hexlock anti-theft system

hexlox anti-theft bolt system

published in 1516 in latin, thomas more's utopia depicted an island of the same name playing home to a society that effectively predated theoretical communism. the island of utopia contained a total of 54 cities, each divided into four equal parts. each of those cities featured 6000 households consisting of between ten and 16 adults. groups of thirty households are banded together for the purpose of electing a syphograntus and in turn, every ten syphogranti elect a traniborus.

now, before this gets sillier than it probably already is, allow me to get a tad closer to my ultimate point.

more's utopia was/is in effect, a work of satirical fiction, the description of which was reminsicent of life in a monastical order. his fictional inventions read as close to idyllic, where a perfectly ordered society would survive and prosper, each individual doing so in direct proportion to their directed effort. for instance, there was no private property, goods being stored in warehouses with each requesting that which they need. there are no locks on the doors of the houses, each of which is rotated every ten years. agriculture is the most important undertaking, with each member of the population required to work the land, both men and women, for two years at a time.

hexlox anti-theft bolt system

in short, it sounds too good to be true and to be honest, it is. and the reason for that is the introduction of real people. inequality is a prominent feature of modern society, the existence of which is entirely due to each person's perceived worth and region of domicile. i could no doubt earn a great deal more for my photoshop skills if i lived in the big city and there will always be a ceo who reckons last year's remuneration of £several million scarcely paid justice to the two days a month work he had to endure to earn it.

in short, everything works just fine in theory until you add human beings to the equation.

hexlox anti-theft bolt system

and that's precisely the situation that occurred as i commenced my review of the hexlox anti-theft system. the principle behind this simple system revolves around the placing of a magnetic insert inside the head of a steel allen, or hex bolt. so doing renders the bolt immune to the unwanted ministrations of a thief with an allen key. a magnet on the base of the insert makes it all but impossible to remove without the necessary key provided at the point of purchase. these bear a three-digit code to ensure that another hexlox owner can't nip along and pinch any of your bicycle's desirable components.

all this can be applied to quick-release skewers, seatpin clamps, wheelnuts and pretty much anything else that fastens by means of a steel hex bolt. and should your bicycle be favoured with alloy or titanium versions, it's possible to purchase inserts for those which allow use of the hexbolt system. once again, it all sounds too good to be true and once again, that turned out to be the case. for just like thomas more's utopia, introduce a slightly inept indvidual (yours truly) into the equation and it's possible for it all to go horribly wrong.

hexlox anti-theft bolt system

in the process of placing the appropriately sized insert into the supplied seatpin bolt, i contrived to knock the insert sideways at which point it jammed fast, resisting all subsequent efforts to remove it. thankfully, at the point during which my ineptitude transpired, the seatpin clamp bolt was not fitted to the bicycle, otherwise i would currently be the owner of a colnago master in which the seatpin was now either irremoveable or unable to be tightened via a bolt which it would be impossible to remove from the clamp. definitely not the situation in which you want to find yourself far from home.

i have no intention of trying to defend my stupidity; i really should have been paying a tad more attention than was obviously the case. hexlox is a clever, simple and affordable anti-theft system that, 99.9% of the time, will provide the service for which it was purchased. but introduce one idiot and all those years of research and development evaporate into the ether. statistical analysis will determine whether it's worth putting in a few more hours of r&d to head off the idiots at the pass. if you buy into this, and i do receommend tat you do, just be more careful than i was.

hexlox cycle bolt anti-theft system

monday 31 july 2017

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

the times they are-a-changing

hot chillee london-paris

at one time the traditional introduction to road cycling was by way of a local club, where the innocent newbie would be inducted into the way of the velocipede by the elders of the peloton. admittedly there were several amongst those clubs, whereby if you happened to drop off the back during the eighty-mile sunday ride, you were left to your own devices to make your own way home. skills such as through-and-off, echeloning, drafting, climbing and other necessities could all be taught to eager learners, ultimately leading to better behaved and better equipped cyclists on the road, no matter if competition was the professed endgame.

but perhaps one of the finest lessons to be taught and learned by the uninitiated, was the art of changing gear.

sadly, the arrival of the mamil and the positioning of 'cycling as the new golf' has meant that such hierarchical osmosis has been seriously diluted. couple this with push button gear-changing, positioned as the solution to a problem no-one actually has and it's arguable that a portion of cycling's essential tradition has been surreptitiously devalued.

in the dim, distant days of yore, gear levers were mounted on the downtube, when shimano had yet to apply the index ratcheting that featured on their fishing reels. if for no other reason, it was thus necessary to change gear before the legs slowed to the point of stopping altogether. this was particularly poignant when the road went upwards, for it was not always the simplest of tasks to change gear when the stress of climbing demanded that both hands be on the handlebars.

and it wasn't just indexing that was conspicuous by its absence; the rear sprocket cluster had yet to have those ubiquitous ramps carved into the outer edge of each sprocket thus enabling shifting under pedalling pressure. technological developments in the intervening years have meant that a sizeable number of those currently riding have never experienced the dubious pleasures of friction shifting, let alone the need to reach for a downtube mounted lever. with the benefit of hindsight, that may not necessarily be seen as a good thing.

if on reading this, you're tempted to disagree, i'd have been happy for you to have joined me in group four at last weekend's hot chillee ride from london to paris. each and every day, when the parcours ventured upwards, those riding ahead of yours truly committed the cycling equivalent of a gnashing of teeth, for which there seemed to be two outstanding reasons.

one was, of course, the positioning of quicker climbers behind slower climbers; a natural occurrence in any group of cyclists. the second was due to the number of riders who approached the hills in a rather gung-ho fashion, discovering after only a few metres that their gung had left them well and truly stranded and in completely the wrong gear. at both points, a lack of practised knowledge and gear-changing skills brought about the gnashing of teeth, more than a single example of a dropped chain and one or two low-speed crashes.

those of us well-versed in the ignominy of being stuck in the wrong gear on a never-ending climb were allowed the luxury of a smug grin, having flicked the chain upwards prior to the ascent and winding easily past what was now a road full of all but stationary obstacles. the surprising part, to me at least, was the cacophony of noise to be endured as those concerned suddenly discovered not only had gravity pulled them to a sudden halt, but they'd no idea in which gear they were supposed to be in the first place.

on an individual ride, this ineptitude is of no great disadvantage; you've only yourself about which to worry. however, multiply that situation by a factor of one hundred and suddenly the brown stuff hits the rotating object. i would thus advise, with all due respect to those concerned (and i'm pretty sure you know who you are), that no matter the promises offered by certain manufacturers, or the fact that you've replaced sinews with electrons, you learn to change gear prior to it becoming utterly necessary to do so. and while you're there, learn to do so silently.

the two principal memories of three days on the road to paris are the sound of dozens of cyclists clipping into pedals and the same number of cyclists on the climbs feverishly and loudly scrabbling for an appropriate gear for the gradient ahead. one of those was surplus to requirements.

hot chillee london-paris

hot chillee london-paris

sunday 30 july 2017

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the descent. thomas dekker/thijs zonneveld. ebury press paperback. 218pp. £12.99

the descent - thomas dekker

i have frequently joked that, north of the border, the letters epo are an abbreviation for 'extra porridge oats', the means by which us hebrideans gain our impressive power output without resorting to 'nippy sweeties'. however, i was recently moved to point out that there may be an exploitable gap in the market when it comes to specifically flavoured gels and energy bars. it's possible to find both products with guava or caffeine, both designed to provide that extra boost when the energy levels begin to drop, but try as i might, when searching through the shelves in the glasgow city branch of evans cycles, i could find none with added epo.

since those of us who make up the majority of the amateur peloton are not subject to the whims and iniquities of the aigle overlords, additives such as that manufactured by amgen can scarcely be considered as beyond the pale.

of course, the conundrum thus raising its ugly head is that we really have no need of such blood boosters. it might be nice to win the sprint for the 30mph signs at bruichladdich, but it hardly demands ingestion of otherwise banned substances. and that, to a certain degree, is the nub of the problem. if winning, or being of unquestionable support to your team leader is the name of the game that pays the mortgage, you can sort of see the temptation to have some clout when it comes to contract negotiations.

that, in a simplified nutshell, is why many riders have resorted to blood doping and epo abuse and while we might not agree with it, it's not hard to understand why it happens. what is rarely cited as a reason for doping is the gratification of an inflated ego, essentially the self-admitted downfall of former rabobank rider, thomas dekker.

much like many a horror story, even when reading or watching through spread fingers, there's still a compulsion to keep going till the end. i know this because i read every last paragraph of 'the descent' at a single sitting on the ferry from kennacraig to islay. from the opening sentence of chapter one, till the final sentence, there's an overwhelming sense of stunned disbelief. how could anyone with such demonstrable talent on a bicycle, ruin a promising career by resorting to substances that pretty much ended his career at the comparatively young age of thirty?

it seems that the acquisition of material wealth can be cited as at least one reason. when still at primary school in dirkshorn, he played marbles and sold on his winnings...

"I saved it all up for later, to fulfil my dream of buying a flashy car. I have no idea where it comes from, my love of material things. Not from my parents, that's for sure. My sister has no appetite for bling either."

yet it would appear that not only did dekker take to cycling like a duck to water, he displayed an affinity for competing without undue difficulty. it was an ability that brought him to the attention of the netherlands' principal team.

"At the end of my first year with the novices, when I was 15, a letter landed on the doormat. The Rabobank logo on the envelope was enough to get my pulse racing."

this simple affectation for competitive cycling came at the expense of academic achievement. dekker's sole dream at that time was to become a professional cyclist and everything that might be perceived as an obstacle to achieving that "was swept aside". the dream ultimately came true, signing with rabobank's junior team in 2001 and being almost immediately selected for the world championships in lisbon. despite being a dutchman, dekker was impressed mainly by the italians he met when invited to join a training camp. their sense of unified purpose and purported arrogance was seen as the young dutchman as something to which he might aspire.

"In Holland a top athlete is frowned on for driving a Ferrari: in Italy everyone wonders why the hell you'd want to drive anything else."

with the gift of hindsight, even at this early stage of the book, we're beginning to see the young dekker sow the seeds of his own destruction. a seemingly undeniable talent for victory did everything to bolster his already inflated sense of self-worth. "But I was the biggest talent of all. There was no stopping me. I won, won again and I kept on winning. It sometimes seemed like losing wasn't in my repertoire. I didn't just beat my rivals, I pulverised them."

in the light of this self-confession, even if driven by a growing ego, the question still remains as to why any rider of this calibre would find it necessary to try and illegally beat the system? "I wasn't just any old talent. I was Thomas fucking Dekker."

though dekker's descent may have already begun at this point, it's safe to say that there was little outward sign of this being the case based on his race results. but those possessed of such an overblown ego are rarely given to admitting as much in public; he might have scarcely have acknowledged or even recognised this state of affairs at the time, but it's hard to deny a certain admiration for his warts and all confessions that fill the pages of this excellent book.

"(the) combination of cycling and swagger made perfect sense to me. I didn't want to be some faceless bloke who happened to go fast on a bike. I wanted to be up there pounding my chest with the other alpha males."

as a rising star in the competitive world of bike racing, dekker was eventually introduced to jacques hanegraaf to handle contracts, sponsorship, media etc. on his behalf. he had signed for rabobank at a salary of €100,000, an impressive sum for one so young, but according to hanegraaf that was "daylight robbery", arguing that dekker ought to seek to break his contract and seek double that figure.

rabobank rider michael boogerd, dekker's childhood hero, was now a bona-fide team-mate and perhaps unwittingly the man who influenced dekker's early acquaintance with substances not necessarily conducive to a drug-free career. That week I take sleeping pills for the first time. What was unthinkable for the Under 23s turns out to be common practice for the pros. [...] Michael Boogerd pops a pill on a daily basis..." couple this with the knowledge that jacques hanegraaf succeeded in breaking open dekker's contract with rabobank and having his annual stipend raised to an impressive €400,000 and it's not hard to see why that healthy dutch ego is beginning to run away with itself.

of course as with all agents, the more their riders earn, the more their own portion increases "He has found a goose to lay him golden eggs. Its name is Thomas Dekker."

hanegraaf's talent for salary negotiation was also, perhaps not surprisingly, accompanied by the ability and connections to introduce riders under his 'care' to those with the wherwithal to assist in the performance department. and by this i don't mean a sports coach. dekker's upward trajectory had already met with the early stages of pricking holes in his veins. the team doctor had already instigated intravenous 'recovery' drips and "As the years went by I could feel it coming. I knew doping would cross my path. And when it happened, I did not back away."

the preferred method of the day was blood doping, on the basis that it was all but undetectable and the man contacted to assist with this process was the infamous spaniard eufemanio fuentes. the idea behind blood doping is relatively simple: give blood, store it, then reinfuse it prior to competition. since we're talking about the rider's own blood, in 2006 there was no way of tracing the infusion.

"...after all, how is anyone supposed to spot the difference between your own blood and your own blood?"

of course, cheating the system is a tad more involved than simply finding suitable opportunities to blood dope or take products banned by the uci. but, possessed of an ego driven by racing victory, a great deal of money for a single man, an apparently endless stream of available women, fast cars and expensive clothes, the need and desire to keep winning meant that dekker was unlikely to restrict himself in the substance abuse department.

though it's tempting to say that here began dekker's real descent, in truth it had already commenced. recent history will relate that dekker's career was over by the age of thirty, having received a uci competition ban of two years and reached the point where no self-respecting team was willing to add him to their roster. the frankness of the first person narrative (translated from the dutch by david doherty) is utterly compelling, attested to by my having read the entire affair in less than a couple of hours. if i were you, i'd set aside a contiguous period of time to read 'the descent', because there's no way you'll want to put it down once you've begun reading.

it is, of course, a damning indictment not just of dekker and others like him, but of the world of professional cycling, one that appears to have let this happen as long as everyone kept quiet about it. a professional athlete's career is often relatively short, a fact frequently trotted out as justification for the often substantial sums of money paid to its more successful exponents. but sex, drugs and rock'n'roll are usually at complete odds with the image of dedicated individuals, living the life of the self-absorbed hermit, concentrating solely on the pursuit of athletic endeavour. large salaries arguably demand an equality of responsibility, an attribute often less well developed in the young.

however, dekker's confessions would suggest that he knew precisely what he was doing every step of the way, simply preferring to ignore or discount the penalties such behaviour would eventually bring to bear. hopefully his story will prevent other egotistical young cyclists from following in his tyre tracks, but i wouldn't hold your breath. the descent is a brilliantly written modern horror story that could well tarnish your view of professional cycling, but even with your hands over your eyes, it's a compellingly irresistible read.

saturday 29 july 2017

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campagnolo/sarto carbon road bike

campagnolo sarto service bike

the normal run of affairs would have it that when reviewing a bicycle, the emphasis is placed on the frame, for that is surely the major component when it comes to offering quality of service, so to speak. but in this case, though such a factor must, by definition, remain a prominent feature, in truth, it's the real componentry that made all the difference.

campagnolo sarto service bike

antonio and son enrico sarto are justifiably proud of offering customisable carbon frames, customisation that extends to tube shape, graphics, made-to-measure geometries and according to their website "Every feature of a Sarto frame can be changed and selected by the customer." in this particular case, that customer was initially campagnolo who have selected sarto as their frame partner, supplying the carbon fibre on which they attach vicenza's more than desirable componentry.

few people other than the professionals for whom campagnolo are supplying neutral race service, have the opportunity to ride these campagnolo sarto service bike machines. as one who is neither professional nor possessed of anything like race speed, the opportunity to ride just such a machine came courtesy of velotech cycling's graeme freestone-king, one of the world's finest bicycle mechanics and campag's uk service agent.

it will take a number of weeks before i tire of mentioning to everyone within earshot, that i rode from london to paris, but to solve the perennial problem and faff of transporting a bicycle from the hebrides to london's imber court sports club, graeme had offered to supply an appropriate bicycle on which i might traverse english britain and french france.

campagnolo sarto service bike

the carbon framed sarto was just that bicycle.

because campagnolo's sarto was painted in an attractive and understated bluish grey with only 'campagnolo engineered' writ small on the downtube, i'd be fibbing if i said i knew which particular model i was riding, though a cursory glance at sarto's website leads me to think it may well have been culled from their veneto range. sarto have pigeonholed this as one of their more comfortable models, a claim which gains no argument from me.

campagnolo sarto service bike

the bicycle featured nicely rounded tubes of varying diameter, the top tube sloping to meet the two individual and impressively narrow seatstays. though rounded in profile, these joined at the dropouts with square section seatstays. happily, for me at least, the frame features a bottom bracket that allows external bearing cups rather than the allegedly more advanced but much-derided press-fit variety. however, shiny, comfortable carbon fibre is all very well, but even the least able amongst us needs a set of bits and bobs to make it go. in this instance, those bits and bobs were drawn from campagnolo's top-of-the-range super record componentry.

campagnolo sarto service bike

caliper brakes, front and rear mechs, ultra-shift carbon ergo levers and 11-speed carbon compact chainset were joined by a carbon seatpost and (presumably) a super-record integrated headset to allow smoothness of steering via a steerer that tapers from 1.125" at the top to the ubiquitous inch and a quarter at the bottom. an eleven-speed cassette that i think offered a 27 tooth large sprocket (i forgot to check) was affixed to a campagnolo bora ultra carbon sprint wheel with its quirky tripled spoke pattern. the front wheel was sourced from the same box, but with more traditional radial spoking.

campagnolo sarto service bike

as if the foregoing were insufficient to provide enough of a drool factor, both wheels were shod with continental competition 700x25c tubulars, tyres that delighted this particular rider with that minimally bobbled tread pattern. necessary ancillaries such as bars, tape and stem were sourced from dedacciai, while the tight-fitting bottle-cage attached to the downtube was a campagnolo carbon edition.

common practice dictates that a loaner be festooned with the incumbent's pedals and saddle. for the former, i chose a pair of crank bros. candys; the more traditional three-point cleats may be thought to be de rigeur for road events such as hotchillee's london-paris, but i had in mind ease of entry and exit in the face of an often stumbling group four peloton. my saddle was the only real failure. i'd taken with me a brooks cambium carbon, but the larger carbon rails wouldn't quite fit the seatpost clamp, so i rode the fizik arione already fitted to the bike.

campagnolo sarto service bike

i have been advised on several occasions that commencing a ride on a hitherto unseen bicycle from london to paris at 05:45 on a thursday morning is hardly confidence inspiring. but it pays to have ultimate faith in your mechanic. a few weeks prior to departure, i had emailed an important set of bike measurements to graeme freestone king and based on these, my bicycle had been accordingly set up. it gives me great pleasure to relate that i found no cause whatsoever to adjust any aspect of the bicycle; the word perfection springs to mind.

campagnolo sarto service bike

i have every intention of soon offering a personal dissertation on the deficiencies of modern-day gear changing; not the equipment itself, but the ineptitude of those sat in the saddle. but i had cause to remark to graeme during the three days of glory through suffering, that the smoothness of shifting offered by campagnolo's finest meant i was able to adopt stealth mode every time the road ventured upwards. whether changing front or rear made no difference, no-one heard me coming and neither ever missed a shift.


the mechanical carbon shift levers simply reinforced my contention that electronica is a solution looking for a problem. i'm not denying that wires and a battery work impressively; many of those around me on the way to paris were making use of just such technology. however, it was mere bagatelle to physically flick from one gear to the next unassisted by electrons, up or down, with pinpoint precision. shimano and sram may be more prevalent, but vicenza still offers the best shifting option, according to my opinion.

campagnolo sarto service bike

i'm right, you're wrong.

the weight of the entire bicycle was such that a good sneeze would have blown it away, a factor that no doubt aided my upward velocity on the likes of the wall, an ascent viciously included in thursday afternoon's aprés lunch perambulations on the way to folkestone. and though thankfully there was never the need to wind up to a sprint, i did scare myself occasionally with the sarto's straight-line acceleration. such is a rare occurrence with these legs.

campagnolo sarto service bike

brand new red brake shoes on brand new rotating carbon brake surfaces is a set of circumstances that has need of bedding in, a situation not eased by lashings of rain in the first few tens of kilometres. however, both seemingly came to a friendly arrangement very quickly and only my temerity on the descents brought braking consternation: a scared pilot rather than a fright inducing lack of slowing.

upwards, however, is where this bicycle excelled, no doubt in part due to its scant weight. having read richard moore's in search of robert millar at least twice, i'm obviously an expert climber, but the sarto simply enhanced that faux ability. when stuck behind rather slow moving apprentice climbers, the frame's stability was little short of astounding bringing me nowhere close to falling sideways. though i frequently prefer to offer my marco pantani impersonation by climbing out of the saddle, unless i had need of stretching my back, i climbed everything while comfortably seated. in short, it was magnificent beyond description.

for mere amateurs such as yours truly, running on tubulars is a rare if not all but non-existent occurrence. which is a bit of a shame really, because the luxury of cycling 500 plus kilometres on carbon wheels shod with tubs, really ought to be available on the national health service. if you're inclined to be a disbeliever, try riding across the cobbles of the champs elysées on clinchers and see if you can equal my smile. i'm sure that folks like me who have been riding and reviewing bicycles for more years than we'd care to admit, are supposed to take all this in our blasé and arrogant stride. but a sarto carbon frame festooned with campagnolo super record and bora ultras has surely to be offered immunity from impartiality.

quality to which we all aspire.

very many thanks to graeme freestone king and campagnolo for the loan of such an excellent bicycle along with service-course that was second to none/ | sarto bicycles

friday 28 july 2017

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three weeks, eight seconds. the epic tour de france of 1989. nige tassell. polaris publishing paperback. 232pp illus. £14.99

three weeks eight seconds - nige tassell

a game of cluedo notwithstanding, the myth behind agatha christie's hercule poirot series was that it was the butler wot dun it. the situation whereby the belgian sleuth gathers all the suspects together in a single room and proceeds to reveal the method and individual behind the crime, bears no relation whatsoever to the methodology employed by police interceptors. the thought that the arch criminal would willingly sit through poirot's self-important dissertation, rather than making a run for it, truly beggars belief.

there are those who watch tv crime dramas, intent on sussing out the perpetrator well before the final episode has been broadcast, while others, such as yours truly, are more than content to sit back and let televisual matters take their course. i like the entertainment value of watching tv; i have no intention of doing their work for them. similarly that of punditry, a genre that has seemingly grown in almost direct proportion to the number of pr agencies that have sprung-up over the past few years.

i'd far rather watch a cycle race unfold from the helicopter shots and the motos than listen closely to the great and the good foretell the manner in which the race will be won. even if they're wrong. but while reality can be categorised as drama, describing the event in retrospect leaves the door wide-open to varying degrees of melodrama, a healthy dose of which forms the backbone of nige tassell's three weeks, eight seconds. but for all its infiltration into his narrative, there's every likelihood that the chap had no real alternative.

"...the collective verdict on LeMond was that he was an also ran. A spent force. Yesterday's man."

for surely the 1989 tour de france is the most examined race in recent history? those eight seconds that garnered lemond a highly remunerative contract with z-peugeot the following year also led to the late laurent fignon being remembered as the man who lost a tour by eight seconds, rather than a rider who won two other editions, including one at his first attempt. therefore, if those particular three-weeks in july have been analysed to the nth degree over the last 27 years, as an author, mr tassell had not only his work cut out to bring something new to the party, but need of entertaining us while doing so.

to be quite blunt, he succeeds on one count, while the jury's out on the second. 'three weeks, eight seconds' reads as a somewhat melodramatic voiceover for a tv documentary, a feature that you'll either enjoy or you wont.

"Mottet's modesty, cast into the deepest shadow by the force of Fignon's ebullience, certainly allowed him to operate comparatively unnoticed, despite topping the world rankings."

there is, however, a need to persuade the prospective reader that here is a valuable insight into a tour de france, the result of which pretty much everybody already knows. greg beat laurent by eight seconds; why would we wish to trawl through more than 200 pages to relearn that salient fact? in this respect, mr tassell could be legitimately said to have failed in his mission. nothing to see here, move along please. i'd be sore afraid, however, to raise my hand and testify that i knew every twist and turn of this race; the fact remains that i watched all of that tour and the fact also remains that greg beat laurent by eight seconds.

that, however, does not mean that this is a book to be left on the bookstore shelf.

perhaps i'm a more tolerant reader than others, but once i'd put the slightly overwrought commentary behind me, tassell's style of writing and his enthusiasm for his subject are quite compelling. commendably, the author has not crafted his narrative purely from his own conjecture. amongst others, he has spoken to pedro delgado (who turned up late for his own prologue), sean kelly, andy hampsten and sean yates. despite the interjection of their retrospective insights, it would have been nice if the voiceover style had gradually lessened of its own accord, but even by page 187 we still get...

"Less than 24 hours later, though, a surprise right hook was coming Fignon's way. A metaphorical punch, sure, but one that packed enough power to hurt forever."

however, there's no denying that 'three weeks, eight seconds', while hardly maintaining the degree of suspense engendered by those three weeks in july 1989, is a valiant attempt to look passionately at one of cycling's most memorable races. my son, whom i have recently inducted into the joys of the pelotonese, wasn't even born when this race took place, so author nige tassell potentially has a sizeable reading audience who know nothing of those eight seconds, an american still peppered with buckshot and a frenchman with a ponytail.

thursday 27 july 2017

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

london-paris: ten years after

london-paris 2017

there are at least four things you need to know about france. firstly, between calais and paris there are numerous little towns and villages named after saints of whom most of us will have never heard; those villages are frequently populated by a large number of 'barky' dogs which are usually and thankfully tied up in their gardens. they have an uncommonly large number of unstrategically placed manhole covers that seemed always to live on the descents, yet never on the ascents. and though they drive on the wrong side of the road, they still have the chainsets on the same side of the bike as do we.

london-paris 2017

but most of all, the french put the british to shame in their welcoming acceptance of the itinerant cyclist.

our motorcycle outriders closed down everything on the way to paris: road junctions, traffic lights, farm access, pedestrian crossings; you name it, they shut it down. and rather than the "get off the fackin' road" protestation that greeted us on the way through an english town on day one, the french came out of their houses to applaud and offer encouragement, to film and take photos on their phones and ipads, to high-five the peloton as they passed, to pull over onto the grass verge even though there was plenty of space to continue and to interrupt silage operations in their monster tractors to offer safe passage.

london-paris 2017

for cyclists brought up with the guilt of not paying road tax, this was something of a very welcome situation. and when the amalgamated peloton in excess of 400 velocipedinists headed into paris on saturday afternoon (bear in mind we're talking about the day prior to the tour de france's arrival), the fact that we not only rode up one side of a delightfully cobbled champs elysées, but round a shut-down (those motorcyclists again) arc de triomphe on our way to the eiffel tower, we probably felt even better than christopher did on the top step come sunday afternoon.

there are many london to paris rides nowadays, considerably more than was the case some ten years ago when i first joined a smaller hot chillee peloton on a different parcours that, in 2007, ended at versailles. i rode once again the following year, when the route had diverted to dover and included a ferry trip to calais. the champs elysées, arc de triomphe and eiffel tower all featured for the first time, beginning a trend that, in this, the ride's fourteenth year, are part and parcel of the experience. during our ride through central paris, we passed cheering participants of two other excursions, while others have upped the level of purgatory by bridging the capital cities in 24 hours. but then, that's their lookout.

london-paris 2017

naturally enough, over that trio of rides, i surged on at the front, keeping myself inches from the bumper of our maserati lead car, while all behind clamoured for me to slow down. at least that's how i remember it; and as long as you don't ask anyone else, that's exactly how it went down.

the 2017 hotchillee london-paris ride occupied three days in july, departing imber court sports club, near hampton court palace, at a time of day that we'd all hoped didn't really exist. but getting up at stupid o'clock when still fast asleep is an unavoidable aspect of the ride; embrace the suffering, because it's not going away. for three days, all we really had to do was eat, sleep, cycle: repeat.

london-paris 2017

rather obviously, between london and paris, there's a chunk of britain and a slightly larger chunk of france. the roads featured on the former barely rose above atrocious (but then, we all knew that) while those of the latter offered the speeding cyclist a far more amenable passage. granted, while surveying the landscapes and townscapes across the channel, we had occasion to trammel more than a few small, narrow and largely unkempt farm roads, but those were considered as features and almost never as bugs. and unlike british britain, they were often edged by quaint buildings featuring brightly painted wooden shutters.

london-paris 2017

on offer, in exchange for your hard-earned, is the option of five separate cycling groups, delineated by their advised average speeds. groups one and two scoot along at the sort of velocities associated with the competitive milieu; in fact they are the very individuals fighting for coloured jerseys in paris, while the remaining three groups were able to develop our social abilities at less onerous tempos, kept in check by friendly but firm ride captains. horrid thoughts of mechanical or personal malfeasance were mitigated by a following van containing a mechanic with a mobile workshop accompanied by a qualified paramedic. nobody actually fixes a puncture, they'd simply swap out the wheel.

we're all faux professionals here.

london-paris 2017

so what has changed in ten years? well, cycling has changed a lot over that period; britain likes cycling now, so instead of only four groups on the road, now there are five. and there's now a substantial waiting list to ride hotchillee's london-paris. the riding is a lot better organised; in 2008, on day one, another rider and i were left behind several miles from dover to find our own way. with an increased number of support staff, that would never happen nowadays. and the hotels are bigger and better. saturday night's hotel in paris was the montparnasse pullman and my room was on the 25th floor.

something that hasn't changed in the last ten years is the presence of a large bearded gentleman astride an appropriately large motorbike, playing hits from the eighties and nodding his head in time with the beat. midway through an onerous ascent, a bearded head bobbing to a reggae beat offered the opportunity for a smile and at least a brief gravitational anaesthetic. those french motorcycle outriders have considerably more clout at their behest than their more legally restricted british counterparts, but both groups do a marvellous job of keeping everybody safe from marauding interlocutors.

london-paris 2017

i'd be fibbing if i told you that the hotchillee london-paris ride was the greatest thing since sliced bread, given that i've never attempted any of the others. but the impeccable organisation surely gives them the edge? on arrival at the day's hotel, luggage is sat in the lobby awaiting collection while crew t-shirted hotchillee people dole out room keys. prominently displayed is a board advising the times of dinner, breakfast, coach collection the following morning, ride start time and the weather forecast. and if you happen to be roomed in the amiens mercure hotel, there's a view of the cathedral to die for.

and though breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided each day (with the montparnasse pullman hotel offering the most incredible finishers' spread i've ever scoffed), there are numerous daily water stops, with riders annihilating almost 3,500 litres of water en-route to paris. i asked hotchillee owner, sven thiele, how on earth he'd garnered permission to shut the arc de triomphe on the saturday afternoon before le tour descended?

"By asking stupid questions that I didn't know where stupid. And demanding an answer."

though there's an epithet that states it is better to travel well than to arrive, sven's london-paris ride offers both by the musette-full.

it's impossible to capture three days in a few words, so there will be a few more finely crafted paragraphs sooner, rather than later. thanks to all at hotchillee for three days of cycling bliss with nothing that i'd call a headwind.

wednesday 26 july 2017

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rowley's had painted custom cyclists

rovelo miniature cycling figure

on 30 september this year, were he still alive, drummer buddy rich would have been 100 years old. unfortunately, buddy died at the age of 69 in april of 1987, the very year that mrs washingmachinepost and i moved lock stock and barrel to the southern hebrides. i had attended a 1984 concert by the buddy rich big band in glasgow, though my father and i were sat so far from the stage, it was all but impossible to closely watch the man's impressive percussive technique.

however, not only for yours truly, but for drummers all acros the world, there will never be anyone greater than rich, despite all the stories relating to his apparently common fits of bad temper. i don't mind admitting that the larger of my two drumsets was purposely purchased with a covering of vintage marine pearl and in similar sizes to those played by buddy rich. if only i had possession of even a tenth of his ability.

but aside from owning a similarly constituted drumset and more than just a few recordings and dvds, that rarely seems enough to confirm my own fandom, even if, up till now, it was something i kept largely to myself. only the other day, i discovered that vic firth drumsticks have issued a commemorative pair of buddy rich sticks, presumably so that others as endeared as yours truly, might order a pair in celebration of the upcoming anniversary.

rovelo miniature cycling figures

because sometimes you just need that little tangible extra.

a similar state of affairs no doubt exists amongst certain cyclists for whom three weeks of french france is clearly insufficient to scratch that itch. aside from replica team strips and carbon fibre waaay outside our feeble demands, to politely demonstrate to any visitors who may happen to drop by unannounced, there is little better than a peloton of tiny hand-painted cyclists on the sitting room mantlepiece.

such diminutive items are readily available from a variety of sources, but for the true connoisseur, nothing less than a custom painted figure will suffice, the sort of craftsmanship available from rowland haverly, who trades as rowleyrides at i first came across these at the rouleur classic last november and the memory was jogged during a recent visit to rapha's brewer street cycle club. the painting of these figures was sophisticated to the extent that i was moved to ask rowley how long he'd been painting model cyclists?

"I think its about seven years now. I did have a bit of a break as I was selling them on eBay in the early days and that became disheartening. I then started to use Instagram as my 'shop window' and it started to pick up from there. I now feel very lucky that I receive orders from all over the world for my little chaps. It certainly gives me a lot more job satisfaction than my day job!"

rovelo miniature cycling figure

though i spent my later teenage years at art college, where creativity was allegedly valued, i still infrequently enjoy colouring books and at one time, those painting by numbers sets, even though the end results looked a tad bizarre at times. however, though the art of painting tiny metal cyclists on bicycles might seem like a miniature industrial exercise, is rowley of a naturally artistic disposition, or is that not really part of the job description?

"I always used to enjoy art and drawing when I was younger, but after I left school, I left it behind. It was the feeling of the need to start doing something arty again that led me to painting the figures. It's a shame that, as we 'grow up,' we stop doing the things we loved as a child."

it's quite possible that, in answer to rowley's last statement, we tend to view those childhood pastimes in the manner that an adult views his/her hobbies. a hobby should, if it's to fulfil its full value, be something that lowers stress, increases enjoyment and offers little or no pressure on available time. if it takes nine months to put a fignon replica raleigh together, so be it. in rowley's case, are those magnificently painted little cyclists something that developed from a hobby, or was commerce the object from the outset?

"I initially ordered 30 figures from the forgery in France with the idea of painting a few for myself and gifting a few to friends. After that I painted up a few in the style of Rapha and Merckx etc and it took off from there. It is now definitely a second full-time job and I have a two month waiting list to try and keep on top of."

rovelo miniature cycling figures

as i intimated above, if you're happy to have the mantlepiece decorated with what might be termed generic cycling figures as do i, there are a number of retail outlets and ebay sites more than happy to supply your demands. however, should you perhaps wish something a little more specialised, a cyclist painted in retro team kit or a more personalised specimen, the field narrows considerably. however, i'd have been inclined to think it more likely that the latter would form a small part of rowley's daily output. does he, therefore, offer any generic painted models or is it a case of commissions only?

"It is most definitely commissions only these days and most people request a mini version of themselves on their bike in their club kit etc., whick keeps things fresh and interesting. There are only so many times you can paint hoops around Peter Sagan's World Champs jersey before the novelty wears off. I rarely get the time to build up stocks and if I do, they are usually allocated to the Rouleur Classic show at which I have been lucky enough to exhibit for the last two years. So I try to get some Eddy Merckx, Roger de Vlaeminck, Wiggins, Froome and Sagan figures setup, as they are always the most popular."

rovelo miniature cycling figures

having discovered only recently that there are smartphone apps that allow a few 21st century businesses to offer flatpack flower bouquets through your letterbox (yes, really), if there was ever any doubt that we live in the age of instant gratification, that knowledge dispelled the last vestiges of belief. painting little metal figures is probably not something that can be instantly delivered after clicking an app and a quick perusal of the website will inform those intent on owning their very own miniature verisimilitude, that rowley currently has a waiting list of two - three months. is that as a result of the time it takes, or because he's painstakingly patient.

"I guess each figure takes on average about a week. More complex designs take longer, as I have to wait for the paint to dry overnight before moving onto the next stage. I have had a lot more requests for female cyclists recently and they take a little longer, what with modelling and painting the hair etc."

when i had notions of being an artist, there was always the scary notion that a commission might be beyond my capabilities, or that the end result would prove less than satisfactory to those responsible for the commission. sadly, an artistic career failed to last long enough to find out. however, has rowley received any commissions that have provided more difficulty than most?

rovelo miniature cycling figure

"Lord Horatio Nelson on a bike was probably my trickiest, one which I made for the organisers of the Trafalgar Way sportive. And my occasional series of Bowie on a Bike, which I do for myself, are always a challenge. Others have been the larger bulk orders from clubs and manufacturers etc., which usually have a tight time schedule and where I have had to put in some late nights and swollen ankles to complete."

if i might briefly return to the drumming metaphor with which i opened, those of us intent on presenting a competent face to the music-loving public spend more than a few hours each day practising our art in order that any percussive demands are less than our ability to cope. in other words 'headroom'. in order to be good, you've got to be better than good. in rowley's case, does this mean he has had to become well-versed in the history of cycle sport to ensure accuracy of design?

"I guess it helps, but no-one has asked for anyone too obscure. I did make a diorama of all the teams that took part in the 1971 Tour de France and there were two or three teams on which it was very difficult to find info. I got there in the end, but for a while it looked like the project might falter due to a lack of available info. I guess some teams only exist for a year before sponsorships change. In general, all jerseys evolve on a yearly basis, so they often take a bit of research to get the finer details correct."

i have a notion that cycling is one of those activities for which you'd have to hold enthusiasm before becoming involved on such a minute scale. i'd be very unlikely to spend as many hours as i do writing the post if my real joy in like was a good game of golf (a little hebridean humour there; a good game of golf indeed). it therefore seems not too inappropriate to ask rowley if he's a cyclist in real life?

"I try to be. At the moment it's reserved for the odd commute and a Sunday morning. Having a young family and a day time job along with the figure painting, means times is precious. It's a sign of the times that I would rather fill my free social time cycling with friends than sitting in a pub with them."

tuesday 25 july 2017

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