thewashingmachinepost




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support

ryan kamp

you and i know that professional road cycling doesn't actually work this way, but imagine, if you will, that the contract of a respected rider comes to an end, and he (or she) is unable to find a new team. however, desirous of riding the spring classics and perchance at least one of the grand tours, they form their own team of one, don plain black jersey and bibshorts, get a bike or two from a socially conscious manufacturer, and turn up on the start line. as i said above, in professional road racing, that could never actually happen. in professional cyclocross, it seems there is no barrier (if you'll pardon the pun) to such a state of affairs taking place.

it seems 'cross may be a far more friendly and supportive environment.

the proof, if you require such, is 23 year-old top dutch rider, ryan kamp. formerly a contracted rider with the pauwels sauzen bingoal team, one which features european champion, michael vantourenhout and current world cup leader, eli iserbyt, his tenure with the team apparently ended as of the new year. cyclocross teams, in that respect, operate in a similar manner to road teams, but should your road contract end on new year's eve, there's still an entire road season commencing the very next day from which any team that opted to sign you, could conceivably earn a reasonable return on their investment.

the cyclocross season is just a tad different. with races beginning in either late september/early october, once the year has turned, it is but four weeks until the cyclocross world championships, followed only by a handful of races before the season is declared to be over. therefore, in the case of the hapless ryan kamp, not having a new team to which he might transfer his allegiance on new year's day would seem to signify that he is likely to remain teamless for the balance.

but, it seems, cyclocross riders may possess not only tenacity and control on their twice weekly parcours, but off the bike too. kamp is now to be found aboard a campagnolo-equipped colnago g3-x bike, marking a welcome return to the startline by both famous italian marques. i seriously doubt that any sponsor is involved in any branch of the sport for purely altruistic reasons, but cambiago's and vicenza's finest both deserve a round of applause for helping out one of the sports' top riders in his hour of need (kamp finished tenth in yesterday's world cup event from zonhoven, belgian).

colnago's gabriele sirtori told me, "We are providing Ryan Kamp with the G3-X framekit only (colour g3sb, size 52s). We didn't put any particular constraints on the rest of the set-up."

as expected by the majority of participants, mathieu van der poel turned out the resounding victor for the tenth consecutive time, but kamp put up a strong justification for his inclusion in any established team. though a bicycle is somewhat of a necessity to enter any cycle race, nevermind one at the top level of the sport, kamp has managed to put together other aspects of financial support, particularly from the roodhooft brothers, bosses at van der poel's alpecin-deceuninck team, to enable him to continue in his chosen career for the rest of the 2023/24 season. (they have apparently guaranteed him a salary until the end of the year if necessary). i can assure you that, when i was 23 years old, i'd have been very unlikely to have achieved even half of what kamp has managed, on or off the bicycle.

eurosport's commentators on yesterday's event, reprised previous winners of the zonhoven race, as far back as 2014, when the victor was belgian supremo, sven nys. he spent much of his career riding a colnago, latterly transferring his affinity to trek bicycles, possibly through a change in team sponsorship. but on his retiral he was employed by trek bicycles and currently runs the baloise trek lions team which features his son, thibau nys.

superficial as it undoubtedly seems, i was a supporter of sven nys more because he rode a colnago than for the fact that he is regarded as one of the greatest 'cross riders of all time. following his move to trek bicycles, colnago effectively disappeared from the cyclocross scene; their reappearance as supplier to ryan kamp may well signal a welcome return, particularly if kamp continues to prove successful in the rest of the cyclocross season. continuing that superficiality, though i tend not to demonstrate any particular affinity for any specific cyclocross rider, and notwithstanding the fact that my allegiance to colnago bicycles has seriously diminished since acquiring a steel ritchey logic frame, i think it more than possible that i will be inwardly (at least) cheering kamp towards the podium until the season comes to a close.

the entrepreunerial underdog surely deserves our support?

photo: het nieuwsblad

monday 8 january 2024

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contractual obligations

sun and rain

when i first moved to the principality in the late 1980s, the house in which we lived for the first year sported a large kitchen/dining room which featured what i believe are technically referred to as french windows, overlooking a rather large garden and on towards loch indaal and the far side of the island. with the prevailing winds emanating from the south west, any incoming weather fronts from the north atlantic could be seen on their way miles in advance. should mrs washingmachinepost and i be sat out on the patio, we had plenty of warning to grab coffee cups and sandwiches and head indoors while still dry.

to a certain extent, the acres and acres of sky offering miles and miles of untrammeled views are potentially a great boon for the intrepid cyclist, but in practice, that's not always the case, when the dismal weather is all enveloping. with the intention of persisting in the saddle for as long as physically possible, i'm inclined to head out in pretty much anything, purely on the basis that i'm not going to let the weather beat me. after so many years in civilisation, the velo club is well aware of when it's safe to go cycling and when discretion is most definitely the better part of valour. but sometimes we get it wrong.

though i believe the majority of us on the island tend to favour xcweather to keep us meteorologically informed, a work colleague pretty much swears by the met office, a state of affairs that has led to more than the occasional disagreement. because though we're essentially talking about the same weather systems, there often seems more than a small degree of disparity between the two. i often wonder whether this ought to be of more concern.

if i purchase a new bicycle from a reputable cycle retailer, it will almost inevitably arrive with a warranty of some decription. on the componentry, that is likely to be no more than a year at best, while the frame could be anything between 15 years and life (though the small print might exclude one or two pertinent outcomes; probably the very outcomes that surface sooner, rather than later). nevertheless, should the bicycle fail to perform in a manner that its new owner would be perfectly reasonable in assuming it ought, there are a slew of legal avenues through which suitable redress can be explored.

so, after spending an ostensibly bright, sunny saturday on the cyclocross bicycle, safe, so i thought, from the perils of precipitation, how, i wonder, would the business of weather forecasting change, for better or worse, should the forecasters be held liable for promising a dearth of rain, when substantial amounts were, in fact, front and centre? granted, there are few of us on the outer edge who would veture even as far as the local averagemarket, without packing a suitable waterproof jacket. however, engaging precautionary measures really ought not to allow the forecast agencies to get off scot-free.

yesterday, i got wet on several separate occasions (even once when there were no clouds above my helmet - how does that happen?), despite having checked the forecast prior to the grand départ which assured me of several hours of uninterrupted sunshine. in fact, on my damp return, i once again checked the forecast, which continued to display the bright orange sunshine icon even as rain dribbled down the kitchen window. i have searched in vain for small print that might excuse any notable variation from the official prognostications, so i wonder if i ought now to be contacting a solicitor specialising in meteorological prosecutions for suitable financial reparations that might allow me to avail myself of sturdier waterproofing.

however, the fact that the uk justice system is not (as far as i know) logjammed by a slew of weather-based legal cases, would tend to suggest that we are more than accommodating of the sometimes gargantuan variations between competing services and similar variation between forecast and reality. the fact that such matters can easily be categorised as character building is surely not a valid excuse?

i wonder if cycle insurance would cover such matters?

sunday 7 january 2024

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future shock

ristretto e-bike

prognostications r-not-us. i am considerably less than competent to forecast pretty much anything. in a different career, i would have been one of those football pundits appearing after the results were announced to explain why i got it all so horribly wrong in the mid-day broadcast. who knew that vinyl would rebound to overtake sales of the compact disc? who knew van der poel would win nine consecutive cyclocross races? who knew gravel bikes would become a thing?

see what i mean?

therefore i have given up all notion of presenting a column this january, predicting any velocipedinal trends i might have identified as pertinent for the new year. it's the sort of personal awareness that i sincerely hope endears me to those who try hard not to pay attention to such articles. however, while my altruistic nature may be an isolated case, there are many so-called industry insiders or analysts who fail to demonstrate any restraint whatosever, realising their compulsion to tell us 'what's happening dude'.

gravel biking is no longer on the table, having fulfilled any number of predictions that nobody ever made. its apparent descent into faux mountain bike territory was probably obvious to most of us, given the territory over which its adherents tend to practise their derivative skills. if the veracity of that contention is required, gianni vermeersch, winner of the inaugural 2022 gravel world championship, is currently to be seen jumping the boards in european cyclocross races.

and it would take only a cursory rummage through youtube to find any number of videos presenting the case for the end of aero as we know it. so, if the road bike future seems likely to be more same old, same old, a situation that appears also to pertain to mountain biking, other than a change in the shade of yellow sported on wout van aert's skinsuit, what else is there to talk about ahead of the new season?

well, it would appear that those anonymous industry insiders are currently fixated on the ubiquitous e-bike, a genre that is in the process of spawning even more related e-genres, not all of which are born from velocipedinal origins. for instance, though i think it highly unlikely a single sunday peloton will recruit an individual aboard an e-cargo bike, there's no doubting their efficacy in the transportational stakes. i believe i may have previously mentioned a drummer friend of mine who purchased a nesting drumset, where each drum fits inside the next size up, ultimately settling into a single bass drum case. this he places in an e-cargo bike which is ridden to any gigs in the city of edinburgh.

percussive pragmatism.

and such machinery is gaining notoriety as the ideal solution to the so-called last mile for package deliveries in urban and inner-city locations. however, i'm sure we're all agreed that vehicles of this type are several stages apart fom the carbon fibre we all know and love.

it does not, however, end there; it would appear that no matter the pragmatic nature of any style of bicycle, somewhere along its timeline, the inevitable weight weenie will attempt to lighten the load. the weight of the current generation of domestic e-bike tends to hover around the 22-26kg mark, though specialized and others have brought this down to nearer 15kg. and lower still, the recently released limited edition lotus road bike tips the scales at a shade under 10kg (admittedly with a £20,000 price tag). strangely, the desire to lose weight has less to do with speed enhancement and more to do with portability, specifically for those living in flats or apartments, those who have to carry the blighters up several flights of stairs.

the caveat is that some of the weight is likely to be lost through installation of a smaller, and thus less powerful motor, but our friends, the analysts, seem content to prophesy that the e-bike consumer cares little for out and out speed.

disappointingly, while many e-bikes are already to be found challenging in the aesthetic stakes, there appears to be projected growth in e-bikes that resemble little more than a portion of coastal erosion sea defences. these, i'm led to believe, are thought of by their adherents as toys (see photo above).

so if you will allow me to undermine my stated intention to avoid making any valid predictions, it occurs to me that it won't be too far into the future before the acoustic bicycle distances itself from the electric variant and vice versa, as they rapidly diverge in purpose, sensibility and demographic. mark my words.

saturday 6 january 2024

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bored meeting?

mathieu van der poel

i have long considered that, but for the location of my birth, i am inherently flandrien in my approach to cycling. it's the time of year when i ought really to identify as bram de groot or gerben de knecht, and to remain in either bibshorts or bib threequarters but for my advancing years that have provided me with easter knees, as david duffield was wont to refer. by my way of thinking - and i do believe i am not alone in this approach - there is little to distinguish between the art of cyclocross riding and the spring classics, and not just by way of their parcours. there's not a great deal separating paris-roubaix from the floodlit racing in diegem by my way of thinking.

by the time the season reaches the ardenne classics, i cannot deny that my interest has started to wane just a tad. this might be due to the similarities to be found riding through islay's equivalent of belgian toothpaste, while battered by galeforce winds and horizontal rain and the events outlined above. if i'm honest, there's really little comparison, other than the weather; my speed and power output are but mere fractions of that demonstrated by the professionals. and i've never arrived anywhere in a lamborghini.

i've often wondered if real police officers enjoy watching tv crime dramas such as vera, a touch of frost or line of duty, imagining themselves in the same way as do i when witnessing wout van aert or mathieu van der poel distancing the opposition with unheralded feats of derring-do. actually, i sort of do know the answer to that one; the local sergeant is a good friend of mrs washingmachinepost, and she has as good as admitted that, despite foibles that only a real policewoman would note, she rather enjoys most examples of the genre.

the difference is, i suppose, one of identification. in tv crime series, no matter how the dice roll, we can be pretty sure that the hero will triumph by the time the on-screen credits appear. the same is not always true when it comes to cycle racing (or any sporting endeavour, for that matter). unless, of course, you happen to be a fan of mathieu van der poel, who sealed his ninth cyclocross victory in nine races yesterday, at koksijde. i'll not deny that, between the two of them, i would favour van aert, and in those races where the two seem evenly matched over at least the two opening laps, there's a certain satisfaction in seeing the yellow and black jersey leading the rainbow stripes.

but, as eurosport's commentators have pointed out with unfailing frequency, there are few, if any, adjectives left to describe van der poel's domination of the season so far. and to an extent, that has been both a plus and minus to those of us who have witnessed such seamless domination by the dutchman. the minus factor itself led to an unseemly display only a few races past, where mvdp deliberately spat in the direction of a group of trackside fans, who, he insisted, had been booing him since the reconnaissance laps earlier the same day. it's hard to condone either form of behaviour, but given that racing his bicycle is van der poel's profession, it's hardly equitable that he be subjected to such vocal disapproval, simply for doing his job. it's not exactly his fault that there are no competitors capable of challenging his current form (not even van aert).

as innocent bystanders, we are not party to the ins and outs of each rider's training regime, and how it might relate to their plans for the entire season. while van der poel's targets are largely unknown, van aert is aiming to be right on form for roubaix and flanders, before tackling the giro d'italia, missing the tour de france and competing in the paris olympics. if the latter includes a tilt at the time-trial gold medal, it's not too hard to see that training for that event is probably at least one world removed from cyclocross.

but has van der poel's dominance in the mud made this year's cyclocross racing somewhat repetitively tedious? other than hoping to win the rainbow stripes for the second time in two years come february, mvdp has no direct interest in any of this year's season-long cyclocross trophies (x2o badkamers, exact cross, super prestige or world cup series). and until his own season commenced, the likes of vantourenhout, iserbyt, mason, ronhaar et al were demonstrating some remarkably close racing. most of us had hoped that, when joining in, the big three (pidcock, van der poel and van aert) would provide a race within a race.

in that respect, most of us have been disappointed.

however, i am very much a fan of enjoying cyclocross as a velocipedinal spectacle, mud, hurdles, sand and running. van der poel may come across as arrogant and machine-like in the mastery of his art; i really don't know, since i've never met the man, and nor am i likely to. but love him or loathe him, there's no denying his talent on the 'cross circuit and the impeccable manner in which he succeeds on every type of parcours placed in front of him. granted, it would be nice to witness one or two other riders in the same tv image as he crosses the start/finish line, but it's hardly boring.

it would be a brave cycling fan who would bet against van der poel winning the remaining five events of his particular cyclocross programme, but the racing behind for second and third places has been every bit as close as it was in the season's early races, providing something for everyone. and next season might be entirely different, yet every bit as enjoyable.

friday 5 january 2024

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market forces

sarto raso

just as 2023 drew to a close, one of my infrequent perusals of ebay brought me to a signature snare drum released by the drum company endorsed by the possessor of that signature. it was on sale at a price i unilaterally decided was within my non-existent budget. disappointingly, however, writ small in red letters were the words seller does not post to the scottish islands. for those who have decided to read these scribblings as part of their new year resolutions, i should perhaps point out that i live on one of the scottish islands to which the seller was refusing to post.

not one to give up without a whimper, i contacted the seller to ask if he might explain why my address was being disparaged in red text. he replied promptly, advising that, it wasn't quite that he couldn't post to the isles, but that doing so was far more complex than delivering to the uk mainland. however, obviously buoyed by the festive spirit, he not only agreed to send the aforementioned drum, but to do so free of charge. a discussion on how common is this reticence to include the highlands and islands of scotland is possibly not a subject for either the faint-hearted, or those who are domiciled on the mainland.

however, it does have its precursors.

many moons ago, when wiggle was still a business with a future, i ordered a pair of tyres for a bicycle that resided with me for repair. during the ordering process, it rapidly became apparent that wiggle was less than keen to send two 700 x 38c tyres to the hallowed isle; a somewhat quizzical state of affairs. on contacting wiggle's customer service department, i helpfully pointed out that their website advised that the company would cheerfully send entire bicycles to every part of the known world. one need only drop them a line to be told the cost of so doing.

you can imagine how that makes a potential scottish customer feel about the two desultory tyres that would not be arriving anytime soon, yet a velocipedinist in ulaan bator would have to wait only a matter of days to receive the latest in carbon fibre. however, following my conversation with customer service, it was revealed that the tyres had been incorrectly categorised in their sales database, apparently classed as a heavy item. in light of my inconvenience, wiggle then kindly despatched the tyres free of charge and promised to remedy the database error.

impressed with their customer service and, a few weeks later, in need of another set of the same tyres for a different cycle repair, i ordered once again. only to be informed for a second time, that the tyres could not be delivered to the scottish highlands and islands. can you see what's wrong with this picture?

however, to return to the snare drum endorsed by one of my drumming heroes, the price i have paid is only a smattering of pounds fewer than was the cost when it was originally issued in the early part of this century. inflation has no doubt taken care of the bulk of that part of the equation. when the drum was originally released, i do recall asking the price in a music store at the time, and on learning of the cost, enquiring whether, for that amount of money, said drummer would hand deliver the item straight to my front door, before subsequently playing a selection of his greatest hits as i bathed in the glory of his presence.

but to place this in some sort of extravagant perspective, on one of the world's premier online music sites, a red, drum workshop 14x4" piccolo snare drum, owned and played by rush drummer, the late neil peart, is on sale for the princely sum of £64,000. a brand new, identical drum, ordered directly from drum workshop in oxnard, california, would scarcely cost more than £600. in this case, the dubious provenance would seem to be the guiding consideration.

and for the price of the neil peart version, the avid cycling percussionist could, according to the latest issue of cyclist magazine, acquire three custom sarto raso tc carbon bicycles. yes indeed, one such italian velocipede will drain your bank account by a number ever-so-close to £20,000. of course, this is based on the speccing of campagnolo's hideous-looking super record wireless groupset, accompanied by a bora ultra carbon wheelset. you might be able to save a penny or two by opting for a lower priced groupset from your favourite component purveyor.

i have, in fact, ridden a sarto frame, though not the eye-wateringly expensive option mentioned above. on my last attempt at the hot chillee london paris ride, campagnolo supplied me with one of their neutral service bikes, which, it transpires, was a sarto in wolf's clothing. it was a glorious bike, one which could have been blown sideways by a good sneeze, but i can currently think of no cycling colleagues whatsoever (or pro riders, come to that) who would benefit in any way by ordering a sarto raso tc, other than for potential bragging rights.

i would concur with anyone who claimed that today's world is mentally and physically unhinged in certain quarters, not least, it seems, the part that makes bicycles.

thursday 4 january 2024

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the art of not going out

sofa

i'm not a great individual for holidays, though looking at the stark reality of those words, perhaps i ought to qualify that statement. i do look forward to a break from work as much as the next cyclist, but i fear there might be a statute of limitations on how long any specific holiday ought to last. and when it comes to school holidays, there most definitely ought to be a limit on how many of those there are in an educational year.

as mentioned on several previous occasions, i visit the local secondary school one afternoon per week to bestow my limited percussive knowledge upon those learning drumset for a hoped-for qualification. but i'm already aware that, though the kids go back to school tomorrow (thursday), in a few days over a month, they'll be on holiday once again, then, at the end of march, there will be another holiday for easter. most of the teachers of my acquaintance are more than happy to accept their annual 14 weeks' paid vacation, but i'm sure they must also rue the constant interruptions to the learning process even more than do i.

my recent festive season holiday began on christmas eve, eve and ended yesterday, by which time i can but admit i was a tad fed up. yes, you would be correct in assuming that there was surely an opportunity for an unfettered amount of cycling across those eleven days, but given the prevailing weather that blessed the hebrides, there were a few insurmountable hurdles that curtailed the unfettered part of that equation. though i like to consider myself more than meteorologically aware, i'm afraid i cannot recall the names of all the purported storms that afflicted the isles, but there's no doubt that they seriously harshed my buzz.

we have already discussed the christmas eve mince-pie ride, when 100kph winds put paid to any thoughts of riding a bicycle. the following thursday provided more of the same, as indeed, did saturday. and though i was less than troubled by the wind on new year's eve, i did get more than just wet. on the second of january all was calm in the principality, but only had one heavy shower dissipated, before the following interjected.

in short, though i'm not at all afraid of riding in bad weather (see rule#9), i have a feeling i'm on the verge of failing rule#5, because i'm simply fed up getting wet, and mrs washingmachinepost is fed up cramming clothes driers into the spare room in order to dessicate a production line of bibtights, jerseys, socks and jackets. so despite tuesday being my last full day of festive holiday relief, i opted not to go riding. do not misunderstand me; i had to spend the entire day repeatedly convincing myself that this option was ok, despite grave feelings that such a choice was completely wrong. it'll only be a matter of days until the weekend, when i can go riding once again, but still...

almost all training advice i have come across in recent years, has underlined that no amount of exercise will achieve its ultimate gain, unless augmented with a concomitant amount of rest. trouble is, nearly every one of us has great difficulty in accepting that premise, hardwired to believe that the no pain, no gain mantra is the only one that really counts. when it gets to saturday eve, following my usual saturday bike ride, i may be better placed to let you know if tuesday's rest day had any positive effect on my fitness (i think we already know the answer to that particular question).

i have it on good authority that it's perfectly healthy and probably even advisable to take a break now and again, even taking a holiday when we're taking a holiday, but why is it so hard to perfect the art of not going out?

it's not just me, right?

wednesday 3 january 2024

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(not quite) happy new year

crank brothers candy pedal

in the first few years following my move to civilisation, new year's day played host to a team half marathon run, leading from bowmore village out along the high road and down to the airport, before heading back into bowmore to the site of what is now the leisure centre. competitors were then provided with hot soup and some form of sustenance. each team pledged to raise money for a charity of their choice. given my reputed fitness demonstrated by my perpetual proclivity for cycling, a member of the leisure centre funding committee figured i would be the ideal shoe-in as fourth member of the team. this entailed my running the final three-and-a-bit miles up hill and down dale to complete the distance.

unlike wout van aert and mathieu van der poel, while i can ride a bicycle, i can barely run the length of myself, so the following year i volunteered to ride the parcours twice while the runners covered it once. i found that considerably more to my liking, but, as with many an island venture, the even lasted only one more year before it disappeared without trace, continuing in a different guise as a new year's day bike ride'.

that, give or take, still exists to this day, though there was a long period between 1998 and 2003 when i was the sole practitioner, if only because there were no other cyclists on the island. since then, the new year bike ride has had its ups and downs, depending on how members of the velo club had spent their new year's eve. this year, only two of us participated, my fellow team-mate having been out of action due to ilness for several weeks. however, since his wife had offered coffee, soup and waffles at his house as a mid-ride pick-me-up, who was i to say no?

thankfully, the weather on new year's day was a dramatic improvement on that experienced over the course of the festive period; cold but dry, with plenty of blue sky on display. there were even small patches of snow at the roadside on the approach to keills village, near port askaig. with very little traffic on the road, the ride up the glen road to ballygrant scored with fabulous views across the islay landscape and the sound of islay to the paps of jura. however, this happy new year took a slight downward turn as we crossed the cattle grid between cattadale and barr farms, with a loud cracking noise appearing from somewhere midst the ritchey's transmission.

a couple of stops en-route to storakaig at the top of the first hill, identified the noise to be emanating from the drive-side crank brothers candy pedal. for those who have not made the acquaintance of such pedals, the older models had a fundamental flaw related to the inboard needle bearings. with very poor dirt seals, all the crud entered the bearing casing, rusted the bearing race which then disintegrated, either seizing the pedal completely, or causing the outer nylock nut to unscrew and the pedal body to separate from the axle.

the latter is precisely what occurred as i departed ballygrant village, making the return trip to bowmores a bit of a struggle, valiantly attempting to ride the bike while keeping the pedal body on the axle, at least until i reached the croft. i've experienced variations on the above malfeasance on several previous occasions. it's only several pairs of shoes bearing crank bros. cleats that has prevented me from seriously researching a less fractious alternative.

the current crop of crank brothers pedals have seemingly cured the problem by having replaced the inner needle roller bearing with a bushing, something that seems to have cured the worst of the problem. but ironically, the plastic (and cheapest) candy 1 pedal, which has always featured an inner bushing (though reputedly not of the quality of its big brothers) seems not to suffer at all; i've had a pair of lime-green candy 1 pedals attached to my cyclocross bike for well over two years, and they're still functioning as well as they were when removed from the box.

fortunately, to keep me pedalling in the meantime, i have a spare pair of candys on another bike which have now been fitted to the ritchey, while i order a pair of candy 1 pedals. however, i'm sure the remaining 365 days of 2024 will prove more fortuitous.

i hope

tuesday 2 january 2024

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