book review - bikie | september 03
book review - inside the peloton | november 03

apologies for the inexcusable delay in producing a post for your pleasure (?) but life has been busier than expected over the past few weeks. promise it won't happen again - well, not for a while anyway.


normally at this time of year, i would be taking the colnago from the bike shed and getting in some fast (relative term) miles ready for the tryathlon on saturday (8th june). unfortunately, due to staff shortages at our local swimming pool, the tryathlon has been put back to september so i am doing none of the above.
in fact, it's probably just as well because last week the island was invaded by whisky enthusiasts for the islay festival of malt and music and i was running here and there covering the week's events for the ileach and gaining minimal time on the bike. i had been taping eurosport's coverage of the tour of italy and then struggling to find the time to watch what i'd taped - definitely not like me. for this whisky thing i had been considering organising a b to a bike ride, namely from bunnahabhain distillery in the north to ardbeg distillery in the south. the two extremes of distillery locations on islay. find a map and you'll see what i mean.
however, the idea gradually paled over the preceding weeks when i realised that the folks heading in this direction, from more countries than you can imagine, cared for cycling about as much as i do for cricket. and, as is the case for most of the year, i would have been on my own.
but whisky festival notwithstanding, the influx of cyclists has started and things are as good/bad as they ever were. i see many on the roads between villages on nice bikes, of good quality, well clothed in a cycling manner and wearing what i consider to be the obligatory helmet. but the contrast, and it will get worse, believe me, is the cyclists who have arrived on the bikes that they bought from a mail order house advertised in the local paper for around 50 uk pounds. and i mention this because i had a brand new bicycle of this ilk in for assembly earlier in the week.
it was brand new out the box and belonged to a female acquaintance of mine. it had arrived with assembly instructions which her boyfriend had followed to the letter and still couldn't quite get all to connect. the front wheel was affixed to the forks with a quick release lever - quite a bonus at this price bracket - but the instructions mentioned such nowhere at all and showed attachment by means of two wheel nuts.
now if you look at a wheel with the quick release lever removed, you'll notice that the outer parts of the axle are possessing locknuts. to the uninitiated, these can appear to be the wheelnuts depicted in the instructions. if they are removed and attempt is made to fit them on the outside of the fork blades, danger begins to appear on the horizon.
happily, they did the decent thing and asked someone with more experience (me) to look at it for them and the front wheel is now safely fitted, brakes and gears checked and the cycle is ready for pedalling. on islay, that's fine. i have no problem assembling bikes that folks bought mail order. but on the mainland, try taking one of these along to your local cycle shop and i can imagine the reception you are likely to get. the second word is likely to be 'off'.
so i have kept the instruction 'manual' for the company's telephone number and i will call them in the next day or two to point out that i did in fact phone them over a year ago to point out the very same error in the 'manual'. at that time they said they knew of the problem and were ensuring that all further bikes despatched would have the corrected instructions. since this bike was only purchased about six days ago, they obviously haven't followed through with the promise. so i will remind them. the washing machine post - ensuring safe standards on cheap bicycles. or more to the point being arrogant on the telephone to prats who couldn't give a fig.
but sooner or later, one of these will turn up on islay's roads with several tons of kit on panniers on the back and the wheel will be potato crisped and in need of a several spokes. and i will smile when i try to fix it.

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

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

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

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

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