we have had, according to popular lore, a magnificent summer of sport. that's sport with a capital 's', but it would be someone with a head buried deep in the sand not to attribute similar sentiments to that of cycling, particularly if you happen to be british. bradley's sideburns taking care of the tour de france, with his best pal chris at his side leading to time-trial medals in the london olympics brought many a smile and one or two tears of joy to the liars amongst us who apparently knew they always had it in them. add to that the track success which overtook that of beijing four years ago, and suddenly cycling is not just the new golf, but damn near the new soccer.
all the above involved not only superlative performances on road and wooden velodrome, but involved a substantial amount of dedicated carbon fibre, wind tunnel designed to be not only asymmetric, but slippery when dry. it is, as i may have mentioned previously, the modern way. much conjecture and rhetoric has since abounded, pointing to the inevitable vast increase in sales from the bike shop floor as would be chris hoys and bradders equip themselves as mamils or eye up their chances of joining british cycling's performance plan in time for a few more medals in rio de janeiro come 2016.
except, we all know the foregoing to be utter tosh and nonsense.
inspirational the british cycling performances undoubtedly were, and i would not be at all surprised if there are a number of youngsters currently considering ways of emulating the heroes for real. but the majority of bicycles leaving the shop floor will be of less sporting pretension, suited more to pootling to and from work or shopping at a speed lower than a trackstand. for indeed, the principal purpose of the bicycle across the world is that of transportation. it may surprise many to know that the single malt whisky market is a tiny fraction of global whisky sales, perhaps (based on no statistics whatsoever) paralleled by sales of carbon fibre to that of plain gauge steel.
in other words, those spending their hard-earned on going really fast are likely dwarfed by spending on bicycle transport. take a look at images culled from the recent eurobike show, a presage of more to come from north america's interbike and you could be forgiven for being unaware that anything exists other than disc-brake equipped road bikes or similarly equipped mountain bikes. either could be utilised as mere transportation, but it's hardy what could be regarded as return on investment.
this is not to deny that the big corporations have sections of their catalogues and websites given over to more pedestrian cycology. it is conceivable that sales of these are the bread and butter of many a multinational, but it's hard to deny that the research and development departments are, to quote from the oregon manifest book "focused on shaving grams off already feather-light components for racing bikes." for many, that seems more than reasonable. however, a relatively small subculture are focused on the bigger picture, recognising that the majority of the world's population could care less about who stands atop the podium in paris at the end of july.
comparing formula one racing to the plight of the ordinary motorist would seem a valid comparison.
several years past, the north american handmade bicycle show made its temporary annual home in portland, oregon. rumour has it that several influential folks expected it to stop in that location for more than just the one year. with a substantial number of builders inhabiting the portland area, the city was seen as the spiritual home of nahbs. perhaps because of this assumption, it never happened. leaving portland, however, left the door wide open for something home-grown to fill the gap, and that something was the oregon manifest.
it would be hard to deny that the manifest has not assumed at least a portion of the mantle started by nahbs, at least in respect of the fact that it's all about handmade bicycles. however, where the two exhibitions differ is in pitting free-for-all against restricted. perhaps a futile attempt on my part for comparison and likely a poor choice of words, but while nahbs allows builders to create anything their heart and brazing rod desires, the manifest issues a constructors' challenge, offering a set of rules and specifications that must be adhered to in order that the entries might be accepted in the first place.
the joy of this option is in viewing the wide variety of solutions proffered by (in the case of the 2011 edition) the 35 entrants, coming from all across the united states.
although every one of these velocipedes (some truly challenged our concept of just what a bicycle might look and behave like) could incontestibly be referred to as a concept bike, they all had to prove their mettle; all had to undertake a physical challenge over a testing course, partly to prove they actually worked and partly to provide an eventual winner of the challenge.
the 2011 challenge asked of the constructors that they include all the following features (omission of even one of these would have resulted in its ineligibility): Anti-Theft System; Lighting System (seeing and being seen); Load-Carrying System; Freestanding Under Load (while parked) System; Fender (mudguard) System. a further three sections required innovation, design and execution and the aforementioned filed test.
it would be naive to consider the oregon manifest as a one-off, something to be seen as one of the quirky facets of portland, a city not without a whole host of other quirks. though some of the entries might come across as a tad far-fetched, every one of them bears a greater relevance to the needs of the average cyclist than bradley's pinarello dogma, and a whole world apart from chris hoy's keirin winning track bike.
whether you choose to believe that someday the oil will run out, or middle east conflict will create the situation where it might as well have done is entirely up to you and which line of propaganda you choose to accept. it is hard to see how the roads of the civilised world can continue to support an ever-increasing number of motor vehicles, however future years define that concept. cities such as portland, amsterdam, sacramento and even london have successfully demonstrated that the bicycle is more than capable of providing a viable and economic means of personal transport. the oregon manifest demonstrates that there is a substantial number of visionaries with the technical capabilities to at least partially solve the conundrum of how to combine transport with the need to carry stuff. in some cases, quite a lot of stuff.
there is no denying that the oregon manifest book is one that will happily occupy pride of place on the coffee table. however, to confine it to such soul less employment is to miss the point by a country mile. every one of the 35 entries is dealt with in detail, both through copious and detailed photography, accompanied by interviews with each individual or group of individuals. winner of the challenge (for the second time) was portland builder, tony pereira who even opted to incorporate electric assistance in his design.
it is no accident that the word manifest is the major constituent of manifesto. that's exactly what this is, a manifesto for the future of the bicycle, one which does not include a peloton with a yellow jersey at its head, nor requiring several hundred metres of oval woodwork. in their own way, the entries are every bit as exciting to view as tommy voeckler's colnago c59 or alberto contador's specialized. the magic word, however, is that of relevance.
whatever your cycling proclivity; sporting, commuting or leisure, you owe it to yourself to peruse the contents of this book. time to turn the inspiration gained from our summer of sport into something approaching reality. carbon fibre can be considered as something for the weekend.
friday 14th september 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................