enviolo automatic transmission

diminished from the usual five riders on the sunday morning ride, we began with only three in number this past weekend. one had called off due to an early season cold, while rider number five had text our ride captain to inform that he was running late, but would catch up somewhere around the parcours. it is precisely for this reason that we stick pretty much to the same route, week in week out, offering a lifeline for the more tardy amongst the velo club peloton. and though it was bound to come, perhaps later rather than sooner, the windless rides of the past few weeks finally came to halt in the face of a 50kph breeze.

generally, we would laugh in the face of such minor disturbances to the force, but following such a lengthy period of barely a draught, yesterday came as a minor shock to the system. however, close observation (or even a cursory glance) would elicit the variance in cadence amongst the four riders of the apocalypse. determined to think of ourselves as grown-ups, we are mostly to be found in the big ring, though in mitigation, we are all on compact chainsets, so we're not as gnarly as it might seem at first glance. however, though i would prefer to be categorised as a spinner, in truth i frequently find myself in a larger gear than my compatriots. as those who do likewise will doubtless have noted, so doing tends to inhibit acceleration.

therefore, when the telepathic order comes to sprint, i'm frequently to be found at the tail end, and very definitely so when the road heads upwards. the worst aspect of this is that i'm sure, were i to choose an easier gear, none of the above would hinder my progress in comparison to my peers. i will, however, admit to failing to close the gap on the road from coull farm to kilchoman when telepathy failed to get in touch. such observations are worth carrying out in your own peloton; when there is strain with which to contend, it's worth taking a look at the relative cadences or occupied sprockets of your compatriots. perhaps you're right and they're wrong, but if you're struggling just a tad, perhaps not.

at one point of our perambulations, i was moved to comment that, had we all been riding sturmey-archer hub gears, we'd probably be in all sorts of trouble. iconic stalwarts of the velocipedinal world messrs sturmey and archer might be, but sadly, their hubs never seemed to offer the right gear at the right time under any circumstances. at least in my own case, i have twelve rear sprockets allied to a double chainset up front from which to choose. my compatriots, who were all restricted to one less rear sprocket, seemed to fare a deal better than yours truly.

it therefore comes down to choice of gear (not entirely forgetting the muscular wherewithal to propel them in the first place) as to how well one progresses in the face of an inclement autumnal headwind. experience ought best inform choice of gear, experience which i cannot deny i have in spades. but what of the newbie? the rider who called off yesterday morning has only recently moved to the principality, and not yet inured to the ways of the atlantic. it is perhaps fortunate that his absence coincided with the first day of autumnal wind excess, but should he choose to remain on the isle for any length of time, the sooner he gains experience, the easier will be his cycling life on the edge. but is the apprentice rider sufficiently well-informed to pay attention to the pedalling rate of those around him/her? probably not.

perhaps, after over 100 years of the bicycle's existence, rather than congratulating either sram or shimano for their efforts in favour of wireless shifting, we ought to be castigating them for not yet having developed automatic gearshifting. yet, dutch-based enviolo, developers and manufacturers of stepless transmission hubs, are offering visitors to this year's eurobike the opportunity to ride bicycles equipped with their technology. the principle is, as are all good ideas, remarkably simple, using infinitely variable bearing angles to offer stepless, manual or automatic transmission. and the technology is just as applicable to regular bicycles as it is to e-bikes. how convenient would it be to turn round the corner into a galeforce headwind and find the gearing automatically adjusted to the effort?

i'm insufficiently well-informed to know of the range offered by the enviolo system in comparison to that offered by either dura-ace, red ax or super-record. currently the marketing aims this squarely at the commuter and leisure market, undoubtedly where it will have greatest effect, but i see no real reason why japan or vicenza couldn't license the technology and apply it to the racing milieu. after all, the big boys have provided electronic shifting and hydraulic discs without any professed demand from the great unwashed.

why stop there?

enviolo hub systems

monday 6 september 2021

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

tail wagging the dog

shimano dura ace

when bicycle reviews were more a part of the post than they have been of late (long story), it always seemed prudent to mention the componentry that allowed the bicycle to complete its designated task. many of the italian manufacturers, such as pinarello, colnago and basso et al, still produce framesets at the top end, allowing the purchaser to spec it in the manner to which they wish to become accustomed. and even lower down the velocipedinal ladder, where we're talking complete bicycles, it is still componentry that makes the world go round.

as a colleague of mine is fond of saying, "it's just as well we're all different", a truism if ever there was one. though shimano tends to dominate the original equipment market when it comes to complete bicycles, when acquiring a frame on which to hang our preferred brand of trinketry, at least the rest of us have the option of sram or campagnolo. the latter is probably the least favoured in terms of original equipment, partly due to a perceived price differential, but also because both sram and shimano have their manufacturing in the far east, in close proximity to taiwan's frame manufacturing. campagnolo, on the other hand, have commendably retained most, if not all, of their manufacturing in europe.

thus, should colnago or bianchi, for example, fancy outfitting one of their models with chorus or centaur, there's the not inconsiderable cost of shipping it to the chinese republic.

you would have to have been some sort of hermit to be unaware that, after five years, shimano has upgraded both its dura-ace and ultegra di2 groupsets earlier this week, presumably released to coincide with the reinstated eurobike. though promises abound that both groupsets will feature rim brakes as well as discs, so far, it appears neither set of calipers has been seen in the flesh. however, the most disappointing factor for luddite shimano acolytes is the complete absence of a mechanical version of either. assuming shimano has no intention of following this release with non-electric versions of dura-ace or ultegra, it seems that, similar to the disc brake fad, we are being pushed in the direction the manufacturer prefers.

no doubt they wil cite lower sales of mechanical groupsets as the perfect reason to cease production of anything other than electrons, but if that's all they're supplying as original equipment, the result is something of a foregone conclusion. it reflects the situation experienced in my early days of selling bicycles. we opted for giant initially, the catalogue of which showed what might be termed 'proper' bikes with curved handlebars, sturmey hub gear and an upright riding position. several of our customers expressed interest in those particular models, so we asked giant if they could be ordered. the response was that these were unavailable in the uk because there was no demand. but if they weren't for sale in the first place, where was the demand going to come from?

with many manufacturers producing disc compatible frames, it's likely you'll find that the component fellows sell more disc groupsets than rim versions. when the accountants look at the numbers, no doubt, sooner rather than later, someone's going to point out that it's uneconomic to continue with the latter. electronica will probably go down the same route. not that it's of any great concern, but imagine if you were fiercely luddite enough to disparage anything with indexed shifting. suppose you preferred the days when the brake cables exited the top of the levers.

however, modern-day reality dictates that technological development continues unabated; it's just the way that it is. but it seems that our emphasis has shifted. where once the announcement, or scarcely concealed announcement of a new frameset would coincide with either the giro or le tour (depending on the manufacturer's proclivities), frequently to great acclaim, it seems the not so humble groupset has eclipsed the latter.

during yesterday's lunchtime repast of double-egg roll and soya latte, i whiled away the minutes, reading the comic's expose of the latest from shimano, having always harboured slightly more than a passing interest in velocipedinal technicalities. i think it highly unlikely my grubby paws will ever find themselves pressing any di2 buttons in the foreseeable future, but it's as well to keep oneself appraised of digital folly (i still think electronic gear shifting to be a solution looking for a problem, even twelve years after its original release). however, on concluding my read of the feature, i learned that in next week's issue, the fine fellows at cycling weekly intend to use a substantial number of pages and coloured ink, fawning over shimano dura-ace and its history.

from this i can only conclude two things; 1) either they expect next week to be a very slow news week, or 2) the tail has begun to wag the dog. i doubt i shall be reading much at debbie's next weekend.

sunday 5 september 2021

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

vulpine omnia cycling jeans

vulpine omnia jeans

for many a long year, i have avoided asking any of islay's residents for their opinion of the velo club peloton, and in particular, yours truly. let's face it, most of you are no different; we dress in garish polyester jerseys with pockets on the back, skin-tight lycra shorts with nothing underneath other than padding that makes us look as if we're wearing nappies, and shiny plastic covered polystyrene on our heads. and, as if that were scarcely sufficient to have the word 'eccentric' muttered under the breath of innocent bystanders, we wear shoes that are stuck to our pedals.

vulpine omnia jeans

in more central areas, the above might raise little more than an eyebrow, but in the midst of a less ostentatious society brought up on distilling, farming and fishing, it's not hard to stand out like a sore thumb, particularly when there are so few of us at which to point any collective outrage (not that there has been any, you understand). i have frequently parried any queries over our mode of dress by enquiring of my interlocutors whether they would go swimming, clad in a pair of levis 501 jeans. even apprentice members of the peloton, determined that lycra was not a material in which they would be caught dead, eventually succumbed to the comfort provided by those nappy pads, the pragmatism of having three pockets at the back, and the oddity of walking like a duck in road cleats.

vulpine omnia jeans

but sometimes, just sometimes, it would be nice to simply retrieve the bicycle from the shed and ride off into the sunset without the attendant palaver of having to find shorts, jersey, cap, helmet and cleated shoes before doing so. many an essay on the joys of 'ordinary' cycling are keen to proclaim that cycling is an activity or mode of transport that, notionally, requires no special apparel. all you need is a bicycle. yet, knowing what we know about comfort and joy in the heat of battle, can be translated into civilian life without so much as a hop, skip or a jump. and while it might be a bit inopportune to go swimming in a pair of levis, it's perfectly possible to go cycling in their equivalent.

vulpine omnia jeans

vulpine clothing, in all their incarnations, have been far more about the journey than the wattage, offering both the cycling newbie and the earnest practitioner the ideal garmentage in which to ride hither and thither about their respective principalities. and while it's highly possible that i doth protest too much, cycling a bicycle wearing levis 501s is every bit as scary a thought as wearing them for swimming. i'm sure i need not mention that seam. vulpine's omnia jeans get round this possibly deal-breaking factor, by outfitting the saddle region with a single piece of denim, thus easing your pain. don't get me wrong, journeys of more than a dozen kilometres may be eased on wearing a pair of padded boxer shorts, but during the review period, marrying that part of my anatomy with a brooks cambium c13 carbon saddle, incurred no crippling blows.

vulpine omnia jeans

vulpine's omnia jeans are available in sizes ranging from small to xxl, in two leg lengths and offer a relaxed fit. medium indicates a waist size that mediates between 30" - 32", the very size received for review. these fitted very comfortably from ankle to waist, though i did need a belt to keep my modesty intact. thankfully, they feature a zip fly; my previous pair of vulpine jeans, albeit from a previous incarnation, featured a button-fly which i found remarkably impractical on a pair of jeans designed for cycling. that, presumably, was the 501 effect. there are small darts at the knees to ease the practicalities and comfort of cycling, allied to a welcome degree of built-in stretch. and matching with a vulpine jersey or t-shirt's dropped tail, the raised waistband at the back avoids any unwanted draughts in a scottish summer (a little hebridean humour).

vulpine omnia jeans

having worn other brands of cycling jeans, constituted to a skinnier fit, the omnia's relaxed fit tends to offer enhanced comfort when cycling, and impressive style off the bike. time will tell whether the denim will prove to be hard wearing, though i cannot deny that, at present, it seems perfectly capable of repelling all boarders without stress. and vulpine suggest that as they're washed and worn, they will degrade graciously, turning us into the cycling dudes to which we (mostly) all aspire. the price might be a smidgeon higher than the iconic 501s, but as we've already agreed, there's no way we're riding anywhere in a pair of those.

vulpine omnia jeans are available in sizes ranging from small to xxl in 11.2oz indigo denim. retail price from is £100.

vulpine omnia cycling jeans

saturday 4 september 2021

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

planning ahead

northern line calendar

islay's local newspaper is published every two weeks, or, as those of us in the uk would classify it, every fortnight. and those two weeks pass by at a seemingly alarming rate, which has frequently brought one of my office colleagues to frequently mention "it'll soon be christmas." obviously enough, that's hardly a truism prior to easter, but latterly, it has begun to seem alarmingly true, now that we've arrived at september. that said, it's common knowledge on the isle that, following show day, (the annual agricultural show) on the second thursday of august, winter commences.

in most years, that prediction has been disturbingly true, but this year, even though, as i said, it's already september, the scottish environmental protection agency (sepa) has placed us on alert for water scarcity, following almost two months without any meaningful rain. in other words, christmas is a fairly distant thought for most of us, and, by implication, new year too. looking several months forward to 2022, i'm pretty sure we're all hoping for a less oppressive year than either 2020 or 2021. and to be entirely self-absorbed for a sentence or two, it would be nice to see the race calendar return to normal.

northern line calendar

though all three grand tours have taken place exactly as planned, with only the vuelta to finish this weekend, some lesser events were disrupted earlier in the year and it's a scary thought that we've not visited paris-roubaix for over two years. those of us who consider ourselves aficionados of the cobblestone have long bemoaned the enormous gap in our velocipedinal lives since april 2019. i can scarcely contain my enthusiasm as i look forward to sunday, 3 october. already, i have begun to seek out the worst of islay's potholes in sympathy.

so, if we're now inured to the thought that christmas will follow in frighteningly close proximity to this year's delayed paris-roubaix and the parallel joy of cyclocross season, it now seems quite natural to think about calendars for next year. on announcement of their 2022 edition on twitter, one respondent replied to the lake district's the northern line's announcement of their upcoming cycling calendar, "no! It's the first day of autumn, don't need to think of 2022 calendars this early', but on the contrary, i think it a most apt time of year do do precisely that.

northern line calendar

i have long praised the artistic values of the northern line, seemingly not hidebound by convention, and happy to exceed our graphic expectations, traits which, i'm pleased to say, are continued in their 2022 calendar. graciously, they have provided the surrounding illustrations from the calendar, if only to whet our appetites in advance of its availability this coming week. it's a scarcely hidden fact that very few wall calendars are used for their purported purpose, particularly since the advent of various online versions, most of which feature audible reminders, instead of having to look. however, when the graphics are as attractive and intriguing as those seen here, who really cares?

northern line calendar

this appraisal is too far ahead for its own good; the calendar has yet to appear on the northern line website, but i'll accept your promise to check next week, before ordering a copy at £12.95 to hang on the training room wall. and if you claim not to have a training room, i fear you may be missing the subterfuge.

the northern line

friday 3 september 2021

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

vulpine organic cotton t-shirt

vulpine organic cotton tee

with last year's drastic change to normality, i now find myself slightly confused as to whether cycle component purveyors are adhering to a strategic schedule of product releases, or whether ad hoc is the order of the day. i mention this because, around the end of september, one year ago, campagnolo launched their thirteen-speed ekar groupset, while shimano entered the fray but two or three days ago with an update to their dura-ace di2. that would tend to support the ad hoc theory more than a purported structured product release schedule, but that might be a rather myopic view of events.

vulpine organic cotton tee

the confusion engendered by the pandemic seems at least a smidgeon accompanied by climate change, though once again, maybe i need to look more closely at the bigger picture. though i'm extremely grateful that the hebrides were not in the flight path of hurrican ida, videos of which were scary enough when viewed from the safety of youtube, yet our weather is not what we might expect when turning the page of the calendar to the month of september. by now, we would usually have begun to feel a strengthening of the autumnal winds, and almost certainly there would be sufficient precipitation and lowering temperatures that would encourage the wearing of at least lightweight waterproofs.

heck, the geese will be here in a matter of weeks.

vulpine organic cotton tee

yet, if you could look through my sitting room window towards bowmore distillery's bonded warehouses, you would see them framed by cloudless skies, interrupted only by the small top windows being open to allow for a modest cooling breeze. there has been so little rainfall over the past few weeks, that sepa (scottish environmental protection agency) along with scottish water, has advised scotland's residents to be more careful with water use. that's scarcely advice we're used to receiving in the hebrides. in fact, according to local reports, more than one of the island's distilleries have suspended production due to a lack of water in their reservoirs.

vulpine organic cotton tee

and i'm wearing a t-shirt.

while the latter news might be considerably less earth-shattering than the turmoil engendered by hurricane ida, it is, to be sure, a less common occurrence than hurricanes over the southern states of america. and, if you'll forgive my directness, it's a t-shirt proffering unashamed and almost impossibly soft luxury. though i confess i have not the faintest idea of what is involved in the carbon brushing of organic cotton, whatever its intended purpose, it makes for one of the softest cotton graments i have had the privilege of wearing. my only real complaint (and it's more of an observation than a complaint), would be the uninspiring pattern applied to the front.

vulpine organic cotton tee

however, for a mere £35, there's no denying it's excellent value for money.

practically, on a garment intended for cycling use, the sprint t-shirt offers a commendably loose fit, allowing for a notably cool journey when commuting to and from work or school. it's cotton construction doesn't really lend itself as a baselayer for more frenetic pedalling, but this is more a garment designed for continuing wear off the bike, marking the wearer as more of a normal human being, than one inured to the world of sprint or summit finishes. but as vulpine position themselves closer to the jack thurston end of the velocipedinal world than that of jens voigt, that's pretty much as it should be.

the jury is out on how long islay's distilleries will be starved of water, or for how long i can continue to wear short sleeve t-shirts, but matched with a softshell, harrington, or rain jacket, provided the mercury doesn't take a sudden dive, this is luxurious pragmatism designed for cycling without calling attention to your pelotonic heritage.

vulpine's carbon brushed, organic cotton tee is available in various designs, in sizes ranging from small to xxl at a retail cost of £35.

vulpine sprint organic cotton tee

thursday 2 september 2021

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

gear today, wrong tomorrow?

pinion gearbox

the derailleur gear system has survived, pretty much intact, since the latter part of the 19th century. early versions were insufficiently advanced to have adopted the mechanical cable changing that still exists to this day, making use of rods to move the chain from one sprocket to the next, before 1928's osgear used small paddles mounted on the chainstay and levers mounted on the downtube. but even campagnolo's advanced cambio corsa gear system was ultimately superseded by the paralellogram mechanism. tour de france impresario, henri legrange, however, refused to allow such devices on competitors' bicycles, and it was 1937 before they were allowed to participate in those three weeks in july.

shimano alfine

even then, derailleurs didn't become the de facto standard until the following year, when simplex introduced a cable-shifted mechanism. those who contend that modern-day technological development proceeds an order of several magnitudes quicker than in the past, may well have a point, since it took campagnolo a further ten years to refine the cable-operated system which surfaced as the gran sport. the next significant development was suntour's slanted-paralellogram derailleur, the last piece of the modern-day jigsaw. when suntour's patent expired, both shimano and campagnolo adopted it as their own. those historical versions differed little from those that were in operation until three decades past, when shimano adapted technology developed in their fishing department to produce indexed gearing.

sturmey archer

not a great deal has taken place since then. granted, many refinements have appeared along the way, particularly since shimano invented the cassette system, now used by every manufacturer, while the number of sprockets seems to increase every couple of years. and, of course, there's the addition of electronica, both wired and wireless. when you consider the technological advancements that have taken place since the original invention of the derailleur, such as space exploration, mobile phones, computers solar and windpower, it either offers praise that the origination of the derailleur was a seminal moment in the history of mankind, or that it's a technology that has been pretty much ignored.

a parallel to the status quo effect; if it sells, just keeping doing it over and over again.

but as the derailleur gear system proceeded to win the hearts and aspirations of the competitvely inclined, the internal hub gear was not lying in the doldrums. the first patent for a two-speed version of the latter was filed in 1895 in indiana usa, an edition that subsequently proved less than commercially successful. one year later, englishman william reilly patented his own two-speed hub which entered production a couple of years later. the patents for a three-speed hub also designed by reilly, were acquired by james archer, coincidentally around the same time as a similar device invented by henry sturmey. by 1909, there were apparently fourteen competing three-speed internal hubs on the british market.

pinion gearbox

riders of sturmey-archer's three-speed hub gear will be well aware that there is almost never a suitable gear available at anytime, and it's not hard to see why the simpler derailleur system succeeded on racing bicycles. while campagnolo have recently introduced their 13-speed ekar gravel groupset, sturmey-archer's five-speed hub gear fared considerably less well. shimano, however, offer an eleven-speed, sram feature a nine-speed hub gear in their range, and germany's rohloff sports an iconic fourteen-speed hub gear. the latter is technically more complex than any of its peer group, and weighs substantially more. but sturmey also offer the facility to include a freehub as part of the deal, thus multiplying the number of sprockets by three. several brompton bikes feature this setup.

there's not much point in debating the relative merits of both the above; for those who consider themselves amongst the cognoscenti, there can be no choice other than a derailleur system, if as much for the prestige of the respective marques, as any professed mechanical advantage. hub gears seem more to be the preserve of the commuter or slow tourer for whom weight is less of a concern, married to robust, internal construction. for instance, the gates carbon toothed belt-drive works solely with hub gears, its one-piece construction and width effectively ruling it out as practical on a multi-sprocket freewheel mechanism. yet gearboxes, which is essentially what hub gears are, refuse to knuckle under and accept the inevitable. it seems that every few years someone pipes up to ask whether the derailleur's days are numbered.

gates carbon drive

german-based pinion, who offer several different gearboxes, including an eighteen-speed version, are more concerned with installung their products in the bottom bracket region of a bicycle. considering the shape and size of these gearboxes, these are not aftermarket products, unlike the previously discussed hub gears. these can only be integrated into purpose-built bicycle frames. and if you take into account the weight (well over two kilograms - campagnolo's entire super record groupset weighs less, including chainset), egan bernal and primoz roglic are unlikely to be waiting in an orderly queue as we speak.

pinion list several types of bicycle on which their gearboxes have been employed (e-bikes, mountain, travel and trekking bikes), but no racing bikes. couple that with the derailleur-agnostic gates carbon belt drive, and pragmatism seems of greater value than that of speed (probably with good and sensible reason). for instance, ribble cycles are unlikely to spend untold hours in the wind tunnel, developing a frame to which a pinion, sturmey or rohloff gearbox might be applied. to paraphrase a well-worn phrase, is it possible that there are deux-vitesses at play in the velocipedinal world?


when last in portland, oregon, i was loaned a beloved sprightly frame, outfitted with a shimano alfine eight-speed hub gear. for riding around town, it was perfect; there was no need to shift through the sprockets on approaching a stop light or road junction. shifting can be easily accomplished while stopped, far more practical than having to pull into a passing place while still in the 13 sprocket and the big ring. as has been the case since the simultaneous advent of both types of gear system, it's highly likely that both will continue to progress side by side. i'm unaware of any electronic version of pinion's gear system, though shimano's alfine system does offer a di2 version, and i have learned of several developments prioritising automatic gearshifting to enhance the cycling experience for the leisure and commuting cyclist.

the e-bike phenomenon seems likely to develop matters further in the gearing department. many have queried the logic of appending a single-chainring derailleur system to a variable-speed motor; i have seen all too many e-bikes with the chain permanently lodged in the smallest sprocket. matching an electric motor with pinion's gearbox looks like it may have greater mileage ('scuse the pun), though presently, such a combination works only on those bicycles featuring a rear-wheel hub motor.

there's little doubt that the derailleur system is a far greater paragon of simplicity than any of the hub mounted variants - have you ever dismantled even a sturmey three-speed? not for the faint-hearted - but mechanically, hub gears embrace relative simplicity, married to complexity of build and design. perhaps vernor vinge, in his 1993 prediction of the singularity, might have inadvertently omitted the chapter concerning bicycle gearing. if the bicycle is about to achieve its golden moment, as mankind's saviour and the most efficient and economic mode of transport we all know it to be, exponential development of bicycle gear systems may be about to flourish impressively enough to have the derailleur aficonados reconsider. we'll just have to wait and see.

now, two chainrings or one?

wednesday 1 september 2021

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