it appears that the electrical bicycle or e-bike is beginning to gain a higher profile than was initially the case. though such a machine is certainly not for me, i can see the attraction for those who may wish to experience the scenery from the saddle of a bicycle but are incapable of self-propelling themselves so to do. and the assistance provided by an electric motor may also help the slightly infirm to get to and from the shops as well as return with a tad more weight than they left with.
however, i have long maintained that the marketing of such bicycles has seemed to be potentially misdirected. granted, i have not yet come across an advertisement for an e-bike in the pages of procycling, cycle sport or rouleur, but that is a scarcely likely scenario given the demographic and particular enthusiasm of their respective readerships. however, the more all-encompassing cycle publications would appear to be fair game when it comes to such marketability.
to me at least, the great joy of the bicycle is being self-propelled, with no dependence on mains electricity or battery power. even the temporary elation of scrabbling breathlessly to the top of even a mildly sloping roadway seems vastly preferable to simply twisting a handlebar grip to best an accompanying peloton. such velocipedes are, i'd imagine, more akin to mopeds and scooters than bicycles.
i did have the dubious privilege of testing just such a machine a year or so ago on behalf of the local leisure centre who had purchased one with received grant money. with no-one else available at the time, i covered a good couple of dozen miles on the verisimilitude of a mountain bike (complete with front suspension) that weighed in at 32kg. attempting to climb a modest slope without the aid of the motor was an undertaking i'd prefer not to repeat.
however, such technology, like pretty much anything else inhabiting the world of electronics, has become smaller, more efficient and undoubtedly cheaper. a more wholesale adoption of the e-bike would surely receive the economic advantages of larger production numbers. economics tends to work that way.
the first bike i reviewed several years ago fitted with shimano's first generation of di2, featured a clumsy looking battery sited in a bracket mounted on the seat tube. currently, a more efficient, smaller battery can be secreted inside a seatpost. and if the battery can be miniaturised in this manner, how simple can it be to operate that in conjunction with an electric motor of similar proportions? one that sits inside a seat tube and acts upon a bottom bracket spindle by means of an helical gear at right angles to the plane of motion.
such devices have been strongly hinted at ever since fabian cancellara rode away from tom boonen more than once in the spring classics several years back. of course, accusing cancellara of hiding a motor in his frame was most likely more an expression of incredulity, but our governing body were perhaps more keen to disprove mechanical doping before conjecture became reality. with the ease of producing a carbon frame substantially below the uci's arbitrary lower weight limit, the addition of a battery and motor would not necessarily prove too much of an iniquity in the heat of battle.
the fact that the uci have apparently impounded a bicycle ridden by a 19 year-old female belgian cyclocrosser at zolder on saturday in the belief that mechanical doping has taken place, is something of a surprise. whereas regular doping can be practised by an individual without the tacit knowledge of their team, it seems highly unlikely that a team bicycle with a concealed electric motor could slip past a team mechanic and thus the manager or directeur sportif. particularly at national level.
in the case under discussion, i should imagine everyone is in the process of denying everything. apparently the rider's father has been quoted as stating the bike was borrowed, remained in the pit and was not actually used in the race. i'm sure willy voet used much the same sort of excuse when caught with a car full of pharmaceuticals in 1998. "but nobody has actually used any of it - yet."
i cannot deny that there have been occasions when the assistance of such would have been most welcome, particularly being one of advancing years. but fitting one to a race bike, employed or otherwise, simply isn't cricket.
and while we're on the subject of cyclocross, congratulations to sven nys on his fourth place in the elite men's race at zolder. enjoy your retirement.
monday 1 february 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
according to the meteorological office, the logic behind applying names to incoming (mostly) atlantic storms is to highlight the onset of bad weather that may, or may not, cause structural or even personal damage. apparently, in our increasingly anthropomorphised existence, we are more likely to pay attention to any weather warnings if they appear more human. i'd like to point out to those at the met. office who originated this rather suspect strategy, that it really isn't working at all.
we in the hebrides suffered the iniquities of storm gertrude in the early hours of friday morning, with winds that continued throughout the day causing calmac to cancel all ferries to and from islay and several other places further north. but i must admit that i was only first aware that this was a named area of low pressure on listening to the weather forecast on friday morning. because while i would not wish to appear any more blasé than usual, winds and rain of this purported velocity (islay airport recorded a gust of 73mph early friday morn) have been reaching these shores in every year that mrs washingmachinepost and i have lived here.
now, however, somebody has decided to give them a name.
the biggest inconvenience caused by the cancellation of the day's ferries is not the lack of bread or of the mail delivery, but the missing newspapers. there are a considerable number of individuals on islay and many another hebridean isle whose day is devastatingly ruined by the lack of a daily newspaper. this may be one of the few remaining bastions in which the alleged demise of the printed word is still several decades distant.
it is rare that these storms (yet another recent apellation; we still refer to them as gales) last for only one day, and true to form, the aftermath of gertrude lasted well into saturday and, as we all know, saturday is cycling day, briefly interrupted only by coffee, double egg roll and mrs washingmachinepost's christmas cake at debbie's for lunch.
i am nothing if not stoic in my resolve to be out on the bike no matter how wet, windy or cold it may be outside. rules five and nine are my watchwords, if you catch my drift. however, occasionally circumstances dictate that, in order to retain a firm grasp on life and limb, heading south on uiskentuie strand in search of caffeine is most certainly not in my best interests. that was pretty much the state of affairs on saturday.
though the ferries were running more or less to schedule, there were one or two alterations to the afternoon timetable, but still the wind and heavy hail showers persisted. it's hard to argue that cycling of one form or another ought still to take place, which is exactly where the opportunity to cyclocross fitted the bill.
my preferred location for the latter, as i have mentioned on oh, so many occasions, is bridgend woods, formerly the stately grounds of islay house. the mere three miles between here and there proved the only risky part of my cunning plan, particularly on the return trip when the roadside ditch almost had a visitor on more than a single occasion. in the woods, you'd have been forgiven for being unaware of any inclement weather, apart from the odd smattering of hail on the muddy puddles.
no doubt i would appear far more clever in my choice of cycling genre if i could honestly say that i had planned the ridley's outing to coincide with the world cyclocross championships. granted, i did return in time to lunch just prior to watching the women's elite race at zolder, but in truth, my retreat to the woods was purely in order that i get out on the bike at all.
for those who race 'cross, i need not inform of the cardiovascular benefits of hurtling along rutted pathways and dense undergrowth to the best of one's ability. the same benefits are applicable to the less than competitive, simply at lower speed and perhaps a tad less surefooted on the corners. but ultimately, the benefits this particular weekend were entirely centred around my getting out on the bike while the met office was thinking of an appropriate name beginning with the letter 'h'
sunday 31 january 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the subject of artificial intelligence has been much to the fore recently, specifically related to modern software developments, but also to the advent of so-called driverless cars. the latter, if rumour is to be believed, is currently under development at apple computer, the rumours based purely on one or two patents and domain names registered by the cupertino behemoth recently, along with the alleged recent recruitment of a not inconsiderable number of motor engineers. even tesla cars owner, elon musk, figures apple are soon to announce a motor car and there is much current speculation as to what form the final vehicle will take (should it ever appear).
but my concern with artificial intelligence takes, as you would surely suppose, a far more superficial aspect as an example. in the movie i robot, will smith drives a particularly futuristic audi sports car featuring spherical wheels. quite how these are attached to the chassis to allow almost 360 degree steering, i know not, but then nor can i figure out the practicalities of the new favoured droid in the latest star wars movie.
on arriving at the headquarters of the fictional u.s. robotics corporation, smith exits his audi, leaving it dormant outside the building entrance. as he walks in, a robot arm collects his car, pulling it into a substantial, concealed parking lot, tipping it vertically for storage. aside from the iniquity of this manner of parking, one which would surely deposit all manner of lost coins, sweet wrappers and all manner of other accumulated detritus into the driver's footwell, that surely won't look at all good when retrieving the car from its technologically advanced car park.
bicycles, on the other hand, occupy far less space than even will smith's compact and bijou, yet sporty audi. the disappointing fact that often offends the eyes and sensibilities of pedestrians and drivers alike, is the often haphazard manner in which bicycles are left. those of you resident in london town will be more than familiar with signs on wrought iron railings advising that bicycles left padlocked and unattended will be unceremoniously removed. even the sculpted bicycle racks peppered around many city centres can become eyesores due to careless parking or bicycles having been knocked from their perches.
japan, ever at the forefront of pretty much everything you can think of, has featured the ecocycle robot cycle parking system, developed by tokyo based giken, for the last 14 years. now it seems that london may become the second city in the world to receive the very same opportunity to have robots park their commuters' bicycles. that's if property consultant nick knight gets his way. knight has finally secured an exclusive uk licence and a prototype unit constructed by london's apex lifts.
storing up to 204 bicycles, the system merely requires a fork-mounted transponder and the inevitable smartcard. the bicycle is placed on a slotted rack and assuming all is in order with the card, a robot arm grasps the bicycle by the front wheel, pulls it inside and deposits it in the nearest available slot. getting it back on return merely reverses the process. apparently leaving accessories such as bags or lights attached to the bike is quite acceptable.
because an ecocycle unit occupies what i believe property developers would refer to as a small footprint, there's probably far less of a problem gaining appropriate space on which to site one, or perhaps several. in fact, mr knight has pointed out that it is even possible the units could be buried underground, minimising any potential line of sight problems.
presumably if the ecocycle setup is succesful in the country's capital, its use will spread to other cities and urban conurbations throughout the land. in the light of the uk's ever-expanding interest in cycling (cycling in london is currently growing at ten percent year on year) there's going to be a increasing requirement to find somewhere safe and tidy to park our bicycles.
just make sure you avoid those driverless cars on the way to a parking spot.
thanks to bikebiz.com for this article's origination.
saturday 30 january 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
a good few years ago, while still occupying my spare time performing as the drummer in a blues band, we played a gig in a large islay barn, splitting the musical credits with a local ceilidh band. while this might seem somewhat of a strange mix, this is an island where such matters are viewed as far more acceptable. by prior arrangement the accordions and fiddles opened the evening's proceedings, before we presented our carefully honed set, leading to a couple of high energy blues renditions just prior to the break.
all went pretty much according to plan, the final tune leaving an ever so slightly inebriated audience ready for more of the same in the second half. unfortunately and unbeknownst to us, the ceilidh band had decided to fill the silence with a few scottish dance tunes which, with due respect, killed the atmosphere stone dead.
according to the website for superbowl 50 there are nine days, several hours, minutes and seconds until february 7, when the denver broncos take on the carolina panthers for this year's trophy. the game returns to the levis stadium in san francisco's bay area, as an annual event that has become almost as famous for its half-time show as for the football itself. disappointingly, the thousands of fans intending to clamour noisily for both the game and their favourite team are likely to find themselves in the same state of suspension as the occupants of the islay barn when the half-time break is filled with the 'music' of coldplay.
you can almost sense the anti-climax nine days out.
it's a situation that surely ought not to afflict attendees of this weekend's cyclocross world championships at heusden-zolder. unlike the race to the superbowl, the uci world's is not as the result of a knockout competition and there will also be a tad more than two teams competing. however, the important difference between both the uci world championship series and that of the super-prestige is that just like the olympics, commonwealth games and road world championships, the riders will discard their trade team jerseys for those of their respective countries.
given that both belgium and holland seem the natural home of the sport, unless something really suprising occurs, there's every likelihood of a mixture of the above filling most of the top ten places. though 'cross appears to have experienced something of a rennaissance in the uk and occupies the upper tiers of the velocipedinal psyche in north america, despite the efforts of britain's ian fields and american national champion, jeremy powers, neither are likely to impede the progress of the dutch and the belgians.
also unlike the format of the super bowl, the cyclocross worlds is spread across two days: junior men, women's under 23 and elite women will have the opportunity to churn the mud in advance of the men's under 23 race on sunday morning and the elite men on sunday afternoon. also unlike america's football game, the 'cross worlds won't be broadcast all across the nation. at least not unless you live in one of the dominant countries.
happily, and almost in direct contradiction of the criticism normally meted out against the sport's ruling body, the uci have initiated their very own youtube channel. this means that, since the self-styled home of cycling appears not to be offering live coverage (there are highlights late on sunday eve), those of us adhering to richard sachs' acronym, cfr, can sit down with some curly chips and a glass of creamola foam on both saturday and sunday to enjoy the mudfest.
whether you listen to coldplay on your headphones is between you and you conscience.
friday 29 january 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the county of argyll and bute, of which islay is a part, reputedly has the longest coastline in scotland, one for which the our allegedly cash-strapped council is responsible. add to this the fact that there are a not insignificant number of islands under the same umbrella and it's not too hard to see that the governance of the region is perhaps a tad more financially and logistically difficult than those responsible for more landlocked regions.
however, it takes only a close look at a map of japan, for example, to note that in comparison, argyll and bute council have it pretty easy. that said, the albeit far larger population of this far eastern agglomeration of isles and islets seems a bit better organised in terms of transportation than are we. calmac's lifeline service to all of scotland's western islands does deserve to receive praise for often continuing to sail in high seas, even though our morning sailings were cancelled on monday of this past week due to blustery weather.
the cursory look at japan's coastline mentioned above, would very quickly make it plain that the number of sporadic little islands on the southern regions close to south korea, would require a substantial number of admittedly small boats to satisfy transport requirements. however, japan's geographical advantage over that of scotland is the proximity of one small island to another. this has allowed the japanese to build a series of bridges linking at least eight islands, a 159.4 kilometre toll route known as the shimanami kaido or nishiseto expressway.
renowned traveller, jacob laukaitis hired a less than world-tour standard bicycle, and over the course of two days, cycled the route from end to end. that in itself, is perhaps of little note to the adventure seekers amongst us; nigh on 160 kilometres is just a smidgeon less than 100 miles, considerably more than the velo club peloton cover on the sunday morning ride before coffee. but what we've never done (for which you ought to be eternally grateful) is to film our (lack of) short distance progress through the highways and byways of our very own little island.
jacob, however, did precisely that, but in a quirky manner that is as addictive as it is short.
including stops he was "pedalling eight to ten hours per day". as can be seen from the video, the bicycle was bereft of any form of drop bars, completely eschewed any carbon fibre whatsoever and was more akin to that normally used for brief shopping trips. "I'm not really sure what brand the bike was, as I rented it just for this trip. One thing's for sure; it was not suited for a trip of this kind."
despite not considering himself to be a 'regular' cyclist, laukatis said he enjoys going for a spin every now and again, especially when visiting new vistas. "The weather was pretty good for the trip. It wasn't too hot and the sun wasn't blazing into my eyes. The scenery might have looked better with a clearer sky but that wasn't a problem.".
basically, the shimanami kaido route connects the honshu and shikoku islands via several smaller ones. for those who may have dabbled with video on their own, i need not point out that usually more footage is left on the cutting room floor, than appears on you tube. keenly aware of this, jacob laukatis has taken this almost to an extreme to provide us with just over three minutes of delightful, far eastern travelogue with a lot of bridges and japanese writing on the road, a link to which is printed below.
all this and a basket on the front; it makes some of us look particularly lethargic.
thursday 28 january 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
do you remember the days when we had money? i'm not referring to the healthy balance that presented itself on opening the monthly bank statement (yet another opportunity for nostalgia) before some of us had kids and a mortgage, but when coins jingled and notes rustled in our pockets. the days when you would walk into the newsagents of a thursday morning, pick up your weekly copy of the comic and hand over real cash money.
aside from the regularly posted bank statements, it was relative simplicity to keep tabs on your personal spending power. this was based entirely on how much money you had (or didn't have) in your pocket, for in the days to which i refer, plastic that substituted for ready cash was yet to be invented. granted, credit cards existed, but these were rarely used for such simple matters as purchasing two brown rolls for lunch, the aforesaid copy of cycling weekly and perchance, an individual bottle of san pellegrino. credit cards were more likely to find themselves on the receiving end of a bill for a colnago c40hp or maybe a jazz-sized drum workshop maple drumset.
nowadays, cash would appear to be on its way out as a means of financial exchange. if you've ever listened to the business news on radio four's the today programme, you will be every bit aware as i that money has become an end in itself, rather than the means to an end we mistakenly thought it to be. debit cards with little shiny squares can seemingly wholly undermine the palaver made over the secureness of chip 'n' pin. and more recently the amazingly quick adoption of apple pay seems intent on sending couns and notes the way of the dinosaurs that modern society apparently believes them to be.
oddly enough, this apparently perpetual development of contemporary payment methods seems not to have shortened the length of time necessary to queue at our local averagemarket. i've yet to manage a successful contactless payment and bereft as i am of an iphone, apple pay has not impinged on my spendthriftness one iota. much of the time, i am still enough of a luddite to walk the streets of bowmore listing to one-side, weighed down by an inordinate number of pound coins in my jacket's leftmost pocket.
of course, if there's an upside to all this, there's also a downside; keeping track of each purchase, however minor, has become arguably a harder task to maintain. i'm not an adherent of online-banking, so i have not experienced the potential joys of keeping track of a myriad of different micro payments represented by fountains of decimalised numbers. but should you have found this to resemble a morass of meaningless, yet frightening digits, santander have recently released a free smartphone app, rather ineptly entitled in my opinion, spendlytics.
this little piece of software that resides on your phone (android or apple), speaks securely to your online banking account and displays a set of graphics that hopefully will make more sense than the bold red numbers at the foot of the pixelated column.
so, i hear you ask, what the heck has all this to do with cycling, other than the vain hope that the graphic displaying just how much you spent on shiny carbon fibre is particularly pleasing? well, despite the moanings and exclamations of her/him indoors, it seems that amongst the more high profile followers of sporting activities, the cyclist is perhaps the least profligate. according to santander's survey, conducted on their behalf by opinium research, sports cyclists spend an average £88 per month on various pelotonic activities and accessories; marginally over £1,000 each year.
there will be both gasps of astonishment on behalf of some and guffaws of derision from others, mainly those who outspend mr average by quite some degree. however, the country's footballers (and there seems no line drawn between those who play and those who follow) manage almost twice that monthly outlay at £141. yet, perhaps predictably, both are easily topped by those that cycling is alleged to have been replaced: golfers.
it seems that yellow tartan trousers, lime green pringle jumpers and membership fees do not come cheaply, leading to the average golfer's bank balance being £214 lighter each month. so next time you dither over whether or not to buy something from the rapha sale, dither not. currently we occupy the moral and financial high ground with respect to our peers, offering unrivalled dispensation when it comes to the occasional pair of luxury bibshorts.
then watch it show up on spendlytics.
wednesday 27 january 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
those of you with an interest may have noted that the endura jacket reviewed in yesterday's post was available not only in the rather fetching (i thought) bright red colour of my review sample, but also in, as endura described it "eye-wateringly bright hi-viz green ". this is a colour not necessarily to everyone's taste, but one frequently worn for the very purpose contained in its description. as i have mentioned on more than a single occasion, neither gridlocked nor fast-flowing traffic are factors that i require to contend with on a daily basis, but in the greyness that frequently envelopes the island, it's always wise to keep an eye out for the large articulated tankers removing pot-ale from the distilleries.
the gentlemen who drive these vehicles are well-known to those of us in the peloton, a situation that seems comfortingly reciprocal, for they often seem every bit as aware of our presence as we are of theirs. it does not, however, do any harm to provide a smidgeon of visual assistance by donning a brightly coloured helmet or eye-wateringly bright hi-viz green jackets or jerseys. so doing, almost undoubtedly advertises our presence to those bearing down upon us (if you'll excuse the description) and at the very least, it does no harm even to livestock who apparently see the world in monochrome.
however, if i might illustrate an associated problem in a rather superficial manner, when heading south west along the grassy dunes of uiskentuie, there's no escaping a large flock of grazing sheep. these particular woolly clad animals are without doubt the most predictably unpredictable on the planet. many will see me coming from several dozen metres distant, while others seem only to acknowledge my presence at the very last minute. the unpredictable part comes from attempting to predict in which direction they're likely to scatter.
and this is precisely where the case for fastening a bell to the bicycle becomes all but inarguable.
attached to my ibis cyclocross bicycle is a portland design works alexander graham bell, its bracket taking the place of a headset spacer, siting it most conveniently for pinging when within scaring distance of sheep. (in case the thought had occurred to you, there is no need for any audible device when passing close to a flock of barnacle geese; they will take to the skies with very little persuasion even when plainly in no physical danger from a speeding cyclist.)
however, unless it has been recently altered, it is my understanding that british standard bs6102, as applicable to bicycles, requires each and every bicycle sold to come complete with a bell, though there is no legal requirement for the owner of said bicycle to fit it. i have received a few very high spec, expensive carbon road bikes with a bell included in the fitting kit. yet nowadays very few people either fit or use a bell to indicate their presence when following behind walkers or, in the towns and cities, pedestrians.
bowmore main street descends quite steeply towards the harbour on loch indaal, allowing the intrepid pelotonese to roll downhill particularly speedily (i have managed 35kph without pedalling, prior to braking for the corner at the bottom). based on the observation that those on foot can often underestimate the speed achievable on a modern-day bicycle, it is not uncommon to be met with a jay-walking pedestrian directly in a potential field of collision.
the problem with attempting to make use of a bell at that point, would be a direct conflict with trying to grab both brake levers at the same time. however, on quiet country lanes or singletrack roads, ringing a bell may be the more socially acceptable means of signifying your presence. though i've been here for nearly thirty years, i've still not learned to swear in gaelic.
my three-speed taurus corinto has a bell and i'll happily confess that it would look odd without it. i have yet to ring it in anger, but i'm sure that were my surroundings of a more urban nature i'd possibly have worn it out by now. yet despite calls to the contrary, i seriously doubt that the answer to the conundrum isabel necessary on a bike? ought to be 'yes'.
for those who like attaching ringy devices to their bicycles (and i'm inclined to occasionally include myself in that company) there's absolutely no harm or stigma attached to such a choice. but a bit like helmets, i figure the option ought to be left to the individual. perhaps the uci will allow world tour teams to run prototype bells in 2017
have you seen some of the crashes in the peloton?
tuesday 26 january 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................