be prepared

flat tyre

over the course of my years in the hebrides, it has been my great good fortune to meet a wide variety of visiting cyclists, several of whom remain in contact even today, and one or two who continue to visit civilisation on a regular basis. however, in my one-time role as bicycle maintenance technician, i have met those who find themselves in a situation that they'd really rather wasn't the case. and while i am far too nice a chap to make a meal out of it, quite a few had only themselves to blame.

at the far end of a nearby single-track road, there is about a kilometre of farm track, leading to what was once a farmhouse, subsequently highlighted as a future cottage-size whisky distillery, still owned by the frenchman who purchased it over seven years ago. though i am neither a gravel or offroad fiend, that section of rough track has proved itself ideal when time came to acquire photographs relevant to cyclocross, or simply images with an intriguing background, given that the view from said road looks across the loch to the other side of the island.

however, even though we're looking at a total distance from the croft to the farmhouse of around six kilometres, i am very unlikely to traverse that stretch of road/track, without a spare inner tube, tyre-jack and mini-pump in a back pocket. indeed, i am sufficiently fleet of foot that, in the event of some mechanical malfeasance or puncture, i could easily walk home, but, when it's so simple to carry the necessary implements to prevent that walk of shame, why wouldn't i?

yet i have met many an individual who has embarked upon a tour of the length of scotland's west coast without so much as a spare inner tube. i did once receive a phone call from a gent who required an inner tube for his mountain bike, due to having suffered a puncture. on querying whether this was a 26", 650b or 'twenty-niner', he was disappointingly unsure. taking one of each, i arranged to meet him in the village centre only to immediately note that the tyres on his bicycle sported large, white lettering indicating the they were 'twenty-niners'. i should also mention that, on enquiring whether he required a schrader or presta valve, that too was an answer that proved beyond his ken.

though i doubt this scenario is any different from those experienced by any bike shop anywhere in the kingdom, no doubt with greater implications, on delivering said inner tube, the gentleman had no idea of how to replace the tube, and, as it turned out, had no pump with which to inflate it. that does rather make you worry about some people.

but on twitter only a matter of days past, was posted a list of ten pieces of advice that might be offered to someone new to the velocipedinal world, to which i added an impertinent eleventh, 'enjoy yourself'. however, circumstances that arose since i made that insolent remark have given me cause to revise my opinion, or at least, add to it. on saturday, following my dutiful perambulation of the estates, on return to the croft, i put the cyclocross bike to one side and removed the ritchey logic from the bikeshed. following this, i cleaned the chain sideplates (not a degrease, due to my having a chain lube currently on review), checked the tyre pressures and inflated to the desired settings and checked my brakes. following a cursory wipe with a towel, i replaced it in the bikeshed, ready for the sunday morning ride.

the above procedure is one that i would expect any bike rider to carry out on a regular basis, particularly prior to a bike ride, and definitely at this time of year, when suffering a problem of any kind could undoubtedly entail a period of time freezing one's butt off in howling winds and horizontal rain. yet, without pointing any elbows, such basic maintenance tasks did not receive blanket coverage from sunday morning's assembled multitudes, which i, very discourteously perhaps, regard as a cardinal sin.

i have long been in the habit of undertaking my saturday bike rides alone, and should a part of the bicycle fail due to a lack of the above-mentioned maintenance, then i only have myself to blame, and i'd have to live with the immediate consequences. and lest i give the impression that in such matters i am faultless, let me advise you that such is very much not the case. however, if a similar problem were to arise on the sunday ride, a problem that could undoubtedly have been avoided with a modicum of fettling prior to departure, due to our inherent 'leave no-one behind' policy, all those comprising the sunday peloton would also be left standing out in the cold.

though the rain did not arrive yesterday until we departed from home, the winds at 10am were gusting in excess of 70kph and at particularly low temperatures. so the fact that we'd all to stop less than 100 metres into the ride, due to someone's seriously under-inflated tyres, was not greeted with unbridled joy.

if you're in the habit of joining with others for weekend or mid-week rides, ensure that your friendship with the rest of the peloton remains current, by regularly checking your bicycle and replacing or repairing any necessary parts, plus making certain that you have a spare inner tube, a pump, tyre-lever and any other tools, such as allen or torx keys that you deem necessary. and aside from carrying a spare tube, just make sure that you know how to replace a punctured one, and how to remove and refit a wheel, especially the rear. if you don't know, either ask someone you trust in your peloton, buy a book or look on youtube.

aside from not wishing to inconvenience others, there is bound to come a time when something untoward happens and there's no-one there to assist.

you can thank me later.

monday 9 january 2023

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a brief history of pasta. luca cesari. profile books hardback 362pp £16.99

a brief history of pasta - luca cesari

i rather doubt that i'm alone in having a pasta maker stored in the kitchen cupboard, a device that still resides in its original packaging, unopened. and, like many a cyclist, i devour a substantial amount of pasta on a weekly basis, predominantly because i like it, but also because pasta has a reputation as an excellent source of carbohydrate, something that, at one time at least, every cyclist's body reputedly demanded to finish off that lengthy or arduous bike ride. the reason for the pasta maker was in the possibly mistaken opinion that making my own 'artisinal' pasta would not only be cheaper, but somehow more effective.

you can see how that turned out.

according to an article from bicycling magazine, the principal reason that pasta is considered an ideal food for cyclists is its low fat content balanced against the aforementioned, high carbohydrate content. whole-grain pastas are high in fibre, vitamins and protein, making them sound like a one-stop shop for the intrepid bicyclist. if there's a downside to pasta as a food choice, it has less to do with the product itself, much more to do with how we present it. adding cream sauces, filling tortellini with cheeses, rolling it all in pesto, then sprinkling parmesan shavings on top, will undoubtedly add to the calories consumed, probably several of which we have little or no need.

but then, you'd have to be a professional cyclist with contractual obligations to eat simply cooked pasta on its own. i doubt that many of us fall into the latter category, so pesto, parmesan and cheese it is.

author, luca cesari, according to the brief biography at the back of this book, as a fussy youngster "was lovingly fed tagliatelle alla bolognese and tortellini by his grandmother", a factor of his upbringing that created a fascination with pasta ever since. in his introduction, the author rightly points out that any thoughts of pasta or its many recipes, bring with them immediate identification with italy, from whence the product is assumed to have originated.

"Yet pasta does not just belong to Italy [...] "pasta is just one way of eating a dough of water and flour."

and while pasta seems predominantly to exist in recent history; "The circumstances of its birth are also rather hazy, and although we know that Sicily was a centre of production for dried pasta as early as the twelfth century, the thread of its origins gets lost somewhere back in Classical Greece and the Near East."

however, this apparently brief history of pasta is less than directly concerned with the historical aspect of the product and more with the origin and provenance of the various receipes in force today. and despite many a british restaurant or hotel tending to offer pasta as a vegetarian option on their menus, the author is keen to point out that many of the original italian concoctions contained some manner of pork, which, in many instances, has engendered a great deal of the controversy that apparently still exists.

much of this is at the behest of emigration; when italians moved abroad to britain or the usa, they tended to take with them the recipes current at the time of their departure from their homeland. this, the author conjectures, is perhaps why the very thought of macaroni cheese would cause a frothing of the mouth in a present day italian trattoria, yet is served as a staple on every calmac ferry with dining facilities. and, if you guessed that it is served as often the sole vegetarian option, you'd be right on the money. cesari contends that while it was and is common practice to confetti a pasta dish with grated or shaved cheese (pecorini rather than parmesan, it appears), macaroni in a cheese sauce will not be found in italian restaurants today.

in fact, the principle purpose of mr cesari's book is not necessarily to investigate its present day status or its carbohydrate content, but predominantly to discuss the various recipes proffered as 'original', such as that of fettucine alfredo, amatriciana, carbonara, or lasagne amongst others. many of these recipes are reprinted here, though i believe more for comparitive purposes, rather than in the manner of a cookbook, alongside which, the author discusses the merits of the various claims of originality.

while (in a translation from the original italian by johanna bishop) the book is almost conversational in style, as if we were sat in a kitchen with mr cesari, i feel it would have benefited greatly from a range of accompanying illustrations or images of the recipes or pasta under discussion. i, for one, have no idea what amatriciana looks like, and given the nature of the acknowledged discrepancies of interpretation and originality, it would have been instructive to note precisely what the author means by fettucine, for example.

if, as did i, you hoped to learn of the efficacy of pasta as a food of the gods, or even just of cyclists, then this may not be the book for you. however, if the origination of certain pasta recipes and their untold derivatives might prove of interest, 'a brief history of pasta' will not disappoint. in the light of that which i have learned, there may be hope for that pasta machine in the kitchen cupboard after all.

sunday 8 january 2023

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a blaze of glory

lithium ion batteries

around a year ago, i made an online purchase of a rear light intended for affixation to the seatpost of my cyclocross bicycle. such augmentation may, at first glance, seem a tad unnecessary on a bicycle destined for mud and undergrowth, but even under those circumstances, i would prefer that dog walkers, joggers and pedestrians of the woodland are aware of my existence ahead of their own personal trajectories. and i'm sure i need not point out the preference of a flashing rear light on the roadway leading to the offroad domain.

unfortunately, at point of online purchase, i neglected to check just how the light was powered. obviously enough, batteries were involved, but i was under the misapprehension that, in common with many others, 'twould be a simple matter of plugging the light into a usb port for a timely recharge. however, on receipt of the light (which, in case you were wondering, worked exactly as described), i learned that it contained two flat, watch-style batteries that would need replacing when the power ran out.

the first replacement procedure worked beautifully, the defunct batteries discarded and new pair inserted, the light worked as required, up until the days over the festive holiday period. as is often the case with devices featuring replaceable batteries, the power drops off towards the end of their lifecycle, in this case, offering a substantial dimming of the flashing light, generally not a feature observed with built-in, rechargeable batteries. however, based on previous experience with replaceable batteries in different situations, there often comes a time when the process fails.

such was the case only yesterday afternoon, when i attempted to, once more, replace the two batteries. though they were of the correct size and type, switching the light on was somewhat erratic; only occasionally would it work. and when it did work, none of the flash modes appeared to be available, and it proved impossible to switch off without unscrewing the mounting bracket. rather than spend an interminable length of time attempting to figure out the problem, i took the shortcut and ordered a new light, but this time featuring usb charging.

and when time comes to recharge this recent purchase, i will enjoy the luxury of so doing at the end of each or every other bike ride, even to the extent of leaving it plugged in overnight, ready for next morning. or will i? according to the web page from which i made my purchase, the battery, like the majority available today, is of the lithium-ion variety, the very type featured in the likes of laptop computers, smartphones, ipads and even e-scooters and e-bikes. and though the size and power of the latter are an order of magnitude greater than those in my yet to be delivered rear bike light, arguably, it too, is subject to the vicissitudes that can afflict the entire range of lithium-ion batteries. most dangerously, that of fire.

granted, the low density of a small rechargeable battery in a rear bicycle light is unlikely to concentrate the flammability of the lithium component, but you just never know. in december, north america's product safety authority contacted thousands of e-bike and e-scooter manufacturers, urging them to adhere to battery safety standards. i do wonder why there is no legal requirement for said manufacturers to adhere to such standards in the first place, but that, quite frankly, is beyond the competency and comprehension of this cycling blog.

however, only a matter of days ago, a yorkshire fire chief issued a safety warning, following a number of fires across the country, involving e-scooters and e-bikes, encountered when the devices were being charged. according to yorkshire's deputy chief fire officer, dave walton, "Lithium is highly flammable and particularly dangerous because of the battery's high energy density. Not only do people need to be careful when charging these batteries but they need to be recycled properly and not disposed of with general household waste." he then went on to point out that a leeds housefire at the end of last year was caused by a lithium e-bike battery in the process of being charged.

i realise that the cognoscenti that congregate around these black and yellow pixels will scarcely have stooped so low as to resort to battery power in the first place (rule #five, pain and suffering, etc.), but it's just possible that we all know someone for whom motor power has become a guiding light and might be blissfully unaware of the dangers that live within. of course, were this danger inherent and applicable across the board, it's unlikely that either electric cars or e-bikes would have ever seen the light of day without the need for cctv over the charging point and perhaps a fire-extinguisher in a jersey rear pocket. but even adhering to safety standards doesn't preclude that possibility that something might go wrong, just when you least expect it.

according to the fire department, issues that can spark a lithium fire include any damage to the battery, overheating, or using the wrong charging cables. lithium batteries are of growing concern due to the risk of explosion because of something called a 'thermal runaway' where the battery's internal temperature continues to increase, ultimately making it unstable. so far there are no specific reports of fires caused by charging small bike lights, or gps units, but from my point of view, safe is always better than sorry.

saturday 7 january 2023

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it's a brand new year

new cannondale

a number of years ago, a correspondent to islay's local newspaper sent a photo of three oddly painted vehicles sat in the ferry queue at kennacraig. their conclusion (subsequently proved correct) was that these were prototypes of landrover's replacement for the ubiquitous defender, vehicles which bore the same moniker but apparently with altered purpose. the odd paint scheme more closely resembled that of an idiosyncratic zebra than of the stately vehicle we now know the new defender to be. and what is perhaps more pertinent, is that the squiggly paint scheme was deliberate.

it is not unusual for car manufacturers to paint their pre-production test vehicles in such a manner, all the better to hide the specifics from prying competitors' and journalists' cameras. in other words: camouflage. motor manufacturers are often hidebound by the need for suitable real-world locations in which to trial new vehicles, many of which are, as with the calmac ferry queue, in full public view. as i recall, the newspaper contacted landrover's media department to confirm the identity of said vehicles, but unsurprisingly, they were unwilling to comment.

though i am not in the habit of purchasing any manner of automotive publication, it's hard to avoid their covers on the magazine shelves, frequently highlighting yet another exclusive first sighting of some much anticipated, or hitherto unknown vehicle. one can only assume that by presenting such alleged discoveries on the cover, publishers are fighting for market share, and that they take great joy in foiling the machinations of the motor industry. that said, the nature of the imagery would often suggest that there is a degree of collusion taking place, and that the alleged secret nature of these vehicles is more of a construct than a reality.

i had, based purely on the actions and reactions of my peers and colleagues, supposed that such eagerness to learn of a new bicycle from one of the world's senior marques was consderably less of a factor in daily velocipedinal life. yes, there is often intrigue and supposition attached to the release of yet another sprocket incorporated with a wired/wireless, 1x or 2x groupset, but that may have been the subject of a rise and fall situation affecting all of the big three.

however, it will doubtless surprise you not at all to learn that, once again, i appear to be wrong.

while recently perusing my youtube feed in a search for more art blakey drum covers, i came upon a cycling weekly video entitled, LEAKED: New Cannondale SuperSix Evo | What We Know So Far! on which a visibly excited gent from the comic waxed lyrical over the noted observable changes from the bike's predecessor. riding said bicycle in the video was an ineos garbed richard carapaz, now signed for ef education first easypost, for which the new cannondale will presumably be this year's team bike.

many conclusions were being derived from the stem/bar combination, reputedly allowing for better integration of the internal cable routing through the steerer, and thus the possibility of fitting a non-cannondale component, while in the comments section below the moving pictures, there seemed to be some disparity as to whether the bottom bracket was the now disgraced press-fit variety, or one featuring outboard bearing cups. and the fact that one commenter alluded to previous posts by ef rider, rigoberto uran, would tend to suggest that the existence of this video at least, was on youtube with the distanced blessing of cannondale.

there was also concentrated guesswork as to the meaning of the lab 71 lettering below the top tube, but above the lowered seat-stays, guesswork that i'm sure cannondale's marketing team enjoyed immensely.

given that we are but on the foothills of january 2023, if this untoward exhibition of excitement by a chap one would imagine would be well used to new bicycles, is only the start, i think i may have to look for an alternative drum video platform other than youtube. i'm no less of an enthusiast than the next drummer when it comes to new bicycles or velocipedinal components, but i fear this embarrassing frothing at the mouth over a remodelled upper seat-tube is most unbecoming from inhabitants of the world of pain and suffering, cyclocross and the spring classics.

then, only a day later, i find a video reputedly having discovered a shimano 105, twelve-speed mechanical groupset.

get a grip, people

friday 6 january 2023

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a choice decision

giant scottish bike retail

the face of cycling retail has changed considerably over the years, as anyone long enough in the tooth will have borne witness. i have previously described mr benzie's bicycle shop in my original, mainland home-town, sited in kyle street and consisting of three distinct facets. the first two of these could be described as designer sheds, or as close to 'designer' as it was possible to get in the 1960s. these were not at street-level, but accessed via wooden stairs, the first of which was where mr benzie (an aberdonian as i recall) held court and relieved you, or more likely, your parents, of their cash following a planned or impromptu purchase.

the second of those sheds was given over entirely to a display of stock bicycles, while part three was a large, but anonymous corrugated building that sat to the rear and at right angles to parts one and two. this was the building to which my friends and i were led when collecting our repaired bicycles, and which darkly consisted of a sea of bicycles, the majority of which featured tied-on labels indicating ownership and the price to be paid for their release.

though i have no comparable experience from which to draw, mr benzie's sales technique may well have been that in vogue for the era. it consisted principally of denigrating any type of bicycle which he did not, at the time, have in stock. hence my early to late teenage years taking place aboard a raleigh twenty shopping bike, rather than the ten-speed racer belonging to my younger brother.

contrast this with modern-day velocipedinal retail, where shop floors are carefully designed and curated to entice the casual customer not only towards a wide range of cycles, but in particular, whatever style curries greatest favour, and preferably the model offering the ideal profit margin. this will be positioned closely enough to accessories that can be casually implied as suitable for augmentation, should intrigue turn to actual purchase.

frequently, such establishments would bear the name of the proprietor, such as billy bilsland's or stewart wilson cycles, and existed as so-called independent cycle retailers, tied not to a specific marque or component provider, and likely to be able to acquire a bicycle or groupset of choice. however, perhaps encouraged by apple computer's successful move into independent retail, the big boys have taken it upon themselves to create their own network of cycle stores, selling solely their own product. it's a retail philosophy that i confess i do not fully understand; if i'm in the market for a new bike, i'd like to see a range of machinery from different manufacturers. the logical conclusion of this more recent method of cycle retail would involve a tour of several cycle stores in order to make an informed choice, a tour that might take you beyond the county border or, in my case, a few ferry journeys.

however, trek, specialized and giant seem convinced of the future of the single brand store, with the latter having effectively re-named stirling's velocity 44 as its first example in scotland. velocity 44 takes half its name from its location at 44 barnton street in stirling, having previously existed since the late 1970s as stewart wilson cycles. according to the, as yet, unchanged website, velocity 44 was in the habit of stocking cannondale, whyte and cervelo, alongside giant. but it now seems that the latter will oust the former in its bid for retail independence, which will heretofore be referred to as giant store, stirling.

and while i still remain confused by this modus operandi, i would take issue with the phraseology used to soothe the brow of present and future customers. ian beasant, giant's managing director, stated, "...traditionally a go-to place for performance cyclists, the new store will be no different, featuring a comprehensive collection of products from Giant and Liv." given that the takeover will reduce the brands on sale by at least 75%, i'm not sure why that would be defined as 'no different'.

and it appears giant intends not to stop there, with plans to introduce more brand stores " key target locations."

come back mr benzie; all is forgiven.

thursday 5 january 2023

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rapha men's trail merino long-sleeve t-shirt

rapha trail merino l/s t-shirt

if we were able to re-invent ourselves from the beginning, when it comes to cycling apparel, today's dress code might be imagined a smidgeon different than has become the case. though the average (and not so average) road rider demands a closeness of fit to dispense with any potential flappage in the heat of battle, despite probably exerting a similar amount of energy, mountain bikers seem far less concerned with the latter, witnessed, at least superficially, by sleeves that seem to sport little affinity with the bicep region. and that's probably very much in keeping with the likes of joe breeze, tom ritchey and the other boys in the band, few, if any of whom wore skin tight jerseys as they descended at speed on mt tamalpais on bicycles scarcely suitable for the job.

rapha trail merino l/s t-shirt

and the bit that has always stumped me, is the apparent lack of concern for any cargo capacity in the rear of a mountain bike jersey. ardbeg distillery in the early days of their appropriately monikered jerseys, occasionally dallied with the offroad world (though i very much doubt they were aware), sporting a range of jerseys with flappy sleeves and not a rear pocket to be seen. were this to be succinctly encapsulated, you might propose this to be a singular activity separated by uncommon garmentage. and no matter the gap to be witnessed between road and offroad, whether seen to be closing or expanding, there's no doubt that it's pragmatically difficult to be a gnarly dude when clad in a skinsuit.

rapha trail merino l/s t-shirt

conversely, i feel we're unlikely to witness van aert and van der poel enter cyclocross battle, clad in rapha's merino trail t-shirt and a pair of baggy shorts. and i will not disavow that constructing suitable circumstances in which to review the sample kindly supplied by rapha, was not, in itself, somewhat challenging.

a good friend of mine, in response to my continued querying as to where the intrepid offroader might place their mini-pump, spare inner tube and foil-wrapped chunk of mrs washingmachinepost's christmas cake, was kind enough to point out the potential error of my ways. while i think of offroaders, just like roadies, being as self-sufficient as possible, he averred that the mountain biking fraternity are far more likely to sling their springy farm gates onto a car bike rack or into the rear of a pick-up and drive to the scene of their intended velocipedinal activities. this, he continued, was likely to be a closed offroad loop from which it would be simplicity itself to walk back to the car, should they suffer a puncture or other mechanical malfeasance.

rapha trail merino l/s t-shirt

though i fear there may be modicum of disrespect contained within his advice, he might also be right on the money. for even a quick perusal of the mountain biking section of rapha's website brings to light an entire range of clothing with nary a rear pocket to be seen, consisting, as it does, of baggy, gnarly-dude clothing.

the second factor inhbiting a straightforward review was the hebridean climate prevailing over the festive break. i could have successfully reviewed any amount of rapha gore-tex kit, but an inherently non-waterproof, merino long-sleeve t-shirt with no pockets was an altogether different sort of challenge, even if i did plan to ply the paths and trails of bridgend woods on my cyclocross bicycle. my efforts were not assisted by the images displayed on the website, showing the garment in question as perhaps intended for solo use. i'm afraid, in the case of yours truly, the long-sleeve merino trail t-shirt was worn over both a long-sleeve merino baselayer and a short-sleeve merino baselayer. with an ambient temperature of barely above three degrees celcius, getting there and back also required a thermal jacket over the top.

rapha trail merino l/s t-shirt

that said, many of the properties for which merino wool is rightly famous, were demonstrated during my uncouth perambulations. echoing the scenario described above, the outer jacket was left by a gatepost, its own pockets concealing mini-pump, essentials case, digital camera and christmas cake within easy walking distance, should the worst that could happen, actually happen (it didn't). and despite the merino/nylon combination being disarmingly thin, my three-layers certainly paid their dues in the cosy department.

that said, it is not possessed of a high collar (or any collar at all, come to that), so to keep the breeze at bay, i augmented mine with a monogrammed richard sachs neck warmer.

rapha trail merino l/s t-shirt

so why not, i hear you ask, simply purchase a rapha long-sleeve merino baselayer for £25 less? the answer was effectively included in that last paragraph, attesting to the combination of merino wool (52%) with nylon (48%), the latter providing a degree of ruggedness that would be completely absent from a garment constructed solely from merino wool. and to reinforce that situation (if you'll pardon the pun), the trail t-shirt arrives replete with a pouch of adhesive patches made from offcuts of the very material used to build the t-shirt in the first place. thus, if your skills in the undergrowth let you down for any reason, 'tis but simplicity itself to effect a repair on the fly, and carry on trundling.

and those for whom the word gnarly is defined as several hundred kilometres in the hindu kush, or the solitary roads of alaska, this would still provide that extra layer of comfort and joy, baggy enough as it is to be worn over several other rapha layers as i mentioned above. i can't help thinking that a rear pocket or two could but enhance its versatility, but you should always bear in mnd that my perceptions are those of a roadie, and one bereft of any sort of mountain or gravel bike in the shed.

if they were aiming for nifty, then they've nailed it.

rapha's trail long-sleeve merino t-short is available in dark grey, blue or pastel green, in sizes ranging from xs to xxl at a retail price of £95.
rapha men's trail long-sleeve merino t-shirt

wednesday 4 january 2023

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video killed the radio star


having started the metaphorical ball rolling at the end of last year, and while on the subject of a new year's project, i opted to undertake a modicum of research, if only to place my, as yet unconfirmed aspirations, in some form of perspective. i am well aware that my current enthusiasm for cyclocross has a great deal to do with the apparently never-ending events that have been the subject of live coverage on the tellybox, but, aside from the spring classics, i have long been one for whom the grand tours are often but a distraction until 'cross season commences again in autumn.

so, as is frequently the case, i figured i'd take a quick squint at evans cycles' website, not necessarily for the marques in stock, but for the price comparisons and the groupsets that appear at those prices. disappointingly, clicking on the bikes category showed no sign of cyclocross bicycles; gravel appears to have displaced it from the index. however, delving a little deeper does elicit a 'gravel and cyclocross' category, and that's sort of where it all goes pear-shaped. out of the 26 bicycles available, the only example of a 'cross bike is a specialized crux comp. every other bicycle is specifically labeled as for gravel use.

and then, as if to add insult to injury, the description at the top of the page, ostensibly to inform the uninformed, states categorically that "...Cyclocross bikes are limited to 33mm tyres, while gravel bikes have no such limitations." this is somewhat erroneous; i have a specialized crux comp that has only recently shed a pair of hutchison 42mm gravel tyres and has previoulsy been home to a pair of rene herse gravel tyres at 45mm wide. what the text ought to have made clear is that if entered in competition, uci regulations limit tyre width to the specified 33mm. most bona-fide cyclocross bikes are capable of accommodating rubber wider than 33mm. in fact, the modern-day specialized crux comp arrives with 38mm tyres.

moving onto chain reaction cycles, under their cyclocross heading, there are again, precious few specifically designated as such. seven out of 75, to be precise. i have regularly mentioned, to the point of boredom, that there is scarcely any difference worth remarking upon, that necessitated the invention of a whole new genre of bicycle. and as a result, i have frequently been informed that i'm talking through a hole in my head (a theory that ought not be entirely discounted). but when one of the nation's major cycle retailers seems not to be aware of the difference between tyre regulations and frame capabilities, and both have lumped 'cross and gravel into the same, all but undifferentiated category, i believe i may have a point.

i don't doubt for one minute that this state of affairs is at least partially the result of marketing; far more of the great unwashed will be aware of gravel bikes, while simultaneously querying just who are cameron mason and michael vantourenhout? for the british cyclocross fan, there is much for which to be thankful, with world champion, tom pidcock, regualrly mixing it with van der poel and van aert at the pointy end of proceedings, while cameron mason and thomas mein seem confident in their present upward trajectory in the results. it's perhaps worth bearing in mind that former usa national cyclocross champion, and present day gcn pundit, jeremy powers, only ever managed 9th in a european 'cross race, while scotland's cameron mason finished fourth behind van aert, van der poel and pidcock at loenhout just before new year.

if cyclocross continues to be marginalised by ignorance, classification and gravel advertising, it's possible that, on this side of the channel at least, there will be no-one eventually to follow in the 33mm tyre tracks of pidcock, mason and mein. and that, to paraphrase the inimitable 'cross fiend, richard sachs, would be a crying shame, atmo.

tuesday 3 january 2023

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