the big bike revival

the big bike revival

common lore would have it that, as the years roll by, the ability of each individual to maintain the same average speed as last year visibly diminishes. robert millar pointed out at one occasion, that once past the age of thirty, it was necessary to train twice as hard in order to remain at last year's level, the implication being that a more concentrated regime would be necessary to get any faster. oddly enough, the velo club's sunday morning ramblings appear to be proving the complete opposite.

the big bike revival

granted, on yesterday's ride, we were all conscious of the fact that paris-roubaix coverage had begun before we'd even departed from debbie's and there was no time to be wasted if we harboured hopes of returning home before boonen and his pals reached the arenberg forest. so despite perambulating a route that has featured on oh so many other sundays, we were sat in the coffee shop supping froth a good fifteen minutes earlier than anyone could have expected. and just in case you were wondering, i enjoyed every cobbled centimetre of the trouvee arenberg and the following sectors.

the big bike revival

i have, on previous occasions, made note of the fact that at the very least, lord carlos and myself have ridden in weather conditions that really ought to have kept us indoors. this is not an expression of bravado, but more an admonishment of acute stupidity, even if we expressed sentiments of enjoyment on reaching home. we are, however, nothing if not ambassadors of our velocipedinal activity, fervently hoping that our regular outings of a sunday morning might be considered as favourable proselytising of the cause. for though i have yet to pass a runner on the road with a smile on their face, we can be seen laughing ironically even after breathing through our ears in the bruichladdich sprint.

the big bike revival

considering the early part of this century had only yours truly riding solo around the principality, the fact that we are now composed of an average of eight or nine would indicate that these ambassadorial efforts have borne modest fruit. but as ever, there is substantial room for improvement.

in a small, vehicle obsessed community such as ours, with little in the way of a frequent public transport system, it is an uphill struggle to find any other individuals, male or female, eager and willing to ride bendy bars and skinny wheels. that's not to say, however, that we would not be every bit as welcoming if some were of a mind to even adopt the way of the springy farm gate. the discipline is unimportant; riding a bicycle is of paramount concern.

the big bike revival

this appears to be the philosophy behind may and june's big bike revival organised by cycling uk, formerly known as the cyclists' touring club. i'm not sure i actually agree with the notion that cycling needs a specific revival; ever since bradley created his infamous bubble, the number of bums on saddles has notably increased, even north of the border. however, the big bike revival has been conceived as an initiative in support of the scottish government's vision of having 10% of all journeys made by bicycle by 2020, i'd have been inclined to set the bar a bit higher than that, but nobody has ever accused me of being a realist.

those responsible for this purported revival are keen to get bicycle recycling centres, bike shops, cycling clubs and community organisations to participate, offering small grants of up to £1000 to help make the party a success. if this sounds like the very thing with which you would like to be associated, you would do well to get in touch with the big bike revival cycle development officer, ralph jessop at the e-mail address i've listed below, or pay a visit to the website.

don't be shy; you know you want to.

monday 10 april 2017

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specialized roubaix comp

specialized roubaix comp

paris-roubaix is the highlight of the season as far as i'm concerned including, bygone days of oddly shaped treks, suspension bianchis and rock shox roubaix front forks none of which, if memory serves, offered much in the way of assistance to those keen to win a cobble for the mantlepiece. that, however, hasn't prevented specialized from building bicycles named after the race, with some form of springy bits to aid not only those who actually race from compiegne to roubaix, but the rest of us who like to think we could.

specialized roubaix comp

for 2017, gone are the zertz inserts about which i've always held suspicions, to be replaced with a slightly springy seatpost and an adjustable springy stem. the latter consists of a cartridge sat atop the steerer, inside which is a real, live spring. or potentially, three different springs, coloured black, blue or yellow. the stiffest version is factory fitted, but replacing it in order to find the most appropriate for your needs is a simple process. the stem cap is, in fact, not really a stem cap in the manner to which we have become accustomed. the centre-bolt is, in fact, a little screw, tightening of which has no effect on the headset whatsoever. it merely screws into the top of the spring cartridge. removing this and the stem reveals the latter; to replace the spring, it's a simple case of unscrewing the top with a 20mm cone spanner, removing the existing spring and popping in your choice of suspension.

specialized roubaix comp

headset adjustment is distinctly non-standard, effected by means of tiny allen bolts on each side of the steerer. by inserting a 2.5mm allen wrench and loosening the bolts, it's then a matter of inserting a 2mm allen wrench to tighten the lower allen bolts. those press down on the upper bearing race, thus tightening the headset. all this is covered by what i can only refer to as the headset cover which sits in a scalloped cutout on the head tube. if you'd like to alter the stack height, there's a spare, differently sized cover along with the spare springs. i didn't alter the stack height during the review period as the factory setting suited just fine.

specialized roubaix comp

aside from the springy stem and headset region, the carbon frame is very similar to that of several other specialized models, though there has been a somewhat odd change made to the seatpost clamp. instead of an external aluminium, single-bolt clamp, there are now two allen bolts towards the middle of the seat tube, just under the top tube and pretty much where the seatstays join the main triangle. both of these bear torque settings and have need of being equally tensioned. however, i'm really not in the habit of carrying a torque wrench with me when i go cycling and i can't see what was wrong with the one-bolt system it replaces.

nonetheless, i cannot deny that in practice, it works just fine.

the sloping-topped carbon frame features specialized's almost trademark three bottle bosses on the down tube, allowing variable cage placement, with a further two bosses on the seat tube. the cabling from the shimano ultegra hydraulic disc brakes and the mechanical shifters are all internally routed, including that for the front disc, which runs inside the left fork leg. bars and stem are both from the specialized cupboard as is the very comfortable bar tape, while the ultegra levers incorporate the hydraulic cylinders, offering an extra hand-position when on the hoods.

specialized roubaix comp

the wheels feature the same dt swiss tubeless-ready rims as found on the specialized crux, but strangely are shod with 26mm specialized rubber as opposed to the 28mm on some of its more expensive brethren. in keeping with the majority of today's disc wheels, the forks are formed for thru-axles, but in an odd variation from those on the crux, the axle levers are not ratcheted, meaning that they sit at whatever angle they end up, no matter how ungainly that looks.

i figure velominati will have something to say about that.

specialized roubaix comp

though front and rear mechs are sourced from shimano's ultegra groupset, the rear married to an 11-32t 105 cassette, the compact alloy chainset (50/34), however, is badged praxis works zayante, supported by external bearing cups as opposed to the more common press-fit. i for one prefer the former to the latter. though probably remarkably common, i really hadn't noticed that the front disc is 160mm while the rear is only 140mm, no doubt specced to balance out the impressive braking power. the saddle is one of specialized's excellent phenom models with a slot in the middle.

going for a ride

specialized roubaix comp

i have ridden enough bicycles from the specialized stable to know just how good their carbon frames truly are. i still figure their crux elite cross bike is the best i've ever ridden, so if we can take that part as read, what we're all desperate to know is just how effective the sprung stem really is. i figured the only way to reveal that part was to head straight for the abbatoirenberg forest road, one of islay's most atrocious amalgamation of patchwork tarmac.

in years past i have actually ridden a section of paris-roubaix cobbles, an experience that was hugely enjoyable, but gave the impression that the headset was intending to depart the head tube at any moment. the chattering noise emanating from the roubaix over islay's rough stuff was highly reminiscent of riding the roubaix cobbles. so much so, in fact, that i was sure the headset had possibly not been correctly set prior to being sent from the manufacturer (i was wrong). the accompanying bouncing from the stem and bars did nothing to alter that thought.

specialized roubaix comp

however, after a kilometre or so, you begin to get the hang of what the suspension can achieve and to incorporate the chattering noise into the reality of an enhanced bike ride. hebridean singletrack more often than not, is peppered with cattle grids; join those with a crap road surface and the joys of a moderately sprung seatpost and bars begin to make a lot of sense.

over the course of the review period, i switched between all three springs, and though there's not a whole lot of difference between them, the middle weight suited me best, even though it chattered more than the stiffest, but not nearly as much as the lightest. it would be nice if there was some form of manual lock-out, because it's not always necessary to bounce and there is a smidgeon of bobbing experienced when climbing out of the saddle.

suspension aside, however, the roubaix does not disappoint. yes, with an alloy chainset and disc brakes, it's definitely not the lightest machine i've ever ridden, but in practice, that's a tad academic. few of us spend our weekends on the ventoux or alpe d'huez and it would be a tad iniquitous to think a bicycle named after paris-roubaix would suit the intrepid grimpeur. that said, it's no slouch when the road goes up and the frame has a chuckability rating that would bring a smile to the face of most riders.

specialized roubaix comp

and if it goes up fairly well, it goes down even better, exhibiting the sort of stability that would account for the descending bravado exhibited by vincenzo nibali. however, as the name would imply, it's finest hour is being thrown about on the very worst of roads. yes, the same level of comfort and insulation can be experienced from the saddle of a crux but probably not at the sort of speeds a narrower set of road tyres will allow.

it would be less than revelationary to state that shimano's gear changing lived up to expectations and the stopping power offered by the hydraulic discs was most welcome, particularly when a tractor sneaked out from the rspb reserve as i accelerated downhill (i'm not sure who got the bigger fright). oddly enough, the sram rival discs on the crux behave almost silently in the wet, while shimano's ultegras on the roubaix emitted an embarrassing howl when even mildly damp. ah, the vicissitudes of technological advancement.

specialized roubaix comp

i will cheerfully confess that my first few rides, though pleasant enough, did not have me convinced that the roubaix suspension was something that would rock my world. however, after switching to the mid-weight spring and getting into a roubaix groove, i'd be inclined to fight you for possession, such was the fun and excitement offered by the ride. however, the virtues of its versatility do not stop there.

i have in the bikeshed a pair of challenge 700 x 33c strade bianche tyres which worked superbly on the crux during last august's ride of the falling rain, so i thought i'd try the same on the roubaix. unfortunately, i failed to have the front tyre seat properly on a wheelsmith disc front wheel; the tyre's fault, not the wheel. however, it was notable that there is in fact clearance available on the roubaix both front and rear for such large rubber, probably one of the few road frames to offer as much.

specialized roubaix comp

having failed with the 33mm rubber, i fitted a set of challenge 700x28c paris-roubaix tyres to the wheelsmiths subsequently creating possibly one of the world's finest bicycles to trammel over trashed road surfaces. there's just something about handbuilt wheels...

there are more expensive versions of the roubaix - a member of the velo club peloton currently owns a £6,000 roubaix pro - but to my mind, the £2650 roubaix comp offers everything i figure i'll ever need from such a bicycle. the suspension may come across as a bit of a marketing gimmick (paris-roubaix has been won many, many times without springs), but even if that is even partially true, its benefits were more than welcome for removing the sting engendered by unkempt roads. granted, its blue/black colour scheme doesn't change colour when the sun comes out, but boy is it great fun.

specialized roubaix comp

sunday 9 april 2017

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tuibo - a wearable assistant for cyclists

tuibo wearable assistant cycling vest

i've no idea who told me this, but at sometime in the past it was pointed out that you could always identify a professional racing cyclist by the fact that he/she never gave hand-signals when turning. i've no idea how true that is, though obviously enough, signalling a left turn at the top of the champs elysees during the final stage of the tour would be somewhat excessive. the only (former) professional racing cyclist i have ever ridden with was certainly very miserly when it came to signalling any intent, but he is hardly a representative sample of the entire peloton.

tuibo wearable assistant cycling vest

the highway code, however, does not append the word must in front of their advice about hand-signals for cyclists. yes, it is courteous to let those driving or riding behind you know what you plan to do next on approach to a junction, but just as is the case for motorists, there is no legal requirement so to do. and in certain cases, such as climbing a steep hill (like bowmore main street) with the intent on turning left or right, often the gradient makes life problematical enough without taking one hand off the bars to point in the direction of subsequent travel.

out here in the sticks, it's far less of problem than would be the case in urban or inner-city areas, but there have been two occasions when climbing the very street mentioned above, having signalled at the foot of the road and moved into the centre, that i've found myself about to be overtaken by a following car just at the point of turning right. i did rather wonder what they thought i was doing riding in the centre of main street in the first place, to attempt a rather dubious (and life threatening) overtaking manouevre, reinforcing my philosophy that everyone else on the road is an idiot apart from me.

tuibo wearable assistant cycling vest

there have been a number of admirable inventions over the decades to aid the hapless cyclist in situations as described above, but none of them seem to have exhibited any staying power. i recall road-testing a pair of cycling gloves with flashing red lights on the back which could be easily activated at the point of directional change. unfortunately the manufacturers had neglected to waterproof the switches and when palms became swot and hetty, the lights began flashing of their own accord and would not switch off.

when apple introduced the original ipad, it wasn't long before someone produced a rucksack with a clear pocket on the back and an app that allowed the cyclist to indicate instructions or directions on the rearward facing ipad screen. if that particular development made it to market, it has been conspicuous by its commercial absence.

tuibo wearable assistant cycling vest

mexican cyclist josé bañuelos pieck has taken what seems a more pragmatic approach with the development of a water-repellent vest incorporating turning and braking signals, a headlight and even a horn. the whole enchilada is washable, after the electrics have been removed and in the likely case that the commuting rider will be wearing a rucksack, it's expandable to fit over the top, without hampering its original purpose. cleverly, tuibo also has an integrated accelerometer to activate braking lights whenever you come to a sudden hault.

a perceived problem with such wearable devices is the need to buy it all over again when along comes an upgraded version, but in the case of tuibo, it has been conceived as a modular solution from the outset. even the basic version can become the ultimate solution by adding all the currently available components and theoretically any that the chaps subsequently develop. in the case of the headlight, it's a simple case of connecting it to the micro-usb cable included in the vest.

tuibo wearable assistant cycling vest

operation of the vest's features are actuated by buttons on a bar mounted controller, connected to the electronics via bluetooth, obviating the need for any wires that might impede normal cycling. the developers in mexico city realised that it was often more dangerous to raise an arm to signal than it was to not signal at all. by mounting the controls on the handlebar, there is thus no need to lessen your bike control to indicate in which direction you intend to travel.

as with many a new product these days, tuibo is the subject of a currently live kickstarter funding project, running until the end of this month. if you figure this would be the ideal solution to one or to many of your current commuting troubles, check the link below to pony up a few pounds to bring it to market. if i've managed the currency conversion correctly, you need pledge only around £28 if you'd like to receive one of the first tuibos off the production line.

the most practical solution to an ever-increasing problem i've seen so far.

tuibo water-repellent signalling vest

saturday 8 april 2017

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they don't paint them like that anymore

taliah lempert: byelorussian handlebars

at the commencement of my involvement with the road-going bicycle and the mechanicals thereof, i thought it a wizard-wheeze to acquire a new steel frame (there was no real alternative in those years) and assemble it into a complete bicycle by way of a shiny campagnolo groupset, hand-built (by yours truly) wheels, and all the other accoutrements required so to do. the cunning plan was to advertise to my admiring peers just how facile i could be in such matters, hopefully leading to lengthy queues at the bikeshed door to sign up for my expertise.

as it transpires, the only part of the above to come true was the happy ownership of a particularly fine, red, chorus equipped reynolds 531 framed bicycle on which i covered many happy kilometres. ah, the halcyon days of yore.

taliah lempert: byelorussian handlebars

one fondly remembered aspect of the build programme was the brake cable option featured on the campagnolo chorus brake levers. it so happens that the period under discussion coincided with the transition between brake cables that exited the top of the hoods and that of the now common concealment under the bar tape. should one opt for the latter, there were two little self-coloured plugs to conceal the holes; for your information, i preferred to have the cables emulate the bob dylan song and remain 'blowing in the wind'.

sadly, those days have long gone, unless you find yourselves in thrall to the vintage call of l'eroica, in which case such matters are probably de rigeur. that was also the time when drop bars described the archetypal classic bend, well in advance of the iniquities visited by both anatomic bends and the parabolic curve. those slinky curves, wrapped in cotton bar tape, were perfectly complemented by the curve of the exiting brake cables, always assuming attention had been paid when cutting the outer cable to length.

taliah lempert: byelorussian handlebars

on a personal note, i can think of few more attractive confluences than the juxtaposition of those flowing curves, unfortunately not always readily observable from the photo angle seen on most vintage cycle websites. in fact, it may take the artistic eye to pinpoint a fleeting gestalt such as that described above. it is for this very reason that artists of calibre and velocipedinal vision succeed where the lens of a camera is found wanting. artists such as brooklyn's taliah lempert.

it is quite some time since i first featured ms lempert's work in these black and yellow pixels, but my eye was well and truly caught by three oils occupying space in the studio section of her website. these are headed byelorussian bike - handlebars and though taliah has noted below panel number three (illustration above) "I'm thinking a lot of Lucien Freud. Maybe it's the neutral colours, maybe it's the brushy strokes", it was actually the first two paintings shown above that had me longing not only for the days of steel and flowing brake cables, but the days when i still exhibited a smidgeon of artistic talent myself.

these two may take the form of rudimentary studies for the final work, but their freshness, vitality and almost abstract form, pretty much encapsulate just what it was to be a newbie on a road bike with not the faintest idea of any limitations physical inpetitude might have imposed. far eastern carbon monocoque construction has brought a not always welcome uniformity to daily pelotonic matters. as the saying goes 'art lies in the details' and detail such as that exhibited by taliah in these three paintings along with many others in her portfolio are as much about why it's all about the bike as are the contents of the bike shed.

all illustrations copyright taliah lempert. | bicycle paintings

friday 7 april 2017

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quoc pham night road shoe

quoc pham 'night' road shoe

we've all been there, haven't we? i mean, i'm not about to admit to a somewhat regular faux pas that will single me out amongst the cognoscenti am i? because i fully expect to see the sagely nodding of heads accompanied by stroking of chins as you identify with my predicament. "we've all been there," i expect to hear you say.

sunday morning; having arisen at the crack of 08:30, made enough porridge for its slow release carbohydrates to see me through the morning's ride, ensured that i have adhered to a shaving regime that would spare me from fausto's admonishment, i completed final pre-flight checks, though obviously not as precisely as i ought to have. after extricating the bicycle from its nightly repose, it is at the point of clipping in that i realise all too late that the cleats on the shoes are no match for the pedals on the bike.

quoc pham 'night' road shoe

we've all been there, right?

disappointingly, this has happened on more than a singular occasion, a fact that i'm keen to place at the door of the ageing process, but is more likey that of erroneous disorganisation. as you can infer from the above monologue, i am in possession of more than one brand and type of pedal, the result of several years of reviews. to further complicate matters, depending on the bicycles in the bikeshed and the pedals available, they tend to rotate (if you see what i mean?) and i can't always recall which pedals are affixed to which bicycle. i'm sure it happens to us all the time.

doesn't it?

however, on receiving a stunning pink and long awaited pair of night road shoes from quoc pham, i made sure that the colnago and the specialized roubaix were replete with an appropriate pair of road pedals, the ones that accept triangular, three-point fixing cleats to avoid sunday morning complications.

quoc pham 'night' road shoe

following recent trends in road shoe design, quoc's road shoes feature good old-fashioned laces; unless you have a verifiable demand for tightening your footwear prior to a sprint, i would contend that laces are very much where it's at. according to quoc "We use a lace closure system partly because of our heritage, but also because it spreads pressure really well across the top of the foot.
  "We also hold a world wide patent on the double hole, 'Lock Lace' system that holds tension when needed and controls the pressure."

quoc refers to the two parallel lace holes featured at mid-point on the top of the shoe, as well as at the end of the closure. intended to ensure the laces do not loosen when in use, it's a system that works remarkably well indeed. every other pair of lace-up shoes in the cycling cupboard has a tendency to relax pressure over the course of a ride, as indeed do my day-to-day normal shoes. there's also a cunningly concealed elastic strap on the tongue to hold the excess lace in place, one that i bemoaned a lack of to quoc before he was kind enough to point out the error of my ways.

quoc pham 'night' road shoe

as mentioned above, quoc's new road shoes (available in black, pink or white with a synthetic upper, along with a real leather version) took a month or two longer to make it to market than previous correspondence might have suggested. "We wanted to release the shoe before autumn last year, but our first generation outsole had too much flex. So we had to revise it to make it stiffer." on the basis of my recent riding pleasure, the upgrade has made it well worth the wait. the combination of the lock lace system and the minimal amount of designed flex in the carbon composite sole makes the 'night' road shoe as close to state of the art as it's probably possible to get at the moment.

"For our first road shoes, the main goal was comfort, It is designed for the long distance ride; the gran fondo."

quoc pham 'night' road shoe

the synthetic microfibre upper not only offers a superior level of comfort and breathability, but makes it eminently practical to wipe off any inadvertant marks incurred in the heat of battle. the heel features an off-centre reflective strip in case your gran fondo takes a tad longer than planned and coupled with the salmon pink uppers of my review pair, you'd be hard to miss in the chainset region. the micro-fibre lining seems particularly adept at preventing sweaty feet, always an unwelcome trait in the showers at paris-roubaix (so i'm told) and at an all-up weight of under 280 grams per shoe, they were only marginally heavier than the tubeless tyres on my colnago master.

quoc pham 'night' road shoe

the ride is sublime; it's very rare that i have all but forgotten about my footwear when riding. standing up to climb as quickly as churning legs could manage, elicited no untoward movement from either the sole or the laced upper. combined with their incredible lightness of being, a bicycle with featherweight tubeless ready wheels and a pair of actual tubeless tyres defied gravity far more confidently than the physique of the rider would have initially suggested. and, i cannot really underline this fact enough, they're salmon pink.

each pair comes with a spare set of laces; the pink ones had black factory-installed and a pair of white ones concealed amongst the tissue paper lining in the box. a replaceable heel pad is a welcome bonus. for those less disposed towards velocipedinal ostentation, quoc's £219 per pair road shoes can also be purchased in black or a peloton friendly white. and for a mere £20 more, you can purchase the black leather version.

i have every confidence that from henceforth my sunday morning, quoc pham shod bike rides will suffer not from inadvertent shoe/pedal interface malfunctions. these are superb.

quoc pham 'night' road shoes

thursday 6 april 2017

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bike nation. how cycling can save the world. peter walker. yellow jersey softback 255pp £12.99

"Republican member of Wyoming's legislature, David Northrop, introduced a bill decreing that anyone riding a bike in the state should have a flashing light at the rear, and carry some photo ID. Oh yes, and be wearing high-visibility clothing in fluorescent orange, pink or green..."

peter walker: bike nation

one of islay's local constables visited the newspaper office last week to inform the editor of an upcoming advanced driving course to be held on the island. the target market for this educational situation is that of the younger driver, those who recently passed their driving test and are now haring about the principality in vauxhall astras and honda something-or-others with matt black windscreens and pretending to be lewis hamilton.

thankfully, of late there have been no serious accidents resulting from such anti-social behaviour, other than the occasional vehicle in a ditch at the edge of the peat moss, but many years ago, islay experienced a spate of serious and occasionally fatal motoring accidents. in order to forestall any repetition of such undesirable circumstances, the driving course has been organised to point out to this exuberant portion of our population that those noisy vehicles in which they attempt to emulate the formula one circus, in the wrong and inexperienced hands are akin to high-speed weaponry. weapons that can not only excite, but maim and kill.

as cyclists, we are fortunate that the majority of the aforementioned group of individuals tend to practise their iniquities in the evening when most of us are tucked up in front of the tellybox. nonetheless, it is not entirely unknown for the velocipedinally inclined to experience the side effects of their ignorance during a daytime bicycle ride. but i'd be the first to admit that such happenstances are nowhere near the level incurred on city-centre and urban roads.

but what's an intrepid cyclist to do?

well, for starters, we could buy as many copies of peter walker's new book bike nation as we can afford and hand them out at the local motor club's next drive-it day. or better still, nip round to your nearest car dealership and brazenly slip one into every glovebox in the showroom. each and every motorist, no matter their professed skills behind the steering wheel, ought to read this book. then we ought to take delivery of a few more copies and send them to the town planning officer, local mp, local councillor and in scotland, one to our msp too. but this is not to excuse the cyclists amongst us; this is an entire social degree education in a single volume.

author peter walker is not only a news correspondent for the guardian newspaper, but the man behind their well respected bike blog. in bike nation he has written an (almost) balanced account of the situation that exists between motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, though one that logically and happily leans towards the latter two. for it is an inescapable fact that on the occasion of any cycle/motor vehicle interface, no matter which side is the more culpable, the cyclist will inevitably come off worst. and should this happen, it may not be entirely the motorist's fault; it could be that society (or the transit authority) is to blame.

yet cyclists are perennially encouraged to wear bright, fluorescent clothing and helmets in order to prevent or mitigate the effects of any such collision. while the cyclist is most often the victim, it is rarely the motorist who is the target of roadcraft education.

"Rachel Aldred, a cycling policy expert at London'd westminster University, says the emphasis on care and skill on the part of the cyclist rather than the wider environment, is anomalous. 'We wouldn't think it was acceptable if train passengers had to cross a live rail to get to a platform and were told to "be aware", she says. We wouldn't accept a company putting up unsafe scaffolding, and the police then ackowledging this by handing out leaflets nearby saying "Be might be hit by falling planks."

walker does, however, take into account that there is more than one type of cyclist on the road, that we might not all be possessed of the constitution of attila the hun, ready and willing to do battle with any set of wing mirrors on four wheels. this is illuminatingly illustrated by the stunningly obvious (in retrospect) action of portland, oregon's transport bureau.

" of the few North american cities to properly understand cycling, put out a fascinating paper that sought to create a taxonomy for the local population when it came to whether they rode or didn't ride a bike."

their four categories encompassed the 'strong and fearless', 'enthused and confident', the 'interested but concerned', followed by the 'no way, no how'. the 'interested but concerned' heading contained sixty percent of those responding to the survey, so that's the demographic around which portland decided to plan its bike infrastructure. however, as walker concludes " many countries it is a realisation that has only just, if at all, begun to dawn on city planners."

my coercive advice, however, to slide a copy of this book into the glove compartments of as many new (or old) cars in similar manner to that of the gideon bible in hotel rooms, was not simply of comedic or vacuous intent. a book entitled bike nation almost by definition, suggests itself to one section of the travelling public; cyclists. and at the risk of undermining the veracity of walker's ministrations, many of us already understand the problems and difficulties outlined within. the folks we really want to read a book such as this from cover to cover, ultimately checking out each and every entry in the copious references at the back of the book, are the motorists. and, come to that, politicians and town planners.

bike nation has been meticulously researched and written in a most approachable style. all too many of this genre tend towards the academic in tone, leaving the reader estranged from the importance of the content. walker has comfortably avoided such pitfalls offering a comprehensive treatise on the state of our bike nation and precisely what action might be taken to improve matters.

"Cycle advocates are 'devotees', 'true believers' 'hard-core enthusiasts'; their ideas are 'radical thinking'. Building more bike lanes is 'wishful thinking' and 'fantasy'. It's the sort of language you'd expect to be used for a religious cult, not a group of people who'd just sort of like it if they and their friends and family were able to cycle around a bit more easily and safely."

i'd be more than suprised if there were any cyclists who thought that the current situation on britain's roads was anything more than barely tolerable. surely there's an excellent case for the facilities and culture that pervades much of the netherlands, where any physical conflict between car and bike is automatically deemed to be the fault of the former until proven otherwise. you may already think you know it all when it comes to the inquities visited upon the hapless cyclist, but i think you might find a great deal of further enlightenment in bike nation.

if you're a motorist or politician who has inadvertantly landed here in the search for a washing machine, make no mistake, this book is for you. feel free to thank me later. as chris boardman has attested on the front cover "peter walker has written the book i wanted to write."

compelling and compulsory.

thanks to the generosity of publishers 'yellow jersey press' i have one copy of 'bike nation' to give away. simply tell me to which uk national newspaper peter walker contributes and the first chosen correct answer will receive the book. please remember to include a full postal address and send to closing date is wednesday 12 april.

wednesday 5 april 2017

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philippe gilbert: ronde van vlaanderen

in common with many a cycle club, our sunday mornings commence at a snail's pace and, depending on the wind direction, either slow down dramatically before the turn at foreland, or gradually increase in speed as the route du jour passes under our wheels. the pairing of riders depends not only a great deal on the order in which we've left the patio at debbie's, but on whether each set of coupled riders have any interest in conversing with the adjacent athlete (that's probably not the word either you or i would have chosen, but it will suffice for the duration of the unfolding drama).

were it possible to eavesdrop on each individual conversation, the observer would find they ranged from whether or not it might be hypothetically possible to marry a sram 11-speed derailleur with a campagnolo ten-speed cassette, all the way as to the iniquities of trying to find tomato pesto in the gluten-free section of the co-op. we are nothing if not an ecelectic agglomeration of individuals.

a current series detailed each week in cycling weekly presents cycle clubs the length and breadth of the country featuring pelotons of varying sizes, almost to a man (or woman) clad in club kit of varying design quality. with no disrespect to those involved, there are several that we have agreed would not be in our top ten clubs to join based entirely on the jersey one might be required to wear. the velo club's eclecticism stretches as far as no specific dress code; in other words, we're a diverse cross-section of the various makes of apparel on offer (though that might partially change in the foreseeable future; i'll let you know).

we also operate a policy of never leaving anyone behind, though that often consists of either sending someone back to shepherd stragglers, or stopping every so often to allow for catch-up. were we to ride at the speed of the slowest rider, depending on the composition of the peloton, there are at least a few individuals who might find themselves with the taste of disappointment at coffee time. and it is coffee time, or at least the few kilometres and moments leading up to froth-supping that are often those best remembered, though rarely by innocent bystanders.

in common with many cycle clubs, there is an unwritten demand that those with the velocipedinal wherewithal will participate in a final lunge for the line at the 30mph signs on the entrance to bruichladdich village. were the aforementioned innocent bystander to be found struggling for an appropriate adjective to employ at this point, 'class' would probably not be it. from about 500 metres out, those with a personal interest in the top spot on the podium will employ every tactic in their arsenal; from the helicopter shot, this will be seen as an unchoreographed flailing of arms and legs, few of which have little in common with forward motion.

totally unlike, for instance, philippe gilbert's grand statement at the end of sunday's ronde van vlaanderen. with more than a few seconds advantage over the chasing riders, gilbert took time to dismount before reaching the finish line and walking across with his s-works bicycle held aloft.

now that's class.

philippe gilbert: ronde van vlaanderen

tuesday 4 april 2017

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