seasonal thoughts

you will all know from bitter experience that winter weather tends to put a bit of a dampener on cycling. not the enthusiasm part, you understand, just the ploughing headlong into a mattress of a headwind through horizontal rain while the left side of your face is completely numb. and if you're like me or alex zulle, and need to wear glasses, there's a pretty good chance that through all this, you can't actually see where you're going (though i think that might cause alex more of a problem than it causes me). which in itself is bizarre because i haven't gone swimming for years because i found it boring - getting wet without the benefit of pleasant scenery. last weekend's cycle was much the same only with wheels.
since about last april, i have managed to get out on the colnago at least once a weekend and i thought this record (you would appreciate the enormity of this achievement if you lived on islay) was about to bite the dust last weekend due to gale force winds and lashings of the wet stuff. fortunately, for about an hour and a half, the wind dropped and the rain went off (well, sort of) and i was out on the colnago quicker than you could say 'landbowkrediet' (who, interestingly enough appear to be the only colnago team running campag components - anoraks only need apply).
unfortunately, since this was latish on sunday afternoon and the light wasn't too good, i went 'sailing'. not that long ago (well, a couple of years or so), quite a few of the conifer plantations around dunlossit estate were cropped, leaving a rather unrecognisable scenery - empty fields where there used to be very tall, green trees. what appears to have been unconsidered, or maybe it was but nobody was really that bothered, is that the trees used to contain, or at least slow down, the flow of rainwater off the surrounding hills. now, of course, there is nothing to fulfil this function, and rivers of water pour off the fields and onto the rather narrow strips of tarmac around this area. nothing like the horrendous flooding that seems to have become the norm in other parts of the uk, but a constant flow of a couple of inches along a couple of hundred yards of road. having referred to the poor light, this flow of water simply looked like a wet road until the front wheel hit and it was shower time.
now this brings me to second point of this week's trivia, to that of bicycle tyre design. ever since bobby julich, in cofidis days, referred to how well his axial pros had stuck to the road during torrential rain on a stage of the tour a few years back, i have faithfully fitted all three sets of wheels with the very same.
one set has the standard green/black, one grey/black and the very best of the best (record titaniums on open pros) have axial pro lights in bastille day colours. it is frequently brought to my attention that i am bound to have unmanageable handling problems in the wet because these tyres are completely smooth - no tread at all.
now while this is a less than practical situation for a motor vehicle which, as we all well know, is a darn sight heavier than a colnago with stick insect aboard, the lack of tread on a bicycle tyre is never a problem. cars fitted with treadless tyres would 'aquaplane', that is the tyres would be unable to shift the water out of the way quickly enough and the vehice would start 'floating' on this thin film of water. such would render steering and braking ineffective. a bicycle tyre would, however, have to reach a speed well in excess of 75mph before anything like aquaplaning would occur. the bicycle is possessed of considerably less weight, so the tyre simply builds up a 'bow wave' and the tyre continues to grip the road. mountain bike tyres require to be knobbly because they have to shift dollops of mud which is considerably more viscous than rainwater. as has been demonstrated to great effect by formula one cars on slicks, the more rubber you can put on tarmac, the better the adhesion, and the more cycling effort that is transferred into forward motion. if you haven't already, try cycling as fast as possible on a smooth road on mountain bike tyres (incidentally, there are virtually no smooth roads on islay - it seems the word 'repair' is unheard of by the local roads department).
so far from having any problems with no tread in the rain, the lack of grooves goes unnoticed.
and just as a footnote, michelin have improved and re-named these tyres as michelin pros, for 2002.
so i have managed to continue the unbroken weekend record for now, though there is always the upcoming weekend. weather forecast isn't looking too great but i've got the bit between my teeth, this month's 'cycle sport' magazine has a test of the colnago dream and both cs and procycling have various articles on the forthcoming season. just what a cyclist needs to keep the enthusiasm flowing - and paris roubaix is but a couple of months away:-)

Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here

any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from or

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

this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork, on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.

on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh ibook and imac computers, using adobe golive 5 and adobe photoshop 6.0.1. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.