cabrillo reprise

ritchey cabrillo saddle

you may recall that, several days past, i offered up my review of tom ritchey's new cabrillo saddle, currently affixed to the ritchey carbon seatpost which is, in turn, an integral part of my steel ritchey logic bicycle. as is ever the case, nobody really likes change, sometimes even those responsible for effecting said change. the saddle previously fitted to the selfsame carbon seatpost had been in place for many a long year, a variation of the same brand fitted to my cyclocross bicycle. what i am suggesting, in a particularly roundabout manner, is that my posterior, every bit as elderly as the rest of my honed physique, had long been accustomed to sitting on the same shape and size of saddle for years and years.

any change was undeniably going to have repercussions one way or another.

ritchey's cabrillo saddle could not be more different than its predecessor. it is flatter, features padding that is notably absent from the other, and sports one of those centre channels that just stops short of becoming a hole in the middle. the latter is, i presume, an adjunct designed to relieve pressure on one's important bits, something completely absent from its antecedent. in which case, if i have seen no need for it over the last decade or so, would it be a welcome change under the present circumstances? add to that the fact that the overall length of the cabrillo is noticeably shorter, i figure i probably have a recipe for dramatic change.

and such it proved to be. though the shorter length means i have less shuffle room when the road heads ever upwards, as it transpired, it appears to be well considered in such terms, for the previously mentioned shuffling has become largely unnecessary. but the biggest change, as you might expect, is the flatter, cushioned profile, meaning that my posterior, whether welcome or otherwise, is now supported across a greater beam. and it is that part of the equation that appeared to have engendered notable discomfort during the first hour or so of riding, a sensation i was unused to experiencing. yet oddly, discomfort that seemed to all but evaporate as the ride continued.

the latter was entirely unexpected. more usually, when experiencing discomfort from a saddle, the latter only increases as time goes past, and it was this factor that led me to promise this update, rather than the offhand castigation of the cabrillo that would more usually have followed. my ritchey logic benefits from tom's branded product across all contact points: comp xc pedals, carbon seatpost, stem, handlebars and even bar tape all feature the rainbow bands, ritchey wcs branding. the saddle was, in effect, the final touch.

however, even though my mother always advised that 'pride bears no pain', i would surely have been guilty of drastic compromise to pretend all was well, simply to ensure that the ritchey logo featured from every viewpoint.

since that initial review, i have invested in several more kilometres, a state of affairs that could have gone either way. if my backside was still experiencing the same discomfort, i would have had little option but to remove the cabrillo and replace it with its predecessor. but, if simply to confirm the theory expounded in flann obrien's the third policeman, that as time passes, the molecules forming a part of the rider inevitably mix with those of the bicycle; ride for long enough and the bicycle becomes half human, while the rider becomes part bicycle.

i can think of no other explanation as to why, following those intervening kilometres, that the cabrillo has become permanently comfortable and thus subject to my considered recommendation. as a caveat, i'd like point out that should you opt to follow up my recommendation and acquire a cabrillo all of your very own, that you give it time and do not make snap judgment after only a few rides. i realise that we are all different, and that what suits me, might not suit you, but given the physical constitution of the cabrillo, i see no reason why it shouldn't provide you or i, with kilometre after kilometre of comfortable riding, whether appended to a ritchey seatpost or ritchey bicycle, or otherwise.

tom's been in this game longer than you or i and i'm pretty sure he knows his stuff.

ritchey cabrillo saddle

monday 22 april 2024

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ride them all

honister pass

it could be said that the original purpose of graphic design had, at one time, been hijacked in order to serve the purposes of contemporary design studios. though much of their output is as ubiquitous as many of the products they purport to serve, in the late twentieth and early 21st century, there arose a number of boutique design studios that were every bit a means in and of themselves as they were a means to an end. studios such as tomato, why not associates and sunbather, possessed their own level of fame which was often detached from the reputation of the work they produced.

stwlan dam

do not misunderstand me; the revolution in graphic design curated by the above and their peers effectively changed the way many products and services were advertised, pulling the industry by its bootstraps into the modernity allowed and encouraged by the apple mac computer and the software designed to provide a greater versatility than previously available. but in the process of so doing, graphic design lost several layers of innocence, an aspect that can be easily defined by witnessing the railway posters produced in the early part of the 20th century.

computers and software were neither available nor thought of, but competition between the various railway companies of the era, brought a need to advertise and hopefully differentiate betwen the routes on offer from each. in 1905, the london & northwestern railway engaged the services of norman wilkinson to produce artwork for a new type of poster that incorporated landscape painting. this style of advertising quickly became ubiquitous, decorating as it did, the walls and waiting rooms of many a railway station, as other rail companies followed the lead of london & north western.

in many ways, they defined the graphic design of the era, differing from real landscape painting by the flatness of colour, turning the limitations of artistic reproduction at the time, into a feature, not a bug. some of the finest poster artists of the day were gainfully employed to portray the delights and intrigue that lay but a train journey away, tempting the city dweller to engage with the countryside for the price of a train ticket. granted, not all were as successful or, indeed, pleasing to the eye as others, but the intervening decades appear to have removed the latter from memory, allowing the cream of the crop to evoke a britain that no longer exists in the innocence of the rural idyll. except in a few distinct cases.

the struggle

though i have no idea whether at individual behest or otherwise, the inestimable simon warren, he of 100 climbs fame, recently added a poster of honister pass to the shop on his website, a poster that joins others in reviving the innocence and artistic merit of the railway posters discussed above. and though it's possibly a tad early to mention, while we're on the subject of mr warren and his predilection for climbing any section of road with a reputedly unmanageable gradient, adventure books has announced the reissue of two of this iconic series in time for this year's grande boucle.

another 100 greatest cycling climbs and 100 greatest cycling climbs of the tour de france, i am advised, have been fully updated for 2024 and due for publication on 6 june, giving you just enough time to pop over the channel and climb them all before the tour begins on 29 june in florence, italy. all 100 of britain's cycling climbs can be attempted following the end of the tour in nice (due to the olympics) on 21 july. both are currently available for pre-order from adventure books (see below). but should you find that actually climbing the darned things is better left to eccentrics like simon warren, there's nothing to stop you acquiring a selection of the excellent railway style posters for your bedroom wall in the meantime.

wasn't it 10cc that recommended 'art for art's sake'?

100 climbs shop | adventure books

sunday 21 april 2024

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hero worship

gene krupa

in the march issue of american jazz and blues magazine downbeat, (or deadbeat, as my newsagent refers to it), there is an interview with jazz trumpeter, ambrose akinmusire, during which he states he is frequently asked how he came up with his own voice - in other words, from where did his individualistic style of playing arise? he said that he regularly replied that he didn't really have a style all of his own, "it's really just that i stole from people you don't know."

to an extent, it's a question frequently asked of all sorts of musicians, predominantly because those at the opposite end of the musical scale (pun not intended) are inclined to fixate on a favourite musician, or musicians, with the intention of copying their methodology. in drumming circles, there are an inordinate number of amateur and semi-professionals who have fixated on the sound and technique of steve gadd, one of the world's most recorded session drummers, and who has played with some of the world's finest musicians. likewise, john bonham of led zeppelin, jeff porcaro and several others i could mention and of whom you've never heard.

this is the public face of the conundrum, one that faces players of all instruments; when beginning to learn drums, guitar, saxophone, keyboard, etc., our betters will often suggest that we listen to the greats, transcribe some of their finest work (if you have the ability to do so), and learn how they achieved what they achieved. it's a system that could go one of two ways: either you become besotted with the technique and mannerisms of your heroes and subsequently seek to replicate that which brought them to the top, or, hopefully, you absorb the best of what they have to offer, build upon it, and develop your own style as a result.

thankfully, i appear not to have gone down the first route, because i'm pretty sure i don't sound like any of the drummers that have been, or continue to be, the subject of my admiration. granted, i ocasionally find myself sneaking in something i learned from phil collins or bill bruford, but since my technique was originally learned from louie bellson, gene krupa and buddy rich, it's ultimately become a mish-mash of them all, though well below their standard of playing (as you would expect).

but does the same work if we attempt to learn from the world's top road cyclists? do they, in fact, feature any stylistic or technical accomplishments from which we might learn. and i don't mean chris froome's habit of staring at his stem while riding elbows-out. i do recall once attempting to continually climb with my hands on the bar tops, because somewhere i have a poster of robert millar doing so on a tour de france mountain (it did not work out, since i found it less than effective than on the hoods). who amongst us has not tried to emulate marco pantani's dancing on the pedals on climbs less than half the gradient the diminutive italian plied his trade?

is this a logical transference to be adopted from the world of music? for instance, if your physique means it's more efficient to climb when seated, emulating marco might not be an effective means of becoming a better cyclist. and when browsing the pages of a recommended training manual, are we learning skills and techniques originated by cycling's greats, or attempting to make use of advice provided to them by their coaches, nutritionists and directeurs sportifs? in which case, perhaps it's the latter from whom we should be learning, rather than the riders themselves.

there are, however, parallels to me made. if i find myself impressed by the playing of jay bellerose, for example, it might be a valid option to look at who influenced him, leading back through the history of drumming and learning as we go. shift to velocipedinal matters, and take a look at the descending skills purveyed by tom pidcock. the brit enjoyed a successful career as a cyclocross rider before transferring to the road, along with his peers, wout van aert and mathieu van der poel. though i'm inclined to think that expert descenders have something that the rest of us don't possess, pidcock's bike handling skills were undoubtedly gained from his years on a 'cross bike, despite a complete lack of long, steep descents in koksijde.

the worst part about considering any of the above options, is that now it probably won't be just me who will spend the weekend examining all aspects of my pedalling technique, to source from whom i might have borrowed it.

you're welcome.

saturday 20 april 2024

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i don't believe it

farkin hill

though today's headline is predominantly regarded as the preserve of my hero, victor meldrew, star of the tv series one foot in the grave, in this particular case, i have made use of it in its original sense. it encapsulates my personal reaction to the latest report from the highly respected sustrans, which states that a majority of the uk's population want the government to shift its investment in road building schemes, to fund options for walking, cycling, public transport and the almost inexplicable 'wheeling'. at the risk of incurring the wrath of the report's authors, i would suggest that it is immediately filed under fiction.

from someone who writes daily of the benefits, joy and pragmatic benefits of cycling, that might appear to be both controversial, and contrary at the same time. in which case, allow me to elucidate.

i have worn the next clichéd response to the point of exhaustion, but in the current discussion, i believe it has a reputable degree of pertinence. in the latter part of the 20th century, the local voluntary sector committee acquired funding to engage the services of local minibus operators in extending transportation options on the island after 6pm, when the regular bus service ended for the day.

prior to implementation of the improved and apparently oft-requested adjunct to islay's daily transportation network, a survey was carried out across all the island's villages to ascertain potential support for the weeknight service. i'm led to believe that, in every instance, enthusiasm effectively guaranteed full seats within each of those minibuses. the reality was, as you might expect, somewhat different. in particular, the minibus running between bowmore and port ellen remained steadfastly empty, apparently the result of the residents of the latter village telling their inquisitors precisely what they thought they wanted to hear.

islay's bus service has been curtailed at 6pm daily since time immemorial, unsurprisingly leading the population to make alternative arrangements should they have need of attending events or hostelries during the evening hours. the vast majority of island residents own cars for that very reason. it transpired that, while port ellen residents figured they personally would have no need of the evening bus service, they thought others might, so in the spirit of altruism, answered yes for the potential benefit of their friends and neighbours. hence the empty buses.

though i have no concrete evidence to suggest that the nation's population is of similar mind, past experience would tend to suggest that might be the case. sustrans and their peers have been reporting of such population predilections for many a long year, yet bicycle sales have declined, while car use has increased. if i look about me in the hebrides, i see no evidence whatsoever of any increase in people walking or cycling, while the island's bus service, purely on visual evidence, is used no more than has ever been the case. yes, mine is but a tiny corner of the universe, but behaviourally, probably no different than anywhere else.

how often have we read in the nationals or seen on tv, the number of bus services reduced across the nation, and been told that the majority who are purportedly attracted to cycling, find britain's traffic to be largely off-putting? yet sustrans' report states that public demand for active travel over driving shows 50% wanting to walk more and 43% intending to cycle. i walk for almost two kilometres every weekeday morning before going to work, something i have done for almost 30 years. in all that time, i have seen no increase in the numbers i meet each morning, a figure that has remained steadfastly at zero (unless you count emma and her happy spaniel, milo).

additionally, there is effectively the same number of cyclists on a sunday morning as there was twenty years ago, and no more whatsoever who cycle commute. over that time, the car park near the croft has gained twice as many cars, and the streets of bowmore are, at certain times, clogged with vehicles every bit as much as any mainland town. there are people who live in a village that is no longer than 1.6km from end to end, who drive to work in the selfsame village. all the evidence would tend to suggest that the nation is playing a huge practical joke on the nice people at sustrans, and they're falling for it.

and despite the fact that i am one of a select number regularly invited to participate in a bona-fide national survey, never once have i been asked whether i'd be more inclined to cycle, walk, wheel or use public transport. i'd dearly love to be proved wrong, but i feel confident in my insurrectionist views.

friday 19 april 2024

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ride it like you stole it

locked e-bike

bike theft is a highly common problem across most of the country. thankfully, it has yet to intrude in the day to day life of the hebrides, but that could largely be due to the distinct lack of cyclists in the area. the most common 'theft' scenario on the island, is the occasional discovery of hitherto unseen bicycles in the front garden, having been temporarily purloined by those bereft of transport after a heavy night in the pub. bicycles disappearing forever is, thankfully, uncommon.

but a carefree attitude towards other people's property is a blight on modern society that shows little sign of disappearing, a blight that has impinged itself upon the popularity of the e-bike. if contemporary consumers are inclined to ease the act of mobility, it should perhaps be of no surprise that the nation's thieves are inclined to join the happy throng. as a naive islander, i thought long and hard as to why my cycle-friendly denims featured a large loop of material on the rear of the waistband, only to finally realise it was there to facilitate the carrying of a d-lock for my bicycle. as advised above, that is yet to be garmentage necessary on this side of the ferry terminal.

however, according to a freedom of information request by evolve e-bikes, thefts of e-bikes have increased by a whopping 250% in the last two years. that number becomes a tad more bearable on learning that total e-bike thefts now account for a rather minimal 6.2% of the total number of bike thefts. but then to whip the carpet from beneath us, it has been pointed out that this has increased from a less scary 1.4%. this indicates that, whatever else is going on the world at present, there a an increasing number of e-bikes being pinched.

to present the glaringly obvious, no-one wants their possessions to be stolen by unsavoury individuals, and in order to prevent that happening, we lock our doors, keep valuables away from prying eyes, and take out insurance against theft. similarly with motor cars; the lack of a key, or smart-fob, under favourable circumstances, not only prevents access to a locked vehicle, but the ability to start it, should the former have failed for one reason or another. bicycles are slightly harder objects to defend, given that they're often light enough to be carried off, if not locked to a substantial object. i'd like to think that owners of any type of bicycle in urban settings and inner cities, take every precaution to resist theft, but bike thefts continue nonetheless.

so could the manufacturers assist in this pursuit? quite probably. the specialized turbo vado reviewed in these very pixels a number of years ago, featured a key lock to prevent removal of the battery, even though the form factor would only allow use in yet another turbo vado. its lighter weight successor featured a battery encased within the downtube, one which could not be removed without special tools. however, in my e-bike innocence, i had imagined that removal of the key would have prevented the motor engaging under pedalling, but sadly, that was not the case. i believe i mentioned this in my review, wondering why such an obviously preventative measure had not been implemented.

the lack of a means of engaging the motor would obviously not prevent the bicycle being wheeled away if left unlocked, but it would surely not be outwith the realms of possibility to have both the motor and transmission lock, should the key be absent, making it a lot harder to move. however, even the weight of a basic e-bike would hardly stop two individuals lifting the bicycle into the back of a van, allowing lock circumvention off-site. where there is motive force to be enabled via a motor of any kind, there is surely also the option to disable it?

at the bottom of bowmore main street, there are two bike racks to which visiting cyclists will often padlock their touring bicycles. smug islanders, such as myself, will usually snigger at such methodology, safe in the knowledge that locally, hardly anyone cycles; concern that those non-cyclists would stoop to steal a laden touring bicycle with gearing that none understand, is largely misplaced. but i can understand why the privileged local cyclist might laugh in error; were those cyclists to get out of the habit of locking their prized possessions while in the hebrides, that habit might continue on return to the mainland. that, as we've already discussed, would not be a good idea.

whatever your opinion of the vicissitudes present in modern society, if you own a bicycle of any type, but especially of the e-bike variety, make sure you take every precaution to retain possession. get hold of the very best lock available and make sure you use it to securely fasten your bicycle to something immoveable. if the seat pin features a quick release, replace it with a secure bolt that requires a special key to remove, and make sure that your bike lock fits around not only the frame, but preferably one or both wheels. if in doubt, check with your local bike shop or police station (though the latter has often been accused of showing little interest in preventing bike theft). it's also worth fitting apple's air tags or some other means of tracking the bicycle should it be removed, and having the frame coded in some way to ensure you can identify it if found.

you do have to wonder, however, that, aside from lock manufacturers, whether the bicycle industry, and particularly those purveying e-bikes, invests in any inclusive anti-theft measures when designing new bicycles. the evidence would tend to suggest not.

photo: hiplok

thursday 18 april 2024

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ritchey butano ridge handlebar

i apologise in advance if part of today's monologue comes across as advertorial, an aspect of the following narrative that is essentially unintentional but quite possibly necessitous at the same time. the subject is that of internally routed cabling, whether for rim or disc brakes - though the former may now be persona-non-grata and thus immune from any immediate consequences. though i have not had cause to become involved in such matters directly, i'm led to believe from those who have, that this ultimately pointless aspect of velocipedinal progress has transformed what was once, at worst, a service procedure measured in hours, to one that is now likely to extend over a couple of days.

and remember, whatever your own opinion of integrated cable routing, utlimately you're the one paying for what can only ever be an aesthetic choice. you surely don't think that removing a cable or two from the airflow is actually making a tangible difference to your topline speed?

at any rate, tom ritchey has seen fit to offer the brand new, hot off the shelf, superlogic butano ridge handlebar, a carbon monocoque, one piece bar/stem combo "...that offers complete internal cable/wire/hose routing for modern gravel and road bike frames." bear in mind that all ritchey steel bicycle frames offer external routing for both rim and hydraulic disc brake options, as well as mechanical groupsets. the one concession would appear to be the option of internal rear derailleur cable routing for shimano's latest semi-wireless di2, assuming the battery to be enclosed within the seat tube. should you opt to fit the butano ridge bar and stem combo on your ritchey bicycle, internal cable routing from the bar-mounted levers is not a direct option.

of course, it could be that mr ritchey has future plans to redesign the headtubes on at least his gravel and road frames to join the internal cable club, but based on the more traditional construction currently on offer, i seriously hope not. yet, given the sheep-like mentality demonstrated by the bulk of the cycle industry's frame manufacturers, perhaps tom saw this as an opportunity not to be missed. though he personally may harbour suspicions similar to my own, over the whole integrated philosophy, business is business, and, in the words of the ancient proverb, "the prudent man looketh well to his going." in other words, if this looks to be a trend likely to persist well into the future, it would be somewhat naive to ignore any collateral benefits that might accrue.

i, like a number of velocipedinists, tend to undertake my own cycle maintenance, as much from the point of there being little option, given my location, as from the enjoyment and satisfaction of so doing. quite how long that remains a viable option, i know not, but i am ever grateful that ritchey bicycles have continued to offer cable, headset and bottom bracket options that will allow me, and other ritchey owners, to be masters of our own destiny well into the 21st century. given that steel remains their principal choice of frame material, barring accident, my ritchey logic will persist long after i've joined the velodrome in the sky.

i do feel sorry for those who are only just beginning their cycling careers, whatever that description might entail. according to my opinion, as richard sachs would say, too much of modern cycle technology exists simply because it can, rather than any particular need or demand for it to do so. already there is conjecture that the recent spate of accidents at professional level (van aert, roglic, vingegaard et al) might be laid at the door of the disc-brake; not necessarily on a specific level, but at the change in riding habits it has entailed. and how many companies enthusiastically adopted the press-fit bottom bracket, only to drop it like a hot potato when creak turned to crunch? and don't get me started on hookless or tubeless tyres.

ritchey's entrance into the monocoque carbon cockpit is, i'll admit, something of a surprise, but i'm sure that certain sales trends ought not to be allowed to pass unmolested. however, it does seem a shame that cycling's chaos theory spreads its ripples outward to those who would appear to favour more sensible riding solutions, generally untroubled by the fashion of the day. perhaps i'll get the option to find out what all the fuss is about at some point in the future, but in the interim, i harbour serious doubts that the majority of us are anywhere near fast enough to benefit from the minute advantages reputedly conferred by hidden cables.

but in the meantime, thank you tom.

ritchey butano ridge carbon handlebar

wednesday 17 april 2024

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modern liquidity

flowbio s1 wearable

my recent review of alan murchison's excellent cook book for athletes, the cycling chef on the go, not only had me admit to rarely, if ever, drinking during my frequent bike rides, but subsequently looking a tad closer at the reasons why that might be the case. it's an oddity, the complexity of which i first noticed when undertaking my first hotchillee london-paris ride. at lunch on day one, i had drunk approximately half the liquid in my 500ml water bottle, despite the bicycle being replete with two bottle cages, themselves outfitted with a bottle each. on a personal level, that did not seem particularly outlandish, until i discovered that one of my fellow pelotoneers had emptied both of his bottles, was starting on his third and looked considerably more dishevelled than yours truly.

travelling further back in time, having received a selection of training manuals for review, in the spirit of suffering for your art, i had done my best to replicate at least some of the advice contained within. common to all was the advice to begin sipping from the water bottle within the first fifteen minutes of the bike ride, repeating the process every five minutes thereafter. the problem with that advice was soon perfectly clear, as in almost every case, i managed about three sips of whatever was in my bidon before i forgot to continue.

the mighty dave-t, hails from an earlier era, when club riders would insist on their winter bicycles featuring mudguards and a fixed wheel. the idea, as i understand it, was to acquire or encourage souplesse, all the better to challenge for victory during the upcoming season. and included within that sort of philosophy was apparently disdain for the carrying of a water bottle on rides under sixty miles in length. this appears to have relied, however, more on the concept of pain and suffering rather than any nutritional considerations. it was also, we might remind ourselves, the era when club rides often exceeded 100 miles, and if you couldn't keep up, you'd be left to your own devices to make it home.

however, there's no denying that, in my case, the vigours of youth have long since made a successful bid for freedom, and perhaps regular slurps of water (or a more tasty preparation) would help me maintain the little degree of fitness that has opted to remain. the difficulty that such an about change would confer is based on the knowledge that, as a creature of habit, my customary lack of drinking while riding is probably too solidly ingrained to overturn. yet, for a cost, it seems there may be a solution to my predicament.

a company by the name of flowbio has recently announced the launch of a product confoundingly named s1, and described as "the most accurate wearable hydration sensor for triathletes, cyclists and runners." averse as i am to any means of monitoring my current state of health, perhaps the simplicity of having to wear an armband sensor as i go about my daily existence, including those weekend bike rides, could prove that i have been totally remiss in my hydration ministrations over the past couple of decades. the stumbling block might be the apparent necessity for the use of the almost ubiquitous smartphone app, providing the necessary analysis data. i still count myself amongst the diminishing number of individuals bereft of smartphone.

that said, according to flowbio's website, the wearable device communicates via ant+ and bluetooth, so in theory it ought to work on my ipod. according to flowbio, the app is essential to review the recorded data.

assuming that to be the case, and for the princely sum of £329, i outfit myself with the above mentioned wearable technology, a second hurdle presents itself, one that would be shared with the hypothetical acquisition of a crank-based power-meter, should such a thing come to pass. there's a reason why highly qualified nutritionists and performance coaches charge so much after years at college: data interpretation. will i have the faintest idea of what the s1 is telling me? and will i know what do with the result?

so far, my apparent aversion to on-the-bike-hydration seems not to have produced any noticeably negative effects, but there's still a nagging concern that it might be, and by the time i realise what those effects are, it'll be too late. that said, i recall a highly quailfied nutritionist mention that that's what thirst is for. according to her, if my honed physique were to find itself running on empty, there would be no immediate need for an armband and smartphone app.


tuesday 16 april 2024

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