elderly people

i have been saying it for years, mostly every bit as tongue in cheek as the majority of velominati's rules of cycling, but i figure that cycling cures all ills. no matter what ailments trouble friends, family or colleagues, my stock answer has always been 'it's due to a lack of cycling'. there has been the occasional tacit agreement from some (though i note that few have been sufficiently motivated to follow my example), but the majority are far more likely to simply humour me in the hope that i'll change the subject.

or they change the subject all on their own.

this standard riposte is, of course, based on absolutely nothing other than a slightly superior sense of smuggery (which is now an actual word). i am insufficiently well-versed in medical matters to have any verifiable evidence that proves i'm in any way correct, but since the answer suits my devious purposes, i'm sticking by it. however, it now transpires that i might well be more correct than my smuggery would intially suggest.

this past week, the guardian newspaper and the bbc reported on scientific tests carried out on a sample of 125 amateur cyclists ranging in age from 55 to 79 which were subsequently compared with a similar age group who, like most of my (our) friends, didn't partake of regular exercise. i figure you already know the results, either because you read the same article in the guardian, or because you well know that, had the results been disfavourable from the cyclists' point of view, i'd scarcely have mentioned it here at all.

i'm nothing, if not selective in my truths.

apparently, as honed athletes, (like the mighty dave t, who celebrated another birthday a couple of weeks ago) we not only maintain muscle mass and strength even as the years roll by, but our body fat tends not to vary much and nor do our cholesterol levels. i believe these results are tantamount to permission to be insufferably smug at every opportunity. but, as jiminy cricket was wont to say, "there's more."

apparently the anti-ageing effects of regularly pedalling a bicycle have edged towards our immune systems. though i had no idea i possessed a thymus in the first place, it transpires that this particular bodily organ produces immune cells known as t-cells. the thymus has a reputation for diminishing in size and output from the age of twenty onwards, yet the thymuses of the older cyclists tested were found to be every bit as effective as those of the young. suddenly, we're the cool kids on the block.

to test the elderly velocipedinists, the men had need of riding 100km in less than six and a half hours, while their female counterparts covered 40km less in five and a half hours.

however, just in case these words are being read by members of the civilian population, mistakenly here on their quest for a new washing machine, the study offers no supporting evidence that taking up cycling in later life would be likely to alleviate the misdemeanours of a misspent youth. in mitigation, observation of one or two of the sunday morning peloton would suggest that weight loss and fitness can still be acquired with even modest dedication to the cause, but whether the benefits extend to the fickle immune system, i know not. but in truth, what have you got to lose?

justifiable smuggery.

monday 12 march 2018

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rapha check classic wind jacket

rapha check classic windjacket ii

it seems likely that everyone has a seminal moment that brought them to cycling in the first place. that moment perhaps took place in the very early years, on discovering that being able to ride a bicycle meant a hitherto unseen amount of freedom from mum and dad and if balance arrived early enough, a certain degree of bragging rights amongst one's peers. or it could have been the inadvertent witnessing of a bike race and thinking 'how cool is that?'

rapha check classic windjacket ii

i was a very late starter, unable to keep my balance for any meaningful number of centimetres, let alone metres. i borrowed a small red bicycle from a friend and spent many a frustrating hour falling off in our large(ish) back garden before gaing both the ability and confidence to ride further afield. once cycling nirvana had been achieved there was, to quote a well-worn phrase, 'no looking back'

however, it is of eternal regret that i had no earthly idea that mere minions such as myself could enter the competitive realm. there may well have been posters in local bike shops, advertising cycle clubs in the area, but the link between clubs (to which i have an inbuilt aversion in any case) and racing or time-trialling was never realised or pointed out by any well-meaning friend or relative. so ignorant was i of such matters, that even in my early twenties, when riding to work on the weekends, yellow-jacketed marshals positioned at roundabouts on the dual-carriageway, keeping a lookout for fast moving, numbered cyclists, didn't switch on any light bulbs.

rapha check classic windjacket ii

along with many, my first real introduction to the competitive arena, was channel four's half-hour recap of the tour de france. sadly, they were one year too late to capture robert millar (philippa york) achieving britain's (scotland's) highest ever placing in the 1984 tour while acquiring the polka dot jersey. but then again, it's always possible that the impetus to have gary imlach impart the day's proceedings came as a result of millar's success. suddenly, the tour de france had some relevance to those of us across the channel.

rapha check classic windjacket ii

in mitigation, had that coverage commenced in 1984, my perceptions may have been subtly altered. as a complete newbie, relating robert's climbing prowess with that of the now iconic chequered peugeot jersey may well have been missed, considering the number of stages he spent riding in red polka dots.

it would be naive of me to attribute that black and white chequered hoop solely with millar's tour success, for the jersey had existed in one form or another for a number of years, most notably on the shoulders of tommy simpson and subsequently, eddy merckx. but both those riders were before my time and neither provided the impetus for an ill-advised blast up dundonald hill on a bicycle less than equipped for the attempt. the innocent thinking there was entirely based on the premise that if glasgow born millar could climb whacking great mountains in france, then glasgow born me could dispatch the ascent of dundonald hill with similar ease.

rapha check classic windjacket ii

that was lesson one.

so, no matter the inpsiration behind rapha's new season check range, consisting of a short-sleeve classic jersey, socks, gilet, a cap, and this reviewed variation on the classic wind jacket, a chequered hoop will always bring to mind robert millar.

after yesterday's appreciation of richard mitchelson's any weather cyclist t-shirt, it seems almost trite to make mention of the 38mph winds that did their level best to trouble this admirable wind-jacket. you can take my word for it that the wind does not permeate its black and white constitution and rather comfortingly, while the water resistance proved considerably better than expected. it wouldn't be the first garment i'd reach for if the rain was teeming down outside, but after an hour or so in wind-driven showers, we all lived happily after.

despite its wafer thin scrunchability, the wind jacket offers a degree of pragmatism by way of a cleverly concealed, zipped valuables pocket and adjustable cords in the hem. the joints between sleeves and torso are of a fine mesh to aid breathability and the elasticated lycra cuffs do a fine job of preventing ingress of draughts when the north wind doth blow. the only bit missing, as far as i can see, is an accompanying ability to climb like robert, but that might still be hiding in the zipped pocket.

rapha's check classic wind jacket is available in sizes ranging from xs to xxl at a retail price of £155.

rapha checked classic wind jacket ii

sunday 11 march 2018

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any weather rider

any weather cyclist - rich mitch

it's a situation that has most of us here, somewhat confused. after the so-called 'beast from the east' failed miserably to dump tonnes of powdery snow upon our green and pleasant land (though it succeeded in sucking all the heat from the air), friday dawned clear, sunny, blue-skied and eventually, actually rather warm. i spent a part of my afternoon discovering that the alloy spring retention portion of a v-brake does not survive well in our more usual wet and windy weather. the moment the allen key was inserted into the adjustment screw, the whole affair disintegrated into small bits of grey metal. a subsequent attempt to replace a set of disc pads was every bit as unsuccessful; either the new pads feature too thick a braking surface, or those pistons are more than reluctant to slide back into their slots.

all in all, not my finest moments.

however, the latter piece of necessary cyclocross maintenance has been on hold too long; those pad security bolts are small and fiddly, to say nothing of the tiny circlip. miniature components that need better than numb fingers to deal with. but sunny temperatures in the hebrides seemingly offered the ideal opportunity to attempt a previously unlearned skill, one which failed miserably, even though i'd no need to wear a woolly hat during this period of failure.

however, it would be an understatement to point out that residents of scotland's west coast are inured to inclement weather, a statement that is no less true on islay than it is on tiree, skye or lewis. it's not hard to see why the few remaining residents of st kilda were depserate not have to leave in 1930, but there's little doubt that they faced the full force of the north atlantic in their constant struggle for survival. despite being situated several hundred miles south, islay lives in a gap between mull and northern ireland, a gap in which there is not one smidgeon of defence against incoming inclemency, nor indeed interrupted by anything between saligo bay and the eastern seaboard of canada.

a more than notable topographical feature across most of the western islands, particularly in proximity to their atlantic coasts, is a substantial lack of available shelter from the elements. once past the rspb reserve at aoradh farm, there are only tiny bushes, shrubbery that scarcely conceals newborn lambs, let alone an intrepid velocipedinist. thus, when clobbered by the weather, it is very much a case of grinning and bearing it. and at the risk of seriously over-egging the pudding, a hebridean cyclist intent on maintaining that hard-won strava status has little option but to gird their loins and indulge in the ubiquitous heads down, no nonsense, mindless boogie for which we have every hope of becoming famous.

as i never tire of saying (though you're probably tired of reading) "hebrideans are the flandriens of the west."

any weather cyclist - rich mitch

but a few weeks past, as that eastern beast strafed loch gruinart with its sub-zero blast, we pulled in to allow for an oncoming car. as it slowed on passing, the driver wound down his window and with a german accent, said "you are brave guys". my how we smirked while agreeing that he'd obviously confused the word 'brave' with the word 'stupid'. but what happens when we go on our holidays? what happens when we are removed from our natural habitat? what happens if we're queried on our distinct lack of appreciable tanlines?

in order to retain at least a modicum of self-esteem in the face of such invasive inquiry, there has to be some means of heading them off at the pass, preferably by way of a visual clue that might even prevent the asking of questions in the first place. until the latter part of this week, that might have been a harder ask than you'd have hoped; but ever ready and willing to come to the aid of fellow cyclists, the inestimable richard mitchelson has had the perspicacity to decorate a cotton t-shirt with the perfectly drawn caricature, advising that the wearer is the archetypal 'any weather rider'.

though these are now obtainable via the online richmitch t-shirt shop, do not be mislead by the apparent ease of acquisition. if you turn out to be a fairweather cyclist, or worse, a zwift acolyte, it's more than likely you will subsequently suffer at the hands of the weather police, whose sole task is to ferret out dishonest, stay-at-home members of the pelotonese and relieve them of their ill gotten tees (i may have invented that last bit).

for the rest of us, in stock and ready for despatch, the any weather rider cotton tees cost £19 each and are available in sizes ranging from xs all the way upto xxl. all we need now is some crap weather (a little hebridean humour there).

any weather rider t-shirt

saturday 10 march 2018

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this is the modern world

continuous fibre reinforced thermoplastic

though i can scarcely recall a defining era in which the hanna-barbera cartoon the jetsons was purported to have taken place, i think it safe to say that the creators quite likely had the 21st century in mind; perhaps a tad later than now, but that's of purely academic interest as far as i'm concerned. originally aired in late 1962, the family were residents of orbit city and george jetson's working week comprised an hour a day for two days a week. this comfortably equates with the amount of leisure time we were all but promised would be our birthright in the age of the computer, when the latter would take over the work ethic, leaving the human race free to concentrate on less exhaustive matters.

except, it hasn't quite worked out that way, though not to say such a future will not be ours within the next few decades. the fallacy of this extended leisure time was principally based on the assumption that the masters of artificial intelligence, data centres and endless computing power would share their received wealth with that of humanity. if i compare my annual income with the bank balance of amazon's jeff bezos, facebook's mark zuckerberg or apple's tim cook, i think i need spend no more words examining quite where that presumption has fallen flat on its face.

however, that is not to say that there have not been technological advances that have proved of benefit to society. only yesterday i read a news item explaining how google's smart home-speakers will offer the ability for users to make voice activated, free telephone calls via their broadband connection. but on the basis that when one door opens, another closes, this hardly spells an improvement in fortune for britain's telecoms providers, though it may be that their financial model is more heavily biased towards internet use than that of voice calls in any case. similarly the voice-call capabilities of the average smartphone, details of which have seemingly been elbowed out of any and all tv ads in favour of just how capable a camera's pixels can be.

as has possibly been trammelled to death in these very columns, technology has never been backward in coming forward where velocipedinal life is concerned.

a respite of sorts was almost within our grasp when witnessing the apparent resurgence of handbuilt steel frames, making excellent use of technologically driven improvements in the metal tubing used by the modern-day artisans. though entirely subjective and borne out by nothing other than personal preference, there has always seemed something a great deal more tangible concerning a lugged, fillet-brazed or tig welded steel frame in comparison to the acres of carbon currently in ascendancy. yet even this might become the subject of fond nostalgia remarkably soon.

few cycle manufacturers continue to fabricate their carbon frames from pre-built lugs and shaped tubing; colnago's recently introduced c64 remains a conspicuous exception. but the bulk of even cambiago's carbon production is carried out in the far east, favouring the monocoque construction process both for its ubiquity and apparent flexibility. though it may offer brief periods of high-handed morality to disparage the latter, in truth, producing monocoque frames is still a predominantly labour-intensive process, one that would allow even the most retentive manufacturer to feature a hand-built sticker under the clearcoat, were they prudent enough to think outside the box.

i'm under no illusion that my preference for a steel frame, polished alloy componentry and a leather saddle is shared with only a minority of others. for many, the lure of riding that which their pelotonic heroes ride, or at least a badged simulacrum, is of greater importance. and to be honest, there are more of them available on the shop floor, quietly promoting their vertical compliance and lateral stiffness. you pays your money, you makes your choice, safe in the knowledge that the real difference is down to the handcrafting of disparate materials.

however, a recent story on the website paints a less artisinal future for the bike industry, one that emanates from outside its reynolds 531 barriers. covestro, a company formerly known as bayer materialscience figures that its continuous fibre-reinforced thermoplastic (cfrtp) composites could very well be the new black. we are in essence talking plastics here, and though there have been previous notably unsuccessful attempts to create bicycles from plastic, covestro's reasoning revolves around the fact that those created from injection-molded cfrtp could be entirely machine-made. to wit "machines make mistakes less often."

though i'd be fibbing if i claimed not to see where this is heading, i'm not sure that i want my cycling life to emulate a future akin to george jetson's. i'm not naive enough to believe that there is a small, ageing italian sitting in a dark corner of campagnolo's factory in vicenza, sawing and filing at lumps of aluminium in order to produce stringently accurate cranks and chainrings. nor indeed, if we take a few steps back, is there a similar chap at reynolds steel hollowing out solid rods of 853. many aspects of contemporary bicycle production have been automated for years. why do you think factory wheels have straight spokes? not for our sole benefit, you can be sure.

in contrast to my more usual luddite outpourings, it would be nonsensical and somewhat illogical to attempt an outcry against plastic bicycles (as long as discarded bikes don't end up in the sea), especially when carbon fibre is hardly innocent of the same charges. but for years, the bicycle has been seen as an ecological means of transport and one that is less harmful to the planet than many of its peers.

but at the risk of stating the obvious, you do know where plastic comes from, right?

friday 9 march 2018

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living the dream

rapha explore

read almost any in-depth interview with a professional rider, past or present, and there will usually be an instance when they recall the single incident that had them decide to make a career as a bike rider. in many of these cases, it was watching their first bike race from the roadside, or through a family friend. in an interview with peter van petegem, author of the ronde, ed pickering (see yesterday's post), learned that one of the van petegem's father's friends was ferdi van den haute, a pro rider who won ghent-wevelgem and a stage of the tour as well as the belgian national championship. according to van petegem his "...wall was plastered with posters of the stars of the sport."

rapha explore

the same is possibly true for future stars of the sport, youngsters who have yet to witness their first live race, or those who already have and are now formulating their cunning plan to join the ranks of their heroes. but to accept this as the norm would be surely to take a particularly one-sided approach; not everyone who rides a bike has any great desire to race. there are other, arguably better velocipedinal choices to be made, some of which include riding a bicycle quickly and just as many, if not more, that don't.

i spent part of my wednesday morning talking to a group of secondary school pupils who will be undertaking an organised bike ride on mainland scotland in a matter of months. the distance, to be honest, is minimal, though it does include a 1.5km 14% climb right at the start. with just under forty children participating, there's always the hope that one or two will find that cycling is a great deal more fun than they'd previously thought and will continue to ride on their return. and based on this first real experience of cycling, their future may be more likely to include touring, bikepacking or simply exploring their world by bicycle.

that, and for others also, might conceivably be their interpretation of living the dream.

rapha explore

but just a bit like those car adverts to be seen in the weekend supplements, when cycle manufacturers advertise their latest machinery, they tend to emphasise the sportier side, despite a potential audience who don't necessarily share their enthusiasm for skinny wheels and bendy bars. yes, exploring the nooks and crannies of planet earth might benefit more from bendy bars than flat ones, but i'm sure you catch my drift. and that sort of just leaves us to query those keen to supply tomorrow's explorers with appropriate clothing.

i can appreciate that my appreciation of contemporary cycling apparel may be heavily skewed by the periodicals and cycling websites that i inhabit, but there's little doubt that the sporting end of the world bears a thicker underline than do the less ostentatious pages of the catalogues. yet many of us fondly recall the halcyon days of rapha's continental, a series of rides in north america that explored 'the road less travelled', as daniel wakefield pasley was fond of saying. the much anticipated exploits of these rebels of the road were regularly featured on rapha's website, until the project ran its course after a few years.

i still have dvds to prove it.

the boys in the band rode more or less regular, yet custom built road bikes, featuring 28mm tyres, a width that seemed gargantuan at the time. the majority of those rides featured miles and miles of gravel roads, photographs of which i still treasure as evidence that there is a great deal more to cycling than simply trying to cross a finish line in first place. and it has not only struck me that this is a genre of cycling worth further investigation, a notion with which the folks at imperial works apparently agree.

rapha explore

that last statement may seem a tad disingenuous, given that it was undoubtedly rapha that brought this to my attention in the first place. but it seems that an epiphany has descended upon tileyard road, quite possibly at the unwitting insistence of designer ultan coyle. on tuesday, rapha launched 'explore' motivating us to 'go until life looks less familar'. naturally, this alternative reason for turning the pedals has need, it seems, of an accompanying alternative wardrobe, one that rapha are more than happy to supply.

yes, to an extent, i share your cynicism, but mine is tempered with a smidgeon of sanity, given that i currently have in my possession a pair of their appreciably excellent cargo bibshorts and a technical t-shirt. the former differ from their peers by featuring a mesh pocket on the outer side of each leg, accompanied by a further two on the back, just below the bib-section. the existence of this cargo capacity obviates the necessity of wearing a regular, three-pocketed cycle jersey, thus validating the existence of the aforementioned t-shirt.

never one usually to shirk a challenge that might provide the opportunity to suffer for my art, i'm afraid the recent minus six degrees of windchill was simply a ride too far to be found wearing bibshorts at this time of year, so i can but offer the above appraisal. as with all rapha's shorts, from their core range all the way up to pro-team, the fit is impeccable and though i've yet to sit on a saddle, i've rarely found their pads wanting. the side pockets might be just a smidgeon on the fraglie side to carry a mini-pump or a lumix digital camera, but it's possible that those on the back might prove more supportive.

rapha explore

according to rapha, the cargo bibs are comfortable up to 30 degrees of heat, but to be honest, the chances of my ever experiencing such heady heights are as likely as a lottery win.

of course, though the prospect of actually riding until 'life looks less familiar' is more than enticing, for many, if not most of us, wearing a t-shirt and a pair of bibshorts with pockets on the sunday morning ride is perhaps as good as it will get.

perhaps i could be daniel wakefield pasley when i grow up?

rapha brevet explore range

thursday 8 march 2018

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the ronde: inside the tour of flanders, the world's toughest bike race. edward pickering. simon and schuster paperback 292pp illus. £14.99

"Flanders is caught in a tension between its past and its present."

the ronde - ed pickering

there are two reasons to enjoy the so-called classics season, though one of them may have been diminished by the uci's constant quest for dollars at the expense of cycling's heritage. for one, it is/was, the beginning of the season, the time of year when you could be pretty sure that the guys in the races were there, not to train, but to challenge for victory. with so many one-day races in close proximity to each other, the majority of them belgian and many featuring cobbled roads, the past has now arguably been compartmentalised into cycle sport as it once was, evinced to this day in dark and moody monochrome and now that of the modern era.

the second reason is far more trivial, though possibly just a shade activistic. on the day when (according to an overheard, bowmore main street conversation) glasgow rangers football club were in the process of being soundly beaten and the scottish national rugby team was suffering a similar embarrassment, britain produced two under-23 victories in the world cyclocross championships. not quite the classics, i will readily agree, but the opportunity to recite this achievement in the face of total ignorance and obsession with more popular sports, was too good an opportunity to pass up.

with simple sleight of hand, the same insubordination can be applied at the behest of the classics. for these are races with all but inscrutable names: scheldeprijs, dwar doors vlaanderen, omloop het nieuwsblad and kuurn-brussels-kuurne to name but a few. and in order to place a hat on this velocipedinal insolence, no self-respecting cycle fan would ever make mention of the tour of flanders amongst the uninitiated; best always to refer to the ronde van vlaanderen.

there's no real need for any of us to take our relative obscurity lying down.

and though i'd dearly love to be a witness to the situation were it ever to occur, should any member of the civilian population query further with regard to the ronde, edward pickering has written what can only be regarded as the definitive book on the subject. if you wish to bear even a miniscule degree of self-respect as a cycling fan, you must buy this book and read it from cover to cover before this year's event takes place on sunday 1 april. failure to do so will undoubtedly bring accusations of april foolhardiness.

in this thorough and exhaustive celebration of the ronde, mr pickering chooses to separate the old from the new, choosing the 2011 event as the defining year in which the old became encased in its own lovable and revered glass case. it's an era that can oerhaps best be summed up by a quote from one of the race's luminaries, briek schotte.

"Schotte had his own advice for aspiring cyclists about how hard they should be training: 'Ride until you don't know what village you're from.'"

the author later explains why he feels the 2011 race was that which separated the two defined eras, contending that race-winner nick nuyens "...illustrated the difference between old and new Flanders perfectly. He's no Flandrien. He has a degree in media science and communications from Leuven university and he told me one of the courses he enjoyed the most was commercial psychology."

pickering makes constant, yet relevant mention of the flandrien ideal, offering up the definition as "...a rider or individual who endures pain, fatigue and bad weather uncomplainingly [...] A Flandrien is unflashy, tough, ascetic and works hard." the early flandriens were the sons of toil, men who often saw cycling as a means of escaping their agricultural drudgery and offering a more successful and lucrative future. nuyens, as described above, scarcely fits that description; as the rider himself said of his 2011 ronde victory "I realise I was not the biggest rider. I was not the strongest rider. Of course, to win, everything has to fit, like a puzzle."

ed pickering has done more than simply provide us with a history and/or description of the race's varying parcours in which each chapter heading seems suffixed with the term 'berg' (kruisberg, knoteberg, koppenberg, bosberg, etc., etc.). cleverly, a blow by strategic blow of the 2011 race is threaded throughout each chapter, culminating in the last few tense kilometres in the final pages. this comprises not a simple, superficial narrative, but one that provides an in-depth examination of the day's events played out across the innumerable bergs. many of these insights have been gleaned from rider interviews, several of which we are party to in the course of the book, many from pickering's own repeated watchings of the race.

"Behind, Flecha attacks, countered by Boonen. Scheirlinckx sees them go and hesitates, immediately kicking himself - if he'd followed, fifth place was realistic. Perhaps even higher, if the front trio slowed. Boonen is policing Flecha - he won't work, because his team-mate Chavanel is ahead, but fatally he doesn't even realise there's a gap behind him."

even though the author's opening words are "This is the story of a bike race" (true, in every sense of that phrase) the Ronde van Vlaanderen is more than that: "To think of the Tour of Flanders as only a sporting event is to miss its wider significance. The Ronde is the expression of an entire culture, its geography, landscape, people, society, meteorology, politics and self-image." if that seems just a bit too much like lame authorial rhetoric, its appearance on page eight is subsequently reinforced by a narrative and extensive research that, by the book's end, is not only more than justified, but almost seems an inadequate description.

aside from offering a brief recap of the event's history, ed pickering later delivers a chapter of thirteen and a half pages, detailing a history of the region through its myriad twists and turns of political change that is worthy of the cover price alone. and yet, despite the book's stunningly comprehensive analysis and insight into one of cycling's greatest events, mr pickering has the skill never to overburden the reader with his approach to storytelling. the eighteen chapters are superbly written, well presented and compulsive to the last.

it is but a simple matter of looking up the results of the 2011 ronde van vlaanderen on the internet; we know who won. but the way the race is portrayed in the book, i was still leaning forward in my chair to the last, having been provided with more atmosphere than eurosport will ever command, en-route to the finish line.


"Echt Flandriens rijden op kasseien!" (Real Flandriens ride on cobbles.)

wednesday 7 march 2018

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the fixing dilemma

schwalbe airless tyre

i'm not to ashamed to admit that i did, at one time, own a volkswagen vento saloon car, a vehicle that was an impressive step up from its predecessor, a ford fiesta. i might, however, give a clue as to just how long ago i'm talking about if i mention that the car featured a driver-friendly four gears. last year, i made the usual hire-car arrangements at the time of the islay jazz festival in order to shift my drumset hither and thither, my upgrade to a volkswagen passat estate arriving with not only six inexplicable gears, but push-button start and a similar mode of implementing the so-called handbrake.

for one less than enamoured of motor vehicles in the first place, this was simply too much to take in over a single-day hire. what on earth was i supposed to do with those extra two gears?

however, to return to the vento for a moment or two, i readily recall driving south to the village of port ellen when the nearside rear passenger window opened all of its own accord in the middle of heavy rain. having dipped into the nearest garage, it transpired that a fault in the window motor had caused this unexpected ventilation and would cost a not entirely user-friendly amount of cash to replace. for no money at all, however, the garage agreed to disconnect the motor.

my son now owns a motor car that bristles with technological advances; as a for instance, if any of the doors remain open by leaving even a small gap, the car will not move forward or reverse. with such features dependent on an array of interlinked sensors, it would surely take only one of those devices to malfunction and suddenly you have a vehicle that's going nowhere due to compulsory electronic application of the aforementioned handbrake. as if to highlight one of the inadvertent possibilities, i witnessed a similarly equipped motor car suddenly brake to a halt, when an incompletely closed driver's door opened just a tad and the vehicle applied its own stopping power.

i invested in bicycles for two reasons: their convenience practicality and fun coupled with the fact that servicing them was, at one time, open to those of even modest mechanical ability. the modern day motor car is festooned with components that can no longer be economically repaired but have been designed to be replaced by qualified motor mechanics. the days of the home enthusiast working happily of a sunday afternoon, changing spark plugs, adjusting cam shafts and footering with brake shoes has all but gone. nowadays we're more likely to see the vehicle on a hydraulic car lift, plugged into a proprietary computer system.

sadly, there seems every likelihood of the bicycle heading in a similar direction. currently, should my rear gear cable prove sticky or inefficient, i can pull out the offending stretch of wire and fit a replacement. on shimano's di2 at least, it's possible to program some of its electronic duties without even sitting on the bicycle. and did i hear someone mention bluetooth?

however, the humble tyre is surely immune from such iniquities, requiring only a couple of plastic tyre levers, a pump and perchance an inner-tube? unless, that is, the tyre is tubeless, in which case the latter doesn't apply. and unless the tyre is a schwalbe airless tyre, in which case, none of the aforementioned come even close. for schwalbe have recently announced the advent of their airless tyre featuring a thermoplastic polyurethane filling, principally aimed at the dockless bike boom currently afflicting everywhere from beijing to manchester. however, this tyre system 'requires fitting by a schwalbe trained bicycle mechanic'

on the one hand, this augurs well for many a bike shop proximitous to a dockless hire franchise, but should the system migrate in the direction of the rest of us, particularly those for whom the nearest bike shop is two hours of ferry and three hours of bus in the distance, cheerful might no longer be our default setting. granted, this latest development is one of several airless tyres on the market, so there's no need for the home-mechanic to despair just yet. unless, of course, electronics and hydraulics have already confined the toolbox to the back of the shed.

tuesday 6 march 2018

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