i'll be your consultant for today

cycling consultant

the physical education teacher at the local secondary school stopped me in the street a few weeks ago to ask whether i might be predisposed, in my capacity as cycling consultant, to pop up to the school at an undisclosed point in time, and advise a group of pupils as to the etiquette of cycling. it transpires that he intends taking this selfsame group across the waters to the isle of arran, to the east of the kintyre peninsula, between us and scotland. since few, if any, have previously undertaken a bike ride of such onerous dimensions, he thought my potential input might not only fire their collective enthusiasm, but displace any untoward faux pas that may occur between kennacraig and the ferry port at claonaig.

it occurred to me that the teacher in charge may have strategically failed to inform them that the few kilometres separating the two ferry ports in kintyre, head ever upwards by way of a 14% gradient. if i were in his shoes, i think i'd have been inclined to do likewise; no point in scaring them off before the trip has left the planning stages.

i currently spend several hours each week at the school, but that's in a percussive capacity. being asked to provide the benefit of my accumulated velocipedinal knowledge is, i don't mind admitting, a welcome diversion. though i've been riding and fixing bicycles for more years than i care to remember, i cannot recall being asked to offer the benefit of that which i may (or may not) have learned across the decades. but what might be a tad more pertinent is just what advice i might be able to offer to kids who have yet to prove themselves equal to the task, and more than likely own bicycles every bit as inadequate.

those of you who have children or grandchildren beset with the iniquity of having been presented with one of those bicycle-shaped-objects (bso) which weigh more than two of our own, will likely know where i'm coming from. i can think of few youngsters who truly benefit from owning a full-suspension, heavy steel bso, fitted with unnecessarily knobbly tyres, particularly when faced with a lengthy uphill bike ride, far from home.

however, as with all streams of educational endeavour, there will be those who are more equal to the task at hand, than others. the trick, one would imagine, is to have them form some sort of slow moving peloton, with the stronger individuals assisting the less strong.

as if to demonstrate this point, as a fellow member of the velo club peloton and i headed homeward this afternoon into an increasingly fierce headwind (you may remember the forty mph gusts we discussed yesterday), we chanced upon another member of the sunday morning set, heading in the same direction, but obviously struggling in the face of adversity. aside from offering felicitations as we passed, as masters of the echelon, we formed the customary procession in order to assist the gentleman over the last few kilometres into the village.

though it's probably expecting a tad too much to have the less senior velocipedinists easily replicate our collective experience, i intend to emphasise this need for a group intelligence, one that accords with the leave no-one behind philosophy that is a central part of the sunday morning peloton. i think i'm also likely to point out that all the work ought not to be left to a solitary individual. the law of averages dictates that there will be more than one pupil with the wherewithal to emulate sean yates, in which case, they ought best to share the workload.

i shall, of coures, end with exhortations to adopt the characteristics of rule #5, but i believe that the scottish education system may require that i use more child-friendly language.

sunday 24 december 2017

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festive kilometres

a stormy sea

second-guessing is pretty much the best we can do at this time of year. though i have family intending to visit from scotland, according to the weather forecast over the course of this weekend, they might spend part of that festive journey watching waves breaking over the pier at kennacraig. you'd figure in these modern times of weather satellites and computer prediction, the forecasts would be darned near infallible, and to a greater or lesser extent, they are. but this infalliblity seems able only to extend to a period of 24 hours or less. at the beginning of the week, all was set to be flat calm, yet by friday afternoon, the forecast was showing winds gusting to just over 40mph.

forty mile an hour winds may seem a tad onerous to most of you, but in truth, it's par for the course in november and december. the cause for concern here is the disparity between the average windspeed (mid-twenties) and the gusts, then trying to figure out whether calmac's ferries are likely to sail. based on the average speed, there would be cars and passengers leaving and arriving all day, but we all have a sneaking suspicion that the boats' captains are more influenced by the numbers in red as opposed to the light yellow.

like i said, it's a bit of a lottery.

fortunately, though every bit as much at the mercy of gusting crosswinds as are calmac, those of us with velocipedinal tendencies do not have the responsibilities engendered by the need to carry passengers. with a total of 500 festive kilometres to be trammeled bwteen tomorrow and the end of the year, that's probably a good thing.

i'd like to give the impression of possessing the fitness, stamina and commitment displayed by sven nys, with appropriate clothing (waterproof head to toe, just to reference the forecast once again) for a smidgeon more than 80km on christmas eve, already laid neatly in the bathroom for the proposed battle ahead. but in fact, if i'm totally honest, after an office indian take-out meal at friday lunchtime, i'm more inclined to nod off in front of the telly box. (for those wondering why i expect to ride twenty kilometres further than the average would dictate, the idea is to lessen the time of absence on christmas day. brownie points.)

but, assuming our visitors make it as far as islay's shores prior to santa's visit, there is greater incentive than usual to accomplish every last one of rapha's festive 500 kilometres. in day to day life, mrs washingmachinepost and i are the only two in the house, a situation that usually eases us comfortably and quietly through the festive period. since two of the impending visitors are under the age of five, there is added incentive to enjoy those hours of solitary in the saddle, avoiding communal christmas television watching, all the while working off the extra calories that have sneaked into each mealtime.

this is not to suggest that the aforementioned visit is unwelcome; far from it, but where there would normally be no available escape pod, should tensions (or sheer boredom) look like they may get the better of the situation, a bicycle, right at the moment, is very much just for christmas.

and i even have one of those bright pink brevet cards to attach to the stem in order i might record my efforts. what could possibly go wrong?

saturday 23 december 2017

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moving targets

strava year in pictures

as i get older, i have begun to notice what is no doubt intended as a kindness, but if examined more closely, could easily be misconstrued as a subtle put-down. endless news items concerning increasing numbers of sufferers from dementia and alzheimer's, have given rise to concerns that standing in the kitchen with the fridge door open and no idea why, might demonstrate the early onset of either. of course, that's not to deny that situations such as the latter could well be true, but more than likely it's simply a manifestation of the endless stream of information for which few of us are equipped to process.

i recently played percussion and drummed at a high school christmas concert and after each performance rehearsal, almost to a boy and girl, the kids taking part checked their phones, though quite for what, i have no idea. i made it all the way through both my high school years and those spent at art college without any prescient notion that i was, for some undefined reason or other, missing out. had i need of phoning home to impress upon my parents that the bank balance was not looking healthy, i popped out to the phone box on the corner. if they needed to contact me, i either received a letter, or my landlady would inform me of an incoming call.

life is not, however, anything like that anymore. though my school years featured real-life conversations, nowadays much of that seems to have transferred its affections to either text messages, facebook or twitter. do not misunderstand this as invective; despite my dislike of so-called social media, i am merely attempting to present life as it is, a situation that has no bearing on whether we'd like it to be this way or not.

we, however, are better than this. not for us the vicissitudes of common, unrestrained chat over the more popular platforms, for we have (potentially), strava. lest you think that either i doth protest too much, or once again i'm having a go, so to speak, i might point out that each and every press release i receive on the subject begins "strava, the social network for athletes...". i am merely presenting the facts, including the one that demonstrates that strava membership seems immediately to confer a hitherto unrecognised athleticism upon its membership.

i'd be fibbing if i let you believe that my past year in cycling constituted an impressively lengthy list. in point of fact, there are really only two major points worth listing: that of successfully riding from london to paris along with completing a stunningly wet and windy ride of the falling rain. i'm hoping to add 500 festive kilometres to that list in just over a week or so, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. strava, however, don't just want you to get by on a simple list or meaningless set of riding statistics; having already made you all into overnight athletes, now they want to give you your own film career.

for those with more memorable tick boxes on their strava accounts, the social network for athletes needs you only to pop over to your membership page where they will engender a movie presenting your year in sport, where "...athletes can see their biggest achievements, best memories and data highlights of 2017." perhaps the most impressive part of this offer is that the technology exists to create moving pictures from the more than one million uploads every day. graeme obree once claimed that 89% of statistics were made up on the spot and though strava's numbers are certainly real, i really do fear for a velocipedinal society that swaps more than 2.3 million kudos every year, even if i have no idea of what that means.

perhaps that's what those kids were doing after rehearsals?

#yearinsport | strava

friday 22 december 2017

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ritchey logic steel frameset

ritchey logic frameset

if you will allow me to anthropomorphise for a moment or two, steel has been really sneaky, quite probably out of necessity. it was firstly usurped in the early 1990s by the bauxite derived aluminium, which appeared seemingly from nowhere and drove the beloved lugged steel frame into hiding. though titanium had a stab at steel's former crown in competition with aluminium, all were eventually subsumed by mike burrows' burnt plastic and it has been ever so since.

ritchey logic frameset

during this period of hibernation, the faithful have not deserted the apparently drowning (steel) ship. richard sachs and dario pegoretti have contrived to design and have produced pegorichie tubing as well as many of the necessary cast lugs to allow others as well as themselves to continue the tradition. and through all that has befallen the metal in the interim, at least as far as bike building is concerned, has been tom ritchey who, like his above mentioned peers, has remained faithful to the ferous material through his rightly famed logic tubing.

that i might avail myself of such so-called retro luxury, ritchey europe kindly sent a ritchey logic steel frameset in beautifully understated, gun-metal grey metallic paint with the much sought-after ritchey lettering on the downtube and the tr monogram on the headtube. as a dyed-in-the-wool, self-confessed luddite, it gives me great pleasure to recognise that, when i write the word tube in relation to a part of the logic frame, i really do mean tube.

ritchey logic frameset

and on that note, there's no denying that tom ritchey's logic frame looks positively anorexic in comparison to some of the carbon sitting in the bike shed. though i believe i should probably keep my prejudices to myself, for me (and at least two other members of the sunday morning peloton) that is a (very) good thing. the logic tubes are conjoined by the more contemporary method of tig welding, though there is what appears to be a sleeve atop the seat-tube, aiding and abetting the thin seatstays to meet the rest of the frame. the stays also house the seat clamp bolt, making everything neat and tidy. and in these days of fashionable internal cable routing, i was most relieved to note that all the wires on the ritchey travel along the outside.

i mention the latter because, as advertised in my heading, this review concerns the frame, rather than the bits that add up to make it a bicycle. since yours truly was responsible for fastening all this together, i'm much happier with external than internal cables.

ritchey logic frameset

those spindly seatstays join with equally thin chainstays by way of steel, hooded dropouts, which in turn arrive at a normal bottom bracket shell. eschewing any attempt at contemporary flavouring, the considerably less than obese downtube remains pretty much round from top to bottom, while the head tube contains a ritchey logic headset within flared sections at both ends. mr ritchey is, however, scarcely a luddite himself, recognising that the performance of a steel frame can be enhanced by means of a gently curving carbon fork. in so doing, he has resisted any ostentation by having them painted the same colour as the rest of the frame.

to take account of those who might enjoy riding further and faster, there are bottle cage bolts on both down-tube and seat-tube.

ritchey logic frameset

ritchey also supplied a classic seatpost, stem, traditional curve handlebars and some remarkably stylish and comfortable black bar tape, along with a ritchey, slotted skyline saddle. to make the frame into more than just an elegant sculpture, i fitted a campagnolo chorus groupset, a set of wheelsmith tubeless-ready wheels shod with mavic's yksion ust 28mm tubeless tyres (yes, that logic frame sports sufficient clearance for 28mm tyres. luxury.) to complete the package, i fitted a pair of ritchey wcs offroad pedals.

going for a ride

though there may be expert reviewers with the ability to separate frame from componentry when time comes to ride the bike, i'm really not sure i'm one of them. though i seriously doubt there are any groupsets on the market today that fail in their designed mission, at least when new, any perceived lacking in the gear changing or braking departments can have an adverse effect on appreciation of the frame's qualities. in this case, as you may have read recently on the post, campagnolo's third tier groupset offered a quality well in keeping with that of the frame to which it was attached.

ritchey logic frameset

for those who have never had the luxury of riding a steel frame, they have a quality all of their own, substantially different from that of carbon. as if to underline its ubiquity in the professional peloton, the latter has been the subject of a continued journey towards the ultimate stiffness, mostly to satisfy the alleged needs of their riders. though steel was once employed in every section of the sport, there are currently no world tour or pro-continental teams that i know of riding metal frames of any description.

it has become something of a well-worn cliché to announce that 'if it was good enough for eddy...' and since eddy's five-hundred plus victories were aboard a steel frame, there may still be a ring of truth to that statement. the great god stiffness has often seemed to be an end in itself as opposed to a means to an end; not all of us want to ride or race particularly stiff frames. in an almost perfect example of a tail wagging the dog, the majority of contemporary carbon frames are designed for the incredibly small majority of the velocipedinal population with a professional contract in their jersey pockets.

ritchey logic frameset

though i have often asked the question as to why seatpost saddle clamps had to change from campagnolo's original single adjustment bolt, that on the ritchey post was quite ingenious in its conception. yes, i had an unwanted degree of faff fitting the saddle in the first place, predominantly due to user error, but ultimately, there's only a single side-facing allen bolt on the drive-side that alters both fore and aft placement along with angle. simplicity itself.

the ritchey logic steel frame rides like the dream the elder statesmen amongst us always knew it would and the dream that the less ancient may not yet have experienced. the balance is impeccable, whether simply riding in a straight line, heading steeply upwards, or careening downhill, just barely in charge of our own destiny. though i generally favour steel forks on a steel bike, the efficacy and comfort of ritchey's carbon edition is hard to argue against. it is they that undoubtedly conspire to offer rail-like steering and handling, that would have you convinced the bike had your very best interests at heart, even in the face of descending adversity.

ritchey logic frameset

i have long used the highly unscientific method of apprising the rear triangle's resistance to squirming under pressure, by leaving the brake pads scarcely a millimetre from the wheel rim. should there be any undue movement at all, a bit of welly uphill in completely the wrong gear is pretty much bound to find its hiding place. aside from the utter joy of a bottom bracket resilience that must surely have been designed to encourage ascending well beyond my capabilities, the only unrequired contact between pad and rim seemed to arrive with a coating of belgian toothpaste. those carbon obsessed pros mentioned above, would probably have no difficulty in realising unwanted movement at the bottom bracket, but unless i'm a lot weaker in spirit than the rest of you, i don't think it's a factor that is like to trouble the majority of us.

though i've managed to cover a few hundred kilometres aboard the logic, there are still more than a few more to go, all of which i'm happily looking forward to. these will include this year's attempt at rapha's festive 500. it would be quite naive of me to expect that you'd believe my conclusions after such brevity of acquaintance, so i'll revisit the situation in the new year.

ritchey's logic steel frameset and fork as reviewed, retailed at £1050. the second version of this frame, now painted skyline blue, costs a few pounds more, at £1120, something of a steal for this quality of frame. sizes range from 51cm to 59cm in 2cm increments. size reviewed: 55cm.

ritchey logic frameset

thursday 21 december 2017

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phone home

molteni phonepac

en-route to the recent rouleur classic, i made a one-night stop at my daughter's house in glasgow, just to ensure that my two grandsons realise that i'm not only a nodding head on facetime. the bus from kennacraig arrives in at buchanan bus station and i then have need of catching a low-level train from queen street station. the nearest railway station to my daughter's abode is a few stops along the tracks from there, but scarcely far enough to begin reading a novel or a copy of the guardian, so i just sat looking out the window and people watching for a while.

i know well that my lack of a mobile phone has become one of life's more boring subjects of discussion, but since it is pertinent to this particular dialogue, i'll simply point out that i don't own any form of mobile phone, smart or otherwise. bearing that in mind, on that train journey to western glasgow, i appear to have been in a minority of one. every single person who boarded that train along the way was either staring at their smartphone screen or wearing a pair of earphones; and i mean every single person, no matter their age.

peugeot phonepac

as a result, conversation in the carriage was pretty much non-existent. and to think they call it social media.

meantime, advertising for these devices on the telly box seems to portray them as considerably changed from their original purpose. while i can recall visiting islay in the 1980s and observing a gentleman of ostentation standing on a low wall using a brick of a mobile phone for all to see, the modern equivalent is, to all intent and purposes, a small computer with the ability to make the odd phone call, a fact you'd scarcely glean from any of those adverts.

lately it appears that reducing your bank balance by close on £1,000 provides the ability to have an animated poo sing christmas greetings to your nearest and dearest, while taking selfies in both directions. maybe nobody needs to make phone calls anymore as long as facebook and twitter exist?

however, acknowledging the absence of such a device at thewashingmachinepost, and presuming i am indeed in a minority of one, it would not seem too outlandish to suppose that there is a substantial number of velocipedinists who have not followed my example. la vie claire phonepac one of our sunday morning peloton suffers from being the local roads engineer and during the recent cold spell, he was on-call, should it have been found necessary to send the gritters out. unfortunately, the hapless fellow had a perfectly pleasant cold and sunny bike ride interrupted by a phone call to do precisely that mentioned above.

one other of our number works at islay airport and is also frequently on-call on a sunday morning, once more, necessitating the carrying of a mobile device. when this is the case, however, we are restricted to a single sunday morning route, due to a lack of phone signal in parts of our alternatives. personally, i'd ban the little blighters from every jersey pocket, but, as the saying goes 'reality bites'.

but, if i'm reluctantly willing to accept the ubiquitousness of the situation, it behoves me well to learn that such immensely expensive items have need of protection from the elements, particularly during a season such as the present, which often features enough elements to spread evenly across most of the year. brooklyn phonepac it almost goes without saying that the least your smartphone deserves/needs, is a waterproof enclosure that allows continued use of both phone and camera without removal. and if your coffee shop of choice is loath to accept apple pay or android pay, it would be nice if there was space for a few morsels of cash too. if all this manages to fit in a jersey pocket, then you may consider that all your christmases have arrived simultaneously.

the majority would doubtless be much cheered should a case fitting the above description were to be found in their stockings next monday morning. but imagine how much greater would be that delight if the encasement described, sported demonstrable affiliation to the cycling milieu. and i'll be darned if the chaps at prendas ciclismo haven't seemingly read my mind.

their retro phonepac2, featuring designs such as molteni arcore, brooklyn, la vie claire, san pellegrino, peugeot and st. raphael from cycling's halcyon days of yore, retail at a mere £4.95 each, though if you purchase three, it'll cost only £12; a mere fraction of whatever you paid for the phone in the first place. though i'll admit it's cutting things a tad close for christmas, prendas' mail order usually takes mere minutes for delivery, even as far north west as the post, so i'd click the link below and keep your fingers crossed.

just don't get me one.

prendas retro phonepac2

wednesday 20 december 2017

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never mind the circumference, feel the width

challenge strade bianca

trends can be both benevolent and downright awkward at one and the same time. children have been bullied at school for not wearing the correct trainers and if you're at all like me, you'll feel great sympathy for the unfortunate so and so in those cycling weekly club features, standing in the background, bereft of the club kit being ostentatiously worn by all around him/her. granted, that may not specifically be considered a trend, but i'm sure you catch my drift.

it was a trend in the mid-eighties that drew all and sundry away from the road bike, replaced with the new kid on the block: the mountain bike. and it was a variation on that very same trend that drew us all back to the road once again in the early noughties. and having done so, all manner of subsequent trends interfered with the simple act of going for a bike ride. strava i have already denigrated too often to be considered less than prejudiced, but others such as black anodised groupsets, the recent move to disc brakes and thankfully dying away, coloured tyres matched to the bicycle frame.

challenge parigi roubaix

yet it is tyres that once more form the basis of another trend, though this time it has nothing to do with the tread colour. mountain bikes have already suffered (and may still be suffering) from a plethora of tyre diameters, a feature that has yet to make itself known on the road. the road-going peloton, however, is now in a tizz over the width of its rubber, one that threatens to disenfranchise a sizeable proportion of the velocipedinal cognoscenti. and just before anyone else gets in there first, let me add my name to those who have recognised this as another means of adding to the profit margin.

the most recent issue of cycling weekly asked the question 'is it the end of the road for the 23c tyre?' at one time the very measure of quality applied to a shop floor of bicycles, the tyre width that used to keep us all safe and fast has now come under attack from not only that of a couple of millimetres more width, but laterally, even tyres bearing more than seven extra. when i eventually get to my review of the ritchey logic frameset, i will be pointing out that it offers appropriate clearance for 28mm wide rubber, a number that's gradually becoming the new standard.

mavic yksion

in other words, a trend.

but while this trend supposedly offers improved rolling resistance over both its narrower brethren, along with an inescapably more comfortable bike ride, it does not offer these features without demanding an ultimately expensive penalty. for when i thought it a ginger peachy notion to investigate whether a steel colnago master frameset would eagerly welcome 28mm, i was somewhat disappointed. granted, they did sort of work, but on removing a thus shod rear wheel, i discovered that the tread had worn the paint from under the brake bridge. lateral clearance was minimal, but vertical too restrictive.

catch any grit or gravel on the rear tyre and as it passed under the rear caliper and brake bridge, forward momentum was most definitely not conserved.

schwalbe tubeless

so just like the advent of disc brakes, any desire to follow the trend to greater tyre widths must also incorporate often substantial expediture. it's the double-glazing conundrum all over again, one that seems to be re-employed at strategic moments in the quest for sustained profit margins. no amount of finger-crossing, shoe-horning and an unrestrained stream of expletives is going to squeeze a pair of 28mm tyres into a frame that was designed for 23.

i have no doubt that the research proving lower rolling resistance from wider tyres is perfectly genuine, though i confess i have no scientific means of testing its veracity. but those of us who may wish to follow this latest trend, for whatever reason, have been left by the wayside, unless our lottery scratchcard win realised enough for the latest steel or carbon fibre. scotland's shand cycles have, for a number of years, offered their delightfully named skinnymalinky as having been designed for scottish roads and thus perfectly at home with a width which many of us, north of the border, regard as an adequate minimum to begin with. it would be naive to pretend they are alone in displaying this level of perspicacity for many contemporary bicycles are now capable of following suit.

but in a few years' time, when someone makes the radical discovery that, in fact, 18mm was the way to go after all, there are going to be a large number of frames being ridden with substantial, unaerodynamic gaps around their nether regions.

trends will do that to a bicycle.

tuesday 19 december 2017

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