rapha pro team softshell

rapha pro team softshell

i have used the following analogy on a previous occasion, but in the light of what i'm about to discuss, i feel it's one worth repeating.

rapha pro team softshell

in my early twenties i was the proud possessor of a beverley drumset, wrapped in a rather fetching gold foil effect finish. a combination of improving ability and over-confidence led me to consider adding a second bass drum mounted tom to the right of the existing example. by the time this decision had been made, beverley drums were no longer in production, but the premier drum company offered a similar finish in their range, so i ordered one from them.

since this additional drum was to sit on the right of the kit (from the drummer's perspective), the mounting bracket had need of being affixed to the left, displaying the red premier badge to a joyous and admiring audience. however, on placing the order with my nearest premier dealer, i was informed that it would be a month or so before i could expect delivery. the reason given was that premier "are making left tom-toms this month". on asking for further elucidation, it turns out that in order for the badge to face forwards, the drums currently produced would have the tom bracket on the right. at the end of the month, production would be swapped over and brackets fitted on the side i required.

rapha pro team softshell

this situation continued, i'm led to believe, until yamaha bought over an ailing premier drum company, pointing out in the process that placing a badge on both sides of the drum would mean any tom could be placed on any side.

as sergei would say "simples."

a classic case not so much of solving a problem as re-defining it. it's a situation that cycle clothing manufacturers have occasionally to consider, rather than simply attempting to progress the existing train of thought. this is the rationale behind rapha's pro team soft shell and its ilk. rather than simply aim at a constantly moving target, they (and others, it must be said) have shifted perspective. for many a long year, the thinking, in favour of the active and competitive cyclist, has been to continually search for the holy grail; total waterproofing combined with total breathability. except at a certain, undefined tipping point, the two become almost mutually exclusive.

rapha pro team softshell

so maybe it's time to re-define the problem.

over the years i have reviewed many a breathable waterproof jacket, all of which promise the holy grail, but few of which actually deliver. either the jackets could be worn by deep sea divers but simply don't breathe very well, or they do, but precipitation is offered unfettered access. as cyclists, we pretty much have to accept the fact that we're probably going to get wet one way or another. so perhaps the solution is to accept that as an immutable fact, and concentrate more on making sure the rider is warm and comfortable. hence rapha's pro team softshell.

rapha pro team softshell

i have avoided referring to this excellent item of apparel as a jacket, for it straddles the fine line between that and a more sophisticated version of a jersey. depending on your point of view, it could probably be either. the softshell fabric is not only impossibly soft, but uncannily stretchy. it's very close fitting; unless you are bereft of wobbly bits, you might wish to be circumspect in your choice of size. that's also a factor that ought to be considered depending on how much you'd like to wear underneath. when speaking to rapha's james fairbank as to the practicalities of such an item, he mentioned that fine tuning is designed to be made via the heft of your baselayer choice.

rapha pro team softshell

it's also what i might refer to as a race-fit, meaning it'll feel a smidgeon awkward when stood in the changing room admiring your slimline physique in the mirror. however, all falls into place (literally) when sat in the saddle, hands on the lever tops.

in the process of arriving at the ideal fabric and membrane combination for our delectation, rapha took former rapha condor jlt rider and acknowledged king of scotland, james mccallum all the way to iceland for three days to act as professional fall guy.

rapha pro team softshell

"I got up each day, hope it was raining (which it was) and head out for a couple of hours. I'd go through the testing protocol, provide rapha with feedback on paper and to camera while riding. Then it was back to the apartment, dry off the kit, and head out once more to repeat the process."

during my own review process i was more or less able to replicate jimmy's icelandic experience on at least a couple of occasions.

basically the softshell features a dwr (durable water repellent) impregnated fabric outer shell, sandwiching a breathable membrane between itself and a lightly fleeced inner. all seams are taped both inside and out, while the side panels feature small, laser-cut holes to aid breathability. the cuffs are also very close fitting, but highly elasticated, easing the process of fitting them over a pair of gloves and thus obviating any rain ingress at this juncture.

rapha pro team softshell

though we're all advised to have mudguards on the bike for close-packed club rides in the winter, that's not a protocol the pros are likely to observe, so the centre rear pocket and the portion below are coated in a waterproof plastic coating. though this might seem like something of a gimmick, in practice it works unbelievably well. those three pockets (and a fourth zipped security pocket) are also part of this redefined solution. though rapha and their competitors all offer foldable rain jackets, wearing one will more often than not obscure access to the three pockets on a race jersey. thus the choice becomes one of getting very wet, albeit briefly, or maybe losing the opportunity to eat. cold, wet hands are not the ideal tool to faff about trying to grab an energy bar from an obscured pocket.

i'm sure most of us recall a cold, wet and windy milan sanremo in 2013.

rapha pro team softshell

so far, so good. the build quality is magnificent and the fit quite impeccable, but how well does it work when push comes to shove? i asked james mccallum if he figured that product development such as this, benefitted from professional rider input?

"Yes. However, I believe it also depends on the individual. As a pro, you just ride what you are given. That usually consists of different jackets, jerseys, baselayers, gloves etc. Some of it is, great but some of it's not. You generally make do and if that doesn't work, you try something else or moan about how crap it is. Of course, sometimes riders will say it's great just to look good in front of the sponsors.
"The brief for this garment was very simple: does it offer protection in the worst of weather? Firstly, you need to have a good relationship with the elements; most just hate rain. Fortunately I'm one of the weirdos who actually likes the rain and cold.
rapha pro team softshell "Being a part of the Pro Team Softshell project was great, because i tried my damnedest to make the jacket fail. Every puddle, every kind of precipitation, i aimed for it. Needless to say, it didn't happen. Even at zero degrees with 30mm of rain and 70kph winds."

though i didn't get the opportunity to travel to iceland to ride with the softshell, i managed a combination of rain, hail, galeforce winds and temperatures ranging from minus three degrees all the way to eight degrees. perhaps the first thing to point out is that it's not totally waterproof, but then neither are similar garments from others and, ultimately, that's not the point. however, it was more waterproof than i expected.

rapha pro team softshell

i'm afraid to admit i didn't quite take james fairbank at his word. though i did vary the thickness of my baselayer, i chickened out by augmenting them with either a long-sleeve rapha 'cross jersey or more than once, the sky climber's jersey (i did say it would prove more versatile than its marketing promised). once or twice i erred too heavily on the side of caution, though i'm sure i can be forgiven. when it's wet, windy and cold outside, logic would dictate that a softshell/baselayer combination would be insufficient protection from those elements.

rapha were right, i was wrong.

rapha pro team softshell

the rapha pro team softshell is a superbly versatile garment, currently pretty much state of the art as regards foul weather cycle clothing. rather than making every effort to be specifically waterproof or breathable, it combines the best of both aspects to make a deliberate stab at keeping the rider comfortable and all but oblivious to any malevolent elements encountered along the way. i cannot deny i had serious misgivings as to its promised effectiveness prior to riding 2014's festive 500, but after 612km (i always said i was no good with numbers) clad in the red softshell, i am converted.

on my first outing i packed a rainjacket in case i suffered a puncture or mechanical, but there really was no need. granted, perpetual forward motion allows the softshell to carry out its mission in a more pragmatic fashion. once you're warm, it insulates particularly well for such a thin fabric. conversely, those perforations on the side panels do a very good job of preventing overheating.

technical cycle clothing is every bit as much of a moving target as it ever was, but it's comforting to know that apparel providers such as rapha are willing to consider a modicum of lateral thinking when attempting to re-invent the wheel.

the rapha pro team softshell is available in either red or grey, in sizes from xs to xxl (medium reviewed) at a cost of £200. thanks to james mccallum and james fairbank for assistance with this review.

rapha pro team softshell

monday 5 january 2015

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brooks cambium c15 saddle

brooks cambium c15

"are you sitting comfortably? then i'll begin."

brooks cambium c15

some of you of a certain age will remember the above phrase, while others will have been too young to recall. and a whole bunch of others won't have the faintest idea of what i'm on about.

before bbc radio organised itself into a set of numbers (currently digitally up to number six i believe), the above quoted phrase was a regular feature of listen with mother, a weekly fifteen minute slot on the bbc light programme. such was the apellation applied to what eventually became radio two after 1967.

the phrase, utimately to be included in the oxford book of quotations, was an adlib by one of the programme's presenters, julia lang. listen with mother occupied the 1:45pm slot each weekday afternoon, just before woman's hour, presenting stories, songs and nursery rhymes for the under fives. the programme ended in 1982, but not before both it and woman's hour transferred to the bbc home service, which those of us in the uk now know more commonly as radio four.

brooks cambium c15

who knew the early days of radio were so complex?

the phrase has surfaced in many others situations, not only in movies, but also in rock songs (the moody blues penned a song of the same name on their 1969 album 'on the threshold of a dream'), so i feel less than insolent by re-introducing it at this early stage of the new year. for when it comes to riding a bicycle, it seems not an extraordinary question to ask. you can add all the expensive trinketry you like to that carbon fibre frame in the bike shed, and you can train until the veins stand out on your forehead, but if you're not comfortable when seated, all the ceramic bearings in the world are not going to enhance a diet of regular bike rides.

the brooks cambium c17 was the english leather company's first foray outside their usual comfort zone. fabricated from an organic canvas top married to a gum rubber base, suddenly there was no need to wield that little spanner under the nose of the saddle to maintain the tension as bum and saddle fought manfully to be the ultimate victor. the other notable benefit was the obviated need to cover a brooks saddle with its ill-fitting waterproof cover when leaving the bike outside as froth supping commenced.

brooks cambium c15

the c17 offers a wider base than its new best pal, the c15, perhaps inadvertantly categorising itself as more appropriate for the touring or commuting cyclist. but perhaps in order to relive a portion of its racing heritage, brooks have released the similarly constructed c15 with what i'm happy to refer to as a more sporting profile, one that looks not out of place on (for instance) a colnago c60. of course, there will be those who disagree, but the day when a brooks would have been considered too heavy for use in the professional peloton has pretty much gone for good. with stories of mechanics adding lead to the top tubes of carbon bicycles in order that they might satisfy the uci's minimum limit, a few extra grams (405g to be precise) on a useful component would hardly seem too onerous.

however, construction and weight are a tad irrelevant if posterior comfort is not satisfied. it's a factor that has become ever more important over recent years as bicycle manufacturers spend ever more of their research and development pennies on trying to make the frame as stiff as humanly possible. ally the latter inescapable fact to a road network that strives daily to emulate paris-roubaix, and comfort in the saddle becomes a proportionally more desirable feature.

brooks cambium c15

i have made mention over recent days of the less than pristine repairs applied to the roads around islay's western extremities. it is a sad but notable fact that when traversing these particular pathways, i have subconsciously been trying to avoid those repairs in order that my perambulations might be less uncomfortable than they promised to be. conditions such as these not only answer the daily question as to why my arms are sore, but do their damndest to rattle my posterior. in the case of the latter affectation, i'm rather glad the cambium arrived more or less at the same time as the colnago.

i'm not sure where the upper limits of praise towards a saddle must end, but the c15 deserves my utmost recommendations. despite more of a constant battering than i recall from last year's festive 500, i'd be hard pushed to recall a day when either pain, discomfort or numbness reared their ugly heads. sure, a brooks, just like any saddle, will rarely equal lounging in a parker-knoll, but on a true racing bicycle like the c60, the cambium acquitted itself admirably. and its colnago days are far from over; when the c60 heads home, the rust coloured canvas (definitely my favourite colour) will move over to the c40, continuing to allow me to sit comfortably.

for those who always figured a brooks saddle would be the last thing they'd fit to state of the art carbon, i'd seriously suggest you reconsider, beginning with a cambium c15.

the brooks cambium c15 saddle is available in rust (as reviewed), black or natural at an rrp of £115.99. brooks saddles are distributed in the uk by extra uk

brooks cambium c15

brooks cambium c15 saddle

sunday 4 january 2015

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cycling stars trump card game

cycling stars trumps card game

only the other evening, i remarked to mrs washingmachinepost, that i was surpised at the increased number of tv adverts promoting online gambling, whether the so-called virtual casino, or one of the many varieties of online bingo. aside from the particular ineptness of the adverts themselves, i can only assume that there is a large percentage of the british population glued to their laptops, tablets and phones joining in this new set of hobbies. peak-time television advertising is hardly what you and i would refer to as cheap, let alone the costs of making an advert in the first place.

it is relatively common knowledge that ultimately, the banker always wins. though i may have missed the press release, i cannot recall any news of a bookmakers or casino having gone into administration. cycling stars trumps card game it seems there is an endless queue of those willing to burn through their earnings or savings in the often fruitless quest to improve the bank balance.

however, no matter my personal opinion of gambling, i can't quite see how online poker works. though i have no idea whatsoever how to play the game (i struggle with 'snap'), i was always led to believe that much of the skill involved was centred round the archetypal poker face. the ability to bet on your own hand of cards was augmented by that of intuiting how others were faring by examining their faces. like many of a certain generation, my introduction to the existence of the game was garnered via western movies. saloons in the west were populated by tables round which cowboys would play endless games of poker. many scenes dwelt on the inscrutability of those playing.

cycling stars trumps card game

so, when it comes to christmas time and dinner with family, the mere mention of card games has me listing several excuses that might obviate the dining extravaganza altogether. except this year i was able to undermine any distress by taking along my own set of very different cards. conceived by condor cycles' claire beaumont and illustrated by rupert smissen, these trump cards bring a means of enjoyment for the cognoscenti while offering the opportunity to educate the masses in the path of the sporting velocipedinist.

cycling stars trumps card game

basically speaking, each card features an illustration of a specific cyclist, accompanied by a numerical rating of their abilities in particular categories. for example, roger de vlaeminck is surmised as follows: panache-45, notoriety-47, wins-77, climbing-57, sprinting-68, toughness-79. once all cards are dealt and player one decided, you can either opt for playing the top card's principal character's attribute, or try to be more strategic and opt for one you think might fare better in the long term.

three games on christmas day had me win one, but provide salutory lessons to my family on how to pronounce not only vlaeminck, but louison bobet, joep zoetemelk and fiorenzi magni, the latter with a toughness rating of 89. christmas may well be done and dusted for another year, but there are still those long transfers between stages. what better way to get to know your team-mates than a set of cycling stars trump cards?

the cycling stars trump cards are published by laurence king publishing and available as of january 2015.

saturday 3 january 2015

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velobici ribbed merino collar & thumb tip merino gloves

velobici collar

it's long time since anyone has made a western movie of any great note. gone, seemingly, are the days of john wayne and clint eastwood, when the indians were defending their lands yet depicted as the baddies. and how long since we've seen two stetsoned individuals face each other in the dusty main street, ready and willing to find out who's the quickest draw. nowadays it's all about motor cars that convert themselves into sizeable mechanical monsters, or small, large footed creatures that inhabit middle earth.

bob dylan may well have been on the money when telling us that the times they are a changing.

but some of the more obscure differences between westerns then and modern life concerns trains. granted, even the americas have progressed to diesel and electric locomotives, but i believe they still require prospective passengers to board the carriages from the ground rather than from a raised platform as on this side of the pond. and then there's the small matter of moving from one carriage to another when chasing the baddies the full length of the train.

velobici collar

you will perhaps have made note of the fact that, in pretty much every western movie, there is often simply a door at the end of each carriage, leading to a wide step from which a leap of faith need be made over the coupling mechanism to reach the next carriage. health and safety would have a fit if we had maintained that situation. the last time i travelled south on one of richard branson's red trains, each successive carriage offered simple access, guarded from the iniquities of a speeding outdoors by means of a juncture resembling little more than an accordion. i doubt anyone would mind if i referred to this as an interface, a feature that has its place in contemporary cycling, particularly at this time of year.

i'm thinking here specifically of the inevitable gap that manifests itself between the collar top of whichever winter jacket you may be wearing and your neck and chin. though many winter jackets feature tall, zipped collars to exclude the elements, there is a limit to their practical height and flexibility. what's needed is something many of us have been wearing for years; a soft collar that commences atop the jersey below and extends to just under the chin, offering ample length that it might be pulled up over frozen jaws, should the need arise.

velobici white tip gloves

speaking from experience, the ideal material for this interface has to be merino wool. a ribbed knitting pattern offers just a tad more constitution, while a seamless knit obviates any areas of possible irritation. just like that from leicester's velobici. their merino ribbed collar must surely be one of the finest examples on the market, combining practicality with a rather luxurious demeanour? and fear not that its coiffure might not fit between a tightly fitting jacket collar and an exposed neck. it's something that simply never happened.

the interface metaphor is also extended to their, once again, seamlessly knitted merino gloves, this time with a white thumb tip to complement the collar. do not for a minute consider that i'm suggesting you wear these wafer thin cosy gloves as the sole means of grasping the bars or ultrashift levers. we are not uninformed to the benefits of layering; that's the sort of info no cyclist should ride without knowing. thus, should it become a tad parky outdoors, wearing the velobici merino gloves under a properly constructed pair of winter cycling gloves is, in more than just a few cases, a sensible thing to do.

of course, other than the word velobici applied to both products, there is nothing that overtly suggests that cycling may be at the base of both items. thus it is that a trip to the newsagents on a cold winter's day might usefully be augmented by wearing both or either, well away from any nearby colnago or pinarello. both are fabricated from high quality merino wool, offering all the thermal benefits for which the material is renowned. and at £35 each, style and warmth is every bit as accessible to the civilian in your life as to your goodself.

velobici ribbed collar and white tip gloves

friday 2 january 2015

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bar fly garmin handlebar mount

bar fly 2.0

i made mention on twitter only the other day, that there are two features of the interweb that i avoid with almost unfailing regularity. those are facebook and strava. before you think me a complete luddite (which i probably am), i do have accounts for both, but merely to facilitate certain aspects of writing thewashingmachinepost. certainly not for any social media reasons.

when the web was young, blogs had yet to be invented, and we were only just discovering that hyperlinks didn't always have to be blue and underlined, a gentleman by the name of jacob nielsen waged a single-handed battle against what he took to be a disparaging of web-page standards. though not alone, he was most certainly not in favour of what was then macromedia flash and would slap your wrists if even so much as one hyperlink refused to be blue.

though he had, and to a certain extent, still does have a point (his website currently still displays blue hyperlinks, though they're not underlined), many of his disagreements were seen to contradict the visual ideas of print designers (such as myself) who were intent on migrating their skills to the world of pixels. it is my contention that mark zuckerberg of facebook, read each and every treatise on web design written by mr neilsen, then ignored them completely and built his own pervasive edifice. on the ocasions that i have had need of following a facebook link either via twitter or one sent to me by e-mail, i am aghast at the pages that occupy my browser.

what am i supposed to be looking at? what in heaven's name is that all about?

bar fly 2.0

strava, on the other hand, i have no real problem with in the comprehension stakes. like facebook, it obviously fufils a need; i simply have no real idea what that is. my account has been used only to provide screenshots when reviewing bicycle mounted gps units, either because the item in question has no bundled software or web presence of its own, or it seems less than usable. drilling down even further, i'm not all that desperate to ride with either a computer or gps unit on the bars in the first place. i'm well past the point of needing to see a slew of numbers in front of me when i'm out on the bicycle; i'm not that fast, my power output is probably derisory and i've been riding these roads for over 25 years. i'm not going to get lost.

however, and it's a big however, when it comes to rapha's annual festive 500, i'd prefer to err on the side of accuracy. it's all very well for me to show my arrogance by mentally calculating the distances covered each day of my festive season. i'm usually within a kilometre or so, but for the sake of being absolutely right rather than approximately so, i ride each day of the 500 with a garmin 810 affixed to the handlebars just in front of the stem.

this would be more usually accomplished with the standard mount that arrived in the box, but in previous years, widely varying weather conditions have necessitated switching bikes occasionally. to be honest, trying to remove the mount from one bike and affix it to the substitute, though hardly onerous, is a bit of unwanted faff. this year, thanks to the graciousness of edinburgh's 2pure distribution, i had a bar fly 2.0 onto which the garmin was placed each morning.

bar fly 2.0

cleverly, the bar fly cannot be overtightened, even on carbon handlebars, an appropriate feature given that this year's transport sported bars of precisely that material. the mount offers two positions for your garmin gps (models 200, 500, 510, 800 and 810 are all supported) depending on its size and how close you'd like it to be to the front of your stem. it can also be had in yellow, white, turquoise and black. that mounting bracket allows close proximity to the stem clamp, effectively making the garmin an aesthetic in-line extension of the stem.

considering the unruly mess in which islay's singletrack roads exist these days (it's a sad comment when you find yourself riding to avoid the road repairs, because they make for a most uncomfortable and occasionally dangerous path), bicycle, rider, garmin and bar fly almost emulated james bond by being both shaken and stirred. the gps unit remained firmly affixed throughout, no matter what i rode through or over and the bar fly never budged a millimetre.

the shiny plastic of the bar fly makes it look a tad cheaper than the stock garmin unit, but when the latter is in place, it can't be seen anyway. and considering how well it carried out its intended function, i have no cause for complaint whatsoever. its compatibility with several garmin units makes it ideal if you own more than one of those, allowing an enviable degree of swapability. according to the minimal packaging, the mount is also compatible with shimano's di2 module as well as that of campagnolo's eps. i'll have to take their word for that, as i own neither and the bike to which it was fitted rather satisfactorily ran on mechanical super record.

and retailing at around a fiver less than the official garmin mount doesn't do any harm either.

tate labs bar fly 2.0

thursday 1 january 2015

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the belgian connection

belgian chocolate

we've done pretty well for weather over the festive period; christmas eve might have been a tad harsh, but aside from sub-zero temperatures, eveything else has been ginger peachy. those in the north of england perhaps fared rather less well, with a sizeable amount of snow unceremoniously dumped in their gardens and on the roads. for the more intrepid, that would simply be an excellent reason to get the cyclocross bike out the shed and carry on regardless. for the rest of you, halfords have been advertising indoor turbo trainers in their boxing day sale.

somewhere like tenerife more than likely has its attractions if christmas and new year at home doesn't prove to be an irresistible draw. a couple of weeks in the sun with the bike at this time of year can doubtless be justified in the name of early season training. a pristine case of getting the miles in where the likelihood of freezing hail, rain, snow and galeforce winds are simply something you can read about in the daily papers. at the time of writing, the weather in tenerife is slightly overcast but with a temperature of 20 degrees celcius, some twelve degrees warmer than my back garden.

from the professional rider's point of view, a training camp in warmer climes such as the canary isles is probably more than welcome, and i believe it has been the location of choice for team sky over the past couple of years, before some of them head down under for the tour of the same name. however, though i do believe those in charge of the professional world tour teams are better acquainted with their needs than a scotsman sited on the edge of the atlantic, for the riders intent on making their mark on the spring classics, i do rather wonder if an equatorial location is really in their best interests.

having ridden only a modest portion of paris-roubaix's cobbles several years ago, i'm happy to agree that there truly is nothing to compare. however, now that the roads department has had its wicked way with the aerosol tar machine round the circumference of loch gorm, that particular road has far more in common with the roubaix cobbles than with the ascent to mount teide.

in the process of undertaking rapha's festive 500 over the past few days, i have had cause to ride that particular road more than once, and not always in the same direction. and it's not just that singular point of travel; with islay's endemic agricultural heritage, there is more than just one road featuring a less than billiard table flatness, aggravated on occasion by a liberal dousing of hail or horizontal rain. surely those would be a far more sympathetic training ground to aid success in the spring classics?

my female colleagues in the office almost to a woman, seem plagued by a lack of cosiness. i mean this as no casting of aspersions on their amenable nature, but by way of comment on a constant need for the heating to be on at full blast from morning till night. i believe that my velocipedinal nature protects me from such thermal iniquity, but has repercussions when i nip out to buy my daily newspaper and something for lunch. at that particular point, the chill outside is made worse by comparison to the sauna inside.

surely the very same situation is bound to occur when returning from a few weeks in the sun to a series of races during which riders will have more than ample opportunity to evaluate every item of winter clothing their apparel sponsors can provide? remember 2013's milan-sanremo?

but there is an added incentive that, if nothing else, confirms my long-held assertion that the hebrideans are the flandrians of the west. as the mighty dave and i sat comfortably in the red leather chesterfield in debbie's last sunday, the individually wrapped chocolates accompanying our froth advised of being of belgian origin.

need i say more?

wednesday 31 december 2014

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english as she is spoke

the big corkscrew

the manufacturing of both bicycles and their associated componentry must be something of an unquantifiable minefiled at times. many years ago, when i had notions of being the predecessor of both derek mclay and jude gerace (wheelsmith and sugar respectively), the thought occurred that a moment's incompetence or lack of forethought might the big corkscrew mean that a purchaser of one of my masterfully built wheels became a cropper while riding. though it didn't prevent me considering a career as a spokesperson, it's not something that ought to be forgotten, and i'm sure the two mentioned above have the situation well under control.

but consider all those other bits and bobs that have subtly morphed from metal to carbon over the years (depending on manufacturer). though carbon is far better understood these days, industry (and not just the cycle industry) doesn't yet have the years of experience that accompanies steel and aluminium. i recall the american bicycle company building a mountain bike from beryllium at a reputed cost of $24,000, a price that probably indicates why the metal didn't quite catch on in bike shops. but while shimano and sram dither round the outskirts of carbon fibre, the big corkscrew campagnolo have dipped both feet firmly in the black stuff, fashioning chainsets, derailleurs, brake levers, wheels and seatposts from the ubiquitous and far from inexpensive material.

that undoubtedly means finding the ideal compromise between the weight savings promised by carbon fibre and the tried and tested strengths of steel and aluminium. i am, however, not wishing to indulge in any scaremongering; i have no evidence, apocryphal or otherwise, that we have anything to worry about. in the case of vicenza, they have an enviable reputation for overbuilding, perhaps one that's lessened over recent years, but i'm sure more than just yours truly has a chainset in the bikeshed that's the only thing preventing the latter from falling down completely.

the big corkscrew

similarly, the carbon fibre from colnago. when asked why his bicycles were not closer to the uci's minimum weight limit, ernesto reputedly answered "because i like to sleep at nights."

but, to return once more to the italian giants of the component industry, it's not simply bicycle components that tend to benefit from their predilection for solid construction. legendary in terms of our velocipedinal heritage, the campagnolo corkscrew has long held a reputation as the most substantial means of removing corks from wine bottles. in fact, its very constitution suggests that nasa might easily use the device to extract space capsules from the top of their saturn rockets. it's all very well to have a super record groupset affixed to cambiago's the big corkscrew carbon fibre, but if there's not a campagnolo corkscrew in the cutlery drawer or the display cabinet in the team clubhouse, your street cred is as nothing.

but though vicenza may be the captains of industry when it comes to strength, fortitude and style, the hapless fellow who sits in the translation booth at campagnolo may have need of a second opinion. when selecting the relevant page on campagnolo's new online shop, with the sole purpose of having a corkscrew despatched in the direction of the croft, i could barely suppress a snigger at the page title displayed in my browser...

'Big The Corkscrew'

campagnolo: the big corkscrew

tuesday 30 december 2014

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