i have, currently sitting on a stand in the spare bedroom, a drum workshop 14 x 5.5 inch classic series snare drum. this differs from many modern day drums in that it features larger than normal reinforcement rings inside the shell. such rings were originally fitted to drum shells in order to reinforce the roundness, hence the name. but with modern drum manufacturing techniques, such appendages are often regarded as unnecessary or undesirable. in light of my age, i would consider myself old school; all my original drumsets back in the day featured these re-rings, so, necessary or otherwise, i still like to have them on my current percussion.
however, in addition to these wooden rings, drums manufactured prior to the 1960s often arrived with calfskin heads. the late remo belli is generally credited with having invented the plastic drum head in 1957 and by the 60s it became incumbent on drum manufacturers to build their drums capable of being fitted with these standardised heads. calfskins, by comparison, were usually manually lapped onto what is known as the flesh hoop, a process that could often take account of a shell being slightly out of round (despite the re-rings) or very slightly oversized.
currently, vintage drums such as slingerland's radio kings and gretsch round badge are very collectible, but since many of the original calfskin heads have fared considerably less well than the drums to which they were attached, proud owners of these classic musical instruments often find themselves in a bit of a quandary when trying to restore the drums to their original sonic prowess. coming to their aid, both remo and evans drumheads now offer a range of products designed to fit the iniquities of the past. while the fascination with vintage drums lasts, there should be little difficulty in bringing them to a state in which they can be confidently played in public without fear of mishap or a tuning faux pas.
though it might be true that drum manufacturers now adhere to an all but unwritten standard, the same most certainly cannot be said of human beings. and in the present climate of cycling's continued growth, there are more and more individuals plonking posteriors on saddles that do not resemble the stick-thin profile of the professional or even serious amateur. and though the reputable cycling apparel purveyors are astute enought to vary the width of the pad inside a pair of bibshorts depending on the size, there are few, if any, who offer the choice of which size pad inside your bibshort size of choice.
scotland's endura are one company that do.
previously reviewed here in a pair of their pro sl bibtights, livingston has now introduced their new pro sl bibshorts ii with not only a choice of sizes that ranges from xs to xxl and a 4cm additional leg length option, but three different pad width options. you will, no doubt, be wondering how on earth you figure out which pad size might suit your own posterior, but fear not, for authorised endura stockists have access to a saddle-based sizing kit and offering a speedy turnround on orders should they not have your specific requirements in stock.
fortunately, having already ridden the principality clad in a pair of the pro sl bibtights with the very pad most suited to my rear end (small, as it happens), it was simple enough to reiterate this to endura when ordering the review pair. lest you think this to be something of a vacuous marketing wheeze, my bottom begs to differ, having comfortably survived 150km over less than pristine road surfaces (see yesterday's post) without the need to walk like john wayne on dismounting.
of course, there's really little point in the ability to specify pad width unless the surrounding italian built lycra is up to the job. in fact, verifying my oft repeated mantra that the ideal pair of shorts ought to be all but invisible in use, these fulfil that promise most admirably. the white mesh bibs are of the ideal width to avoid any undue pressure on the shoulders, while the open back prevents heat build up on those rides filled with enthusiastic over-exertion.
i cannot deny that, in the hebrides at least, the temperature has not risen to the point where naked legs are yet the order of the day. throughout the review period, i wore a pair of endura movistar leg warmers. but the hems on the shorts' legs are of sizeable depth, yet formed of a cold-black infused lycra composition than refrains from squeezing all the blood from your thighs. the inside portion is coated with a very grippy, pro sl badged silicon gloop that even on the lycra of the leg warmers kept the legs where they were supposed remain.
should you be of longer leg than yours truly, endura offer a long leg option in an effort to prevent you appearing as a refugee from the 1960s, riding when you're not playing a vintage drumset. it has long been a complete mystery to me how it is that endura are able to offer products every bit as good, if not better, than some of their competitors at a price point that looks as if it might have been a typing error. a mere £120 for these is, if they don't mind me saying, a complete steal, especially when you consider they offer a 90-day comfort guarantee on every pair.
monday 6 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
yesterday's strade bianche classic road race, won by sky's michael kwiatowski, has gained both notoriety and popularity over the course of its ten year history. i noted during yesterday's broadcast that the question was asked why it wasn't considered one of road racing's monuments, but in fairness to the others, it seems unlikely it could gain such official status on the basis of such a short term on the professional calendar. if you consider that la doyenne - perhaps better known as liege-bastogne-liege - was first run in 1892, then racing across tuscany's white streets has some way to go in the heritage stakes.
though frequently compared with next month's paris-roubaix, viewers will have noted a distinct lack of cobbles when the peloton experienced its off road moments. however, the comparison is valid in one sense, given that these white streets are principally farm roads and characteristic of the tuscan countryside, just as the cobbled sections of roubaix once fulfilled (and in many cases, still do) a similar purpose. i recall seeing a gallery of photos depicting many of the cobbles on the days prior to the running of paris-roubaix and more than just a few were being trammeled by eye-wateringly large tractors, as if to underline their principal function.
given that the rural population many european countries was once tied to the land far more so than is currently the case, much of western europe including the uk is riven with narrow tracks that are now reconstituted as roads, at least in the sense that they now bear an often crumbling layer of tarmac. islay, once more reliant on its agricultural prowess than it is today, is no different in this respect. in fact, one such stretch of road that passes by the local abattoir, displaying no resemblance to a billiard table whatsoever, is renowned in ride of the falling rain parlance as the abattoirenberg forest.
sadly, this is slightly more of a misnomer than originally defined. when the nomenclature originally suggested itself, there were trees bordering both sides of the road, but logging by dunlossit estate on the eastern fringe has diminished its effectiveness by half. however, the serious degradation suffered by the road surface during both the construction of the abattoir and the subsequent logging procedures have made it almost as unkempt as the cobbles on its french counterpart of similar name. and, to be honest, long may it remain that way.
we are fortunate in the velo club to have amongst our sunday peloton, the local roads engineer, a man with extremely broad shoulders and an annual roads budget that scarcely even hints at being effective. given our sociable nature, aside from the occasional whimsy, we generally avoid giving the poor man any grief over the state of the roads. who really wants to spend five days a week in the office then have to discuss the whys and wherefores on your days off?
however, far from moaning that islay's road surfaces could perhaps benefit from a bit of polishing, i have been at great pains to entreat him not to spend any of his budget on the abattoirenberg forest road. i can see no point in my/our delight in watching the strade bianche, paris-roubaix and ronde van vlaanderen, yet expect the sunday ride to take place under clinical, antiseptic conditions. if those obscure, single track farm roads were good enough for our forefathers, they'll be just ginger peachy for us.
sunday 5 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
around twenty or so years ago a company that probably no longer exists announced plans to install three wind turbines on a hill some two and a half miles from bowmore village. from the proposed site it was possible to see a few houses around one mile distant, but in the immediate neighbourhood, the only dwelling was a fishing lodge belonging to laggan estate which itself, was over half a mile away. in order to check the veracity of their proposition, they erected a 120ft mast atop which were a number of gauges to record the wind speed. rather obviously, even on islay, there's little point in constructing three expensive wind turbines if the wind speed would be either too high or too low.
with the one year test period successfully completed, they applied for planning permission to erect the turbines, only to meet singular opposition from a home-owner over a mile away who objected on the grounds of potential noise pollution. however, the principal obstacle and the one that ultimately put paid to the idea altogether, was that of the overwintering geese. scottish natural heritage and the rspb pointed out that the 120ft whirling turbine blades would be slap bang in the middle of the flight path of a small population of greylags. the contention was that the birds would fly into the not unnoticeable whirling blades because they weren't there the previous year.
both objectors were able to cite evidence from the isle of tiree, where new power cables all but decimated the visiting swan population which flew into the wires, seemingly unaware of their existence.
notwithstanding the substantial difference between a thin suspended cable and a whacking great propeller blade, since the renewable energy company were unable to prove that the geese would not crash into their turbines as against the two objectors neither of whom could prove that they would, the scottish secretary of state rejected the planning application and thus bowmore and ultimately islay still has a dearth of wind turbines despite experiencing an overabundance of wind.
we seem to have the same standoff between members of the professional peloton and bicycle manufacturers concerning the legalisation of disc brakes. the world federation of sporting goods industries has pointed out that to date, their members have sold approximately 15 million disc-brake equipped bicycles, though rather reticently admitting that the bulk of these have been offroad mountain and cyclocross bikes. this is a fact that perhaps should not be overlooked.
both the above disciplines which are uci approved for use of discs in competition tend to be slower than road-races and are, by definition, more individual based. when was the last team you watched fidea cross riders form a sprinters' train to slingshot their team leader across the finish line in first place?
those watching last saturday's omloop het nieuwsblad will perhaps recall the large pile up that pretty much put paid to tom boonen's bid for victory. the riders' contention is that crashes such as the above mentioned could result in a greater number of serious injuries if heated disc brakes were a de facto standard in the peloton. while the uci allowed the trialling of discs during the early part of the 2016 season, the deep wound inflicted upon movistar rider francisco ventoso, presaging the rider's subsequent hospitalisation, was allegedly at the hands of another rider's disc brake. in fact, the only objectors to the homologation of such stopping power in the professional peloton seems to be coming from the riders themselves.
but just like the geese argument, neither side can prove their particular case until, i'd suggest, they ride a whole season on discs. of course, if the riders are right...
quite frequently, the cycling industry gets what the cycling industry wants: aheadsets, deep carbon wheels, press fit bearings, electronic gearshifting and many others. though i'm pretty sure none of the above were at the behest of rider requests, it is also true that they rarely pose a threat to rider safety. once again, technology such as hydraulic disc brakes and thru-axles has been foisted upon an unsuspecting public by the cycle manufacturers alone, businesses that are undoubtedly keen to promote their product in the usual time-honoured manner: the pros ride this, so how cool (and infinitely faster) will you be if you do too?
it's not too hard to see that a thin metal disc bolted to the outer reaches of a spinning wheel could potentially cause injury, but as carlton reid so cleverly pointed out in a recent bikebiz article "Just wait until pro riders find out front chainrings have pointy teeth."
i really could not have put it better myself.
saturday 4 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the simplon pass or, as the italians refer to it passo del sempione is a 2,000 metre high mountain pass that joins the pennine alps with the lepontine alps in switzerland. it connects the canton of valais town of brig with that of domodossa in italy's piedmont region. nearby, occupying the same direct region, is the simplon tunnel, carrying rail traffic between the two countries. in the early 19th century, the pass became of greater importance to at least the world of the military when napoleon directed that a road be built to transport artillery through the mountains.
at this altitude in the swiss mountains it was common for the pass to be closed between the months of october and the end of april due to snow. but in 1950, the local authority devised a plan where it would remain open all year, constructing several lengthy avalanche shelters along the more exposed parts of the route as well as enlarging several tunnels to allow safe passage of tour coaches which were somewhat larger than the post buses with which the pass was originally designed to cope.
the cost of this in the 1950s was around 180 million swiss francs.
twenty years before the improvements were motioned for the simplon pass, an austrian gent by the name of josef hammerle opened a bike shop in the austrian locality of hard (yes, really) near lake constance. as the years approached the 1950s, hammerle came to the conclusion that more and more customers were purchasing bicycles on the basis that they were 'made in switzerland' a situation not to the liking of this austrian bike shop owner. however, rather than remain passively irritated, josef, along with both his sons, decided to build his own quality cycles.
with a clever strategy bordering on subterfuge, hammerle opted to name his bicycles simplon, thereby suggesting to the buying public that they were of swiss origin, and thus guaranteeing sales on the basis of the level of quality associated with the neighbouring country.
the company was registred under this name in 1961 and when austria became part of the european union, simplon began to sell bikes not only to switzerland, but also to germany. and lo and behold, they're also available to order in the uk. this in itself may not appear to be a momentous revelation, but it is indicative of at least two salient points i can think of, one directly related to the other.
only last week i posted a review of a cycle jersey from the relatively new maratona cycle wear, a recent addition to the veritable panoply of cycle clothing manufacturers vying for our re-designed pound coins. i have long contended that cycling must surely be amongst the best catered for activity when it comes to associated apparel and it now seems possible that the same could be said for bicycles. rather obviously, it is harder than hard to promote oneself as a cyclist without at least one bicycle stowed in the bikeshed, but i'm sure that even an on-the-spot enquiry would have the majority of cyclists bring to mind several emblazoned downtubes without recourse to google.
do we really need yet another one?
well, that depends very much on what it is you're looking for. along with the rest of the bicycle world, simplon frames are now manufactured in the far east. the finished articles are then despatched to austria for assembly under simplon's legendary quality control strictures. however, irrespective of their country of origin, the simplon website offers a configurator allowing a high degree of customisation of any model from their substantial range. this includes not only road and mountain bikes, but e-bikes, cross bikes, trekking machines and commuting bikes.
disappointingly, a quick flick through this configurator showed it to be composed in the austrian language and thus all but inscrutable to a non-linguist such as myself. however, even as we pixelate, imminent announcements are due, introducing the first uk simplon retailers with a full network being currently setup. and i am relaibly informed that an english language version of the configurator will follow later this year.
to attend to my second (hopefully) relevant point, it's hard to see where all the custom is for so many different bike marques, other than to assume that the british velocipedinal market is still growing like topsy, continuing to offer a decent return on investment for those intent on attracting us to their wares. you can view the simplon range at simplon bicycles and once again, to quote an oft repeated cliché, if you can't find something there to tickle your fancy, you must be ruddy hard to please.
all images © erwin haden nyx.at
friday 3 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
islay heritage is a recently constituted charity on islay, dedicated to ultimately providing not only a heritage trail on the island, but carrying out excavations on several of the hundreds of ancient sites that pepper the island. some of these historical ruins, cairns, standing stones or burial grounds are of celtic origin, while others date from the iron age and before. there are many norse intrusions into this most southerly of the hebrides as well as sites of neolithic origin, with many of these, including the iron age fort of dun nosebridge have never been excavated. so it is entirely possible the there is a great deal more to be learned concerning the island's history as well as that pertaining to the rest of scotland.
though islay is the historical seat of the lords of the isles, with the well-visited ruins at loch finlaggan and the crumbling walls of dun naomhaig in the bay at lagavulin, it is also home to allegedly the finest celtic high cross still in situ at kildalton only a few miles further along the road from ardbeg distillery. the cross stands on a plinth in the graveyard surrounding the ruin of kildalton chapel, a building devoid of its roof, but with carved slabs embedded in the ground at its eastern end. though the area is quite marvellous and imbued with an almost tangible sense of history, the chapel itself is little more than four stone walls with gaps where the doors and windows once fitted.
as one with barely even a rudimentary knowledge or understanding of archaeology, i have little to no idea of what might exist under this ruin, but it's not hard to see that the walls are probably devoid of anything of significance. which brings into question why the newly formed islay heritage would spend time and money laser scanning the walls of kildalton chapel. the resulting stochastic image derived from these 360 degree scans is considerably poorer than could be achieved with a half decent camera and appears to show nothing that was not previously known. i did pose the question to islay heritage as to why they had carried out this laser-based examination, but they declined to answer.
which leaves me still asking the question why?
it is a question i have also found myself asking on coming across the apparently fashionable practice of posting unboxing videos on youtube and other forms of social media. due to my restricted interest in anything other than drums or bicycles, i confess most of those i've come across showed the unboxing of either a somewhat pricey snare drum or, more recently, a set of cymbals. while i'll admit i have whiled away many a happy hour listening to these drums or cymbals being played, i am mystified as to why i would want to spend several lengthy minutes of my time observing such items being unpacked from their cardboard boxes. there is even a relatively famous one of vinnie colaiuta's drumset being removed from its boxes and assembled to celebrate his return to the gretsch roster.
though this shows vinnie feigning surprise at how wonderful the set looks in all its blueness, at least there is the opportunity at the end to listen to him batter around its wooden magnificence.
however, there is much about social media that i fail to comprehend, such as why my msp sees fit to post on twitter that he has just posted a photograph to his facebook page, particularly when said photo turns out to be an image of a poster for his next parliamentary surgery. nor do i have the faintest idea why it is found necessary to post photos of breakfast, lunch, tea or a cup of coffee. but, on the basis that i haven't a clue as to the attraction of strava, there's every likelihood that i am scarcely the fellow to make rational judgments regarding the emphasis society seems to have placed on the unboxing meme.
therefore, on receiving a substantially sized, yet featherweight box from wheelsmith in larbert, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to join the club. however, like everything i do these days, i exerted pertinent caution and took baby steps, particularly since i have little confidence in my ability to handle moving pictures. so peppered about this page is the unboxing sequence applicable to a pair of wheelsmith ascent wheels.
a little appetiser to the eventual full review.
thursday 2 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the port of kennacraig a few kilometres soouth of the town of tarbert, took the number of small islands off the coast of western scotland down by a single digit. at one time a small islet in west loch tarbert, many years ago, a tarmac'd causeway of a couple of hundred metres was built from the coastline to allow ceann a' creag to become a port for the car ferries plying the route to islay. having recently been the site of further development, this expanded islet currently hosts calmac's booking office and waiting lounge, long-stay car parking and an impressively sized queuing area for vehicles travelling to the queen of the hebrides.
just a matter of a few hundred metres south, on the main tarbert -campbeltown route, the road offers a left turn, switching from the a83 to the b8001 and ultimately leading to the ferry jetty at claonaig from whence transport to lochranza on the isle of arran might be effected. in keeping with virtually all the steep hills i have come across, the b8001 only advertises its 14% gradient on reaching the top, though the sign is placed more to advise those about to descend than those breathing through their ears as they pass in the opposite direction.
i would never place myself in the category of those adept at reading maps. i figure i'd get lost on the way to an orienteering course and i'm quite probably the very person for whom gps tracking was invented. however, concomitant with this inability to find my way about, is a similar ineptitude when it comes to comprehending topographical reference to gradient. in the early nineties, though hardly a habit, it was my occasional practice to travel to ayrshire by bicycle, leaving islay on the morning ferry and cycling from kennacraig over to claonaig to ultimately make my way to ardrossan via both arran ferries.
as the boat sails up the west loch, the b8001 can be seen from the upper deck while anticipating the ferry's docking at kennacraig. on my first trip undertaken in this manner, i recall seeing the aforementioned road climbing skywards into the kintyre hills, all the while thinking 'i'm so glad i don't have to ride up that.' of course, it was only a matter of minutes after disembarkation that i realised the error of my ways. you will also understand, due to the comprehensive hints threaded throughout the above, that all this took/takes place some considerable distance from south-west england, where the intrepid simon warren harbours no such misgivings over an errant gradient that might get in his way.
in fact, though i cringe to think of my navigational misdemeanour, mr warren appears mostly to have gone out of his way to find any road that might head skyward in the region stated on the cover of his latest compact, bijou and purgatorial climbing volume. as this is the fifth book in his series of cycling climbs, the man must have the constitution of a super-grimpeur and doubtless a set of thigh muscles that find it hard to sleep at nights.
not only has simon been guilty of looking for ascents, but he is obviously pretty darned good at finding them, given that this jersey-pocket sized volume provides details of a not inconsiderable 76 of the blighters. and all before breakfast.
in keeping with the other superb titles in this series, each climb is not only given marks of difficulty out of ten, but accompanied by scary photos, an even scarier description, a graphical profile of the upward bit and salient facts other than how to receive professional help for that which you are about to undertake. for those with a geographical knowledge similar to my own, south-west england consists of gloucestershire and wiltshire, somerset and dorset and devon and cornwall.
though i have read richard moore's in search of robert millar more than once, my appetite for riding upwards in no way rivals that of mr warren, yet i find his writing style makes every one of these excellent little books more than a little addictive. sadly, none of these climbs are within cycling distance of a calmac ferry port and will thus most likely remain unridden by yours truly. but i will cheerfully admit to anticipating each and every volume in the series as they arrive in the mailbox. they are my low-tech answer to zwift without the need to hurt myself.
once again, through the generosity of the publisher, i have two copies of 'cycling climbs of south-west england' to give away. simply tell me how many books in the cycling climbs series are already available and one of them could be yours. entries to email@example.com and please include a full postal address. closing date is 8 march.
wednesday 1 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i cannot deny that frustration has become my middle name over the past few days, none of which can be attributed to cycling. at all. in any way whatsoever. this exasperation is entirely down to the larger of my two drumsets, the tuning of which is driving me nuts. part of the problem is, of course, and one that will be recognised by almost any drummer out there, that i need/want the drums to sound exactly the way they sound in my head (if you catch my drift). and part of that is conditioned by that which i hear on records and youtube videos. therein lies the essence of the problem. for the sound of recorded drums has been filtered through a set of probably very expensive microphones before having the original signal modified in oh so many ways as it travels through an equally expensive mixing desk.
meantime i'm sat in the upstairs spare bedroom with a drum key altering drum head after drum head in apparently all the wrong ways. a bicycle that refuses to shift into the big ring is childsplay by comparison.
however, in the search for someone else's solution to the problem (isn't that what everyone does?), i came across a video of steve smith playing a rather smart looking sonor vintage set atop what appears to be a pile of storage bins in the middle of some industrial building. there's no doubt that the microphones surrounding said kit cost a lot more than i get for pocket money, but both the drum sound and the playing are close to exceptional. so much so, that i must have made serious inroads to the viewing figures listed under the video. similarly, there is one of steve gadd (all good drummers are called either steve or bill) on a relatively new yamaha set surrounded by even more expensive microphones which, once again, is addictive to watch.
even if i were to separate the act of drum tuning from the joy of watching both these videos, it would still be an exercise worth repeating, despite both gents' playing never diminishing on each replay. i must assume that aurum press must have been experiencing similar emotions when preparing this latest publication from author giles belbin. beautifully and colourfully illustrated by daniel seex, around the world in 80 days does exactly what it says on the cover, providing 80 brief snippets from cycling's history that could conceivably be read at the start or end of each day.
i'd imagine that was the very premise on which the book was published.
you see, only a matter of a couple of years ago, in 2015, aurum press published a book by the selfsame author and illustrator entitled a year in the saddle: 365 stories from the world of cycle sport. and as far as i can see, every one of the stories in 80 days has been lifted from a year in the saddle. and try as i might, other than the copyright notice referring to 2015, i can find nothing in the latest book that states or implies that this is the case.
of course, this in no way diminishes the validity of the contents, illustrations or text, but if you've already purchased a year in the saddle, you need not bother with this more recent edition.
the book begins with an ending, a chapter entitled, 'the death of fausto coppi' and proceeds to entertain with chapters such as 'maurice garin is born', 'first paris-nice gets underway', 'louison bobet dies', 'fiftieth edition of paris-roubaix' and even 'brits conquer the first bordeaux-paris. the accompanying illustrations by daniel seex are worth a book all of their own (though since this is their second outing in print, i do hope aurum press don't take me at my word), combining a strong sense of graphic design with acute observation of many of cycling's principal stories.
if this would be your first approach, at £12.99, it is a worthwhile purchase, one that ought to retain your interest for more than just a year or so. otherwise, these are not the stories you're looking for; move along now...
if you'd like to see and read what it's all about, aurum have kindly presented me with two copies to give away. let me know on what day fausto coppi died firstname.lastname@example.org) the senders of the first chosen correct answers will each win a copy. remember please to send a postal address.
tuesday 28 february 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................