 'em cheap method of retailing. aside from their regular foodstocks which rarely alter, every now and again, aldi feature special buys, promoting items that remain on offer only as long as stocks last.
cycling fits neatly into this category.
i recently received a large cardboard box of aldi promoted cycling items, including the items described here: long-sleeve jersey, windproof cycling tights and a pair of cycling socks. there's no denying the wallet friendly prices, but the latter is of little import if the quality fails to impress. the big boys will not be left shaking in their ivory towers on catching sight of aldi's cycle clothing, but to expect such would be to miss the point. the criteria here is just how good can a jersey priced at under £10 actually be?
as it turns out, it's actually remarkably good, no matter what the cost on the price ticket. on the medium-sized example reviewed, the sleeve length was very well judged, while the quarter length zip was stopped in its tracks by a fully formed zip garage. the capacious three rear pockets are augmented with a fourth zipped security version, all sat above a drop tail. the back features a full length, centred reflective strip, matching one or two on the sleeves to aid visibility.
the jersey is let down a bit by its fit. though i'm a medium in pretty much every brand on the market, i've a notion that an aldi small size might have found greater favour. though i experienced only mild flappage during my velocipedinal excursions, when the rear pockets were filled with a rain jacket, coffee money, compact camera, mini pump and spare pair of gloves, gravity pulled the whole lot far closer to the rear tyre than pragmatism and sartorial elegance would have wished. though size may have been a factor, it would be also true to say that the lack of heft in the polyester fabric seemed every bit as much to blame. you can possibly see that to which i refer from the accompanying photographs.
their winter cycling tights, however, were far more impressionable. though devoid of the more usual bibs that we have come to expect, these were kept in place by an elasticated, drawstring waist. however, what i hadn't expected for the price of only £13.99 (not a misprint), was an italian made seatpad; no need to wear shorts underneath. the front panels are both windproof and water-resistant, perhaps not quite as flexible as i'd have liked, but pretty darned good nonetheless. having gone cyclocrossing by way of providing a more rough and ready test, they remained firmly in place even after a good two hours of scrabbling in the undergrowth and avoiding a post van.
the legs feature calf-length zips on the outer sides, ostensibly to allow pulling on over footwear, but i found i'd to unzip just to get them on over the pair of aldi cycling socks. however, this provides the added advantage of removing any propensity to ripple in the wind. it would be a fib to describe the fit as impeccable; around the knees there was more fabric than i'd have liked, but in mitigation, i have owned far more expensive bibtights that displayed similar features. when in motion, you'd never notice unless you ride always looking down like chris froome.
aldi's cycling socks are of the ankle fit variety, perfectly comfortable and worth every last penny of their £2.99. i also received an excellent quality, long-sleeve baselayer which retails at less than £20, but the current climate, even in the hebrides, is still a tad on the warm side to wear beneath a long-sleeve jersey. too many long-sleeves at one time. however, if we might hypothetically move on a month or so, arriving at the checkout with all four items in your basket would cost you a few pounds less than £45.
perhaps the least attractive feature of aldi's cycling gear is their odd system of offering it for sale only at specific times of the year. currently all the above was available on 24 and 27 september, with the next tranche due this thursday, 1 october. and unless i'm very much mistaken, though all items are detailed on their website (see link below), there seems to be no option to purchase online. if i were you, i'd pop along to your nearest aldi supermarket tomorrow; there's bound to be some stuff still available.
aldi's cycle clothing might not be state of the art, but nor is it deserving of any snobbish derision from the financially better off. there are all sorts of initiatives to get more people on bicycles; this may be one of the most pragmatic and cost-effective i've seen.
i was also sent a bright yellow waterproof jacket and black waterproof overtrousers aimed more at the commuter, a pair of winter gloves, a complete bicycle toolkit in a plastic case which proves excellent value at only £19.99, and a set of bicycle lights. i will be reviewing all these items in the fullness of time, but the oddity of aldi's retailing means thay might not all be available in store at the time.
monday 28 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i believe the hyphenated word i'm looking for is multi-faceted. that would seem an appropriate adjective with which to describe the world of the bicycle. there are so many different points of entry, several of which have little or no chance of meeting those coming from an opposing direction, that even stepping back to better appreciate that which is spread before us can be a challenge all of its own.
though i am happy to concern myself principally with the world of the road bike and one or two proximitous disciplines, i mostly avoid the complex world of bicycle racing, since there are those who handle such matters far better than could i. similarly, the offroad world (apart, of course, from cyclocross), because i feel i have effectively disqualified myself by not having a mountain bike in thewashingmachinepost bike shed. attempting to describe the finer points from such a distant and all but disinterested vantage point would seem hypocritical at best and a tad inquitous at worst.
however, the latter cycling discipline is the very one that has brought me to this particular point of discussion. inducted into the the mountain bike hall of fame as long ago as 1988 and subsequently honoured in a similar manner in 2012 with membership of the united states bicycle hall of fame, tom ritchey is a name that is as comfortably mentioned in the land of skinny tyres as it is in the parallel universe of knobbly rubber. having originally begun his commercial career in cycling by repairing tubular road tyres to earn sufficient dollars to by himself a raleigh super corsa, tom ritchey has become an institution all of his own. benefitting under his father's tutelage on how to build wheels and to braze bicycle frames and spending many hours repairing others' damaged frames, he soon garnered enough confidence to build his own frames. perhaps little known, his first frames were designed for the road.
it is, however, for his early mountain bikes and related escapades that he is perhaps best known, though latterly he has placed his name, reputation and money at the service of team rwanda, having been challenged in 2005 to add the african country to his list of experiences. witnessing the depth of cycling talent that existed in rwanda, he persuaded former professional alex stieda and cycling pioneer, jock boyer to race alongside him in an event designed to celebrate his innovative wooden bicycle. boyer was subsequently recruited by ritchey to help him organise the native talent into team rwanda.
it would be foolish, therefore, to imagine that tom himself spends his spare time beavering in his workshop, handcrafting polished alloy handlebars, stem and seatpost, stitching brown leather saddles with the other hand. however, unusual in this day and age of corporate takeovers, ritchey design still exists as an independent entity in california, producing a comprehensive range of componentry, road and mountain bike frames, many of which still bear the original moniker of ritchey logic.
uk distributors of ritchey products, paligap kindly sent items from the classic range, a wise choice given that all four components (five, if you include the bar tape) have been applied to the steel colnago master. (the phrase 'steel is real' has been attributed to tom ritchey). with a choice of seven different stem lengths matching three widths of a truly classic handlebar, both featuring a polished alloy finish (none of your black anodising here), these are the very components to match modern steel, replete with a traditional bend, beloved of many and the ideal alternative to the various ergonomic options that pepper the contemporary cycle market.
the angling of the four bolts that hold the ritchey monogrammed front plate in place made fitting far easier than some i've experienced, while the cutout allows visual access to bar markings that make centering the bars simplicity itself. allied to this, the ritchey logos on the front of the bars, when aligned to the same logo on the front plate enure the bars are in the optimum position. though the colnago master features a one-inch steerer, i used an alloy shim to accommodate the 1.125" stem.
the 27.2mm ritchey classic seatpost arrived at a surprising 350mm in length. i say surprising because the campagnolo chorus post that it replaced, one that i would also regard as 'classic' is considerably shorter. due to the fluted steel tubing of the colnago, i'd to lop off several centimetres from the bottom of the ritchey post in order that it fitted. the cradle atop the post uses a two bolt fixing, laterally positioned rather than fore and aft. i opted for the brown ritchey classic saddle, as i figured it would match the colnago's molteni orange better than the black alternative. the saddle features a perforated faux leather covering over a plastic frame and steel rails.
colour matched to the saddle, the ritchey bar tape is slightly thicker than the average bar covering and just a smidgeon longer. the latter fact made perfect sense on realising that the box contained none of those smaller pieces usually fitting on the underside of the brake lever clamp. there are, however, two pieces of ritchey logo'd sticky tape to finish the tape at the stem edge, but as always, this was a major faff to fit stylishly. still, as long as i ride quick enough, nobody will ever notice.
it's many a long year since i rode a saddle like this. though ritchey offer a substantial range of saddles that compete with all the oddities on the market, those offering contoured profiles and holes in the middle, riding something that looks as if entrenched in the eighties was quite the revelation. as owner of a bottom that has been pampered every bit as much as any other cyclist, the saddle really didn't look as if made for ultimate comfort, thankfully a total misapprehension. it was only a matter of kilometres into the shakedown ride before i'd all but forgotten it wasn't my usual saddle, and nothing during the remainder of the ride altered that perception.
though i've fitted such polished greatness to a real steel bicycle, i'm pretty sure it would look and work every bit as well on modern, matt black carbon fibre. at a few pounds over £200 for all described above, it seems rather excellent value for money in my opinion, with a heritage that guarantees both quality and style. the colnago is more than happy with its new lease of life, as is its owner.
there truly ought to be a velominati rule that confines all and sundry to handlebars with such a fine traditional bend. eddy would have offered his wholehearted approval.
ritchey classic stems are available in lengths ranging from 70mm to the reviewed 130mm at a price of £55;. ritchey classic bars are available in three widths (40/42/44cm) priced at £42. the classic seatpost is only available in a 350mm length, but in 27.2/30.9/31.6mm diameter, retailing at £50. the classic saddle can be had in either brown or black at a price of £44 and the black or brown matching bar tape retails at £17.
sunday 27 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i would generally consider myself reasonably adept when it comes to mechanical duties around the bike shed. for instance, later this week i shall be removing a pair of ergopower levers from the colnago's handlbars in preparation for replacing bars and stem with review items. i will, it is fair to say, show no fear when it comes to the crunch, even as far as wrapping the new bars with fresh tape. i am more often than not the designated oracle as to the source of extraneous and undesired noises heard in the core of the peloton, though as with many a consultant, any advice i might sparingly dispense is not always acted upon.
this is not an isolated state of affairs. several years ago, when acting as the island's session drummer for a charity cd recording, my hi-hat cymbals were being recorded at a louder volume than that of the snare. in musical terms, that's not the way the world is supposed to be. so in order to solve the situation, one not being actively under consideration by the sound engineer, i contacted a friend of mine who is not only an excellent drummer, but a similarly qualified record producer to ask his advice.
armed with the very solution i was sure would work, i carefully explained and demonstrated that which i had been told, only to receive the reply (from a fellow with no qualifications or prior experience of sound engineering), "that's not how you do it."
c'est la vie.
such clear and present dangers, however, do not prevent me from stepping in to repair items that have no affinity whatsoever with the velocipedinal milieu. such as the cold water tap in my bathroom. one of the children under the care of mrs washingmachinepost tends to be a tad brusque when it comes to washing his hands. thus the lever to turn on the water has gradually become looser and looser over the past month or so, to the point where it came off in my hand the other night. only lightning fast reflexes on my part (you weren't there, so don't quibble) prevented a very small grub screw from disappearing down the plughole.
fortunately, and i'm pretty sure it's not what they had in mind when sending, bramley's cooke components had recently delivered a cleverly constituted, thirteen function vel multi-tool with the very 2.5mm allen key with which i expertly footered until the tap once more worked like new.
but, i hear myself saying, multi-tools, even those with thirteen appendages, are pretty much ten-a-penny (well £34.99 if truth be told) these days, and even the most mechanically recalcitrant member of the pelotonese has one squirreled away somewheres abouts. even those that have no idea how to use them, mostly because they're small enough to fit in a rear pocket or a seat pack and you need to have one, right?
also small enough to fit in a rear pocket is one of those little mini-pumps, the tiny blighters that will turn you into schwarnold arzenegger over the course of a half hour session with a repaired inner tube. the smarter money, however, is on leveraging the power of carbon dioxide gas by way of a little bomb-like cylinder of the stuff secreted about your person. but even the smallest of co2 pumps are not that much more dinky than an ordinary mini-pump. but the thirteenth tool on the vel mutli-tool undermines any of the previously mentioned iniquities via a cunningly crafted adaptor that attaches itself to the 8mm allen key. simply thread in a co2 canister once the adaptor is attached to the valve and light the blue touch paper (metaphorically speaking) using the micro adjustable nozzle.
once done, the 8mm key with adaptor still attached folds flat inside the tool. and while you're there, should there be any other unwell parts of the bicycle, the other twelve tools incorporate 2/2.5/3/4/5/6/8mm allen keys, a flat head screwdriver, cross head screwdriver and t10 and t25 torx keys. hopefully the accompanying photos will give an idea of just how compact and bijou this well-made vel tool actually is.
and if you ever have to fix the bathroom tap, put the plug in the wash-hand basin to stop the grub screw disappearing down the plughole. and don't forget that little blue plastic cold water indicator that has to be nudged out to allow access to the aforementioned grub screw.
friday 25 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in the late 1980s, mountain biking was the rising star, helping pull the ailing bike trade from the depths of despair. suddenly there were new and, at the time, relatively innovative machines that could be sold not only to those who had only ever experienced drop bars, but to an emerging market that had no idea it was there in the first place. up till that point, touring bikes were the only recipients of three front chainrings married to a set of sprockets that ended in a dinner plate. a bit like the current vogue for people carriers with four-wheel-drive. though few of either ever saw/see the wrong side of a farm gate the attraction of being able to head into the hills on a set of tyres that promised magnet-like traction was, for many, too great to resist.
though i'd been a cyclist since just before entering double age digits, i became a part of the nuovo scrabblers with the purchase of a muddy fox courier, parting with even more cash via the never-ending stream of new geegaws and widgets described with glee in each month's mbuk.
the road bike market, still pretty much in the doldrums even in the early nineties was home to the less entrepreneurial, if i might use such a term. the fact that a set of campagnolo components fastened to a reynolds steel frame was set to last a lifetime, or at least until something wore out was pretty much as designed. mountain biking changed all that.
possibly the first encroachment from the dark-side was the aheadset, originally invented to allow the offroad community to adjust their headsets without carrying two rather large spanners which, to be honest, were of little use for any other purpose. the aheadset was sold to us all on the basis of lower weight, but with one or two exceptions, that was not truthfully always the case. the list is now a great deal longer than a simple headset improvement.
the current situation will appeal greatly to those of at least a reasonable depth of pocket and who welcome new trinketry with wide-open arms. but it can also raise the ire and cynicism of those who figure it's akin to the emperor's new clothes.
me, for instance.
if i might use as a well-worn example, let's take disc brakes on road bikes. i'm sure i've made my feelings perfectly plain on the subject, and rest assured, i've no intention of revisiting each twist and turn on this particular page. but it now transpires that overheating of the disc can result in portions of fork leg carbon beginning to melt. so, in order to mitigate against the horrors this could engender, alloy fins have been crafted to ensure localised cooling of brakes that we most likely do not need in the first place.
i believe the words you're looking for are 'wtf'?
the last time i attended the national cycle show, it was still being held in london's earls court. the overarching recollection of that final london show was of a sea of carbon fibre that could pretty much only be separated by minor variations in applied colour schemes. innovation cannot continue unabated for ever, but marketing requires that there is something new to sell every year, ultimately creating a bit of an impasse.
it's an impasse that old fuddy duddies like me use to fill several thousand pixels, moaning about the current impasse that afflicts the bicycle industry. as my friend richard sachs would say at this point according to my opinion.
britain's national cycle show follows on from eurobike and interbike where many of next year's new products will already have been shown and announced. i would defend to the hilt a need for all of the aforementioned exhibitions, but combine that with my inalienable right not to attend. at the risk of being heretical and hypocritical, based on the fact that i spend much of my time writing about that which i have just disparaged, i rather enjoyed the days when steel was real and groupset design lasted longer than twelve months.
and those days were also mercifully free of disc brakes.
friday 25 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
cyclocross loves me.
all around are those with practised skills in the art of dismounting, leaping aboard a moving bicycle, bunnyhopping and running effortlessly with a 'cross bike over one shoulder. i, on the other hand, have none of these attributes. my dismounts are fraught with the left cleat remaining attached to the crank bros. pedal, re-mounts verge on the hilarious, bunnyhopping hurts my arms and the less running involved in the process the better.
i am cyclocross' object of revenge. something of an easy target most would say and i'd find it hard to refute that aspersion.
yet, in a manner bearing a strange kinship to the average status quo fan, i cannot stop battering my head off a brick hurdle. i desperately want to be regarded as a bona-fide cyclocross rider, one to whom the rabbits in bridgend woods look up to, a husband whose wife can now turn a deaf ear to one more aspect of velocipedinal life. not that she cares much, but in the nicest possible way.
with that in mind and despite having watched jeremy powers' cyclocross camp movie more times than i've watched the original indiana jones film, i'd still embarrass a class of total beginners. however, any excursion on the ibis hakkalugi to thunder through flocks of disparate sheep and herds of ruminating cattle, ringing my alexander graham bell to clear the way brings a smile to the visage that would vye with that of a flurry of paradiddles on a dw classics snare drum.
and that's quite a lot.
the problem is one of fastidiousness. that jeremy powers movie explains clearly and patiently just how to practice both dismounts and re-mounts, yet everytime i leave the croft, intent on adhering to each and every instruction, enthusiasm gets the better of me and i just play at the bits i can do. like pedalling. to my mind, that probably means i am in need of a greater level of protection than the riders on which cyclocross does not exact its revenge. the lucky blighters.
rapha's previous years' cyclocross kit has mostly inhabited the world of sportwool, but perhaps in view of its growing importance in the competitive world, the stakes have been raised to pro-team level. in the process, the bib-threequarters have seemingly gone the way of the dodo. they will be missed, by me at least. now incorporating a skinsuit (popular with the pros and those better than i) and short sleeve jersey with probably the finest interpretation of the red and blue colour scheme, i opted to satisfy my predilection for long sleeves and opt for the third variation of pro-team kit.
and what a pair of long-sleeves, if you will excuse the exclamation. i'm sure i need not reiterate my total love for this style of jersey, but considering the amount of energetic and largely incompetent faffing on and off a 'cross bike in which i force myself to indulge, a pair of sleeves that remain firmly in place around the wrists and shoulders should immediately be taken home and introduced to your parents.
and while i'm in the shoulder region, this particular area has been reinforced to laugh in the face of an incorrectly sited top tube. this is probably the bit i have the greatest difficulty with; i can shoulder the bike sure enough, but i can never remember whether the right arm ought to fit under the top tube or the downtube. conjoined with the knowledge that i will most likely miss the handlebar entirely and you can see why rapha found it necessary to introduce even subtle reinforcing.
unlike the previous long-sleeve 'cross incumbent, a jersey that had but one large zipped rear pocket, the 2015 pro-team example has the regulation three rear pockets, augmented with a small internal zipped version. cyclocrossers need coffee money too, you know.
the association between imperial works and team sky has obviously paid great dividends, even for the wannabe cyclocrosser. aside from the impeccable fit and the previously mentioned and lovingly crafted long sleeves, the fabric is not only of a breathable persuasion, but of a heavier weight than that worn by chris froome near the top of a few french mountains. of course, there's nothing other than the label that pays tribute to its affinity with the undergrowth, so riding out with the sunday morning peloton works every bit as well as does inaccurate scrabbling in the mud.
the modern way of the cyclist demands adherence to the corporate image, as prescribed by velominati rule number 17. though this is principally concerned with the non-wearing of team kit by those of us not in a team, we are advised that if we absolutely have to wear it, mismatching of shorts and jersey will be seriously frowned upon. though strictly speaking, rapha's cyclocross kit does not confer team membership upon the wearer, it does sort of demand that at least socks and cap are of similar hue.
the former, i'm please to say, are of the mid-calf length variety. a short skittery section leading down towards islay woollen mill has, over the years, become partially concealed by encroaching foliage, some of which has a distinct propensity to scratch at bare legs. though i agree riding through such undergrowth risks catching the yarn on the way through, i figure it's worth it. naturally enough, heels and toes are thankfully reinforced while the top seems built from a cooling mesh of sorts.
and if i have to point out the necessity for a matching rapha supercross casquette, then you're reading the wrong blog.
thursday 24 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
a friend of mine, far better versed in the whys and wherefores of efficient garment design than i will ever be, once pointed out the efficacy of cooling oneself via the wrists and forearms. though pretty much every jersey and jacket on the market at least slightly underlines the importance of zippered neck enclosures to exhale excess heat, it turns out that they lied.
well, sort of.
assuming everyone on a bicycle has a similar physiology to my own, have you ever noticed that, as the calories disappear and the heart-rate goes up, the result of using up all that stored energy is at least partially converted to heat? and, yet again, assuming we inhabit the same grovel space, it's more often than not that the first area to feel that heat is the arms.
it's the very reason why i recently declared my undying love for long-sleeve jerseys. though that may sound slightly contrary, in the speedily approaching days when it becomes necessary to don a rainjacket for either warmth or waterproofing, any naked arms are going to feel awfully clammy inside that breathable membrane. as i have been telling you all for ages, long-sleeves are your best friends.
but, and it's precariously close to being a very big but, on the days when precipitation is but a distant memory as you lead out the sprint train nearest to the coffee stop, any excess heat generated in the process can be cast to the wind more efficiently and with far better result if you simply roll up the sleeves a centimetre or two. if we concern ourselves solely with aerodynamics (with which the bicycle industry at large is currently obsessed), a flapping collar is far more iniquitous than an exposed portion of hairy forearm.
why not try this at home?
however, at the risk of stating the obvious, there are those amongst us who think mark cavendish is the conseravtive mp for nuneaton. not for them the rigours of choosing just the right climbing gear, or fathoming just what is meant by a sticky bottle. these are velocipedinists for whom the bicycle is transport; a sedate leisure activity to be enjoyed with mrs and the kids on sunday afternoons, the greener and more efficient alternative to having a four-wheeled money pit in the driveway.
it may be that we have become so wrapped up in our pro-continental demeanour that we have forgotten a) that such folks exist b) that we might actually be counted as amongst their number and c) commuting/leisure riding can be every bit as heat-inducing as weekend pelotonic activity. a further optional condition is a possible desire to appear not as a refugee from the movistar or katusha team when eventually sat in the library or reception desk. in other words, sartorial policy may mitigate against sponsors' logos.
the fine folks at vulpine headquarters have these very interests at heart, keen to offer their carefully researched expertise to the great unwashed (that's a euphemism for you and me). aware that we may need to retain body warmth and a certain level of visibility in traffic, coupled with a an almost obsessive desire not to become hot and sweaty in the process, they have removed the sleeves from their renowned quilted jacket and presented us with a quilted gilet (which i assume, is french for jacket with the sleeves missing).
the example residing in washingmachinepost croft is of the distinctly visible genre in an almost rabobank orange with hard wearing grey shoulder panels to take the strain from necessary shoulder straps. it weighs almost nothing at all, yet offers a cosiness that borders on the really cosy. i'll willingly admit that the review period has not been filled with chills, but on riding to the nearby gaelic college for a jazz festival gig, cosy was definitely the first word that sprung to mind. the high collar was more than welcome on the return pedal with a hebridean chill in the air.
on each and every commuting opportunity on the taurus corinto, coupled with just a few infernally combustion powered trips that included a vintage marine pearl drumset, the lack of sleeves confirmed my friend's advice about forearm induced cooling. the gilet features a thin, yet deep pocket at bottom right, a zipped internal pocket and two deep, zipped handwarmer pockets just where you'd expect them to be. oddly, there's no hidden pocket into which it might be scrunched when not being worn; it's certainly light enough, though i admit i made no concerted attempt to see just how small i could fold it.
the orange fabric (it's also available in a petrol blue) is impressively windproof and on a damp return from bridgend, the water-resistance was more than welcome. though it's a close fit and almost slightly restrictive around the bum due to its generous length, the cut is not that which demands to be worn aboard the colnago c40. and nor was it meant to.
there are far more opportunities to wear a thermal gilet in day to day existence than you'd think, both on and off the bike. and this is undoubtedly one of the best fits for pretty much all those occasions. the price of £119 recommends it well to the majority of wallets, as indeed the sizing range (xs to xl) ought to fit pretty much everyone on a bicycle.
and one or two pedestrians.
wednesday 23 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i have begun not to take my own advice when it comes to matters of transmission. this advice was based entirely on a set of numbers (gear inches) that it took me some time to comprehend when expounded by richard ballantyne in the eponymous richard's bicycle book, a copy of which i'm sure still survives in the hall cupboard behind mrs washingmachinepost's kiddy toys and drawing materials. though i do not plan to enter the mundane by listing the numbers produced by matching two front chainrings with (in my case) ten sprockets at the rear, i feel certain you'll catch the drift of my original advice to me and any other hapless individual found to be within earshot.
though component and groupset manufacturers are keen to have us believe that ten multiplied by two results in twenty, when it comes to gearing, that's not strictly true. one reason for this are the numbers; in order for there to be relatively smooth transitions both on the way up and the way down, at least two or three combinations result in very close overlaps. since the idea of gearing is to promote a regular cadence, this is almost bound to occur.
reason number two is of more mechanical concern. though our bicycle chains have become more flexible over the years, all the better to ease access to an ever growing number of sprocket teeth at the rear, it still stretches mechanical credibility just a smidgeon to run the big ring/big sprocket combination and small ring, small sprocket combo. doing so on a regular basis will wear the chain at a far quicker rate than would be the case if left in as near a straight line as possible.
it's why the days of the single speed or sturmey archer were far kinder to our links, since they had no real requirement to move in a lateral motion at any point in their careers.
however, on a relatively recent, all-day bike ride with others who were, in the main, a bit faster than me, the main protagonists seemed never to change out of the big ring. in an effort to keep that narrow rear tyre in my increasingly tunnel vision, i figured i might do likewise; on a compact chainset it did not seem a hamstring injury too far.
perhaps the worst part is that it soon becomes a habit, very much against my better judgment and seemingly largely ineffective against the impressive spinning technique of the mighty dave t. i am a frequent lubricator if that doesn't sound like too much information. either after each ride or before the subsequent outing, i degrease the chain and re-lube with a single drop on each link. any excess is wiped away prior to clipping in.
but is it just possible that the warning against the big ring/big sprocket combination is just an old wives' tale (always assuming old wives rode carbon fibre with compact chainsets)? investigating the actuality of the situation while heading to debbie's for sunday froth strikes me as being a bit of an accident waiting to happen. i have every faith in looking forward as the sprint point heads into view, rather than riding into the back of a wandering cow.
thankfully, the onus on observing such matters really has nothing to do with either you or me, for the far cleverer folks at muc-off have our best interests at heart.
their disappointingly named c.l.o.d. (chain lube efficiency dynamometer) has now gained the added genius of a three-dimensional scanned and printed teamy sky time-trial bike: the pinarello bolide. using this to replay real data allows the muc-offs to assess power savings gained across any race stage, measuring any efficiencies that might arise between gear ratios.
i know this is hardly specific to the problem outlined above, but on the basis that the professionals, safe in the knowledge that they get new chains every five minutes, feel no compunction to change gear in anything like a mechanically efficient fashion, the muc-offs will either confirm or deny the old wives' tale or develop lubes that will lessen the adverse effect.
long gone are the days when i lifted a grubby three-in-one oil can from the shelf in dad's shed and applied its contents to the chain on my sturmey-archer equipped raleigh twenty. i'm pretty sure that adopting a similar lubrication regime with muc-off's hydrodynamic lube would not have me ascend the steps of the champs elysées podium, but if it keeps my cadence smooth when riding gears that i really shouldn't, then who am i to argue?
tuesday 22 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................