character building or stupidity?

saligo bay

now i'll admit that i was pretty certain that the mighty dave t wouldn't be riding yesterday morning. we won't go into details, but the weather had little or nothing to do with it. but having ridden out at my usual time on sunday morning, after a thoroughly crap saturday necessitating a happy but cold and wet ride on the 'cross bike, the weather did look, at least from the kitchen window, as if it was improving.

the temperature hadn't risen at all; if truth were told, it may have dropped a few degrees from saturday, but provided pedalling is undertaken at a sufficiently pragmatic rate, the chill ought to have been obviated after a kilometre or two. cycle clothing these days leaves little to chance, and i'm not short of an item or two to keep the elements at bay. in retrospect, however, perhaps i should have worn just a smidgeon more under that waterproof softshell.

the velo club rendezvous point is at debbie's in bruichladdich at ten(ish), but some considerable time before proximity was gained, freezing rain and sleet had already begun to test my resolve. i have no wish to portray myself as a headbanger (i even have a few discs of opera, come to that); the weather forecast had been checked on thursday when rain was not predicted and the winds were, as far as islay's concerned, darned near non-existent for the am, not building to an average frenzy until late afternoon.

boy was that wrong.

river sorn

let me place all in context: gale force winds, sub zero temperatures, along with the aforementioned freezing rain and sleet. it all seemed like a good idea at the time.

reaching the meeting point slightly ahead of time (debbie's wouldn't be open for another hour) and not wishing to lower that core temperature any more than necessary, i carried on in the hope of coming across my fellow pelotonese heading in the opposite direction. as i said at the outset, i wasn't expecting the mighty dave arriving from the principality of port wemyss, but i had rather hoped to come across mr hastings, a man who seemingly had more sense than i'd credited him with and obviously remained indoors.

it's around 15km from home to deb's, and the thought of returning without partaking of a healthy bout of froth supping really didn't appeal. aside from which, i was already soaking wet; nothing ventured, nothing gained. what i would be interested to know is, however, when there is really no more danger of any freezing cold moisture being absorbed by bib-tights, shoes, socks and overshoes, why do i spend so much time avoiding puddles in the road?

with just an hour to go before aileen opened up for coffee custom, i indulged a great dollops of character building (you may substitute the word stupidity here) by slogging my way back up uiskentuie strand and, believe it or not, all the way round loch gorm. it is here that i must castigate with impunity and uncharacteristic generalisation, those happy to answer to the epithet twitchers. in common parlance, birdwatchers.

yet again, allow me to indulge in a modicum of scene setting: having pedalled to the most westerly point of the outer edge (saligo bay), i found my way forward blocked by a car stopped in the middle of a single track road. as i approached, aware that there seemed little chance of this stationary vehicle moving out of my way, i used the sign language developed for the acronym wtf?, but it was eminently clear, even through the rain spattered and misted rudy projects, that the occupants were blissfully unaware of my presence. or existence, come to that.

equipe overshoes

car wing mirrors these days bear similar proportions to that of large flat screen televisions, leaving me no space to cycle past on either side. thus, despite being cold and wet, i'd to dismount and wheel my cielo past a total of four elderly twitchers, so intent on watching something with wings and feathers in the distance, that i'm not sure my bitingly sarcastic 'thank you very much' even began to get the point across. you can be sure that the rspb will not be receiving a donation from me anytime soon.

nothing got better, nothing became drier, and the only solace while pedalling disturbingly slowly into an increasing headwind was the thought of that cappuccino, a beverage accompanied by a chocolate orange muffin. was it all worth it? you bet your sweet bippy it was. was it character building or stupidity?

answers on an rspb postcard please.

posted monday 14th march 2011


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joe morello r.i.p.

joe morello

not even close to being concerned with cycling and therefore of little interest to most of you, i still feel compelled to mark the passing on 12th march at the age of 82, of one of the world's finest drummers; joe morello.

in my early childhood, my father owned a 45rpm single that i played almost to the point of wearing out the grooves in the plastic. on one side was the iconic take five (minus joe's drum solo) and on the obverse blue rondo a la turk, both taken from the 1959 dave brubeck album time out, a reference to the fact that the jazz contained within was in what we drummers like to refer to as odd time signatures.

status quo need not apply.

i teach drumset once a week to a lad in his early teens, and lately we have started to explore time signatures other than the bog standard 4/4, starting with 5/4. in order to provide examples of the use of the latter, i played him the whole of the album version of take five replete with morello's mind-bending drum solo. it's the only thing i've played him throughout his three years of learning that made his jaw drop.

morello is and was a major influence in my own pathetic attempts to break from 4/4. for those who have no idea what i'm talking about, i'd respectfully suggest you check out take five on itunes.

farewell joe morello, you will be missed.

posted sunday 13th march 2011


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uci sticker

cast your minds back, if you will, to the pinarello sword as ridden to several time-trial victories by miguel indurain. i know not if it was inspired by boardman's lotus bicycle, but it bore certain similarities, even being devoid of a specific top tube. in fact, to be quite honest its mode of construction was remarkably similar to a large chunk of carbon fibre with some wheels hung off each end. abraham olano and bjarne riis also gave vent to a variation descriptively named the blade. they may well have been fast, but there's little arguing that pinarello may have suffered a severe aesthetic devaluation by allowing them out the factory door. sadly, pinarello are not a company currently given to valuing aesthetics; consider those squiggle forks and seatsays plus an unhealthy obsession with asymmetry. however, for all that is said against the hegemony of the union cycliste internationale, they at least had the decency to rid us of the sword and its variants before bicycle design headed off in a direction that seemed ultimately to coincide with formula one racing cars.

don't get me wrong here, though i do rather admire the steel frames of the merckx era, they were just fine for their time. it should be rather self-evident that technology cannot stand still for even a couple of minutes, and though bicycle design such as pinarello were vaunting at the time (at least for time-trialling) was effectively stopped in its tracks, the majors have found ways of surpassing its perceived advantages while sticking to the double triangle dictate from switzerland. however, one or two of those developments have been massaged to vary just a tad from the spirit of the regulations, and in one or two instances to ignore them altogether. the 4:3 ratio that was seen to apply to handlebars and any extensions that may append is now enforced on any part of the bicycle, causing one or two sleepless nights for manufacturers who may have been thought to know better.

pinarello blade

there is no real point in having regulations unless they are enforced, and while this has led to less than understated venom aimed in the direction of the uci, it seems only right and proper that there are gentlemen with blazers at the start of sanctioned events carrying tape measures and perhaps the odd vernier caliper to make sure that all that carbon fibre fits comfortably inside the regulations. while hardly popular, this process can understandably be seen as a bit of a faff, even more so if one of those blazers is seen to shake his/her head just before the bicycle heads off down the start ramp.

enter the uci sticker regime.

the implementation of this garnered a large dollop of knee-jerk reaction, particularly since the uci were talking a substantial number of swiss francs accompanying each application for one of their stickers. though the bicycles in question were those destined for professional riders who would blanche at being asked to pay for even a brake block, ultimately this extra financial burden would make its way onto the retail price that us civilians are being asked to pay. so while the arguments and dismay came directly from the manufacturers and many an online commenter, taken to its logical conclusion, it is you and i who have the most to lose. or is that really the case?

so far, five manufacturers have received sticker approval for specific bicyle frames: cannondale, felt, pinarello, corima and richard sachs for his cyclocross frames. in sharp contrast to the expected myriad of red tape, sample frames and weeks of deliberation over the validity of the submission, richard sachs found the whole process to be about as simple as taking out a subscription to bicycling magazine.

richard sachs

"i started emailing with the UCI suits the in first couple of days of January 2011. By week two my application was posted and i awaited acknowledgment, so that we could begin the process. At this point i was still the only commercial framebuilder having routine discussions them. During what must be dozens of exchanges leading to the end of the month, i was simultaneously surprised and relieved to learn that there were some more meetings and that the application and procedure, while already painfully simple according to my opinion, would be revised and made more user friendly.
"The best part atmo was that the UCI changed the financial barrier of entry (sic) from 800 CHF to 500 CHF. When I look back at my email strings and assess it all, I can find some small satisfaction in knowing that trying to deal openly, honestly, and without confrontation (and doing so as a career independent framebuilder) most likely can be its best reward."

in comparison to the expected dealings, richard's experience seems positively tame and simple. what on earth happened to the supposed requirement for sample frames and veritable spreadsheets of data confirming adherence to specification. was it really as simple as that?

"Here is all you would do if you're interested in a seamless, hassle-free solution. 1) download a two page application form from the UCI site. 2) mail (not email or fax) it to Switzerland. 3) expect a confirmation and an invoice. 4) wire the money. 5) get a secure log-in on a site selected by the UCI. 6) submit requested details (see drawings). 7) wait for approval.
"The above applies to ALL frames made with tubular section, regardless of the joining method. As long as what you make is in the image of classic, conventional frame designs of the past 25 years (or more), this will be a non-issue. All of this assumes, of course, that you have frames destined for UCI C1 and UCI C2 events. Oh, and they also ask for tubing diameters and dimensions between front and rear dropouts atmo. since all (my) frames are made to order, all they wanted was a sampling of a small, a medium, and a large design in linear format. no testing. no sending frames to europe. No big deal atmo.
richard sachs frame schematic "Since I know what a time commitment it was last year when the 34mm tire rule was enforced, I view this (approval label stuff) as a much easier way to ensure that frame designs comply, without using tape measures at the start of every race, every weekend."

in this, i think everyone, including richard is expecting those frames bearing uci approved stickers to be left well alone at the scrutineering prior to each race. and presumably there will come a time when those not bearing stickers will simply not be allowed to race; otherwise what's the point? and those who have wired their swiss francs will wonder why they bothered. surely, however, the imposition of fees that didn't exist last year adds to already stretched budgets at both ends of the scale, though presumably more so for richard and his fellow framebuilders. does the 500 swiss francs cover all three sizes submitted, or is it 500 each?

"One fee covers the range of sizes I could remotely assemble for a 'cross bicycle. The fee? Heck, that's why I spent no money on my NAHBS booth, so I could free up the funds for this. My 'cross team is marketing too (just as NAHBS is) so I view all of this with the same regard, accounting-wise.
"This is not a fight, it's a quicken line item.
"All of this may be very different for the Orbeas and Treks of this world, and more expensive too; as it should be atmo. Remember, this is not a them (UCI) against us thing and never was.
approved measurements "As far as what you 'heard' about fees, that's why I am articulating my story. You did not hear it from the UCI. You probably heard it from cats who heard it from other cats who, in turn, heard it from cats who never bothered reading the UCI site's pages or even bothered to use the contact page there to ask."

so have we all been getting hot under the collar over nothing at all? it seems quite possible given richard's experiences detailed above, but it'll be interesting to see what happens in the long run. administered correctly it should simply be a case of the uci commissaires checking that each frame bears the necessary sticker, though i wouldn't put it beyond the pale for them to extend this to certain components, particularly with a possible increasing reliance on electronica. remember cancellara's motor in the seat-tube last year?

if further clarification were needed, allow me to quote the following direct from a uci letter to richard sachs "We think that at the end, the prices of the frames won't increase that much, considering the fact that it is also good publicity and a relief for the manufacturers to say that their equipment will never be rejected at the start of an event."

now we'll just have to think of something else to accuse the uci of.

yet again, i am indebted to mr sachs for his considerable assistance with something i know precious little about.

posted sunday 13th march 2011


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endura racing team

endura equipe team

yet again, leaping in with both feet where angels fear to tread, i think it not too much of a travesty to state that racing at the top levels of road cycling is conditioned by the win at all costs mentality. while that may be somewhat of a contentious statement, and i mean not to imply that sportstmanship is derelict at the pro tour level, but there is undoubtedly a far greater pressure for return on investment than is perhaps the case at the so-called lower levels of the sport.

of course those of you who race at weekends wearing either club colours or a favourite jersey are no less intent on competing than the likes of bertie and andy, but failure on your part at worst means having to justify the entry fee and the petrol home. and possibly bragging rights at the water cooler on a monday morning.

seemingly of necessity, as the ladder is climbed, the financial input increases, and with that increase comes a greater level of expectation, not least from the sponsors. there is undoubtedly a considerable amount of research and development being carried out at such stratospheric levels, if only because this underlined desire or need to win, puts concomitant pressure upon clothing, bicycles and componentry. it must be an interesting, if often expensive experiment to see what lasts.

but the upper levels of the sport would be far thinner were it not for what is commonly referred to as grass roots racing, teams that exist predominantly to serve the home-market at least initially and for which success, both results wise and commercially, provides a stepping stone for performance at a higher level. subsequently there cannot have been a better time to be a racing cyclist in britain. not only do there appear to be more home-grown teams than at any other time, but their professionalism and organisation seems almost to mirror that of the pro tour chaps. no, there aren't any luxury coaches for the riders but many other aspects seem to be well taken care of, including that of specifically conceived clothing.

i would again venture into contentious territory by stating that britain seems to be at the forefront of clothing technology when it comes to offering well designed tried and tested apparel for the aspiring race cyclist. we all know the usual suspects, but one that has a history more tied to the world of knobbly tyres is now making a considerable impact in the world of skinny tyres and bendy bars.


jim mcfarlane started endura in 1992 as a result of being unable to find decent kit in the uk to continue his triathlon competition after having his own stuff stolen. finding little in the way of available expertise in the production of the necessary fabrics, endura started production of their own, manufacturing principally for the emerging sport of mountain biking. with their reputation all but consolidated in this arena, it then seems perhaps a strange move to adopt a roadie-like stance and form their own team rather than perhaps simply co-sponsor an existing setup. what brought mcfarlane to form endura equipe?

jim mcfarlane

"Two reasons. We have supported plenty of charity and grass roots in the past but not been involved (outside of Scottish national team) with elite road cycling. My original interest in cycling was in road back in the mid '80s (following Hinaut/Lemond/Kelly/(Robert) Millar etc and, domestically, going to various Kellogg's city centre crit events and that's what got me into the business in the first place. So partly it is personal interest and partly it is that the Endura brand still has plenty of headway to make in higher end road product in the UK and the potential market is very large in our target export markets through Europe and elsewhere. Using the race team to develop and market it with the flexibility to focus on races in different target markets makes a compelling commercial case."

having the endura name seen regularly on not only the british road scene but increasingly further afield is quite understandable in terms of promoting their existence and indeed, the level of involvement and commitment to a side of cycle racing for which they had previously not been renowned. but presumably kitting out an entire team of cycle racers brings with it a high degree of research and development. is endura in this for the publicity or the r&d?

"Bit of both. We are genuinely working very closely with the team to use the riders to develop the range and feed in from the experience of other high-end clothing and obviously they are ambassadors for the Equipe range."

if you're going to do things properly, you need to do things properly. jim mcfarlane has undoubtedly the skills to run a successful company (they made the top 100 private entrepreneurs list last year) and to mastermind the direction that a successful cycle clothing company should adopt. but racing is a different kettle of fish, one that requires substantial experience to co-ordinate and manage. though the team is in the very capable hands of both julian winn and alex sans vega as race directors, former (twice) british road race champion brian smith, has been brought in as team manager. with a number of new faces in the green and black kit, along with a considerable wealth of talent retained from last year's team, is brian starting with a clean slate for 2011, or is he intent on building on past successes?

"Very much a case of building on pass successes. We have kept nine riders from the 2010 team (ten if you include Camano) and feel that the core of the team is very important to the integration of the new riders. If we have a close and happy family then it is much easier for new riders to feel at home. The quicker a team like this gels, the quicker results and morale will come."

brian smith

if i may refer back to my article this past week regarding the mapei team and giorgio squinzi's dictat that museeuw be allowed to win in the '96 roubaix, is brian allowed a free hand in the management of the endura equipe team, or are decisions a matter of discussion with the sponsor?

"I have been given a totally free hand on the running of the team. It is very pleasing to me that we have a great management team and sponsor to move the race team forward. Julian (Winn) has a wealth of experience and has been joined by Alex Sans Vega. Both of them will work in harmony towards our split UK/Euro program. Brendan and Ben are full time and again are showing great potential to take on total responsibility in their areas. Let's not forget Rob Hayles, the 'Daddy' figure of the team with loads of experience in everything cycling. That's including green chains and gold gear cables! I truly believe we have the team to succeed. I have changed the structure recently and everyone is now happy and clear on their roles. Jim has a passion for cycling and Endura; i proposed a goal to help both. I'm also passionate about cycling and been a fan of Endura for many years. I think we have the right combination to make an impact in world cycling."

the team has already continued in a similar vein to 2010, making its presence felt in pretty much every event of which it has been a part this season so far. aside from being a competitive unit, their demeanour and intent continues to be the ideal representation for the scottish clothing firm. but while i reiterate my contention that this is perhaps one of the finest eras in which to be an aspiring british professional cyclist, even taking the european scene as a whole, the number of teams vying for the finish line at almost all levels, it may be that some of those professionals are spoilt for choice to enhance their career opportunities. as ever, money may be the deciding criteria, so has brian assembled the equipe with specific goals in mind, or has rider choice been a case of matching availability with financial constraints?

"The budget for the riders was good. We decided that we wanted a professional team and have paid all the riders accordingly. This means a very professional team with riders happy to do what is best for the team. Too many times I have heard continental riders not happy riding for a jersey and a bike. The Endura Equipe range of clothing is the source of the team's budget; paying the riders as professional athletes means they are more than happy to go the extra mile to promote the team's sponsors. I believe this is very important to the success of the team."

evan oliphant

while brian's confidence in the current line-up must be taken as read, given his invaluable experience and uncanny ability to see the big picture as well as the minute details, the team has now been in existence for three years, and that's three years' worth of spending on behalf of the title sponsor. does the end justify the means, and does jim mcfarlane feel that it has paid its way by whatever criteria he judges such matters? "Not yet. The results will never be exactly measurable due to various external factors which are inextricably linked with success or failure of the Equipe range, so we can't extract the direct benefit the team provides. But various anecdotal feedback suggests to us that it is working and we have therefore funded it more fully again this year. We do know that it doesn't pay for itself yet and it was never expected that it would at this stage, but as a long-term strategic investment it appears to be on track with our plans."

i'd be slightly surprised if jim's answer had been any different, for gauging the success of running a race team as a marketing and development exercise is unlikely to ever become an exact science. but allowing for a degree of obfuscation in the equation, how does jim gauge the team's success? "On product development, on UK exposure, on anecdotal feedback on team and range, on sales and reviews of Equipe products, on brand recognition of both team and Endura/equipe brands into new target markets outside of the UK."

does brian smith, as team manager, judge the team purely on results or are other criteria involved? "After being involved with building the original Cervelo Test Team I have brought the same ethos to Endura Racing. I am looking at three key areas. 1: Professional riders that can conduct themselves well with media, sponsors and fans. 2: A willingness to try new products and give feedback on them 3: The ability to achieve quality performances. All three areas are applicable to the 2011 team. Winning is looked upon as a pleasurable bonus, but something I'm positive will happen, given the riders' commitment to the success of the team."

the man with the cheque book and the man deciding how it should be spent. but neither of those two are the chaps fighting to have their wheel cross the line first at any given race. that's what the cheques have been spent on. having been in the team since mid-way through 2009, evan oliphant is one of only two riders in the road squad to hail from endura's home country of scotland. does that engender an extra pride in his position in the endura peloton? "Yes it's always special to be part of the Endura racing team knowing that the main sponsor is from Scotland. It makes it feel like we're getting results for Scotland when the team is achieving results; even when i don't personally win, it feels good that the team is."

and with oliphant having been there for more than just one season, would it be fair to assume that it's a comfortable place to be? "I've now been with Endura since the middle of 2009 and each year it continues to grow and improve in strength and depth. That includes everyone and everything involved within the team, from equipment to riders and staff, so it's great to be part of that and to help it grow."

dave clarke

in order to assist that growth, it is often necessary to recruit new blood to the ranks, particularly if the recruited strength has shown a distinct affinity for not being afraid to launch himself into the fray at the earliest opportunity. dave clarke rode for yanto barker's le col/pendragon colnago team in 2010; what attracted him to the green and black? "i moved to endura as i like the ethos of the team. they have a real sense direction and their passion for cycling was something i wanted to be a part of. i relish the opportunity to ride bigger races and i feel it will give me a chance to be part of a close-knit team, where i can play my part as well as take my own achievments to a higher level. le col/colnago was a great team and everyone worked hard to get the results we achieved, but endura equipe offered a new and exciting opportunity to progress."
"it's also great to be wearing clothing that's at the cutting edge of technology. the equipe range is superb, and i'm looking forward to being involved with its development"

as the saying goes, there is no 'i' in team, so surely compromises have to be made between the aspirations of individual riders and the ideals and strategies of those that pay their wages. clarke's numerous victories and results in 2010 gave the impression of his being a lone-wolf. in the light of this, does dave figure that being a part of the equipe team will encourage him to adopt more of a group mentality, and is this likely to match with his own hopes? "i have always seen myself as a real team player, but with a small team there aren't as many cards to play. last year it was always a victory for the team rather than just for me, and they put a lot of work in behind the scenes to get the team on the road. my team-mates always gave 110% to help."
this year i am part of a very strong team and it presents many more options. i'm happy to play any role required of me. it has never mattered who wins; it's always a team win. there are so many here who put a great deal of work into the team; they're always willing to help and have my best interests at heart. i'm looking forward to having a good season and to give something back to all those who have had faith in me. it really is an honour to be working with julian and alex, and i'm very thankful to jim and brian for this opportunity."

and what of evan oliphant? does he feel that his own career aspirations will merge with those of the team? "Yes we all get plenty of opportunities to meet our own aspirations as well as helping the team and other riders achieve theirs."

equipe jersey

let's not forget, however, that the title sponsor is a clothing designer and manufacturer, a more than justifiable reason for being involved in racing in the first place. but most of us who comprise endura's more regular customer base are unlikely ever to subject their products to anything like the stresses and strains of professional racing. we may ride in the same kit on both days of the weekend, with perhaps the occasional midweek foray, but rarely do we do so for six hours at a time or six days at a stretch in wind, rain, sun, with our clothing subjected to endless washings and treated as merely another of the trappings of the modern day professional. it has to fit well, it has to be comfortable for lengthy periods of time and survive a merry-go-round of rear pocket juggling with munchy bars, gels and course routes. we might all accomplish much of the above in our heads during a one hour ride on sunday morning, but professionals do it for real.

if the endura equipe range is to continue to inhabit the cutting edge of the cycling apparel world, it needs to be thrashed mercilessly within a few microns of its polyester and lycra existence, something only the professionals can achieve without going too far out of their way. are the riders asked specifically to participate in this development? evan oliphant; "As part of the job we do provide lots of feedback on the Equipe clothing for Endura and it's good to know we're helping develop the kit to make it the best it can be. We also give feedback to the other sponsors; Look bikes, SRAM etc. Everything is listened to and taken on board."

dave clarke expressed the opinion that he found the equipe range to be a revelation. " it's something very special and technologically advanced, the devlopment of which the team plays an active role. it's something in which i take great interest, having a passion for aerodynamics, and my girlfriend lisa is a fashion designer. she's given me a better understanding of how clothing is put together and i really appreciate how good the endura clothing is."

but let's not, yet again, forget parochialism, something of a watchword in these pixels. endura are based in livingston, just outside scotland's capital city, and founded by a scotsman with a fine scottish name (my great grandaprents were mcfarlanes if it's of any interest). however, the demands of international cycle racing these days often requires that team rosters of necessity, include nationalities outside the host nation, so to speak. does it concern jim mcfarlane that only two riders in the road team are scottish?

"It would be nice to have an all Scottish roster, but speaking in practical terms the decision of on rider roster to be a meritocracy across nationalities is an easy one. We had an almost all Scottish rider line-up in 2009 and we didn't get very far; Scotland is a small country and there is a limited pool of available talent that can compete at an international level. That's a prerequisite for the team in 2011 and beyond. So we can either put the shutters up and fail on the international stage, or we can focus on delivering results and look outside of Scotland, still keeping as much Scottish involvement as possible. That's what we have decided to do.
"Our aim is to remain a Scottish company, but to have an internationally competitive race team with as many Scottish riders on it that can make the grade. From a patriotic perspective I am completely comfortable with what Endura is doing; we have two Scottish riders on the team who get great race exposure that they would most definitely struggle to get elsewhere (including Callum Wilkinson who we are developing from a young, unproven rider) and we have been a long-standing sponsor of the Scottish National Team.
"Additionally, for 2011 we have set up the Endura Pedal Power Development Team, providing a five figure cash sum, a car, £5k of team clothing, bikes to race on (via our partners at Fisher) and the backup of the main team providing a direct path to one of the UK's top continental race teams for anyone that proves themselves worthy of a place.
"In other words we're supporting the development of Scottish talent from scouting, providing race experience and back-up right through to offering - for those that make the grade - the chance to ride in UCI 2.1s and 1.1 international races. I'm not aware of any commercial concern doing more to support Scottish talent in the road cycling arena. I'm very comfortable that in doing our bit to develop raw talent from an early age through the development team, with a view to placing them in the main squad is the way forward."

despite the consummate professionalism of today's riders, it is often necessary for the team management to put more emphasis on certain principles, establishing a coherent hierarchy to which the riders can constantly refer as the season progresses. though the mighty dave t has described cyclists as 'basically a bunch of loners', a conundrum if ever there was one, it is, as has been pointed out by riders and management alike, necessary for them to adopt a semblance of cohesiveness and ride as a team. in order to enforce these strictures, are any of the riders allowed to go past brian smith on training runs?

"All the riders are free to go past me on a training ride and I would encourage that. But only the General Manager is allowed to hang on to the following team car to discuss strategies with the Directeur Sportif. Of course only at appropriate moments, many of which tend to coincide with the road going up hill."

my sincere thanks to jim mcfarlane, brian smith, dave clarke and evan oliphant for their contributions to this article. rider photos by joolze dymond

endura racing | endura clothing

posted saturday 12th march 2011


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just one more thing...

ipad 2

apple has released its ipad two, the second version of the popular device which went on sale in america yesterday, and already there is a two to three week wait if you weren't one of the first in there to purchase one. coincidentally with its launch, apple also introduced a garageband app for the device retailing at £2.99 or $5, and rather than being a port of the software that arrives with every new mac, it has been cleverly re-written to take advantage of the ipad's touch screen. for example, call up one of the many drum kits on offer, the harder you tap the louder the sound, and depending on where you tap depends on what the drum sounds like. just like real drums only a bit more compact and bijou.

i have placed myself on record fairly recently with regard to the development of shimano's di2; i thought it would have moved a bit further and faster by now, but it seem the greatest length to which they've gone is to provide the option of sticking little buttons here, there and everywhere across the handlebars to make it easier to change gear while reading the newspaper. although apple haven't pushed the second ipad a heck of a lot further than edition one, there have been more advances in the technology in a year than shimano have achieved since the introduction of their electronic groupset several years ago. and though tis easy to point out that shimano have several other irons in the fire, so have apple.

i'd be willing to bet that there are considerable numbers of offroad shimano users eagerly awaiting an xtr groupset with switches.

apple cycle patent

on the launch of the original ipad, michael robertson of velodramatic ran a spoof article claiming that team sky had been running development versions of the ipad on their pinarello dogmas, able to provide them with more information than sky news in a size more amenable to a quick glance on the slopes of the ventoux. but it seems that michael may not have been so very wide of the mark with the news that apple has submitted a patent for a bicycle. and though we may tend to think of this as being probably aimed at the consumer, if you take a look at the drawing accompanying this article, the bicycle bears an uncanny resemblance to the racing bicycle with which we are all acquainted.

i do not possess every detail as submitted by apple to the us patents office, and thus i have no real idea what all those numbers refer to, but the simplicity of this schematic tends to suggest that a number of features of the bicycle are controlled or at least recorded by an ipod/ipad type device. there are many sections of world industry such as the mobile phone industry, the music business, the film industry and quite possibly the credit card world who have cause to wish they'd got in there before apple did. the itunes store lets us buy music, films, apps and heck knows what else, while there have been scared rumours that apple will enable their ipods and iphones to allow purchasing of items such as shimano di2 from bikeshops with similarly enabled cash registers and having it charged to an itunes account.

apple store

maybe while the cycle industry has been integrating its headsets and creating as many variations of the bottom bracket as time would allow, apple will nip in the back door and provide us with an intelligent bicycle which knows when to change gear, and which one to choose, as well as a myriad of other tasks previously carried out by mark cavendish and thomas voeckler.

you see the bicycle world of which we are all a major part, has as much tendency to remain cloistered in its own narrow-mindedness as any other. it would do us all well to take a step back now and again to admire or criticise the coffee shop. because the folks from infinite loop have demonstrated admirably that they have the skill, foresight and ingenue to whip the carpet from underneath the starting ramp while we look the other way.

on the plus side, maybe we'd all fawn over the result. on the basis of the apple stores, i'd love to see the shop from which such a machine would be sold.

posted friday 11 march 2011


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mapei squares

i know i've said it before, but i think it's worth reminding ourselves that cycle sport as we currently know it (jim) would not survive at its current level were it not for commercial sponsorship. if it wasn't for a number of large and small businesses willing to plough their hard-earned marketing cash into having their name plastered all over a fast moving cyclist, there's every likelihood that cycling would command as much attention as a game of dominoes down the pub (so i'm told). well, maybe that's an exaggeration, but take a look at the history of the sport; the tour de france was born from a need to sell more yellow newspapers, while the giro needed to do the same for pink. het nosebleed is sponsored by a belgian newspaper, and the amstel gold is named after the beer of the same name, and though now long gone, the milk race rather gives the game away as to where its wherewithal arrived from. there are very many more from the inception of cycle racing all the way to the present day, something likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

and thank goodness for that.

mapei quickstep cap

but aside from sponsoring races, my initial foray suggested that the colours borne by the riders' polyester jerseys are rarely there for aesthetic purposes. polti and castorama spring to mind as particularly inept attempts to pervert the course of good design, and there must be many a professional concern looking back through the framed photos on the wall, wondering what on earth they were thinking when trying to promote the brand. it is also worth observing that certain jersey designs that were once thought to embody the aesthetic taste of stevie wonder, are now regarded as iconic, a word overused almost as much as the oft repeated epic. it could be successfully argued that one or two jerseys comfortably inhabit both adjectives quite comfortably, though we likely all have our favourites. one man's polti is another man's footon servetto.

which sort of brings us neatly, if a little contrivedly, to mapei. though it would be hard to tell from the design of their fondly remembered jersey, mapei the company is a world leader in adhesives and building products. founded in 1937, its main claim to fame is its internationalisation commencing in the 1960s, i o tifi tafi bringing it not only closer to local markets around the world, but simultaneously reducing distribution costs. from those essentially small beginnings, mapei now consists of 63 subsidiary companies with 57 production facilities in over 26 countries. that's who and what it is, but other than justifying why giorgio squinzi had the money to sponsor a cycle team in the first place, such information takes a lowly second place to the achievements of its cycle team.

at least in the prejudicial eyes of the cycling fan it does.

beginning life in 1993 as mapei-bc azzuro viner, the team spanned nine years in the professional peloton, heading the uci team classification from their second year of sponsorship (1994) until the start of this century (2000), regaining the title yet again in 2002. the following year (2003) mapei left the top level of cycle sport with the team changing identity to that of quick step-davitamon. throughout virtually the entire length of mapei's sponsorship, the team was associated with colnago bicycles, commencing 1994 with mapei claas up until the point where the name changed. mapei undoubtedly gave the colnago c40 its greatest victories, underlining ernesto's faith in a lugged carbon fibre frame.

many of the world's premier riders passed through the ranks of mapei, including tony rominger, michele bartoli, andrea tafi, franco ballerini, paulo bettini and the lion of flanders, johan museeuw, most securing multiple victories under the direction of directeur sportif and then johan museeuw manager, patrick lefevre. the team was unlikely to be the one you'd choose for your fantasy tour, but at times they were all but unbeatable in the spring classics, particularly the hell of the north, paris roubaix. they were victorious in this race a total of five times, managing to garner the first three places in 1996, 1998 and 1999. on one of those three occasions, we almost experienced the furore that follows a formula one team finishing according to team orders, when the 1996 edition was decided by lefevre in conversation with giorgio squinzi 15km from the finish line in roubaix stadium. squinzi was in milan and confirmed that museeuw was to cross the line first.

though tony rominger won the 1994 vuelta espana and the 1995 giro d'italia, the grand tours were probably better forgotten about as far as the men with the coloured cubes on their jerseys were concerned. rominger also took the world hour record on my birthday in 1994, setting it at 53.832km, then pushing it further again on guy fawkes night in the same year (55.291km).

the team's demise as mapei quick-step came at the end of the 2002 season, having gained 94 victories in that year alone. mapei's involvement with the sport was dissolved under the cloud of yet another peloton drug scandal, giorgio squinzi announcing his withdrawal in may of the 2003 season. they have continued to involve themselves in the world of cycling since that date, but at a considerably lower level. in 2010 they returned to top level cycling by supporting the uci world championships in australia.

but was the jersey design any good?

long sleeve jersey

the answer to that question sort of depends on whether you were a classics fan, whether you favoured any of their star riders over the years (and it would be hard to find anyone who didn't have a favourite at one time or another) and whether you were of the peletonese happy to wear team jerseys on the sunday ride. a flurry of multi coloured cubes across a dark blue background surely can't have been the ideal way to advertise what mapei actually did for a living, but the abstractness of it all had plenty of time to grow not only more familar, but, perhaps grudgingly more acceptable as each year's classics season rolled by. having it not remain a familiar part of the pelotonic sublimation since early this century has allowed the design to insinuate itself as one of the more iconic of the sport's history, an insinuation that continues to this very day. while there are several favourites that have all but disappeared from view, jerseys that require an honours degree in e-bay to acquire, the mapei jersey seems to be enjoying something of a renaissance thanks not only to santini of italy, but mick and andy at the irreplaceable prendas ciclismo.

mapei cap

not only is it possible to equip yourself with a mapei jersey to emulate whichever of your heroes you may wish so to do on the sunday ride, this can be accessorised into virtually the entire kit as provided to the team riders. bib shorts, arm warmers, bib tights, socks, cap, gilet and long-sleeve jersey are all available in mapei decor. all you'd have to do is search out a mapei painted colnago c40 and there's every likelihood you could pass for johan at rapha's hell of the north on april 9. bearing in mind the quality for which santini have become renowned, these mapei items are about as far from parody and pastiche as it's possible to get, starting at £3.95 for the socks and working up to £69.95 for the bib tights.

quench your thirst for nostalgia and outfit yourself like bettini as the spring classics begin to bite.

many thanks to mick and andy at prendas for assistance with this article.

prendas ciclismo

posted thursday 10 march 2011


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genius with a brazing rod

before he became famous for headsets and hubs, chris king (the man) had set out to be a frame builder. all the bits and pieces that are currently produced at nw nela street which almost every cyclist drools over and aspires to have on their bicycle, just got in the way. very successfully.

a couple of years ago, chris decided to revitalise this aspect of his innate skill and cielo cycles were born. the production versions are built by a team of builders working away at the portland plant, all of which are made from steel and all of which feature tig-welding as a way of joining the tubes. chris, on the other hand, builds a limited number of frames in the shed at the back of his house, and he favours lugged construction.

for the north american handbuilt show last month, chris embarked on constructing a frame from stainless steel, a frame which featured a large degree of lateral thinking when it came to some of the exquisite detailing featured on the bike. perhaps tellingly, the complete bicycle was fitted with campagnolo gearing. chris king do not make campag compatible hubs.

for an insight into the mindset of a genius, watch the following and take notes.


posted wednesday 9 march 2011


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the scottish bike show


we can all be found gulty of parochialism at one time or another; it is rarely a positive trait when used as a defence, but can be viewed as opportune when employed to point out pluses rather than minuses. it's also a feature more readily associated with the underdog. you somehow can't imagine the united states being described as parochial; that seems somewhat of an oxymoron. the scots are often seen in the former light, a description i realise i am about to continue by way of spurious justification of the forthcoming scottish bike show. the job is partly done for me simply in the name itself. check the website for the show more recently held at earls court in london and you will notice that it is simply called the cycle show. not the english cycle show, not the london cycle show, simply the cycle show, which either shows an arrogance on behalf of the organisers, or a lack of consideration.

one assumes that, with the emergence of the scottish bike show, they may have to have a brief cogitate over their nomenclature (but i doubt it).

robert millar, graeme obree, chris hoy, mark beaumont, craig mclean and, at a push, david millar are all names with a tangible association with the best in cycling achievement, and all are scottish by adoption if not by birth. considering the population of the country, it would not be too much of an inflated claim to state that scotland punches well above its weight when it comes to podium positions.


there's that parochialism again.

come the weekend of april 16th and 17th, scotland will stage its first ever national cycle show, held in the scottish exhibition and conference centre (secc) on the banks of the clyde in glasgow. it is the brainchild of rowan mackie of magdala media. what prompted him, in the face of the myriad of already established cycle shows, to promote one north of the border?

" I have been working out of London and New York in the 'b2b events' industry for seven and a half years prior to organising the show.  For about a year and a half I helped my brother run 'Tuscany Bike Tours' which he half owns, offering a mixture of day tours in Florence and around Chianti / Tuscany. When I arrived back in Edinburgh the culmination of both activities gave me the idea to launch the show. There has never been a show like this in Scotland as a consumer bike show; it's a first.  Any company or cycling enthusiast previously had to travel down to London / Birmingham, but now there is a show in the North.
  "I want to make this into one of the leading shows within the cycling calendar to not only showcase a celebration of Scottish companies and brands, but have an international appeal as the show develops through the years.

many of the cycle shows that fill the autumn months across europe and america are trade-only and without any discernible thematic profile. viewing acres and acres of carbon fibre filling a seemingly endless labyrinth of halls is perhaps daunting for even the most hardened industry insider, though maybe more exciting for those of us still with space in the bikeshed. will the exhibition at the secc adhere to any theme such as commuting, road racing, or offroad? or is it simply a wide-ranging cycle show?

"All of the above - road, MTB, BMX, commuting, kids, e-bikes. All ages, all ranges, a show which will have something for everyone at every level. Confirmed brands such as Scott, Eddy Merckx, Colnago, Cube, Trek, GT, Mongoose, Continental, Rolf prima, Clif Bar, Endura, Gore Bike wear, Felt etc etc etc., and there are several more to be added very soon."

maybe it's just me, because i've received a constant supply of press-releases over the past few months, announcing each retailer or manufacturer as they have signed up to be a part of the show, but it seems that life has started slowly, and the domino effect has now taken over. it's looking like the show is going to be more than worth attending.

"It's certainly become a lot busier approaching mid March. It's taken a lot of hard work and a few nail-biting moments, but it seems to all be paying off now and I'm personally delighted with all the exhibitors confirmed so far."

since rowan expresses delight with the confirmed exhibitors, how many can we look forward to viewing on the floor of the secc? "about 40 on the last count.. it's hard to determine a final number, but there are still a few out there who I hope will join us soon." in which case, just what can the first time visitor to the first scottish bike show expect to see? "There's a BMX bike display as the centre feature of the show; these guys are amazing. There's a cycle test track, a forest track, presentations from authors and cycling journalists, the 7stanes stunt team. For a comprehensive rundown on what's what, check the What's On page on the website."

as i averred above, many of the cycle shows held across the world in the autumn of each year are 'trade only' exhibitions where the emphasis is on distributors and would-be distributors negotiating with the manufacturers over supply of next year's big thing. on the off-chance that mere civilians have managed to wangle entry, there is rarely anything available to purchase on the day(s). for the last few years, the london cycle show has operated a retail zone where several of the exhibitors can show their stock as well as sell to eager credit cards. which of the two formats will be the template for scotland? "Both  It's a consumer event first and foremost, so you can buy, try and drool over all the cycling bling on show."

there's a distinct possibility that the cyclist in the family, is, to employ an appropriate metaphor, flying solo. in thewashingmachinepost household, i am the only one with any sort of affection for the bicycle, and it would be a pointless exercise to try and encourage any of the rest of my family to attend. only boredom and frustration would ensue. however, there are those starting from an earlier point on the timeline heading towards cycling amelioration, who may wish to strategically foster bicycle love by taking mrs/mr and the kids in tow. you can see the diplomatic advantage of such behaviour, but will the cost of access substantially diminish the amount of folding stuff left for bling acquisition? "Cost of entry will be £7.50 adults, £5.50 kids and £20.00 family ticket (family of four) if you pre- book. Costs are a wee bit more if paying on the door."

The worrying aspect often applied to such thrills and excitement is the here today, gone tomorrow syndrome. if it has taken us until 2011 to hold the very first scottish cycle show, the last thing any of us wants to hear is that it's a one-off; that there will be nothing to look forward to in 2012, and likely the addition of even more exhibitors. so is it planned to be an annual or bi-annual show? "Definitely annual.  My vision is to grow this event into the leading event within the UK  Why not?  We have the facilities, organisation, infrastructure, talent and the natural environment as one of the leading bike destinations in Europe.  Scotland deserves an annual event and all going well, I'd like to deliver that." and will it remain in Glasgow, or will wanderlust take over? "Not really. The SECC is one of the leading, if not THE leading venues in the UK for large scale conferences and exhibitions."

glasgow is not noted amongst the more bicycle friendly cities in Scotland, but there are many amongst the great unwashed who may wish to exercise their right to reach the show on two wheels. is this something that is easy to accomplish? "Pretty much. The SECC holds environmental considerations to be very important, encouraging staff and visitors alike to consider greener ways to arrive. They support their staff with a cycle to work initiative. There are link roads and paths easily navigated by bicycle as well as cycle paths running alongside the Clyde, while Glasgow is extensively linked with the National Cycle Network as well as approved on-road cycle routes. There are also cycle storage areas around the building"

if you don't live in scotland, or at least not close enough to the border to make what you believe to be a worthwhile trip, at the risk of being accused of searching for the sympathy vote, bear in mind that i have a two hour ferry trip and a four hour coach trip just to get to glasgow, and the same on the way back. and i've added that to a trip to london for the last four or five years to attend their cycle show. the more folks that make the effort to attend, the better event it'll be for all of us, and could help to ensure that rowan gets his wish to be running the leading event of its kind in the uk. i'll hopefully see you there; i'll be easy to spot, for as i said to owen philipson, i'll be the one who looks lost.

the scottish bike show will be held on saturday 16th and sunday 17th april at glasgow's secc. tickets can be booked online at ticketsoup

the scottish bike show

posted wednesday 9 march 2011


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the selection

bicycling magazine

bill strickland writes in a style i aspire to emulate. not eactly word for word, you understand, but i do admire his literacy and wordsmithing (i may have invented that word). america's matt seaton i would tender, even though matt seaton is currently america's matt seaton. his book ten points i reviewed in november 2008 and it was somewhat of a revelation to read a cycling book of that weight; one that had as much going for it in a literary sense as it had in terms of topic.

since then, i have followed his writings in book form, his more esoteric writings and observations at, and his cycle related musings via the online version of bicycling magazine. bill's formal title is editor at large for bicycling magazine; that's his day job. and like most of us, every now and again it becomes necessary to take a break from the daily travail to work on things that have had a habit of piling up in the corner. which is exactly what bill is taking care of at present.

however, what happens to those blogs that rely on his words, more specifically, one entitled the selection? well, just like a band when the drummer goes on holiday, they get a substitute in to fill the drumseat, and i am highly honoured and not just a little proud to say that, on this occasion, the editor of bicycling online invited me to do just that. please feel free to nip across to and find out if i did an ok job.

i am most grateful to bill strickland for recommending me as a worthy substitute, and to daniel mcmahon for having the good grace to accept bill's recommendation.

posted tuesday 8 march 2011


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bottom brackets again

'it offers the optimal combination of stiffness and weight for the overall system.'

bottom brackets

some of this may come as a surprise to you, but at this very moment in time, there are five distinct bottom bracket systems in production, having worked their way through one or two stepping stones that have now been unceremoniously cast aside, something you may only discover when trying to find replacement parts. the original cup and cone system still exists at the very basic entry level, even extending to the cartridge square taper formerly beloved of shimano and campagnolo. i doubt whether sram was born early enough to have participated in this particular area of cycling heritage. not that it is of any real consequence, but the principal four other systems are the standard 24mm axle, coupled with external cup bearings. this is essentially the system in operation via campagnolo's ultra torque and sram, fsa etc. then there is cannondale's (open standard) much publicised bb30 with 30mm axle and press fit bearings. the new standard as they would have it.

now i discover the hitherto unkown (to me at least) shimano bb86 press-in setup, using the standard 24mm axle but with the bearings in plastic sleeves which press directly into the frame allowing an increase in frame width from 68mm to 86mm. sram are the most recent players in the component market, and it is not too much of a surprise to discover that they too have their own ideas, perhaps less hidebound by tradition than japan or italy. this has resulted in the sram pressfit30 system, a variation of the bb30 using the same crank and frame width but with the bearings being housed in press-in plastic cups (the standard bb30 presses the bearings directly into the frame). placing the bearings in plastic allows a looser degree of frame tolerance and apparently improved bearing life.

bbright bottom bracket system

'in the process of investigating the different options, finite element analysis, hand calculations and parametric optimization were used to evaluate each option and optimize the parameters. these results were then used, along with manufacturability and other produceability factors, to decide on a design option that would give the best stiffness but still meet the other criteria.

why do we have all these bottom bracket 'standards'? is this a re-run of the web standards organisation? the latter was setup to pull all the browser purveyors together and agree on how web browsers should interpret html and style sheets. this they did, then microsoft went off and improved upon the agreed standards. this variation in bottom bracket sizes is just like everyone behaving like microsoft without figuring if a standard should exist in the first place. but much of that is conjecture and is of academic importance; all this exists in the eternal quest for stiffness, a quest that, unless i'm very much mistaken, is being foisted upon us, rather than being requested from within the ranks. be honest, when was the last time you set off to win the sprint for the speed limit signs, and all you could think of was 'if only this frame was a smidgeon stiffer in the bottom bracket department'?

we now live in a cycling world where marketing has taken on a life of its own with little recourse to you and me. the world of professional cycling has undergone a subtle transformation in the past decade or so, where bicycle manufacturers take a greater stake in the fortunes of our formula 1 riders, intent on providing them with every perceived fraction of advantage their finite element analysis says they should and could. having succeeded in doing so, they then have to sell the result to the rest of us, for more money than we really need to spend, and which ownership of which will make not one iota of difference to the hell-for-leather sprint to the coffee shop. it is the way of the world, and we are paying for it.

bbright bottom bracket system

'in the past, cranks have generally been designed by component manufacturers and bicycle frames have been designed by frame manufacturers. each of these groups tended to optimize their designs without taking the requirements of the other fully into consideration.'

the watchword of the current decade is asymmetry, a concept introduced quite forcibly to the always eager by pinarello. the dogma frame as supplied to team sky and movistar has two sides not created equal, for apparently we, in our contrived ignorance, were blissfully unaware that in the process of attending the aforesaid coffee shop, unequal forces were being thrust unmercifully through all that carbon fibre. if you share my unbridled cynicism, you would be surprised if it all ended there.

of course it hasn't.

the quotes that have peppered my scribblings to this point have been unceremoniously copied from, ostensibly another open standard of bottom bracket design, but ultimately tied to cervelo bicycles. it is they who have decided that all the variations painstakingly described above do not fill their endless search for immaculate compatibility between componentry and frame. in the process of doing so, the marketing department seem inadvertantly to have arrived at the snappiest of slogans: 'it's not narrow, it's not wide. it's right'. in which case, one cannot resist the temptation to ask why?.

bbright bottom bracket system

while i pride myself on at least a basic understanding of some of the engineering principles involved in bicycle manufacture, rather than provide my interpretation of their wording, it seems far more poignant that i let them speak for themselves. 'the design for bbright was chosen for the following reasons. the axle diameter of 30mm was selected to improve the axle and crank stiffness. in order to maximize frame width and stiffness, the left side bearing was moved out from the central plane of the bike by 11mm; effectively the same position as the bearing location in an external cup. this provides the advantage of allowing the frame members to grow to this full width on the non-drive side, significantly improving frame lateral stiffness without affecting clearance. the resulting 79mm axle length is a compromise between 68mm and 90mm axle lengths in existing systems, giving a more optimal overall system solution.'

did that make everything so much clearer? although not mentioned specifically by name, moving the left side bearing relative to its opposite number immediately fulfils the definition of asymmetrical again, in their own words 'bbright is the only asymmetrical design that enhances system stiffness (frame & crankset together) in two ways: increased frame tube dimensions and increased spindle diameter. the wider tube dimensions double the stiffness, while the larger spindle increases stiffness 18% with less weight.

bbright bottom bracket system

will any of us notice the difference? well, i haven't ridden anything built using this new standard so it would be less than fair for me to make pronouncements based on prejudice, a characterisation that, you will surely agree, inhabits start, middle and end of this article. however, i'm inclined to think that the only difference you and i will perceive will be frames with even more colossal bottom bracket areas than has been the case up till now. and to my mind, that's saying something.

other than a desire to continue selling something new to a gratefully accepting cycling public, i cannot see why the great god stiffness has such a hold on the world's cycle manufacturers, and it does worry me greatly that adding asymmetry to the equation has opened a whole plethora of new horizons.

what we need is pat mcquaid to step in and outlaw the practice of asymmetry, even if only on the premise that eddy remained symmetrical throughout his cannibal years.


posted tuesday 8 march 2011


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