pressure cooking

byb telemetry

unfortunately, you're not going to get the answer to today's question today, predominantly due to a lack of attention paid by yours truly. i received a brand new and quite literally, shiny, bicycle in for review in the latter part of last week, once more arriving in a cardboard box that i'm sure required planning permission and will probably incur council tax charges if i hang onto it for too long. fettling and faffing should have been carried on saturday, prior to the sunday ride, but (storm) dierdre pretty much put paid to that. though i have recently advised you of the parlous state of the bikeshed, there is not one iota of spare space in which to manhandle a bicycle and even tools of a compact and bijou nature, necessitating any adjustments of a mechanical nature to be carried out al fresco.

byb telemetry

al fresco simply doesn't work in horizontal rain and 100kph winds.

arising ten minutes early on sunday morn, i had time to fit a pair of pedals, but no more than that. even the seatpack had to fall by the wayside, entailing the need for more cargo space in my rear pockets. the bicycle arrived fully setup, with only the saddle height to be set and the bars to be straightened. even the tyres were inflated to a sensible pressure, and therein lies the root of my problem.

byb telemetry

modern-day bicycles have begun the transition to tubeless tyres, and although fitting an inner-tube is still an option, should the tyre suffer an inopportune exhalation of air, the conscientious reviewer ought surely to make him/herself aware of the nature of those fitted to the bicycle? how else can one offer a constructive and subsequent review? but the tyre thing raises yet one other question to which there is likely no easy answer. i mentioned above that the tyres had been inflated to a sensible pressure, but the more astute amongst you may find yourselves asking just precisely what that means.

byb telemetry

a friend of mine purchased a rather expensive specialized road bicycle last year, one with carbon rimmed wheels and during the first few weeks of riding, suffered an inordinate number of punctures. bringing the bicycle to my back door, he asked me to check the wheel for any potential problems. finding none, i asked him at what pressures he was running the tyres, to which he replied, 'the highest number shown on the sidewall'. that may be the ideal when riding a smooth stage of the tour de france, but 130psi on islay's roads will only result in punctures.

problem solved.

byb telemetry

but the question remains, what is the correct or ideal tyre pressure and by what reliable method is it possible to ascertain the correct number of pounds per square inch/bars of pressure? when it comes to the spring classics, in particular that of paris-roubaix, many of the professional teams will spend the better part of a week, traipsing up and down a stretch of cobbles at different tyre pressures to find the ideal mix of tyres, psi and wheels. it's a process also common to cyclocross, where ever-changing course conditions necessitate a spread of such information.

professional teams often have a sponsor-backed, technical infrastructure that allows them to delve deep into the minutiae of any aspect of cycling into which they may care to delve. it's a time and motion study that is likely to cost several pennies, coinage most of us don't have at our disposal. ideally, we could do with a measuring system that would offer feedback as to the behaviour of the tyres over varying surfaces. sadly, i know of no such commercially available tool, but that doesn't mean there aren't developments on the horizon that may one day provide just that of which i speak.

byb telemetry

currently listed on kickstarter is a suspension telemetry system for mountain bikes, brought to you by byb. the little black box, which wirelessly connects to a smartphone app (admit it; you knew that bit was coming), measures the motion of the suspension and other dynamics, offering real-time feedback. this means that any adjustments the rider may care to make, prior to heading off into the wilds, are based on quantitative data, rather than inspired guesswork. it strikes me that this telemetry could be used to measure fork, chainstay and seatstay deflection, depending on chosen tyre pressure, providing the intrepid, road-going velocipedinist with the same information as ought soon to be available to the hardened mountain biker.

just a thought.

just what type of tyres are fitted to the current review bicycle will be revealed in due course.

byb telemetry on kickstarter

monday 17 december 2018

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free advice

rapha festive 500

starting exactly one week tomorrow, is the aforementioned festive 500, an annual challenge to ride 500 kilometres between christmas eve and new year's eve, an average of almost 63km per day. unless, of course, you figure you might receive severe castigation from her/him indoors, were you to attempt such a distance on christmas day, in which case, each other day will need to bear the stress of a slightly greater average distance.

as i had cause to state but a few days past, i have attempted this ride every year since its inception, failing to complete the set distance only once across those years, due to more inclement weather than i could handle. thankfully, this year's ride did not commence during storm dierdre this weekend, for the wind strength and direction kept the bicycle stuck disconsolately in the bike shed.

unfortunately, such is the nature of modern velocipedinal life, the opportunity to discover things for ourselves has been completely usurped in the name of filling column inches and pixels in both the cycling press and accompanying websites. i don't doubt that i've been guilty of so doing myself on the odd occasion. but while the 50 or so participants in that very first year's festive 500 had little other than a gung-ho attitude to assist, those days are long behind us in more ways than one.

it has been brought to my attention by the very instigators of those festive kilometres, that their fitness partners, wahoo, have posted an illustrated blog entitled 'how to prepare for your rapha festive 500 ride'. ihave no wish to diminish the challenge that those 500 festive kilometres provide, but it strikes me as a tad melodramatic to include "...tales of deserted centuries, catastrophic mechanicals, and challenge-ending physical failure or injury abound with those who have tried before and been unsuccessful."

in the past seven years' worth of 'festiving', i have suffered no injuries other than mild discomfort, (though in my second year, i was (harmlessly) blown off my bike a couple of times and i once fell off in deep snow), i've had only two punctures throughout all those attempts and one cracked chain sideplate. nor am i aware of any life-threatening catastrophes affecting friends who have undertaken the challenge. in essence, there are many who will laugh at such short daily riding distances, particularly those who are regular audax riders, so it strikes me as a bit rich for a company whose principal income is derived from the sales of indoor smart turbo-trainers, to offer advice on how best to approach 500, outdoor kilometres (with no disrespect intended towards the author of the piece).

i would like to think that any cyclists intending to attempt the challenge will have the sanity of mind to know what they're about before climbing aboard on christmas eve. i'm a mite confused, however, by the author's first words of advice to join the challenge on strava and "...have your (insert trade name here) bike computer set to auto upload each day's rides..." no matter my opinion of the latter procedure, it most certainly is not compulsory to send daily gps data to the cyclist's facebook in order to ride the festive 500.

it would be unfair and largely unproductive of me to dissect the minutiae of the feature or any other similar pieces, but suffice it to say, the majority of points rest on the fairly obvious. let's not forget, this is supposed to be a challenge, part of which is facing at least a modest number of obstacles. if it was really easy (as in a mere 50 festive kilometres), it would seriously call into question rapha's definition of the word 'challenge'. in the words of ben leiberson, 'outside is free', a slogan that remains as true for the festive 500 as it does for any other bike ride. if it all goes horribly wrong, you'll be better prepared next year, irrespective of your motives for riding.

the only advice i'd be inclined to offer is 'have fun'.

rapha festive 500 | wahoo fitness blog | photo courtesy rapha

sunday 16 december 2018

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poster boys

northern line geraint poster

as i write this, there is a mere matter of a dozen days until christmas day, perilously close to the cut-off point for ending the search for that ideal present for whatsisname. after reading the endless and variably helpful gift guides as featured in the cycling press and websites, if you're anything like me, you're no closer to choosing an apposite prezzie and if it doesn't happen anytime soon, no-one is going to ask you to be santa next year.

you would think that getting a present for the cyclist(s) in your life would be simplicity itself. after all, cyclists have endless needs and wants and there's a whole industry out there eager and willing to satisfy those eneds and wants. to make it even better and arguably simpler, there are bits and bobs which fulfil either function or desire. stuff such as brake shoes/pads, chains, bar tape, waterproof overshoes, track mitts etc; none of those are likely to break the bank, yet every cyclist i've ever known (apart from those in san francisco and probably adelaide who are unlikely to get much use out of overshoes), could use any one of the above.

northern line hell of the north poster

but i've often thought that purchasing any of the above to be a bit like buying mrs washingmachinepost a vacuum cleaner or food mixer for christmas.

however, the world's apparel providers offer a wide range of possibly unnecessary, but highly desirable, garmentage to satisfy the cravings that many are scarcely aware they had. those of you who are particularly well-heeled will presumably have spent much of their perusing time amongst items such as complete groupsets, gravel bikes and carbon wheelsets, as well as entire co-ordinated ranges of cycle clothing. but, in the interests of austerity (and we're all in it together), as far as our current discussions are concerned, i have our sights set on items of inestimable value, but little actual cost.

northern line pantani poster

posters, or, perhaps more accurately, velocipedinal art.

in order not to create more problems than i might solve, i'll confine my suggestions to a single supplier, the previously reviewed and praised 'the northern line', who have recently brought to market two excellent pieces of art and one absolute doozy. unsurprisingly, given this year's welsh tour de france victor, there's a prime example of graphic art in the shape of one of the currently popular circular data sets describing thomas's stage placings, general classification standings (or bonifications, as sean would say), along with elevations and cumulative timings. printed on 250gsm quality paper at a2 size, this is the sort of framed artwork that would look particularly apt hung on the wall at the top of the stairs. unless, of course, you live in a flat or bungalow, in which case, we may have to be a tad more inventive.

those fine northern folks have also paid homage at the altar of the world's finest one-day race: paris-roubaix, the ideal gift for those who figure the grand tours are simply events that get in the way of next year's spring classics and for whom the corporate business card simply states 'cobbles baby'. the hell of the north poster can be had in both a2 and a3, once again on that luxurious 250gsm paper.

northern line pantani poster

but for those with a true appreciation not only of what constitutes the very best in graphic art, but one of cycling's great dividers, 'pantani - the climber' has to be one of the very best posters in the history of cycling posters, though no doubt those with a predilection for the style of botticelli and the renaissance, will actively disagree. also available printed in a3 and a2 formats, i have added this to my christmas wish list and, assuming mrs washingmachinepost reads this feature, i fully expect one to magically appear 'neath the christmas tree.

i imagine there are members of the pelotonese all across the land reaching for their flexible plastic, and breathing more easily now that i have unilaterally solved their christmas gift giving.

you're welcome.

all three posters are available from the northern line. price is dependent on size ordered.

the northern line

friday 14 december 2018

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rapha waterproof top tube pack and small seat pack

rapha seatpack

ultimately, the bicycle is a vehicle for adventure, or at least there is the potential for that to be the case. i'd imagine the majority of us experienced that revelation at whatever age we learned to ride a bicycle. in my case, i was a slow learner; though my parents had bought me a rather fetching blue bicycle with a single-speed freewheel in anticipation of my learning to ride it over a period of time measured in days rather than weeks or months, after hours of trepidation and incompetence (several of the velo club are convinced i have yet to learn properly), i realised that the only way this was going to happen was by way of a drastic compromise.

the latter consisted of borrowing a considerably smaller red bicycle from a friend of mine nearby, one who had already reached velocipedinal escape velocity. this cycle was small enough to allow yours truly hours of practice in the large(ish) back garden, where falling off was mitigated by the bike's closeness to the ground and the fact that the latter was covered with lush, soft grass. thus, with due diligence and hours of falling over, i finally learned to ride a bicycle at the grand old age of nine. it causes me no end of embarrassment that both my own children learned at a third of that age.

rapha seatpack

the red bicycle restored to its rightful owner and the blue bike retrieved from its garden shed repose, had i been more literary aware at the time, i'd no doubt have exclaimed "let the adventure begin."

i can only admit that as a nine year-old, i harboured a natural reticence to head off along the road less familiar. initial forays mostly consisted of the field at the end of the road and once or twice as far as the local library, though carrying home more than two books at a time was a tad more awkward than it had seemed when the librarian stamped the inside cover.

having reached an age considerably in advance of nine, i confess that my sense of adventure is every bit as conservative as 'twas in the days of innocence. yes, i still love riding my bicycle, but mostly i'm content to ride the highways and byways of my island home, with only the occasional flurry elsewhere, as long as it is organised to the last detail and there's someone there to point me in the right direction and tuck me in at night. thus my on-bike cargo requirements are just the right side of minimal. yes, there was a brief period in the hebrides when i had panniers, but those days were short-lived.

rapha bikepacking

if i might confine myself to discussions surrounding the sunday morning ride and those island round-and-abouts, there is need for little more than a spare inner tube, a multi-tool and at least a sole tyre-lever. there was a time when i also carried a pound coin in a zipped pocket, in case i had need of accessing a public phone (remember those?). i now realise that the recent introduction of a new pound coin has left me with tarnished currency that's no longer current. c'est la vie.

i prefer, however, that the above mentioned paraphernalia be carried in a single pack, something that, unfortunately, a small-size rapha seatpack was incapable of achieving. strapping to the underside of a sadddle by way of a single, adjustable, velcro strap, the small-size pack can hold a tyre-lever within an elasticated internal pocket, accompanied by a park tools, multi-tool. though there was still a soupcon of space remaining, it was insufficient to contain an inner tube, even when removed from its packaging.

willing and wishing to be seen as self-reliant, i placed that coiled tube within a similarly fabricated, yet more spacious top tube pack. this straps to the front of the top tube by means of two adjustable velcro straps and a third strap that fits neatly around the head tube. along with the inner tube, the latter pack was able also to swallow my digital camera whole. in the grand scheme of things, i doubt there's anything too onerous in carrying items across two incredibly waterproof items of luggage, but there were other considerations to be considered.

rapha top tube pack

the seat pack, though a smidgeon on the compact and bijou side, is all but perfectly formed; had the choice been mine, i'd probably have opted for the medium-size, but in principle, scaling up has its attractions. i was a bit less impressed with the top tube pack. yes, its waterproofing is impeccable, keeping the camera perfectly dry, even when i forgot it was there and i left it outside in the pouring rain. however, it's possible that the camera's weight was very much not in its favour.

the two velcro straps tightening around the top tube fit through slots in the base of the pack, meaning that, no matter how tight you manage to pull them, it's still possible for the pack to slide laterally. which is precisely what it did everytime i hit a bump on the avonvogie forestry track. incessantly nudging it with my right kneecap eventually became a bit tiresome. there are two further slots on the base for alternative positioning; an extra couple of straps would have been a welcome addition. try as i might, i was unable to pull the head tube strap as tight as it probably needed to be, though that might say more about me than it does about the fastening process.

rapha top tube pack

sizewise, the latter is capable of accommodating a rapha goose down thermal jacket, when scrunched within its carry sack. this seemed like the ideal placement for such a garment, given its intended use and there's no denying that the pack slid about far less when bereft of that (heavier) digital camera. as the saying goes, you pays your money, you takes your choice.

rapha's range of bikepacking luggage comprises a bar bag and framepack, along with the two items described above, but i'm afraid i'm without the necessary inquistive spirit of adventure to provide any of them with the hard time that would verify their undoubted suitability for round the world trips. however, there's no doubting their versatility or comprehensive waterproofing, though i'd advise taking time to consider just which item you'd need to help you on your long and winding road, when related to the amount of stuff you intend to carry.

rapha bikepacking range

thursday 13 december 2018

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fly by wire(less)

printed circuit board

having recently affixed a campagnolo record twelve-speed mechanical groupset to my ritchey logic frameset, the fact that vicenza has yet to announce an electronic version of the same can only encourage thoughts that it might follow in sram's footprints and arrive without a connecting wire to be seen about its person. for those in thrall to contemporary bicycle technology, i daresay there's an inordinate level of drooling taking place over the prospect, while those of us renowned for our luddite tendencies may be considerably less than overwhelmed.

as was pointed out to me on twitter only a matter of days ago, while discussing whether this technology was something that was 'needed' as opposed to 'desired', we have already invested much of our trust, knowingly or otherwise, in so-called fly-by-wire systems. pretty much every new aircraft produced in the last decade has entrusted its avionics to such a method of command, though thankfully the manufacturers and designers have included at least two levels of redundancy, should the principal system fail.

at least on your bicycle, if the wireless connection were to evaporate, the worst that could happen is either a long walk home, or a strenuous journey on your new singlespeed. aeroplanes are less likely to be so forgiving.

however, of perhaps minor concern, should wireless systems become de rigeur across the board, would be the constitution of the frames. the very first bicycle i reviewed featuring shimano dura-ace di2, was a focus with the electric wiring zip-tied to the downtube. additionally, the less than inconspicuous battery was sited on the seat tube, collecting any rainwater in the connector base. it worked perfectly well throughout the review period, but i was rather fearful for the safety of the external wiring. since those days, frame manufacturers have sought to accommodate the electric age, by allowing for internal wiring, while the battery has changed shape to burrow inside either the seatpost or seat tube. it wasn't long before the brake cables followed suit.

naturally enough, this created a cleaner, smoother appearance, the only fly in the ointment being the brake cables exiting the bar tape before disappearing inside hollow carbon. meanwhile, dr holgar hermanns has fabricated what he believes to be the first wireless bicycle disc brake system, actuated by simply squeezing the bar grips of the mtb to which it is fitted. granted, at present, it's hardly the most svelte of devices, but as my twitter correspondents advised, pretty much every prototype suffers from this problem; future development and miniaturisation will likely, and necessarily, provide an acceptable solution.

according to dr hermanns, his wireless braking is statistically likely to suffer only three misfires in a trillion operations, the sort of information that ought surely to satisfy even the most cynical of potential users. however, one of my fears, should this become mainstream, is that if or when wireless gears and brakes become the default position, what will happen to all those holes and/or cable stops on the frame? i'm sure the world's carbon frame producers would jump at the chance to create structures with as few gaps as possible, leaving those of us with no great desire to become a part of such modernity, scurrying to find framebuilders with a better appreciation of the ministrations of ned ludd.

my second concern, pretty much confirmed by ensuing inbound tweets, is the 'need' to recruit the bicycle to 'the internet of things'. in response to my assertion that fly-by-wire bicycles were hardly likely to receive regular and close attention by those as well-qualified as aircraft engineers, it was pointed out that smart brakes and gears offered many possibilities, ranging from reporting on pad wear/contamination, reduced brake force, low/contaminated fluid, chain wear, low lubricant, etc. ultimately, the bike could message a mobile mechanic to order parts and arrange a service. one contention stated "for offroad trail designers/coaches, reporting on braking points could improve trail design, rider technique etc. Bicycles could sense braking and auto-downshift to be in the perfect gear to accelerate away again. more data can only be good.' additionally,

while i share their enthusiasm for having the average bicycle maintained on a more regular basis, it strikes me that a future such as this sounds very similar to that of the car industry, only this time on only two wheels. it's not so long since i read an automobile association report, pointing out that several top of the range cars were providing their owners with costs of almost £1,000 simply to replace a headlight, now that many of these were now installed as integrated units. the joy of owning a fully-integrated 'smart' bicycle, might rank up there with a £17,000 van kleef custom titanium drumset, but we might well need to consider a second job to afford it.

many of us were initially attracted to the bicycle by dint of its inherent simplicity and i don't mind stating in print, that i do seriously wonder why there are those who wish continually to head in the opposite direction, simply because they can. i seriously doubt that any bike ride will become any more satisfying or enjoyable simply because it is devoid of cables and can switch on the espresso machine in the kitchen when you eventually head for home. for those doubters, take a look at world bicycle relief's buffalo bikes, simple, easily repaired velocipedinal technology that achieves far more than most of the stuff we fawn over.

as a colleague is fond of saying, technology's great, until it isn't.

wednesday 12 december 2018

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rapha handbook 02; longer rides - jo burt. rapha editions/bluetrain publishing. 144pp illus. £12

longer rides - jo burt

"I've listened to that little voice inside and I've paid attention when it's told me I can have a sticky bun. Especially when it's told me I can have it if I just make it over this one last hill."

but a few years after moving to the hallowed isle, i opted to subscribe to america's 'bicycling' magazine, principally because the uk was not particularly well-served in the cycling publication arena at the time. in common with many monthly and weekly publications and not necessarily constrained to the velocipedinal realm, each portion of the year had a tendency to bring a repetition of features: autumn and winter covered lighting, mudguards/fenders and how to keep warm, spring concentrated on early season training and, in the case of the americans, early summer brought thoughts of completing the almost inevitable century ride.

the favourite heading seemed mostly to concern 'riding your first century', and though i read every word, at the back of my mind was always the question "how hard can it be?"

longer rides - jo burt

therefore, one sunday morning i awoke and decided that i would, indeed, ride my very first century. i stuffed a few mouthfuls of food in my back pockets, including a solitary banana and checked to see that i had money for refueling along the way. unfortunately, woefully unprepared, less than half-way i stopped at a small bridge to stretch my ailing and complaining back, in the process, turning that banana into pulp. and stopping at what is now 'debbie's in bruichladdich, i discovered that the money in my pocket was, in fact, a supermarket till receipt.

longer rides - jo burt

having only sufficient loose change to purchase a small packet of raisins and a mini-mars bar, i dutifully completed my first century ride with scarcely any return from eight hours. mrs washingmachinepost had to assist me up the steps at the back door, as i appeared to have lost the use of both legs.

what i could have done with, prior to setting off into uncharted territory, would have been a copy of this second in the series of handbooks from rapha. published in conjunction with guy andrews' blue train publishing renowned author and illustrator jo burt has presented a highly informative and equally entertaining treatise on cycling just a bit farther than the gate at the end of the garden path. in the process, he has the knack of putting what could conceivably become a bragging rights distance competition into some perspective.

"It's important to remember that even if your longest ride is three times shorter than someone else's, it's their longest ride as well, so the feelings of tiredness, pride and elation at finishing it are equally shared. As is the need for a slap up meal."

longer rides - jo burt

for what may not be entirely obvious, there's a tad more to riding a long(er) road than has normally been the case and, try though i have, to think of any nook or cranny that might have been overlooked, i really can't find any: concern over tackling the great unknown "For your first attempt at a century you need to think of it as just like one of your normal bike rides, but a bit longer [...] (but) it needs to be approached with humility."; pragmatism: "(I've) eaten peanut butter straight from the jar at the end of a tough ride, sometimes even with a spoon." and the lack of specific training advice: This is a subject covered extensively elsewhere [...] you can even pay someone large sums of money to tell you what to do."

longer rides - jo burt

all of the above is divided up into bite sized chunks throughout the book's 144 pages, meaning there's no need to read cover to cover, if you simply need to cherry pick from the information presented. however, make no mistake, all those years of providing the script for a mountain biking sheep means that mr burt is no slouch when it comes to scribing compulsive and agreeable narrative. yet, let's make no bones about it, the book's not-so-secret-weapon, is the author's skill with a pen and colouring pencils. quite frankly, the illustrations and the cover (partially hidden under an orange cover wrap) are more than worth the price of admission alone. whether depicting an array of necessary bicycle repair tools, a hapless cyclist thumbing a lift, a peloton of scurrying cyclists spread over four pages, or a jar of peanut butter, really, what's not to like?

rapha and bluetrain publishing are to be roundly congratulated for having had the glorious perspicacity to offer these marvellous pocket guides for cyclists new to the fold. unlike several books of similar intent i have read in the past, there is not a trace of arrogance, of talking down to the reader, but rather an insistence that 'we've all been there.' jo burt has accompanied his own words with well-chosen quotes from those he describes as ..."just normal people fitting in cycling with families and jobs and real lives, just like the rest of us [...] words of wisdom from those that have ridden A Long Way..."

if you, or someone you know fancies exploring to the horizon and beyond on their bicycle, this really is all they need for christmas (irrespective of what mariah carey tells you). and though i've ridden bicycles for more years than i can truly remember, there was plenty in here to keep me occupied and entertained. and jo's wonderful pictures. an entire long-distance library in one book.

"Ride, eat, ride, eat, rest, ride, eat, ride, ride, eat, ride, ride, ride, rest, repeat."

longer rides - jo burt

tuesday 11 december 2018

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