kool-stop tyre bead jack

when i was a great deal younger, whenever i came across a widget or gadget in the shed, the point of which escaped me, my father would tell me that it was for removing boy scouts from horses' hooves. naturally, it was intended as a humorous remark, but one that i only found funny when i became a bit older. i have to say that, when repeating the same joke in more recent times, it has rarely been met with laughter. whether this has anything to do with the scout movement being held in lower regard than was once the case, or whether the concept of removing foreign bodies from horses' hooves has lost its relevance, i know not.

but, if anything, the era of the gadget is surely right now, and has been for a number of years. ever since the advent of the iphone, to be honest. an architect friend of my dad's was one of the early adopters of the 'car phone' having had one fitted in his mercedes convertible. in order to emphasise this fact, the message heard on calling this phone was often "i'm sorry, i'm in right now. leave your name and number, and i'll call you back when i'm out."

i, of course, do not own a mobile phone, and i'd prefer it to remain that way, though i do hope i won't be obtuse about it; if it becomes an absolutely necessity to exist in modern times, i figure i would reluctantly accede. however, watching teenagers paying for their purchases by swiping an apple watch over the card machine, often has me concerned for the well-being of the current generation.

my daughter lives in close proximity to glasgow city-centre, reachable by train from either queen street or central low-level stations. the last time i visited was on a sunday when the timetabling from central does not offer a direct train, requiring a change at partick. when i boarded the train at central station, everyone (and i mean everyone) in the carriage was either looking at, or listening to their phones. when i alighted at partick, everyone on both platforms was doing likewise. and when i boarded my final train for the day, once again, everyone in the carriage was engaged in some form of phone activity.

kool-stop tyre bead jack

to make matters even worse, the woman who preceded me leaving the station, followed the same route for the most part, looking at her mobile phone rather than watching the road and pavements around her. as a phone agnostic, i wonder what it is that folks are doing on their phones, and what they did before the gadgets existed? would the train carriages now resemble scenes from a zombie movie if mobile phones disappeared overnight (oh how i wish)?

from a cyclist's point of view, surely the ultimate gadget of desire would be campagnolo's 'big corkscrew', an expensive and efficient item, the effectiveness of which can easily be supplanted by far cheaper offerings from your local averagemarket. the point, of course, is that those from tescos or asda don't say 'campagnolo' on the handle.

however, it's not all bad press when discussing gadgetry. the problem might conceivably be marking the difference between a 'tool' and a 'gadget'. the easy answer, i'd suggest, is if it says 'park tool' on the blue handle, it probably is what it says on the tin. but a gadget (very) recently acquired at the croft, was suggested by a reader of the post (thank you mike) following a post in which i described the pain felt by my thumbs while attempting to fit tyres to my campagnolo bora rims. or any other modern-day wheelset, now that you come to mention it. why, i had asked, was it not possible to manufacture tyres and wheels that formed a perfect match?

the thumb hurting aspect revolved around the last few centimetres of sidewall that almost always refuses to slip easily over the wheel rim. sitting too tight to the wheel rim, it becomes all but impossible to slide a tyre lever underneath to finish the job, while the tightness of the bead is likely to dislocate both thumbs in a vain attempt to complete the job. it doesn't help that more often than not, when wrestling with a tyre lever, it's common to nip the inner tube, meaning repetition of the episode when it fails to inflate.

so, when mike chris hagburg emailed to inform of the existence of a gadget/tool that you probably all knew of already (originally the bullseye bead jack, but now sold as the kool-stop tyre jack), my online order was completed a matter of minutes later. aside from the trials and tribulations i and my thumbs had already experienced, i had also just received a new pair of tyres for review, a brand that had proved scarily difficult on receipt of a previous pair from the same source.

kool-stop tyre bead jack

though the fitting of any tyres forms as much a part of the review process as riding on the terrain for which they were designed, i'd really rather that the process prove as straightforward as possible. with a sunny sunday afternoon set aside for the latter process, hopefully completed in time to watch tadej pogacar stand atop the parisien podium, i'm pleased to say that the tyre jack did exactly what it said on the label. though you can perhaps see clearly from the images, one part of the gadget sits over the edge of the wheel, while the hinged lever fits under the edge of the tyre bead. it's then a simple case of levering the last part of the tyre sidewall into place.

it does pay to ensure that the inner tube is all the way inside the tyre. though the tyre jack has no sharp, pointy edges, it's still conceivable that the tube could be nipped as the bead is levered into place.

the last time i attempted to fit this brand of tyre, i broke a tyre lever, cut two fingers and strained my shoulder. the distributor admitted that he had bent a wheel rim trying to fit a pair in the workshop. removing the existing tyres, fitting both new ones, inflating and replacing the wheels took less than half an hour. if you are reading this with throbbing, dislocated thumbs, i can thoroughly recommend kool-stop's tyre jack.

available at all good cycle retailers, with a price tag of around £15

kool stop tyre bead jack

monday 21 september 2020

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reality bites

time trialist in passing place

stage 18 of this year's tour de france on thursday 17 september, between méribel and la roche-sur-foron, featured a gravel section towards the summit of the climb, a section of unpaved road that the majority took in their stride, apart from the perennially luckless richie porte who suffered a puncture and required a bike change to continue. happily, it seems not to have had too great an influence on his tour, having stepped up to third spot on the parisien podium after an immaculate time-trial on saturday.

many, including deceuninck-quickstep team manager, patrick lefevre, think of such insertions into the stages or parcours of modern-day racing, as something of a blasphemous travesty. according to the naysayers, these are gimmicks solely incorporated to satisfy the world's tv audiences, simultaneously making the race outcome a bit of a lottery for the riders. to an extent, i can sympathise; world tour riders are the cream of the crop, men who have honed their skills and fitness to challenge for a yellow jersey over le tour's 21 stages. for those strategies to be possibly derailed by a stray chunk of flint, just to keep the audience happy, isn't something you can realistically plan for.

however, viewers of saturday's time-trial will have seen that many of the major proponents, with the exception of tom dumoulin, clambered off their tt bikes and swapped for standard road bikes on which to tackle the climb to la planche des belle filles. so, with the inexplicable rise and rise of gravel biking in recent years, what's to stop those selfsame riders nabbing a gravel bike from the roof of the team car when the road gets crumbly?

after all, audience participation and appreciation appears to be paramount.

on each week's sunday ride, as we turn off the road leading from coull farm, and begin the 10km ride towards foreland and the main bridgend-bruichladdich road, we have taken each to guessing how many cars we're likely to meet heading in the opposite direction. bear in mind, within that first kilometre, is kilchoman distillery, while behind us is kilchoman beach, a popular destination in fine weather.

the fewest number we have encountered along this stretch of road has been seven, preceded the previous week by double that amount. even in the current pandemic and its concomitant restrictions, there are still many whisky aficionados keen to visit one of only two islay distilleries currently offering tours, frequently, it seems, on a sunday.

though we would dearly love to be extended the courtesy of any of those oncoming vehicles pulling in to let us past, in truth that is very much the exception and almost never the rule. despite decent visibility of over two kilometres along the road, presumably in both directions, few, if any, drivers, seem predisposed to making use of the frequent passing places to allow our compact and bijou peloton to continue on its merry way, untroubled by having to pull over ourselves.

this is not a new revelation. along with the majority of cyclists worldwide, like it or not, we must accept that we are seen as second-class citizens, only to be given way to when travelling in substantial numbers. the latter is a frequent situation during the annual ride of the falling rain.

so, as i headed along that stretch of road on my regular saturday ride, it dawned on me that we could bring even more reality into professional cycle racing, by emulating the trials and tribulations faced by us mere humans. thus, when it comes to le tour's penultimate day's time-trial stage, rather than search out roads such as that leading to la planche de belles filles, aso could find a suitable singletrack road with passing places and allow regular traffic to continue. if necessary, they could build a distillery or winery close to the start, if only to encourage a constant stream of vehicles heading in the opposite direction to the protagonists.

this would entail the likes of roglic, pogacar, van aert and porte having to recon the parcours, noting where the various passing places are sited and gauging how to comfortably avoid ever larger wing mirrors, should they find themselves distanced from one of those passing places.

i will, of course, require a licence fee from the uci for my keen ingenuity and thorough grasp on reality.

sunday 20 september 2020

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the next generation

islay's three distilleries path

front and foremost in the bike shed, is a mint green, girl's mountain bike. it's a bicycle i purchased second-hand for a twelve year-old girl that mrs washingmachinepost has had in her care for pretty much the last twelve years. when time came for the annual 'cycling proficiency test' at primary school late last year, she had no suitable bicycle, and being somewhat enthusiastic about such matters, i obtained it for her, and said it had been sitting at the back of the shed. 'cos i'm nice like that.

the ploy, such as it was, seems to have worked, because pretty much every day after school, i am met with the query "is my bike out?". it happened again yesterday while i was damaging my fingers attempting to remove a recalcitrant front tyre from a campagnolo carbon rim. the average twelve year-old forms the vanguard of the transition between riding a 24" wheel kid's bike and being tall enough to straddle a 26" wheeled ladies' bicycle, and on the mint green machine, even with the seatpost at its highest level, it's now a tad too small.

however, despite this disparity in sizing, the child in question prefers to ride with the saddle at its lowest point. i have tried, in vain, to explain why this is hardly the most efficient means of pedalling, raising the saddle every time i put the bicycle back in the bike shed (even if only for purposes of annoyance), but the minute she gets her hand on the bike, that saddle is pushed all the way back down. it's a battle that neither of us are likely to win; it's all about the thrill of the chase.

however, following the "is my bike out?" question yesterday, came a follow-up question "can you help me with my homework? my teacher said i could write about bicycles." considering that, at that moment, i was re-lubricating the chain, having replaced the front tyre and checked the gear-changing, the immediate and perhaps natural reaction would have been to go all sheldon brown and begin to explain how derailleurs worked, the difference between tubed and tubeless tyres, between calipers and discs, and so on.

however, it struck me that a twelve year-old girl would probably fall asleep before i got to the part where the valve-core was removed to pour in the tyre sealant, never mind the detailed description of indexed gear-changing. what i thought would be far more relevant to her secondary education, would be to examine the values of cycling as opposed to motorised transport, particularly given the prevalence of adults on islay who would drive to their front gate to check the weather. i have, therefore, suggested that she explore the pros and cons of cycling as a means of transport, in the firm belief that there will be more of the former than the latter.

had she not been en-route to a sleepover at a friend's house, i would have pressed for an immediate start. though i mentioned yesterday that rapha thought it likely that the uk's current enthusiasm for cycling would remain through autumn, and by implication, winter, i'm really not so sure. after school on friday was very warm and sunny; had it been its usual self and both raining and blowing a gale, enthusiasm for cycling may have been at a seasonal low. i may play the tactical card and neglect to mention the weather factor, but i did encourage thoughts over the possible need for safe cycling facilities, even on islay.

the mixed -use path between bruichladdich and port charlotte is half way completed, while the three mile distilleries path from port ellen village to laphroaig, lagavulin and ardbeg, has proved a great success with walkers and leisure cyclists alike. there's even talk of another path being constructed between bowmore and bridgend which may be more pertinent, since it would end only a mile or so from the track leading to this particular twelve year-old's farmhouse.

the lack of specifics in the homework directive, typifying it solely as 'bicycles', has thus allowed me to be potentially more influential than explaining why campagnolo should be sought in preference to shimano, or why 'steel is real' when considering one's carbon footprint. twelve year-olds are the guardians of the future, whether they know it or not; it's only fair that the older generation tell it like it is. the world according to a cycling obsessive.

saturday 19 september 2020

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fall guy


this has been such a bizarre year in oh so many ways, that whether the current period of sunny warmth constitutes an indian summer or not, is surely open to serious debate. over the past weekend, day one was marginally chilly and a tad wet, necessitating a waterproof softshell jacket over the top of my armwarmered jersey. yet come sunday morning, having opted for the same garmentage, only a few steps from the back door to the bike shed determined that the softshell would be surplus to requirements, and a wind jacket would probably suffice.

as it transpired, even the wind jacket was verging on overkill, but here on the outer edge, you can never be too careful, particularly since our regular sunday morning route skirts the edge of islay's north atlantic shores. as testament to the amount of rain that had fallen overnight, we rode through a few examples of localised flooding, thankful that, despite leaving the waterproofs at home, the donning of waterproof overshoes had been thought necessary.


and then there was yesterday afternoon's bike ride to port charlotte (purely for business purposes, you understand). bright and breezy, but featuring wall to wall sunshine and a tad too much heat inside a long-sleeve jersey. but i'd be willing to wager that said long-sleeve jersey will come into its own this weekend. the couple i met in debbie's (man cannot live by water alone), were praising the weather they'd experienced since arriving at the beginning of this week, a statement rarely repeated round these here parts, as october begins to encroach on the horizon.

so what should we be wearing at this time of year?

that particular question bears comparison with the oft quoted 'how long is a piece of string?' query, and one that doubtless fields a whole range of regional answers. for instance, rapha recently published two guides to riding in autumn; one for blokes, one for the ladies. if i may quote from their opening paragraphs, "As the nights draw in and leaves start to fall, we stay positive that interest in cycling will remain just as strong. Cooler temperatures, a more casual pace along with warming cafe stops are just a few virtues of riding at the turn of the seasons.
"We created these guides in aid of discovering the joys of riding in the autumn without getting caught out should the weather take a turn."


i'd be inclined to take issue with their assumption that cycling will remain just as strong as it has proved itself in recent months, though it dawns on me that they might be referring to you and me, rather than those who have joined the faith during lockdown. i cannot deny that my early years in the hebrides encouraged me not in the face of what seemed to be perpetual wind and rain, through both autumn and winter. however, it took only a slight mental adjustment to realise that pedalling in either is simply the other side of the sunny weather coin. it sort of boils down to the fact that you're either a 'cyclist' or you're not.

but none of that helps solve the autumnal equation, a season that officially commences in the northern hemisphere, on 22 september. and what might be regarded as suitable apparel for the incoming conditions. we've mostly all got some common sense (though i've heard it said that if it were truly common, more folks would have some), and are unlikely to ride in pouring rain wearing short sleeves and bibshorts. so rapha's 'guide to autumn riding' is more about advising what sort of garmentage ought to hang in the cycling wardrobe, ready and available to mix and match as required.


probably the most underrated garment throughout the year, but certainly in autumn, is the gilet in all its glorious variations. i still have a much-treasured softshell gilet from rapha's early years, a garment i believe is sadly no longer available (are you listening mr mottram?), but there's always the pro team insulated version, or even the brevet version with rear pockets (why don't they all have pockets?). at the risk of sounding over-privileged, i'd be inclined to have a gilet in a back pocket, even when wearing a rain or windjacket; if it gets too hot for the jacket, swapping over is hardly rocket science.

i've a strong suspicion that either rapha or me, offering advice as to autumnal wear, might be akin to teaching my granny to suck eggs. however, it's worth bearing in mind that not everyone reading has as many years' experience as you and i. hands up all those who've been caught in rainstorms in the early days, having never once considered carrying a waterproof? and what of finding yourselves without lights after realising it gets dark a bit earlier than you thought?

rather obviously, marketing being what it is, rapha's autumn riding guides are a tad less impartial than i might consider mine to be. but then, i'm not trying to sell you anything, other than my own brand of autumnal common sense. which, if you asked mrs washingmachinepost, probably isn't all it's cracked up to be. but i'm sure we both have your best interests at heart, just ensuring you're ready for pretty much anything the season is likely to throw in your direction, probably all at the same time.

and just to extend the commercial just a squeeze, i do rather like the green version of the classic jersey.

just saying.

friday 18 september 2020

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tent for tat

galloway cycling holidays

a couple of weekends ago, as the diminished velo club peloton sped towards the village sign at bruichladdich, we espied two touring cyclists heading in the same direction, albeit at a much slower pace (ok, so they were riding almost as fast as we were, but honour has to be upheld in print). in a valiant display of faux superiority, we blasted past, breathing through our ears, but keen to demonstrate that islay cyclists were no lightweights when it came to either trajectory or velocity.

as if to punch a hole in our self-inflated balloon, as we closed in on the finish-line, the frontmost rider accelerated slightly, came alongside the potential sprint winner, and enquired if we knew of a local café where they might acquire coffee and a healthy repast. already on our limit, there was scarce enough breath to issue a "follow us" directive, as we continued the blast towards debbie's.

under current restrictions, we'd to physically separate ourselves from their outside table, as we dined al fresco in unexpectedly, yet more than welcome, warm and sunny conditions. it transpired they were visiting solely for that one day, intending to explore one or two highways and byways, prior to heading north and camping overnight. the early morning ferry back to the mainland was next on the itinerary, before cycling towards oban and onto the island of mull the next day.

islay's north coast is hardly one that would provide the finest or even the simplest of camping opportunities. however, one of the velo club peloton happens to live less than a mile from the port askaig ferry port, and generously offered to allow them to camp in his garden, to ease their morning progress. in principle, he had just emulated the rationale behind the eponymously named 'warmshowers'.

the latter is an organisation operating worldwide, in which cyclists and generous benefactors can offer free overnight accommodation to those who are in the process of riding on their merry way, no matter where in the world that merryness might be happening. as it transpired, the two gents whose acquaintance we had only just made, had partaken of this hospitality prior to arriving on the hallowed isle. and, coincidentally, this hospitality had been provided by two good friends of mine and washingmachinepost advertisers, 'galloway cycling'.

any e-mail you might receive from warren and esther sanders, who are based in south west scotland's dumfries and galloway region, will advise you that they are 'cherry picking the best places in the world to cycle'. this is no idle claim, as the intrepid twosome gave up their jobs several years ago, and headed off into the wide blue yonder, riding round the world and enjoying every minute of it. on their return, they setup 'galloway cycling holidays', offering cycle hire and guided cycling holidays around the dumfries and galloway region. if you're interested in the measure of their success, they have already become regional winners in the scottish thistle 'best outdoor adventure experience' awards.

i only learned of their involvement in the warmshowers scheme when one of our two new friends happened to mention that warren had told them to look me up when on islay. the fact that we'd inadvertently met up outside the island's finest coffee stop was pure serendipity.

so, if you're a cyclist, or you'd be happy to occasionally offer overnight accommodation to those touring the county, the country, the continent, or the world, the one time signup fee is a mere $30 (£23.50), and you'll be added to the website list. there's no compulsion to offer overnight accommodation; the protocol means that contact must be made beforehand; there's no turning up unnanounced. or perhaps you're a cyclist intent on exploring the great unknown, looking for the added safety net of somewhere to stay if plans go awry.

a good idea is a good idea.

wednesday 16 september 2020

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réportage sur moto

florian schneider - kraftwerk

on my ipod, i have a single purchase of kraftwerk's tour de france theme from 2003, consisting of what seems to be four separate tracks, all with the same title, but different run times of around three minutes and the long distance version of over seven minutes. the clever bit, which i'm presuming is deliberate, is the lack of a distinctive end and beginning for each track (except tracks one and four, for obvious reasons). thus, when listening, it simply sounds like one long track of 18 minutes duration.

florian schneider - kraftwerk

the original version was released in 1983, but the album of the same name arrived some seventeen years ago in 2003. the album currently available was remastered in 2009. kraftwerk was founded in 1970 by ralf hutter and flautist florian schneider, but the latter left kraftwerk in 2008 and sadly died earlier this year. the band's personnel has featured over sixteen different members in the intervening years.

florian schneider - kraftwerk

the fact that a german electronic band not only released an album named after probably the world's most famous bike race, but one that received great approbation from the masses and considerable commercial success, is probably surprise enough. but the associated fact that yours truly, a self-confessed be-bop jazz aficionado should have eighteen minutes worth of cycling electronica on the ipod, is perhaps every bit as surprising. (maybe).

florian schneider - kraftwerk

schneider, however, was a cycling obsessive, probably a very good thing when it came to indoctrinating europe's dance generation with imagery of wheels and lycra. and it helped greatly that his fellow band member, ralf hutter was also renowned for his interest in cycling, once describing the netherlands as 'cycling heaven'. there was even an unfounded rumour that schneider left kraftwerk in 2008 after an argument over a bike pump.

oddly enough, while most of us adhere to ben lieberson's mantra 'outside is free' (other than the zwifties), a love of bike riding notwithstanding, hutter paid tribute to his friend's perfectionism by pointing out that schneider figured, with electronic music, there was no necessity ever to leave the studio. "why put so much energy into travel, spending time in airports, in waiting halls, in backstage areas, being like an animal, just for two hours of a concert?"

florian schneider - kraftwerk

it seems only fitting, therefore, that cycling fans who doubled as kraftwerk fans (quite possibly one and the same thing) offered a visual tribute to the sound perfectionist on one of the stages featured in this year's tour de france. while it's common to paint the names of the peloton on the roads leading to the finish line or stage summit, along with words of either encouragement or disparagement, depending on whether your surname is roglic or pogacar, or armstrong or virenque.

on the closing kilometres of sunday's stage to the summit of the col de colombiere there appeared admirable coloured renditions of kraftwerk album covers, examples of which you can see alongside these words. an entirely fitting tribute to a man who perhaps unwittingly, popularised cycling's grand boucle with those who could scarcely tell a cassette from a synthesiser, or a derailleur from a vocoder.

rip florian schneider.

tuesday 15 september 2020

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