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the simple pleasures

child on a bike

i vaguely recall my very first bicycle. though i learned to ride in the large back garden of my parents' house on a small red bicycle borrowed from the chap at the end of the road, when confidence beckoned, along with the open road, the red cycle was deemed too small, and thus a blue, 26" wheeled single-speed roadster appeared in the driveway on my arrival home from school. how long i had that particular machine, i do not remember, but i do remember that its successor was a green raleigh twenty with a large tartan box of a saddle bag affixed to the rear rack. switiching from no gears to three sturmey-archers was hardly the most difficult of transitions; simply a matter of flipping the lever adacent to the brake lever.

of course, when the cable stretched, the lack of a definable top tube is probably the sole reason i'm not a boy soprano today.

for all number of reasons, those were much simpler days. we had but three terrestrial tv stations, accessed on a television that required you to get off your lazy butt and turn the dial. and even when so-called remote changers appeared, they were still tethered to the box by a cable that didn't quite reach across the room to the armchair. and to be honest, at the time, we'd no idea that our three channels were terrestrial, as satellite dishes were still the preserve of jodrell bank and aricebo.

the envy of many, including yours truly, was bugsy berndt, a tall, curly -haired fellow who owned the archetypal ten-speed racer with drop bars, a red/green fade paint job and gear levers on the downtube, neither of which had the faintest idea about indexing. on enquiring at mr benzie's bike shop in kyle street as to how much a ten-speed racer in my size would cost, he made lengthy presentations as to why such machinery would not be in my best interests. "those gears will give you all sorts of problems, and the chain will be forever falling off" he said, neither statement of which bugsy berndt could confirm. though, as i recall, bugsy seemed particularly indifferent to the hero worship pointed in his direction and fielded questions about the gearing as if it was of no earthly interest.

which, to him, it probably wasn't. (i should point out that many years later, i found myself in a band with mr berndt, who, in the interim period, had turned out to be a rather adept bass player).

now, of course, my steel ritchey logic, sports the very best of italian componentry, even if the wheels and groupset sit one level below the ultimate top of the range. its campagnolo record groupset has a carbon chainset, carbon rear mech and carbon brake/gear levers. added to that, and just to finish off nicely, it rides upon a pair of campagnolo bora wto 45mm carbon wheels. in common with almost every contemporary bicycle, the downtube has not only never seen a pair of gear levers, indexed or otherwise, but is bereft of any braze-ons that would allow them to be fitted. the gearchanging across twelve sprockets, has never missed once in over eighteen months, despite the fact that it was me who fitted them in the first place.

greater complexity is available were i keen to acquire hydraulic discs and electronic gearing, but the former would entail a whole new ritchey frameset, which, for the type of riding i regularly undertake, would seem a tad excessive, not to mention expensive. electronics i can happily live without.

my saturday ride took in the regular parcours, now a lot busier with visitors' cars and campervans, many of which seem hell-bent on leaving the island much the worse for wear. never in my life have i been overtaken on so many blind corners and/or summits. i can only assume that a year's worth of lockdown has given motorists a far less serious outlook on life, though i'd really prefer that it wasn't my life that's likely to suffer. however, though hardly inured to thoughts of a serious accident, i'm hoping that my greater knowledge of the island's roads, and a tendency to frequent the quieter, single track routes, will allow me to make it through the year, relatively unscathed.

but while the complexities of modern living, of transport and of bicycles themselves seem to grow by the week, starting life on a bicycle appears to hold all the delights and simplicity that it did over fifty years ago. as i rode around the houses to reach home, a wee boy on a new bike, looked at me twice, before announcing "i'm on a bike too", to which i queried "and are you faster than me?" in a successful attempt to prove the affirmative, he stood on the pedals and accelerated ahead by three or four bike lengths. even after i'd had a shower and changed, he was still happily riding round the houses, no helmet, no cares and a big smile on his face.

remember when we just used to go for a bike ride?

sunday 13 june 2021

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rouleur

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who has the time?

rene herse chinook pass

my specialized crux cyclocross bicycle, while not quite at the stage of having seen better days, has indeed, seen better days. granted, the fluorescence of its orange and green carbon frame is still completely intact, even though an attached tag when new, advised that the paint would not fade to white, as do most fluorescent colours when continually exposed to daylight. however, it possibly needs a new chainring, definitely needs a new chain, and would gratefully receive a new cassette, preferably with a large sprocket with a few more teeth.

but there's no doubt that it could do with a good scrub and a polish, not because it's encrusted with dirt, but solely because of a perceived shabbiness. the latter is perhaps most obvious on the bar tape, the surface of which has worn noticeably on the bends behind the levers and less so on other parts of the tape. so why don't i just replace it, i hear you ask? well, in truth, i ordered and received new bar tape some months ago, but along with a bundle of inner tubes, that new tape is still encased in the bag in which it was delivered, while i frequently ride about the principality aboard a bicycle with tatty bar tape.

but lets face it; who has the time? like many, if time were available to replace the bar tape, i'd rather fill it by going for a bike ride. and even though replacing bar tape is one of the less onerous tasks when fettling the average bicycle, it never quite works out the way i'd hope. generally, the first side goes on impeccably, verging on professional. the second side? well, the less said about that the better. so why endure the potential aggravation? better to go cycling instead. however, as a famous member of the cycling media, you can but imagine the public horror of riding a 'cross bike with tatty bar tape.

and it gets worse.

several months past, the tyres fitted to the ritchey were found to have the treads already well advanced in their attempt to separate from the casing. that they had made it as far as they had, was principally at the behest of having mudguards fitted, coverings which had concealed the parlous and potentially dangerous state of the tyres. unfortunately, the only replacements in the bikeshed were not a matching pair, a state of affairs that remains to this day, much to my chagrin. the iniquity, however, of riding a bicycle with a tan sidewall up front and a black sidewall at the rear has not been lost upon me, and in order that such a situation extend for as short a period of time as possible, i ordered and received a new and matching pair of rené herse, chinook pass tyres from dorset's sven cycles. these are quite superb tyres, but require substantial effort to fit. my thumbs have scarcely recovered from the last fitting.

so the choice exists between lowering the weekend mileage, or taking the time to fit the new tan sidewalls. and though i'm not exactly proud of myself, you can probably guess which alternative currently seems more attractive. but since the current rear tyre is already showing signs of irretrievable wear, the inevitable need to replace really can't be forestalled for too much longer.

rené herse chinook pass tyres

saturday 12 june 2021

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wabi woolens ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

seems appropriate

rapha + snow peak

i am thoroughly unfamiliar with the bike-packing phenomenon. despite having previously reviewed specific bike-packing luggage, designed uniquely to be festooned about the personage of a gravel bike, the curiosity remains something of a mystery. in my years of tentative travel by bicycle, i was firmly committed to the two front panniers, two rear panniers and a handlebar bag configuration of the wannabe touring cyclist, nevermind the fact that my intrepidness never actually took me very far. i had thought (hoped), that angular baggage, designed to fit the nooks and crannies of the double-diamond frameset, had died along with the original muddy fox, when similar, but considerably less robust items could be had in purple or yellow, were offered to followers of the pawprint.

however, a gravel bike needs some sort of validation, if only to prevent folks like yours truly from taking potshots and sideswipes at the nascent genre. though north america and several central african nations have more kilometres of gravel than at which you can shake a frame-bag, europe, and for the purposes of simplicity, i include britain, is less well furnished in that department. granted, there are a growing number of so-called gravel events held across this nation, but on closer examination, many of those seem based more closely on what we would nornally have referred to as mud.

rapha + snow peak

given that salient fact, pootling about in the undergrowth might be more practically undertaken on a mountain bike, or perchance, cyclocross machinery. we really didn't need an allegedly new style of bicycle to make the latter a practical reality. however, there is little doubt that gravel has promoted its own branch of technological development (witness campagnolo's thirteen speed, gravel specific, ekar groupset, for example), and brought new members to the formerly fuddy duddy world of cycle touring. i cannot be the only one who thinks the term bikepacking to feature less in the way of cotton duck traditionality, and more in the way of boldly going, where no cyclist has gone before. and for those who desire that sort of nuance, it has no doubt become an indispensible revelation.

rapha + snow peak

that said, no bike is an island. there's nothing that states peripherals are barred from owning a level of versatility, one that might see them highlighted against a different background than that proposed by the marketing department. for instance, though i paid lip service above to the heavily loaded touring cycle, even midst those bulging panniers, remains an inherent desire to pack light, even if it's an aspiration that often falls far short of its target. though i once came across a gent touring with an accordion strapped to the rear rack (it broke the hub on his back wheel), items such as sleeping bags, tents and the like, designed for cycling use, tend to err on the side of featherweight, a fact that would tend to suggest packing the finest bone china and cutlery caddy, somewhat over-egging the pudding.

it transpires that dyed-in-the-wool touring cyclists and the more gravellous amongst us, are every bit as keen to minimise weight as each other. which is why rapha's newly introduced collaboration with japanese-based outdoor product specialists snow peak, offers a kind of cross-border appeal.

consisting of a stainless steel, double-walled kanpai bottle, a titanium mug with foldable handle and a titanium spork, it strikes me that all three could easily find a space of honour within either waxed cotton panniers, or angular frame-bags. and though their construction may hint at cycling's obsession with expensive, yet lightweight componentry, in truth, their fabrication makes a great deal of sense. so whether you identify more with fuddy-duddy than with gnarly, your attempts to boldly go, can now be accompanied by your own mr spork.

rapha + snow peak collaboration

friday 11 june 2021

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don't follow me. i'm lost

other places

for as long as i can recall, i have posted reviews of guidebooks featuring well-specced instructions on just how to get from point a to point b in an illustrative manner. i will not obscure the fact that few of these make for bedtime reading, unless, of course, you're in the habit of reading guidebooks at bedtime, but rarely does compulsive narrative and comprehensive instruction make for compatible bedfellows. and in truth, that's hardly the objective of most. but, other than the islay section of a guidebook to the inner hebrides, there's a better than evens chance that not only will i not have ridden the parcours thus described, but won't do so in the near future.

that, however, does not disqualify me from reviewing said books, for one does not need intrinsic knowledge of an area, to comment on whether the instructions offer an appropriate level of clarity, pertinence of illustration, or relevance of the inevitable sidebars. presumably, were i to ride the route, i would wish to be suitably intrigued by sights to be seen along the way, along with an appropriate historical or geographical discourse.

but do i actually want to know everything there is to know about anywhere in particular? would i possibly enjoy my prospective bike ride a tad more, if all remained a mystery, discovering as i pedalled? obviously enough, if that were my greatest desire, simplicity dictates that i would simply refrain from purchasing or reading one of the aforementioned guidebooks, no matter how well reviewed it has been. of course, all could come to nought, were i to get lost en-route, fail to heed the instructions concerning the weather, or completely miss my overnight accommodation through lack of a comprehensive guidebook to which i might refer.

you may query the veracity of my lengthy query, given that i have all but admitted touring is hardly to be seen upon my horizon, but in reality, my interrogations are expressed on behalf of others. and i feel this may be a timeous moment for such an examination, as the summer season beckons, and following what was pretty much everyone's annus horribilis, there's every expectation that the hordes are about to descend, at least a few of whom will be on bicycles.

this past weekend, we remarked once again upon the fact that visiting cyclists are rarely encountered riding in the same direction as the velo club peloton. those we meet are mostly to be seen riding on the opposite side of the road, heading in the direction from which we have come. this means that interaction is usually confined to a hearty wave, expressed in a 'hail fellow, well met' sort of way. however, the law of averages dictates that at some point in the forthcoming months, we will happen upon visiting cyclists beating a similar path.

the quandary here is that, in the best interests of appearing as welcoming hosts, should we enquire as to their intended destination, alluding, in conversation, to sights of interest they might see along the way? or better still, offering a more interesting alternative to their expressed route? granted, assuming we are considerate enough to then leave them to their own devices, they could smile cheerfully, thanks us for our help, but continue on their pre-determined path. but in the manner of a 'spoiler alert', perhaps they'd prefer to spend the better part of their galeforce inflected day, searching for dun nosebridge. or, perchance, they have already heard better things about the coffee at port ellen's 'wee box', than the mid-ride coffee stop suggested by yours truly.

my concern is that, riding past encountered cyclists with a simple 'i bid you good day, my fine fellow' might cast aspersions on the goodness of our intent. put it this way, were you to be one of those hypothetical cyclists, curious as to what lies ahead, or whether, indeed, you're actually heading in the right direction, a brief discourse such as outlined above, might mark us as unfriendly, or worse, downright ignorant.

thankfully, all have so far refrained from thumping me with a guidebook as i silently roll past.

thursday 10 june 2021

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galloway cycling

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endurance

robert millar mural

i don't doubt that i have related some version of this tale on a previous occasion, but on the off-chance that it was originally ignored, or there are new folks on your side of the pixels, i'll tell it once again, though as a means to an end and not as an end in itself.

in 1984, robert millar, the diminutive climber from glasgow, took the tour's polka dot jersey all the way to paris, finishing in fourth place, just one step from the champs elysées podium. until brad wiggins was promoted to third place at the end of the last decade, he held the highest placing by any british rider in the tour de france. millar was also the first scot to take the climber's jersey in the giro d'italia and narrowly missed out on winning the 1985 vuelta espana, citing collusion amongst the spanish and failure on behalf of the peugeot directeur sportif, for losing his lead at the last minute.

1985 was also the year that channel four began broadcasting a daily half-hour highlights programme during that year's tour de france, and which this impressionable scotsman, new to the world of professional bike racing, was somewhat delighted to discover that a fellow glaswegian had scaled such heights, so to speak. knowing absolutely nothing of the pain and suffering that formed a part of the cycling milieu, my highly flawed logic figured that if a man only two years younger could climb so easily and quickly, obviously, it wasn't that hard.

robert millar mural

having purchased the archetypal ten-speed-racer, and following the day's highlights programme, i set off earnestly to climb nearby dundonald hill, a mere bump by alpine and pyrenean standards (i later discovered), having to pause at the side of the road, mid-distance, to be violently sick from the effort. a follow up attempt the next day met with no more appreciable success. perhaps millar's grimpeur efforts were more impressive than at first thought. throughout the 1980s and into the mid-nineties, millar was an inspiration to cyclists throughout the uk, but most particularly, north of the border. his often sullen interviews, where few learned any more than they'd known prior to the interview, only served to enhance his reputation.

it's a glasgow thing.

millar retired from professional cycling in 1995, following the demise of his le groupement team, but not before winning the uk national road championship jersey, a garment he had no opportunity to wear in the heat of battle. i have met many cyclists in the years since i moved to the hebrides who have professed their admiration or hero worship for robert, and due to the existence of the millar pages on the post, i have received many e-mails stating the same.

of course, robert millar is no more, having finally transitioned to philippa york in july 2017, and now embarked upon this second life in a new age when being transgender gains far more approbation than would likely have been the case even in the first decade of this century. however, it's worth my pointing out that her king of the mountain's jersey is now 37 year's old. yet even today, philippa's/robert's exploits in professional bike racing are still recalled not only with great favour, but still with great enthusiasm. encouraging sales of the iconic team z jersey from prendas ciclismo were no doubt boosted by millar fandom, and even rapha were moved to produce a robert millar themed jersey not so many years ago.

and if ever tangible testament were required that her legacy has dimmed not one watt in those 37 years, take a look at the image atop today's article. in a project funded by by east dunbartonshire council, and closely involving pippa, this mural created by scottish artist bobby mcnamara (also known as rogue one) stands at the gateway to the campsie fells. pippa said she often used this as an extra hard finish to a training ride, up the climb of crow road. joint leader of east dunbartonshire council, vaughan moody, said, "We're delighted to welcome this stunning tribute to a genuine sporting legend. Philippa is an inspiration..."

that's true endurance.

wednesday 9 june 2021

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prendas ciclismo ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

your number's up

power output graph

as briefly mentioned in yesterday's review of rapha's lightweight explore jacket, saturday morning, following a relatively bright dawn, turned alarmingly quickly to unforecast rain, a state of affairs that brought with it, unintended consequences. or at least, unintended by me. for starters, having believed the forecast, i had neglected to fit waterproof overshoes, thinking the precipitation to be only a brief smattering of drizzle. how wrong can one cyclist be? the second set of unintended circumstances brought modest distress at the behest of modern technology.

few amongst us leave home these days without a some sort of computing device affixed to the handlebars, whether a bracket-held smartphone, or more likely a wee box capable of providing gps-based information. ironically, though such fixtures are all but obligatory nowadays, i still know of riders who head out into the wide grey yonder, bereft of inner-tube, puncture repair kit or even a pump. the only saving grace is that they are able ot pinpoint the exact location at which they are stuck with a punctured tyre.

however, where once it was perfectly satisfactory to be kept informed as to one's actual or average speed, such data are now so last year. the display on my garmin device, and one not drawn from the latest on offer, ushers a series of numbers in my direction consisting of time of day, distance travelled, average speed, current speed, the number of calories i have burned, how much battery remains, the gradient up which i am grovelling and the ambient temperature in which the latter is being carried out. keeping all this in order, is touch-sensitive glass that allows even my gloved finger tips to swipe in either direction to have at least a portion of the above displayed in all manner of differing formats, including a thin line on a map informing me where i have been.

when initially reviewing this device some number of years ago, i recorded my route for playback on a subsequent ride, during which it humorously (i hope), informed me that i should continue to turn right at the bend ahead. this was indeed fortuitous, because had i inadvertently turned in the opposite direction, i would have been in the loch. but there are two sets of circumstances, frequently combined, during which all the above displayed information can resound in an outstanding 'fail', one of which was experienced on the aforementioned wet saturday morning.

when rain begins to fall, unless i set the angle of the garmin at one in which it could scarcely be read from the saddle, the falling rain settles comfortably atop the screen, rendering the information illegible. unfortunately, sweeping the rain from the screen invariably swipes the screen to one displaying information in a format of which i am not necessarily in favour. the second insurrection in the ranks arrives courtesy of daylight; when 'tis bright overhead, the reflections obscure pretty much everything from view anyway.

this, of course, is not something of which we learned this morning, and i highly doubt that this particular set of circumstances applies solely to yours truly. these are what i believe would be referred to as first world problems, which, if i read things correctly, will likely only get worse. the professionals, ever keen to gain a march on their peers, even if only in tiny incremements, are becoming accustomed to what are referred to as wearables, methods of measurement that can be festooned about one's person, as opposed to a handlebar.

granted, much of the data acquired by all such devices is stored for examination in less strenuous circumstances, for sharing with a coach, or plastered all over strava for the world to see. but there is still a need for immediately readable info. let's say that you have completed a training ride and shared the power data with your dedicated coach, following which he/she has suggested one or two 'improvements'. would not it be extending the working day beyond practicability, if those watts could not be examined or viewed until the end of the next training ride? if the suggestions indicate that, when climbing, a specific power threshold should be met, it would be just ginger peachy to check that in real time, as opposed to subsequent examination over a protein shake.

so, i hear you ask, why is this of any import to me? i have made no secret of the fact that not only do i not indulge in training of any shape or form, but the garmin on the handlebars is simply in place so that i know what time of day it is. well, my interest was piqued by the news that verve cycling, makers of the infocrank power meter system, have partnered with dimitris katsanis to develop the "most cutting-edge" measurement technology. katsanis originally came to prominence as designer of british cycling's alarmingly stark, yet expensive, carbon bikes during the heyday of british track cycling. he has subsequently worked with ineos and pinarello to contribute his expertise to the present-day dogma.

however, while the collaboration between the greek cycling technologist and verve cycling may be a meeting of minds, i fear that their joint press announcement smacks ever-so-slightly of arrogance. this may, of course, be entirely deliberate, but in the small world of velocipedinal development, it seems perhaps a tad ill-advised. dave parsons, verve cycling's commercial director, said, "naturally we are really pleased to work with dimitris and his team on various projects that we hope will cement our reputation as the only company truly serious about cycling power measurement." i can't help wondering what srm and powertap might have to say about the latter part of that quote, particularly since, as far as i can discover, srm have been 'serious' about power measurement since 1987, and powertap some ten years later. of course, it may be that verve have an entirely different perspective on the world, given that their current slogan states 'power meters that work'.

as opposed to those that don't, one presumes.

verve cycling

tuesday 8 june 2021

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hot chillee ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

rapha ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

wheelsmith ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

endura cycle clothing ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

campagnolo

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world bicycle relief

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showers pass ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

as always, if you have any comments, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.

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