what they don't want you to know

drum cases

i know we've discussed this before, but when i were a lad and aspiring drummer, as was the trend for long-haired musos, any visit to the nearest town centre included a compulsory visit to as many music shops as were open. and though it risks stating the demonstrably obvious, the very first requirement for any drummer is a pair of drumsticks, where to be honest, is when the problems began.

imagine the embarrassment, as a youngster, standing at the counter in the music shop asking for a pair of drumsticks. when the proprietor enquired as to what type of sticks might suit, i replied "wooden ones please." because beginners, at that early stage, are very unlikely to have purchased any drumming books that might have advised just how many variations of drumstick are available. (even if you're not a drummer, might i suggest you check out drummers only to learn of what i speak).

at my age, the above comes under the heading of nostalgia, for i am now considerably longer in the tooth, and have an entire shelf of drum books, several of which do actually inform of the necessities pertaining to the percussive arts. however, over the course of the past weekend, my services were engaged to play two consecutive evenings at a local hostelry. on the second of these, having completed the final song, i strip down the drumset, placing hardware in one case, and each drum into its own, fluffy-lined case, subsequently stacked in a corner ready for collection on sunday afternoon, following return from the sunday morning ride.

i have, on many occasions, pointed out that i am bereft of motor vehicle and thus constrained to fetch those drums using a warehouse trolley and a bungie cord. fortunately, the venue is relatively close to the croft, but does involve dragging each successive load up the steep top part of bowmore main street. and at the risk of appearing to be my hero, victor meldrew, nobody tells you about this stuff when you're learning to play drums. it is the less enjoyable part of playing a five piece drumset.

but, as sunday morning was to prove, there's an almost integral part of cycling that rarely garners a mention at the point of sale. when drooling over carbon fibre on the shop floor, eyes and emotions concentrate predominantly on the paint finish, the number of spokes in the wheels, the (hopefully lack of) weight, groupset and last, but not least, the appended price tag. but do you know what size of tyres are fitted? are they clinchers, tubeless or even tubulars? do you need spare inner tubes (which are never included in the sale)? what kind of valves and concomitantly, what kind of pump?

those are pertinent and important questions that should be asked. i have met at least three riders recently who remained blissfully ignorant as to whether their (relatively) new bicycles featured clinchers or tubeless, even after several weeks of riding. if you puncture when out riding, aside from being aware of what type, do you know how to replace an inner tube? are you even carrying a spare and does that spare reside alongside at least one tyre lever? for most of us, those are questions we've already taken care of before heading out, but if you're new to this world, how would you necessarily know to ask the right questions before buying a copy of richard's bicycle book?

and then there's the experience that life teaches you.

on sunday morning, just as i ascended the hill at black rock, my front tyre began issuing noises reminiscent of something being trapped between tyre and underside of the front brake caliper. however, it transpired that this was a puncture, slowly deflating the front tyre. on stopping to replace the tube, it was noticed that there was a small split/hole in the tyre sidewall, undoubtedly that which had caused the puncture. i initially thought this may have been caused by a less than smooth rim joint on the wheel, but closer checking showed the hole to be a few millimetres above the rim edge.

since there were still several kilometres to be traversed between there and home, i opted to pedal carefully to debbie's, where i borrowed a pair of scissors, cut a piece from the defunct inner-tube and placed it inside the tyre behind the hole. this ensured that, when inflated, there was a thin layer of rubber preventing any undesired ingress of particulates and any egress of a burgeoning inner tube. not the first thing you're likely to be considering at point of purchase.

if you fancy being a drummer, check out the available books to avoid embarrassing conversations about drumsticks. if cycling is on the horizon... i have now ordered a new pair of tyres for the winter season: clinchers, now that you ask for which i have plenty of spare tubes, all on 60mm valves (in case anyone with deep-rimmed wheels forgot to enquire when buying.

monday 9 october 2023

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challenge grifo cyclocross clincher tyres

challenge grifo 'cross tyres

when it comes to the art of cyclocross riding, i fit very snugly into the enthusiast, category; somewhere near the bottom, but very definitely included. were i to participate in a cyclocross event, even the not very good class, i have every expectation that i would be lapped and pulled out before crossing the line for a first or second time. in the light of which, i prefer to try and remain an unknown quantity, rather than demonstrate the known quantity in public. however, in common with my very expensive and far too good for me drumset, i do like to outfit my specialized crux with the best cyclocross tyres i can afford.

in this case, a pair of challenge grifo 700x33c.

challenge grifo 'cross tyres

and, in a similar manner to my requirement for all my drums to feature reinforcement rings, any cyclocross tyres apportioned to that bicycle must be exactly 33mm in width, and most certainly sport tan sidewalls. in my little world, tan sidewalls are a great deal fasteer than black ones, otherwise why would wout van aert fit them to his cervelo? (inarguable logic, you might say).

of course, when time came to fit said rubber to my wheelsmiths, i could hear my mother's voice repeating her favoured epithet 'pride bears no pain', though in this case, it actually did. many apart from yours truly, have remarked upon the intense difficulties experienced when attempting to fit pretty much any contemporary tyre to a set of quality wheels. for this reason, i took the advice of one of the post's correspondents a few years past, and purchased a tyre jack not only to ease the fitting of difficult tyres, but to save myself a few pounds after nipping a more than my fair share of inner tubes when attempting fitment using tyre levers (even pink ones).

challenge grifo 'cross tyres

however, when setting about placing the grifos to a pair of wheelsmiths, the problems started simply attempting to get the first bead over the rim. from there on in, things simply got worse. the problem, dear reader, is just how tight those tyres are, all but forbidding any physical ministrations to fit the inner tube between tyre and rim. thus, when employing the services of the aforementioned tyre jack, the tube simply got in the way, and my thumbs became more painful by the minute.

it really shouldn't take an hour and fifteen minutes to place a new pair of tyres on a pair of rims.

i have learned from previous experience with challenge tyres that, to ensure the bead is correctly fitted, it's often necessary to substantially over-inflate each tyre, until the black plimsole line is equidistant from the rim edge on both sides of the wheel. following that, the tyres can be de-flated to the desired pressure. based entirely on my total lack of cyclocross experience, i tend to leave them at a slightly higher pressure than necessary in order to ensure they're fully seated prior to giving them and me a hard time.

challenge grifo 'cross tyres

my favoured cyclocross parcours, one that i believe would even pass for competition use, is through bridgend woods, where all manner of surfaces (mud, grass, dead leaves, gravel and rock) can be found to test one's mettle, and through which i can mostly be found wanting. the inclusion of several dog walkers with the darling little pooches not on a lead, provided ample opportunity to test the veracity of the grifos' grip in emergency stop situations. to say that the relatively minimal tread behaved with aplomb would be something of an understatement, and for which a golden retriever has cause to be very grateful.

the tyres easily roll from the gravellous sections of the main tracks through the woods created by incessant landrover use, onto the thick, wet grassy strips that inhabit the centre of such tracks. the only point i found them to lose traction altogether was when standing to climb on fine, loose gravel. returning to the seated position while continuing the attempt, restored the desired grip almost immediately.

challenge grifo 'cross tyres

i confess i'm not at my best when traipsing through squirmy mud at what i like to call speed, but it seems that the tyres remained all but oblivious to their pilot's concerns, not only keeping me impressively upright, but ploughing through inches deep gloop with little in the way of deviation. and though one hardly chooses grifos for their quiet alacrity on tarmac, in truth, that could just as easily have been a justifiable choice, only revealing a modest impression of tractor tyres on completely smooth tarmac (of which there is very little around the principality).

and i would not offer such praise had i not both climbed and descended outwith my minimal comfort zones, on dry, wet and everything in between. add to that several kilometres of grassy sheeptracks, but a few centimetres wide, and it's hard to think of anything that might surpass their excellence other than maybe a set of challenge tubulars. though i would dearly like to emulate my 'cross heroes and ride on the latter, i think it imperative that one is aware of that one 'bridge too far'.

a pair of grifos is not particularly cheap. though your mileage may vary in finding a bargain discount, the rrp is £68 each, leaving little change out of £140 for a pair. that they are not tubeless compatible is a bonus point in my opinion, but challenge does offer a tubeless version for the misguided amongst you. however, like their limus predecessors, i'll be happy to run these until they fall apart some years in the future.

challenge grifo clincher cyclocross tyres

sunday 8 october 2023

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dearie, dearie me

empty bike racks

several years past, along with fellow members of the velo club, i participated in cycling uk's big bike revival, held in the courtyard at bruichladdich distillery. the organisation was kind enough to bring over a selection of (incredibly heavy) e-bikes, arrange for a local bicycle mechanic to offer a free bike health check, and have some of us take aspiring cyclists on a ride towards port charlotte village about 5km farther south. this all took place prior to the construction of the mixed use path that currently carries the majority of leisure bike traffic between the two villages.

though cycling uk seemed quite happy with the results, in truth it was a tad disappointing. yes, one or two participants subsequently purchased (different) e-bikes, having had the opportunity to ride those on display, but they later admitted that they'd intended to do so prior to the big bike revival. and one or two of those who brought bicycles along for the health check, were quite clearly, only wanting their cycles fixed pretty much free of charge. however, at the time, and for islay, it probably was quite encouraging.

usage of those e-bikes purchased following the event, has been somewhat sporadic, and there have been exactly zero numbers joining the sunday morning peloton as a result. but, as has been pointed out by many, you've got to start somewhere.

it seems, however, that despite the pessimistic naysaying by yours truly, the idea of a bike revival is alive and well and living with a £4 million boost south of the border, from active travel england. the headline copy, as a result, proclaims that "thousands more people will start cycling, or be given support to cycle more...", a claim that, if you'll once again pardon my pessimistic outlook, seems more pie-in-the-sky, than a realistic point of view. according to cycling uk, the big bike revival offers people "...the freedom to choose cycling as an affordable and sustainable form of transport." however, as the old proverb states, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."

if i might pair the above news with the recently mentioned insistence by the prime minister that he intends to reduce the number of low traffic neighbourhoods, restrict the ability of local councils to implement 20mph zones, and prevent many from creating or continuing the chargeable low emission zones, i harbour doubts as to whether cycling uk's thousands will necessarily find themselves predisposed to look upon the bicycle as mechanical manna from heaven.

and, as if my own prognostications of doom and gloom were insufficient to persuade you of their potential veracity, perhaps bicycle sales figures might be a tad more conducive.

at the end of august this year, the bicycle association reported that, once again, bicycle sales had slumped, only a few months after announcing that sales figures had dropped to a 20-year low in 2022. according to the b.a., things are steadily going from bad to worse, with acoustic bike sales dropping by a notable eight percent, and rather surprisingly, e-bike sales by a further four percent. the latter is presumably not endured with glee by the uk's bike shops, given that the electric bike has long been viewed as the saviour of the market.

sales in 2022 were at the lowest point for two decades, some 20% below pre-covid sales, despite the pandemic having reputedly cleared the showroom floors of many an independent bike shop.

according to the industry, blame for these disappointing bike sales is apportioned to the cost-of-living-crisis, despite it having been pointed out that a bicycle offers a far more economic alternative to the motor car and public transport. the only section of the e-bike market that showed any apparent growth was that of the e-mountain bike. dropping e-bike sales, it seems, is a specifically british problem, with sales on mainland europe continuing to offer healthy returns.

oddly, though the cost-of-living-crisis is blamed for declining bike sales, on the contrary, across the same period, sales of electric cars, often considerably more expensive than their internal combustion brethren, increased by more than 37%. and in may this year, the society of motor manufacturers stated that sales of new vehicles grew by 16.7%, continuing an uninterrupted eight years of expansion. apparently the cost-of-living-crisis only pertains to those of us who ride bicycles. the motorist, it would appear, is all but immune. that said, used car sales declined by 8.5%, though this may have had more to do with shortage of supply than any real reduction in demand.

if the tables are to be turned, cycling uk is going to need a very, very bike bike revival.

saturday 7 october 2023

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one rule for them...

low traffic neighbourhood

in 1946, stevenage in hertfordshire, became the first of the country's new towns brought about by the new towns act, passing development control to a new town development corporation, subsequently replaced, in 1965, by the new towns act. a characteristic of stevenage new town, was the inclusion of end-to-end cycling facilities, the likes of which are currently being clamoured for by cycling uk in order to enable environmental change and cycling as an alternative to both private cars and public transport.

unfortunately, as reported in carlton reid's excellent book, 'roads were not built for cars', it only took a few years to realise that these custom-built cycling facilities remained all but unused, and for one very good reason. in designing stevenage new town, the planners had neglected to make it any harder for motorists to achieve the same transportation objectives. basically, why would you cycle to the shops or work when it was every bit as easy to drive? a practical application of water finding its own level. in essence, it's the same reason why many of those making the change from motoring to cycling have opted for e-bikes; the human species seems inherently predisposed towards adopting the easiest means of achieving any given objective.

there are plenty of relevant examples, including the use of remote control devices to control television sets, audio centres, or even desktop fans. and just don't get me started on wireless electronic gearshifting.

however, i thik we can readily assume that, for the stevenage-based motorist, reaching school, work or the shops, aside from being reputedly easier than cycling, would surely have been quicker? were that not to have been the case, you'd like to think they'd have taken the bicycle. but stevenage, as advised above, was created in 1946, when attitudes towards car ownership and usage was a tad different than that of the contemporary motorist. i am keenly aware of many individuals around my village for whom any reputed advantages of cycling would scarcely even be considered; for them, the car is the sole choice, no matter what.

i'm sure that many of you would concur, citing local examples of similar behaviour. it is, as a former colleague once said, perhaps proof that the cost of petrol is still too cheap, for even during recent allegedly excessive increases in the cost of fuel, nobody of my acquaint gave up driving, despite the knowledge that they could just as easily have walked the same distance free of charge. so, based on this perhaps spindly evidence, it doesn't seem overly optimistic to contend that today's motorists are hardly what you might call disadvantaged.

yet, with the implementation of low emission zones in london, glasgow and other uk cities, traffic calming and twenty's plenty areas, it seems that the motoring public feels it is being unfairly oppressed. and this despite it being glaringly obvious that the majority of the uk has been specifically designed to accommodate the motor car. were you to visit bowmore, a village of scarcely more than a thousand people, you would possibly be just as distraught to witness the nose to tail parking that affects almost every street, parking for which we all pay through taxation, but which benefits only the motorist. the fact that several feel no embarrassment when opting to park on the pavement with impunity (we have no traffic wardens on islay), only underlines my point.

all the foregoing, from the viewpoint of the pedestrian or cyclist, may be regarded as an irritation, but to then learn that the country's leader, mr sunak, feels moved to limit the powers of local councils to impose apparently perfectly equitable and responsible restrictions on the motoring public, is a tad disappointing. but that opinion is not mine alone. sarah mitchell, chief executive of cycling uk, responding to the government's stated intention to favour the motorist by removing what it has described as draconian measures enacted by councils, has said, "Better public transport, and safer ways for people to cycle and walk are entirely compatible with driving. Focussing on one way of travelling is like trying to complete a jigsaw with half the pieces missing."

from the point of view of the conspiracy theorist, possibly the thin end of the wedge.

image: © graeme robertson/the guardian

thursday 5 october 2023

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apple watches

my self-declared luddite tendencies have not yet prevented me from mounting a garmin gps device on the handlebars of either my 'cross bike or ritchey logic road bike. and though i have been claiming that this is principally to make use of the clock (which it is), i cannot deny that i occasionally sneak a peek at my average speed. that, i must advise, can perhaps be viewed as a personal idiosyncracy related to advancing years and keeping tabs on my health.

i am exceedingly fortunate to have enjoyed excellent health to date; yes, i suffer from the occasional ache or pain, but there are many other reasons for those outside of cycling. however, i am of the perhaps misguided opinion that i am at one with my physical being and, should something be found to be troubling one aspect or another of that gestalt, a diminution of my average speed over a defned period of time, would surely hint that 'something is up'?

granted, as one continues well past what now passes for middle-age, the effectiveness of relatively untrained muscles inevitably begins to decline. of that i am aware, and there have been occasional saturdays (it's always the saturdays, apparently never the sundays) when, in the words of the mighty dave-t, i have been 'riding like a bag of spanners'. however, my less than carefully curated health plan is flexible enough to accommodate such happenstances, balancing out any perceived slowdown over an arbitrary period of time.

so while i am not, per se, interested in the specific numbers or quality of my average speed, it believe it might prove to be a valiable indicator. if anyone reading is a qualified coach or trainer, please contain your guffaws till after the final paragraph. apart from that, the only other number of interest on the face of my garmin is what percentage of battery life is left.

however, garmin devices, while pretty much mainstream within the velocipedinal realm, their range of watches notwithstanding, they are somewhat less to the fore amongst the great unwashed. in this other worldly realm, the apple watch appears to reign supreme. and while i would have previously said that the street cred of the average cyclist would tend to favour specific cycling products, it appears that, once again, i am somewhat wide of the mark. (i should, perhaps, make it clear that the evidence to suggest the latter is based on anecdotal evidence from across the pond. whether the same is true in blighty remains open to debate.)

i base this assumption on the appearance of an article on what used to be known as velonews, entitled the beginner's guide to using your apple watch for cycling. it will surprise you not to learn that i do not possess an apple watch, however, i do recall that a previous purchase by mrs washingmachinepost was followed by an e-mail from apple inviting her to setup a free appointment with an apple genius to learn more of the inner workings of her recent purchase. i would tend to assume from this knowledge that, like almost everything nowadays, this not inexpensive piece of technological gadgetry arrives bereft of any printed manual.

i possess an ordinary watch, one which simply displays analogue time along with the day and the date. very untechnologically, said watch has no mechanism to cope with months of less than 31 days. such as september, now that you come to mention it. but given the positioning of the adjuster button, i prefer not to wear it when cycling because the little blighter tends to dig into the back of my hand. and though i'm not one of life's great perspirers, peristent riding eventually degrades any type of watch-strap you care to mention, even the thick waterproof rubber versions that arrived with a festina tour of britain model.

apple's recent advertising for the latest version of their watch indicates that there are at least three different types of strap available, each fashioned from a different, yet reputedly sturdy fabric. that may be the case; i have no personal experience to suggest otherwise, but there still persists that little toothed adjuster button, ready and willing to dig into unprotected hand-skin.

however, given the wholesale demise of cycling media on both sides of the atlantic, the now titled website is, i believe, regarded as one of the pre-eminent purveyors of velocipedinal news and features across the american nation. thus, it seems not unnatural to assume that they are well acquainted with their readership, and that there is an overwhelming desire to learn of the various velocipedinal nooks and crannies contained within apple's latest timepiece.

this item of so-called wearable-tech apparently offers cyclist the ability to display a precision start, remind the wearer to commence a pre-determined workout and automatically end the same. should you be fortunate enough also to own an iphone, it seems that said device can track the watch generated ride statistics. but the watch does not stand in isolation; reputedly the intrepid exerciser can pair powermeters, cadence sensors and other bluetooth enabled devices with the watch, providing even more inconsequential and inscrutable numbers over which to deliberate during the inevitable recovery time.

of course, it could simply be that velo was suffering at the behest of a slow news week.

wednesday 4 october 2023

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the entertainment issue

jumbo visma - wolfpack hats

during the last week in may, since the turn of the century, islay and jura have paid host to ever-increasing numbers of whisky aficionados, during the annual fèis ìle or islay whisky festival. for many of those in attendance, this will not be their first whisky festival; many have been coming for several years, all to visit the same distilleries that they visited the previous year, and all of which, no matter the earnest attempts of the copywriters to say otherwise, make single malt whisky the same way it's always been made.

the local marketing group insisted in a brochure published around 2006, that just because you'd visited one distillery, there was no reason to stop there, asserting that each one differed from the last. that statement was true up to a point; each distillery has its own (or lack of) character, but the produce from each still revolves around the same three ingredients: water, yeast and barley. pay more than simply cursory attention and you might notice that there are variations in the shape of each respective distillery's copper stills; replication of these is paid great attention when time comes to replace them after years of service, desperate to retain the character of the whisky and its differentiation from the neighbours, an aspect often ascribed to the aforementioned shape of the stills.

alongside very few others on the island, i have never tasted any of the eight drams currently available. and when that becomes thirteen or fourteen in the next few years, i will harbour no interest in changing that state of affairs when, after a decade of distilling, their future produce becomes available. to be honest, i find it comfortingly humorous that so many grown men (and it's almost always the male of the species) make an annual pilgrimage to the queen of the hebrides every may, with apparently sufficient funds to acquire all the hardly inexpensive festival bottlings, and spend inordinate amounts on rare drams at the local hostelries. and that's not even to mention the travel and accommodation that are part and parcel of the fun.

mrs washingmachinepost did once point out that, were i to find myself in the correct region of italy, i would undoubtedly wish to visit the home of colnago and the marque's museum. i cannot deny that there is a great deal of truth in her assertion, but i was quick to point out that i would hardly do so on an annual basis, and nor would i find it necessary to purchase a bicycle at each visit.

whisky fans are a different breed.

and, it seems fair to say, in a different way, cycling fans might exhibit a similar level of idiosyncracy, currently displayed as a result of rumours surrounding two of the sport's finest teams. disappointingly, this selfsame enthusiasm pays tribute to the parlous nature of participating in even the top level of the sport. current rumours surround the merger of soudal quickstep with jumbo visma predominantly at the behest of the oft-criticised sponsorship model. when you consider that the latter team has won pretty much everything that is available to be won, and often occupied more than a single step of the winners' podium, one has to wonder how the rest of the peloton is likely to fare; surely their consistency in winning races was the very outcome for which jumbo paid vast sums of money?

then, of course, there's the transfer market, currently in overdrive since jumbo visma rider, primoz roglic, announced at the weekend that he was leaving the team, carefully neglecting to mention the direction in which he intended to move. and the team indicated as that potentially ripe for merger, soudal quickstep, has apparently told its roster of riders, including former world champion, remco evenepoel, that they are free to sign for other teams. suspicion is rife that evenepoel or roglic or even both will soon be welcomed by team ineos, a team that is essentially leaderless at present (in terms of grand tour aspirations) and has remained tight-lipped about any incoming movement.

but, a bit like race punditry, none of the above could prove to be true. roglic could be off to ef education easypost for all we know, and remco might fancy riding a trek in 2024. that, for me at least, is where the humour arriveth. i simply cannot stifle a smile when reading articles concerning the subject, nor indeed when watching po-faced youtube videos, engendering to hint that only they have the inside line on future happenings in the world tour peloton. because, in essence, nothing will really change; remco may or may not win next year's tour, but that particular outcome is unlikely to be greatly affected by the colour of jersey he wears or the bike astride which he races. though jumbo visma have demonstrated that they have an extra half-team in the shape of wout van aert, many team leaders seem to be pretty much left to their own devices when the pointy end of proceedings begins to heat up.

eventually we'll find out what's going on, and whether it might be necessary to buy a different replica jeersey for next season. but meantime, should you find yourself in the need of succour, cyclocross is happening.

tuesday 3 october 2023

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