donnelly strada lgg 700x28 road tyres

donnelly strada 700x28

the cycle industry is a confusing place to visit, though it's not too often that feelings of deja vu interrupt the space-time continuum. but that's precisely the feeling engendered by the arrival of a pair of donnelly strada lgg road tyres; the strada lgg suffix was one i figured i'd come across previously, despite having never previously heard of donnelly tyres. on digging a little deeper, i discovered that the owner of colorado-based donnelly sports, donn kellogg, had previously been licensing the clement name from trademark owners, pirelli, since 2010, but decided to end that arrangement in august 2017. clement had been the previous brand on which i'd seen the strada lgg name. fortunately, kellogg owned the design and tread patterns created under the clement name, now promoted as donnelly tyres.

though this was one of those machinations within the industry i could scarcely have guessed at, the intrinsic, scottish link involved is that of edinburgh's 2pure, once uk distributors of clement tyres and now continuing the story with donnelly.

donnelly strada 700x28

having received the recently reviewed campagnolo bora wto carbon wheels, 2pure were kind enough to send over a pair of the strada lgg 700x28 road tyres, subsequently fitted to the boras as the widest rubber vicenza recommends for the purpose. these particular tyres are not tubeless compatible, for which i am truly grateful; partially because of the ease of fitting and entirely because inner tubes create a darned sight less messy faff than the tubeless process.

despite being made a long way from belgium, the lgg portion of the name refers to the three letter identifier for liege airport, implying a subtle link with the spring classics. this implication is underlined by a tried and tested minimal chevron tread pattern on the black sidewall rubber. the centre portion of the tread is totally smooth, edged by those chevron patterns, ostensibly to provide extra grip when cornering. according to donnelly, the 120tpi tyre casing features a puncture-protection belt under the tread to aid reliability and no doubt contributes to the overall weight of 240g per tyre. there's no way i can verify the efficacy of this, having only ridden the tyres for a couple of weeks so far, but there will, naturally enough, be a part two to this review a few months from now, at which point i fervently hope there will nothing to report (if you see what i mean?)

tyres are quite possibly one of the most underrated components on the modern day road bike. any alterations requested at point of sale on a complete bicycle are more likely to concern stem length, bar width or even colour of bar tape. very rarely does anyone ask for a different brand or width of tyres. this either suggests that there's no such thing as a bad tyre, or perhaps that, as roadies, we're less concerned with such matters than perhaps we should be. admittedly, road tyres are less subject to the vagaries of the terrain underfoot than our offroad buddies will experience, but that hardly means that we ought to ditch the discrimination.

donnelly strada 700x28

many road tyre tread patterns are designed with the consumer in mind; the professionals are less fussy, or impressed with innovative design features. the stradas lean more heavily towards the professional stance on such matters and justifiably so. in the dry, there is, in truth, very little to choose between brands and/or treads; the heavy lifting usually makes itself known in the wet, a situation that these particular tyres accommodate remarkably well.

i won't fib: the rain to which they have been exposed by the time of this review, could not be considered torrential. 'mildly persistent' would be the most apt description. however, on roads that have been dry for months, and subject to an increased amount of loose gravel, a coating of precipitation is bound to create 'sketchier' conditions for anyone's tyres. it's perhaps worth my pointing out that on the parcours chosen for the sunday ride, one member of the peloton suffered a rear wheel puncture, while i didn't.

mated with campagnolo's bora carbon, they appear to be almost a perfect match. the tyre width seems almost to match that of the rim, offering a united front when faced with the inevitable air resistance. as mentioned a few days ago, the sunday ride appears to get faster every week, despite protestations that we're only out for a ride in the country. i'd scarcely describe myself as amongst the speediest in the peloton, but the tyre/wheel combination seems to have my best interests at heart; it was not their decision to sit up during the sprint at bruichladdich.

donnelly strada 700x28

the historically famous name of clement may no longer appear on the sidewall, but there is obviously no let up in quality or intent associated with the donnelly name. on the basis of my admittedly limited experience with the stradas so far, they deserve every bit as much consideration as their arguably better-known competition. as to their longevity and professed puncture resistance, i'll let you know in part two.

donnelly strada lgg rubber is available in 700x25 tubular format as well as in 23, 25, 28 and 32mm widths folding bead clincher format. recommended price of the 700x28 version as reviewed is £37 ($50). donnelly tyres are distributed in the uk by 2pure.

donnelly tyres | 2pure

monday 29 july 2019

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limar air-pro and air master helmets

limar air master helmet

i believe i am often a tad too much in favour of repeatedly pointing out that wearing a cycle helmet will be of little use if you're hit by a volvo when out cycling. but, in truth, that's not quite what helmets are for; there's really not much in this world that will fend off a large, heavy, fast moving car, at least not anything that is pragmatic on a bicycle. however, were you to take evasive action while attempting to avoid collision with the hypothetical volvo, there's an evens chance that wearing a helmet might just save your head from serious injury.

limar air pro helmet

even when removing that hapless volvo (other vehicles may be available) from the equation, there's still a solid case for the wearing of a cycle helmet in most, if not all occasions. several years ago, the late lord carlos of mercian saved himself from a few weeks of hospital food by the wearing of a cycle helmet. having reached the top of a very short climb, i sat up to allow my fellow pelotoneers to catch up. unfortunately, lord carlos was not paying close attention and rode into my back wheel, falling off sideways as a result. one side of his helmet was pretty much destroyed in the incident, but he survived to tell the tale.

limar air master helmet

however, i am very much for personal choice when it comes to either the purchase of, or wearing of a cycle helmet. making it a compulsory factor in the riding of a bicycle does not, in my opinion, make a lot of sense. granted, they weigh little, the air conditioning is pretty darned good these days and, like an insurance policy, you wear it and hope you'll never had need of its primary function. but i still think it's up to the individual as to whether they wear one or not. just remember, however, that they generally make you look a lost faster than you might be and for that reason alone, i'd recommend a helmet purchase.

but which one?

limar air pro helmet

currently, there are far more helmets on the market than was the case in the days of yore; some are pricey, some less so and one manufacturer that has made great strides in recent times is italy's limar helmets. i have featured limar's ultralight plus helmet in a previous review, an item that the manufacturer promoted as 'the world's lightest', a claim i always thought was likely to make them more of a target for their competitors. the air pro and air master editions reviewed here, in my opinion, are several levels of excellent above their predecessor, with regards to style, ventilation and fit.

limar air master helmet

perhaps the most important aspect of acquiring a new cycle helmet, is that of sizing: too small and you're pretty much stuffed from the off; too large and the effective protection on offer is compromised from the outset. the problem of purchasing the correct size is hardly a major consideration if doing so in a bike shop, but with a large percentage of cycle goods purchased mail order nowadays, to an extent, choosing the correct size is often the result of educated guess-work. it's a situation that is every bit as real for yours truly as it is for everyone else.

limar air pro helmet

whenever a manufacturer or distributor offers to send a helmet for review, rather obviously, i have to let them know what size would be suitable. in some cases this is eased by the existence of only small-medium, or medium-large. the majority of adults (self-included), will be in the latter category. limar, offer a choice of medium or large in both the helmets reviewed here; i opted for medium, fervently hoping that this would still allow me the necessary luxury of wearing a casquette beneath their hardshell colours. it did.

limar air master helmet

limar are helmet sponsors of the astana world tour team and both the helmets featured here are worn by members of that team. i opted for the team colours in the air pro and lime green in the air master, though the latter can also be acquired in team colours, if you wish. weighing in at 240g for the medium version, the air master is designed to be compact, aerodynamic, yet with sufficient ventilation to allow for a cool head. the retention system is really no different from that featured on any comparable modern helmet; the web straps thread through the molded polystyrene construction, while a dial on the rear of the adjustable cage allows the wearer to have the helmet grip their head as tightly as comfort will allow. both worked precisely as expected.

limar air pro helmet

sadly, my honed physique is less speedy than it once was, so i'm not in any position to decide whether the wind-tunnel tested aerodynamics brought me home any faster than usual. and short of throwing myself over the handlebars, or finding a volvo to avoid, i cannot truthfully attest to the veracity of the promised protection. but that goes for every helmet and probably every helmet reviewer. suffice it to say, its construction is impeccable, while the comfort and ventilation never gave cause for concern. the style that predicates the modern breed of aero road helmets is often open to debate; some verge on the demonstrably hideous. thankfully, limar obviously have more perspicacious designers, meaning there is little need to hide within the grupetto to save face.

limar air master helmet

the air pro is unarguably limar's flagship helmet in style, construction and weight, being some ten grammes lighter than the air master. its form emulates that which most of us would expect from a helmet, featuring a total of twenty air vents and molded inner channels to maintain not only a coolness of image, but a pragmatic and simultaneous cooling of the head. though islay was not on the receiving end of the temperatures experienced in the deep south, it was warm enough to allow comparison between the cooling properties of the two options on review. though wearing a cap underneath is probably always going to skew any proper appreciation, my vote for ventilation rests squarely with the air pro.

limar air pro helmet

the internal construction of the pro differs from that of the master, by the inclusion of carbon fibre co-molded within the expanded polystyrene. this provides a stronger cage than seen on the master, while allowing the weight to be minimised. once again, there is the ubiquitous dialled ratchet system to tailor the helmet to your head, allied to the integrated, adjustable webbing to keep the whole edifice firmly in place. limar also reckon the air pro to be 20% more aerodynamically efficient than the ultralight plus mentioned at the outset.

limar air master helmet

for those who are firm adherents of velominati's rule #17 (team kit is for members of the team), the air pro is available in several colours other than astana team issue, and in the same two sizes as its air master compatriot.

these are both superb helmets that will serve well for many a long year and ultimately keep your head safe from any untoward and unplanned head/ground interface. and with the lower portion encased in a black hardshell material, neither edition is prone to the scrapes and bangs that spring from leaving the helmets on a variety of surfaces.

the limar air pro helmet is available in both medium and large and in astana team colour, blue, green, matt black, matt black/pink, red, or white. rrp is €259.95 (£235). the limar air master is also available in medium and large. available colours are astana, blue, green, matt black, matt white/yellow, or red. rrp is €159.95 (£145). limar helmets are distributed in the uk by pinpoint.

limar helmets

sunday 28 july 2019

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paul smith suit

not so very long ago, i presented my dilemma over the correct sartorial option for arriving at a non-cycling visitation, at which i would be expected to be a tad more smart but casual, than provided by the combination of jersey and bibshorts. though i have seen the occasional individual, unremarkedly, riding a race-style road bike, clad in jeans and a sweatshirt, it is a mode of dress i find hard to reconcile with expensive, light weight carbon fibre.

i did receive a modicum of e-mail response to that particular post, but unfortunately, all agreed with my conflicting stance on the matter, a situation that hardly helped my own situation.

more than a single purveyor of modern cycling apparel has been known to offer cyclewear, geared (pardon the pun) more towards the would-be stylish cycle commuter, who has need of being presentable in the office or boardroom fresh from his/her saddle and cleats. i even own a number of items that would fit that particular bill. however, many of those garments display a prejudice towards the cooler seasons of the year, offering warmth with style. merino jerseys, windproof jackets, cycling jeans etc. all of which would currently be viewed as a tad excessive by the innocent bystander, to say little of my very own views.

on e-mailing a colleague in london a matter of days ago, i was informed that the outside temperature was close to 38 degrees and that "everything is melting". listening to radio four's news bulletin only yesterday morning, it became clear that, while the railways had feared for the heat causing untold problems with the rails themselves, the big problem had been a drooping of overhead electrical wiring, bringing portions of it into contact with the trains, thus causing delays and cancellations.

depending on your point of view, the hebrides is either meteorologically less favoured than the country's capital city, or, if you're not so keen on extreme heat, blessed by the atlantic wind, a breeze that frequently brings a pleasant and welcome cooling to the principality. add to that, the fact that we have not a single railway line on the island, and you would be correct to infer that those of us on the west coast of scotland fared rather better than those in metropolis. that being said, dunstaffnage, near oban and several miles north-east of islay, exceeded its own previous record by recording a temperature of 29 degrees. islay was more conservative, demonstrating centigrade that confined itself to the upper teens, before the windchill was taken into account.

for hardy souls such as myself, that's more than warm enough, but temperatures in which i had need of riding for a morning's graphic consulting, several miles south west of the croft. none of my stylish commuting apparel was deemed of a constitution likely to prevent the onset of profuse perspiration, leaving pretty much only (short-sleeved) jersey and bibs as being able to 'cut the mustard'.

though it is not notably prevalent in these far-flung parts, holiday season makes frightful sights of sartorial faux-pas much more common. nip back a few years, and the predominant male uniform seemed to consist of sandals, long, baggy shorts, rugby jersey (with raised collar) and a shaved head. in the space of one week, four such individuals visited the office for a variety of reasons. i can think of not one resident that could be said to match that description.

more often than not, however, the male of the species has an apparent need to dress in the colours of his favoured soccer team, preferably with his own surname printed across the shoulders on the back. preceding even velominati's rules of cycling, replicating that uniform in polite society by wearing a cycle jersey to the averagemarket, has mostly been deemed a highly unsociable act of the first order. translate the latter situation into daily existence, and you can perhaps see the basis of my conundrum.

additionally, there is always the addendum that many of us have attempted to underline for many a long year, that there is, or should be, no need to dress in a specific manner to simply ride a bicycle. if it is to become more mainstream, the bicycle needs to be seen as a means of transport that fits right in with normal, acceptable behaviour; that is, one that eschews three-pocketed polyester jerseys and lycra bibshorts.

however, extenuating circumstances, such as a warmer than usual ambient temperature, obviously calls for drastic measures. so while i interspersed my trip with before and after coffees, i did don (sedately coloured) sportwool and lycra shorts, not only for the pedalling part of the journey, but for the sitting in a chair, while advisedly manipulating pixels. it may not have been a made-to-measure, paul smith, three-piece suit, but it did subtly (i hope) advise my client of hitherto unsuspected athletic tendencies.

as i write, those blue skies are in danger of succumbing to a blanket of cloud and there is rain forecast for the morrow, so future visitations will surely revert to a more conservative, windproof and waterproof persona.


saturday 27 july 2019

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campagnolo bora wto carbon wheelset

campagnolo bora wto wheelset

it is perhaps fortunate that the development of performance wheelsets has maintained pace with that of carbon framesets. for wheels can surely be viewed as at least one-third of the bicycle equation, assuming you're happy to designate the componentry as the other third? looking at what might be considered a regular wheelset, an aluminium rim bound to the hub by means of an equitable number of steel spokes, laced three, or two cross, or, more recently, a radial pattern, is by now, somewhat 'old skool'.

campagnolo bora wto wheelset

tautologically, the fewer spokes involved in the build, the less disturbance made while skooshing through the air, yet the principal protagonist associated with the wheels, is probably the front tyre, the first item to engage with the airflow. ostensibly, there's not much that can be done to prevent that; minor alterations to the tread pattern will have extremely minimal effect. however, once the wheel/tyre combination has made it through the air-wall, if it was possible to smooth that disturbance, logically, the bicycle would move faster without an increase in the strenuous effort provided by the rider.

campagnolo bora wto wheelset

standard alloy rims feature minimum depth, pretty much all of which is conditioned by the depth required by the tyre, a braking surface (assuming caliper brakes) and allowance for affixation of the spokes. all in all, not a great deal. increasing the depth of the rim, apparently, keeps the airflow smoother for longer; the deeper the rim, the greater the effect. however, those deeper rims create a larger target for crosswinds, and, if fabricated from carbon fibre to reduce weight, it doesn't take other than a light gust of wind to blow an already light bicycle off course.

some of you will already be aware of this situation. my frst experience with a demonstrably light pair of carbon wheels fitted to a top level carbon racing bicycle nearly ended in tears, when an atlantic gust blew me from one side of the road to the other and almost into the ditch. there are a number of places on earth where deep carbon rims are not recommended, and islay is one of them. continued development of such rims has been able to mitigate these circumstances to a certain degree, but it would be an extreme optimist that figured a total cure is just round the corner.

campagnolo bora wto wheelset

it was with all this in mind that i asked campagnolo if i might receive a review sample of their recently released bora wto 45mm carbon wheels, available for both rim brakes (as reviewed) or the ubiquitous discs. though i was unaware at the time (i had to ask), wto is campagnolo's acronym for wind tunnel optimised, a process that campag states " certain angles, the wind can actually become a valuable ally to the rider." in keeping with this quest for aerodynamicism, the wheels' hubs have apparently also been optimised to reduce drag.

campagnolo bora wto wheelset

from an aesthetic point of view, there is much to commend the boras: the lettering featured on the shiny carbon rims is available in both bright and dark versions (i believe i have the former) and the high-gloss finish is, according to campagnolo expert, graeme freestone king, a natural sheen imparted by the quality of the mold. it looks to all intents and purposes, like an applied clearcoat. unlike some of their competitors, campagnolo mold in not only the raised valve hole, but also the spoke holes, as opposed to drilling these after the initial manufacturing process.

campagnolo bora wto wheelset

the bora wto wheels are tubeless ready, arriving with the valves necessary to install tubeless tyres, as well as a pair of carbon-friendly tyre levers, carbon specific brake shoes, wheel skewers and an impressively ostentatious pair of blue wheelbags. having previously made my feelings known regarding the faff associated with wearing tubeless tyres, i shod the boras with a pair of regular donnelly strada lgg 28mm clinchers, which will soon be the subject of a separate review. suffice it to say, they slid onto the 19mm wide rims with consummate ease, for which my thumbs are eternally grateful.

fitting clinchers and inner tubes to 45mm deep rims requires a 60mm valve stem, though you could install 40mm valves with extenders. quite why you'd choose so to do is not something i intend to lose sleep over. the front wheel is built with 18 spokes, laced radially to a smooth-looking black anodised hub containing camapgnolo's much-vaunted ultra spherical bearings. though i often despair of the acronyms employed across a wide range of componentry, the bearings in camapgnolo's hubs are exceptional. after fitting the front wheel, i spun it to check for correct tyre installation, before popping inside to make a cup of tea.

campagnolo bora wto wheelset

the wheel was still rotating when i returned.

campagnolo's freehub has successfully retained the same dimensions since their gearsets offered eight rear sprockets, so fitting twelve to accommodate the record groupset on my ritchey logic was easily accomplished. with campagnolo having recently released a twelve-speed chorus groupset, i opted to fit an 11-32 chorus cassette along with a new chain. like record and super-record, 12-speed chorus offers cassettes with either a 29 or 32 large sprocket, but in a break with a scarcely settled tradition, it's also possible to acquire a cassette with a 34 large sprocket, one that is not compatible with either of the record derailleurs.

campagnolo bora wto wheelset

a campagnolo twelve-speed cassette, of whichever flavour, arrives in sections. the six largest sprockets comprise two separate rivetted sets of three, while the smallest six cogs are loose. according to campagnolo, it's possible to swap out the three largest sprocket sets, allowing for a certain level of post purchase customisation. whether dealers are likely to stock these options remains to be seen.

the spokes on the rear wheel are grouped in seven sets of three, laced to a hub sporting a large diameter, slotted flange on the drive side. this leaves large portions of the rim's circumference completely unsupported, but on the basis that vicenza has been doing this for many a long year, i can but accept the veracity of their spoking technique.

campagnolo bora wto wheelset

though this review will offer at least two subsequent updates, i have been for a few rides aboard the bora wto wheelset since it arrived, only one of which involved an appreciable breeze. though the gusts have reached only the mid-thirties, so far they have had no detrimental effect on my ability to keep the ritchey in a straight line along uiskentuie strand. the effect on my average speed has, however, been somewhat revelatory; every ride so far has offered a higher number displayed on my garmin and i really wasn't expecting that.

despite this being the west coast of scotland, i have yet to get them wet. hopeful of finding that the combination of special pads and a carbon braking surface offers everything i hope it will, i eagerly await the next downpour. disappointingly, the front wheel/donnelly tyre combination suffers from a similar complaint as observed on previous occasions: slight rubbing under the record front caliper. quite why vicenza lowered the gap beneath the record front brake, compared to that seen on the chorus caliper, i know not, particularly when most of us are moving to wider rubber. of course, it could be that the ritchey carbon fork is complicit, possibly with a marginally lower bolt diameter than found elsewhere.

either way, the skliffing sound heard as the tyre rolls under the caliper is gradually minimising and seems not to have had any negative effect on my forward motion. from this point onwards, this rock in the atlantic will begin to experience higher winds, lower temperatures and large amounts of precipitation, the very conditions beloved of a wheel and tyre review.

i'll get back to you soon.

campagnolo bora wto wheelset

friday 26 july 2019

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crossed wires

crossed wires

having mentioned yesterday that, at one time in the distant past, i sold bicycles, the nature of so doing necessitated at one time or another, advertising the services or products on offer. though i figure i'm pretty well-versed in the mechanics and features of bicycles in general, my grasp of the proclivities and economic perspectives of my hypothetical customers were probably well wide of the mark. even in a small community such as that which constitutes this hebridean island, there are those with the wherewithal to drive particularly expensive motor cars. my thoughts were that they would happily accessorise the latter with similarly priced bicycles.

turns out, i was wrong.

when we moved to the croft just shy of thirty years past, the adjacent houses sported a single vehicle each, or, in a number of cases, no cars whatsoever. the current situation, one that applies to the entire village (and the majority of others on the island) is that many households have two or three vehicles and often a works van to boot. the most recent build of council housing was apparently required to provide a minimum of two car parking spaces per household, even including one-bedroom flats. whether that is an equitable situation is a whole 'nuther bucket of driving gloves.

in a prediction that is conceivably based more on wishful thinking than industry expertise, scott snaith, owner of e-bike retailer, 50cycles, contends that, for british families at least, e-bikes could become more common than a second car. this is based partially on a need to become kinder to the planet and a desire to save money. mr snaith has also pointed out that e-cargo bikes may make a better option for delivery firms incurring congestion charges in inner cities. unfortunately, that places his perceptions a great deal further south than the scottish hebrides, for not only are we mercifully free of congestion zones, we have no motor congestion with which to fill them.

to the best of my knowledge, neither glasgow nor edinburgh sport chargeable congestion zones either.

that said, there's little doubting that the gentleman has acquired sizeable experience with regard to the possibilities afforded by the almost ubiquitous e-bike, having operated this loughborough-based company for 16 years. he has suggested that the continued drop in car sales, including plug-in hybrid cars and diesels could be due to familes preferring to have a plugged-in bicycle charging in the garage, than a second car. while i have no wish to disparage mr snaith's experience-based optimism, i fear he is falling into the same trap that encouraged yours truly to target the owners of expensive motor cars as potential customers for an proportionally expensive bicycle.

as is often forcefully pointed out to me, whenever the conversation embraces such transportational matters, you can't take the family on a weekend to center parcs aboard a single e-bike. and that's before taking britain's climate into account. those of us in thrall to the bicycle as a transport of delight, rather than a mundane, but economic means of travel, are quite possibly inured to the vicissitudes of wind, rain and cold. but those with the financial wherewithal to possess a second vehicle in the driveway, are highly unlikely to be quite so welcoming, to the extent of contacting ', before ordering the latest e-bike.

leaving aside the economic factors for a moment, the process involved in choosing one over the other, is far more likely to be based on attitude, rather than a potential greening of a particular valley. of course, i cannot deny that i am guilty of a generalisation; there will undoubtedly be families all across the country, sat round the dinner table, holding the 'whither an e-bike ' conversation. but i seriously doubt that a drop in car sales has been caused by the welcoming with open arms of electric bicycles. according to industry statistics, the e-bike market is growing at an annual rate of 20% and the electric cycle federation have predicted that their members could be selling as many as 29 million e-bikes within the next ten years, more than double the number predicted as recently as 2017.

mr snaith figures that e-bikes will pay for themselves due to a lack of mot costs, fuel or insurance, though i see no mention of the electricity required to re-charge the battery. he also nails his colours to the flag a tad more demonstrably, by actually mentioning that an e-bike would get through london's traffic far quicker than by car, bus or tube. given the nature of his company, it is worth pointing out that he appears to ignore the fact that an analogue bicycle is capable of achieving the same at arguably lower cost and maintenance.

though there are considerably more cycle journeys undertaken daily in london than in any other city in the uk, the market for e-bikes extends a great deal further than the capital city, a factor that the owner of 50cycles seems to have completely ignored. though scotland features an area marginally greater than half that of england, its population is less than half that of london alone. tautologically, that would suggest that the scots are, in general, further away from each other and live in a climate that has a tendency to be wetter, windier and colder than that of their southern counterparts. circumstances such as those would tend to mitigate against their replacing that second car with an e-bike, on the basis of having a potentially greater average distance to travel.

there's little doubt that the advent of the e-bike is currently replicating or exceeding that of the mountain bike when it arrived on uk shores in the eighties. whether it continues with this projected meteoric rise in sales remains to be seen, but it's worth remembering that, if the power ever goes off for good, the analogue bicycle will become unbearably smug.

50 cycles

thursday 25 july 2019

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the universe of the hub

rohloff internal hub gear

on my second visit to portland town in oregon, james selman of beloved bicycles, loaned me an every day commuting bicycle from their early range. the bicycle came completely setup courtesy of westend bikes in the delightfully named sw harvey milk street. though derailleur systems would be normally the choice for fast and speedy riding, since the chances of that sort of thing happening during my visit were minimal, a set of sprockets attached to the rear wheel were largely unnecessary. the beloved every day featured a shimano alfine eight-speed hub gear, actuated by an arrangement based on shimano's rapid-fire bar-mounted lever.

on occasion, and certainly memorably via shand cycles of edinburgh, i have had the good fortune to ride cycles equipped with rohloff hub gears, relatively simple and efficient in operation, apart from the glaring oddity when changing mid-way through the gear range, where an involuntary gear option becomes suddenly in danger of breaking your knee-caps. that eccentricity might conceivably have been corrected by now, but i somehow doubt it.

the complexity of an internal hub gear, whether provided by rohloff, shimano or the sun-race owned sturmey archer is several levels greater than that owned by a derailleur system. the next time you have your road bike on the workstand, spin the pedals and click through the gears, to witness the simplicity of the system, even allowing for the precision of indexing. on a mechanical system, with each inward click of the lever, the cable distance between lever and derailleur is shortened, pulling the latter closer to the wheel. flip it in the other direction and the spring in the mech, pulls the parallelogram outwards. it's the very reason why derailleur gears only work while in motion; the forward rotational forces allow all this to proceed in an orderly manner.

i'd be fibbing if i thought i could offer you a technical explanation of how a hub gear operates, but it has a great deal to do with small, toothed cogs orbiting a central sprocket. how the smaller gears mesh with their partners alters the ratios available to the rider. the most obvious downside to such a setup is that of weight; the upside is undoubtedly the robustness of construction. i figure you could jump up and down on a rohloff hub without leaving any trace. try doing that with a campagnolo super record carbon mech (on second thoughts, don't).

as of may this year, british cycling's membership passed the 150,000 mark, but according to statistics from transport for london, there are approximately 610,000 journeys in the capital undertaken by cyclists each day, a number that, when extrapolated across the country, becomes a much larger number. i'd agree that comparing bc's membership with london's bicycle traffic is a bit like comparing oranges with bricks, but i think it safe to conclude that there is a far greater number of folks cycling, than are members of the sports' national body. i very much doubt even bc would dispute that conclusion. yet, only casual observation will show that a majority of commuting cyclists are aboard derailleur-equipped bicycles.

so why would that be?

the reason, in part, may come down to cost. though i've seen riders commuting on expensive carbon fibre, the more prescient commuter would more likely leave the carbon at home and ride a cheaper alternative. just in case it's damaged, or stolen. though i didn't search terribly hard, the cheapest hub-geared option i came across, featured a shimano three-speed and cost just shy of £400. at the back of the bikeshed, i have a taurus corinto roadster, with a sturmey-archer three-speed hub gear, the retail price of which was in excess of £800. cast your minds back to the sterling house ads for his and hers mountian bikes for only £99.99 and my point likely becomes a bit clearer.

unsurprisingly, the average hub gear assembly weighs a good few more grams than even a basic derailleur setup, but i'd be a tad surprised if weight was amongst the choice criteria when purchasing a commuting machine. inner-cities and urban surroundings are rarely blessed with steep gradients. shimano's alfine eight-speed on the beloved was a highly pragmatic choice for riding around portland town; if riding in gear eight when the lights changed, switching to an easier ratio while stationary was simplicity itself.

i would think it highly likely that there are far more derailleur-equipped bicycles available via your nearest cycle shop than those featuring hub gears, but that situation reminds of a similar conundrum encountered when i once sold bicycles. a prominent world cycle manufacturer featured a proper bicycle within its range, replete with mudguards, frame-pump, rack and five-speed hub gear, the sort of thing i was frequently encouraged by customers to stock. yet, on attempting to order one or two for sale, the manufacturer stated that this particular model was unavailable in the uk. when i asked why, they informed me "there's no demand for it".

surely a case of 'build it and they will come'? i do not own or manage either a large or small cycle manufacturer, so it would be sheer folly to have me involved in specifying any models included within a hypothetical range, but i harbour a sneaking suspicion that, were more hub-geared bicycles available and resembling the sort of machines most of us would like to own, pragmatism might just overtake style in the end of year sale figures. low maintenance, sturdy construction and ease of use would surely be more appropriate for those who view the bicycle principally as transport, rather than a potential race-winning, wind-tunnel-tested carbon missile.

mind you, many a motor car is purchased on the basis of its 0-60 acceleration, rather than how easy it is to park.

wednesday 24 july 2019

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

first world problem number two

electric bike

there is a fundamental problem with electric cars, that's as obvious to everyone else as it is to me, and it revolves around the fact that they operate on a battery. granted, it's a problem that is unlikely to affect so-called hybrids, but if we assume that climate change protocols will eventually outlaw the latter, the problem remains the same. but then, the relatively new breed of self-charging cars bring a somewhat ironic problem all of their very own.

inner-city and urban congestion are two flavours of the same irritant, identifiable as the progenitors of the urgency behind the electric car in the first place. a cornucopia of slow-moving vehicles in a confined space can do little other than produce a veritable fug of pollution, a problem that the emissionless electric car can displace in a matter of minutes. yet, having explored the rationale behind the self-charging hybrid, it transpires that the 'charging' bit only kicks-in past 40 mph, a speed rarely achieved in town or city driving.

but obviously enough, the driver of a hybrid car can eschew use of the battery altogether, transforming a partially 'green' vehicle into just 'a car'. but if environmental issues persist, as indeed they must, the infernal combustion part of the equation has to disappear entirely. which creates the hypothetical scenario of mum, dad and the kids off on holiday, some distance from home and realising that the car needs to be charged en-route. firstly, a charge point needs to be found, then the kids need to be entertained for the few hours it takes to fully charge the battery.

if we assume that such an incident will not necessarily be an isolated one, whoever creates a franchise of fun fairs in every town throughout the uk, could be set to earn themselves a large fortune.

so whither the electric bicycle? the sole representative of the genre of which i have had the pleasure of making acquaintance, has been specialized's turbo vado. though its personality was not one that matched my own, there are many for whom the converse will be the case, something i believe we should be welcoming with open arms. however, it was notable that fully recharging the battery on the specialized took several hours, while battery usage was dependent predominantly on the level of power-assist engaged during the preceding ride.

the ride of the falling rain is but a couple of weeks distant, an event that will add up to only two in which i have participated this year, having ridden the etape loch ness a few months ago. the latter covered only a few more than 60 miles, while the 'falling rain' adds forty more, somewhat greater than the useful charge offered by the average e-bike battery. in connection with the latter, i was quizzed by an acquaintance yesterday afternoon as to the wisdom of installing charging points around the island for the use of e-cyclists.

i advised, in my infinite wisdom, that so doing may prove a tad pointless; if the battery on an e-bike regsisters as empty, there still remains the option of riding it home unassisted. alternatively, any attempt to recharge the battery would surely entail a localised search for bed and breakfast while that takes place? there's no doubt whatsoever, that battery technology will improve exponentially, even if only as a result of the desperate need to improve those upon which the car industry is about to depend. it may be quite some time before an e-bike can be ridden all day and at any power level, with scant regard for recharging along the way, but things won't remain that way for too long.

while i'd be one of the first to admit that an e-bike will conceivably offer a new lease of pollution-free transport to certain portions of society, there is still a sizeable section of that same society that could benefit from an analogue bicycle, right here, right now. bikes such as these can be ridden all day every day and might, arguably, offer more health benefits without the need for electricity generation at a power station near you. let's be clear; acquiring an e-bike will not provide unassailable climate change credentials; only an analogue bike will achieve that.

however, it's still an interesting - and daunting - thought, that the burgeoning e-bike market might have need of an independent, nationwide support network, to say nothing of finding a bike shop in more remote areas, fully conversant with the lingua franca of electric motors and battery management.

be careful out there: it's about to become a brave new world.

tuesday 23 july 2019

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................