several years ago, i was privileged to have the opportunity to review an srm power meter, more as a means of investigating the technology rather than it being a means to some sort of sporting end. i was mechanically adept enough to fit the crankset to the bicycle, though the accompanying documentation did raise one or two doubts everytime the word calibration was mentioned. however, all seemed to be well during the myriad number of outings i undertook with the little srm box strapped to the bars, demonstrating not only the pathetic number of watts i was able to expend, but also the rather alarming heart rate at which those were achieved.
in practice, that's pretty much all that the liquid crystal display was able to offer; the real analysis arrived at home time, when all the acquired data could be uploaded to a piece of software (they'd call it an app nowadays) suitably configured to allow interpretation of those numbers. of course, not only would it normally be necessary to have some sort of a game plan prior to ride time, but it would help greatly to have someone on hand with an ability to understand just what all those numbers meant.
while riding the bike, it was fairly simple to watch the power output rise when the effort increased and vice versa, but at first i thought the calibration admonishments in the manual perhaps bore closer attention. for there, on the graph on my computer screen was an incontestable period of no reading whatsoever. how could that be? i had pedalled all the way round my route du jour; or had i? it transpired that the vacant lot, so to speak, had occurred during a short descent and during which there was no relevant power output to speak of.
in my particular case, all of the above was of mere academic interest, pursuant of a subsequent review outlining the capabilities of the device and whether it was something we all ought to be considering in our daily ministrations (it isn't). but from a professional rider's outlook or even that of the very interested amateur, those numbers could prove invaluable. i believe it is mathematically possible to calculate the number of watts necessary to climb any given ascent at a rate that would prevent the competition from breaking free. and knowing implicitly that if they did manage to break free, human physiology would prevent them from continuing apace for any significant, race-winning period.
assuming all matter to be equitable and that sort of wattage becomes doable, it would not be altogether iniquitous to assume that the same level of power could be managed by one's competitors. at that point, dave brailsford's marginal gains take on a greater importance. and that's sort of what i'm hoping is possible on a wheelsmith lightweight ascent wheelset, shod with schwalbe's (£67 per pair) one-pro tubeless tyres.
as i have iterated elsewhere, the first outing was, of necessity, a tad trepidatious, for there is something almost magical about a pair of tyres that are content to remain fastened to their wheel rims by nothing other than air pressure. what if i took a corner too fast and they rolled off? is there an upper inflation limit above which they might blow off the rim (110psi is the advised maximum), or perhaps a lower limit that would let them roll off all of their own accord (less than 70psi)? and suppose the wheels weren't as airtight as their description would have me believe. after all, the only way of checking would be to fit a tubeless tyre and go ride over the crappest road surfaces i could find in a single day.
which, now that you ask, is precisely what i did.
as i have mentioned, probably to the point of exhaustion, islay is peppered with a network of single track farm roads, many of which have fared rather badly over the winter months. aside from the tarmac patching which rarely enhances their verisimilitude to that of a billiard table, there are clumps of mud left in the wake of some alarmingly large tractors as well as the mess made by itinerant cattle and an entirely new set of potholes that i swear were not there at the tail end of last year.
riding with gusto across all that for several hours is as good a test of the mettle of tyres and wheels as you're likely to come across this side of the arenberg forest.
it would be unfair to separate out each component, if such were indeed possible, so my review is geared towards considering tyres and wheels as a single entity. i have previously mentioned that wheelsmith's ascent wheelset weighs a scant 1450 grams, while each tyre tips the scales at a nominal 255g. there are indeed lighter tyres on the market, but those inevitably have to share the limelight with an inner tube. either way, when time came to kick a** uphill, the minimised weight was of great assistance, especially to the physically challenged such as yours truly.
a corollary to that uphill kick revolves around my predilection for having the rear brake shoes ever-so-close to the rim. while this achieves a desired snappy excellence to rear-mounted braking, it has, in the past, brought a concomitant tendency for rim/shoe interface when those watts are flowing freely. it ought, therefore, to be noted that during said periods of ascension, the rear wheelsmith demonstrated no tendencies in this direction whatsoever. quite impressive, actually.
nor, indeed, was there any demonstrable yet anticipated squishiness from the tyres. my lack of experience in the tubeless department had given ride to having collywobbles about tyres rolling from the rims with the least amount of effort on my part. both you and i are doubtless pleased that this not only didn't happen, but displayed no signs of ever threatening so to do. however, this purported rigidity from the rubber, aided and abetted by the wheels had a slight downside that i hadn't quite considered up till now.
i should mention, at this point, an aspect of versatility demonstrated by derek mclay's £440 ascent wheels. the original set sent for review bore a shimano pattern freehub, when, in fact i had earmarked them for the campagnolo potenza equipped colnago master. the problem was very easily solved by derek sending a replacement campagnolo pattern freehub. swapping one for t'other was the proverbial piece of cake involving only a couple of differing sizes of allen key/wrench and no oily marks on either hand. should the future bring a need to swap back, you can rest assured you need not be a professionally trained mechanic to effect the change.
if i might refer you to my previous treatise on the lack of unformity of surface on many of islay's single track roads, regular tyres, now that i come to think of it, tend to breeze across the bumps and dips via a flexibility that we have all come to know and love. the tubeless schwalbes, however, tended to drop off each minor crevasse; not in an alarming manner, you understand, but noticeable enough to be noticeable. logic dictates that a tubeless tyre would have need of such rigidity, if only to prevent the disappearing act that had infiltrated my fears only just a few paragraphs above. the wheels, on the other hand, offered a solidity of feel allied to their propensity for speed. this must be how the professionals experience life.
my continued naivety with the subject matter at hand had led me to believe that the pro ones would offer a similar ride to that of tubular tyres. nothing, however, could be further from the truth. in fact, i'm not altogether sure that they have many ride characteristics in common with normal clinchers, though that should definitely not taken as a negative. in fact, aside from the excellent noise they make on the road, they have a number of other qualities to commend them, not least of which is a rather endearing alacrity when push comes to shove. in other words, acceleration. combined with the scant weight of the wheels, it takes less effort to bring them up to a speed that leaves others in your wake (a guy can dream, can't he?)
there will, almost inevitably, be a part three to this series, for i can't help feeling that i still treat the tyre/wheel combination with a temerity that is unbecoming, one that i expect will disappear the more comfortable i become riding on tyres with nothing but air pressure inside. at the moment, however, i'm rapidly becoming more amenable to a setup such as this, and i'm happy to note that schwalbe also saw fit to release a 28mm version of the pro-one.
to be continued...
monday 3 april 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
when my son was a tad younger than he is today and, at the time, incapable of growing a beard, he and his peer group were into skateboarding, an affliction that has pervaded almost every group of (mostly male) teenagers across the decades. a bit like bmx, the popularity of the activity (i'm wary of referring to skateboarding as sport) tends to wax and wane, a fact supported by the number of partially derelict skateparks in evidence all across the nation.
and it's one of those very facilities that washingmachinepost junior and his cohorts felt was necessary to improve their potential skills on the board(s). but though i'd contend that back in my day, when we found the need for an area to play baseball (yes, really) or rugby, not only did we collect bags of sawdust from the local joiner to mark off the area of play, we also saved our pennies to buy wood for a set of rugby posts. these were nailed together in rudimentary fashion before being hoist into place in four holes we'd dug in the wasteground adjacent to the indoor bowling rink.
i must confess, the thought of asking permission from the local council hadn't actually occurred to us, but since there were no immediate repercussions, we'll just gloss over that instance for the time being.
oddly enough, to return to more contemporary times, my son and his friends never once thought it a wizard wheeze to find a way of raising the money required for a skatepark by themselves. as has become the norm for oh, so many present day facilities, they expected the council to provide just what they needed/demanded, presumably with money raised from council tax payers. of course, considerations had hardly progressed as far as the realisation that by the time a skatepark had come to fruition, they'd all have moved onto something else, the skateboards then relegated to a dusty corner of the front porch.
however, there's no doubt that, in straightened times and in areas as far apart as inner-london and the hebrides, there is often a dearth of activities available for today''s youth, a situation that almost inevitably leads to what i will euphemistically refer to as dissension in the ranks. thankfully, there are often those keen to obviate such problems and in this specific instance, to present cycling as a viable alternative to the dissension mentioned above. this is part of the cunning plan of one life cycle.
former team gb member germain burton is joined by street racer mat watson and niki kovacs to form one life cycle, intent on taking on the renowned red hook criterium series in brooklyn, london, barcelona and milan as well as other criterium races across europe. but racing round city streets is only a part of what one life cycle hope to achieve. it's also a social project project set to engage the youth of london through cycling. this will take the form of talks at community centres and cycling orientated events aiming to engage and inspire the younger generation.
but in the vein of thought that dictates 'there ain't no such thing as a free lunch', all this costs money.
that's where russ at hackney gt has stepped up to the plate. aside from supplying the riders with custom-printed betty skin suits, hackney gt are also helping raise money to assist the team with their travel costs to and from the races, as well as fund the aforementioned community events. as a fundamental part of this process, russ has collaborated with swifty to design and produce a one life jersey, with all profits from the first run being pledged to the cause.
the first 50 jerseys are available right this minute until 21 april at the offer price of only £56. this will rise to the full price of £80 after this date, meaning you have only 19 days to grab a bargain and support what i believe to be a worthy cause and a not unattractive jersey.
sunday 2 april 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
mike burrows famously referred to carbon fibre as 'burnt plastic', a description that pretty much defined the substance in fewer words than the most marketing departments. however, aside from those fibres, originally created by heating strands of rayon until they carbonised, the material most of us know and love requires the addition of a setting resin to bind the fibre matting together into shapes reminiscent of the bicycle frames originally defined by lugged steel tubing.
it has taken a number of years for bicycle engineers to stray from the rotundity of steel tubing, a material that offered the best bang for buck in just such a shape. carbon fibre, however, can be molded into a variety of shapes, yet providing the required strength created by specific laying up of those fibres. for instance, the bottom bracket region of almost any carbon monocoque bicycle you care to name is of a size that could likely have been used to launch the space shuttle, building the strength demanded by riders such as peter sagan, yet retaining a design smoothness that lessens any untoward visual impact.
likewise, top tubes are no longer prevented from adopting flattened aerodynamic shapes that may offer a token level of aerodynamics allied to an aesthetic that seems to have grown upon the present day industry.
but from whence came the idea that carbon fibres could be harnessed to provide light weight yet offer a previously unheard of tensile strength? formula one racing cars have known of its properties for many a long year, their monocoque chassis letting many a race driver walk away from fearsome high-speed accidents without so much as a scratch. joseph swan produced some of the first carbon fibres as far back as the 1860s for use in light bulbs, while thomas edison some twenty years later, baked cotton threads at high temperature for use as carbon wire filaments in his incandescent light bulbs.
but it's a long way from light bulb filaments to that of sagan's s-works or even ernesto's famous c40. it seems likely that science was aided and abetted by sheer good luck somewhere along the line. and it seems that the same dumb luck may have reared its head once more.
the world's cycling apparel providers are in the habit of attaching small labels to the inside of their garments advising the wearer as to the care and attention that has need of being conferred upon an often expensive piece of kit. at what temperature it ought best to washed, whether it can or cannot be tumble dried and whether it lends itself to ironing or not. these are all attributes that the manufacturer has to verify prior to offering the garment for sale to an eager public and it was during such testing that rapha discovered a previously unknown quality of their recently adopted waterproof shadow fabric.
as you are probably tired of hearing by now, the shadow fabric is created by coating nylon fibres in a durable water repellent prior to the fibres being woven into lengths of fabric. this is then shrunk to mitigate the already tiny gaps between fibres before being once more coated with a dwr treatment, rendering this one of the most waterproof fabrics to clothe the average, if well remunerated cyclist. however, when lengths of the fabric were tested under the iron, the results were not exactly what rapha expected.
head of product development and r&d, simon huntsman told me "We use larger and flatter irons than the average household, device. We can iron a large area of fabric without the directional movement common with the domestic iron. The Shadow fabric being tested was inadvertently overheated, at which point we discovered that the material demonstrated many of the properties inherent in carbon fibre matting."
not equipped to investigate the situation fully, imperial works consulted with mclaren automotive who confirmed rapha's rudimentary findings. by adding a similar amount of resin as used in standard carbon frames and with the addition of a soupcon of the new wonder product, graphene, rapha and mclaren succeeded in producing what is undoubtedly the world's first fully waterproof bicycle frame.
rapha ceo, simon mottram said "Manufacturing our own range of bicycles was always something I'd thought of as a bit outside our comfort zone, but we'd have been fools to overlook this unexpected development." currently undergoing testing by a number of rapha nominated riders, from professionals to the distinctly unprofessional, i am fortunate to have been riding one of the prototypes over the past month or so and believe me, the ride quality is almost too good to be true. and for those who have experienced the impressive waterproofing of rapha's shadow jerseys and shorts, you'll be pleased to know that the flattened top tube exhibits the very same baubling of water droplets.
the shadow frames will be manufactured in very limited quantities from the end of this month and though pricing has not yet been announced, there's little doubt they will be reassuringly expensive. read the full review here.
saturday 1 april 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
tyres and wheels occasionally have a falling out with each other, frequently invoking the law of sod by doing so with the most unfortunate and irritating sense of timing. a bit like practitioners of the highland bagpipe, now that you come to mention it. if sod is really in a bad mood, these disagreements will take place just as you're about to stake everything on the lunchtime sprint at the entry to bruichladdich village, but i think the stationary version is often hard to beat in the irritation stakes.
just such a happenstance reared its ugly head (and just while you're here, is it really possible that a happenstance is able to distance itself from pulchritudinity?) last week during one of those designated bike fettling mornings.
i was in the process of fitting a set of particularly wide road tyres to a new set of wheels and though the wheels were as close to round as it is possible to achieve, the front tyre stubbornly refused to seat properly on the rim. i tried all the tricks of my trade, flipping the tyre round the other way, replacing it with that fitted to the rear wheel, liberally sprinkling the tyre bead with washing up liquid and even inflating, then reinflating the tyre more often than is seemly in polite company. all to no avail; the tyre still refused to seat on the rim without displaying a disappointing flat spot.
in addition to all the foregoing, i also attempted that which i'm sure many of you have been shouting from the sidelines since i started this monologue. i replaced the inner tube. it's rare amongst the more well-known inner tube brands to come across an example that does not inflate uniformly, but the law of averages dictates that it's bound to happen at some time in a bicycle's life. this could conceivably have been one of those times. the fact that this made no appreciable difference whatsoever was something of a double-edged sword; brilliant to learn that the standard of tube manufacture remains impeccable, but disappointing that this option failed to solve my problem.
however, the inquities of tyre mounting are somewhat less than germain to this diatribe, more about the eventual resting place of the cast-aside inner tube. in this particular case, i had already chucked the empty box in the recycle bin; it therefore became incumbent upon me to store the tube in a manner that would distinguish it from all the other lazily discarded tubes just inside the door of the bike shed. assuming i can still read the sizing stamp next time i find myself in need of a cyclocross-sized inner tube, all will be well with the world, but otherwise i am in sore danger of being wantonly wasteful.
the same could be said for the odd, discarded road tyre wrapped all but inextricably around no longer roadworthy wheels. there may well have been perfectly good reason for those tyres no longer serving their intended purpose, but you'd scarcely think a few nicks in the tread would render them completely useless. it's a situation that laura zabo is probably more acquainted with than am i, though she admittedly is more used to fashioning many of her upcycled tyre and tube based jewellery and utilities on new but remaindered stock.
i thought it a tad inappropriate to offer a review of her admittedly rather fetching shredded inner tube jewellery, a range that includes necklaces, bracelets and earrings, so i opted for the more pragmatic tyre-based belts. one of these features a notionally aggressive looking tread which i think might be most appropriate for rugged outdoor trips, while the red lined schwalbe version, with its smooth roadgoing tread looks the faster of the two and could thus prove handy if i'm late for work in the morning.
and to introduce yet another double-edged sword, there's a level of faff involved with fitting one of these belts to whichever pair of trousers has become the nether garment du jour. just like the grip displayed by schwalbe's tyres when gripping the road, they feature a similar amount of tenacity when threading through the belt loops. however such a velcro-like grasp on waisted matters pretty much guarantees the belt isn't going to move, no matter any disco-based gyrations that might be on the menu.
however, i would think the most likely benefit from wearing one or t'other (or, arguably, one of the jewellery types mentioned above) is akin to those track mitts with the oval gap on the back. the one that provides a similarly shaped tan on the back of each hand when the sun comes out. it is, as previously discussed, the cyclist's equivalent of a secret handshake. though you might have to wonder why a potential acquaintance's glance would be directed towards your waistline, espying one of these utterly superb belts would immediately identify you as one of the cognoscenti.
for who amongst the civilian population will have the faintest idea of what a schwalbe is likely to be?
laura zabo's upcycled tyre belts start at around £37 and are made from brand new tyres or tubes that failed schwalbe's stringent quality control process. there is no danger of receiving one with scraped sidewalls or intransigent little flints trapped in the centre portion of tread. the substantial range of products can be viewed on her online store linked below.
friday 31 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i found it on the floor in the spare bedroom. it's the one where mrs washingmachinepost keeps that awkwardly sized double-buggy for when she has need of transporting more than one reluctant child to nursery. oh, and it's also where i keep my protection racket cased be-bop maple drumset in the vain hope that brad mehldau has just realised he has my phone number. i was in the room looking for my paperback copy of will fotheringham's merckx to read in the bath, prior to receiving one or two review copies of upcoming books which have delayed that particular re-read.
anyway, while looking for eddy, i found the rubber stamp on the floor next to the chest of drawers. i confess, i had completely forgotten about its existence, so long had it been since the last time i made use of it. 'it' features a colourful drawing of a writing desk on the top and a verisimiltude of the same in rubber on the bottom, only this time in reverse. the idea was that i pressed the stamp into the gold ink pad purchased specifically for the purpose and applied it to the foot of any letters or invoices i may have had need of sending. that was back in the day when we still used paper and the postal service.
aside from the gold-delineated line drawing of the aforementioned desk, the stamp also announced that the received missive was 'from the desk of...' after which i appended my name. quite logical in its implication, but effectively usurped by the advent of the internet. the so-called paperless society (which ironically seems hell-bent on using more paper than we ever did prior to its constitution) means that we now e-mail, text, facebook, tweet or snapchat rather than speak or write (with pens).
but, despite my portrayal of the contemporary means of achieving stuff in a faux-derogatory fashion, there's no doubt it has conferred upon us a number of time-saving inventions, including both the inkjet and laser printer. the latter was in the early stages of commercial development during my early years at college, causing me to overly loudly question why we were being taught the vicissitudes of stone lithography. in retrospect, i'm grateful that my plaintiff cries were ignored in favour of continuing with stone and grease, but it's hard to see how the modern demand for the printed word could be satisfied by such an ancient and rustic method.
indeed, it's a variation on that very treatise that has brought a smile to the face of cyclocross photographer balint hamvas. many of you will have the same collection of exemplary mud inflected photo books in your own spare rooms as have i, purchased through the years via the man's cyclephotos website. several may even have subscribed to his kickstarter pages to help fund next year's cyclocross photo book, but in every case up till now, once they're gone they're gone. if you were late to the party, tears were your only consolation.
as balint has mentioned "The way litho printing works makes it difficult to make small print runs financially feasible. Anything below 300 copies would have meant losing money. However, printing 300 copies from all of the previous editions would have cost me tens of thousands of pounds, plus storage, etc. It just wasn't going to happen that way."
as one used to preparing artwork for commercial lithographic reproduction, it's a universal order with which i am well-acquainted, but for individual copies or short run jobs, the xerox digital printer we currently have in the office is just ideal. the only downside, if it can be considered as such, is that the last copy often costs exactly the same as the first, whereas offset litho generally becomes cheaper per copy, the more of each edition is printed. to place this in some sort of contextual perspective, i'll allow balint to continue...
"Roughly a year ago, I was introduced to a digital printing company, who ended up printing the 2015/2016 book. While the original print run was late by almost two months, I realised that using digital printing, I could publish a low print run of the old cyclocross albums at a reasonable cost. It took me some time to find the old files, but finally, it all came together. The printing starts next week and so all the previous hardcover books will be available very soon. You can order any or all the books from cyclephotos.
wednesday 29 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
so what are you waiting for?
the newspaper offices which i frequent now and again are sited on bowmore main street, at the centre of the hubub that affects all large conurbations such as our cute little village. with easter accelerating towards us at an alarming rate, we are preparing ourselves against the inevitable daily cacophony provided by an infinite number of car alarms sounding throughout the day. several such instances are occasioned by mindless visitors leaving an animated dog in the car while they examine the inner reaches of bowmore distillery or, perchance, the leisure centre.
this, if you are not familiar, is a situation without any foreseeable end, unless of course, the owners return to their motor vehicle. the dog's movement inside the vehicle are mostly responsible for the alarm sounding in the first place, while the constant high-pitched whine from the car alarm simply aggravates the dog even more, so it moves around a lot. possibly the perfect example of perpetual motion.
it may be that you are wondering why it is that it appears only to be visiting vehicles that feature errant car alarms. this is easily explained by the fact that very few locals bother to lock their cars in the first place. just call it a local custom if it worries you.
however, it would, however, be counter-productive to advise initinerant visitors to do likewise, since rather obviously, they will return to civilisation sooner rather than later and civilisation is less forgiving towards those who fail to lock their car doors than are the hebrides. or at least those served by car ferries as opposed to bridges.
a similar occurrence visits itself upon touring cyclists. only last year i was asked by one such individual to take a look at their rear brake, one fitted to a bicycle they claimed was parked at the bottom of the street. next to shore street. on reaching said velocipede, i found it padlocked to the bike rack with two separate locks and lengthy cables, both of which took more than a few moments to unravel. as you may have inferred from previous diatribes in these pixels, i doubt i could pay any of the local population to ride a bicycle, so there seems very little likelihood of one being stolen.
the local market for stolen bicycles is somewhat negligible.
this could possibly pass as one of the principal reasons behind scotland's attraction towards the cycling fraternity. that and the magnificent scenery, friendly people and endless miles of solitary single track roads. i'd love to say that this is all part of a cunning washingmachinepost tourism plan, but in point of fact, i have been usurped by research on behalf of sustrans scotland, revealing that cycle tourism is potentially worth around £345 million to the local economy. this information has been released as part of a leisure tourism guide launched by both sustrans and scottish enterprise, based on usage estimates of the national cycle network.
the report, however, has not been released as a national pat on the back, but perhaps as something of a wake-up call to the country's accommodation providers. it seems that out of more than seven thousand accommodation listings on visit scotland's website, less than one in seven claim to be cycle -friendly. there's every possibility that many more of those 7,000 are more than capable of welcoming bike riders but are seemingly reticent to advertise this to the great unwashed.
hence the guide's publication.
in a quote that a few years ago you would have sworn i'd fabricated, sustrans scotland's national director john lauder said, "In order to realise the full potential of cycling opportunities in Scotland, it is vital for businesses to understand the needs of leisure cyclists.
"The cycling market is thriving and has the potential to become one of Scotland's top tourism activities."
the disappointing part of this can be summed up in the phrase 'you're never a prophet in your own land." many of us have been making similar statements for many a long year, but it only seems to count when it arrives from an officially recognised source. that said, it seems likely this is teh state of the art and as such, the guide ought to be welcomed by all of scotland's cyclists.
as long as they don't fit security alarms to bicycles.
tuesday 28 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................