four seasons

bad weather

there appears to be general agreement that the temperature is a tad on the low side for the time of year. over the course of the last few years, late april, early may has turned out to be the hebridean summer, and it would be foolish to deny that the last week has featured acres of sunshine, but the scene from the sitting room or office window has been convincingly misrepresentative of that to which we aspire. having acquired a uci decorated big bobble hat, during the 22/23 cyclocross season, i was naive enough to leave it at home on at least two days last week, very much to my detriment. to add insult to injury, on those days i also left a cosy pair of gloves to accompany the big bobble hat.

an early week visit to the gaelic centre, only but a kilometre or so from the office, seemed the ideal distance for a walk, but i do wish i'd worn hat and gloves.

the cuplrit appears to be a combination of northerly and easterly winds, providing a clarity to the scenery, but windchill that is as confusing as it is freezing. on saturday's solo outing, i was overdressed, unfortunately in a thermal jacket too large to stuff in a rear pocket; i thought i'd learned my lesson, yet on sunday, if anything, i was underdressed, particularly when admitting that the sunday peloton was hammered by a slightly painful hail shower. it's at times like those that you learn why casquettes have been thoughtfully equipped with peaks.

however, we proceeded to enjoy, if that's the correct word, four seasons in one day, bordered by large, dark clouds depositing their cargo somewhere across the portions of the north atlantic that encroach upon hebridean shores. thankfully the sole hail shower was the worst we experienced. but that did lead to an intriguingly obscure meteorological conversation over coffee and toasties. you see, xc weather offers a column dictating the percentage chance of rain over the course of a day, and it was this that inspired the day's discourse.

as one of our number was keen to point out, despite the portent of a 12% chance of rain or hail, if and when it arrives, that percentage has become 100%. riding between the auction mart at bridgend and the hill at blackrock, a large quantity of hail was deposited on the peloton and the roads across which we passed. for those five minutes or so, despite a forecast 12% possibility of precipitation, we experienced 100%. so do those numbers point to a substantial fallacy in contemporary weather forecasting?

the matter was resolved, for the time being at least, by accepting that, island-wide, there was a 12% chance of rain or hail, averaging out the forecast by taking into account the substantial areas that received no rain or hail whatsoever. let's face it, we're taking into consideration a relatively large area. as we perambulated loch gorm on the west coast, we were afforded an excellent view across the remainder of the island, where it was obvious to see that either hail or rain were peppering parts of the island where, thankfully, we were not present at the time.

unfortunately, therefore, we find ourselves on the horns of a dilemma. after consulting the forecast either the prior evening or first thing in the morning to learn of a relatively minimum chance of rain, though personally i will always carry a waterproof, even at the height of summer, how does one successfully adjudge one's apparel requirements? do we accept that at 12% (for example), that leaves a 98% chance that the sunday morning ride will allow us to arrive home as pristine as when we left, or do we accept that there is a 12% chance that we'll get hit with 100% rain?

was cycling always this hard?

monday 29 april 2024

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cycplus as2 pro max tyre inflator

cycplus as2 pro max

in the mid 1990s, when it transpired that digital photos could be taken by the great unwashed on cameras that required no film, kodak (and, i believe, a version licensed by apple) produced a lozenge with a pixel resolution that pre-empted use of the prefix, mega. this existed prior to the industry's standardisation on the jpeg (joint photographic experts group) format, therefore images required to be loaded into proprietary software in order to view one's handiwork.

cycplus as2 pro max

however, the lozenge shape of the camera sported a certain logic, though unfortunately, bereft of any pragmatism for use. since single lens reflex film cameras to that point relied on pulling a length of photographic film behind the lens and shutter in order to capture the desired image, their physical format was determined by such a requirement. since digital cameras had no film whatsoever, storing the images internally on a solid-state hard disk, they were no longer subject to similar demands. or so it appeared.

practised photographers, using the tried-and-tested camera design format could easily snap a whole series of images with one hand, perhaps using the other to balance precariously at a cliff edge, or hang out the side of a boat. maybe they even fancied grabbing a few images while steering a bicycle with the hand not required to hold the camera and press the shutter simulatneously. attempting to emulate a similar feat of dexterity with kodak's lozenge, was all but impossible. attempts to do so generally resulted in severely blurred images.

it turns out that the traditional shape of a camera relied on factors other than the need to roll film past the lens; explaining why all modern disgital cameras look like cameras and not outsize lozenges.

cycplus as2 pro max

the humble bicycle pump has scarcely changed since its invention in 1887. a cyclist from that particular era, though undoubtedly now long of tooth if still around today, would easily recognise a bicyle pump, were they presented with one for christmas. essentially, every variation on the humble pump assumes the same format: a length of round, hollow tubing, with a hand-operated plunger to pump air into an inner tube. even bicycle pumps which rely on a carbon dioxide cartridge retain a certain similarity. but what if contemporaneity were to offer electrical means of inflating a bicycle tyre? would that also need to resemble the ubiquitous mini-pump?

it seems not.

recently sent for review, i currently possess a cycplus as2 pro max electric bicycle tyre inflator which resembles nothing more nor less than either a big matchbox, or a small cigarette packet. measuring 54mm x 32mm x 81mm, it weighs a scant 205 grammes and fits easily into a jersey rear pocket. it will inflate an inner tube to a maximum of 120psi and sports an led screen to let you know how it's progressing and, simultaneously, how much battery life remains. according to the manufacturer, it will inflate a 700x25c road tyre from 0-120psi up to four times before the battery needs recharged. and it really works.

cycplus as2 pro max

my cyclocross bicycle sports a pair of challenge grifo 700x33mm 'cross tyres which, according to the sidewall, are capable of being inflated to between 24psi and 40psi. because of the construction method employed by challenge, where the tread is laminated onto the casing, over-inflation will see the tread begin to separate itself from the latter. i know, because it turns out that the gauge on my track pump is wildly inaccurate, and i have been guilty of inadvertently over-inflating the tyres to a level where the very edge of the tread has started to peel. fortunately i noticed this well in advance of any serious damage occurring.

the cycplus as2 pro max has been my saviour. underneath the small, yet clear led screen are three buttons. the top is the power button, held down for several seconds to either switch the device on or off. below that are two similar buttons; the top one increases the set tyre pressure, while the lower one decreases it. thus, to allow a few degrees safety margin, i set the screen to 37psi before attempting to inflate both tyres on my 'cross bike. when the tyre pressure reaches the preset (reliable to plus or minus one psi), it simply cuts out. i have tried it at several different settings on my road bike, from 40 to 60 to 90psi, and every time it cuts out at precisely the preset level.

 cycplus as2 pro max

i cannot deny a few teething problems when first employed, but it transpires that all were the result of pilot error. the pump nozzle features an internal rubber gasket which can be switched from schrader to presta very easily. once fitted over the valve, the power button is lightly pressed once before releasing. on my first few attempts, i kept the button depressed, thus switching it off before it had any opportunity to do anything. ignorant of my error, i repeated my stupidity several times, before the dawning realisation. it does make a noticeable buzzing sound in operation, and it is advised to keep the device within its fitted silicon sleeve due to the fact that it can get quite warm in operation. the manual advises not touching the nozzle while in operation for that very reason.

the as2 pro max also arrives with a short hose to attach to the valve, should you prefer so to do, an accessory that is effectively compulsory if your valve stem(s) are made of resin. thankfully, if the hose is used on presta valves with removable cores, it simply slides on, as opposed to threading in place, as is the case with many mini pumps. how many of us have inflated a tyre in this manner, only to unscrew the hose, taking the valve core with it? and should your kids need their football inflated, there's an adaptor for that too, as well as a spare gasket in case the factory fitted original be lost or eventually wear out.

 cycplus as2 pro max

and, it seems, the manufacturer has though of pretty much everything, providing a small sealable plastic bag in which the cycplus as2 pro max might be encased to keep it away from rain while riding. from a standing start, it recharges completely within one hour using the supplied usb-c cable, and loses only 10% battery power even after 200 recharging cycles. though i have also carried my trusty mini-pump during the review period, such is my confidence in the pro max, that i've decided to leave that at home from now on, as there's really no need. my luddite tendencies would normally rally against such technology, but i'm not getting any younger, and to be honest, the weather's not getting any better. after the faff and effort of replacing a punctured inner-tube, i'm happy to let something else take the strain of reinflating my tyres to the appropriate pressure. i've not tried it on tubeless, because i refuse to fit them, but i see no reason why it wouldn't cope equally as well with those.

the cycplus as2 pro max is available in black only at a recommended retail price of £103.54 | cycplus as2 pro max

sunday 28 april 2024

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le grand tour on a bike called wanda - andrew integrated internally routed headset

you may have read my diatribe earlier this week on the vicissitudes of replacing a set of press-fit bottom bracket bearings. it was a process fraught with unknowables, having not had need of such an undertaking in the past, and, to be honest, a tad less logistical than previous bottom bracket fettling. though several of us have moaned (with good cause) about campagnolo's delightful habit of affixing the bottom bracket bearings to the inner faces of the crankset, there is a prescribed method for replacing and refitting those bearing sets, even if it means accepting the cost of the necessary tools so to do.

in the good old days of yore, bottom bracket maintenance was, by comparison, relatively painless. the crankset could be removed from its square-taper bottom bracket by means of a fairly cheap and robust crank extractor, requiring only the services of an adjustable spanner to complete. even in non-mechanical households, there's usually one of those lying somewhere abouts. once exposed to the ministrations of even the most cack-handed of mechanics, a couple of cheap bottom bracket spanners were usually sufficient to remove the cups from each side, following which, it was simplicity itself to remove the worn sets, spread a slathering of grease within and place some loose quarter inch bearings before threading everything back together again.

any lateral play in the system could be dialled out with a lockring spanner.

by comparison, wednesday morning's hour-long battle with press fit bearings was rudimentary at best. even removing and replacing external bottom bracket cups is mere child's play with the right tool. as i have laboured to the point of boredom, the attraction of the road bike, aside from the aesthetics and promise of untrammeled speed, was engendered by its one-time simplicity; headsets and bottom brackets were likely the most complex systems with which one would have to deal. modernity has brutally separated us from that naive idealism with a vengeance.

more bottom bracket standards than at which a stick could be shaken, hydraulic disc brakes, hubs replete with hidden cartridge bearings secreted in the most inaccesible corners, electronic gear systems and now the wholly unnecessary integral internal cable routing. with regard to the latter, i can fully comprehend the professed necessity of placing the most fragile of electronic wires within the frameset. the first shimano di2 equipped review bicycle i received had me permanently concerned that i might return it without the cables that had been valiantly zip-tied to the outer face of the downtube. but the aero gains to be acquired from placing every cable inside the frame must surely be absolutely minute for the majority of us?

many a shop mechanic has admitted that what was once a cable replacement task lasting a couple of hours at worst, has now become a two-day job featuring an entire vocabulary of bad words. that said, the manufacturers responsible for foisting such systems upon a peloton of innocent bystanders have not stood idly by, laughing behind their collective backs as we join together in a four part harmony asking "why?" instead, they have engaged the services of highly qualified engineers to create a plethora of hitherto unknown acronyms.

having downloaded the pdf manual produced by full speed ahead (fsa) to aid correct fitment of their latest range of stems and handlebars, it transpires that several acronyms were required to cope with the myriad of componentry and methods of stuffing every cable within earshot through the headset and headtube. the hard-put-upon shop mechanic is now required to be conversant with 'aerodynamic cable routing' (acr), 'integrated cable routing' (icr), 'smart cable routing' (smr), and, as you'd probably expect, a bog-standard 'cable routing' (cr) each with a headset available to cope with those four systems (for which you'd also need an o-fork).

and then there is the tautologically named simple routing (sr) which is probably anything but.

this nineteen page document details all of fsa's compatible road and offroad stems and bars, along with a variety of oddly-shaped headsets and interfaces designed to allow two brake cables and two gear cables to disappear inside the frameset without ever seeing the light of day. counterproductively, the manual uses the word advantages in the same sentence as the phrase internal cable routing, allied to several cutaway diagrams that are completely bereft of any instruction on how to replicate those illustrations. there's even a wholly inscrutable graph that purports to show the aerodynamic advantages to be gained from allying oneself with this nonsense.

in response, i'm inclined to create my own acronym: loc - 'ludicrously over complicated'

saturday 27 april 2024

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le grand tour on a bike called wanda. andrew sykes paperback 370pp illus. £15

le grand tour on a bike called wanda - andrew sykes

i have previously advised that i am not possessed of insatiable wanderlust, and though my early years in the hebrides were often filled with an overwhelming desire to purchase a dawes galaxy and festoon it with panniers, i fear that may have simply been an end in itself, rather than the means to an end it ought to have been. i'm certainly not an inveterate traveller; mrs washingmachinepost and i have spent the majority of our annual holidays returning to the same uk location, and my most recent trip overseas was spent aboard three aeroplanes in quick succession for a three-day trip to turkey in order to witness the launch of a calmac ferry.

at no point in either of the above scenarios were bicycles involved.

i am, however, always keen to read of the velocipedinal adventures of the more intrepid amongst our number, safe in the knowledge that any obstacles encountered along the way will either be solved or remain unsolved; either way, there will be no pressing requirement to arise from my armchair and figure a way out of whichever dilemma has interrupted the natural flow of daily proceedings. and it is not only the joy to be gained from each macro or micro detail of the journey, but from the literary manner in which they are described. this has led to the perfectly accurate accusation, that i am more likely to read a book on the subject of bicycle travel than the remote possibility that i might undertake explorations of my own.

i have, therefore, the greatest of admiration for andrew sykes, a gentleman comfortable with his own sense of adventure and more than capable of effortlessly and humorously describing that which befalls him and his bike called wanda on a daily basis. add to that admiration, mr sykes holds down a full-time job as a teacher of french at an english secondary school, fulfilling his exploratory dreams during the school holidays. frequently, the authors of such lengthy bicycle trips are reputedly self-sufficient cyclists, augmenting their pedalling activities by advertising a particular brand of adventure-ridden cycling apparel, before joining the after-dinner speaking circuit following their return.

this sixty three day bike ride leading from the hook of holland back to the hook of holland by way of calais, dieppe, paris, south to bordeaux, across to avignon, a short detour into switzerland and returning via strasbourg and cologne is eloquently described in a manner that convinces the reader that they too, are along for the ride. from the point at which andrew begins, "It was a breezy morning on July 3rd at the Hoek Van Holland. I had been looking for an iconic signpost and I had just found it." until "What I was here to see were the words emblazoned in large blue letters on each of the four sides of the square post: HOEK VAN HOLLAND. My journey was complete." total engagement is part of the deal.

riding within the constraints of the english schools' summer holiday period, the author has always to maintain one eye upon the calendar. there can be few situations quite so embarrassing as a classroom full of eager french students bereft of the man employed to teach them. and yet, le grand tour with a bike called wanda was never the cunning plan in the first place. the desired objective had originally been a cycle through japan, "...from Cape Soya north to Cape Sata in the south via the capital, Tokyo and the Olympic Games." that particular asian exploration fell victim to the covid pandemic.

france became the get out clause.

it was, the author relates, a journey repelete with alternatives. "The original plan had been to arrive in Rotterdam, turn left and cycle along the coast of the Netherlands before catching a train to the German Baltic port of Lubeck. But what if I were to turn right instead? [...] "I hadn't visited France for over 5 years. This might be an opportune time to return." the citeria, as alluded to above, was having booked his return ferry for the evening of saturday 3 september, "...exactly two months from my date of arrival." a small matter of around 5,500 kilometres. while this particular restriction must have occasionally felt like the sword of damocles, it does, perhaps incidentally, add a certain frisson to the narrative that fills the remaining pages.

with the true spirit of adventure pulsing through his panniers, the author demanded of himself that he spend as few days under a roof as possible, trying hard to end each day under canvas. though french france appears well-equipped with campsites, a wide variance in quality entailed that few days remained without the possibility of pleasant surprise or downright disappointment. there was also an additional agreement with himself to restrict alternative travel: "I would allow myself to take a maximum of ten trains a maximum of 100km each."

despite almost month's worth of daily bike rides, the book rarely, if ever, descends into repetition. how easy it would have been to simply record "got up, rode 100km, setup camp, slept. repeat." mr sykes is, however, a great deal more erudite than that. "Within a matter of minutes, the port and all of its peripheral infrastructure disappeared, as I was plunged into a very different landscape of pristine suburbia." i believe at least a part of my enjoyment of le grand tour with a bike called wanda, despite my declared lack of personal wanderlust, is the literary nature of its narrative. i cannot deny that i delighted every bit as much from the description of the journey as of the journey itself.

that, i believe, not only marks the quality of a good book, but has become a defining part of the genre. anybody (except yours truly) can ride a bike through a variety of different countries, but if it is not related in language of impressive quality, it didn't happen.

two months' worth of daily cycling through several european countries post brexit, covering 5,500km, is no small undertaking. add in the knowledge that teacher has to be back at school by monday 5 september, and there is both intrigue and expectation added to the mix. we know that he made it back to his starting point, but did andrew return to the staff room in time to say "bonjour" at the beginning of term? for a well-spent £15, you can find out on 1 may 2024.

buy a copy of le grand tour with a bike called wanda

friday 26 april 2024

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hit it with a hammer

old bottom bracket bearings

i mentioned a few days ago, that the time for replacement press fit bottom bracket bearings on my specialized crux had probably passed quite some time ago, but due to a fear that replacement might present all manner of unwelcome faffing, had led to my putting off the fateful hour for not just weeks or months, but years. typing 'replacement bearings for specialized press-fit bb' appeared to have opened a can of worms, returning not the single solution i had hoped to find. apparently specialized, quite possibly for prudent reasons, had mucked about with the bb30 standard, muckings that may or may not have had a bearing (pun unintended) on the bearings required for replacement.

additionally, many sources pointed out that at some undefined moment in recent history, a decision had been made to include an aluminium insert within the bottom bracket area and into which the bearings had subsequently been pressed. whether this had resulted in the requirement for a different size of bearings was largely unclear, but cognisant of the fact that the original bearings on a now eight year-old bike were in obvious need of replacement, i plopped my money down in the direction of trailvision - bicycle bearing suppliers who very quickly delivered a pair of their blue seal bottom bracket bearing kits.

a number of days had passed since receipt of said bearings, but due to work commitments, i'd to await the opportunity to effect a delayed start at the office, allowing the use of a big hammer upon the outgoing bearings. several web pages previously browsed along with the one or two youtube videos described, in varying detail, how i might remove the original bearings with a designed-for-the-job bearing extractor. but, unsure and unconvinced of the sizing required (who knew there were quite so many bearing extractors on the market?), i opted for the blodgett brothers methodology of simply giving the bearings several wallops with a hammer; after all, their presence would no longer be required, so any incidental damage was unlikely to hinder the process.

having removed the sram rival drive-side crank arm by unscrewing the 6mm self-extractor bolt, giving the bb spindle a hefty thump with the aforementioned hammer knocked it out of the bottom bracket housing altogether, landing on a carefully placed and folded towel 'neath the frame. aside from a spacer placed on the spindle between bearing and inner face of the crank arm, it transpires that there is also a spacing washer to take up the slack from specialized's footering with the bb30 width standard. it's a very good idea not to lose that. the next hurdle, however, came on realising that there are a couple of circlips placed behind each bearing, presumably to prevent the bearings from being driven beyond their positions within that aluminium insert.

this was an unforeseen hindrance because, in order to gain full circumference purchase with the drift punch on the inner bearing face, it was necessary to rotate the circlip, a task not quite as easy as it sounds. i found it all but impossible to attempt to remove the circlip and harboured concerns that i might never be able to replace it satisfactorily. and yes, it did suffer the occasional blow from the punch which i'd to straighted with pliers before fitting the new bearings.

the latter task dispensed with the brutality of the hammer for the relative ease of a bearing press. greasing the bearing surface on the alu insert, i placed the non drive-side bearing in place, inserted the extractor rod through the centre to the drive-side, before sliding the second bearing into place and pre-tightening everything in place before easing both bearings into the bottom bracket with consummate ease. i did have to reverse the stepped press plates to move the bearings within the aluminium insert, but that was a pretty simple task.

obviously enough, in order that the bearings provide the necessary service to the bottom bracket spindle, the latter is a very tight fit through the centre of the bearings, a factor of which i was aware, but hadn't quite taken into account. therefore on attempting to push the spindle into place, i met with resistance that i thought could be overcome with a swift wallop with the hammer (carefully ensuring that there was suitable protection in place to avoid damaging the outer side of sram's crank arm). disappointingly and unexpectedly, this blunt approach achieved nothing at all.

however, it dawned on me that the end result i was attempting to achieve, bore a remarkable similarity to the process required to press-fit the bearings in the first place. so, pushing the threaded rod of the bearing-press through the hollow bb spindle, there was just enough length on which to affix a press plate and threaded nut, allowing the entire affair to pull the bb spindle through both bearings, whereupon it could be tightened into place by the 6mm extractor bolt, completing the entire process and resulting once again, in a smoothly rotating crankset.

it is well worth ensuring that you refit the chain onto the drive-side spacer, before tightening the drive-side crank, otherwise you'll find it a frustrating process re-engaging the chain with chainring without resorting to an entire dictionary of bad words. all that said, i'm extremely glad that the majority of manufacturers have seen fit to ditch the press-fit bb in favour of the old-skool threaded cup.

do try this at home.

trailvision bearing sets

thursday 25 april 2024

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dragon's breath

passoni year of the dragon bicycle

in 2002, i purchased a drum workshop be-bop maple drumset, consisting of shell sizes appropriate for a drummer such as yours truly, with a greater than passing fixation for jazz supremos, max roach and art blakey (buddy and gene played larger sets, but that's another story). this particular drumset, which i still own and play, features natural maple wood shells with a satin (all but invisible) finish. my choice of plain wood was based entirely on the mistaken notion that, should i opt to add more drums to the set, it would be considerably easier to acquire a perfect match, than had i opted for a set with either a sunburst, or (for example) a plastic marine pearl finish.

that assumption turned out to be completely false.

but the other, more fundamental reason for my choice was a purist notion that, since it was not common to apply a plastic or painted finish to instruments such as violins, cellos or double-basses, why should we be treating drums in such a cavalier fashion, essentially trivialising their importance relative to those more readily associated with orchestral music?

there is, however, a largely pragmatic reason for decorating drumshells in a wide range of plastic coverings, a reason that becomes immediately apparent when you start gigging regularly. given the speed with which drumsets are required to be assembled, disassembled, pressed in and out of cases, and played while in remarkably close proximity to metal objects such as stands, pedals and cymbals, few are the natural wood drumsets that survive entirely unscathed. as it transpires, my maple be-bop set is as immacualte today as it was twenty two years ago, but i confess that is more the result of good luck than design.

plastic coverings are far more resilient.

bicycles are different, yet the same, often at the behest of the quality of paintwork applied by the manufacturer. it's no secret that a certain marque, originally famous for its oversized aluminium tubing, was guilty of highly fragile paintjobs. however, their contemporary, carbon offerings, to the best of my knowledge, have outgrown such an iniquity. present day, quality road bicycles are predominantly of carbon construction, and i am led to believe that this woven material is more receptive to paint application, often subsequently subsumed 'neath several coats of clearcoat, offering an impressive shine, and a few more layers of protection.

and it seems to me that bicycles are every bit as at risk from knocks and bangs as are drums, the difference being that rarely are bicycles stowed away within fleece-lined cases between bike rides. unfortunately, my steel ritchey logic top tube has suffered an inadvertent scratch due to an over-zealous removal of an adjacent bicycle from the bike rack outside debbie's. does anyone else notice? no, they don't, but i'm sure many will share my hidden pain, because no matter how visible or invisible, i know it's there.

though all manner of technical reasons have been advanced for the rapid increase in the diameter and surface area of the modern bike tube, i have heard it said that the main reason, particularly when discussing down tubes, is the untrammeled opportunity to have the manufacturer's name writ large, or certainly larger than when all bikes were built from small diameter steel tubing. and if we accept that to be true, there's no denying that this also offers a larger canvas on which ornate decor might be applied.

for example, released only today, is passoni's 'year of the dragon creation, a frame combining both unpainted titanium and luxuriously illustrated carbon fibre. 2024 is china's 'year of the dragon coinciding with passoni's 30th anniversary which has resulted in this limited edition "...decorated with a gold, sinuous dragon inspired by 19th century chinese artwork that winds around the frame from the fork to the half-drop seatstays and is hand-painted in signature gold by passoni's artisans in its studio in vimercate." the dragon is set against a "...a deep candy gloss red with a translucent finish so that passoni's industry-leading carbo-titanium weave, including titanium filaments within the carbon-fibre, is visible through the paint of the top tube, seat tube, upper chainstays and fork."

however, if i might briefly return to my natural maple, drum workshop be-bop drumset, it's possible that the eyewateringly high price of the passoni might result in a pleading letter to british drum case manufacturer, protection racket, to have them create a custom-built, fleece-lined bike-bag crafted to contain one of the two dozen, made-to-measure passoni bicycles as described above. purchased as a complete bicycle, it features campagnolo's wireless super-record groupset, allied to a bora-ultra wheelset, vittoria corsa pro tyres, and a custom selle italia passoni saddle, all of which will relieve your bank account by a whopping £16,600.

the frame alone is a marginally more favourable £10,300.

passoni year of the dragon

wednesday 24 april 2024

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orchestral percussion

many of us will have learned to ride a bicycle in the same way, though unfortunately, i cannot include myself amongst that number. a well-meaning parent will usually hold the bike via the back of the saddle while risking perennial back problems walking alongside as junior learns how to pedal. when the child reaches what i might call the intermediate stage where they can actually balance and ride unaided, but have yet to acquire the confidence so to do, the selfsame parent holds their thumb against the small of the child's back, convincing the innocent youngster that they are still safe from self-inflicted injury. after that, it's only a matter of days until they're flying solo.

at least, that was the preferred method until a matter of years ago. lazier parents would simply purchase a bicycle with stabilisers and remain indoors, despite it now being common knowledge that children riding thus, became reliant on those training wheels. and since the latter were designed never to have both touching the road simultaneously, the hapless child invariably leaned to one side, even when the stabilisers were removed. more aware parents nowadays, plop their offspring on a balance bike, small enough that both feet can be placed firmly on the ground when still in the saddle, and totally bereft of pedals.

as the child becomes more familiar with the situation and gain confidence, their feet are lifted clear of the ground as they speed on nearby descents, re-enacting the motion required for the original hobby-horse on flat ground, gaining better control of their balance as the days roll by. with this latter method i am well-acquainted; my four year-old grand daughter has mastered the art impeccably, showing no fear or lack of confidence across any terrain that appears in her way. and my son can now go to bed without serious back-ache.

in my childhood years, it was far less common for either parent to assist with learning to cycle. as i recall, i was given a bicycle and left to get on with it. that probably explains why i was nine years-old before i could ride a bicycle, and that was only due to my parents' house featuring a large, well-grassed back garden on which i could safely fall when things didn't work out. to that extent, i consider myself to be a self-taught cyclist. i'm sure i never once caught sight of a manual advising how best to join the world of the velocipedinally gifted. it was simply a matter of perseverance.

similarly, i also consider myself to be a self-taught drummer, though fortuitously, the necessary skills long sought after and practised, were precisely the very skills required to ensure a lifetime of percussive joy that has, ironically, led me to become a part-time drum teacher. i feel pangs of guilt every time i undertake to provide a lesson, given that i eschewed that particular step in my teenage years. however, in mitigation, it wasn't for lack of trying; there simply was no available drum teacher in my area when growing up.

in that respect, i can only admit to being self-taught in both respects: cycling and percussion. now, normally this would not enter the top ten of subjects ripe for discussion, but while reading my newspaper yesterday, an article concerning an american choreographer to the stars, stated that he was also a 'trained percussionist'. presumably, that is how he identified himself to the reporter, and i wondered whether any of us would admit to a hack from the local newspaper that we were, 'trained cyclists'? even were we to have engaged the services of a professional coach and/or nutritionist, would we consider ourselves to be 'trained cyclists'? there may well be situations in which it is helpful to admit to being a 'professional cyclist' if that were, in fact, true, but would that suffice as a tautology for 'trained'?

and when was the last time you read in a cycling magazine, on a cycling website or the extremely rare mention in one of the dailies, "trained cyclist, mathieu van der poel..."? i have honestly never considered that mvdp might introduce himself to others as a 'trained cyclist'. yet for reasons that presumably apply to the musical sphere and not the cycling milieu, citing oneself as a trained percussionist either legitimises involvement in that particular pursuit, or raises one's countenance above that of the 'merely' self-taught.

perhaps the introduction of the balance bike era has re-introduced the cabal of the 'self-taught cyclist', at least within the junior ranks. granted should any of the lattter coterie subsequently apprentice as professionals, it will likely be at the behest of an entire backroom of trainers, coaches, directeurs sportifs, and nutritionists. but when they emerge out the other side and win liege-bastogne-liege for a second time, i'm pretty sure they will not be referred to as 'trained cyclists'.

tuesday 23 april 2024

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................