in the shade

nathan haas colnago g3-x

the background colour to thewashingmachinepost, was, perhaps obviously enough, chosen for its similarity to the leader's jersey in the tour de france. every now and again i used to take the trouble to alter the colour to pink for the giro d'italia, something that ought to be simplicity itself by way of style sheets, but in my early days of rudimentary webpage coding, i set it up in a fashion that proved a tad more onerous than it should.

nathan haas colnago g3-x

my bad.

software giants, adobe, once featured a plug-in called kuler (the phonetic spelling of colour) to aid the graphic design world in its attempts to produce colour co-ordinated websites, brochures, backgrounds, posters et al. though most of us who consider ourselves bona-fide graphic designers thought this the preserve of the amateur, as obviously we possessed a superior tonal perspective on the world, in truth, it proved a very handy tool, able to generate a myriad of colour palettes in seconds without too much fuss.

nathan haas colnago g3-x

this plug-in, from its humble beginnings, has now surfaced as a fully-fledged web resource at, where the great and the good can head to achieve everything from co-ordinating the sitting room to creating a bicycle frame with a pleasing-to-the-eye paint job. which is quite possibly where colnago headed recently when providing the very fortunate nathan haas with yet another custom g3-x gravel bike on which to compete in the recent sbt grvl race, an event that obviously struggles with vowels.

nathan haas colnago g3-x

as it transpires, haas finished in tenth place, but i now wonder when it was that the bicycle industry made the announcement of something as superficial as a bicycle's paint job, even the rather attractive purple rain which colnago presented to haas, into something worthy of a press release. we are conditioned to approaching each year's tour de france or new cyclocross season in the expectation that there will be numerous technical developments on show, all the better to leave the competition trailing in each other's wake. i have yet, however, to become aware of any claims that a rider took top spot as a result of the paint atop the carbon fibre.

nathan haas colnago g3-x

that day, however, may not be too far distant, given that chris froome has been provided with a custom painted factor frame to ride in this year's vuelta frame. according to factor bikes, the 'phoenix rising' motif and pink-yellow-red flashes, nod toward his grand tour hat-trick and celebrate his recovery from injury. the question that i feel needs to be asked is whether paint has become the new tech. as in, has the sporting milieu hit the buffers as far as technological development is concerned?

nathan haas colnago g3-x

while the uci maintains its grasp on what's allowed and what's not, i'd imagine there are distinct limits as to what's possible within the regulations. the fear would surely be that, if paint colour becomes the new black, the uci might step in to control which colours are allowable, or perhaps even which combinations of colours. after all, they have distinctly prescribed parameters enforcing the size and number of logos allowable on team jerseys and the power of veto over any unsubmitted jersey changes at uci sanctioned events. and though i know not whether the likes of jumbo visma's jersey change for this year's tour de france was the responsibility of aigle or aso, there's already a precedent there when it comes to colour variations.

nathan haas colnago g3-x

and returning to that purple painted colnago, cambiago has indulged a certain amount of self-congratulation by pointing out that nathan haas has received 'five bikes with five different liveries to herald his return to the dirt tracks of the early days of his career'. given the distinct lack of attribution credited to the technical prowess of the g3-x, one wonders whether colour might be the next secret weapon. i for one would be overjoyed if discovering that, for instance, a red bike provided an extra couple of kilometres an hour as opposed to a green one.

perhaps mr haas ought to check what colour of bicycle was ridden by keegan swenson, winner of the sbt grvl race.

monday 22 august 2022

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reality bites

words, words, words

i very much doubt that the subject of how you sell bicycles to those who don't yet know they want them, has been the result of either a masters degree or, perhaps, a phd, though if i find myself with the requisite amount of time and an agreeable educational institution, one day, i might attempt one or t'other. until that day arrives, we will probably have to live with copywriters' hyperbole, extolling the virtues of that which they have been charged with promoting. the perennial difficulty with this revolves around the fact that the majority of advertisements are currently aimed at those of us already familiar with the benefits of a velocipedinal life.

if the bicycle industry is currently experiencing scarcely concealed dismay that, according to the bicycle association, sales are 25% down on even pre-covid levels, perhaps it might wish to consider different strategies that might conceivably reverse that particular trend. as i open the latest copy of 'cyclist' magazine to witness a double-page spread depicting jonas vingegaard and wout van aert offering victory salutes on the champs elysees, i can only issue a tired sigh. for this is an issue we have discussed before at length, yet nothing seems to have altered.

the jumb visma advert referred to above is accompanied by only two words, one of which is 'merci' and the other 'cervélo'. its effectiveness surely rests upon the fact that it appears in one of britain's few remaining cycling magazines, ostensibly purchased by those already in thrall to the bicycle. in this case, specifically those who follow the fortunes of the professional milieu. as a result, this double-page spread will presumably only appeal to those in the market for a bicycle costing rather a lot of money and capable only of supporting electronic groupsets.

those who fit into that particular category are unlikely to be sufficiently numerous to make even a tiny dent in the aforementioned 25% sales deficit. for that number to exhibit significant growth, the industry is going to have to sell far less expensive bicycles to a large number of people who are not in the habit of reading cycling magazines.

when i first asked certain manufacturers why they didn't advertise in the likes of motoring or lifestyle magazines, the common answer was that of cost. yet many of those to whom i spoke currently sponsor world tour teams, probably at far greater outlay than the price of an advert in autocar, country life or gq magazines. and those are quite likely the sort of publications where the greatest conversions might result, appealing, as i mentioned, to those who currently remain blissfully unaware that a bicycle is for them.

but those copywriters may have to brush up on their hyperbole to clinch the deal. i have an idea that the words 'merci' and 'cervélo' might be seen as less than persuasive to the great unwashed. and this advertising initiative applies every bit as much to the nascent e-bike market, one that almost by definition, is designed to appeal to those who have little idea of just what a jumbo visma actually is.

in an example of what i think might not be the copywriter's finest hour, one of britain's traditional cycle manufacturers has launched its lightest e-bike with the words, 'the bike is made for the fast-paced urban lifestyle, with modern technology and a sleek look.' is a 'fast-paced urban lifestyle' one that is seen to be missing a bicycle? but should you think my judgment to err a tad on the harsh side, perhaps the ensuing marketing speak will provide a more cogent reason for my disparagement...

"delayed trains and gridlock traffic mean nothing if you have this bike in your armoury. on two wheels you can glide past congestion and cruise through the backroads of the city - the roads you've always been meaning to explore. it is ready to help you unlock your surroundings, broaden your perspective and most importantly, enjoy the journey."

is that really the tack that will encourage potential customers to part with a couple of hundred pounds more than £2,000? does any urban domicile recognise the above as relateable to their immediate environment, a situation that might be prudently ameliorated by purchase of a 16.5kg e-bike? personally, i'm inclined to think not, but i would perhaps be forced to agree that it paints a more attractive and inviting picture than an e-bike currently advertised in 'cyclist' magazine which simply presents three images, the name of the machine in question, along with the description: 60km in 1 charge | bluetooth | lightweight | recharge as you ride | built in alarm

gets the pulse racing, don't you think?

saturday 20 august 2022

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a different dimension


teenagers, and to a certain extent, adults domiciled in both remote rural communities or one of scotland's west coast islands, face something of a dilemma when time comes to consider further education. islay is fortunate in that it features a secondary school taking pupils up to sixth year. those on jura, for instance, have only the option of primary school education, before having need of travelling to islay five days per week to continue their education. and up until relatively recently, had any pupil wished to undertake further education, there was no alternatve but to apply for a place at a mainland college or university and move accordingly.

this has had the unfortunate side effect of reducing the island populations, for often once qualified, those youngsters do not return home. however, following the advent of argyll college, now partnered with the university of the highlands and islands, it is possible to undertake some form of further study using the internet and video conferencing. the disadvantage of the latter is the lack of opportunity to experience different surroundings and mix with people from different backgrounds, both of which might help prepare an individual for their future careers. thus, attendance at and the subsequent social experience of college or university, is often seen as every bit as important as the subject studied.

and that, i think, is something every bit as true for cycling, an explanation of which i will get to if you're willing to bear with me for a moment.

in 2007, i undertook to ride the hot chillee london-paris event over distances and roads of which i had no previous experience. thus, i trained every weekend, slowly increasing both distance and speed until i felt reasonably confident that i could arrive in paris under my own steam. when entering for the event (and i have also ridden in 2008 and 2017), i opted for the slowest group, partly because i wanted to see the countryside and scenery other than through the mist and black spots of extreme effort, and also because, as a dweller of a small island, i had no experience whatsoever of riding in larger groups.

should the reality of doing so have proved beyond my meagre abilities, i had no great wish to ruin someone else's cycling holiday by getting in the way, or worse, knocking someone over due to lack of attention. (as it transpired, i did just fine).

having recently been involved in an earnest discussion about the merits and demerits of zwift as it relates to road cycling, i mentioned that i could see how important the online platform had been to those confined by the two years of covid. those years were the very times to be ensconced in a small island community, where its island status meant no restrictions on the distance over which we all were allowed to ride. having interpreted the direction to remain local as being not off the island, i was able to continue to ride and exercise every bit as often and as much as i had prior to the pandemic.

the majority were not so lucky, either being confined to a five mile radius from home or opting simply to setup a smart trainer and ride in front of an ipad or flat screen tv. while it is not what i would call 'cycling', had push come to shove, i might have been inclined to join the perhaps less than happy throng.

however, while zwift and its peers can undoubtedly maintain or increase a rider's fitness, it cannot teach them to grit their teeth into a headwind, ride on wet or rough roads, nor can it aid with the reality of riding within a large group or peloton. i have been unfortunate enough to witness very little online footage of certain zwift events, but enough of them to learn that, should you inadvertently move sideways into the path of another rider, the pixels simply allow you to move through as if they weren't there. i can but imagine how that particular scenario would have played out en-route to the eiffel tower.

which is why i am mystified as to the purported efficacy of joining up for the revamped, zwift academy, the top riders of which can qualify for a professional contract with the canyon/sram team or alpecin-deceuninck. i fail to see how that might work out; one or two years riding in the sitting room in front of a tv hardly qualifies for having to drop back to the team car, fill your jersey with bottles and catch up with a racing peloton to hand them out to your team-mates. to say nothing of the reality of racing outdoors.

strange though it may appear, this is not intended as a major criticism of the zwift academy per se; i'm sure that those watopians are well aware of the academy's limitations, but that doesn't necessarily entail that the attendees will view it in the same manner. and i do often wonder how the women's canyon/sram team or those around mathieu van der poel will view those who turn up to the season's first training camp, waving not only their winners' certificates, but wearing the socks and sweatbands they garnered along the way, and riding the pixelated custom canyon aeroroad paint job bestowed upon their avatars for having completed the entire academic course.

meanwhile, back in the real word...

friday 19 august 2022

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a bit of a drag

computational fluid dynamics

it might not surprise you to learn that formula one cars exhibit a high degree of aerodynamic efficiency, designed as they are to "...cut through the air with ease and channelize the air flowing over it to the rear wings." the overwhelming objective of formula one, or any other class of racing car, is to maximise speed in a forward direction; all other niceties are, to place not too fine a point on it, merely incidentals. neither does it take a genius to observe that the aerodynamics of a single-seater race car seem hardly applicable to that of the average family saloon, a class of vehicle that seems intent on fulfilling every aspect of that description.

the relationship of racing cars to those seen on the showroom floor is surely all but non-existent nowadays, particularly in the light of necessitous changes to the latter to adopt electric motive power. verstappen, hamilton and leclerc can still look forward to a heady mix of fossil fuel vapours during their weekend travails. whether this is likely to change between now and 2030, i know not, but i'd be very surprised if the top teams were not already exploring the world of the electron even as we speak.

however, it would be foolish to simply take my word for this; i am not an engineer, so the majority of comments are based on simple observation rather than a comprehensive understanding. however, according to the designer of chris boardman's medal winning lotus bike, the eccentric genius, mike burrows, "Everyone thinks Formula One is so amazing, but the only thing they're any good at is making one-seater racing cars. Even the aerodynamics aren't transferable." that last statement seems quite comprehensible, given the wide disparity of purpose between the two.

so, other than the alleged entertainment value, it would not be too unseemly to enquire after the actual purpose of what must surely be one of the world's most expensive sporting activities. that said, some of the technical developments relating to to engine and suspension technologies may well have trickled down to your four door saloon, but i have my doubts as to whether this is purposeful, or merely incidental. for instance, semi-automatic gearboxes seem fairly common nowadays, along with steering wheel mounted actuation. at one time the fuel companies were alleged to be developing more efficient and less polluting fuels in association with formula one, but as we head towards electrification, i doubt that's a direction that can still be justified.

so, in the light of formula one motor racing being the avowed pinnacle of motorsport, do we hold the same expectations of the bicycles ridden in the tour de france? cervelo's recent release of their s5, tested to victory by jumbo visma riders may be a case in point, though perhaps from more of a publicity point of view, than technical. it seems highly unlikely that anything learned by messrs. van aert, vingegaard and roglic en-route to paris in july, could have made it into the carbon mold in time for an august release. any july revelations are likely not to be seen until the s6. wout's cyclocross bike, the r5, is still advertised on cevrelo's website as due for release 'in summer 2022', so perhaps wout found something that needed to be updated before release.

my ruminations were engendered by passing a bicycle shop window while over in scotland, one that featured a reputed bahrain merida team replica, outfitted with shimano's ultegra groupset and sporting a team paintjob. however, the dictionary defines a replica as a copy, duplicate or reproduction which doesn't specifically outline the shop window model as indentical in every way to those ridden by matej mohoric, mikel landa and sonny colbrelli. so, are those of us in thrall to the pelotonic experience benefitting from the abilities and victories of the sport's poster boys and girls?

but perhaps more to the point, do we actually want to?

i have heard it said that the aforementioned formula motor cars would be even faster and mechanically efficient if they could dispense with the suspension, a necessary feature if the drivers are to remain conscious throughout the race. and with reference to the avowed stiffness of the specialized bicycles as ridden by quick-step alpha vinyl, i recall team director, patrick lefevre stating that he didn't pay his riders to be comfortable. since patrick lefevre doesn't pay any of us at all, wouldn't you and i prefer our comfort on the sunday ride, with simply a frisson of stiffness to remind us of the bike's provenance?

ultimately, there is nothing to dictate that the peloton's bike sponsors must justify the results of their computational fluid dynamics if comparing the professionals with ourselves. that said, the molds used to produce those carbon frames are reputedly not particularly cheap, meaning it makes better economic sense to use the same form factor for both variations. the difference, i'm led to believe, is in the carbon layup. thus the copywriters can safely attempt to convince us that if it's good enough for jonas, wout, tadej, geraint (delete as applicable), it's good enough for us.

richard sachs has long maintained that a bicycle is, at heart, simply an efficient means of transport, irrespective of the uses to which we put it. and while many of us could view the cutting edge as an object of aspiration, similar to the kia owner who harbours desires of upgrading to a ferrari, the recent escalation of the price of admission to the former presents a better clue as to how the kia owner actually feels.

in 2003, i bought myself a colnago c40hp with a campagnolo record groupset, a frameset that had a place in the peloton of the day. the whole bike, including handbuilt wheels, cost me a smidgeon over £2,000 at the time, when i earned a lot less than i do today. in today's money, that would equate to around £3,000. yet the contemporary equivalent, the colnago c68, demands a frame-only price of £5,000, while a complete bicycle leaves little change from £12,500.

yet despite the fact that the price of everything has risen in recent months, i find it very hard to equate a six-fold increase in price in twenty years. along with the majority of 'sporting' cyclists, i am well acquainted with the law of diminishing returns; that twice as expensive doesn't necessarily mean twice as good or half as heavy. but realistically, even if that dramatic price increase were to offer a six factor improvement (however you may wish to define that concept), i'm pretty sure i'd be no quicker arriving at debbie's than i am on my much-favoured ritchey logic.

in short, if the world's cycle manufacturers believe that their top level bicycles are benefitting the great unwashed through the mythical 'trickle down' effect, they may be fooling themselves and ultimately, us too.

thursday 18 august 2022

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as a resident of the hebrdes, i am particularly inured to the vicissitudes of scotland's (and britain's) transport infrastructure, for though the ever-increasing number of distilleries on the island has brought its own increase in visitors and their cars and motorhomes, 'tis but nothing in contrast to that of mainland scotland. and while visitors to the isle find many of our practised customs to be endearingly eccentric, to coin a well worln phrase, 'right back atcha!'

having recently guided a number of cyclists from englandshire about the nether regions of the hubs of the universe, several were led to comment on our habit of waving to every passing vehicle and cyclists. locally, this is known as 'the islay wave' a custom that only serves to confirm the continued sense of community that exists within the islands' shores. yes, most of us know each other, but the wave is aimed at visitors as well as residents, a tangible display of friendliness. frequently there will be flashed lights from truck drivers, not, as you might find on the mainland, admonishment for having the temerity to get in the way, but simply an exaggerated islay wave.

this brought the query from one visiting cyclist, "do you know everyone?"

strictly speaking, the answer to that question is "no", for i doubt anyone on islay actually knows everyone, but i probably recognise almost everyone, so it's nice to offer a sign of acknowledgment. i should imagine, across all of scotland's islands and the west coast, it's not hard to be a big fish in a small pond. when you're one of only a handful of local cyclists, and certainly the one that has been pedalling far longer than the others, recognition comes with the territory. and in the majority of cases, it is favourable recognition.

but every now and again, no matter how much kicking and screaming that might precede, there are occasions when it becomes necessary to travel to scotland. that kicking and screaming is all the more remarkable when you consider that i am not an ileach born and bred, but, even after 36 years, still an incomer (though i am assured that it's a fact of which very few islanders are aware). i originated from scotland; glasgow to be precise, so i ought surely to be every bit as au fait with life on this side of a calmac ferry as i am with island existence?

all i can say is, 'thankfully not'.

however, far from placing hebridean life on a pedestal, it is simply the comparison between both styles of living that brings tears to my thighs. i have frequently moaned about those in my home village who drive a daily distance less than i could throw a brick of peat. and i despair of those who simply jump in the car, no matter how long or short their journey may be, when the distance could easily be covered on foot or by bicycle. this is not a situation exclusive to bowmoe, nor indeed, to islay, but it only takes a single trip to scotland to place it all in some sort of perspective.

i am now well into my sixties, though trailing the mighty dave-t by close on fifteen years. i still cycle, and so does he. in fact on sunday mornings, on return to the croft, my garmin regularly informs me that i have covered nigh on the same number of kilometres that equal my age. over the weekend of the falling rain, i rode over 320km with nary an ache or pain to show for my troubles.

earlier this week, on arrival at glasgow's buchanan bus station, i alighted the west coast motors coach and walked a few metres to board an x77 bus headed towards ayr. the time of day was close on 16:30 by the time the bus drove across the clyde on the kingston bridge, ultimately spending the next twenty-minutes or so, stuck in queues of traffic; some were intent on leaving city life for the day, while others were heading in the opposite direction. yet even casual observation showed that around nine cars in ten contained only the driver; and it was rare to witness any more than two in the tenth vehicle.

obviously enough, i have no knowledge of their personal circumstances, nor indeed of their intended destination, but i'd hazard a guess that many could have been sat aboard the same x77 ( or other 'x' designated coach) to get home. the ignominy of the situation was then underlined more emphatically on realising that the distance over which i was about to travel was roughly the equivalent of my sunday mornng bike ride (admittedly ridden in far more amenable circumstances than a projected cycle commute from glasgow).

granted, the coach uses the m77 motorway as its parcours, one from which cycles are banned. but imagine if that were not the case, that the route towards scotland's clyde coast was not that of a motorway, but of a well-constructed cycleway, clear of motor traffic and featuring the occasional coffee stop along the way. if a boring old fart such as myself can undertake in excess of 60km every sunday morning, i'm almost certain that many others of a younger disposition could achieve the same.

but if that seems like pie in the sky (and i wouldn't disagree with you on that count), many of those x-rated coaches run every half hour, and often more frequently at peak times. and if the buses don't go where you live, glasgow also has two railway stations with frequent train services to much of the surrounding area. perhaps it would be possible to cycle to the nearest station and either board the train along with a folding bicycle, or leave it securely parked at the station?

one person in a car travelling even 60km really doesn't make a lot of sense, particularly when you witness hundreds more doing the same thing. petrol and diesel prices have risen substantially in recent months, as has the price of almost everything else in the universe. yet judging by the number of folks still driving solo, it obviously hasn't risen enough.

where did we all go so horribly wrong?

wednesday 17 august 2022

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newbie stuff

chain and sprocket

i began my road cycling career, such as it is, in the days of the ubiquitous ten speed racer; a five-speed freewheel, 52/42 chainrings and gear levers on the downtube. in those days, hyperglide was only for star wars fans and indexing was something that featured in academic publications. cyclists nowadays don't know they're born.

there were certain pragmatic protocols that had to be observed to ensure safe passage on the sunday ride. necessities such as changing down a gear, prior to ascending, a necessity engendered for two distinct reasons. firstly, as mentioned above, the gear levers were on the down tube, entailing having to lean downwards to effect a change while trying man or womanfully to pedal upwards. secondly, without the benefit of hyperglide or its peers, the risk of noisy crunching sounds, if changing under load, was more of a certainty than an option. the antidote was to change gear before absolutely necessary.

on the basis that old habits die hard, the latter is a procedure to which i still adhere, one that often seems an arcane mystery to those brought up in these modern times, where indexing, sprocket ramps and electronica overwhelmingly prevail. though the mechanicals of yesteryear were possiby of more robust construction, few of us would wish to return to such halcyon days of yore, given the massive convenience proffered by modernity. however, the lessons learned in days gone by are surely every bit as relevant today?

on my 2017 hot chillee ride from london to paris, there were many in the peloton riding state-of-the-art carbon equipped with di2, eps and wi-fli who could be witnessed falling over on the hills after crashing into their compatriots while trying desperately to engage any gear that would allow continued forward motion. and though the bicycle on which i rode featured campagnolo super-record mechanical, having already effected an appropriate gear change prior to the ascent, i smoothly rolled passed the constantly repeated carnage.

and recent events have elicited observations that yet another aspect of velocipedinal incongruity appears almost to have become de rigeur amongst the less experienced. though the advent of groupsets featuring only a single chainring may have undermined the words of the sage, advice from old-timers, such as yours truly, was never to have the chain in the big ring and largest sprocket, or inner ring and smallest sprocket. unlike a number of the so-called rules of cycling, the latter has its basis in mechanical certitude. aside from the fact that either of the above combinations duplicates a gear achievable in less extreme circumstances, in both, the chain sits at a severe angle, one which dramatically increases wear on the rollers and side plates.

with the cost of some multi-speed chains, i'd be inclined to adapt in order to save money.

only the other week, the subject of discussion in the sunday morning peloton was the pristine condition in which the two smallest sprockets remained when time came to replace the cassette. for who amongst us has a set of thigh muscles that allows for 52x11 or 52x12 en-route to coffee and cake? but it seems that the shine apparent on those small sprockets may never come to pass for those inadvertently apprenticed to the way of the saddle.

while guiding a party of cyclists both prior to and following last weekend's 'ride of the falling rain', it was noted that at least two individuals of the female persuasion spent a large portion of each ride, cycling with the chain in the inner ring and on the smallest sprocket. it was a practice employed even on the hills, where they seemed under a strain that could easily have been avoided by a better choice of gear ratio. a cadence of twenty does no-one any favours.

though the two individuals (that we observed) were unrelated, the fact that they were members of the same group was one we thought perhaps indicative of the blind leading the blind. however, only yesterday morning, having recruited two (coincidentally female) riders to the sunday morning peloton, neither of whom had ever previously met each other, were also to be seen riding in the inner ring and small sprocket. this engendered queries amongst ourselves as to what they thought the big ring was for, and, perhaps more pertinently, why they seemed less than inclined to make use of it?

having encouraged both to join the happy throng, we diplomatically refrained from pointing out their newbie error, despite the insistent irritation factor, preferring to knowingly discuss it amongst ourselves. however, i foresee such restraint wearing thin during ensuing sunday morning rides, where it might be interesting to witness who amongst us cracks first.

phrases such as 'as easy as riding a bike' do nothing to ameliorate the situation, leading many to think of cycling as a basic human ability, one that is a part of every personal armoury and thus not subject to the vicissitudes of human learning. therefore, i can but assume that those new to the way of the road see no impending incentive to ask of their elders, or acquire a published volume that might offer pertinent advice as to the niceties and efficiencies of riding a bicycle.

sometimes i have doubts about darwin's theory of evolution.

tuesday 16 august 2022

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