the age of innocence

not that it's of any great surprise to anyone, but it seems that the weather offers no rhyme nor reason as to the dramatic changes from day to day. one member of our peloton suffered mild sunburn on saturday during a brief visit to the neighbouring island of jura for cyclocross purposes, while yours truly enjoyed minimal kilometreage, pedalling only in bibshorts and short-sleeve jersey to enjoy minimal wind, coupled with a more than pleasant ambient temperature. add a decent soya cappuccino and a double-egg roll for lunch and basically, what's not to like?

but, this was a percussive weekend for moi, spending the latter part of two consecutive days and the early part of the next, entertaining those who were probably too inebriated to realise they were being entertained in the first place. in the wee small hours of sunday morning, once drums were safely stacked in their cases, the short walk home was in dry, warm and windless conditions, circumstances that scarcely prepared me, or any of the other sunday morning riders, for the serious precipitation and gale-force wind that featured somewhat earlier in the year than any of us had anticipated. seeing your breath in front of you while circumnavigating the loch before the end of august, is not a welcome sight, with autumn yet to make its annual appearance.

however, it is a salient fact that inclement weather conditions, incorporating strong winds, have a tendency to split the peloton into smaller component parts, a situation that occurred during the first stage of our journey towards kilchoman distillery. with the sunday morning ride adhering to the leave no-one behind philosophy, those at the head of proceedings dutifully waited at the turn towards coull farm. but immediately it became gruppo compatto and there were no inseguitori left straggling behind, the front three set off as if for a peter sagan inspired sprint.

there were quizzical looks from those of us now relegated to the status of achtervolgers, particulrly on realising that three sprinters has effectively sat up, waiting for us backmarkers. it transpires that, as with many a facet of modern-day cycling, strava was to blame. apparently the short stretch of road between kilchoman and the entrance to coull farm is a designated kom sector, bragging rights for which was dutifully claimed by one of our sagan wannabes.

the garmin that's stuck to the handlebars of my ritchey logic serves one specific purpose: telling the time. on each subsequent bike ride, i simply discard the data accumulated on the previous outing and begin from scratch. none of my garnered trivia will ever see the inside of a strava data warehouse, a fact for which the world ought to be truly grateful. but my naivety and ignorance of the vicissitudes of online ride tracking have added possibly an unwelcome frisson to a pelotonic bicycle ride. how is one supposed to react when one's ride partner suddenly stands on the pedals and disappears towards the horizon without so much as a word of farewell?

i'm all for those with a penchant for digital adventure indulging in their screen-based passion; life's full of challenges even if self-curated, but i can see i'm going to have to research just where all those little sectors are located in order to maintain peace of mind. perhaps lines of various colours could be painted on the road for the benefit of the elderly? perhaps one of their strata of memberships offers that service?

strava sectors ahead


monday 27 august 2018

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road rage

avonvogie road repair

when the poll tax became the council tax, thewashingmachinepost household dutifully visited the council offices in jamieson street each and every month to make the necessary payments. throughout that year, my cheques were gratefully accepted, noted and receipted, leading to a smug, yet satisfied grin, safe in the knowledge that the bailiffs would need to find gainful employment elsewhere. come the end of the financial year, however, mrs washingmachinepost and i received a letter from the council, stating that we were in serious arrears amounting to the sum of one penny. according to the accompanying information, were this not to be remitted within seven working days, the council would take legal action to recover the debt.

avonvogie road repair

it seems not to have occurred to the finance department that the cost of sending the letter alone was well in excess of that solitary pence.

ever since those halcyon days of official ineptitude, i have had little in the way of respect for the local council; an appropriate motto would surely read 'striving for mediocrity (and failing)'. they have scarcely managed to redeem themselves over the intervening years for all sorts of reasons: the local leisure centre in bowmore receives a paltry amount each year to assist with running costs, yet the council owns and operates several swimming pools and leisure centres on the mainland. similarly, they have recently spent in excess of £1.5 million on the council owned marina near oban 'to increase tourism to the area', yet the marina sited at port ellen pier receives not even that one penny in assistance from the council's coffers.

avonvogie road repair

i could go on and on and on. no doubt there are similar stories of clumsy administration and favoured regions throughout the kingdom. the smart money would be on personally standing for office; far better to tackle the problems from within than sit sniping from the roadside, were it not for fear of being even more amateurish than those currently elected to such duties.

but the major bugbear throughout the land rests principally on the state of the roads. i can but assume that local councils everywhere have succeeded in annually lowering their roads' budgets, to the point where distintegrating surfaces are no longer repaired with the frequency that they deserve. granted, the majority of available expenditure is rightly applied to the main arteries connecting towns, villages and cities, but that can only serve to lessen the periods in which the roads less travelled receive a dollop of tar every now and again. however, in my eyes, our local council cannot do right for doing wrong.

avonvogie road repair

i will readily confess to being amongst those who, when watching the spring classics, boo and hiss at the television should any rider opt to ignore any cobbles in favour of the smoother surrounds such as the gutters or pavements. yes, i have no doubt that the latter ensures safer and less onerous passage twoards the finish line, but we have paid our monthly eurosport subscription to see wheels, carbon and sportwool being jiggled hither and thither across unkempt farm roads. it's like attending a rolling stones concert at which they fail to play 'satisfaction'; everything else is there, but the best bit is missing.

avonvogie road repair

in relation to this modest degree of sadism, i am not one to complain overly loudly of such matters, yet decry the state of our potholed roads. not for nothing does the ride of the falling rain include the so-called abattoirenberg forest in both halves of the parcours. ever since the abattoir was constructed and one side of the road subject to logging, the surface for at least a kilometre or two has been our very own paris-roubaix, a right of passage if you will, that can be attacked on a regular basis, solely to retain parity with our spring heroes. bearing this in mind, i vehemently forbade our roads' engineer from ever repairing the avonvogie road, lest we become soft and mushy in our velocipedinal machinations.

sadly, it appears that the allocation of repairs does not come under his direct jurisdiction and once again, the council must be held to account. what kind of world do we live in when the administrators of a local region decide unilaterally to repair a two kilometre stretch of road without so much as a by-your-leave? whatever happened to the consultation process? why were those of us in the velo club not offered the opportunity to object to this wanton benevolence, to save the crappiness of the road from unadulterated repair? heck, there's only a matter of three residences along this stretch of singletrack, so where do the council get off spending more than £100,000 to minimise vehicular discomfort and benefit a rural minority?

yet, in the face of such unwarranted destruction of a perfectly ruined road surface, with what does central government concern its parliamentary processes? that's right, brexit. whatever happened to priorities? whatever happened to democracy? whatever happened to the bumpy bits of tarmac that put a smile on my face?

and they call this civilisation.

sunday 26 august 2018

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compass 700 x28c chinook tyres part two

compass chinook 700 x 28 tyres

as a teenager, i cannot deny that i had more than a passing interest in motor racing. thankfully, i have since seen the error of my ways, quickly switching the tv channel, should i inadvertently settle on a morning's worth of practice for one grand-prix or another, but there's little doubt that there was a smidgeon of peer pressure involved at the time. and in retrospect, there may also have been an accompanying sideline, in that the weekly title 'motoring news' was published in newspaper format and i feel imay have been more drawn by that than the contents.

however, one of the fascinations, when watching a formula one grand prix, was the notion of pit stops, where teams would occasionally attempt to outwit their opponents by switching to softer compound, yet short-lived tyres only a matter of laps from the finish. i've no idea quite how many tyre compounds or tread patterns are available to the modern-day, substantially funded racing team, but, a bit like cyclocross (which will be here in the twinkling of an eye), there's no doubt that pre-race tyre strategies play almost as big a part in the day's proceedings as does engine reliability and driver skill.

compass chinook 700 x 28 tyres

those are features that, so far, have played little or no part in modern-day cycle road racing. though the majority of riders still attack the parcours du jour on tubulars, more and more tyre manufacturers seem to be offering what at least one has named open tubulars. in other words, exactly the same type of rubber as ridden by the pros, but without being sewn up and fitted with cotton tape to facilitate glueing to the rim. if i have correctly understood that which accompanied these tubeless compatible compass chinook tyres, this is the very means by which this particular rubber has been constituted.

as mentioned in my initial review of the chinooks, i have opted to run these on a pair of wheelsmith handbuilt wheels, but with inner tubes, rather than rely on their tubeless capabilities. i have reviewed two other brands of tubeless tyres over the past year or so, both sets of which have acquitted themselves with aplomb and nary the hint of a puncture, but there's still this nagging doubt at the back of my mind that i'm riding without a safety net. i'm inclined to put this down to a combination of old dogs and new tricks, but at least one of my colleagues in the sunday morning peloton harbours the same misgivings.

i've no doubt this is a stumbling block of which the world's tyre manufacturers are aware, possibly meaning a redoubling of their marketing efforts.

compass chinook 700 x 28 tyres

however, with regard to the compass chinook tyres under consideration, in the month since my initial review, they have contended with roads earmarked for repair, skittery bits of grass verge when confronted with visiting motorists who either do not comprehend the purpose of passing places, or are too arrogant to make use of them, and the occasional heavy rain saturating roads that have lain dry for most of the summer. reminders of the latter, by way of cars lying in ditches, have been tangible. however, the luxury of 28 millimetres width is not something to be underestimated, particularly when combined with a tread pattern that is worth the price of admission alone.

tread patterns are the very stuff of lengthy discussion in the pits at monaco or the nurburgring, but generally of less interest with relation to velocipedinal matters. like many, i have ridden tyres with no tread whatsoever, on patterns that would do justice to aubrey beardsley or charles rennie mackintosh, and traditional herring-bone treads of which johan museeuw would be proud. to be honest, i can see little to choose between them in terms of grip on the road. tyre width, sidewall flexibility and carcass resilience have a far greater influence over such matters than any designer tread pattern. and with one or two exceptions, none of us are capable of riding fast enough through saturated road surfaces to induce any propensity to acquaplane.

compass chinook 700 x 28 tyres

the chinooks have instilled sufficient confidence even in a timorous rider such as myself, to pay them scant attention when threading one's way past a downhilling peloton at foreland, or negotiating the verisimilitude of paris roubaix, on passing through the abattoirenberg forest en-route to somewhere less fraught with potholes. their state-of-the-art girth allows lower pressures than were common with 25c rubber, helping isolate yours truly from the immediate environment beneath my wheels. though hardly surprising, there's scarcely any sign of wear, nor has the surface become infected with the little cuts that are part and parcel of riding on rural roads, midst local agriculture.

i fully intend to make mention of the compass chinooks in the foreseeable future, but probably after winter has set in, though judging by yesterday's wind and rain, that might be sooner than i'd hoped.

compass tyres are exclusively available in the uk from dorset's sven cycles. the standard version as reviewed are priced at £50 each, while the lightweight version costs £75 each.

compass tyres

saturday 25 august 2018

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ulverston via the northern line

the northernline ulverston exhibition

britain's cycling fans have, over the years, shown an impressive tenacity towards their sport. the 1950s had dawned before the uk showed any tendency to race competitively on the continent. there's little doubt that the blame for this sporting discrepancy can be laid squarely at the feet of britain's national cyclists' union, an organisation that had no intention of allowing massed start races on british soil until the formation of the british league of racing cyclists in 1942 forced a re-think. thus, any would-be yellow jersey wearing brits were at a substantial disadvantage from the moment they disembarked the cross-channel ferry.

robert millar - pippa york

in the years between the appearance of the blrc and their amalgamation with the nlc in 1959 to form the british cycling federation, the popularity of cycle racing was pretty much confined to those with a penchant for european languages and means of acquiring copies of italy's la gazetta dello sport or france's l'equipe. granted, the long-lived staple of british cycle racing life the comic would feature the results of both il giro and le tour, but frequently at some distance from immediacy.

this could be reasonably seen as fostering the birth of the phrase 'character building'.

unlike the modern era, when british heroes such as geraint thomas are given a civic reception in their home town, such adulation was mostly confined to the cognoscenti, the rest of the uk population remaining completely unaware that gents such as brian robinson, barry hoban and tom simpson even existed, let alone had achieved athletic success on the continent. sadly, it's more than likely that a large number of today's sunday pelotons have no idea that 1960s britain produced a world road race champion, reserving their contemporary fawning for peter sagan.

tom simpson

it's unlikely that the annual, upcoming tour of britain will ever reach the dizzy heights of le tour, the giro, or the vuelta, even though television coverage of the event has improved considerably over the years. in 2017, the first year in which the tour stages were broadcast in full, viewing figures worldwide were reckoned to be around 1.4 billion. watchers of the tour of britain last year apparently amounted to a somewhat more conservative 4.25 million; with both thomas and froome riding this year, it's quite likely that number will increase.

now, as british riders continue to feature on the g.c. in the season's higher profile races, the mainstream press have begun to take greater notice; you need only have witnessed the considerable number of pages devoted to thomas's yellow jersey in monday morning's guardian, the day after paris. it would surely not be stretching credibility too far to suggest that this year's tour of britain will generate an increased interest amongst the great unwashed, the evidence for which can be seen illustrating this particular article.

nicole cook

displaying an inspired creativity that borders on genius, the previously featured 'the northern line' were commissioned by ulverston town council, a town featured on stage six of this year's tour of britain, to produce a series of graphic vinyls featuring "riders who have influenced and continue to be an influence in the sport". this local, yet geographically disparate exhibition, printed on both 1.2 metre x 1.5 metre and 0.85 metre x 1 metre vinyl panels were exhibited amongst twelve local businesses. these were accompanied by a trail map to introduce not only the exhibition, but further aspects of the locality.

amongst those featured on the superbly designed panels are robert millar/pippa york, david millar, barry hoban, beryl burton, brian robinson, nicole cook, lizzie deignan, mark cavendish and unsurprisingly, brad wiggins, chris froome and geraint thomas. though printing and display of these images were promotional rather than commercial, thenorthernline are making available sets of postcards with riders' biographies on the reverse. changed days from the times when not only was there a dearth of winners to celebrate, but probably few non-cycling fans who could ever have seen the point in such an exhibition.

and we have every reason to feel unbearably smug on this side of the channel.

the northern line | tour of britain 2018

friday 24 august 2018

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a smart idea?


i recall some thirty years or so ago, sitting at the window of the former croft kitchen on the outskirts of port charlotte village, watching a gent on holiday attempt to impress all and sundry with his mobile phone. this consisted of a large handset, similarly sized to a child's shoebox, with a lengthy arial at the top and a cable that descended to the battery pack, which he had attempted to obscure on the cark park wall. i am insufficiently well acquainted with the technology of the day to know just how the phone signal was being sent and received, but i do know that it was certainly not by means of the almost ubiquitous phone masts that pepper the contemporary landscape even this far west.

i need not inform you that phone technology has moved on by leaps and bounds from the days when a friend of my late father's prided himself on being an early adopter of the car phone. this device, mounted in between the front seats of a mercedes, featured an ansaphone message stating "i'm sorry, i'm in right now; i'll call you back when i'm out." there's nothing like adding humour to lessen the ostentation of owning highly expensive, cutting-edge, consumer technology. from devices, like digital cameras, that attempted to emulate the non-digital products from which they were developed, the so-called smartphone has distanced itself from 'real' buttons and subsequently invaded pretty much every aspect of modern life, from which cycling is no exception.

the garmin edge gps computer that finds itself affixed to the handlebars on my bicycles is several generations removed from those three-digit counters once clamped to the front fork and actuated by a small pin attached to the front wheel spokes. in retrospect, i can think of no useable parameters that might have been recorded by these small, metal devices, but that hardly seemed to matter at the time. but in order that the garmin gain the ability to broadcast my derisory ride statistics to anyone withn screenshot, it is necessary for there to be a smartphone with appropriate app ensconced within a jersey rear pocket. it's a detail that could be said to undermine the definition of the word 'smart'.

but we're inclined to welcome these developments with open gloves, eager to record apparently salient data, the possession of which has often become an end in itself, rather than the intended means to an end. but currently, in the main, all the data that can be measured during even an average bike ride, whether you're aware of it or not, is still the preserve of what might be referred to as devices; little blobs of electronica which are, on the whole, smart enough to display the necessary on a single screen. but for those who didn't know, or have conveniently forgotten, shimano's sti was an abbreviation of shimano total integration and, at the risk of stating the obvious, appending bar-mounted computers, lights, cadence sensors, powermeters and the like is anything but integration.

meaning, of course, the potential for the rise of the smart bike.

minor strides have already featured, by way of electronic gearsets that allow the front mech to base its position and trim on the selected rear sprocket, a smartness that now allows that selfsame front mech to choose between front rings based on rear sprocket choice. the possibilities for more smarts are likely endless: tyre pressure indicators, brake lights, ambient light sensors, location sensors... there's probably no ultimate ceiling for the smart assistance that the bicycle might offer the intrepid rider. given the minute size of present day video cameras, i'm genuinely surprised that these have not been integrated into bars and seatposts to offer visual recording of any traffic malfeasance observed on the way to work. or maybe that's already happened and i was looking the other way.

as a confirmed luddite, bereft of any species of mobile phone, i'm sure you can imagine my reaction to the foregoing, based on the previously relative simplicity of a bike ride. but having railed against integrated headsets, endlessly varying bottom bracket standards and hydraulic disc brakes, i well know that the cycle industry is a behemoth with more momentum than i have moans. combine it with the tech industry and i know when i'm on the losing side. however, as long as there remains one or two examples of velocipedinal simplicity available to those of us who strain to avoid being classed as 'smart', there will still be a sliver of hope.

so, when the future bicycle world is pervaded with endless data streams that nobody actually asked for, just ask yourself what kirkpatrick macmillan would have said.

thursday 23 august 2018

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the variable supremacy

snare drums

many, many years ago, i was the proud owner of a raleigh twenty shopping bike, a machine that was, in its favour, probably the ideal transport for a youngster with a daily paper-round. that large, tartan saddle bag could carry a substantial number of copies of the sunday times and the observer each sunday morning, even though two trips to the newsagent were still required. as was also the case (and to a certain extent, still is), i harboured a teenage obsession, in this case, a desire to become a drummer, flying in the face of a lack of parental approval.

even for those of you with less than a practical appreciation of just what the needs of an aspiring drummer might be, i think we can probably agree that a good starting point would be a pair of drum sticks. and, like the teenage me, you are probably blissfully unaware of just how many variations of the drum stick actually exist. currently, major stick manufacturer vic firth offers a total of twelve different ranges, each including around 33 variants. these consist of differing lengths, weights and profiles, to say nothing of the bead shapes. it would be hard to deny that each and every one of these will make appropriate noises on a drumset, but you may not get hired again if you attempt to play acoustic jazz with their american classic 'metal' variation, as opposed to the considerably shorter 7a.

it is not hard, therefore, to imagine a thirteen year-old me, walking into the local music shop and asking the gent behind the counter if i might purchase a pair of drumsticks. my naivety demonstrated no evident bounds on being asked "what kind?" and replying "wooden ones". ah, how we laughed.

unfortunately, it strikes me that we might be heading in the same direction when appreciating the wide variation of bicycles currently inhabiting a website near you. a bit like choosing subjects at school, long before you have the faintest idea what you plan on doing when you leave, how do you know what kind of bicycle to purchase? to quote from the recently reviewed 'getting started in road cycling' by guy andrews and laura quick, "The bike shop will have an array of bikes on display and the sales patter can be convincing, but at first forget the shiny stuff and the gimmicks...". while such sage advice should always be borne in mind, it presupposes that the genre of bicycle has already been decided upon.

i mean, surely, every bike is a road bike?

those available on the specialized website, for example, are divided into 'mountain, road, fitness & urban' along with 'e-bikes'. taking those classified as 'road bikes', there are further subdivisions: women's, performance road, adventure and gravel, cyclocross and, finally, triathlon. according to the website, there are a total of 91 variations. suddenly, choosing drumsticks is beginning to look like a walk in the park. what's even an experienced bicyclist to do?

however, if i might briefly return to the percussive milieu for a moment, it has become an almost unwritten requirement, that those with even semi-professional aspirations, ought to have an array of snare drums at their disposal, in addition to the sole example that arrived with the drumset. i am not, it pains me to admit, immune from this demand upon my bank balance, offering houseroom to four of the (differently sized) little blighters, with scarce justification for at least three of them and the fourth in serious doubt.

it's not unusual to find members of even the sunday peloton with more than a single machine in the bike shed, despite the rather obvious knowledge that only one can be ridden at any given time. but just as possession of a pair of black, signed steve gadd drumsticks can prove a godsend when i have designs on emulating his gaddness, i think it of little harm to own a cyclocross bicycle when those sven nys moments just have to be approached on a cold saturday morning. personally, i'd draw the line at ownership of a time-trial bike; that seems a level of ostentation just too far for a gentleman of my slowing demeanour, but as ever, your mileage may vary.

though many folks hold a secret fear that they may have succumbed to marketing rhetoric, resulting in inadvertent ownership of several bicycles (and that's a distinct possibility), might i take this opportunity to put my insubstantial weight behind velominati's rule number 12: the correct number of bikes to own is n+1 (where 'n' equates to the number of bicycles you already own). for those who have accidentally happened upon the post, in a quest to cure their insomnia, always assuming you and the family are fed, watered and have a roof over your head, a lot of bicycles in the shed is nothing of which to be ashamed.

if you're new to this game, harbour as many bicycles as you can afford (in every sense of that word), provided you can spell the names of the groupset attached to each one.

wednesday 22 august 2018

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maintenance schedule

wd 40

i know you will now think the less of me, particularly in the light of my appearing as a total hypocrite, but my bicycles have possibly benefited a tad too often from a small can of wd40. or, to be more specific, my chains. at least a part of this situation has been caused by the iniquities of the british postal system, one that includes several vagaries regardng the sending and receiving of aerosol lubricants and the like. i did, not so very long ago, have a can of chain degreaser sat precariously on the edge of the broken shelf, just inside the bike shed door. but due to its effectiveness, it lasted only as long as you'd expect for someone with chain ocd and due to difficulties in receiving certain products through the mail to offshore islands (are there any other kind in scotland?), i subsequently resorted to the almost ubiquitous wd40.

having experienced the vicissitudes of over-lubrication on the part of a one-time customer of mine, a man who simply added more three-in-one on top of an already clogged chain, i have now installed my own procedure. this involves cleaning the chain as thoroughly as time will allow, preferably with the degreaser, but latterly with wd40. this is then dried with the leftover bits of a former bath towel, before application of a bona-fide bicycle chain lubricant.

so far, so good.

however, while i am no stranger to the efficacy of both wet and dry lubricants, in the recent hebridean heatwave and extended dry-spell, those lubricants have had a less onerous task than usual, almost to the point of being seen as surplus to requirements. no doubt my inbox will now be inundated with protestations from the bicycle lubricant industry, pointing out that, while wd40 has its place on a bicycle, the chain really isn't one of them. and were i less prone to pillorying myself, i'd tend to agree.

this next part is going to sound quite pathetic, but, taking advantage of this lengthy dessication, not applying lube to the chain after a vigorous degrease, meant that its side-plates remain bright and shiny, as opposed to the translucent shade of black that inflitrates after a only a few pedal strokes. i am narcissistic enough, under such circumstances, to wish that my brief, yet energetic, flurry of elbow grease continued to show shiny results on reaching the start point of the sunday bike ride. how, i might ask, is one to demonstrate the care and attention of a world tour mechanic, if astride a bicycle with a dirty chain?

but, lest you judge me too harshly, this is a situation that is likely to dramatically change over the coming weeks. leaving wd40 residue as the principal lubricant across an average 112 chain links, is only credible in dry and arid conditions. even a modest amount of precipitation from salt-sea air will render that chain an attractive shade of orange in a matter of hours, a most disagreeable appearance in polite company. perhaps that's whey they're referred to as 'the lazy days of summer'?

by the time september dawns and it becomes once again necessary to change my name to gerben de knecht or bram de groot, all the while donning bib-threequarters, i can guarantee that the bottles of chain lube will have been recovered from the less than pristine cardboard box and be put to future good use.

but while i'm here, might i impose my unrequested advice upon you once again, by suggesting that now might be an appropriate time to consider replacing that hard-working chain, before autumn and winter set in? some of you may be well enough organised to adhere to a pre-planned maintenance schedule, in which case, you'd be better off ignoring me. that, however, is likely to concern the smug minority. rather tautologically, when the chain wears, so to do the sprockets on the cassette; leave it too long and skipping gears will necessitate replacing both at the same time, a not inconsiderable expense, depending on the level of groupset attached to your pride and joy.

now i sound just like your mother.

tuesday 21 august 2018

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