green oil ecospray lube

green oil eco spray lube

though it does me no favours whatsoever, prior to a bicycle trip to scotland many years ago, i opted to clean my chain to a level that would have allowed any hapless bystander to clearly see the refelction of the road in each link. this i accomplished by rubbing the entire chain vigorously with an ageing cloth, prior to opening a can of brasso and cleaning each link with same before once more, polishing the chain with the cloth i mentioned earlier.

i totally agree that this behaviour is perilously close to obsessive compulsive disorder, but in my defence, it was a wet day outside and there was nothing much on the tv.

however, though i have not stooped to such depths since, i still prefer to leave home with a shiny chain and i do vastly prefer lubes that manage to carry out their appointed task without turning the chain black. i was formerly of the opinion that so-called dry-lubes were less prone to such discolouration, but in the interim, i've come across a couple of examples that have proved me wrong. this simply entails cleaning the chain prior to departure and reprising the exercise on my return, particularly if it's been a wet ride.

several years past, a gentleman who had retired to islay employed a three-speed bicycle as his sole means of transportation. because he covered a substantial number of kilometres each week in the course of his ministrations, the bike had cause to appear in my back garden for regular doses of fettling. unfortunately, though i admired his attention to chain lubrication, particularly in the light of a hebridean climate, he apparently felt no compunction to clean the chain first. thus, when i had cause to make mechanical adjustments to his bicycle, it was particularly difficult to avoid getting oily marks on more than one item of clothing. the chain links could never be discerned through the crud.

i cite this in evidence for my pleas of innocence, such as they are, for my current chain-related behaviour. i'm sure that's why i now hold this fascination for chain cleaning over and above the rest of the bicycle.

and in order that chain cleaning might be carried out efficiently, i have developed my own routine for so doing. making use of what shall remain un-named spray-lube products, i would coat a portion of the chain and wipe it clean with a textured cloth until i had treated the entire chain. since the majority of those lubes generally evaporated reasonably quickly, i'd usually leave the chain overnight, when possible, before applying a chain lube. the idea, by my way of thinking, was that any degreasing properties would have disappeared prior to applying chain lube.

however, in these modern times of eco friendliness, where the human race has been advised that the three most important changes that can be made in favour of environmental safeguards are: give up the car, have fewer children and become a vegetarian, it ill behoves the concerned cyclist to continue using spray lubes containing ptfe. in order that we might have access to the very product best suited to this philosophy and in a format most conveniently accessible, simon nash of green oil began a kickstarter campaign to finance production of green oil eco spray lube a spray-on liquid that displaces water, lubricates and rust proofs a bicycle chain.

that campaign was particularly successful.

in short, this spray lube is ideally placed to achieve that which i require without cutting a bigger hole in the ozone layer. and the finest recommendation i can offer is that it just works. simply and brilliantly. just what we've come to expect from green oil.

green oil eco spray lube

monday 16 july 2017

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simon's cycle shorts. simon a bever. amazon paperback 124pp £8.39

simon's cycle short - simon bever

as a conservative bunch of hebrideans, we are not given to naming our bicycles. if i'm riding a specialized, then i'm riding a specialized. never has it occurred to bestow a proper name upon my carbon fibre, like doris, selena or ermintrude because, quite frankly, you'd be able to hear the pelotonic laughter from where you're currently sitting. it's just not the done thing. it should likely be adopted by velominati as rule #96: no anthropomorphisation.

that said, it would not be the first time that one of us has remarked that the bicycle probably knows its own way from here to debbie's without any rider input whatsoever. perhaps that's the closest we'll ever come to acknowledging that the humble bicycle might just harbour some sort of personality after all. it is, however, not too much of a stretch to consider that the apparently inert assembly of carbon fibre or steel might have a life of its own, outside the sunday morning amalgamation of ineptitude. it's a consideration that author simon bever has had the perspicacity to put in print.

simon's cycle shorts is not, as you might perhaps have misunderstood, a dissertation concerning the lycra netherwear of someone called simon, but a collection of short stories as if written by the bicycles themselves. though occasionally verging on the borders of triviality and contrivance... "Man-no way you're gonna leave us! Haro was an American BMX bike so always spoke like that.", bever has made more than just a single pertinent or humorous observation that lifts these short stories above the mundane or, dare i say it, pretension.

for instance, in a story entitled tricyle trial, the author has deconstructed a child's tricycle by apportioning individual personalities to each component, rather than having the tricycle speak as a single entity. thus we have "The two little wheels at the back always spoke in unison and were always a bit behind everyone else." and when querying the pedals as to their receollection of having previously ridden to nan's, they reply "Whatever, whatever."

more recognisable and grown-up humour is to the fore in the second story entitled the black train.

"Now, if this tale of an extraordinary feat by mere middle-aged men in lyra sounds to be no more than the muddled ramblings of an ageing race bike, then please bear with me." this tale relates the story of four, well-heeled friends who decide to attempt the etape du tour. the end result, however is not quite as foretold by the early part of the narrative.

"So what happened? How did they manage to get Dan to be first past the post at the finish at Morzine? Well, they had a plan." i'm sure we've all had a plan, but the secret is likely to successfully implement that plan, something that our four friends apparently failed to do, mananging to oversleep and miss their start time. the solution was one we may well have adopted for ourselves " one would know that they hadn't even started the ride, because no one apart from the other competitors actually cares who finishes the Etape."

as a keen observer of that transpiring around him, simon bever displays a relaxed and acute means of passing this on to the reader. on describing the interaction between two brompton owners, the male of whom may have been intentionally attempting to impress his female counterpart, "Do you think they could be falling in love?"
"No, it usually takes longer than an hour."

most of the bikes whose stories are related within the book's 120 + pages are essentially anonymous, but this anonymity is punctuated on page 100, where obree's old faithful tries to impress upon other track bikes in the cupboard "...Graeme and me are going to break the hour record tomorrow morning." not unnaturally, old faithful's peer group consider him to be sadly deluded.

not every story in simon's bicycle shorts will appeal, but as the title promises, they are all relatively short, making this the ideal book to dip in and out of, with no real demand to read each consecutive page till the end. it's an easy and light-hearted read, ideal for the bus or tube journey to and from work when it's really too wet for a bike commute.

sunday 16 july 2017

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is invention really the mother of necessity?

srm power meter

marco pantani, apart from his legendary climbing skills and affectation to be the pirate of cycling, was famous for riding and training almost entirely on feel. he used what every contemporary training manual refers to as rpe, or 'rate of perceived exertion', though i'd imagine, translated into italian, it sounds a deal less functional. a close look at the diminutive italian's handlebar generally revealed nothing other than bar tape; no heart-rate monitor, no power meter, no gps and perhaps more importantly in these days of races controlled by the guys in the car, no radio earpiece.

of course, in his latter years, after his unceremonious removal from the '99 giro, pantani had a habit of finding himself in no man's land, miles from home and without a café in sight.

nowadays it would be highly unusual to see world tour riders aboard anything bereft of a slew of electronics, from the ubiquitous power meter, through push-button gearing to the funny looking telemetry stick under the saddle. yet despite a looming proximity to formula one, much of the promised televisual advantages of all the above appear not to be featuring in this year's tour de france.

the bizarrely named velon, claiming to represent the riders' rights seemed at one time very keen on providing telemetry readings to the host broadcaster, alongside footage gleaned from on-bike cameras. while this year's tv footage does display the relative speeds between the leaders and poursuivants along with the distance between groups in metres, my tv screen seems mercifully clear of an overuse of digital information, other than a little green logo to remind me that dimension data have a professional hand in proceedings.

however, the professionals have not only the technological wherewithal and staff to analyse any and all data generated by each rider, numbers that can be put to good use by the aforementioned blokes in the team cars, but in a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, can educate the riders to interpret the numbers on their handlebars to their own advantage, mid-peloton.

most of us don't.

though i'd hardly hold myself up as the paragon of data usage, on reviewing an srm power meter on my colnago a few years back, i figured the device was misfiring because the datastream uploaded at ride's end showed one or two periods of nothing whatsoever. it was a several lengthy moments before i realised those were the points at which i was freewheeling while descending.

there's no doubt that there are two distinct traits at play here. for one, we are often delighted by the fact that we can ride exactly the same machinery as that of our pelotonic heroes; that's an emulation that can be extended as far as the numbers on our handlebars. the fact that few, if any of us, need that sort of firepower in the first place, nor, indeed, any ability to interpret the binary aspect of the sunday morning ride, seems lost in the marketing hype.

if one of my colleagues were to trumpet the wattage produced on any of our modest local ascents, it would surely be a tad vacuous on the basis that a) i'm not interested and b) i've no idea how my own unrecorded wattage compares. i've no qualms about anyone festooning the frontage of their velocipede with hd video cameras, gps units, heart-rate monitors and power meters, i simply question what they're going to do with all that information at tea-time. unless all those numbers actually mean anything and can be learned from, i figure you'd be better carrying an extra energy bar or a more comfortable saddle.

saturday 15 july 2017

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mrs flying scotsman. anne obree. paperback 302pp illus. £10

mrs flying scotsman - anne obree

heroes and legends are most often considered on their own merit. we think of the victors and characters as being wholly self-sufficient entities, ultimately responsible for their own identities, personalities and successes or failures. and that's perhaps the way the world wants it to be. if froome takes top spot in paris next weekend, it's his name that will be entered in the record books, with scant regard paid to the other eight guys in the team whose efforts may well have been responsible for getting him there in the first place.

similarly, the consideration shown to those who tried and failed. in the context of a grand tour it is rare that those who promised much yet did not deliver are thought of having missed out as a result of having ridden in a team that wasn't up to scratch. that's not a situation that surrounds the individual cyclist, eager to make his or her mark in a singular pursuit such as time-trialling, 4000 metre track pursuit, and ultimately, hour record attempts. granted, even the latter has a support team that doesn't actually take to the boards, but even they are of secondary consideration (if at all) to the adoring cognoscenti.

but what of the other halves, the wives and girlfriends, or husbands and boyfriends who have much to put up with as their partners strive for victory, recognition and everything in between. has anyone ever asked anne obree what she thought on discovering the washingmachine in bits on the kitchen floor?

oddly enough, though i think it possible that such a question might be uppermost in the minds of many, it is not one that is answered in mrs obree's mrs flying scotsman, a self-published book, described by graeme obree in his introduction as "...a refreshing view from outside the goldfish bowl that I was in." in truth, the narrative described by anne is not quite what i'd describe as refreshing, in the common definition of that word, but it's certainly refreshingly honest.

"It will be a frank and open account of all our trials and tribulations, while we enjoyed the excitement of Graeme's cycling success before his slide into bipolar depressive illness, and eventually the end of our marriage."

it would surely be tantamount to fullfilling the prophecy encountered in my opening paragraphs were this review to concentrate on graeme obree's cycling career. though anne deals with this in frank detail and admittedly occasionally at odds with how graeme recalled those successes, if it's graeme's career in which you are interested, i'd recommend taking a look at the flying scotsman. this narrative is altogether more harrowing and proving that public success is only the bit of the iceberg seen above the water.

anne's maiden name is weideger, born in st louis, missouri to a scottish mother working as a nurse in the bronx, new york. her father had resigned from the navy to train as a teacher of history and modern studies. throughout the book, anne obree constantly references (perhaps just a tad too often, if i'm honest) her strong belief in god through the catholic church. though her father was jewish, he converted to catholicism of his own accord. her mother was apparently less than enamoured with the heat and humidity in st louis so the family ultimately returned to scotland, settling in the ayrshire seaside town of saltcoats.

unfortunately, despite mrs flying scotsman offering a compelling read across all of its 300+ pages, its self-published nature frequently omits certain of the niceties i'd be inclined to expect in a publication from one of the recognised publishing houses. that is immediately realised in the first couple of pages of chapter one. not only has anne failed to inform us of the year of her birth, but also omitted the year in which her family returned to scotland, making it difficult to place ensuing events in some sort of chronology. in the grand scheme of things, i'm willing to admit to a bit of nitpicking here, but i feel its worth mentioning nonetheless. and an index might have been helpful, though undoubtedly a bit of chore to compile for the first time, self-published author.

that first chapter enlightens the reader as to many of the members of anne's extended family, a subsequent move to irvine along the coast when her father began teaching at kilmarnock's st joseph's academy (incidentally a school often used as the start/finish point for the annual braveheart ride) and receiving riding lessons in kilwinning at the behest of her mother, the start of a lifelong attachment to the equestrian milieu. though her upbringing could rarely be described as unusually restricted, "My mum did not like the violence or sex on TV, and as a practising catholic, she decoded not to have a television..."

a factor that would later become a source of anguish was anne's apparent near-obsession with weight and eating. it is one frequently mentioned even from an early age, even to the point of impinging upon a visit to her gran's home in miami.

"The first day we arrived, Gran took us shopping [...] We were being spoiled although I was watching my food, as I did not want to get fat as all the food was really tasty but high in calories."

anne subsequently trained as a nurse on leaving school and she and graeme met each other via anne's younger brother matthew, who had in turn become acquainted with graeme through mountain biking, then a fledgling american imported sport at which obree maintained a successfully competitive interest, while working in a bike shop and prior to his studying engineering at university.

"I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so I decided to to go and buy a new bike [...] I noticed that Graeme was indeed handsome, so I thought I would buy a bike but pay for it in instalments so I had an excuse to go into his shop every week to see him."

graeme's fame in the local world of time-trialling was on the rise during the period (the late 1980s) he and anne were dating. he was not only held in high esteem by his peers, but also by anne's brother matthew who apparently often used to state "I can't believe my sister is dating Graeme Obree". according to anne, graeme admiited that, despite his seeming shyness, "he knew he wanted to marry me after just nine days..." followed by his proposing to her shortly afterwards.

despite the optimism afforded by impending nuptials and obree's increasing sporting success, what can perhaps, in retrospect, be seen as the harbinger of all that was yet to come and before the wedding could take place on september 1 1989, anne's brother and graeme's friend, matthew, was killed in a motorbike accident at the same time as anne's father was in hospital seriously ill.

i would be fibbing if i portrayed the remaining 240 pages as being filled with self-absorbed doom and gloom. in the interim, graeme went on to take top honours in time-trialling and track pursuiting, culminating in his two attempts within 24 hours at moser's hour record on the boards of hamar in norway. cycling successes continued for a time after that point, but as graeme's depression surfaced, the obree's lives over the next twenty-something years were certainly not those that you would inflict upon your worst enemy.

the actions of the uci in banning both 'the tuck' and superman riding positions do not escape anne's excoriation. it may well be that their inexplicable actions played an intrinsic part in graeme obree's descent into depression and alcoholism.

anne seems to have gleaned succour from her deep religious beliefs and from bringing up her two sons, while graeme eased his pain by heavy drinking. one can only wonder how obree remained so impressive as an athlete while consuming apparently copious amounts of alcohol. married to a man who made three attempts to commit suicide, had to be committed to psychiatric hospitals on several occasions for his own safety and succumbed to serious bouts of depression clearly had undeniably disastrous effects on their relationship. when graeme 'discovered' he was gay, anne's fortitude in the face of such adversity is very much to be admired.

what is also greatly to be admired is anne obree's ability to produce one of the most compelling books i have read in recent times, despite admitting "...I struggled to get an O Grade, as I was never any good at English. Maybe you have noticed already!" in this assertion, she is correct. portions of the grammar and writing err on the clumsy, while greater attention might have been paid to both spelling and continuity.

though i am loathe to cite specific examples, on page 153 we are informed that "Graeme had been becoming confused with his sexuality at this time [...] He was having an unwelcome growing attraction to men." however, some twenty-six pages later "At this point Graeme was totally unaware of any attractions to men..."

but, in what can only be regarded as a triumph of narrative over the mechanics of delivery, mrs flying scotsman is utterly compelling and not purely because one of the principal protagonists happens to have been holder of the hour record, an olympic gold and a world championship jersey. i have known graeme for a number of years, but i confess i knew absolutely nothing of all this. anne obree is to be roundly applauded for her warts and all autobiography. she and graeme may be divorced, but it's nice to know that they are obviously still in love. just remember, the ex-husband wrote the introduction and also told me "The main character survives in the end by the way".

graeme is not the only obree who deserves the epithet 'legend'

signed copies of 'mrs flying scotsman' can be purchased direct from the author. cost is £10 including p+p to any uk address. e-mail

friday 14 july 2017

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spain to norway on a bike called reggie. andrew sykes. summersdale publishing paperback 352pp illus. £9.99

spain to norway on a bike - andrew sykes

i would dearly love to be that seasoned traveller who blissfully accepts the major or minor wrinkles in carefully laid plans, with an enviable degree of insouciance. "yes, perhaps i was intending to depart on the last ferry of the day, but having missed it by a matter of minutes is no biggie." i would casually relate to anyone within earshot. plane delayed by 16 hours? well, these things happen.

and i've no doubt that they do happen, but i would largely prefer that they didn't happen to me. where am i going to stay? do i have enough money? how will i now make all my other connections? why on earth did i leave home in the first place? you can talk amongst yourselves if you like, but which of the above is the more likely scenario?

i will shortly leave the safety of the hebrides and attempt to ride from hampton court, london, all the way to the eiffel tower in a matter of three days. and though i have no real misgivings about the bicycle part (other than perhaps, the portended heat in french france), i'll admit to a slight uneasiness about the journey to london town in the first place. since this will take place by way of a boat, two buses, about three trains and a couple of overnight stays, from my point of view, the potential for at least one of these to go horribly wrong is quite high.

of course, when i'm sat on the hotel bed, but a matter of a mile or so from le grand départ, i will deny having even brought the subject to your attention.

i therefore have great admiration for andrew sykes (and his ilk) who, on what appears little more than an idle whim, decided to ride reggie (a very famous ridgeback bicycle) all the way from the southern tip of spain to the northernmost point on norway. in effect, the longest path, north to south on mainland europe. by comparison, my own concerns as to deciphering the islay bus timetable in order to reach the ferry prior to its departure seem like a walk in the park (except, islay doesn't have a park).

mr sykes has featured in these pixels on two previous occasions. as a former teacher and now serial adventurer he has crossed europe and cycled along the med, both of which have also seen publication in book format. it has to be admitted that none of his three attested journeys are particularly unique; even in the current volume he meets at least two others attempting remarkably similar traversings of the continent. but what gives him a considerable advantage over any other you care to mention is not only his ability to capture the salient aspects of his trip(s) in print, but by means of an excellent writing style and an almost unrivalled sense of humour.

if comparisons are allowed, think bill bryson, but possibly funnier.

...I proffered my printed credentials. 'I'm on a mission to promote environmental understanding and education', I might have added if I hadn't been pretty sure that he was some kind of Spanish secret agent."

the above mentioned quote was due to the author having had to apply for specific credentials allowing him to depart from tarifa, the southernmost point of spain, on the grounds that it was a restricted military area. and here's where arises that insouciance of which i spoke earlier; andrew was unaware of this potentially calamitous start to his expedition until having arrived on spanish soil. rather than accept this as being an immovable object, he applied for and received exemption from the restriction. however, in order not to break the conditions "it would be necessary for me to 'realise a project aimed at promoting...etc., etc."

though ostensibly a travel book in which the perpetrator has chosen a bicycle as his travelling companion, we learn remarkably little about reggie other than, like most bicycles, he developed a clicking sound that simply wouldn't go away despite the ministrations of more than a single bicycle mechanic. eventually, a rebuilt rear wheel solved the problem, but getting there advertised the author's distinct lack of fettling ability. to be honest, that underlines one of the book's finest aspects.

virtually no bike talk.

andrew's ultimate destination of knordapp in norway is situated 71 degrees, 10 minutes and 21 seconds north of the equator. subtracting the specific location of his point of departure created a journey encompassing a total of just over 35 degrees. to helpfully reinforce this fact, each short chapter is entitled using the degree through which the author travels, an idiosyncratic but delightful eccentricity.

the very best travel books all but exclude details of the method of travel; a bicycle is a bicycle is a bicycle, whether it's inches away from the northern tip of norway or almost excluded from a spanish military base. adventure is the subject and we, the readers, want to be enlightened, educated and entertained in a manner that draws attention to none of those.

..."a Tasmanian born Aussie of Scottish parents who first met the Crown Prince in a pub in Sydney during the 2000 Olympic games. Born Mary Donaldson in 1972, she is now Her Royal highness, The Crown Princess of Denmark, Countess of Monpezat and Knight grand of the Order of the Elephant. Now that's successful social climbing."

and lest you think that mr sykes, well travelled on mainland europe, had found cause to forget the history of his own land, such is dispelled on his ride to copenhagen. having opted to shorten the journey to the danish capital via a slight detour, he was privy to a lesson in roof thatching from a female danish thatcher by the name of petina. along with her boss, she was in the process of re-roofing a pretty cottage at a cost of £40,000, a roof that she said would be likely to last for around forty years. on enquiring as to whether there were many female thatchers in denmark, the author was informed that petina was likely the sole female practitioner after having trained for four years, but on telling sykes that she intended to visit england to see how british thatchers do their job, he silently answered...

"Shut down the mines, introduce a poll tax and ignore any opposition." quite so.

if i was of a mind, i would have invented a scale against which i might measure the humorous content of any book i am fortunate enough to review, but until i get round to doing so, 'spain to norway on a bike called reggie' will serve as the benchmark. rarely have i laughed out loud so frequently in polite company; if you're reading on the train just be sure you're not seated in the silent coach. i know all of us here are seriously into bikes in one way or another, but every now and again, it's nice to sit back, removed the armwarmers, take the helmet off and revel in the adventures of a man who, if he didn't exist, would need to be invented.

travel writing (with a bike) at its very best.

thursday 13 july 2017

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never mind the quality, feel the width

challenge strade bianca tyre

several years past, i was sent a pair of challenge paris-roubaix tyres for review, a particularly sturdy set of 700 x 28c rubber that seemed ideally suited to several of islay's crumbling, singletrack roads. intent on fitting them to my full wood fendered chris king cielo, i commenced at the rear tyre with the suspicion that its relatively high profile would be unlikely to sit comfortably 'neath the mudguard, no matter that chris king's listed 28c as an admissible width between chainstays and fork legs.

much to my surprise, though the clearance was minimal, it appeared that bicycle and tyre had come to an amicable agreement amongst themselves. with visually far greater clearance on the front fork, i proceeded with gusto only to discover a fatal flaw in my cunning plan. due to the height of the headtube bracket on the front fender, the lower headset race prevented the mudguard from reaching sufficient clearance height when the tyre was fully inflated. the short-lived experiment had thus sadly to be abandoned. to this day, the cielo runs on 700x25c rubber, a compromise i'm willing to sustain in order to retain those rather attractive full-wood fenders.

however, in the spirit of continued experimentation, i fitted the challenge tyres to the wheels of my colnago master, pretty darned sure that this would fail at the first hurdle. though i did have to resort to minor fudging at the rear dropouts, it turned out to be quite feasible to ride the bicycle at length with far larger rubber than expected. of course, when making use of tyre clearances that are within the sort of thickness offered by a rizla cigarette paper, there's little doubting that a modicum of collateral damage would ensue.

challenge strade bianca tyre

on replacing the wheels for a subsequent review, i found that the rear tyre, though confidently clear of the chainstays on each side, had worn away much of the paint on the underside of the brake bridge. and were the wheel to be correctly seated in the dropouts, there was no chance whatosever of wheel rotation. i cannot say i was surprised to discover that an italian road bike had at least a smidgeon of difficulty accommodating any width greater than 26mm, but it doesn't seem altogether iniquitous to ask the question 'why?

if you pause to consider that paris-roubaix has existed as a cycling event since 1896 along with the ronde van vlaanderen which first took place in 1913, it seems almost certain that the roads in those early days of cycling would have demanded a smidgeon more than the 23mm or more recently, 25mm widths that are all but de rigeur nowadays. i'd imagine that in the modern era of the carbon monocoque, it's asking perhaps just a bit too much for the average frame manufacturer to offer model variations featuring extra tyre clearance for use in only two races across the season.

however, the recently reviewed specialized roubaix might just offer a case in point; the name leaves little doubt as to its intended purpose and the frame had easily sufficient clearance for a pair of challenge strade bianca 700 x 33c tyres, never mind a mere 28mm width. this despite apparently suffering no ill effects in either the speed or handling departments. my ruminations on teh subject were brought to mind by the latest release of tom ritchey's 2018 logic frameset which, it claims, sports sufficient clearance for up to 30mm widths in 'response to growing interest in wider-gauge tyres.'

challenge parigi-roubaix tyre

what currently intrigues me is whether this interest is one promulgated by the bicycle industry or by that of the end user. ie, you and me. electric gears were dropped upon the pelotonese from a great height, despite no recollection of the latter clamouring for push-button gears, followed by disc brakes, surely a godsend for beleaguered bicycle and wheel/hub manufacturers, since the brake mounts on either cannot be retrofitted and will necessitate purchase of new product.

on the basis that my colnago master (still the proud owner of a 1" headset and steerer) struggled to cope with 28mm tyre widths without succumbing to at least modest damage from same, were i hellbent on adopting wider tyres, it seems likely that my bank account would need to take a hit. the question is whether i'm the endgame in a manufacturer driven fashion ploy, or if i have intelligently come to the wider conclusion all by myself. i have no doubts whatsoever that wider rubber is the way forward (if you'll pardon the pun), but i'm darned if i can figure out who said so.

wednesday 12 july 2017

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you cannot be serious

bianchi specialissima pantani edition

only a few days ago i made mention of my classic cycling pub quiz question which asked who was the last cyclist to win the tour de france on a metal framed bicycle. the answer to that, assuming you were paying attention at the time, was marco pantani, who claimed the giro-tour double in 1998, coincidentally the very year i attended the start of that race in dublin's fair city. unfortunately, it was also the year that willy voet was stopped in the festina team car en-route to opening his very own pharmacy in the same town. for that reason, the 1998 tour de france is perhaps most likely remembered, rather than for the composition of marco's bicycle.

as richard sachs and the mighty dave t wiill already have impressed upon you, bicycles were once hand-crafted from only one resilient material: steel. that's not to say there aren't such velocipedes still produced today (i cite the above mentioned mr sachs as an eminent producer of same), but since the last year of last century, while the artist formerly known as prince was partying, carbon fibre machinery has pretty much ruled the roost, not least becasue of continued development of the material and the relative ease with which bicycle frames can be manufactured.

bianchi specialissima pantani edition

when boeing chooses to make the bulk of its latest dreamliner from the fabric, we can either sleep safely in the knowledge that the scary stories about carbon failure have been put to rest, or do our damnedest to avoid long-haul flights.

i would be fibbing if i did not acknowledge that i have had many kilometres of riding pleasure aboard what mike burrows pragmatically referred to as burnt plastic, a material that offers designers the opportunity to relieve a bicycle frame of unnecessary bulk where unrequired and add strength to only the regions that demand it. the ability to fashion all manner of distinctly non-round tubes in the process of allegedly achieving the above is one on which the jury has yet to return. those of us admitting to a certain age group may be occasionally less than enamoured with the aesthetic, but short of a crash course in materials science, we must simply accept that the boffins are in charge of our pelotonic destiny.

bianchi specialissima pantani edition

however, if i might digress with a tenuous degree of relevance for a moment or two, when time came for volkswagen to revive the beetle, though they undoubtedly committed the cardinal sin of putting the engine in the front, there was no apparent desire to craft the vehicle from the latest space-age material. similarly that of the fiat cinquecento, an endearing little vehicle that, in its basic configuration, has all the cuddliness of its forebear, unlike the mini which currently makes no attempt to live up to its name.

so quite what bianchi were thinking when they opted to announce the release of a pantani anniversary version of the specialissima, really is a total mystery. scheduled for availability in 2018, with the order book already open, this special edition will feature the renowned mercatone uno colour scheme aboard which the diminutive climber achieved cycling notoriety. there is, of course, the eternal question as to why pantani is still held in such high esteem while his runner-up on mont ventoux continues to be reviled, but nonetheless, it's nice to see his long-time bike sponsor commemorate a notable moment in cycling history.

except, of course, that the bianchi specialissima is a 780 gramme carbon frame benefiting from countervail integrated vibration cancelling technology, originally developed for nasa. mercatone uno paint scheme or not, surely the more traditional means of celebrating a great double victory from twenty years ago would have been to recreate the bicycle from aluminium? bianchi have side-stepped this query by helpfully pointing out that marco was "riding leading edge technology when he accomplished his double."

have they missed the point, or have i?

bianchi pantani anniversary specialissima

tuesday 11 july 2017

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