yes we can

cytech workshop

in the early 1990s, a younger friend and i expanded our portfolio, so to speak, from maintaining the local bike hire bikes, to offering cycle repair services to the rest of islay. initially, this was a lot busier than you might think, for despite the island's minimal population of around 3,000, with there having been no cycle repair for many a long year, there was a certain pent-up demand to bring velocipedinal matters up to speed, with a large number of bicycles that had sat unloved in bike sheds all across the principality.

we rarely, if ever, turned anyone away, but it cannot be denied that some of the bicycles brought to our attention were not in the finest of condition. invariably, those with nuts and bolts that simply would not loosen or tighten, were taken to a dark corner of the workshop when no-one was around, and beaten into submission with a large hammer. such manouevres were never undertaken in sight of the customer; so doing would have grossly undermined our pretence that we were skilled mechanics, fettling bicycles that were putty in our hands.

this led to the bike hire proprietor referring to us as the 'blodgett brothers', a moniker that we may not have found popular, but there was little denying its veracity.

though i'm sure there are still recalcitrant bottom brackets and elderly freewheels (many of which appeared to have been factory fitted with nary a smidgeon of grease) that even lead the current crop of far more qualified bicycle technicians resorting to substantial mallets, modern-day bicycle maintenance is far closer to that professed by formula one mechancics than the blodgett brothers of yesteryear.

the gent who owned the town bicycle shop when i were a lad, wore a flat cap and a not always pristine brown coat, similar to that worn by arkwright in 'open all hours'. when time came to retrieve a repaired bicycle from his premises, we were led to a large shed at the back of the shop, lit by a single bulb, and filled with all manner of bicycles that could barely be distinguished in the darkness. those that could be seen inevitably sported a brown label tied to the handlebar, featuring the customer name and cost of retrieval.

how things have changed.

most bike shop workshops nowadays more closely resemble computer fabrication plants, or medical operating theatres. not only do the majority of cycle mechanics wear the ubiqutous blue gloves, there's a veritable supply of the things sat upon those red mobile tool cabinets often espied in the pit garages at silverstone. and arwright's brown coat has been replaced a by trendy aprons with pockets capable of holding the very mallet you need to free a cross-threaded bottom bracket cup from an expensive carbon frame.

velotech's, graeme freestone king, whose words have often appeared in these black and yellow pixels, is one of the planet's finest bicycle mechanics and is responsible for carrying out authorised training on behalf of campagnolo. and training company cytech is currently seeking training partners in both scotland and ireland as it looks to expand its reaches throughout the kingdom. cytech is managed by the association of cycle traders and has been responsible for training bicycle mechanics currently working in 52 countries.

and for this, we should be eternally grateful. it's no secret that bicycles have become increasingly technologically based in recent years, with ever increasing complexity that rarely favours the home-mechanic, an individual who may have read and even understood one of the better manuals on the market, but who will rarely be in possession of the tools required for the job. in my early years on the island, i thought myself more than competent to repair pretty much any malfeasance that might afflict a bicycle. but as hydraulic suspension forks became more and more prevalent across the board in the mountain biking world, the cost of learning and tooling to effect even basic repairs moved well outside my sphere of influence.

that situation has but intensified, with electronic gear-shifting, hydraulic disc brake systems, tubeless tyres and carbon everything. for one bloke with a garden shed on a small scottish island, keeping up to date with both techniques and tools, on the off-chance that a few locals will own such machinery, or a visiting cyclist may need mechanical succour, is an all but impossible task.

but in the spirit of the phrase 'it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it', the fact that training continues apace, should surely give us all confidence. when we take our prides and joy to the bikeshop, complaining of '"a noise coming from the bottom bracket", the fact that, despite it having nothing to do with the bottom bracket, there are fully-qualified boys and girls capable of returning a noiseless bicycle precisely when they say they will only a few days later, makes it easier to sleep at night. and if velotech and cytech have their way, that will continue to be the case for many years of unnecessary tech to come.

thankfully, the blodgett brothers are in permanent retirement.

monday 13 december 2021

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not going out

rain stopped play

with reference to the 'great indoors', as vilified in yesterday's post, i figure i was hoist by my own petard on saturday. a combination of reluctance, tiredness and weather conspired to keep me indoors for the day, with nary a bicycle lifted from the bike shed, no kilometres accumulated, and not a double-egg roll to be seen or consumed. i regularly come across training advice underlining that rest is every bit as important as action, but i cannot deny that i did not particularly enjoy my ensconcement.

obstacle number one took the shape of a late friday evening gig at one of bowmore's prestigious hostelries, ostensibly as accompaniment to a party night, but in truth, simply another night in the public bar. thankfully, these gigs are, like many of the drinks consumed (by others, i might add), doubles. thus, there is no requirement to dismantle my drumset at evening's end. 'tis but a short walk back to the croft, even though admittedly well past the midnight hour.

no longer as young as once i was, though younger than my two musical compatriots, having need of arising at 7am to distribute the printed copies of islay's local newspaper, was not the start to the day i would have made by choice. couple that with darkness, a sturdy wind and persistent rain, and the sleep was forcibly washed from my eyes, only to return following the daily plate of porridge.

it has been my habit on each and every saturday throughout this year, last year, and pretty much every year prior to that, as far back as the millennium, to feature my own grand départ and perambulate the estates. these perambulations are frequently interspersed with a soya latte and the infamous double-egg roll, but i really wasn't kidding when i mentioned the persistence of the rain.

as a stalwart of minimal repute, a few drops of precipitation would scarcely be sufficient to turn yours truly into a one-day recluse, but the fact that i fell asleep following a hearty breakfast, and the greyness and wetness of the day, meant that the goretex could be saved for another day. however, though i may have qualified to choose from rapha's indoor range, nothing could have been further from my mind, the remainder of the day occupied by frequent checks of xcweather in the forlorn hope that it would show an impending meteorological rennaissance, punctuated with cheerful little sun icons.

this irritating behaviour, in the eyes of mrs washingmachinepost, persisted from darkness to darkness, made even more unbearable, no doubt, by continued trips to the window to check for any break in the cloud cover. disappointment was my bedfellow.

i have been known to fervently defend my contention that i do not possess an addictive nature. on an island festooned with single malt whisky distilleries, i never drink alcohol, i have never smoked, i hold no truck with drug-taking, and i'm not much keen on chocolate either. however, what i blindly believed was simply a love affair with cycling, one strong enough to take me out each and every saturday, now appears to be an addiction; perhaps a healthy addiction, but an addiction nonetheless.

however, at no point of this black mark on my reputation did i ever regret not owning a smart turbo, a zwift subscription, earbuds, or a vest top with rapha emblazoned on the front. i did want to be outdoors, even in the rain, but the prospect of pools of water 'neath my chair, both at debbie's and at home, were sufficient to not only have me think of others who would probably have to mop up after me, but conveniently classify this saturday aberration as a period of rest.

life's not the same without a double-egg roll.

sunday 12 december 2021

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festive 500

on the frequent occasions it is tautologically pointed out to me that i tend to ride my bicycle more frequently than any of the commenters, i have been in the habit of stating that "it keeps me off the streets", the tentative humour being that, on the contrary, it does precisely the opposite. even mrs washingmachinepost, who really ought to know better, more frequently than you'd like to think, enquires if i'm really going to go out riding in that. 'that', i need scarcely relate, usually refers to wet, breezy days.

but i, like many of you and my compatriots in the sunday peloton, have at our fingertips, state of the art, breathable waterproofing, studiously designed to keep body and soul as dessicated as can be achieved with modern technology. and before you correctly point out that a substantial portion of this state-of-the-art technology has a tendency to cost an arm and a leg, might i point out that even the lower-priced versions of such garmentage is several levels of improvement over yesterday's apparel. aside from which, i think it only fair to point out that whatever the value your notional cycling budget, it ought best include a few pence to spend on keeping warm and dry.

otherwise, where's the point?

this particular vicissitude may be, in part, responsible for the growing number of indoor cyclists, the latter accommodated by several clothing manufacturers by way of indoor training kit. some (i'm talking to you, santini), even offer customisable club kit for the purpose. nope, me neither. rapha, amongst others, feature a specific indoor training range, sales of which may be assured by imperial works' willingness to allow indoor denizens to participate in this year's (and last year's) festive 500.

to satisfy conditions, the aforementioned 500 kilometres ought best be completed between christmas eve and new year's eve, averaging at around 63 kilometres per day. it's a challenge i was happy to undertake for the first ten years, before entering semi-retirement (i only ride half that distance now), a challenge that was invariably exaggerated by the prospect of losing at least one, if not two days to inclement weather. ever since i was blown off my bike in year two, i became a tad more circumspect when reading the festive weather forecast.

and that, to put not too fine a personal opinion on matters, is how it should be. most of us will find little challenge in riding 63 kilometres daily over the course of eight days, but britain's winter weather is precisely what makes the festive 500 an actual challenge. allowing the less intrepid amongst their customers to trade the great outdoors for what they themselves have termed 'the great indoors' is, i believe, a mistake, for it offers visions of a level playing field that is anyhting but.

even in the days before covid forced such festive leniency, islay's sunday peloton was commenting on those participating in the challenge on america's west coast, or down under, where weather conditions often brought images of riders sitting outdoors, clad in short-sleeved jerseys and bib-shorts, while we were clad in every sort of goretex we could lay our thermal, waterproof mitts on. come the new year, those riders were just as welcome to claim their embroidered, sew-on patch, as were those of us still shaking off the after effects of hypothermia.

however, at least the californians and australians were taking outdoor chances, embracing the great outdoors. the only challenge i can see from riding on a smart turbo in front of a flat panel tv screen or an ipad, is overcoming 500 kilometres of terminal boredom.

bicyces were never designed to be ridden indoors. the world's principle cycle manufacturers have not spent a veritable fortune on studying carbon layup, computer fluid dynamics software and expensive time in formula one wind-tunnels, to have their offspring clamped to a turbo trainer bereft of their rear wheels. nor indeed, i'm sure, did the world's cycling apparel purveyors produce three-layer breathable membranes to fend off unruly pixels in watopia. even if they now offer an indoor collection.

the velo club peloton has often heard it remarked during heavy weather, that it's hardly a good day for cycling. call me over optimistic, but my regular retort to those remarks insists that it's always a good day for cycling. when government advice is still to work from home where possible, take every opportunity to appreciate the great outdoors, and preferably on a bicycle. indoor training has its place, but i would contest that its place is not during those eight days in december.

festive 500

saturday 11 december 2021

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nothing inside

tyre lever

though there will be a large section of the cycling community that will fear that i am about to anger the tyre gods (i believe the colloquial term is jinxing) by even broaching the subject of punctures, it's a potential problem worth considering. at this time of year, there is a distinct tendency for more grit, gravel and not-nice-stuff to feature on the roads, particularly if you live someplace where the gritters are called out everytime ice is forecast in lochgilphead, some twenty-five miles from islay's mainland ferry terminal.

aside from the increased likelihood of the above causing unwanted deflationary measures, the greater likelihood of inclement weather makes repairing the malfeasance a tad more onerous than during the summer months. that's exaggerated just a smidgeon here on the outer edge, with its famous lack of shelter and a parcours that frequently skirts the edge of the north atlantic. it gives me no pleasure whatsoever to admit that almost every puncture i have suffered, over a number of years and frequently on review bikes, has been within shouting distance of saligo bay. from there, the next westerly stop is the eastern seaboard of nova scotia.

it's this knowledge and experience that frequently has me riding in one or two more layers than absolutely necessary. it is a salient fact that so doing will undoubtedly have me warmer than sense would dictate, but also the awareness that if i have to stop for any reason, i'm going to cool down disturbingly quickly. in fact, despite admitting to resembling the michelin man, i frequently carry even a spare stowaway jacket for added coverage in the face of adversity.

but, if it were simply a matter of dressing for the event, i could probably cope with that, but as jiminy cricket was wont to repeat, "...there's more." i'd be quite surprised if any cyclist nowadays relies solely on the ubiquitous puncture repair kit. aside from my contention that either patches are no longer made as once they were, or whether it's the inner tubes, but when i still made use of the repair kits, latterly, i struggled manfully to have the patches stick for any meaningful period of time. simpler to simply replace the tube, and fix the punctured one later.

i have brought up this particular point with visiting cyclists over the years. imagine standing at saligo bay, where shelter is darned hard to come by, in pouring rain and galefore winds, trying not only to find the hole, but then stick a repair patch to a soaking wet inner tube.

the goalposts have, however, moved somewhat in recent years with the introduction of tubeless tyres. i have mentioned this to the point of boredom, but i'll repeat once more by stating that i have no truck with the latter whatsoever. having tried and tested a variety of tubeless tyres and rims, the level of faff incurred pushed me straight back to stabdard clinchers. however, that doesn't obviate the fact that the new breed of tubeless tyres, reputedly also accommodating of inner tubes, arrive replete with tougher and arguably less flexible beads. it's no secret that this has made fitting tyres far more of a chore than was ever the case.

yet even supposing you are running tubeless without an inner tube, the act of repairing in the case of a substantial puncture is not an entirely simple matter. believe it or not, replicating the act of attempting to stick a patch to a rain-soaked tube, i have a tubeless repair kit that features a large patch intended to be stuck to the inner side of the tyre. this obviously fails to take into account the fact that the inside of the tyre is almost certainly coated with white gloop intended to fend off minor punctures.

however, replicating my own experiences, i have read more than a few gripes from cyclists on both sides of the atlantic of painful thumbs and broken tyre levers, trying to fit or re-fit their tyres, whether tubeless or clincher. i have also read many articles and watched youtube videos demonstrating how such travesties can be successfully overcome. naturally enough, none of those video demonstrations took place in anything like the sort of weather we're likely to experience at this time of year. it's quite likely that carrying out the instructions in a cosy workshop with a workstand on which to place the bicycle, is far simpler.

i've mentioned before that i carry with me at all times, a tyre-jack, a handy tool that allows me to fit those last few centimetres of tyre-bead without breaking both thumbs, and i would strongly advise that you do too. but, in consideration of tubeless tyres, recall that these usually require a substantial effort with track pump to have them seat on the wheel rim when first fitted. if, for any reason, it has proved necessary to remove the tubeless tyre to effect a repair, good luck trying to generate the air pressure required with only a mini-pump.

maybe it's simply the ageing process, or perhaps, like long hot rain-free summers, i'm looking at things through rose-tinted oakleys, but i do not recall experiencing the trials and tribulations of modern-day tyre fitting during the halcyon days of yore. though one doesn't wish to boast, i was once able to fit the majority of tyres without resort to tyre levers. and talking of which, does anyone else find that tyre removal is less simple nowadays? though i can usually manage to insert the lever under the tyre bead, attempting to push it around the rim to release the tyre bead requires muscles like arnie. i once took to carrying a chunk of clear soap in my seat pack to rub on the rim edge and ease the tyre lever movement.

so, while gear changing has been eased with the introduction of a battery and servo motors, and braking has been improved with hydraulic assistance, the giving has also been seemingly taken away by the tyre companies. one step forward, two steps back.

but then again, nobody ever said cycling would be a walk in the park. it's what pain and suffering is all about.

friday 10 december 2021

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strava 2021: what have we learned?


as i may have mentioned on several previous occasions, though the bike du jour will almost always feature a garmin gps device attached to the handlebars, the information which it gathers during the course of my perambulations is summarily dismissed on its removal from the bike upon my return. coincidentally, on arriving at debbie's last saturday, i was greeted with the remark "brian's probably already on strava.", the endpiece of a conversation concerning use of the web platform i have often referred to as 'facebook for cyclists'.

and in possibly the modern equivalent of wearing logo'd apparel, it seems that strava users are quite happy to provide free information to the san francisco-based web platform, despite many of its users paying between £4 and £6.99 per month for the privilege. it's information such as this from which strava earns its income.

according to strava's 2021 report, they have over 95 million adherents across the world, who are joined, apparently, by two million more each month. if nothing else, those figures attest to an ever-increasing number of individuals participating in measurable activity of one sort or another. those activities taking place over the past year total 1.8 billion uploads, the aggregate of which covered over 20 million miles in the process.

and if we relate all the information gathered to the topic of the day, global warming, strava have been able to relate certain decreases in activity to weather-related events, such as the extreme heatwave which affected oregon earlier this year (outdoor activities dipped by 23%). closer to home, when storm cristoph landed on uk shores in january this year, outdoor activity in britain dropped by 32%. on a slightly more twee level, strava indicates that their self-styled community supported each other by sending out 9.6 billion kudos, which i can only assume, bears similarities to the likes featured on facebook and twitter. in other words, somewhat pointless, but seemingly socially acceptable behaviour amongst the digiterati.

strava's ceo, probably revelling in the freely provided statistics on which his salary is undoubtedly based, said in an almost patronising-free manner, "Every effort counts on Strava, and our team is thrilled to provide a platform for anyone who sweats to connect with their peers, find new places to be active, set goals for themselves, create clubs and challenge their friends."

however, since there is no legal or moral requirement to upload your day's cycling or running activity, i can only assume that the 1.8 billion uploads were voluntarily given, whether aware of how strava uses such data or not. but while i would question just how sincere mr horvath is under such circumstances (cynicism is an easy habit to adopt - i should know), i think the man, presumably in conjunction with his marketing department, may well be guilty as charged when paying attention to how strava addresses its members. apparently, based even on anonymised data, anyone who uploads any information to strava, no matter how derisory, is immediately defined as an athlete

if i might quote mr horvath once again: "Strava is committed to creating positive impact in the areas that matter to us and our athletes."

though i have no truck with strava whatsoever, purely because i fail to see the point, i can assure you that, were i to upload the data from my regular saturday ride, there would be very little about it that might be described as athletic. considering i would probably struggle even to be recognised as mr average, i also think it more than likely i am not alone. but if, as mr horvath's marketing department so clearly and repetitively states, we can be considered as athletes, is this not tantamount to a gross undermining of the word's definition? i mean, if we accept the compliment as accurate, it would place us in the same category as wout van aert, matthieu van der poel and tadej pogacar, to say nothing of geraint thomas and mark cavendish.

how many green or yellow jerseys in your wardrobe?

image: strava

thursday 9 december 2021

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what the nft?

bike club

though many of us spend arguably more time on twitter than is probably good for us, i'd figure few of us have any idea of those who founded the so-called 'micro-blogging' platform. in point of fact, twitter counts four individuals as founders: noah glass, biz stone, evan williams and jack dorsey. and it's the latter of those whose recent financial movements have given cause for discussion on both the interwebs and traditional media. for dorsey has resigned from twitter to spend more time watching and investing in the notorious cryptocurrency, bitcoin.

richard mitchelson

for those who have spent the last few years ensconced in a hermit's cave in rural greece, bitcoin is a digital alternative to 'normal' money, a currency that doesn't actually exist in tangible form, and apparently is devoid of any gold standard to back it up. in other words, as dire straits commented in song, 'money for nothing'. the veracity of bitcoin and several other, similar cryptocurrencies, is maintained through the equally obscure blockchain, a computer filing system that relies on a system remarkably similar to a raid disk array, where the first link in the blockchain contains information relating to an item stored on the second, which contains information relating to the third, and so on.

thus, should any miscreant wish to make off with someone else's bitcoin, they'd literally have to scrub each independent location on the blockchain, a process which i am reliably informed, is darned near impossible. but the blockchain is based on an independent principle, one which can be utilised in oh, so many different ways. that brings us neatly on to the obscurely named, non fungible tokens or nft. these can be literally anything, saleable to anyone and verified by means of the blockchain. in digital format, literally anyone can copy or download the image associated with the nft, but only one person can be legally defined as its owner.

suddenly, di2 maintenance looks like a walk in the park.

you will scarcely bat an eyelid when i inform you that the most expensive nft artwork sold to date, realised a tidy £52.38 million for an artist referred to as beeple. entitled ''everydays: the first 5000 days', it contains a collage of 5000 pieces of his work. renowned illustrator and cartoonist, richard mitchelson will not, i believe, be charging quite such a sum for the non fungible tokens referred to as membership 'avatars' for those joining the world's first blockchain-based cycling club.

simply dubbed, bike club, according to richard, it's an entirely new way "...for riders globally to engage with industry, athletes and brands." ten percent of all revenues will be donated to cycling-related charities and advocacy groups, with membership providing access to private groups, channels, strava club and more. and referring to my opening gambit, membership is verifiable on ethereum, an open-source, decentralised blockchain.

according to richard, "the bike club roadmap includes irl rides with pros, vip experiences at major events (think sea otter, unbound, bwr, etc.), deliver hard-to-get race entries, and so much more. pre-launch sneak peeks, exclusive pre-order opportunities, and special deals will provide ongoing value far, far beyond the initial mint price, delivering outsized value to every member."

so why not just create a bike club with cardboard membership cards, a dye-sub jersey and a water bottle? why the blockchain? "we firmly believe that the future of community, gaming, social media, and commerce is being built on the blockchain. bike club is leaning into this future by digitally recreating the strong cycling culture we all enjoy, allowing free and open communication between brands, athletes, events, and riders while creating massive value for everyone involved."

and it would seem that rich mitch is not the only one so convinced, for the cycle industry seems every bit as keen to support the idea of a cycle club with non fungible tokens at its centre. already onboard are well-known brands including alchemy, rotor, bmc, fezzari, silca, white industries, kali, niner, prologo and felt bikes. regularly updated details are available on the bike club website prior to the blockchain going live in january next year.

bike club

wednesday 8 december 2021

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what should i wear?

road, gravel & mtb

though endura cycle clothing's slogan proclaims all tribes, one clan', a statement that refers to the various sub-genres of cycling that either afflict or benefit the world of cycling (depending on your opinion), there's no doubt that identifying as a cyclist often proposes more questions than answers. mountain biking, for instance, was once a single entity, developing from the predilection of a bunch of californian hippies to scream down the gravel slopes of mount tamalpais on beach cruisers with coaster brakes, before trucking everything back to the top and repeating the process ad finitum.

nowadays there is downhill, cross-country and trials mountain biking, accompanied by three distinct tyre sizes. then there's cyclocross, a sport that has managed to contain its enthusiasm to a singular purpose, while roadies have their time-trialling, road-racing, touring, triathlon and track. though there's crossover between pretty much all of the above, it's hard to know whether the development of gravel ought to be categorised under road, cross (which it most closely resembles), or mountain, particularly given the prevalence of drop-bars on the majority of present day gravel offerings.

and lest you think i appear overly divisive in such matters, take a look at the latest gravel offering from cervelo, for instance. though the company suffered the ignomy of jumbo-visma's wout van aert riding a painted bianchi 'cross bike last year, since cervelo had no 'cross bike in the range, their website currently trumpets the demonstrative victory of van aert at boom last weekend aboard their r5-cx. however, their aspero gravel bike, advertised with the slogan 'haul ass, not cargo', would suggest it be classified more as a road bike with gravel pretensions, rather than one more suited to the likes of bike-packing or touring. the aspero could easily be mistaken for a road-race bike, were it not for the wider, knobblier tyres.

in my early days as a faux mountain-biker, i mostly wore the de-rigeur baggy jerseys, allied to a pair of been-bag trousers, an apparel purveyor sadly no longer in existence. when my attentions turned to the road, it was compulsorily implied that i ought to be clad in a close-fitting jersey with rear pockets and tights that showed every leg muscle i did not possess. scotland's endura, originally an exclusively mountain bike clothing supplier, now, like many others, features a choice of mountain, road, gravel, tri, transit and leisure. but does this force us into making a choice?

rapha, possibly last to the party, launched their performance trailwear in june this year, confusingly referring to it as both the above and mtb on their website. the accompanying imagery would tend to suggest that flat bars and suspension are a pre-requisite for purchase, but in an interview with relinquishing ceo, simon mottram, he agreed that the rise and rise of gravel was likely to bolster sales of this less figure-hugging attire. unless, perhaps, you happen to be riding a cervelo aspero, in which case, rapha's road range might be thought more appropriate.

at least two decades past, i spent a sizeable portion of time attempting to learn the ins and outs of avid pro-tools, the industry standard software employed by the world's professional and many home-recording studios. as time progressed, though my knowledge increased, i became increasingly aware that there was an exponential amount about which i knew very little, with the prospect of even greater ignorance beyond that. it was clear, at that point, that i had either to head down the rabbit hole, or admit that it was something better left to others, and go back to cycling.

i have a fear that those new to cycling might find that the activity has, similar to pro-tools, unexplored depths. imagine buying a bicycle through the cycle to work scheme with the purpose of commuting to work, only to discover that you may subsequently have to identify as a roadie, a 'cross rider, mountain biker (and all that such a term entails), graveller, tourer, bikepacker or time-triallist. then note that each has an individual and often different dress code. suddenly the bus or train doesn't seem such a bad option after all.

as a wise man once said, "oo ee, oo aah, aah, wing-wang, walla walla bing bang.

tuesday 7 december 2021

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