the english language can best be described as a work in progress. though mark zuckerberg created the composite noun 'facebook' to apply to his ubiquitous example of social media, it wasn't long before i overheard someone in our local averagemarket mention to a colleague, that she'd "facebook" them later. so now the word that started life as a noun, has augmented its own personality to become a verb.

preceding this mangling of even new words, an advertisement in our local newspaper several years past, for the features available at bowmore's leisure centre, did likewise. attempting to entice residents to undertake an induction course at the fitness room, the advert stated "if you've not fitnessed before, sign up for this free introduction." it's english jim, but not as we know it.

along with many others all across the world, i enjoy bike riding for its own sake; an end in itself, rather than a means to an end. however, it would be naive to deny the health and fitness benefits to be gained from any form of regular exercise, in our case, that of cycling. either slogging into a winter headwind for a few kilometres, or, even better, doing so while ascending. no matter how badly you fare attempting the above exercise, eventually, it's going to make you fitter whether you like it or not.

the trouble is, when it comes to this time of year, there's a number of folks in our midst who actually don't like it. those will be the individuals who offer a haughty "pah!" if mention is made of the festive 500, eight days of at least 63km in all weathers, mostly in the quest for a sew-on patch. and when it comes to the sunday ride, you would scarcely believe those who prefer to avoid inclemency and remain indoors, citing some fake ilness or temporary condition that prevents them from joining the merry throng.

but, set against what are quite plainly, feeble excuses, are those who have determined that their fitness cannot be left to the vagaries of the weather and thus have sought alternative, mostly indoor means. for avid oarsmen, there are rowing machines, while the inveterate jogger can invest in a suitable running device. of course, much of this machinery can be accessed at the local fitness centre (assuming you have one nearby), immediately useable only if you've fitnessed before.

but, assuming your daily schedule isn't always set in stone, or visiting a leisure centre is a daunting prospect, you could always purchase a machine of your very own. with online-based cycling apps such as the much maligned (mostly by me), zwift, it is allegedly possible for the intrepid bicyclist to remain close to the central heating and have an almost legitimate excuse not to join their less namby pamby velocipedinal colleagues. the difficulty, as far as i see it, is quite where to start.

it is highly fortunate, therefore, that i came across robin young's website,, yet another of the popular comparison sites that help ease the problem of comparing like with like, or even like with unlike. hopefully the runners amongst you will have the good sense to keep your opinions and sporting proclivities to yourselves, for i'm only going to tell you about the cycling bits. you'll have to figure out the other stuff for yourselves.

choosing from the menu options, i selected spinning bikes, a choice that returned a total of forty options, the cheapest of which was a perfectly reasonable £175 and the priciest a scarily expensive £2,295. and that for a bicycle that doesn't actually go anywhere. my own experience of exercise bikes is that they rarely replicate the position of your average drop bar road bike, but i cannot deny that some of those shown on fitness-savvy, looked like they might be capable of making a pretty good job of so doing.

having chosen the category of fitness equipment most applicable to your needs, the web pages offer several options to refine any initial choice, whether you feel the need for a specific brand, whether it need incorporate a bottle cage, fan or suchlike and even if it sports an ipod connector. comparisons can then be easily made to suit potential training regime or, perhaps more importantly, budget.

you understand, of course, that i offer this purely as a public service; personally i can think of nothing less palatable than spending any part of my cycling week aboard a fitness bike and perish the thought that i'd even consider opting for an annual zwift subscription. being blown from pillar to post in the great outdoors over the christmas period is perfectly fine by me.

fitness savvy comparison site

thursday 22 november 2018

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rapha long-sleeve aero cyclocross jersey

rapha cross jersey

embarrassingly enough, i have been somewhat remiss in my cyclocross viewing habits this season, an admission made all the more onerous in the light of apparently improved internet coverage of all the important european races: super prestige, dvv trophy and uci world championship. in an effort to apportion blame for this curious state of affairs to anyone other than myself, i have decided to come down heavily on matthieu van der poel.

rapha cross jersey

it's all his fault.

in the early years, when cyclocross was still something of a mystery to the uninitiated, such as myself, the intrigue was to make sense of all that transpired on the small screen in front of me. given that sporza was almost the only game in town, that small screen was not only very small, but buffered incessantly and resembled little more than an animated jigsaw. cyclocross life is oh, so much better these days, and i now have a better grasp of the fact that it's perfectly legit to swap bicycles each and every lap, if deemed necessary, and that leaping aboard after running uphill is nowhere near as simple as it looks.

rapha cross jersey

given that the sanctioned race series, such as those mentioned above, consist of events lasting one hour plus one lap, 'tis but a simple matter to gauge how long that laptop will be sat upon my knee and how long to forestall any predictable weekend chores. it should also entail racing that remains impressively close; i mean, how far ahead can anyone get over the course of an hour? well, that pretty much brings me back to matthieu van der poel.

this past weekend, having enjoyed a bright and sunny sunday ride, showered and heartily devoured a fine repast, i switched on the macbook air to enjoy some cyclocross, joining the race about halfway through the second lap, only to watch van der poel and tom meussen cross the line at the end of the lap well over a minute ahead of the rest of the field. how the heck can that happen? what happened to the close hour's racing that used to be de rigeur when sven was racing? at least in those halcyon days, sven would be sat in around 15th place after a customary slow start, then begin to pick off riders as the race progressed usually emerging victorious (or darned close) with less than one lap remaining.

rapha cross jersey

of course, it's hardly van der poel's fault; if the rest of the entry struggle to get within viewing distance, it's hardly his problem. but it's the possibility of situations such as the above happening even at lowly club level that have successfully prevented me from even considering pinning a muddy number on the back of my jersey. i fear also for the timekeepers, who would be better resorting to a calendar.

in order to mitigate such circumstances decidedly in my favour, i prefer to think of myself as one of those bicycle riders more in tune with a sense of style than perennially grasping for victory. while that may well be a laudable pursuit, in truth, the only audience likely to witness such slow-speed sartorial elegance are the saturday morning dog walkers in bridgend woods. i prefer to convince myself that those of whom i come across in my perambulations are as well acquainted with 'cross as am i, otherwise my stylish ministrations take on an incontrovertible air of eccentricity.

rapha cross jersey

but, while possessed of an insouciant, devil-may-care attitude, i still take care to appear well-dressed for the occasion, despite advancing years. rapha's latest foray into the colourful world of cyclocross, bears its descendency from previous iterations very convincingly. ever since the jeremy powers' days, rapha have persisted with a unique colourway that seems to lend itself to endless variations on a theme, all the while accommodating continual technological development. the current, long-sleeve cross jersey favours the honed physique, by way of its spray-on, race-fit temperament. even the sleeves take more effort than you'd imagine at the getting dressed stage.

rapha cross jersey

but for even the low-caste amateur such as myself, the impeccable fit not only makes for excellent wicking, but dispenses with untoward flapping in the heat of imagined battle. and it would scarcely be appropriate to provide those dog walkers with a false image as they strain to keep their pooches from gnashing at my challenge grifos.

i'm well aware that professionals eschew the jersey/shorts combo in favour of skinsuit, but that's a line i refuse to cross (see what i did there?), even in the interests of speed. nor, indeed, have i seen van der poel with a mini-pump, essentials case, digital camera or a spare pair of gloves (in case it rains) in three back pockets. amateurs have needs, you know. and you will perhaps glean from the accompanying images, that the ambient temperatures had me cover the low neckline with a richard sachs neckwarmer. yet another item of class. if you find the hurdles are calling you incessantly, click over to rapha's site and peruse further.

rapha's long-sleeve cyclocross jersey is listed at £130 in all the usual sizes. as fast as you want it to be.

wednesday 21 november 2018

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fassa camouflage seat pack

fassa saddle pack

though i'd love to be able to deny the accusation, along with many another contemporary cyclist, i am frequently guilty of being described as a bit of a poseur. i own a very nice steel bicycle along with a carbon fibre cyclocross machine, the former currently kitted out with a luxurious campagnolo record twelve-speed groupset, while the latter offers me the opportunity to be jeremy powers/sven nys/wout van aert (delete as applicable) while careering through bridgend woods. were that insufficient, my cycling wardrobe features much of the very best in cycling apparel, all of which is far too good for the likes of yours truly.

were all the foregoing to be augmented with a turn of speed that would embarrass even the likes of peter sagan and elio viviana, justification would be a simple matter. anyone who disagreed with this perception would simply bet treated to a thorough trouncing in the sunday morning sprint and left flailing in my wake as we climbed foreland hill. sadly both those concepts inhabit the realm of fiction; as i manfully fight with the handlebars, others glide serenely past, apparently untroubled by the endless pull of gravity. resulting, as you would suppose, in my sunday best amounting to little more than grandstanding poseurship.

however, no matter how applicable we feel any of the above pertains to our goodselves, the gent sat at a table outside debbie's last sunday morning, seriously undermined anything any of us could have concocted when leaving the bike shed earlier that same day.

fassa saddle pack

at this time of year, islay is inundated not only with several thousand overwintering geese and large flocks of whooper swans, but many other more obscure forms of birdlife. though the sunday peloton is largely ignorant of the identities of most, for those with predilection to spotting identifying and photographing islay's winter birdlife, it is currently a veritable playground. so as we arrived en masse at deb's, intent on a serious bout of froth supping, we were confronted by an individual sat behind a camera lens that would have made the gun on a chieftain tank feel inadequate.

at first, we thought the fellow had heard of the strenuous efforts being made during the finish-line sprint, and determined an image had to be snapped. but what made him worthy of comment was the fact that he was dressed in a camouflage jacket that precisely matched the camouflage decorating the aforementioned lens. surely that makes our own poseurship fade seriously into the background?

however, though i was never a boy scout (long story), i still like to be prepared, particularly when it comes to the subject of concealment. if i might refer you to the two bicycles mentioned at the beginning of my monologue. while i'd prefer never to sully their sleek lines with paraphernalia and accoutrements, in the name of pragmatism, it is sometimes necessary so to do. i'm thinking here of a seatpack containing the emergency services a velocipedinist has need of from time to time.

fassa saddle pack

fortunately, simon at fassa, purveyor of various forms of bicycle protection and accessories, had sent over a fassa camouflaged seatpack, constructed from remarkably sturdy, waterproof polyester. attached to the saddle via three industrial strength, velcro straps, the bright orange-lined seatpack features three separate pockets into which i have placed an inner-tube, a multi-tool and tyre-lever. and there's space for more. apparently easy to clean when thickly coated with 'belgian toothpaste', those velcro straps kept the seatpack tightly affixed to the underside of my brooks cambium, with scarcely a hint of untoward wobbling or rattling, though i did encounter a smidgeon of faff trying to figure out the right way to wrap them through the saddle rails. (who reads the manual?) in fact, until we came across camouflage guy outside debbie's, i had all but forgotten it was there.

and, should there be need to hang a tail-light back there, simon's already thought of that.

the fassa camouflage seatpack is available in one size only to fit the majority of saddles currently available. price is £45. | fassa saddle pack

tuesday 20 november 2018

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the twmp compact and bijou guide to training and nutrition

greencity organci porridge oats

training and nutrition: two subjects from which i have kept my distance; those of you who have seen me ride will have no difficulty in reasoning why that is. there may have been a time in the distant past when i indulged in a smattering of what i liked to refer to as training and i know i've undertaken the odd regime in the process of reviewing a book, but generally speaking, training and i are not comfortable bedfellows.

this is not to disparage those who make it their annual goal to improve upon both distance and speed over the course of the year. strava has no doubt encouraged this state of affairs in an almost subliminal fashion; constantly striving to be top dog in the local king of the mountains competition, will naturally enforce efforts to become quicker. and i believe it is common practice for cycling's version of facebook to offer regular challenges that would hardly be named as such, did they not require velocipedinal practices above and beyond the call of duty. but attempting to become faster on the bike cannot simply happen because you desire it to be so.

there is work to be done.

greencity organic porridge oats

therefore, with my vast experience of such matters, even if that has arisen mostly from having failed to achieve anything notable across a lengthy career, it seems only right and proper that i pass on some of this acquired knowledge. and, once again from personal experience, that which follows, will work particularly well if you have a) no idea what you're doing and b) no idea what i'm talking about.

you see, there's really no need to plough through endless chapters concerning periodisation, working with eye-wateringingly expensive power meters that require a physics degree to operate, understanding pre-determined heart-rate zones nor looking up dictionaries for the meaning of perceived rate of exertion. these are all concepts invented by the writers of training books (who are all in cahoots with each other, a situation currently under investigation by the monopolies commission) to promote the sales of even more books. be honest, when was the last time you perused a training manual that failed to mention any of the above?


greencity organic porridge oats

so, in an effort to simplify matters for the dazed and confused amongst you, along with those who really couldn't give a flying watt how to get faster as long as it doesn't involve more effort than absolutely necessary, here's all you need to know from both a nutritional and cycling point of view, both of which are inextricably linked. and the best bit to learn is that it matters not whether you're one of those gung-ho sort of cyclists who thinks nothing of covering 100km before breakfast, or a more reserved velocipedinist who counts a 3km commute as the pinnacle of their achievement.

first off, it's necessary to become acquainted with the real meaning of epo: extra porridge oats. once you've grasped that part of my concept, you need to buy some, preferably a 3kg pack of green city organic jumbo oats. since the latter business is based in glasgow and might not be in a position to supply your local store, feel free to find a local equivalent. but ideally, they need to weigh somewhere close to 3kg, give or take. secondly, it will completely ruin the basic premise behind my proffered course of action if you have the oats delivered; you need to cycle to the point of purchase with a suitable rucksack or backpack and pedal as hard as you can back home.

that's the training bit covered.

greencity organic porridge oats

i'm sure those of you who have been paying attention will already have surmised the extent of my nutritional advice, but for those who found themselves a tad distracted, watching a christmas movie on the reality channel, those porridge oats were not solely to be employed as training ballast. adding three cupfuls of water to two cupfuls of oats (a cup and half would be the norm, but upping the quantity to two, qualifies this as epo) and allowing them to marinate overnight, will set everything up to make a superb plate of organic porridge at breakfast the following morning. add banana, peach slices or maple syrup to taste. and that's it.

should you be in possession of a heart-rate monitor, power meter or are still trying to gauge your perceived rate of exertion, i'd suggest you get rid of the lot, in favour of my tried-and-tested expert method outlined above.

you can thank me later.

monday 19 november 2018

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feedback sports chainkeeper

feedback sports chain keeper

a long time ago, in a land far, far away, during my summer holiday work days, a colleague of mine usually joined me on the cycle to and from work. his grandfather had been an enthusiastic bike racer and bestowed upon him the importance of owning two chains for his bicycle, one of which would be removed at the end of each bike ride and soaked in diesel, while the other, already steeping in diesel, would be fitted in its place. those were the heydays of those little cyclo chain rivet tools, cast metal devices that would usually destroy your thumbs long before the chain rivet made it all the way through to the other side.

them were t'days.

at one time, that was the sole means of removing and fitting a bicycle chain, before the folks at sedis (now part of sram) created what is often referred to as a power-link. it took me many a long year to warm to the latter, after one of them decided no longer to fulfil its function while riding. that wasn't a happy day. my former colleague's daily practice would, it must be admitted, be a smidgeon harder and more expensive nowadays, were his bicycle to feature campagnolo componentry. aside from the tearful price of their chain tool, vicenza does not recommend that any of the chain rivets are removed and subsequently replaced. maybe shimano do likewise; i know not.

feedback sports chain keeper

aside from that, i'm not sure i'd have the same fortitude in repeating the chain removal process after each and every ride. the reasoning behind his seemingly odd behaviour was not only to maintain a fastidiously clean chain, but to minimise the wear on what, at that time, would undoubtedly have been a five-speed freewheel. unfortunately, i didn't remain in contact long enough to discover whether this daily travail had the desired result. and given the complexity and cost of modern-day transmissions, i'm less than inclined to adopt the same habit. however, as far as is possible, i do like to keep my chain sparklingly clean, something a i may have mentioned once or twice before.

feedback sports chain keeper

such a positive habit is, i think, one that is even more important to implement at this time of year, when the roads around here tend to be covered in belgian toothpaste. that goes double for the cyclocross bike; it seems no-one ever thinks to clean up the trails around bridgend woods. this cleaning necessity is born more from concern for my personal safety than any hitherto un-diagnosed form of obsessive compulsive disorder. during the second year of rapha's festive 500, when cleaning a particularly mucky chain, i discovered a crack in one of the chain's sideplates, which would no doubt have decided to break when at the farthest point from home and undoubtedly during heavy rain.

but let's not kid ourselves; if the chain harbours a thick crust of muck, the surrounding frame has probably acquired likewise, providing something of a cleaning quandary. you will know precisely of which i speak, if you've ever tried to clean the chainstays, chain and seat tube with the wheel still in place. but, remove the wheel and now the chain has draped itself across the rightmost chainstay and any cleaning activity is likley to be contaminated by gunk from the chain. or, as you attempt to clean the chain, it drags its person across that selfsame chainstay. it's a lose/lose situation as far as i can see.

feedback sports chain keeper

celebration time arrived, however, in the shape of a feedback sports chain-keeper from uk distributors, 2-pure. modern to a fault, this simple device can be used with regular road-style dropouts or the more contemporary thru-axle, increasingly common on mountain and cyclocross bicycles, with the road bike market in hot pursuit. though i'm pretty sure i totally misunderstood the instructions to fit the thru-axle option, my individual method worked every bit as well, allowing me to rotate the chain on the chain-keeper's roller to clean outer and inner plates.

additionally, after degreasing, and post lubrication, it was simplicity itself to wipe off the excess lube without it 'contaminating' the cassette sprockets in the meantime. no doubt, i'm the last person on earth to enjoy the pragmatism of such a simple device, though highly unscientific and minimal research has led me to believe that those already in possession of such a doohicky do not necessarily have the luxury of it fitting a thru-axle. this has made me unbearably smug and owner of a remarkably shiny chain in the meantime. i cannot deny that, though i found the chain-keeper highly practical and useful, its retail price of £50 seems a tad on the expensive side. but then again, i harboured the same thoughts about campagnolo's chain-rivet tool and that has actually proved to be good value (i own three, campagnolo equipped bicycles).

if you clean your chain as often as do i and are keen to commence a more regular bike cleaning regime, i think it likely it could pay for itself before christmas. (though it fits the majority of 12mm thru-axles, the chain-keeper is not compatible with focus or cervelo r.a.t. 12mm thru-axles)

feedback sports chain keeper

sunday 18 november 2018

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brooks cambium c19 saddle

brooks cambium c19 all weather

in the days before radio had to hold its ground against the eventual and rapid encroachment of television and when the modern day radio four was still referred to as the light programme, mums and children all across britain could sit down of an early afternoon and tune their ears to 'listen with mother'. having begun life in january 1950, at its peak, the programme held an audience of over a million listeners, moving over to the bbc home service in 1964. the last broadcast took place in october 1982 when 'listen with mother' became 'listening corner', still featuring those beloved 'wriggly worm' stories that so enthralled the younger members of the audience.

but what 'listen with mother' is perhaps most fondly remembered for, is the catchphrase "are you sitting comfortably? then i'll begin.", first ad-libbed by presenter julia lang. so popular did this become that it subsequently appeared in the oxford dictionary of quotations. the phrase was also incorporated in the lyrics of one of mellotron's best customers, the 'moody blues' album from the late 1960s, 'on the threshold of a dream'.

you do remember the moody blues don't you?

brooks cambium c19 all weather

'sitting comfortably' is something that matters greatly to the average velocipedinist, for no matter your enthusiasm for pedalling hither and thither, there's little that can detract from a decent bike ride more, than a sore posterior. oddly enough, in my own experience of professional bike fits, though they are all overly concerned with the height and fore and aft positioning of the saddle, i've not come across any that suggest what length, width or padding of saddle might best suit my riding style or width of bum. at the time of writing, brooks of england offer 21 different variations of their, non-leather, cambium range, from the narrow c13 to the widest c19, so how does the hapless bicyclist know which is the right one to affix to their seatpost?

(as if that were insufficient, there are 44 models in their highly respected leather saddle range.)

as a quick rule of thumb, the narrower your bottom, the narrower the saddle you should choose, but, as one of my work colleagues regularly reminds me 'we're not all the same'. tautologically speaking, the narrower and shorter a saddle, the more rigid it will be. if you're racing (or pretending to), rigid is probably just what you're looking for. lung-busting sprints, climbs or simply hanging on for grim death are probably far more onerous than a stiff, uncomfortable saddle, something you might not even notice until crossing the finish-line. and, at any rate, who wants untoward movement of any part of the bike in the heat of battle? the majority of us, however, might enjoy a rapid encroachment towards the speed limit sign at the end of the sunday ride, but on the whole, i think we'd prefer at least a smidgeon of comfort.

i have previously reviewed the c13, c15 and c17 models from the brooks cambium range, but what of the maximum width c19? would a narrow bum like mine simply wallow uncontrollably across the vast expanse of saddle, or would i find unparalleled parker knoll comfort on the way to froth supping? brooks were kind enough to send over an all-weather cambium c19 to help me find out.

brooks cambium c19 all weather

according to brooks, the c19 is specifically aimed at the commuter riding a more upright bicycle than the sunday peloton would ever admit to owning. you have to admit, under those circumstances, the increased width makes excellent sense, bearing in mind that the weight distribution leans more towards the saddle than the handlebars. but a bit like the 'medium ride' designation to be found atop favoured cymbals, what the manufacturer had in mind might not equate with personal preference. but would implementation of the latter quickly lead to adoption of the 'pride bears no pain' mantra? after all, if leaning forward on the drops leads to chafing discomfort, is this a saddle that ought to be avoided by the more portly members of the peloton?

the short answer would appear to be 'no'. despite my width-challeged posterior, i have climbed, sprinted (a guy can dream, can't he?) and rouleured into headwinds, without so much as a morsel of discomfort. and the inner-panels of my bibshorts remain utterly free of scuff marks. i tend to think that the c19's true vocation in life is firmly stuck to the seatpost of the itinerant tourer, where long, slow(er) days in the saddle demand a greater level of comfort than speeding in the face of adversity, or, indeed, aiding and abetting the daily commute.

brooks cambium c19 all weather

but despite those contentions, i participate in neither of those genres of cycling, so can i be trusted with such confident statements? well, on the face of it, pursuant to my many kilometres while sat upon such increased real estate, i'd like to think so. so far, i can find no specific downside to riding a wider saddle than tradition would suggest. on those few moments when my athletic prowess was able to savour a few slower moments, i have had the opportunity to enjoy the c19's proffered comfort. and with colder, wetter and windier days, doubtless about to inflict themselves upon the great unwashed, the nylon covered, all-weather, vulcanised rubber top simply laughs in the face of the incumbent trials and tribulations of the weather.

manufactured in italy, the cambium saddle arrives with an initial two-year warranty, extended to ten years on registration and retails at £95. the c19 is also available as a 'carved' version with a slot in the top. unlike brooks leather saddles, the cambium range requires no breaking in period.

so, now that i'm sitting comfortably, you may begin.

brooks cambium c19

saturday 17 november 2018

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give go

world bicycle relief give-go

though you may think that i jest, over thirty years ago, when islay still had a creamery situated in port charlotte village, the cheese it produced was banned by the vatican, due to its alleged aphrodisiac properties. quite how they discovered said affectations, i'm not altogether sure, but since the creamery is no longer in existence, we'll probably never know. and when the company went into receivership at the turn of this century, it also meant the end of the island's dairy herds. with no local creamery to which they might sell their milk, the island's farmers were unable to find an economic maket off the island.

world bicycle relief give-go

debbie's father maintained the sole dairy herd for several years after the closure, producing and selling his own milk on the island, but that has now also ceased.

all the milk sold and consumed on the isle is brought in daily by ferry.

imagine if you will, that some of the above set of circumstances had not come to pass. though the creamery may have shut its doors, had the farmers continued with dairy farming and found the means to economically ship their produce to a mainland buyer, there's still the not inconsiderable, infrequent hiccup of cancelled ferries. though modern-day milk is often treated to improve its shelf-life, it's doubtful that this process could take place on islay, meaning that any lengthy inclement weather, stopping the ferries from travelling, could potentially have resulted in sour milk.

world bicycle relief give-go

it's a real problem that previously affected esawo njoka, a 59 year old dairy farmer in rural africa. at one time, with no alternative means of transport, esawo carried his milk to the collection centre on foot. depending on often unpredictable circumstances, more often than he'd like, he was turned away, stating "It is so painful and discouraging when one is sent back home because of bringing sour milk." all that changed, however, when world bicycle relief presented him with a buffalo bicycle.

"I am very happy with the Buffalo bicycle. I spend less time travelling than I did in the past. I can even carry 100 kilogrammes." while we debate the relative merits of cyclocross bicycles versus gravel bicycles, it's a conversation that esawo would no doubt find not only esoteric, but likely more than confusing. his route to and from the collection centre and the path he takes when dropping his grandkids at school, makes even our worst roads look like motorways. there is, for him, only the bicycle, a machine that caters to his every need. granted, it's never going to win him the tour de france, but, assuming he's even heard of the race, it probably not an event that gives him much cause for concern. but it's also a bicycle that is easy to maintain and can shrug off all the bumps and scrapes that the african bush can throw in his direction.

world bicycle relief give-go

as i've mentioned several times in these very pixels, this is the true power of the bicycle. whether or not to festoon a carbon fibre frame with twelve vitesses or not, is a particularly first world problem. but with christmas looming ominously on the horizon, perhaps this year you might forgo an extra trinket in favour of donating the money to world bicycle relief. that will allow them to provide more bicycles for individuals like esawo, potentially making a far greater difference than the latest in nano-fibres or carbon-rimmed wheels.

like it or not, only one of the above suggestions makes more sense than the other. choose wisely.

world bicycle relief

friday 16 november 2018

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are we being served?

drummers only

i have made it plain, pretty much to the point of boredom, that the principality is devoid of a bona-fide bicycle shop. a couple of decades ago a friend and i did briefly operate from the former post-office garage in the village, selling a few bikes and effecting necessary repairs (even to the point of dismantling a sturmey-archer three-speed and figuring out which bit needed replaced), but there's nothing around here with a shop window full of bicycles and an aproned mechanic behind the counter.

therefore, when the opportunity arises to visit scotland, i will occasionally drop by some of the city-centre showrooms just to gauge how the other half lives these days. of course, precisely the same could be said about drum stores; islay is notably bereft of any form of musical outlet. therefore when in the big city, proximitous to the above mentioned bicycle shops, i will most often take myself across the river to the town's particularly impressive drum shop. and just to place everything in some sort of perspective before i drone on with today's monologue, some of the percussive exotica on display features price tags comparable with those hanging from the handlebars. as the quality of each improves, so does the number of pound notes required for purchase.

in order that you are able to make your own judgments regarding that upon which i am about to alight, i should point out that though i am a regular (mail-order, mostly) customer at the drum shop, i have only once bought a few gels from one of the bike shops mentioned. and despite being a famous member of the cycling media, i'm pretty sure that the staff in either bicycle emporium have never heard of me (and there's no reason why they should), nor could find a sane reason to change such circumstances.

so, having arrived in scotland, slept the sleep of the valiant, and enjoyed a minimal breakfast in a nearby coffee shop, i headed south across the river with the firm intention of hitting stuff, whether it be metal, plastic or somewhere in between. following the sharp intake of breath on noting just how many more drumsets there were than when last i visited, i was asked if i fancied a cup of coffee. having not long finished some excellent froth, i politely declined. there then followed a lengthy conversation concerning the flexibility and operation of the various tom mounts fitted to several of the drumsets in stock and brief watching of a video, concerning different styles of bass drum beaters.

i'm ashamed to say, that i expected to be guilty of merely hanging out, but in the course of dialogue, subjects arose resulting in my purchase of a couple of items that relieved me of more of my hard-earned than had been speculatively budgeted for. i'm sure you've all been there.

with quite some time to fritter away, i visited one of the city-centre bicycle purveyors, the name of which i will withold, but suffice it to say, it rhymes with heavens. there were only two staff in attendance behind the counter and no other customers in the shop. the road-bike display area is situated upstairs, so i duly ascended for a quick perusal of those on offer. i willingly admit that i had no intention of purchasing any of the bicycles in stock, nor, indeed, had i any need of making further enquiries related to any of them. but had i wished to do so, there were no staff members upstairs and neither of those downstairs had apparently felt it necessary to follow my footsteps, despite having no idea as to whether i had money to spend or not.

the second bike store to which i paid a visit, sported only a ground floor location. once again, there were no other customers and only one member of staff. my presence was acknowledged, but i was effectively left to my own devices. i cannot deny that i'm less than impressed by sales assistants who follow me about the shop, or continually ask if there's anything they can help me with, but certainly neither establishment made any moves to offer me coffee, tea or juice. the drum store has a gregarious habit of offering refreshment to many of its customers, however regular their visits.

my heavily laboured point is that maybe there's a missing link pertaining to at least the two bicycle stores in this very chapter. you may know of other shops which fit a similar pattern? the drum store staff are presumably every bit as keen to improve sales as you'd hope the bike store staff would be, but seem to have a better strategy to welcome potential customers and they're suffering from competition with the interweb every bit as much as are bricks and mortar bike shops

i recall penning a similar feature some ten or twelve years ago, prior to the 'bradley bubble'. cycle sales improved dramatically at that point, but have allegedly declined notably in recent times. could my recent experience perhaps point to one of the reasons why?

thursday 15 november 2018

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where has it all gone?

taipei bike show

several years past, on the tenth anniversary of ardbeg distillery's committee (a marketing exercise) i invited graeme obree to islay in the capacity of after dinner speaker. though graeme doesn't require much in the way of looking after, it seemed only polite and sociable to accompany him to and from the ferry on arrival and departure. graeme is every bit as garrulous as myself, so there were few gaps in the conversation, during which i put it to him that he must be feeling pretty good about the apparent increase in the number of folks taking up cycling. fully expecting him to reply in the affirmative, i was taken aback when he said that he preferred it when it was pre-mamil days; hardcore cyclists only.

i tend to think there are a number of us who might be inclined to agree, those who have served their apprenticeships, asked all the awkward questions, ridden in completely the wrong gear and worn a yellow jersey on the sunday ride. granted, it is the done thing to enlighten all and sundry as to the joys of cycling, encouraging them to accept bendy bars and skinny wheels as part of their daily lives. for though we are the self-styled cognoscenti, it ill-behoves us to display any form of visible condescension. no doubt the professional classes look upon the average velocipedinist with a similar degree of concealed disdain.


but, on the face of it, cycling has always been a largely uncomplicated activity; buy a bike, don jersey and shorts, then pedal. as sergei would say 'simples'. disappointingly, the signs that those days are probably long gone, have been conspicuous for many a long day.

wearing my rose-tinted glasses, i recall my first reynolds 531 lugged steel frame, for which i purchased a campagnolo chorus groupset. it featured indexed gears, but still changed via downtube levers, while the brake-lever hoods arrived with very small rubber stoppers, offering a choice between under the bar tape cable routing, or having them exit the top of the hoods in time-honoured manner. mistake me not; i have no desperate wish to return to those days, even though i think bikes from that era look decidedly cooler than the current crop of nano-fibre twelve speeds. but i cannot deny that the relative simplicity of those days was one of cycling's highly attractve features.

today's state of affairs is considerably far removed. according to financial analysts, the global cycling market is expected to increase to $44.4 billion between now and 2022. and the cited reason for this dramatic increase in fortunes is the rise and rise of electric bikes (e-bikes) integration of mechatronics (whatever that is), the internet of things (?) and diversification (once again, whatever that means).

the recently held taipei bike show in taiwan, is a tad far away for me to visit, not only due to cost, but because calmac ferries don't appear to sail that far. therefore, in order to remain as well-informed on cycling's cutting edge as i can be, i spent an hour or so the other night on youtube, watching several videos allegedly devoted to the latest in technology on display in the far east. disappointingly, much of that on show seemed remarkably superficial: carbon fibre disc rotors sounds like the sort of thing most of us could have foreseen and are surely more cosmetic and expensive than technologically advanced? and at the risk of further underlining my inherent 'ludditeness', why on earth would i want my steel ritchey logic to be internet enabled?

it's usually to get a break from such technology that gets me out on the bike in the first place.

taiwan's exports of complete bicycles, between january and september of this year, were valued at $1.9 billion, a 14.2% increase on the same period last year, while their e-bike exports grew in value by more than 50%. james huang, chairman of taiwan's external trade development stated "our philosophy is that bicycles don't just provide transport, but show your attitude to life." the bit that worries me is just whose attitude to life is it they're trying to show.

as time goes by, it's beginning to look less and less like my own.

wednesday 14 november 2018

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