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interviews & features | dvds | equipment | clothing | books | videos | portland 2009

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this is cambridge
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tell them we sent you (part one)

somewhere in the world it's always going to be sunny, and the honed athlete will thus always be in need of an appropriate choice of designer/sports sunglasses. this link ought to do the trick.

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the mighty dave t's words of the week

the mighty dave t

"three hours on the turbo and i'm ready for anything."

©2014 the mighty dave t, is a prendas sponsored rider and le patron of the thoroughly decent fellows. the mighty dave t recommends purple harry products

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bicycle ninjas

pdw ninja pump

if anything might genuinely be classified as the bane of the cyclist, no matter which genre one prefers to call one's own, it is the less than humble puncture. there really is no time at which such a deflationary happenstance might be considered fortuitous, though perhaps a sudden egress of air just as you arrive home to the bikeshed could be thought of in a more favourable light. even then, however, having to fix the darned thing is still a bit of a faff. i wonder these days if anyone still carries a puncture repair kit when out and about, for the pragmatism of going down that route thoroughly escapes me. who amongst us would be happy to stand at the side of an obscure country single-track road, in pouring rain and wind, trying manfully or womanfully to not only find where that flipping hole is, but then attempting to stick a patch over it?

exactly.

pdw ninja pump

the smart money is on packing at least one spare tube, preferably of the correct size for the bicycle you happen to be riding, as well as a tyre lever. though several combinations of tyre and wheel rim seem designed these days to be mutually exclusive when time comes to either fit one to t'other or in this case, separate the two, there's no chance that forward motion will be regained until there is air inside both inner tubes. i need surely not additionally point out that aside from the aforementioned repair duo, a bicycle pump comes in remarkably handy. i have been in the company of fellow members of the pelotonese who deign it necessary to carry the tube and tyre lever yet leave home without a pump.

go figure.

pdw ninja pump

there's nothing really to compare with the average track pump; the effort required to reach the higher numbers of pounds per square inch is vastly eased compared to either the full length frame-fit version and manifestly simpler than using those tiny little pocket pumps. however, aside from the sartorial exigencies of riding with a track pump in your back pocket (never a good look), in this universe, doing so could never be thought a practical solution. thus, smaller but ever increasingly efficient pocket pumps have become the saviour of the modern velocipedinist.

on my first venture abroad to participate in a large group ride, the advice prior to departure was to carry one of those little pumps that ultilise carbon dioxide cartridges to inflate. as it turned out, a following van with mechanic and spare wheels rendered that advice somewhat superfluous, for which i was truly grateful, for at that point i had yet to risk inflating a tyre in this manner. it was something that seemed a tad scary at the time.

pdw ninja pump

since those days, and despite security at gard du nord being inordinately suspicious of four little brass coloured tubes in my luggage, inflating tyres via co2 has become a common practice.

however, no matter how efficient inflatory technology becomes, the faff is still in unhitching the wheel from its fork and all the subsequent gubbing about with tyres, levers and inner tubes. what we really need, in the absence of a following team car or mavic neutral support, is the cyclist's equivalent of those street angels, groups of well-meaning individuals who patrol the highways, byways and underground rail stations of the world, safeguarding the hapless against those who mean them harm.

would not it be particularly joyous if, at the point of an unexpected puncture along one's merry way, a group of these un-named and unidentified individuals appeared as if from nowhere and took charge of the situation?

sort of like this...

wednesday 23 july 2014

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portland design works ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

kali phenom helmet

kali phenom helmet

i cannot tell a fib; i was under the impression that kali was the hindu goddess of death, and that seemed somewhat of an odd name to append to a company making helmets. in terms of branding, surely the precise opposite of the message that those in the business of offering protective headgear would like to send to its prospective customers. thus the phrase kali protectives appeared to be something of an oxymoron. but closer investigation proves me to be if not completely wide of the mark, certainly a smidgeon off to one side. for it transpires that the hindus place an altogether different interpretation. recent movements within the religion apparently now consider kali to be a benevolent mother goddess. that gives me a tad more confidence in this particular branding exercise.

kali phenom helmet

for i rather like my head. aside from providing me with my rugged handsomeness, it also provides me with a pair of ears on which to place my rudy projects. in the midst of the current, yet uncharacteristic sunny spell we're having this far out in the atlantic, a pair of tinted shades are as much of a necessity as is a cycle helmet. and that brings us very neatly round to the phenom from california based kali about whom we have just held a brief philosophical discussion.

kali protectives is the brainchild (if you'll pardon the pun) of brad waldron, a man who started his career in aerospace research and development before re-setting his sights and values on translating his skills and learning towards the consumer. in other words; us. not that one ought to be taking anyone to task over their use of the english language, especially when instigated from across the pond, but on the kali protectives website, the hapless mr waldron is entitled as a literal rocket scientist when i think they might more correctly have labeled him as literally a rocket scientist. there is a pedantic yet symantic difference.

kali phenom helmet

however, kali have the susbtantial saving grace of having a rather fabulous logo, one that features strategically on this, their latest road style helmet. i'm generally in favour of helmets that look as if they're travelling fast even when sitting in the box, for though looks offer no indication as to effectiveness, it strikes me as a good start. on looks alone, the admirably named phenom offers at least an extra 5kph. what it also unexpectedly offers is a removeable, clear aeroshell should you have little desire to shell (sorry) out for a separate time-trial helmet.

despite the phenom aggrandising my potential velocity, i'm not sure i have sufficient nous to know when to keep the aeroshell on, and when to remove it. however, the fact that the helmet arrived mere moments before i was about to head off into the wide blue yonder meant that my cack-handed attempts to remove the clear, shiny bit had it remain in place for the duration. i'd be fibbing if i were to say it got me to debbie's any quicker, but it did seem to reduce the wind noise and heat up my head just a tad. i subsequently discovered that removing the shell is more easily achieved from the rear of the helmet rather than the front.

kali phenom helmet

that didn't work at all.

as far as the current crop of road cycling helmets go, the kali phenom is not the lightest in class. however, that rather fills me with more confidence than you might think. for despite their web-based protestations that mass x acceleration increases force, a more substantial and well-constructed mass (within reason) atop my cranium, i consider to be a very a good thing. ironically, the very thing for which the phenom was designed is the one thing that most reviewers (self included) hope never to find out first hand; the safety certification sticker on the inside will suffice for me.

kali phenom helmet

the construction technology is referred to by kali as composite fusion plus, combining two different polystyrene foam densities eliminating any gaps and providing an internal structure that offers greater protection in the event of a crash. however, there's little point in offering the ultimate in head protection if your head overheats while conducting normal day to day velocipedinal activity. to prevent this being the case and still offering a high degree of rigidity, the phenom is well specified in the number and size of air-vents, even offering commendable venting when the aeroshell is in place.

kali phenom helmet

fitting of the contemporary cycle helmet is no longer a case of mixing and matching different thicknesses of internal pads. sizing is now achieved by means of an adjustable cage, altered by means of a wheel at rear dead-centre, turning clockwise to pull the internal band around one's temple. it's very effective in practice, though the wheel's tactility is a bit uncomfortable on the fingers. however, in its favour, it can be adjusted on the fly while riding.

i always wear a cycle cap under my helmet, a factor that the phenom (medium/large reviewed) handled with ease and aplomb. the front of the helmet provides a commendable overhang, a feature that wouds surely offer greater protection to that rugged handsomeness i talked about earlier should a face plant unexpectedly present itself. if caps are not your thing, the phenom comes with a replaceable internal hairnet to keep the bugs at bay.

kali phenom helmet

the strap and buckle are, in essence, no different to others on the market; comfortable in use and easy to fasten and release. the bumperfit pads are composed of 'memory foam' to provide more effective and repeatable comfort. i'm also impressed that the foam pads velcro in place; that way, when the rear pad failed to clear the back of my cycle cap, it was simplicity itself to pop it back in place. not something that has always proved to be the case with those stuck in place. the phenom is available in white, black, black/yellow, red/black or black/green, and in two sizes: small/medium or medium/large.

the kali phenom is comfortable, stylish, well-ventilated and offers this particular wearer encouraging feelings of confidence. and in return for all the above, it requires only £139.99 to make it yours.

kali phenom road helmet

tuesday 22 july 2014

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sportif magazine ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

santini peugeot bibshorts

santini peugeot bibshorts

prior to putting pen to paper (an archaic term used by those of us in the media, pretty much rendered useless by the common or garden word processor), i had a quick check through the velominati rules to see if there was anything covering the situation i am about to propound. and though there are one or two which skirt the edges of the issue under consideration, there are no specific directions that might might come under the heading of mandatory.

though not everyone either agrees or indeed, capitulates, by common consent, full team kit is intended to be worn solely by members of the team, unless of course we're talking about retro kit representing a cycling team no longer in existence. though i do have both movistar and sky team kit, the latter resplendent with my name and nationality on the side panels, i feel safe enough dressing in either, on the basis that they were sent for review and i may have to provide myself with a second opinion from time to time. i might also remind myself that i did not pay cash money for either, and thus claim exemption.

santini peugeot bibshorts

however, the situation that currently gives cause for concern is quite what to wear with what and which is seemly so to do. for instance, i would expect nothing less than a verbal berating from my fellow pelotonese were i to arrive at debbie's of a sunday morning clad in a solo jersey matched with rapha shorts. similarly, were i to be seen wearing an endura equipe jersey with lecol bibshorts, i would expect the same treatment as one arriving without mudguards on a rainly day. it is thus incumbent upon the modern velocipedinist to ensure that the cycling wardrobe is maintained in some semblance of order, lest leaving in a hurry results in such a sartorial faux pas.

santini peugeot bibshorts

however, there is, i believe, the cycling equivalent of a dulux colour that matches every other shade in the house. and just to make life even better than it already was, the bibshorts of which i speak embody the essence of retro by having the word peugeot embroidered on each leg. yes, indeed, probably the best selling jersey in the prendas armament is that of yesteryear's peugeot , a jersey worn by eddy, tom and robert, though all at different points of history. sadly team peugeot is no longer a part of the modern day circus, and you'll probably struggle manfully to find a modern incarnation of the bicycle that gave rise to the wording on both jersey and now shorts.

santini peugeot bibshorts

many a purveyor of vintage bicycles has a steel peugeot on offer, and it's not so very long ago that billy bilsland's in glasgow acquired robert millar's peugeot from the 1980s (even if it was a tvt carbon with peugeot badge). so while it would take an extra bit of effort to grab hold of an appropriately badged bicycle to match any clothing you may have, i have it on good authority that wearing peugeot apparel while riding colnago, focus or pinarello can only but add to one's je ne sais quoi. and even if you haven't yet got around to acquiring a chequerboard jersey, these fabulously embroidered bibshorts are definitely the bees knees (whatever that actually means).

as to the accuracy of their reproduction, i havae it on impeccable authority, that the previous version of the shorts had the word peugeot embroidered horizontally up until 1980. at that point, sponsorship changed from the cycles division to the automobile part of peugeot and the lettering altered its orientation to vertical, though on the originals this was flocked rather than embroidered. in those days they were worn with braces rather than these modern bib contraptions

i'm embarrassed to say that i initially thought the applied lettering was of a particularly tactile screenprinting; the fact that it turned out to be carefully yet boldly applied white thread only added to their superbness. even were there a velominati rule forbidding such typographical largesse, i'd be more than happy to ignore such a directive with impunity.

santini peugeot bibshorts

featuring a bright yellow santini max 2 insert, there is every reason to purchase this particular garment in 2014, recognising this as the thirtieth anniversary of robert millar's fourth place in paris while wearing the tour's king of the mountains jersey. for according to mick and andy at prendas, these are a replica of the very shorts worn by robert in his victorious year. i can testify to the fact that you'll climb far quicker and longer than you will in any other pair of similar looking bibshorts. clad in my long-sleeve peugeot jersey and white embroidered legs, coupled with a peugeot cap and a greying scraggly ponytail, i don't doubt there will have been many double-takes over the past couple of weekends (on islay? are you kidding?)

santini peugeot bibshorts

but aside from their manifest fabulousness, what are they like to ride? in the best tradition of exceptional shorts, you'd barely know they were there, something i figure is the ultimate compliment that can be paid to a pair of cycle shorts. they are a tad shorter in the leg than one or two others on the market, but that's all part of their retroness, and demonstrably not too short that those precisely chiselled tan lines will feel disoriented. the santini badged leg grippers do their job remarkably well without stopping the blood from reaching both feet. even after several washes, there is no sign of the words peugeot suffering any distress, while the interior of the embroidery offers no chafing or any other form of discomfort (before you ask). the bib section lies flat and troubles the shoulders not one whit.

available in sizes ranging from xs (small size reviewed) in one colour (black), the 1984 peugeot replica bibshorts are available at the extremely friendly price of £69.95 direct from prendas.

santini 1984 peugeot retro bibshorts

monday 21 july 2014

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this is cambridge sunflower cap

this is cambridge sunflower cap

i was always rubbish at mathematics, and it does me little or no credit to reveal that it's a situation that hasn't changed. every day, when time comes to buy my daily paper, i usually need a bit of assistance from the girl in the shop to figure out what denominations of loose change i can lose from my pocket as appropriate recompense. it is, sadly, something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, for the more i convince myself that i'm not much good with numbers, the worse i become.

though i'm sure that few fifteen year-olds have much idea as to the career path they might like to pursue, the british education system insists that pupils of that age are required to make subject choices which may just turn out to be the wrong ones. at fifteen, i had notions of engineering (no laughing please), a career that would demand not only maths but quite likely physics. the latter i found quite intriguing and managed a reasonable qualification in the subject, but the former took me three attempts simply to pass to anyone's satisfaction.

this is cambridge sunflower cap

that would undoubtedly explain why i thought fibonacci was a rather tasty italian bread to accompany pasta and pesto. it turns out that, in none mathematical terms, that's focaccia; fibonacci was a rather remarkable mathematician who lived in the 12th and 13th centuries and is renowned for the so-called fibonacci numbers or sequence. i do not propose to expose my complete lack of mathematical knowledge any further by trying to explain quite why 0,1,1,2,3,5,8 and so on are of such great importance to the modern world, because i truly haven't the faintest idea.

however, the gent responsible for breaking germany's enigma code during the second world war, alan turing, was of several degrees of intelligence greater than mine, though i have no knowledge as to whether the chap was a cyclist of note or otherwise. aside from code breaking, turing was apparently fascinated by the relationship of mathematical patterns and those occurring in nature, in particular, the sunflower, a plant that has a somewhat cliched connection to those three weeks in july.

this is cambridge sunflower cap

turing believed that the manner in which sunflowers arrange their seeds is based upon fibonacci's sequence of numbers, allowing the most efficient method of packing them together. and in a somewhat tenuous connection to bike racing and likely nothing whatsoever to do with fibonacci (who might just be a domestique with astana, now that i come to think of it), perhaps those numbers are naturally expressed in the way the peloton packs itself on those long flat stages.

or perhaps not.

exploiting that tenuous connection, the lovely people at this is cambridge have produced one of their fabulous caps celebrating the tour's three days in britain. this is blatantly expressed by not only a yellow ribbon on one side of the cap, but the number 03 screened black on white. however, the secret handshake offered by this particularly soft and cossetting cotton cap is featured on the yellow underside of the peak.

this is cambridge sunflower cap

i make mention of its secretiveness, applicable only to those of a flandrien persuasion, and riding with the peak down thus concealing the spiral of dots representing turing's adoption of the fibonacci sequence. aside from being one of the finest cycling caps on the market, its background will surely provide excellent conversation material for those awkward moments of silence in the cafe, post ride. exhibitionists will ride with the peak up.

this is cambridge's handmade sunflower cap is available in sizes ranging from xs to xl, arriving in a stitched brown paper bag for an admirable £23.

sunflower cap

sunday 20 july 2014

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cupboard space

bicycle storage

mrs washingmachinepost and i are quite used to living in the rural idyll in the midst of our vast estate augmented with countless outbuildings to cater for all of our storage problems and then some (can you tell i'm making this up?). but the peasantry and proletariat ensconced in more urban surroundings, renting a tiny garrett in some brick built tenement are often lucky to have even so much as a window box to cultivate. storage is allegedly confined to a cupboard the size of a shoe-box under the stairs, or perhaps a rack of polythene storage containers stuffed full of the trappings of modern living.

benefitting from a compact and bijou fitted kitchen with cupboard space that will swallow little more than two packets of green tea, contemporary man and woman has now to make pertinent decisions over just what to keep and what to let go. rurality, however, is obviously downscaling just a smidgeon, for only a matter of footsteps from the bicycle storage croft they are building a selection of new houses, the foundations of which resemble little more than the rabbit hutch we used to have sited at one end of my palatial bikeshed. though several are designed for individuals rather than families, having caught sight of the plans, i can't help thinking those who find themselves lucky enough to be allocated one, will more likely than not, encounter a storage problem or two.

if i may, for a moment or two, refer to that palatial bikeshed, it is currently home to five complete bicycles, a yet to be assembled frame, more sets of wheels than i'm willing to admit and far more stuff than should be discussed in polite company. if you add to that my extensive collection of cycling books, copies of rouleur (every issue since number one) and cycle clothing for every eventuality, you can perhaps understand why it's necessary to live in a vast mansion (still kidding; or am i?) on my morning walk, past the construction site for those new houses, i can but commiserate with any prospective occupants who may own a s little as one bicycle, let alone five, a frame and several wheels.

bicycle storage

what can be gleaned from this knowledge, allied to the urban difficulties alluded to above, is that bicycle storage is an ever present and growing problem. so what is the honed athlete to do?

it's lucky you mentioned that, because shaun wheatcroft has spent his spare time taking a look at some of the more obscure, yet stunningly cool solutions as to quite where to put those bikes. rather aptly, i'm less than in favour of reinventing the wheel, so for a closer look at a series of solutions from which you might find one pertinent to your own dilemma, take a click through on the link at the end of these words. naturally enough, i'm one step ahead in such matters, having already been privy to his words and pictures, a few of which you'll find peppered through these paragraphs. and in the process of perusing their style and eccentricity, one conceivable problem springs to mind.

bicycle storage

on my first trip to portland, oregon, i spent a couple of nights staying in the red lion hotel overlooking martin luther king boulevard. chris king components had lent me a prototype of their new cielo bicycle as my transport during the visit, which was not only very generous and welcome, but one of the best ways of getting about an unknown city. however, in midweek, the weather turned less than favourable and on my return to the hotel, not only was i dripping wet, so was the cielo. so afraid was i as to the volley of comments bound to issue from behind reception, that i tried to wheel my bike towards the elevator as surreptitiously as i could. i was noticed, but the only response was to comment on how wet a day it had become, despite a muddy track across the hotel lobby floor.

so while you take a look at many of the bicycle storage solutions, just imagine how those might look in the hall, sitting room or bedroom with a large or small pool of muddy water underneath.

just saying.

bicycle storage solutions

saturday 19 july 2014

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pronto gara ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

national customs

endura wt custom range

though i believe the world of cycling is exceptionally well served in the field of clothing, there is still an unsolved conundrum that my extensive research has failed to solve. the velo club on this rock in the atlantic is marginally excepted from this perceived problem, but i fear this is pretty much due to our minimal numbers. though the lovely people at ardbeg distillery have seen fit to provide us with a nice new shiny jersey, given that one of our number works for a competing distillery, it would surely be unseemly to insist on a dress code come the sunday morning ride.

so, in the interests of independence, and in accordance with the velo club rule book (rule 1: there are no rules; rule 2: see rule 1) all manner of dress is catered for, including one of those allegedly iconic mapei jerseys. however, the mainland we most certainly aren't. it seems, and again i base these comments on my extensive research, that mainland cycling clubs comprise one heck of a lot more individuals than over here. one need only take the bus from buchanan bus station to kennacraig for the ferry to note the frequent appearance of two or more distinct pelotons on the dual carriageway passing the town of bowling, all clad in team kit.

endura wt custom range

while we are content to pedal in a liveried jersey, the mainland ideal seems to extend to shorts, tights, windjackets, caps and even track mitts. and here is where the apparent conundrum makes an appearance. for with so many excellent choices to be made in the world of cycling clothes, when would the non-badged kit ever be worn? for those with weekends only at their disposal, surely the strictures of club enforcement would exclude alternative choices. therefore it seems only fair and proper that the club clothing be every bit as well constituted as that top quality kit on offer, or perhaps every bit as excellent as the advertising hoardings currently riding the tour de france.

disappointingly, that is quite often not the case.

endura wt custom range

unless, of course, you order your team kit from scotland's endura, clothing sponsor for both netapp endura and movistar. originally known as tal several years ago (no, i don't know what it stood for either), it seemed more pragmatic to bring it into the endura fold and re-brand it as endura custom clothing. this was our original supplier for debbie's welcome to great coffee jerseys and those robert millar 25th anniversay jerseys i offered five years ago. yet though the quality of both was mighty impressive, it didn't quite compare with endura's more recent equipe range, still available at a price premium over the basic offering.

however, eager to reap the benefits of professional team sponsorship on behalf of their customer base, the clever people in livingston are now offering the humble club or solo rider the opportunity to be every bit as well clad as alejandro valverde or jan barta. and to be quite blunt about it, the price is particularly attractive. subject to the minimum order restrictions of at least fifteen items of the endura wt custom range same design and design costs notwithstanding, a custom printed endura wt short sleeve jersey costs only £69 plus vat. make no mistake, this stuff is identical to the kit supplied to the above mentioned professional teams.

to quote from my extensive research (i asked endura's katrin engel) "The production process begins with high end Italian fabrics being formed into ergonomic panels by a computer controlled, high precision cutting machine, before digital printing takes place. Laser cutting and bonding is also employed on certain pieces where necessary. Even the bibshorts' silicone leg grippers are directly applied by robot improving accuracy and allowing the use of liquid silicone to offer better comfort and durability."

production time is twelve weeks from point of order, but katrin said to add a couple of weeks if new artwork is required, the latter charged at a flat rate of £75 plus vat. discounts apply for quantities based on pre vat prices and a 50% deposit is required at the point of ordering. katrin also mentioned that endura are happy to send out returnable samples of their wt custom range on request, just in case you need to check sizing prior to ordering.

endura wt custom range

having ridden and reviewed endura's movistar team kit, i'd agree that it's easily amongst the best currently available, and to be honest, if it's good enough for nairo quintana, it's possibly too good for either you or me. but everyone has to start somewhere. as july starts to head towards august, it's perhaps a tad late to be ordering team kit for this season, but with the advent of their latest 2.5 layer waterproof jacket and classics windproof jacket, you could start with this year's winter training kit by ordering now.

i've always wanted to be a movistar.

endura custom clothing

friday 18 july 2014

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

cycle of lies; the fall of lance armstrong. juliet macur. william collins books paperback 457pp illus. £8.99

cycle of lies by juliet macur

when my kids were younger, at the age when they enjoyed having a good book read to them, that is precisely what i'd do every evening when they went to bed. as is mostly the case with children (and adults too), they had their favourites; in any given week, i might have to read the same book more than just once, twice, or three times. other than where the wild things are and burglar bill, the esteemed favourite and one that i particularly enjoyed myself, was how tom beat captain najork and his hired sportsmen, written by russell hoban and illustrated by quentin blake and eminently worth owning for the title alone.

basically speaking, a small boy named tom does little else in life apart from fooling around. his aunt fidget wonkham-strong does not approve and calls upon the rather intimidating captain najork who, along with his hired sportsmen, challenges tom to three rounds of womble, muck and sneedball. this particular book demanded to be read in a droll american voice, reminiscent of the voiceovers accompanying humphrey bogart private detective movies. since this practice was confined to the child's bedroom of an evening, embarrassment was saved.

reading the same story over and over again not unnaturally led to familiarity on behalf of both reader and listener to the extent that, when captain najork announced the name of the last sport to be played, we'd jointly exclaim "sneedball!" as the page was turned. no doubt many of you have similar tales to relate. though you may not be familiar with the above mentioned book, there are bound to be others that have found great favour with kids other than my own.

to digress for a moment or two however, there can be few folks in the world who still hold lance armstrong in high esteem, (other than phil ligget) for either his sporting prowess or friendly personality. while the dailies and red tops will pounce upon any cycling stories involving drugs, many remain the preserve of the pelotonese, mostly going no further. lance's seven year dominance of the tour de france, coupled with his subsequent comeback, arguably more successful than even he thought it might be, no doubt contributed to his dramatic downfall after confiding in oprah in front of a television audience of millions.

here was undeniable evidence of a systematic undermining of the sporting milieu. not just the ingestion of one or two doubtful substances to help with an off-day, but a whole listed history of blood doping, epo, cortisone, hgh and a number of others of similar ilk. whereas you and i would (i'd like to think) enter the sporting arena after at least a modest amount of training, yet still get a kicking, lance seems to have decided from the outset that he needed the advantage provided by chemical assistance and sod the kicking. that's not to say there was no training involved, for it seems likely that he undertook every bit as much if not more than his peers, but there was always that safety net.

however, it is the old, old story, one that we've all heard before if a tad less specifically. throughout my reading of juliet macur's incredibly well researched book, there was this overwhelming feeling that at the top of the next page would be the word sneedball!".

the only fact previously unknown to me was that armstrong had been using many banned substances prior to his contracting cancer. no doubt this is the spin that big tex preferred to put on his comeback from the dead, that here was the man who had suffered from cancer, been medically close to death, and had not only survived, but returned stronger and faster than ever. it seems less than pertinent to note that armstrong's initial use of epo and blood-doping had been as a result of what the french referred to as deux vitesses. others were already using and armstrong was losing face and races by riding clean.

the author, a reporter with the new york times, has made this her life's work so far, conducting interviews with many of those associated with lance, including former team-mates and lengthy one to one conversations with lance himself.

"If people think I cheated to win the Tour de France," Armstrong says, "they're fucking dumb. I didn't cheat."
You broke the rules.
"I did, but we all did," he says. "All two hundred guys that started the race broke the rules."

if you've not already read tyler hamilton's 'the secret race', a book that detailed just how the us postals systematically doped with impunity and almost effortless organisation, there may be more than one or two revelations in cycle of lies that will make you like armstrong even less than you already do. and should you wish to remind yourself of dates, times and circumstances, there is an exhaustively detailed index at the back.

i'm not suggesting that you read juliet macur's book to your kids at bedtime. in fact, i'm not even suggesting that you read it to yourself. it's not, at any point, what could be described as entertaining reading, though it is very well written. however, in 2014, it strikes me as the bedtime book that has been recited just once too often, and i do wonder who its intended readership might be. now that i've read its well over 400 pages, i'm not sure i'm any the wiser.

however, it has me thinking that i might have to write-off an entire decade of cycling history, if that hasn't already been done for me.

thursday 17 july 2014

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cielo racer stem

cielo racer stem

it's never the frame. that double diamond, however constituted, is the rock star of the agglomeration we more commonly refer to as a bicycle. some of us adore the ornate lug, silver brazed to a pile of custom fitted tubes, others are in thrall to the carbon monocoque, two halves of burnt plastic pretty much mass-produced in the far east. with a set of go faster stripes, you can almost see the attraction. however, the technology of sticking metal tubes together has moved on, now incorporating the technique of welding midst a modest amount of tungsten gas.

cielo racer stem

but, in the face of such excitement, there are the unsung workhorses, the bits and bobs that we couldn't possibly do without, but ones that rarely elicit a large degree of perspiration when time comes to order online or at the local bike shop. i'm thinking here of seatposts, bottom brackets, chains and, yes, stems. all of these components are classed as essentials, for without them, the bicycle is going nowhere. but who amongst us have paid a visit to one of the national bike shows or even a handbuilt show and had to catch our breath at the sight of a press fit bottom bracket?

and i can honestly state that never once have i heard an involuntarily exclaimed "wow, look at that chain!" at least, not unless it had fallen off the bike.

we're all perfectly aware of the necessity of such bits and pieces, but more often than not, provided they fit and do the job required, neither love nor cash are unnecessarily squandered in their direction. i would largely find myself in total agreement with this particular enforced philosophy, but one of these perfunctory items has recently been raised from relative obscurity by the very same portlanders who hand-crafted one of my steel bikes. and though it may mark me out as more eccentric than you originally thought i was, the smug satisfaction of riding a steel bike fitted with a steel stem has probably made me even more unbearable.

cielo racer stem

the folks in the cielo cupboard at chris king precision components, not content with making tig-welded velocipedinal joy, have now filled their remaining hours of fabrication by more or less custom building tig welded stems. i ought perhaps at this point to bolster just a smidgeon of my smugness by admitting that the faceplate is of chris king precision alloy, fronting the svelte length of steel. but personalisation makes an entrance by allowing a choice of thirteen hand-painted stem colours and nine faceplate options which can be mixed and matched at your behest.

you can also choose from two styles: the racer as reviewed here, a stem that bears both style and functionality comparison with the majority of those currently on the market. only better. the other option is that of the classic, a stem that has a lengthened steerer section replacing any spacers you might currently have. and in contrast to the two rear pinch bolts on the racer stem, the classic features a couple of front mounted bolts under the main part of the stem.

cielo racer stem

classic.

the chaps at cielo were kind enough to ask which particular colours i might like my review stem to wear. my choice of azul for the steel bit and navy for the cielo logo'd faceplate elicited a "Are you sure that is going to look okay? Azul with a navy face plate is one that we did not expect as a match." reply from design manager, jay sycip. personally, i think it looks flipping marvellous, a combination you can see for yourselves in the accompanying photos.

as i have longer than average arms and a penchant for being reasonably stretched out across my cielo, i opted for the 130mm length, the maximum on offer. stem lengths for both types begin as short as 80mm working through 90, 95, 100, 105, 110, 115 and 120mm. the clamp size prefers a 31.8 bar centre, but should you wish to clamp it to smaller diameter bars, there are 26.0 and 25.4 diameter shims available.

the racer is effectively symmetrical, meaning other than the zero degree option, flipping it can give plus or minus six degrees. due to the longer steerer clamp on the classic stem, you can have either minus six degrees or zero.

cielo racer stem

in the case of my own cielo, i replaced both stem and bars, clamping the navy blue faceplate (matching the chris king headset, hubs and ceramic bottom bracket) to a pair of aerozine handlebars. it took only a matter of metres to realise i'd set the angle of the bars just a tad too low, but once adjusted, the bike felt as if mr sycip had popped over for the weekend to custom build the entire affair. though the frame is painted in sparkle black, a contrasting stem makes every bit as much aesthetic difference as the prancing horse on the front of a ferrari.

which, incidentally, is precisely how the cielo handles.

cielo stems

wednesday 16 july 2014

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

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bike fit. phil burt. bloomsbury publishing softback. 192pp illus. £18.99

bike fit by phil burt

i may be guilty of oversimplification, and no doubt the chapters of phil burt's book will confirm that apprehension, but it's very likely that the stunningly obvious bit of bike fitting for most of us is that of saddle height. not long back from one of my rare trips to londonshire, where the bicycle, if not king, is certainly a large part of the royal family of transport, it is very hard to walk even a few metres without viewing a small peloton of cyclists passing by, with almost certainly one or two riding with the saddles too low. and simply to negate the law of averages in its infancy, riding too close to the ground seems far more common than doing so with your backside in the air.

the latter, however, is precisely the situation i found myself in for more years than i care to admit. this state of affairs is entirely the fault of chris boardman, though if i ever meet the gentleman i will deny ever having said so. many of the olympic medallist's bicycles were identifiable by the large amount of seatpost visible above the seatpin bolt, a look that looked undeniably cool. so, within the parameters of amenable discomfort, i had raised the seatpost on my colnago to the point where i attained a small portion of that coolness, yet still able to not only climb aboard, but actually ride the darned thing.

the antidote for such narcissistic behaviour came in the shape of an obscured doorway in london's macklin street: cyclefit. phil and jules measured every aspect of my position of the bike over a number of remarkably interesting hours, handing me a folder of initially inscrutable dimensions as i smilingly departed the premises. since the bike fit was for the purposes of a review in these very pixels, it was incumbent on yours truly to attempt replication on the bicycles occupying space in the bike shed, number one being the saddle height.

which is where it all went right, when i thought it had to be all wrong.

a variation of a few millimetres either way would have been not only acceptable but entirely expected, but the news that i'd been riding for almost fifteen years with my saddle three centimetres too high seemed an altitude too far. however, there seemed little point in having undergone the adjustment adventure in macklin street to simply ignore it because it didn't seem right. so i dropped the boardman lookalike saddle position those three centimetres and achieved seated nirvana. it seems inconceivable that i could have endured such iniquity for all those years, but that apparently was the case.

the gist of that defined by cyclefit was largely echoed by another more recent fit at alpine bikes' fitting room in their trek bicycle centre. both trek and alpine strongly encourage having undergoing at least the basic bike-fit prior to taking delivery of their nice new madone or domane.

however, no matter how big a deal it might be to have a professional check out your bike position and make the very adjustments that would have you moving faster and more comfortably over the rapidly detriorating roads, it's something that is not always within the financial grasp of every member of the pelotonese. for those in this position, you should perhaps fork out the £18.99 required to acquire a copy of phil burt's latest publication, bike fit. perhaps i should not have been surprised, in the light of my own original guide to a high saddle, that the foreword has been composed by chris boardman.

and as if one foreword were not sufficient, there's a second from the chris who has just allied himself with nick hussey's vulpine clothing to bring a new range of badged clothing next year; sir hoy. plaudits before you've even reached chapter one are enhanced even further with a laudatory quote from sir brailsford on the cover. thus, before getting to the nitty gritty, there is confidence that those pounds have been well spent.

as boardman alludes to in his introduction, successful bicycle-fit "will always be a blend of good science and good judgement." an observation that ought to be kept uppermost when devouring the remainder of the book. certain numbers will always predict excellent results, but if you can't hold the position suggested, speed would be the last of your worries.

the author is currently chief physiotherapist at british cycling, as well as having been with team sky since day one, perhaps in part explaining the positioning of a quote from his boss on the front cover. but the depth of information and research contained within are definitely not to be sneezed at, even if some of it is a tad inscrutable to the less than biomechanically inclined. happily, he manages to head off the naysayers at the pass, by informing us that "...there isn't a magic formula."

not unnaturally, the opening chapters deal with human anatomy and physiology, an important part of the book not to avoid if the following chapters are to make any sense. there seems little point in mr burt explaining just how the wrong stem length might impact upon the quadratus lumborum if you've no earthly idea of what he speaks. it also strikes me, having read through the process of creating a pertinent bike fit, that the very least you're going to need to make the most of mr burt's advice is a turbo trainer and a movie camera. however, though i have neither, i'm reassured that i'm almost unique in this respect; many colleagues own the former, and everyone else i know possesses a smartphone.

job done.

bike-fit also addresses many of the common misapprehensions that pass for sage advice during the sunday morning ride. setting your cleats as far forward as possible, spinning at more than 100rpm embodies total efficiency, and oval chainrings are better than round, join several other myths of the peloton. burt also adds a necessary touch of realism to his words by incorporating a few real-life case studies, and also includes a chapter concerning off-the-bike work to help with both cycling and position on the bicycle. for no matter the millimetres of changes advised, almost as much has to come from the hapless rider to strengthen parts of the body and help deal with the physicality of hard pedalling.

though the subtitle of this book is 'optimise your bike position for high performance and injury avoidance.', there is information in 'bike fit' that pertains to even the leisure cyclist. let's face it, being comfortable while pedalling slowly is every bit as desirable as for the fast guys. as evidenced by sir chris hoy "...it is so much more comfortable, efficient and fun to be running in your own shoes."

if there's any criticism to be levelled at the book it's that of over-illustration. full page photos of chris hoy on the shoulders of team coaches, a double page spread of an elderly gent on a brompton and several photos of professional riders (predominantly of sky, given burt's professional association with the team) seem largely unnecessary and add little to the party. however, a comprehensive index is something of a boon, for on occasion, trying to follow the technicalities was made easier by being able to find previous instances of discussion.

if you seem to have hit a metaphorical brick wall in the performance stakes or every bike ride results in aches and pains, other than a trip to the nearest qualified practitioner, phil burt's bike fit would seem a practical and economical first step.

tuesday 15 july 2014

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rouleur issue 47 ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

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tell them we sent you

quick mention for those intending to visit islay's shores on a bike during the summer. velo club d'ardbeg recommended coffee/tea stops - in no particular order.

club headquarters at the old kiln cafe, ardbeg distillery. excellent food as well as designer coffees with froth. the single malt is apparently just ginger peachy. open monday to saturday from easter to september, seven days from june to september.

debbie's cafe

bruichladdich mini market (debbie's cafe), a few hundred yards from the distillery. highly commended designer coffees with outside tables. we like. open all year round with a cycling wall in the coffee corner.

welcometogreatcoffee.co.uk

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

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