weather or not


i doubt that i'm the only cyclist who thought it prudent to ride a carbon fibre frame all year round, on the basis that carbon is totally resistant to corrosion? thus, come the winter months in the hebrides (september to june), through ice, wind, rain and the large quantities of grit with which argyll and bute council thinks it appropriate to coat the road surfaces even when it's raining, riding in such conditions would cause that bicycle frame no hardship whatsoever. unfortunately, it transpired that it wasn't the carbon that would undermine my theory, but the aluminium the frame builder had opted to use for the wheel dropouts.

though aluminium doesn't corrode in the same manner as steel, corrode it does, expanding as it does so, and turning into a soft grey powder. doubtless, there is a convenient, if expensive, solution to this, but unfortunately, by the time i realised what was happening, the sections of the rear dropouts that plugged into the carbon seat and chainstays had expanded sufficiently to delaminate the carbon fibre, making the frame unsafe to ride. at the time, ruckus composites of portland, oregon were the only folks of whom i was aware that could likely save the frame, but the cost of shipping to portland, of repair and the frame's subsequent return, made any such remedy less than cost effective.

in essence, the frame died, predominantly because it originated in northern italy, where weather conditions are a tad different than off the west coast of scotland.

campagnolo srl have their italian headquarters in vicenza, not too far from venice on the adriatic coast, where they have an exemplary history of building some of the finest bicycle componentry known to cycling kind. unlike their japanese competitors, they have embraced carbon fibre for an increasing number of their groupset parts, such as derailleurs, chainsets and brake/gear shifters. i have voiced my misgivings on previous occasions as to whether carbon is the most suitable material from which to fashion such componentry, though not on the grounds of potential corrosion, more on the basis of perceived ruggedness.

however, i can but bow to campagnolo's greater knowledge and experience with the material and i must confess that over the course of several years riding on campagnolo chorus and now record, i have experienced no problems at all, let alone any directly attributable to vicenza's choice of carbon. however, a brief comparison of islay's annual rainfall and that of vicenza, shows a notable discrepancy of nearly 300mm in the italians' favour.

it would not, therefore, according to my own logical interpretations, be iniquitous to hold onto suspicions as to how well these italian components might operate, and continue to operate, in the wild, wild west. granted, there have long been campagnolo equipped bicycles subjected to the vicissitudes of the spring classics, ridden by professional cyclists capable of giving them a far harder time than can i. but the spring classics are solely one-day events, with seven in between and a team of professional mechanics capable of having them operate at optimal level.

on the other hand, the campagnolo record twelve-speed groupset currently powering my ritchey logic, was fitted by yours truly, and whose name you will not find inscribed on vicenza's list of authorised fettlers. additionally, when undertaking the festive 500, as i have been doing for the past week, several days of inclement purgatory have been inflicted upon every part of that bicycle, yet it has not once skipped a beat. the only preventative care applied, has been a daily cleaning of the chain. and in fairness, i ought also to mention that forward motion has been greatly eased by a bora wto carbon wheelset. it too has performed above and beyond the call of duty, particularly in the perennial galeforce winds that have accompanied each and every festive kilometre. vicenza has not lied; it has indeed been wind tunnel optimised.

though the foregoing has featured a particular and unapologetic campagnolo bias, i have every confidence that both shimano and sram have survived every bit as well. in this manner, all three have allowed themselves to be taken for granted, for which we must be truly grateful. even those of us with more than a working knowledge of modern bicycle componentry are apt to retrieve the bicycle from the bike shed each day, with scarcely a second thought that it might let us down. which is precisely how it should be.

thank you on behalf of all cyclists everywhere.

monday 30 december 2019

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

observation lounge

space suit

the annual festive 500, as promulgated by rapha, is intended as a challenge, rather than what might be termed 'a cycle in the park', so to speak. and as such, it is a voluntary undertaking; so far as i know, there is no concomitant onus on you, me, or rapha staff anywhere in the world, to interrupt their festive holidays with 500 kilometres of riding. there will be thousands who immediately signed up on the designated strava page, and who, come early january, will await the arrival of their sew-on victory patch. the more altruistic and selfless amongst us, ride only for the personal glory and approbation of our colleagues (like that's going to happen).

the principal thrust of the challenge, i'd imagine, is actually riding those 62.5 kilometres each day, no matter the weather conditions prevailing at the time. those of you in san francisco and southern australia can probably stop reading at this point, but i've found the ideal way to get through the purgatorial hardship, is to lay out riding kit the night before, and don every last bit of it, before going down both for breakfast and retrieving the bicycle from the bike shed. that way, even if the rain is battering off the kitchen windows, i'd look a bit of a prat sat about in full ride apparel, hoping the weather will clear.

however, sad to say, it's not only the struggle into a headwind, fuelled by horizontal rain, that offers the sole potential hardship; modern-day cycle clothing has its part to play in both the pre and post-ride palaver.

in bygone days, it was not entirely uncommon to own bibtights featuring gusseted zips at the ankles. not only did this ease the process of putting them on in the first place, but came in quite handy when divesting oneself prior to a welcome hot shower. nowadays, however, such are the mores of cycling apparel design, that those zips are conspicuous by their absence, replaced with ankles that run perilously close to cutting off the blood supply to your feet. thus, it has become necessary to don a pair of socks, particularly the heftier, thermal waterproof variety, prior to the tights. for if the arrangement is reversed, it's all but impossible to pull the leg of the tights high enough to put the socks on properly, without causing muscle injury.

by the time i've got my socks and bibtights on, there's precious little energy left with which to go cycling. a similar problem rears its head on return, except, now the clothing is saturated and a darned sight harder to shift.

and while i'm pointing out those niggling little failings, though i'd far prefer to be civilised and take my natural breaks in the coffee shop toilet, just such a facility is not always to hand when push comes to shove. at which point it is quite disturbing, not to mention the inconvenience, of discovering the front panel is too high to allow anyone other than a contortionist to relieve themselves. if the it's the designer's choice to fit a higher than usual front panel, then do the decent thing, and fit a zip. i own two pairs of bibtights on which there is no zip, but other than removing the bibs, there's no way relief can be mine.

and then there's the cuffs of the now ubiquitous breathable jacket. quite logically, the latter are tightly constituted to prevent unwanted ingress of cold air or rain, but in many cases, that precludes fitting them over your gloves. fitting the cuffs under that of the gloves, means any precipitation dripping down the sleeves during a wet bike ride, lands inside the glove rather than on the waterproof outer shell. of course, many jackets feature velcro closure straps at the cuffs to account for such a problem, while others sport the zipped gussets, at one time prevalent at the foot of bibtights. while the idea behind those seems reasonably sound, they are damned near impossible to fully close without assistance from a third-party. much like the lack of a ten year-old when your ipad misbehaves, there's never one around when you need to zip the sleeve over your gloves.

i've made frequent mention of the persistent lack of a collar hang-loop on many a jacket, and it has come to my notice over several very wet festive 500s, that when the manufacturer says their gloves are waterproof, they're almost certainly fibbing. and isn't it about time that someone invented a pair of completely waterproof bibtights with zipped ankle gussets?

just saying.

sunday 29 december 2019

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

in praise of...

green city jumbo oats

via the magic of the interweb, or more specifically, twitter, rapha's japanese man of the moment, daisuke yano posted a short video on friday, showing the weather in which he was undertaking the festive 500 and asking which of us was likely to be struggling more? considering the aforesaid video depicted deep snow, large quantities of which were blowing fiercely in the wind, it was really no contest, compared to galeforce winds and freezing rain all day, so i was happy to admit defeat. mind you, daisuke did reply that he favoured snow over rain.

wind and rain were my inclement bedfellows on boxing day, taking only a matter of one hour before i could no longer feel either my toes or fingers, despite wearing the alleged cutting edge in cycling apparel. however, in the process of accumulating a daily total of 100km, i had expected to spend the mid-point in debbie's café thawing those extremities by way of a double-egg roll with tomato sauce and a soya latte. as i descended the hill at foreland, but a matter of kilometres from sanctuary, i could almost smell the coffee.

you can imagine my disappointment, therefore, on entering the village of bruichladdich and noting a total lack of cars parked opposite deb's. that situation changed not one whit on finally realising that the café was closed; neither roll nor latte could be counted on for mid-ride restitution. this situation, aside from being unexpected, posed something of a nutritional discrepancy; having thought i would be able to refuel, i hadn't taken any portable sustenance, other than a bottle of water. with 50 kilometres still to go, one could only hope that a small bowl of green city jumbo oats porridge, had greater nutritional qualities than originally demanded.

it transpires that this is indeed the case. i generally employ one cupful of oats, combined with two cupfuls of water to make my daily plate of porridge. i've no idea of what weight that consists, but according to science, 100g of unenriched porridge provides 71kcal of energy. given that 100km probably robs me of around 3000kcal, i can only assume that i ingest more than 100g daily, though certainly not the amount demanded by the latter figure. however, one of the collateral benefits of porridge is that it exists as a source of slow-release energy, a handy situation given the four and a half hours i spent in the rain and wind.

so, for those of you who find it necessary to stuff your three rear pockets with energy bars and/or carbo gels, cut down on the expenditure and cargo demands by having a plate of porridge in the morning for breakfast. it's nice with some sliced peaches on top, though your mileage may vary on the latter. if more evidence were required, i also rode the 100km+ of etape loch ness on two plates of porridge.

saturday 28 december 2019

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

boyz in the hood


in the lounge of the house in which i was brought up, my parents had a glass-doored bookcase which sat adjacent to the fireplace and pretty much right next to the sofa. the top shelf was filled with little knick-nacks that my parents had acquired over the years, while the middle two shelves accommodated that for which the bookcase was designed: books, including a set of encyclopaedias and a dictionary. the lowest shelf contained mostly 45rpm vinyl records, the majority of which were of no real significance, apart from a parlaphone-labelled single inside a white sleeve with the parlophone logo on the front.

the b-side of this recording featured a composiiton entitled blue rondo a la turk, a title that had both my brother and i totally confuddled, but we did enjoy the strident piano refrain of this instrumental. the obverse played one of the jazz idiom's most popular tunes: dave brubeck's take-five. it was many a long year before we recognised that the title referred to the time signature in which saxophonist, paul desmond, had composed this iconic piece, one that particularly grabbed the attention of yours truly, due to the joe morello drum solo in the middle.


i subsequently grew up listening to jazz and to yes, genesis, emerson, lake and palmer (no relation) et al, none of whom would avoid playing in an odd time signature, if there happened to be one going spare in the studio. thus, many of my early years behind a drumset had me relatively confident in many dfferent time signatures, blissfully unaware that the predominant numbers in the world of commercial music were four, and four.

for those not of a musical persuasion, let me briefly explain. wriiten music is divided into bars of equal measure, the latter of which is always signified at the beginning of the very first bar in which that time signature rules. this is predominantly to ease the hardship of composition and subsequent reading. it is far easier for the orchestral conductor or band director to ask the musicians to commence at (say) bar 32, rather than describe an arbitrary spot on a sheet of staff inscribed paper.


if a musical piece is signified to be in 4/4, that would mean there are four equal beats in the bar, and each beat lasts one quarter-note. a bar of 7/8 would mean seven beats to the bar, each beat occupying an eighth-note. any time signature beginning with an odd number on the top, is said to be (unsurprisingly) an odd time-signature

so, while undertaking the third day of this year's festive 500 on a particularly grim thursday morning, framed by persistent rain and a galeforce and remarkably cold easterly wind, i was wont to let my mind wander to subject matter that would hopefully distract me from the inclement conditions. given that cyclists are often encouraged to 'find their own rhythm', particularly when climbing, it struck me at that point, that said rhythms perhaps ought to subject themselves to the even, or uneven time signatures that pervade the world of the inveterate percussionist. flat riding, it appears, is best carried out in 9/8 or 7/8 if pedalling along a straight stretch of single track, while the occasional wiggle in the roadway opens itself to being ridden in 5/4 (oddly, the time signature of sting's 'seven days').

no matter the length of any climb you might come across, it should be ridden in 4/4; there is no better time signature in which to get your groove on.


this was all going quite swimmingly, until a rhythm of a different order impinged itself upon my purgatorial perambulations. it is several weeks since i offered an initial review of rapha's explore hooded gore-tex pullover, at which point i had managed to get it wet, but scarcely sufficiently to adjudge the veracity of its breathable waterproofing. at that point in time, i claimed to be less than a fan of hoods, particularly, as in this case, those which proved not to be removable. however, given that it was raining when i left the croft, i bravely wore the hood over a winter cap and under my helmet. it was the wind-driven freezing rain bouncing off the hood, that provided a percussive counterpoint to my pedalling in seven.

rapha + gore=tex hooded pullover

after those four and a half hours, i can happily confirm that i appear now to be a fan of hoods, particularly the peaked gore-tex version as described. even when looking rearwards to appraise myself of any vehicles approaching from behind, visibility was excellent, and not once did i view the inside of the hood. the pullover's waterproofing actually proved to be quite effective; i wore a thermal gilet 'neath my gore-tex-ness, since the pullover bears no thermal properties whatsoever, and i cannot deny that the fabric on either side of the zip was a tad damp when the pullover was removed. i have a feeling this may have been partially encouraged by water dripping from the lower-portion of the hood below the chin, but it may also have seeped through from the quarter-zip, which is not covered by any form of storm-flap.

however, both sleeves were impressively dry, after all those hours in the rain, as was the back of the gilet and my sportwool jersey. there was a smidgeon of dampness around both the jersey and gilet collars, but again, i figure that sneaked in below the hood. i'm not sure it's possible to build a jacket of this style and expect the contents to remain 100% dessicated, but after this long in persistent, driving rain, i figure the results were rather impressive, and i'm now less than concerned about any future festive precipitation.

rapha's gore-tex explore range hooded pullover is available in dark navy, dark yellow, or plum and in sizes ranging from xs to xxl at a retail price of £250 (the plum version is currently in the sale at £175)

rapha + goretex explore hooded pullover

friday 27 december 2019

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

can the internet save cycling?

google stadia

most of us will scarcely notice the speed improvements that have arguably made personal computers more convenient to use. many years past, a bit like motor cars, computers were advertised on the basis of their (processor) speed, which, for the purposes of this article and from that of the manufacturers, we should consider to be a good thing. however, such developments have not been made for the benefit of those whose main purpose in life is to exploit the most basic of features to be found in microsoft word. unless you have fingers that operate close to the speed of light, a stunningly fast processor still has to wait until you type the next letter.

those of us who simply type stuff, e-mail people and order from amazon are, to be quite blunt, of little concern to the folks at intel, microsoft and apple, for they have far greater fish to fry, if you'll pardon the totally inappropriate metaphor, fighting as they are, against the iniquities of latency. basically put, the latter is the time-lag between the initiation of an action and its subsequent realisation. if, in adobe photoshop, i apply a filter, ideally, i'd like to see its effect immediately; though probably measured in fractions of a second, i'm likely to huff and puff if i see the spinning pizza prior to a visible change in the image.

if this seems like a somewhat trivial example, let me move directly to the realms of sound recording and computer gaming.

in the early years of what are technically referred to as digital audio workstations (daws) - software such as protools, motu, and ableton - the latency encountered was, to put not too fine a point on it, pretty close to unacceptable. if i strike a drum and have it recorded by a microphone, that analogue signal has to be converted to a digital signal prior to being recorded on the designated track. if i have encouraged a bass player and, perchance, a guitarist, to join me in my music making, they will need to hear that drum strike played back to them, in order that they keep time. and, simultaneously, i need to hear them.

thus, not only have the input signals to be converted, the need to be recorded, processed (i may have added a smidgeon of reverb along the way), before being routed to a monitor output channel and converted from a digital signal, back to analogue either in a foldback speaker, or, more commonly, headphones. any latency incurred along the way, means that none of us will hear the notes in 'real' time, and the recording engineer is going to have to pull an all-nighter, to have them match up in the final recording.

a similar problem affects computer games, software that depends on a high degree of realism to command the players' attention. any latency experienced in having a realistic rendering of an individual, move from one place to another risks being seen as stop-frame animation, ruining any attempt at realism. and in those shoot-em-up games that seem so popular, there would be little credibility to be gained from a noticeable delay between pulling a trigger and seeing any response on screen. thus, computer engineers have spent many a long working day, attempting to improve the speed of the central processing unit and that of the video card, to make latency very much a thing of the past.

and now that certain areas of the world have access to high-speed fibre internet, combined with remarkably low latency within personal computers, there may no longer be any need to make space in the sitting room, or, more likely, a teenager's bedroom, for a myriad of consoles (it is considered uncool, i believe, to own only one) and controllers. for the intrepid folks at google, taking time out from avoiding tax liabilities, have developed stadia, an online gaming service that is played over the interweb, without the need to download any games, or plug-in any square, black consoles.

thus, so the marketing hype goes, as long as you have a wi-fi signal, you can commence playing on your laptop or tablet at breakfast, then continue, using the wi-fi on the train or bus, as you head to work or school. i seriously doubt that everything will be as smooth as the website promises, for there are probably too many factors outwith the control of google, but in theory, it looks like the next stage of gaming is upon us, a stage i will ignore with all the apathy i have applied to its predecessors. however, i perceive a silver lining.

for no reason other than it being a time of year when it became justifiable to spend more money on your offspring than at other times of the year, christmas day had once been traditionally seen as the ideal opportunity to sit a bicycle-shaped present under the tree. this long-term convention had subsequently been seriously eroded by the emergence of the nintendo wii, the x-box, and sony playstation et al. this situation could be seen as justifiable; who amongst us, as a young child, could see the joy and happiness of being forced outdoors on a wet and windy noel to ride a bicycle that was almost always too large ("it'll be just the right size come easter, when the weather improves")? surely better to retire to the centrally heated warmth of the bedroom to sit in front of a tv screen and blow stuff up.

but, now that google have not only reduced the price of admission (£119), and removed the absolute need for any associated hardware (a bit like receiving an e-voucher or itunes card), it seems a less than onerous stretch of the imagination, that mum and dad might, once again, re-position their thoughts in favour of the local bike shop and the colourful joys that await on the shop floor. it's possibly just a bit too soon to start sending thank you cards to larry page and sergey brin, but it's conceivable they might just be on the cusp of restoring the once traditional velocipedinal christmas.

google stadia

thursday 26 december 2019

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

the only way is ethics

the trolley problem

as cyclists, we are all self-righteous enough to crack a smug grin whenever reading about climate change. never mind the oil-fired central heating and the diesel estate car parked in the driveway, our velocipedinal credentials are impeccable, and we can look down on everyone else from the heights of the moral high ground. at least, that is, until someone points to the motorcade that follows pretty much every professional race, and the fact that carbon fibre, whether gluten-free or vegan, is not derived from sunflower seeds. meaning, of course, that we're probably only marginally greener than our neighbours.

we are also attuned, in the course of our perambulations, to listen out for motor vehicles approaching from behind, particularly if, like me, you have frequent need of riding on single-track roads. the latter features its own problems, specifically when heading into a galeforce headwind as i was doing yesterday morning. this onslaught of rushing air tends to mask any sounds from behind until relatively close, necessitating a track sprinter-like need to constantly check for approaching cars or, very much in my case, large articulated trucks travelling to or from one distillery or another.

many years of repetitively riding the same roads, has created a mental map of each and every passing place along the way. this allows me to judge whether i need stop directly at the one adjacent if the vehicle is heading towards me, or just how fast i need sprint to the next, if approaching from behind. but how will that situation alter if there is wholesale adoption of electric cars? for even in a headwind, a vehicle in close proximity to the rear wheel will usually identify itself by faint engine noise; electric cars offer no such immediate advantage. and on unkempt road surfaces, i have little faith in rear-view mirrors that are being permanently jostled and jittered. time alone will tell on that score, no doubt.

but then we are faced with the possibility, however distant, of so-called autonomous vehicles, cars with people in them, but who are not directly responsible for their trajectory. and it pretty much goes without saying, that these will almost certainly be powered by electric motors. thus, we are likely to be hit with a double-whammy of cars that drive themselves and approach in utter silence. but, so we are assured, the integrity of modern artificial intelligence (ai) systems will keep us from any inherent dangers.

won't they?

well, that sort of depends on your point of view and how much you know about moral philosophy. while ai offers considerable potential benefits, it also raises at least one or two challenges, most notably around the ethics involved in decision making. how do we ensure that the programmers and technicians responsible for implementing artificial intelligence systems, do so to subsequently enable ethically sound determinations that will prove acceptable to the human beings likely to be on the receiving end of those decisions? what if an autonomous vehicle becomes caught in circumstances often referred to as 'the trolley problem'?

the latter can be personified in one of two ways: let's suppose that you're walking along the trolley (tram) tracks that cross your town's main thoroughfare. you hear a tram approaching from behind, so you step away from those tracks, but as it gets closer, you realise that its occupants are screaming and shouting for help because the brakes have failed. you then realise that you are standing next to a spur track that would direct the trolley car harmlessly into a sandpit; all you would need to do, would be to pull an adjacent lever to have the trolley switch tracks. however, there is a problem; along this spur track walks a man who is blissfully unaware of the impending problem. if you pull the lever and switch tracks, he will undoubtedly be killed by the brakeless tram car, but in so doing, you will save five lives.

what do you do? and perhaps more importantly, what does the ai controlled driverless car do if it finds itself midst a similar conundrum? will it even have sufficient information to realise the two possible outcomes and which might save more lives? of course, to a certain degree, i'm imposing a higher level of intelligence and decision-making upon human drivers, with no evidence to show that they'd be any more capable of making the right choice.

the second instance of essentially the same problem, concerns that selfsame trolley/tram car, still brakeless, still careering to the certain death of its five occupants. this time, however, there is an individual standing by the side of the tracks; if you push them into the path of the trolley, you will bring it to a halt and save those five lives, but it's certain death for the pushed victim. the difference is one of action; in the first scenario, the un-named individual can be considered as 'collateral' damage, but in instance two, pushing a human being into the path of a speeding trolley car is more than likely to be thought of as premeditated murder, no matter the redemption of those five occupants.

i take it you see where i'm coming from with this?

though i have no wish to spread fear and loathing amongst the future cycling fraternity, while heaping untrammeled suspicion upon the manufacturers and owners of driverless cars, there's no denying that the above encapsulates potential problems of some considerable magnitude, problems in which we, as cyclists and pedestrians, are either prioritised or not. while numbers of us have been diligent in learning just how to optimise those twelve gears bestowed upon us from vicenza, we must fervently hope that those with a commercial handle on moral philosophy and human ethics, have been, or will be, every bit as diligent.

by comparison, it's pretty darned easy to adjust the indexing of a rear derailleur, without ever endangering a significant portion of humanity.

tuesday 24 december 2019

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