this past weekend, the uci cyclocross season started with live streaming of the race from valkenburg on, of all things, youtube. who knew you could offer live streaming via that video platform? i'd always figured it was only for movies of cats on vacuum cleaners. anyway, the one feature that hasn't altered very much is the opportunity to post comments, except to accompany the live streaming, these too were being rotated in real time. it has never ceased to amaze and amuse that each youtube video features a list of comments below, and by the time you reach the fifth posting, there are at least two guys (it's always guys) arguing and name-calling about something several stages removed from the subject of the video.
in this case, the race was won by rabobank's lars van der haar, apparently not only the first time he'd won a race of at this level, but the first time a european 'cross race has been won on a disc equipped bicycle. and that, in a nutshell, seemed to be the principal subject of discussion in the sidebar. of course, since uci racing is international, many of the comments were in languages foreign to me, so it's highly possible that some of the conversations were of a more intelligent nature, but there's every likelihood that the argument of 'yes they are, no they aren't' will continue well past its sell-by date.
personally, i still place my faith in cantilevers, and i certainly have no truck with disc brakes on road bikes, but on the basis of one or two review models, i cannot deny that discs do precisely what they set out to do. however, i'm just not sure it's all entirely necessary other than on the basis of selling container loads of new frames to folks already well-equipped with bicycles in the bikeshed. still, that's marketing for you.
but all those commenting on the efficacy of one or t'other, based on little more than conjecture seem to be largely missing a feature that impacts far more on the sport, or at least its aftermath that could conceivably make the difference between being let out on a saturday morning or not. one need only settle down to watch the spring classics (not that long to go now) to note that each and every team, when faced with inclement weather, clothes the riders in legwarmers or tights, armwarmers, jackets and perchance the odd winter hat. and in order to keep those little tootsies away from the spray chucked up by a blatant lack of mudguards and from passing team cars, most if not all are seen wearing overshoes.
but it would be a foolish individual that contended cyclocross racing was not far more onerous in this respect than any rain affected road classic. frequently strewn with gloopy mud, deep puddles and yukky sand, the average cyclocross race cannot be considered too kind not only to brightly coloured footwear, but the feet contained within. and in case you wonder why this should have any bearing on being let out to play of a weekend, after a through soaking on the 'cross bike last saturday, had i left muddy footprints on the kitchen floor, mrs washingmachinepost would have undoubtedly rescinded all cycling privileges for an indeterminate period.
however, forethought is fore-armed (or words to that effect), and i had covered my dmt offroad shoes with a pair of prendas aquatex overshoes, light of constitution, but heavy on the weather protection. unlike road racing, cyclocross involves a fair amount of running. though american courses seem to feature hurdles that can be bunny-hopped by the more agile, european races involve ruddy great hills and sets of step over which there is less option. thus, the sole of the average overshoe may have much in the way of pain and suffering inflicted, and riders such as sven nys may be rather circumspect in having flailing bits of neoprene or, in this case, aquatex dragging around behind them, particularly when attempting to clip in after re-mounting.
i cannot, i must admit, compete with the likes of nys; if i could i would not be sat in front of my macbook air typing this. but in the course of riding the wrong way round bridgend woods, pausing only to fall off once in a while, there was much in the way of footwork involved (some of it involuntary), yet i noted barely a scuff mark on the soles of the aquatex overshoes.
with variety being the spice of velocipedinal activity, i of course took an appropriate amount of time to ride the road; there are variations in cleat size to be considered to say little of the difference in sole pattern and bulk between the two variants of footwear. in both sets of circumstances, the notable plus point, aside from a seeming imperviousness to the worst of the precipitation and mud, is not only a lack of initial weight, but a keenness to avoid absorbing any moisture that might upset that particular apple cart.
this makes a big difference.
therefore, after several hours of making a prat of myself on a cyclocross bike, 'twas simplicity itself to peel them off on the back step of the croft and enter the kitchen without fear of repression. to prove my point, i was allowed out next day. the zip at the rear is a dawdle to open and close, and the stretchiness of the aquatex fabric is flexible enough to accept pretty much any style of cycling shoe, irrespective of the shoe closure method employed.
but the best bit is the price. only £29.95 for overshoes that love the road as much as the undergrowth, and in four sizes (41 all the way to 50) seemingly studiously impervious to any incoming irritants, is definitely not to be sneezed at.
tuesday 22 october 2013