bring back rule #five. nothing is forgiven

empty bike rack with pipes

there is, within most pipe bands, particularly those which compete, a specific, if often tenuous hierarchy. though the word 'band' has been appended to signify that the range of musicians includes more than simply a pipe corps, the pipe major, to all intents and purposes, is top dog. the world of the scottish pipe band, however, is pretty much all encompassing; there is no discrimination over whether the pipe major is male or female, simply that he or she who wears the (metaphorical) crown, has the final say.

military terms abound, presumably as a hangover from the days when all pipe bands were originated from within the army. thus, while the lead drummer may also be referred to as the leading tip, in pipe band vernacular, they are the drum sergeant. many of you will notice that the lead drummer's designation carries an implied lower status than that of the lead piper.

when, in 1992, islay piping society was keen to transition to full band status, i was recruited purely on the basis that i was the sole islay resident with the ability to read drum music. having no pipe band background whatsoever, i enquired of a visiting lead drummer if he had any advice to impart, to which he immediately replied "don't do it." this was followed by his informing me that the only words that passed between himself and the pipe major during the course of the year, were "by the left, quick march." i soon discovered that not only was he not kidding, but this was a relatively common state of affairs.

a pipe major in the islay band was generally put in place by common consent, though not always without a certain degree of self-representation. however, one of the most common failings amongst several, was a failure to realise that not every piper at such a lowly grade, was as obsessed with the instrument as were they. i'm sure that there are every bit as many lead drummers who fall into the same trap, but i can honestly relate that i was not one of them. i'd like to say that i've left these days behind me, but as is frequently the case in a small community such as this, it's all too easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, without a credible excuse.

this time round, i'm playing bass drum.

the situation whereby the pipe major learns four tunes in a week, with the expectation that his/her acolytes will do likewise, is all too common. the phrase 'don't judge others as yourself' is one that surely ought to be paid greater attention to. and there's every possibility that the same conditions apply within the velocipedinal realm. granted, the velo club has no defacto leader. the rule books states 1) there are no rules, and 2) see rule 1. we often jest that the clubroom is the phone box at carnduncan, initially made famous by its inclusion in graeme obree's training manual, though mis-captioned as being on the neighbouring isle of jura, but following storms ciara and dennis, it is now bereft of a front door, and given its proximity to islay's atlantic coast, hardly the place you'd want to hold important meetings.

there's no doubting that i am the original and sole founding member, having spent around five years as a solo cyclist before the mighty dave-t arrived from the south, but that in itself, confers no leadership qualities, as if such skills were required in the first place. we are, as it happens, a democratic organisation, even though the latter description perhaps bestows a greater coagulation than is actually the case.

however, when time comes to go cycling in less than clement weather conditions, a particulary appropriate consideration at present, along with one other amongst our number, i find myself in a distinct minority. though i cannot answer for my colleague, the guiding priority for yours truly is a reluctance to be beaten by the weather. acceding would seem to imply an inherent disregard for velominati's rule #five, arguably given greater prominence with the introduction of not only indoor, online cycling activities, but the advent of the e-bike. it seems highly contradictory to continually post updates on twitter as to how many days remain till paris-roubaix, while wearing a t-shirt proclaiming my affection for pavé, and, by implication, every single one of the belgian spring classics, yet remain reluctant to ride in wet, windy weather.

however, the perennial question has to remain, despite being a non-hierarchical club, is there any onus on any one of us to impress upon the others, that joining a less than pristine sunday ride is one to which serious consideration ought to be given? should this remain a matter for individual choice, framed by apparently innocuous repetition of rule #five. or should those of us hardy (stupid) enough to ride out in galeforce winds and persistent precipitation, simply adopt the moral high ground, by admonishing the recalcitrant majority when they eventually deign to turn up?

on last weekend's blustery sunday ride, i was the sole participant; this week, i was one of only two. where will it all end? the saving grace, as far as i'm concerned, is that even the worst of bike rides is still infinitely and always preferable to playing in a pipe band.

monday 9 march 2020

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surface of the sun

the last few weekends have been somewhat challenging when it came to gaining time in the saddle. perhaps i can see why a proportion of the cycling public opts to drag the turbo trainer from the cupboard under the stairs and indulge in the mind-numbing boredom of spinning the pedals under the misapprehension that it might restore some degree of velocipedinal sanity.

but, of course, there's an alternative.

on the other hand (and i'm comfortable enough with my narcissism to think that there are others like me), while i enjoy the physical act of cycling, am more besotted with the great outdoors, watching it roll past as i ride. as previously mentioned, i am a creature of habit, riding the same parcours each saturday, without any signs of the boredom that's part and parcel of the indoor trainer.

man (or woman) cannot live by pedalling alone, thus the saturday bike ride is happily interrupted by a double-egg roll and the undoubted satisfaction of unabated froth-supping. this is cheerfully followed by a circumambulation of loch gorm, riding past the delightfully upgraded kilchoman distillery, far enough away not to catch a whiff of single-malt production. (i might point out, at this juncture, that kilchoman is the preferred tipple of twice british road-race champion and eurosport commentator, brian smith.)

however, due to the interruption of storms ciara, dennis and, to a lesser extent, jorge, my saturday habit has been either interrupted altogether or seriously curtailed. as it transpired, the worst of the winds affected sundays more than saturdays, causing cancellation of two successive sunday rides. i can scarcely recall when last we had to cancel one sunday ride; i think two in a row is probably unprecedented.

yet, even in the face of such meteorological adversity, there still persisted the mindset that i should not allow the weather to get the better of me. i'm sure i'm not the sole individual to harbour such thoughts. however that sentiment was ameliorated by the knowledge that the strength and direction of the galeforce winds would not only be a danger to myself, but likely make me a danger to others, of being blown into the path of both following and oncoming traffic. as cyclists, we have a pretty good relationship with the island's motorists and truck drivers; it would surely be foolhardy to endanger that relationship by way of a misguided need to get out on the bike in seriously inclement weather?

last weekend's sunday ride (disappointingly undertaken as a soloist) took place into 90kph headwinds; not dangerous per se, but seriously character building. by this weekend, those had dropped to 60kph, making the pedalling life a great deal simpler. far from being uncharacteristic weather for the time of year, it has ever been thus; granted, there's still the fact that two sunday rides were cancelled, but the west coast of scotland has never been the repository of cool, calm and collected.

but it's the latter word in that triumvirate, that is most pertinent to my continued desire, nay desperation, to ride outdoors on my bicycle. one of the persisting necessities of life, in order to maintain a healthy body, is absorption of vitamin d. it's often referred to as the sunshine vitamin, because sunlight is its natural source. granted, many breakfast cereals and other foods are fortified with vitamin d, but apparently the finest source is that of the star orbited by planet earth. i'm not going to try and convince you that winter in the hebrides sees much in the way of sunshine, but it's a fact of life that, even on cloudy, overcast days, ultra-violet rays can still make their way to your skin, even if my face is the only patch open to their influence.

so, when push comes to shove, and folks tell me i'm nuts for being out on my bicycle in the worst of the weather, i can self-righteously play the vitamin d card. i doubt that it much alters the opinion of my interlocutors, but it definitely undermines their conviction. and best of all, outside is free.

p.s. the sunday ride was ridden under bright blue skies and a few cotton wool clouds. a vitamin d fiesta.

sunday 8 march 2020

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the left hand of the electron

e-bike motor

i my previous, mainland-based, place of residence, there was a bikeshop from which i purchased a ten-speed racer to replace the catalogue-bought, drop-bar road bike on which i had transported myself hither and thither for a number of years. unfortunately, being somewhat naive in the way of the saddle, i neglected to better inform myself of the whys and wherefores of the velocipedinal world, essentially resulting in my having purchased a 'turkey'. ultimately, the steel frame rusted from the inside, arguably a warranty issue, but one that the bike shop were less than interested in dealing with. and, to put not too fine a point upon it, the gears sucked.

this all took place around the latter part of the 1980s, just at the point when the entire bicycle industry was about to be 'saved' by the mountain bike. though ostensibly existing as a result of several hippies (joe breeze, tom ritchey, gary fisher et al) racing klunkers down gravel strewn hills, the mountain bike became the cycle of choice for pretty much anyone who had need of a sturdy bicycle replete with a wide-spread of gears. though mountain bike clubs surfaced all across the land, many of which organised events to make use of the bicycles for the express purpose of riding up and down real mountains (well, hills really), most mountain bikes found themselves being used as transportation to work, to school, to the shops; in fact everywhere except mountains.

i was no different in my employment of the muddy fox courier purchased from a shop part-owned (as it turned out), by graeme obree. having fitted a blackburn rear rack, augmented with cheap 'n' nasty nylon (and not at all waterproof) panniers, i cycled to and from work six days a week in relative comfort. to be honest, i cannot recall ever having made use of the bicycle on anything more onerous than a humpty-back bridge.

so much for mountains.

recent history will reflect that the mtb, or offroad bicycle, was subsequently overly encrusted with taller and taller front suspension forks, offering an endless amount of vertical travel, before the addition of rear suspension too. i can readily accept that this level of bounce was necessary to ease the scariness of the average competition downhill run, but when it started appearing on inordinately heavy children's bikes, the writing was arguably on the wall for the genre, which was gradually being usurped by a resurgent road-bike market.

until recently, a carbon road-bike was quite likely near the top of every cyclist's wish-list, possibly as a result of 2012's 'bradley bubble', but in the grand, repetitive scheme of things, an increase in road tyre width has made the advent of the gravel bike more equitable, the latter well en-route to becoming the mountain bike of the 2020s.

however, this time round, one style of bicycle is not having everything its own way. there will always be the hard-core roadie, for whom carbon fibre, twelve, double-chainsetted gears and drop bars are the be-all and end all. accept no substitute. despite endless comparison with that of cyclocross, the gravel edition seems likely to adopt the moral high-ground, leaving 'cross to those of us enamoured of messrs. pidcock, van aert and van der poel.

but, even accepting the airy-faerie timeline as delineated above, it's possible that we, the self-appointed cognoscenti, have been at least partially blindsided by the imperious rise of the e-bike. despite my incomprehension over a quantifiable market for the electric road bike, as promulgated by colnago, bianchi, pinarello and others, the e-bike shows little sign of having levelled out. in fact, quite the contrary. according to the european association of cycle manufacturers (ebma), production has risen from 1.4 million units to 2.4 million in 2019. these figures are projected to increase to seven or eight million units by 2025. and, contrary to production of the world's mountain, road and gravel bikes in the far-east, an increasing proprtion of these e-bikes, are being produced in mainland europe, bringing much-needed jobs to the continent.

it scarcely needs pointing out that, reducing the need to ship thousands, if not millions, of bicyles from the far-east, offers specific benefits in relation to climate change. according to ebma figures, every analogue or e-bike imported from china, adds up to an extra 123kg of carbon dioxide emissions, compared to producing a similar machine in the west. imagine how scary would be the emissions figures if the 20 million annual e-bike sales were all imported.

however, irrespective of from where the current crop of e-bikes originate, looking at such numbers, it would appear that, in a very short space of time, almost subliminally, the e-bike market has grown to occupy 15% of the world's bicycle market. so, for now, wearing a pain and suffering badge with pride, and viewing peloton and with disdain, allows the cognoscenti to look down from on high. we can bandy about phrases that include the words 'omloop', 'vlaanderen' and 'scheldeprijs' with insouciance, but perhaps sooner than we think, there will need to be wholesale paraphrasing of endura's current mantra; to wit:

"we'll still be riding (real) bikes when it's no longer cool."

always assuming that continues to be true. the dark-side is never slow to take advantage of the unassuming.

saturday 7 march 2020

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it's cycling jim, but not as we know it

matthieu van der poel + zwift

when in sixth year at secondary school, i opted to undertake advanced studies in english language, a subject that demanded several dissertations on a diversity of themes, one of which, in my case, was world religions. this was not due to any inherent religious traits on my part, but based more mundanely on the notion that here was a subject that might produce some intriguing revelations, hopefully guaranteeing a higher mark.

the book had been written by a presbyterian minister, examining most of the various world doctrines in a depth reasonably concurrent with my specific needs. however, in every case, with the unsurprising exception of presbyterianism, there was always a 'but', where the author highlighted several misgivings over the perceived veracity of the underlying philosophies. the real oddity amongst islam, jainism, hinduism etc., was undoubtedly zen buddhism, which, to my teenage mind, made little or no sense whatsoever.

the zen aspect of which most folks will have heard is that of hakuin's koan "two hands clap and there is a sound. what is the sound of one hand?". there are of course, many others, such as "look at the flower and the flower also looks.", or "where does your lap go when you stand up?"

i do not propose to now enter into a lengthy discourse on the intriguing intricacies of zen buddhism, but suffice it to say that i comprehend its strange ways and methods a little better nowadays, many of which point to the perception of duality and the reality of non-duality. it's a philosophical bent that i would dearly like to apply to matters of a velocipedinal nature, an ambition that seems frequently to be thwarted at each turn.

a poignant reminder of this state of affairs was brought to mind by wattbike ceo, richard baker, a man who contends that 2020 could well be the year in which indoor cycling gains a firmer hold on the cycling psyche; a duality if ever there was one. and, true to previous monologues on the same subject, it's one that i find of some concern.

this past weekend, in the absence of many of my sunday morning colleagues, i spent many a happy moment, hurtling remarkably slowly and strenuously into a 90kph headwind, with only one gear left for emergencies on my rear wheel cassette. the average speed, despite a tailwind home that brought velocities of nearly 50kph, ended at the embarrassingly low 18.3kph, leading to mrs washingmachinepost advising that i might wish to replace my garmin with a calendar. i should also add that the selfsame garmin displayed a temperature of not much more than three degrees, undoubtedly lowered by persistent windchill.

at the risk of presenting myself as unbearably twee, it's days like those that remind me i'm alive. no matter the weather conditions, there's always something to see, and, for us in particular, a climate that often challenges our resolve, tenacity and frequently confirms sheer collective pig-headedness. no matter the realism on offer from zwift's computer animation, the wind in your face from a kickr headwind, or the exhortations from the annoying guy in the peloton adverts ("let's do this!", cycling simply isn't cycling unless it takes place out of doors.

according to industry prognostications, e-sports and indoor training platforms will continue to build on the growth seen in 2019, but perhaps the worst part of the latter predictions is the expectation that more and more will take part in so-called mass participation online events as well as elite and national level racing. but let me be unequivocally dogmatic about this: that's not cycling, any more than there's a need to leave out a saucer of milk for sonic the hedgehog. many of you are probably content, or even excited, to welcome such indoor innovations, and essentially, i have no problem with that, as long as you realise that it's not cycling.

oddly enough, wattbike's mr baker believes the current surge in indoor interest, stems from the time of the london olympics some eight years past. he also expects the forthcoming tokyo olympics to magnify the bubble. current industry research points towards the bulk of the indoor world being concerned with riders who wish to train in the comfort of their own homes, but i do wonder how long it will be before such practice is invaded by those who decide to have a zwift ride in the country of a sunday afternoon?

and, if i might interject a personal concern, how long before cycling apparel providers decide to end further development of breathable waterproofs due to lack of a perceptible market? to paraphrase master hakuin, "where does my goretex go, when i step out of the bikeshed?"

fun might be fast, but it's even more so, outdoors

friday 6 march 2020

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show me the way

canyon pathlite

in june 1975, rock guitarist/singer, peter frampton released a record entitled 'show me the way' as the principal recording from his studio album 'frampton'. however, the record didn't quite set the charts alight until being subsequently re-released in early 1976, as a live version from the eponymously titled 'frampton comes alive'. this second version reached number ten in the uk singles chart, but exceeded this performance in the american billboard chart, topping out at number six.

though pop songs are hardly noted for their literary or insightful lyrics, frampton was surely scraping the bottom of one barrel or another when he sang:

"I wonder how you're feeling
There's ringing in my ears
And no one to relate to except the sea
Who can I believe in?
I'm kneeling on the floor
There has to be a force
Who do I phone?
The stars are out and shining
But all I really want to know."

it transpires that the success of 'show me the way' rested not at all on the lyrics, a catchy refrain, or indeed the particularly memorable tune. the principal reason for its success was frampton's use of a heil talk box, a device that channelled the guitar's sound through a plastic tube placed adjacent to a microphone, allowing frampton to 'vocalize' the guitar sound by means of holding the tube in his mouth. nowadays, combining vocal sounds with musical instruments is likely to be realised by a complex synthesiser known as a vocoder, a complexity arguably inspired by frampton's innovation.

only those of a certain age will recall this particular recording, and only those of a different age who might remember its studio recorded predecessor. forty-four years from now, way past my bedtime i should imagine, will there be those who recall what might be paraphrased as the arrival of the singularity, or at least, a velocipedinally relevant singularity? in technological terms, this describes a point in the future when technological growth moves out of man's control, resulting in changes to civilisation, the likes of which could not have been previously foreseen.

in this particular instance, the technology is hardly unforeseen, though it does appear to be a tad uncontrollable.

i refer to canyon cycles' introduction of their pathlite;on, an electric gravel bike, sporting a suntour front suspension fork. my contention would be that this approaches some form of singularity, given its visual and technological resemblance to the combination of a road bicycle and a mountain bike. eschewing the ubiquitous carbon frame, the pathlite:on features an aluminium frame, along with a down-tube integrated battery. on certain models, there's the ability to piggy-back a second battery, since unfettered gravel riding is unlikely to adhere to pre-determined distances, during which one might, to put it colloquially, 'run out of juice'.

the bicycle, available in five different specifications, will cost from £2,349 all the way to £4,649, the more expensive models arriving replete with mudguards, a rear rack and lighting. i mention all the foregoing, not because i have any specific interest in canyon bicycles, having never actually ridden any model from their extensive range, but because it may herald the beginning of a form of velocipedinal democratisation. canyon claim to have built the electric gravel bike to accommodate their 'croozer' trailer, enabling the transportation of children, pets or cargo, while the rear-rack, where fitted, can reputedly carry up to 25kg on 57mm knobbly(ish) tyres. in fact, it appears that describing this as a gravel bike, may simply be a trendy bandwagon on which to hang what appears to be a rather practical application of augmented cycling.

i have ruminated at length over the popularisation of cycling as a convenient, cheap and environmentally friendly means of commuting transport, one that commends itself well to those keen to adopt the way of the saddle. however, recently, such proselytisation has appeared to be slightly divisive. while the cities of the future will reputedly be constructed to favour walking and cycling, aided and abetted by governmental financial inducement, it has often appeared that the pelotonic cognoscenti are intent on leaving the newbies to their traffic-infested dawn, while we all take off into the gravel-paved wilderness.

though i still harbour certain misgivings over a gravelated cycling future, if it is truly inevitable, bicycles such as canyon's pathlite;on ought perhaps to level the clichéd playing field, gravel or no gravel.

canyon pathlite:on

canyon pathlite

thursday 5 march 2020

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bicycle quickguards revisited

bicycle quickguards

i can but hold my hand up as being guilty as charged. when reviewing certain products in these black and yellow pixels, there have been many occasions when a simple opening introduction offers not a great deal more than one of those ubiquitous unboxing videos. i might expand upon this if i refer to a notable short movie that paid great attention to the slicing of the box tape with a stanley knife, before a rather delectable snare drum was eased carefully from its packaging. said item of percussive delight was then slowly and teasingly divested of its bubble-wrap, before carefully being placed on a worktop and walking round to provide a 360 degree view.

not once throughout the video was a drumstick conspicuous by its presence, not a mark made upon the white, coated drumhead, and not a sound to be heard. 'disappointment', would have been something of an understatement.

most recently, i followed a review of rapha's new 'pro-team road shoes' with one describing the ritchey carbon road pedals, into which the red shoe-cleats had been ceremoniously clicked. it would have been a rare occasion indeed, had they failed to perform perfectly, having only recently been removed from their box and bolted to the carbon cranks. clothing and footwear can usually be appraised over a short period of review, but componentry often has several composite functions that rely upon each other, and might, at some time in the future, be found wanting.

bicycle quickguards

in such cases, i have generally completed that initial review by signalling that i will revisit the component, or bicycle, in the fullness of time, offering a more thorough examination than could be made during that first 'unboxing video'. for, try as i might, i was never able to find a follow-up video that let me hear just how luxurious that pristine snare drum sounded, once the bubble-wrap had been popped.

as the years roll by and age takes its toll, i often forget that i promised a reprise, so for those of you who have spent any appreciable amount of time awaiting part two of anything, you have my sincere apologies. in order to salve my conscience and fulfil at least one small part of my professed function, in that which follows, i propose to follow-up my original review of a pair of bicycle quickguards, posted in mid-november last year.

the quickguards take a novel approach to affixation, replacing (in this case) the quick-release lever nuts with much longer, splined affairs, front and rear, onto which both guards slide, prior to being locked in place via a sturdy allen-bolt clamp. should they require finer positioning to sit centrally over the tyre, the two chunky aluminium stays fit into a a slotted recess, allowing independent lateral movement. the front guard fits behind the fork, shielding one's pro-team road shoes from road-spray, while the rear guard sits behind the rear brake caliper, shielding the rear of an expensive jacket from the much-feared brown stripe up the back.

bicycle quickguards

for those whose bicycles sport disc brakes, a slightly more expensive pair of quickguards can be purchased with replacement thru-axles, with said splined extensions on which to fit the clamps.

i do not regard myself as one much enamoured with having the road bike du jour festooned with rattling, unaesthetic looking mudguards. yet even though the ritchey logic features a state-of-the-art, campagnolo record twelve-speed groupset and highly desirable campagnolo bora wto carbon-rimmed wheels, the quickguards cannot truly be said to have any adverse effects on the bicycle's feng shui. that remains true even after a winter's bike-riding which included festive 500 kilometres.

the rather poor state of islay's roads, augmented by a liberal peppering of cattle grids, may not be a state of affairs that makes for comfortable riding, but there's little point in denying that it's the ideal playground on which to test the veracity of clamped, single-sided mudguard stays. i can, perhaps, offer the finest compliment available by pointing out that, more often than not, i completely forgot the black mudguards were still there.

there was, however, a minor moment a few weeks past, when the front mudguard seemed intent on rubbing the inner-edge of the top stay on the tyre wall. in the process of attempting to make suitable adjustments, there appeared to be an excessive amount of play at the join between the stays and the splined clamp. i feared this to be the result of incessant jarring across the previously described road surfaces, a perfectly comprehensible situation, but surely not over such a short period of time? on removing the guard from the bike, it appears the hollow aluminium stays had begun to separate from the clamp inserts, despite appearing to have been crimped in place.

bicycle quickguards

i firmly and successfully pushed the stays further onto the inserts, where they have remained since, showing no repetition of the previous malaise. it's a situation that presumably should not have occurred, but in truth, it's a fairly superficial aberration and easily fixed.

there's still the possibility that i will temporarily remove the guards when sunnier days return to the hebrides around mid-august, but, minor irritation aside, there's a strong likelihood that these will last several more hebridean winters, no matter the number of named and un-named storms blown in our direction. i've probably provided enough information for you to make your own judgment, always assuming you haven't already acquired a pair, so i think we'll leave it at that, unless anything seriously untoward occurs in the future.

bicycle quickguards are available only in black. the quick release version as described above, retails at a price of £34.99 each, while the thru-axle edition costs £10 more at £44.99. bicycle quickguards are distributed in the uk by chicken cycle kit.

bicycle quickguards

wednesday 4 march 2020

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the times they are a-changing

hope-lotus track bike

in these dark and still cold march evenings, the early part of a monday evening is given over to pipe band practice, at which i, unable to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time, haplessly agreed to teach youngsters the basics of snare drumming with a view to pursuing a timleless career in the community pipe band. those with even a passing knowledge of military style drumming, will perhaps be aware that the left-hand grip differs from the right. known as the traditional grip, it stems from the days when military side drums tended to hang at an angle against the left leg, obviating any chance of playing the drum utilising matched-grip, where both sticks are held in a hammer-like fashion.

as one who also spends time tutoring drumset students at the local secondary school, i have attempted to make it plain that, while there is not necessarily a right way or a wrong way to play drums, there are easier ways and hard ways. allegedly, a one-time new york drum teacher made use of two identical drumsets, separated by a moveable partition. rather than demonstrate a specific method of drumming, he would play certain phrases and his student would be required to precisely replicate the phrases without necessarily using the same sticking as the teacher. i doubt i would stretch my meagre teaching abilities quite so far, but i do admire the principle.

but to return to the elementary stages of pipe-band drummistry, though i find traditional grip more favourable for all manner of reasons, not least that of aesthetics, it is a grip that scarcely lends itself to small, less than ambidextrous hands. therefore, and in the light of the contemporary snare player having the drum attached to a lightweight harness and sitting level with the ground, matched-grip is every bit as pragmatic.

though i am hardly an authority on modern cycle-training methods, there's every bit the same chance that one rider's on-the-bike position is another man's ceiling. for corroborating evidence, you probably need only check the differing positions of shoe-cleats across the footwear of the sunday morning peloton, and the fore and aft siting of their saddles. a professional bike-fit would doubtless point out just how far wrong the majority of us have setup our bicycles, but even then, there would be considerable differences, dependent on the size, flexibility and determination of each rider.

these differences can often be seen as magnified by the eccentricities of the less than average velocipedinist. take the flying scotsman, for instance. long before reaching the dizzy heights of cycling stardom, graeme obree was time-trialling on a standard, steel road bike, with the drop bars turned upside down to afford his infamous 'crouch' position. those who have tried to emulate his reputedly advantageous placement over the bars have rarely followed such with glowing commendation.

graeme is also renowned for constructing his hour-record bicycle, old faithful using bits and bobs from a washing machine, most notably, the bearings in the excessively narrow bottom bracket, so built to reduce the distance between the rider's legs, allegedly improving the aerodynamics, as observed in downhill skiers. just like playing the drums, there are easy ways and there are hard ways; while i'd shy away from saying graeme's crouch position on old faithful was an easy option, it was one that favoured him, more than it would likely favour you or me.

unfortunately, having this unknown upstart arrive on the international cycling platform by breaking the world hour record, and so doing the day after failing at the first attempt, was apparently not viewed as an equitable state of affairs as far as the sport's governing body was concerned. insult was added to injury when obree defeated olympic gold medal pursuit rider, chris boardman, on his way to winning a rainbow jersey in the event. to cut a well-worn story shorter than it need be, the uci banned obree's 'crouch' position on the basis that it afforded an unfair aerodynamic advantage.

subsequent wind-tunnel tests have shown that they were quite possibly correct, though the 'unfair' designation is contentious, to say the least.

move forward in time by several decades and look to team gb's results at the recent track championships held in berlin. far from giving their opponents cause for concern as we head towards this year's tokyo olympics, team gb finished seventh in the medals table, winning only a solitary gold with elinor barker's victory in the points race. the men's pursuit team, despite setting their fastest time in practice, finished in a lowly fifth place. according to six-time gold medal winner, sir chris hoy, "It's not a time to panic but, at the same time, there has to be significant change to get where they want to be in Tokyo..."

no doubt the manchester velodrome excuse book is veering perilously close to overuse, in an attempt to explain how this is just where they expected to be at this stage of the season, not wishing to overplay their hand prior to tokyo and not wishing the athletes to "peak too soon". granted, fifth place at this level demonstrates a level of athleticism that makes you and i look like pensioners, but i have already read in the cycling press that certain nations were to be seen aboard demonstrably quick machinery, while team gb were still riding team-issue cervelos.

such immediate despondency regarding britian's less than state of the art technology, was at least partially mitigated by the portent not only of more favourably aero skinsuits yet to be revealed, but the likelihood of all being aboard the much-lauded hope-lotus track bike. in accordance with uci regulations governing the elegibility of emerging bicycle technology, this was to have been ridden at last november's track meet in glasgow, but as one who was sat in the audience on the saturday eve, no such bicycle was to be seen in competition. performance director, stephen park, has stated that, though they expect to have forty of these alarmingly expensive bicycles (hb.t) available for the olympics, currently they have only two. how that affects their homologation in time for tokyo, i know not.

i hope you can see the irony of banning a simple riding position which suited one particular scottish rider, on the basis of its avowed, allegedly unfair, aerodynamicism, and now pinning medal-winning hopes on achieving precisely the same thing on an overdraft-busting carbon track bike. graeme's old-faithful was built at an alleged cost of less than £100. the basic, hope/lotus carbon frameset is set to cost £15,000.

or did i miss something?

tuesday 3 march 2020

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