ashmei 'domestique' gin

ashmei domestique gin

i used to subscribe to america's bicycling magazine, back in the days when the uk market consisted solely of the comic. yes, certain of their features didn't travel across the pond too well and it was irritating not to be able to purchase (in pre-internet days), one or two of the items advertised therein. however, aside from the 'two nations separated by a common language' cliché, the biggest surprise was the preponderance of advertisements for cars and rugged pickups, the latter usually augmented by two bicycles clamped to the floorpan at the rear. there was/is a certain logic to this; america is a darned sight bigger than the uk, entailing often considerably greater distances travelled to find suitable cycling country, particularly for those of the offroad fraternity.

this was certainly not a trend reflected in the cycling press on this side of the atlantic, at least, not on a regular basis.

ashmei domestique gin

since those far off, halcyon days of yore, britain's cycle press has both expanded and contracted, nonetheless, offering potential advertisers from the dark-side the opportunity to promote their wares to the velocipedinally inclined. it's not a situation that has happened often, at least, not that i've noticed, but immediately following prince bradley's competitive success, the motor industry seemed keen to capitalise on cycling's raised profile, offering built-in bicycle racks and occasionally, branded bicycles all of their very own. placing adverts in the cycling press for such 'innovations' made logical sense.

however, much as my in-built prejudice against the motor car had me utter a haughty reproach against those who displayed such a flagrant breach of trust (perhaps a bit over-the-top, but you no doubt catch my drift), there's little doubt that the marketing of motor vehicles is a tad more advanced than that applied to the bicycle. in fact, let's face it; the marketing of anything in the world, apart from ferrero rocher chocolates is more advanced than that of the bicycle industry. but, leaving aside such criticisms for the moment, i was brought to question why none of the larger players (specialized, trek, giant, et al), were not to be seen advertising in motoring magazines.

the general rebuff i received for even raising the question in the first place, mostly revolved around the cost of so doing. there is a great deal more money in cars than there is in bikes. that's precisely why i targeted only the larger cycle manufacturers. they presumably owned sufficient marketing cash to at least make inroads in this direction. i must assume that my premise was, indeed, wrong, for though i do not subscribe to any examples of the motoring press, i have not been made aware of any such 'contra-advertising'.

ashmei domestique gin

yet, it is but a matter of days since i advised you of a growing preponderance of cycle jerseys featured in the visitor centres of islay malt whisky distilleries. bruichladdich, in point of fact, offer two: the standard blue version along with jersey and shorts representing their port charlotte edition. add to the latter, a new jersey from islay's ninth distillery at ardnahoe, joining the veterans at ardbeg and endura's bowmore jersey. and only just this past week, i was advised that one of islay's other distilleries is well on the way to offering a remarkably attractive jersey within the coming months.

one can only assume that the distilleries have noted an increasing influx of cycle-borne visitors to their premises, to whom they are keen to cater, in addition to the more usual reason for visiting a distillery. and as such, we need also concern ourselves with gin, a drink that is verging on market saturation at the moment. bruichladdich offer 'the botanist' gin, containing 22 botanicals, a friend of mine is the owner of islay gin and islay's planned tenth distillery, one just clearing regional planning permission, has stated that it too, intends to produce a gin product.

so what is the bicycle industry doing about that incursion? i'm glad you asked that question, for the chiltern-based puddingstone distillery has teamed up with luxury cycle clothing purveyors ashmei to produce domestique gin. this limited edition drink was first curated in 2017, proving so popular, that it was decided the drink was worth a reprise for the 2018 rouleur classic. strictly limited to 200, laser-engraved, stainless steel bidons, the drink was highly commended in last year's classic gin category at the craft distilling expo.

ashmei domestique gin

my reader will be well aware that the strongest beverage in which i'm inclined to indulge, is a small glass of tropicana orange juice. so how on earth could i make you aware of whether ashmei's 'domestique' gin is the very tipple for a friday night after a hard week at the office? thankfully, mrs washingmachinepost has no such scruples regarding the ingestion of alcohol (in moderation, of course) and was more than happy to sample the concoction of botanicals such as french hops, spanish orange, italian rosemary, californian raisins, belgian angelica and chiltern rosehip. the choice of these is no accident; they represent the principal homelands of our great sport.

according to mrs washingmachinepost, the gin is an excellent refreshment in which to imbibe after five days of childminding. it's a recommendation that she says is transferable across all manner of daily travails, and apparently extends to both saturday and sunday too. the joyous part of this particular equation is that, when all is said and done and consumed, i get a rather attractive, stainless steel bidon with which to accessorise the ritchey logic. that will match well with the ashmei bibshorts soon to be reviewed.

for those of you who may wish to augment your own weekend evenings' refreshment, ashmei's domestique gin can still be ordered for february delivery. cost per stainless steel bottle is £45.

50cl ashmei domestique gin

monday 28 january 2019

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specialized allez sprint comp disc

specialized allez comp sprint disc

it appears that the appending of disc brakes to contemporary road bicycles has not only increased their mechanical complexity, but also that of the naming procedure. where once this bicycle may simply have been referred to as a specialized allez, its purported suitability for cirterium racing, as witnessed by peter sagan choosing to ride the frameset at the tour down under, has added the word sprint in front of comp, the latter presumably referring to an innate ability to be competitive in that particular genre of road-racing. the suffix of disc, is likely self explanatory.

specialized allez comp sprint disc

aluminium probably never quite reached the pinnacle of its career prior to being almost totally supplanted by the black stuff. marco pantani was aboard an aluminium bianchi during the superlative (and latterly infamous) 1998 portion of his career. but in the years that followed, carbon ultimately took the upper hand. this state of affairs has led to a modern generation of the pelotonese who will scarcely give aluminium a second look, aided and abetted by carbon-framed bicycles that easily undercut the price of this specialized.

that, however, would surely make us guilty of judging a book by its cover? while carbon has been interminably developed year on year, aluminium has scarcely been resting on its laurels. this specialized allez frame makes no attempt to hide its provenance, presented as it is in its more or less raw state under the clearcoat. however, rather than polish its surface to a reflective gleam, specialized have given it a satin, brushed appearance, one that is particularly pleasing to the eye. this is augmented with sky-blue painted carbon forks with chrome detailing, carried through to the forks' inner surface.

specialized allez comp sprint disc


the seatstays, which follow the modern trend of meeting the seat tube several centimetres below the top tube juncture (and i can find no specific engineering reason for so doing - it appears to be based more in aesthetics) are also painted that selfsame shade of blue on their outward face. that leaves only the blue specialized lettering and logo to finish off this rather sleek and minimalist look.

according to a graphic at the rear of the top tube, the e5, hydroformed aluminium frame benefits from d'aluisio smartweld sprint technology which, i believe, has re-thought the weld spots on the frame, allowing the strategic placement of more material to aid the common buzzwords, stiffness and compliance. this is most noticeable just above the bottom bracket region, where the latter joins the large downtube and seat-tube. the welding at that point could hardly be described as svelte, but it does offer substantial confidence that nothing's likely to fall apart anytime soon. and though the review model featured a mechanical groupset, the internal cable-routing lends itself to upgrading to electrons, if such is your jam.

specialized allez comp sprint disc

possibly the most notable feature of the allez frame is the contoured seat tube, which is trendily aero-flat, and features a cutout to accommodate the rear wheel. that flattened tube, unfortunately, in my opinion, results in the need for a similarly tear-drop shaped seatpost, sourced from the s-works venge. while this does complement the rest of the bike, it essentially means that the seatpost aftermarket is not one of which you can take advantage. and though seatposts are not particularly prone to breakage, i think i'd add the cost of a new one onto your bike budget and get a second one at point of purchase. in ten years' time, specialized might not keep stock. it's held in place by a two-bolt angled collar, applying equal pressure to each side of the post.

specialized allez comp sprint disc

though the majority of the groupset is sourced from shimano's 105 range, including front and rear mechs, sti levers and those disc calipers, the external bottom bracket bearing cups and chainset are from santa cruz-based praxis components. the front rings comprise the current flavour of compact: 36/52. those are matched with an eleven-speed cassette ranging from 11- 28. specialized are also particularly diligent when it comes to braking, specifying a 160mm rotor up front and 140mm at rear. these are affixed to a pair of dt swiss r470 wheels, featuring cartridge bearing hubs.

along with the previously mentioned seatpost, the toupé sport saddle, shallow drop alloy bars and forged alloy stem are sourced in-house at specialized, as is the bar tape. the tyres are specialized turbo pro 26mm. retail models do come replete with nylon pedals, but i fitted a pair of clipless ritchey offroad pedals for the duration of the review.

specialized allez comp sprint disc

though not exactly the same pantone colour, the blue detailing on the allez reminded the majority of my sunday morning peloton of the shade used by bruichladdich distillery on their building and regular branding. perhaps the two could offer a limited edition to go with their recently announced cycling kit.

going for a ride

just a matter of a few hundred metres south of bridgend village, several years ago now, there was a spate of vehicles sliding off the road into the adjacent ditch. i don't believe anyone was seriously harmed in such escapades in the undergrowth, but the road became the hapless scapegoat. though the cause was undoubtedly a simple case of folks driving too fast, the fact that a police car was amongst the victims, ultimately led to several portions of bendy road being laid with an increased friction, tactile surface that appears to have been applied in thin strips at right angles to the direction of travel.

specialized allez comp sprint disc

when new, this was hardly noticeable, but now that the surface has seriously worn, that unkempt roadway engenders similar sensations to that of crossing a cattle-grid.

aluminium has never been amongst my favoured frame materials. its a metal that is considerably lighter than steel, but in order to achieve a similar strength and resilience, the tubes have to be of a substantially greater diameter. in the early days of plain-gauge aluminium alloy, riding such a frame was liable to loosen your fillings, unless you were of substantial build. all that has changed nowadays; hydroformed aluminium frames can be tuned almost as easily as altering the carbon layup in its plastic stable-mate. however, the prejudice acquired through riding aluminium back in the early 1990s has yet to leave the inner portions of my psyche. and riding the allez over the above mentioned tacky road surface, initially did little to dispel those thoughts.

specialized allez comp sprint disc

in fact, my early outings on the specialized were nothing if not rather confusing. the bicycle would ride so smoothly over some surfaces, themselves not exactly billiard table flat, then i'd hit some poorly laid surface dressing (the road around coull farm near saligo, to be precise), and i'd be disconcertingly jiggled all over the place. such jiggling led to my unfairly castigating the saddle and its shaped seatpost; were it not for the fact that i really think i ought to review bicycles as they are sold, i'd have swapped the specialized saddle for a brooks cambium.

specialized allez comp sprint disc

sadly, i don't have the facility to check the weight of any bicycle in the bike shed, but i'd be fibbing if i said the allez was in the featherweight class. it's not that it is worryingly heavy, but at first i thought the ride quality to be just a smidgeon on the harsh side and though i'm no longer a spring chicken, i did seem to find myself trailing a bit on the climbs, a fact that pride had me place squarely at the door of the bicycle's weight. there may, or may not be a certain degree of truth in that assertion, but ultimately, the blame would be better aimed at the dt swiss wheels. these are actually quite heavy and just a little bit 'dead' to the touch.

specialized allez comp sprint disc

in order that i might satisfy this theory, i removed the stock wheels and replaced them with a pair of wheelsmith aluminium-rimmed aero hoops. so doing provided the allez with an altogether different personality, one that enhanced the frame's versatility, manouevrability and was fun to ride. i don't mind admitting that i'm a spoilt brat; all my own bicycles benefit from marvellous wheelsets. by comparison, on a road-bike at least, the dt swiss wheels are the allez's least attractive feature. however, i'd be the first to admit that all is relative. if you've saved your pennies for this bike, it's quite likely that you've not experienced the delights to be had from something considerably more expensive. therefore, it's not that the dt swiss wheels are bad, it's just that more money buys you better.

specialized allez comp sprint disc

in point of fact, this can be considered a good thing, for after a year or so riding the allez and saving more pennies for a wheel upgrade, the aluminium frame will still be eager and waiting to accede to your demands. much has been made of peter sagan's decision to race this frame in the tour down under criterium race. cynics would have you believe that this was specialized's marketing at work. but kitted out with top-level componentry, the allez is an absolute delight and unlikely to hinder the progress of the three-time world champion.

though i'm certainly not quick enough to achieve the promised benefits of an aero frame, the flat seat tube and seatpost do seem to collect more than their fair share of belgian toothpaste. how it sticks to such a smooth, flat surface is anyone's guess. this is not, however, a criticism, merely an observation and it's easily wiped off.

specialized allez comp sprint disc

specialized, in common with others, feature a bigger disc rotor up front than at the rear, based on the rather obvious fact that hitting the brakes late and hard, will transfer amost all the weight forward. i can testify to the efficacy of that choice, having met a delivery van ascending as i descended at speed round a blind corner, in the pouring rain. to be honest, i was looking for somewhere soft to fall, but my pride and person were saved by the effectiveness of shimano's 105 hydraulic disc system. this too, adds to the overall weight of the bicycle, but since none of us have need of racing chris froome up the ventoux, disparaging the all-up weight would seem a tad childish. the sti levers still look as if there's a bit missing off the inside facing and the rightmost example was prone to rattling a bit when grabbing the drops or top of the bars. but hey...

specialized allez comp sprint disc

i'm not a great fan of the indexing on shimano's left lever. no matter how that front mech is adjusted, it always seems to incur chain rub at some point of the equation. however, this example of 105 seemed less prone than some others i've ridden, but as usual, the rear shifting was well-nigh impeccable. mind you, there were one or two occasions when i longed for a 34 inner ring, but i think that's more an age thing that will come to us all eventually.

i cannot thank specialized enough for their propensity to lend review models for a few more weeks than is common. if i'd had to write my review of the allez based on only three-weeks of riding and confined to the stock wheelset, i'd have completely missed what a marvellous bicycle this actually is. no longer will i be so keen to deny the benefits of an alumimium frame and once you realise what the bicycle is capable of achieving, you'll be congratulating yourself on a choice purchase.

specialized allez comp sprint disc

the replacement wheels featured specialized turbo cotton 28mm rubber, and i do wonder why the stock tyres are 2mm narrower. but even the latter would be a relatively inexpensive, yet worthwhile upgrade. there's no denying that the majority of modern-day bicycles are built to a price-point, with judicious savings being made to keep the numbers on the hang-tag as low as possible. however, specialized have acquitted themselves well in this respect, offering a highly recommended frame (which is available to purchase separately in both road and track guise) with a set of components that can easily be upgraded when they wear out or when you budget allows.

straight out of its (enormous) cardboard box, this is still an impressive bicycle, one that continued to reveal more of its innate characteristics as we became firm friends. suffice it to say, that the allez sits at the front of thewashingmachinepost bike shed with a smile on its face.

and i have the same smile.

specialized allez sprint comp disc

sunday 27 january 2019

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wire binding

aircraft wiring loom

i cannot recall whether the removal of sweets and chocolates adjacent to supermarket checkouts was voluntary, or if legislation was passed to outlaw it. kids sitting in those little folding seats in the trolleys would invariably desire at least one of those colourfully decorated treats and while mum and dad load the checkout conveyor with shopping, that desire would only increase. it can only end in tears.

but similar to that outlined above, the same could be said about the occasional cursory glance at youtube. though i only scanned the site's home page for news of this year's namm 2019 exhibition, i noticed a thumbnail for a fifteen-minute video depicting the landing of a scheduled airbus flight to switzerland. i am not, nor am i ever likely to be, a frequent-flyer, but i was quite intrigued to see the cockpit view and air-traffic conversations during the landing approach. taking control of a 500 tonne metal tube while responsible for 200 plus passengers and their luggage, is not a job i'd be keen to take on.

however, having lost the battle not to watch, i was curious to note that the various dials and displays are not, in fact, dials and displays, but electronically accurate renditions of their former selves. and the knowledge that all those levers, switches and buttons connect to their moving parts, not by rods and gears, but by wires and optic fibres, is both impressive and nerve-wracking at the same time. granted, those airborne systems have large amounts of redundancy built-in, just in case one of them fails, but the wholesale adoption of fly-by-wire pretty much governs the world's airspace.

it would be hard to argue that bicycles, on the other hand, occupy the same realm of technological advancement as that espoused by the aerospace industry. there is, of course, good reason for that; it doesn't actually need to. but it is quite impressive, in an admirable sort of way, that this humble mode of transport has benefitted from the level of advancement we currently view in the professional and amateur peloton.

for starters, not only is every bicycle frame involved in the average world tour season, formed from the black stuff, but the same material is also employed in the wing-roots of your average passenger jet. the next time an errant motorist tells you to pay road tax, you can ask whether his/her vehicle shares its technology with boeing and airbus. that ought to alleviate a potentially fractious situation. but the fly-by-wire meme is also several seasons old in the life of the bicycle, as is the adoption of hydraulics. and though i have often castigated electronic gear-shifting as a solution looking for a problem, it's still quite impressive that the bicycle is seen as 'important' enough to develop in this manner.

the cynics, of which i consider myself a member, would likely point out gladly that this is more the result of sales and marketing, than necessarily an innate desire to extend the technological reach of the modern bicycle. that 's likely a substantial part of the equation, but with formula one technologists and specialists quite adept at frequently infiltrating the upper reaches (witness mclaren's partnership with the bahrain merida team), it surely proves, if nothing else, that cycling is not the backwater that a lack of government investment would tend to suggest.

though personally i'm of a mind to keep faith with steel frames, mechanical wires and caliper brakes, it counts as a bonus that i can still do so without recourse to scouring vintage cycle sites. though volkswagen have revitalised the beetle and fiat, the 500, both bear scant technological resemblance to their ancestors.

i'm more than happy to offer a pdf version of this article if you wish to hand it out to your car-driving colleagues, or to those who frequently berate you in the course of your daily perambulations.

you're welcome.

saturday 26 january 2019

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moser leader ax

briefly alluded to in yesterday's monologue, i have been dithering over the purchase of a slingerland radio king snare drum, originally manufactured in the 1940s. amongst certain portions of the percussive cognoscenti, radio kings are seen as the pinnacle of snare drummery, even though they were last made some fifty-five years ago. the slingerland drum company, in essence, no longer exists, though no doubt someone, somewhere, still owns the rights to the name.

moser leader ax

radio kings were the drums brought to public attention principally through the ministrations of drummer gene krupa with benny goodman's orchestra in the 1940s and also with buddy rich, who jumped ship to ludwig on realising he'd never be top dog at slingerland while krupa held sway. however, rich played out his last few years in the 1980s on a reconditioned radio king drumset.

many of the earlier snare drums featured counter-hoops (the metal rings on top and bottom of the shell that allow tuning) with the radio king logo engraved on the outer face; that's exactly the version i'd like to own. however, my dithering is entirely the result of wondering what exactly i'd do with my other four snare drums, given that all of those are pretty much under-employed. and do i really want to be responsible for caretaking such an important (in my little world, at least) piece of history?

moser leader ax

while i'd imagine the majority of you could care less about a vintage snare drum, seriously wondering what one individual would ever need with four of the blighters plus a radio king, the possession of vintage items is hardly one constrained to the percussive realm. most of you will already be aware that there are several websites featuring vintage steel bicycles, delightful machinery that often features 52/42 chainrings, fewer than half the gears available to the contemporary cyclist and cables that exit the top of the brake levers. though the mighty dave-t would undoubtedly pour scorn on the notion of purchasing old-fashioned velocipedinal technology, that doesn't stop an appreciable number of the pelotonese from placing one or two on their wish lists.

moser leader ax

much as my daily thought processes are susceptible to erraticism, i wouldn't like you to think that i am suddenly afflicted by thought bubbles during my morning walk or popping down to the averagemarket for lunch, bubbles that independently drool over the positioning of a bicycle's brake cables. in this particular case, it was an e-mail from a long-time good friend of mine, alerting me to the current object of his desire, brought to the fore by his current reading of prince bradley's icons book. the direct catalyst was gianni bugno's years at the superbly named, chateaux d'ax. the included link took me to one of the websites alluded to above, displaying a beautiful example of the steel framebuilders' art.

moser leader ax

in this case, the framebuilder, or at least the name on the down tube, was that of francesco moser: a moser leader ax. the description accompanying the image states "the high point in moser's steel technology - the last top of the range model to be made of steel. silver fillet-brazed throughout and oversized oria tubing." trying to recall the height of my esteemed colleague, compared with the 56cm size of this excellent bicycle frame, i did enquire whether it would fit. his assurance that it would, spoke as much of his desire for ownership as it did for the sizing issue.

to cut a long story short, i later received an e-mail informing me that he had ultimately clicked the 'add to basket' button and the magenta and purple leader was now his. impressive decision making. available to the contemporary cyclist are twelve, brake lever actuated gears, hydraulic disc brakes and highly resilient carbon fibre frames and componentry, often at equitable prices, what is it that makes some of us hanker after bikes from yesteryear? is it that we find many of today's offerings a bit boring? is it that modernity allegedly has no 'soul', whereas (in this case) the handbuilt, silver, fillet-brazed moser apparently does? and does that comparison hold good for snare drums?

slingerland radio king

or is it simply another case of 'the heart wants what the heart wants'?

my friend's speed of decision-making now leaves me feeling like an ageing ditherer. sure that i'd eventually give in to that radio king snare, i had bookmarked it on my web browser, yet even now, after more than a week of arguing with myself, i'm no nearer making a decision than i was when i began. compare that with the digital conversation from earlier today, where it took my friend less than six hours to add to the population of his bike shed. it appears i may have to spend less time meditating on the bicycle and more time investigating the innards of my paypal account.

if it ever happens, you'll be the second to know.

friday 25 january 2019

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cool, calm and collected


i have recently finished reading a slim volume which looked at the bicycle in a manner that most of us would perhaps view, in a kindly manner, as 'hokum'. the author of this well-written, if a tad repetitive, book had apparently taken a leaf from the world of zen to contend that act of cycling could be perceived as a pragmatic means of meditation. one of the principal points of zen contemplation is to simply 'be', or simply 'do'. for example, rather than wash the dishes as a preamble to the next task in line, those dishes ought to be washed in isolation, so to speak. bluntly put, wash those dishes to wash those dishes and place all your concentration on doing solely that.

extrapolating this in the direction of a bicycle ride, we would thus be encouraged to simply ride our bicycles for no other reason than the joy of the ride itself. and though there is the obvious need to pay attention to road and traffic conditions, there should be every bit as much attention paid to actually sitting on the bicycle, turning the pedals and heading into the wide grey yonder. cycling for the sake of cycling as any zen master would tell you. however, there's no denying that so doing may require pertinent choices to be made of both where and when.

in essence, it's probably one of the more salient features missing from both strava and zwift, the latter of which began its indoor cycle racing series only yesterday evening. i would be very surprised if anyone clambers aboard an indoor turbo trainer for the sheer pleasure of turning the pedals. there's a reason why such devices are classified under the heading of 'fitness'. and if you were truly and simply out for a ride, from where comes the need or desire to upload the gps data to strava? surely that undermines the contention that the bike ride was simply a bike ride?

zwift, on the other hand, is predominantly geared (pardon the pun) towards the competitive rider, either for training purposes or a verisimilitude of racing conditions midst a virtual peloton. perhaps, as the platform develops, subscribers will be able to pedal through leafy glades, past gurgling streams while experiencing idyllic views across meadows and fields. but i seriously doubt it.

so is the meditative practice particularly suited to the velocipedinal realm? or would we all be better sitting indoors on a cushion, contemplating our navels? personally, i rather like the idea, particularly now that i'm reaching (some would say, already reached) the age where speed is but a distant memory, if indeed it ever existed in the first place. concentrating totally on the specific act of riding a bike is a lot harder than you'd think. i can scarcely be the only one to arrive at my destination without much in the way of recall as to quite how i arrived there in the first place, lost as i was in reverie over whether i should buy a slingerland radio king snare drum or not.

but for those of you (and i was once amongst that number) who look forward to the ride home after work, in order to dilute the day's problems, cycling offers far wider scope than that of a straighforward means of transport. i'd imagine that comes more under the heading of contemplation than meditation, but either way it's a benevolence provided by the bicycle that's probably hard to replicate by any other means. graeme obree once told me that the standout quality of the bicycle as both means of transport and object of fitness, could be demonstrated by the fact that you can't golf or tennis to work.

diligently employed, riding a bicycle can also potentially improve your mental state of health, a subject that is much under discussion these days. so how long before i can ask my gp for a bicycle on prescription?

thursday 24 january 2019

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cheap at half the price

the good old days

the contention that domestic racing in the usa is in decline has led to one or two interested parties offering particularly pertinent solutions to the perceived problems that have brought about this disappointing set of circumstances. it would be naive to think that north-america is solely susceptible to such iniquities; the demise of several home-grown british domestic teams lately, hardly leaves us in a position to be pointing elbows. the knee-jerk reaction is always to castigate the sport's ruling body and/or the various event organisers, but perhaps the culpability lies closer to home.

if i might offer a hypothetical answer, based on a (probably) true story. intent on a career as a racing cyclist, at either amateur or professional level, you arrive at the start line alongside a fellow competitor who has sourced his custom apparel from one of the sport's top (ie, expensive) brands, while you are clad in a jersey your dad had in the cupboard, accessorised by the best that aldi had to offer. that second-hand townsend plain-gauge, steel-framed ten-speed racer you find yourself astride, compares disfavourably with the shiny carbon nano-fibre model, festooned with electronic gearing, hydraulic discs and carbon rimmed wheels, that stands beside you. even before the neutralised section ends, you have already lost the race, based entirely on perception.

if i might undermine the fallacy outlined above, during one edition of scotland's braveheart ride, while struggling to ascend a slow gradient, riding a colnago c40, i was passed by a chap on a sturmey three-speed, with a rack up front. wearing a pudding-basin styled helmet, he smiled and offered felicitations as he passed. at that point, i understood the deeper meaning behind the phrase 'all show and no go'.

at one time, the peloton would have roundly congratulated itself on the low cost of admission to the sport. there have always been and always will be, those with larger bank balances than the rest of us, keen to acquire the best that money can buy. but nonetheless, assuming you owned (or borrowed) a functional bicycle, it was still possible to exist as a competitive member of the bunch. those days, it would appear, have long gone.

the professional riders of the world tour are provided with every aspect of their race kit, from socks and shoes to several bicycles of differing competitive hue. the sponsoring manufacturers are keen to show off the very best that they purvey. and in our gullible naivety, we have fallen hook, line and sinker for the contention that, to succeed, we need exactly the same. or as close as we can get. yet, as mentioned in these very pixels, peter sagan was apparently happy to ride one of specialized's lower budget aluminium frames during the recent tour down under. granted, it doubtless had the finest of trinketry festooned about its person, but, if nothing else, it points out the stupidity of thinking that were any of us to ride sagan's carbon limited edition, we'd actually have been on the same lap as him at the end of any race you care to mention.

in fact, if peter were to ride that braveheart fellow's sturmey archer, we'd still finish around a day later.

if, as i pointed out above, you have a wallet of distinction and can afford exotica, that's all good and well. but striving to emulate the professionals is arguably raising the price of admission. the difference between winning and losing is far more evidenced by getting the miles in at every opportunity, rather than scanning web pages to compare the differences between 105 and ultegra. if i might quote from an excellent article by peter hitzeman, examining the rescue of american racing:

"Maybe the first step we should all take to make bike racing less expensive is to stop spending so much money on it. Go buy an aluminum frame with a Tiagra group and stock wheels and race it. I bet it'll be a lot faster than you think. Spend all the money you saved on actual training, or on eating better..."

for many of us, it really is all about the bike, but if you're intent on racing, maybe it shouldn't be?

wednesday 23 january 2019

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you to me is everything

propel bikes

in the mid-1990s, towards the end of a working week, an editor with whom i worked would enquire as to how many pages of the publication remained to fill. depending on my response, i would be handed an unruly pile of press releases with instructions to type them up, until i ran out of space. leaving aside the iniquities of completing a newspaper in this fashion, who nowadays actually sends press-releases through the post? at the risk of missing out the last few remaining quaint corners of the public relations world, i would estimate that such a number resides quite solidly at zero.

modern communications protocols demand that the recipient ought best to receive any public-relations communiques immediately, preferably with an ad hoc embargo stated in the subject heading of the inevitable e-mail. the latter feature can occasionally raise a snigger or two of astonishment. regular press releases received from the european space observatory almost always include an embargo of at least two days. the oddity of this situation revolves around the subject matter of the press release. to wit, that the discovery of an interstellar cloud or hitherto unknown moon, orbiting some number of light years from earth, should be the subjct of a two-day embargo, has always struck me as mildly humorous.

propel bikes

however, to return to the dubious premise of my monologue, in our late nineteenth century naiveté, it was thought that the arrival of the information age would offer relief from the drudgery of the existing régime. when all the world's information was reduced to binary code and floated through the ether, our daily workload would be gradually alleviated.

in point of fact, precisely the opposite has occurred. even the relatively insignificant portion of the cycling world inhabited by yours truly, receives a regular stream of press-releases, all of which deserve my attention, even if they do not always deserve publication. as far as my work at islay's local newspaper is concerned, where once everything arrived via the front desk receptionist, it now joins me at my imac from at least three different directions, proportionately increasing the chances of missing something that should not be missed. however, it behoves me well to realise that i am a prisoner to this (mis)fortune, and it's one that's not going to go away anytime soon.

and on that basis, would it not perhaps improve our fortunes and peace of mind, were we to embrace this state of affairs and find ways to apply its alleged efficiency to the velocipedinal realm?

propel bikes

i'm specifically thinking of repair and servicing, features that, for the time being at least, are largely constrained to static locations. should that bottom bracket develop an irritating rattle, or the leftmost di2 lever refuse to work each and every time, wouldn't it be nice if you could place a call or text message and the mechanic came to you? i'm aware that just such a service currently exists in city and urban locations, but that benefits not, those of us on our lands-end to john o'groats expedition when the chain breaks or the retaining bolt on the front rack works itself loose and rolls into a nearby drain.

motorists have the potential benefit of independent vehicle recovery services (there's even one of those on islay), or roadside mechanic assistance such as green flag, the aa or the rac for an annual fee. given the reported increase in membership of britain's two major cycle organisations (british cycling and cycling uk), it would not be unseemly to deduce that there might be more cyclists on britain's roads (and i think we can safely extrapolate that situation to other countries), the more recent recruits to which, might well have less in the way of technical knowledge than the cognoscenti (that's you and me).

propel bikes

judging by some of the machinery i have witnessed in recent years, liberally appended with panniers, one or two of those recruits would seem to have developed a propensity to venture further afield than their own proverbial back doors. though i recall few of my high school lessons regarding statistical probability, i do think that particular branch of mathematics could be suitably applied to just such a bicycle-touring situation, vis-a-vis, mechanical malfeasance. leaving the door wide-open for a national bicycle recovery/repair/maintenance service. already, uckfield's propel bikes has shuffled off its bricks and mortar based coil and gone mobile. offering silver (£49), gold (£79) or platinum (£115) packages, cyclists in east sussex can now dispense with the need to drop the bike off at a shop, instead, making an appointment for a mechanic to visit, or have the bicycle collected and taken to the workshop for later return. as their website clearly states: "now the bike shop comes to you, at a time and place of your choosing!".

if the revolution has indeed begun, do please remember where you read it first (or second, or third).

propel bikes

tuesday 22 january 2019

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................