a holiday, a holiday, the first one of the year

what would mary do?

to peruse the monthlies, the saturday supplements and almost every cycling website in the universe, one would be forgiven for thinking that the only genre of bicycle currently in use, is that of the gravel variety. with bikepacking threatening to overtake the more traditional panniers and dawes galaxy style of touring, for the time being at least, we are being spoonfed this velocipedinal lifestyle as if nothing else existed and that the concept was only invented yesterday.

what would mary do?

not for nothing did ecclesiastes anounce that "what has been will be again, and what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.", a state of affairs that persists even to this day. while we argue over whether gravel bikes are simply cyclocross bikes with a different marketing slant, there are folks making use of this allegedly new found gate to freedom to explore the road(s) less travelled and separate themselves from the rat race, if only for a brief period of time.

but, in 1936, 17 year-old mary harvie from glasgow, undertook a 500 mile cycle and hostelling holiday along with her two sisters, recording the tales of their route and journey in a small diary. according to her son, harvie paterson, she started riding a bike to secondary school in 1930 or '31, coinciding with the formation of the scottish youth hostelling association. their two-week cycling holiday, the route of which, through the northwest highlands, skye, highland perthshire and stirlingshire, followed tracks several of which have since become main roads.

what would mary do?

mary's son, having discovered her diary of the trip, passed it onto the youth hostelling association, where it subsequently inspired lee craigie, philippa battye and alice lemkes to undertake a sort of anniversary, three-day trip. the ladies are all members of the adventure syndicate, "a group of female adventurers and storytellers who promote mental and physical wellbeing through their outdoor endeavours". and if they were going to go for a bike ride during the 90th anniversary of hostelling scotland, why not take along a film crew to record the trip?

what would mary do?

lee craigie from the adventure syndicate said, "Our respect and admiration for Mary Harvie's spirit grew and grew the more we thought about the trip she made with her sisters in 1936. In her diaries Mary comes across as someone totally up for a challenge, really curious, full of energy and above all, humble and understated about the things she did."

typically, for a bike ride in scotland, the rain was never far away, and the girls made consistent use of the drying rooms in the youth hostels at which they stayed. what would mary do? "Mary's willingness to stay in each moment and make the very best of every situation became our guiding mantra. If we were cold, lacking enthusiasm or looking for the easy way out we asked ourselves, 'What would Mary do?'. She developed superhuman attributes by the end of our trip."

margo paterson, ceo of Hostelling Scotland, said, "The great thing about hostelling is the sense of community and the unique relationships our members and guests have with our hostel teams. This adventure was born from a chance conversation between Mary's son Harvie Paterson and Karl and Lorna who manage our Port Charlotte Youth Hostel on Islay. Harvie told them that he had transcribed his mother's diaries during lockdown and wondered if we would be interested in adding them to our archives, but Mary's story was far too exciting to be hidden away."

what would mary do?

the intention had been to reimagine mary's original route, but, to avoid busy traffic, they explored the off-road alternatives, taking into account winter light and weather conditions, as well as the locations of today's youth hostel network. they made use of old drove roads and forgotten singletrack, along with sections of gruelling mountainous 'hike a bike' and bog trotting. the film, entitled 'what would mary do?' was premiered on the biking night at fort william's mountain festival this past weekend. so, if you're an adherent of the latest trend in cycling, and think yourselves to be at the cutting edge of adventure, take a look at something that originally took place 86 years ago.

what would mary do? | mary's diary

colour photos: maciek tomiczek

monday 21 february 2022

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

where did we go wrong?

dutch cycling

just like train spotting, car spotting was a hobby that yours truly and the neighbour kids used to undertake when we were bored. stand at the street corner and make a note of how many austin, morris, ford and vauxhall cars passed along the road until we got bored with that too. we all had bikes, though i was nine before i learned to ride unaided, borrowing a small red bike from a school friend and falling off repeatedly in the back garden until i didn't. in my teens, i had a paper delivery run, making a bicycle a necessity, but the recognised career path, at the time, involved riding a bicycle until old enough to drive a car. bikes were not thought of as a means of transport to be encouraged past the age of eighteen. unless you were miss lindsay at my primary school, who rode a sit-up-and-beg every day of the school week for as long as i can recall.

in the 1970s, aside from the language used on the signposts, you'd probably have been hard-pressed to tell whether you were stood in the netherlands or britain when it came to car spotting. with regards to motorised transport, the netherlands was a parallel universe to that of the uk, putting the car first and people second. however, the number of lives lost due to accidents involving cars and pedestrians, especially children, led to vociferous protests, leading ultimately to today's over 37,000km of cycle lanes across the entire country.

compare that with a mere 8,400km in the uk. and that's not even a fair comparison, for the majority of dutch cycle lanes are as motorways compared to many of the uk's efforts.

recent changes to the highway code have attempted to redress the balance, by creating a hierarchy of road users, beginning with pedestrians and cyclists at the top and heading downwards to motorised users. these are changes that many have said have been poorly advertised, and given that few are inclined to look at the highway code after passing their driving tests, that doesn't seem too unlikely a contention.

meanwhile, in the netherlands any collision or near miss between a motor car and a bicycle is automatically considered to be the motorist's fault until proved otherwise. in the uk, it almost seems that drivers can kill or injure cyclists and pedestrians with impunity, whether texting on mobile phones, changing radio stations, swapping cds, or simply claiming not to have seen the cyclist. remarkably few motorists responsible for serious injuries to or deaths of cyclists, receive sentences commensurate with their actions (or inactions). though it's not a legal requirement to wear a helmet when cycling in the uk, a lack of helmet wearing seems constantly to be highlighted when such cases go to court. i feel perfectly safe in stating that britain remains in thrall to the motor car.

the netherlands, on the other hand, has more bicycles than people and the recent quote from modacitylife podcast claiming that dutch teens cycle, on average, 2000km per year seems perfectly acceptable, putting britain's teenagers to shame. in my position as a visiting percussion tutor at the local secondary school, as i make my way to the shcool entrance, i have witnessed pupils resident in the village (1.6km from one end to the other), being dropped off at the same door by ostensibly well-meaning parents who have actually driven into the playground to do so.

the reason i have been given for not cycling since i moved here over thirty years ago, is the ever present wind. but islay is likely every bit as flat as the netherlands, a country that also suffers not only from strong winds, but far colder winters than experienced on scotland's west coast, and possibly comparable rainfall. yet dutch adults and children seemingly think little of clambering aboard their bicycles no matter the weather, no matter the distance.

a friend of mine has continually claimed that it would take a large change of mindset in the uk, to have the population move wholesale out of their cars and onto bicycles, and i have seen no evidence to suggest that his contention is wrong. even with the threat of climate change and the glaringly obvious evidence that the bicycle offers economic and emission free transport, there are probably far more considering which electric car they might acquire than are checking the shop floors of their local bike shops.

the netherlands is continually highlighted as the poster nation for the logic of encouraging bicycle use over an extensive cycling infrastructure. yet, despite the ministrations of chris boardman and cycling uk, it seems very few of those in power are paying any attention. or if they are, they obviously couldn't care less. it seems likely that the only way to approach anything like the dutch model, would be for more and more to adopt the bicycle as their principal mode of transport and subsequently apply greater pressure on our respective governments.

in my lifetime, that's probably science fiction.

sunday 20 february 2022

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

phenol adventures

whisky ventures ride

in yesterday's monologue, our purported discussion considered the tenuous connection between whisky and cycling, a relationship that, from the outside looking in, appears not to exist, but from the inside, also seems not to exist. yet despite this apparent total lack of affinity, we learned (we did, didn't we?) that the two seem frequently intertwined for no reason that i can discover. however, bear with me for yet another day, as i divulge my total ignorance of islay's major export.

there are currently three distilleries along islay's south coast, beginning with least proximitous to the village of port ellen at ardbeg, interspersed with lagavulin before reaching laphroaig. construction is currently underway for a fourth at farkin, but their product is at least twelve years distant. all of these can be reached by the aptly named three distilleries path, the name of which will doubtless require alteration when farkin becomes a physical reality.

the three existing distilleries are renowned as being the smokiest and peatiest, engendered by the high level of phenols present in each bottle. these are created by smoking the barley in a peat-fired kiln to whichever degree required by the centuries-old recipe. it is the reputation of those three that have provided islay with its reputation for peatiness, despite the other six working distilleries being either lightly peated or not peated at all (bunnahabhain).

as a teetotaller, i have sampled none of the local product, but i am led to believe that drams from ardbeg, lagavulin or laphroaig are not the islay malts with which the newbie ought to begin their career in single-malts. if i have had occasion to send an islay malt as a gift, on general recommendation, i have avoided bestowing any of the southern three.

however, from a velocipedinal point of view, assuming a visit by bicycle, they are generally of convenient interest. depending on your personal timetable, it is often possible to take a morning tour at laphroaig, cycle to ardbeg for lunch at the old kiln, before returning to lagavulin for an afternoon tour. touring all three in one day might just be possible, but it hardly allows time to appreciate all that they have to offer, and it might be a squeeze to fit in lunch at ardbeg as well as a tour.

if you are still wondering quite where this is all going (other than perhaps, to the nearest off-licence), i might mention the upcoming whisky ventures ride prospectively undertaken by rob richardson and commencing in just over eighty days (at the time of writing). benefitting cash for kids and scotland's charity air ambulance, rob intends to visit every distillery in scotland by bicycle, the schedule for which brings him to islay towards the end of may. and to celebrate his arrival at the hub of the whisky universe, he and i, along with a few friends, intend to cycle from the most southern distillery at ardbeg across islay to the most western outpost at kilchoman by way of interim visits to bowmore and bruichladdich en-route.

you would be entirely correct if you pointed out that, in fact, i could undertake this particular parcours anytime i desired, but it seems only polite to offer hospitality to a visiting adventurer, particularly one who exhibits greater tenacity in the saddle than do i. the friday on which this ride is projected to take place is friday 27 may, the day on which the 2022 fèis ìle, the islay whisky festival, is planned to begin for the first time since 2019. we would thus like to extend an invitation to anyone who may be on the island for that very purpose, to join the party.

sadly, if you've not already planned to attend the festival, you may be out of luck, for it's extremely likely that there will be little in the way of accommodation left to be had. unless you intend to camp, in which case you could try the campsite at port mòr in port charlotte. however, if you're already signed up for at least the weekend, bring your bike with you and join us at ardbeg in the morning, or hire a bike locally to do likewise. speeds are unlikely to be in wout van aert territory and there will be food at ardbeg and on arrival at kilchoman, with every likelihood of a mid-day refuelling stop at debbies in bruichladdich. distance is approximately 45km and we have all day to ride it.

if you fancy joining in, or offering sponsorship, either drop rob an e-mail at, or (other than sponsorship) to me we'd love to have you along.

whisky ventures ride

saturday 19 february 2022

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

mellow dram(a)

whisky and gravel cycling

i reported only a few weeks past on the visit paid to islay and jura by mark beaumont and hank from global cycling network. while they appear to have had a joyful time scrabbling through the undergrowth, getting muddy and dining well at the machrie hotel near port ellen, there was a theoretical underlying purpose to their trip, even if practice never quite made it to theory.

messrs. beaumont and hank were aboard gravel bicycles, leaping on the gravel train to add pertinency to their visit which sought to explore the highly tenuous connection between gravel and whisky. had this succeeded, and subjectively, maybe you think it did, it would have encapsulated the aspirations of two distinct overlaps on a hypothetical venn diagram: those who enjoy a dram or two of islay single malt and those who desire to get muddy with drop bars.

their trip highlighted one or two gravel tracks spread about the principalities of islay and jura, but in truth, there are not a lot more that would allow for several hours of untrammeled offorad riding. and as in much of the united kingdom, gravel is conspicuous by its scarcity. there is a less than onerous track leading from the high road to the site of islay's sole wind turbine, a route that passes the substantial peat cultivation operated on behalf of diageo (owners of caol ila, lagavulin and port ellen distilleries, as well as port ellen maltings, a plant that uses substantial quantities of peat). however, the downside is that the route comes to an abrupt end at the turbine, involving a return trip.

the route on jura leading from the ferry ramp at feolin on the shores of the sound of islay, to the foothills of the paps of jura, is, in fact, predominantly gravellous, and pretty much leads from nowhere to nowhere. no doubt that's the very idyllic scenario desired by many a gravel rider, but with the nearest distilleries across the water on islay, the purported connection remains every bit as tenuous as you might not think. yes, there is a distillery at craighouse on jura, but it's about 14 or 15 kilometres distant.

for a period of over two years, i hassled the unfortunate ardbeg brand manager to favour us with suitably constituted cycle jerseys, persuasions that he continually rebuffed, until capitulation was the only means by which he was going to get any peace. only a year later, he personally thanked me for my persistence, for the jerseys were selling like gravel bikes. since then, endura have produced their own liveried jerseys for bowmore and jura distilleries, kilchoman designed their own, and i have been responsible for jerseys at bruichladdich and ardnahoe. encouraging sales of these would tend to suggest that cyclists hold some affinity for the amber nectar, a fact that sort of suprises me.

i mentioned recently of my visit to the nerabus islay gin outlet in islay house square, during which time, the proprietors suggested i might like to attempt designing a cycle jersey for sale in the premises. though they mentioned that few cycling visitors were likely to purchase any gin, this was put down to the fragility and weight of carrying a full bottle in a pannier or bike pack. however, many visiting cyclists seemed keen to acquire some sort of souvenir of their visit, and a suitably emblazoned cycle jersey struck them as an appropriate garment to stock.

i'll let you know how that works out.

i'm sure we can all see the connection between coffee and cycling, not just from the italiana affinity, but the fact that the majority of pros tend to begin their racing day with at least a double espresso. and a recent feature in cyclist magazine about italy's rocket espresso, informed the reader just how many professional riders actually bought their own rocket coffee machines, even though the price of admission begins at over £1200.

though i doubt a single malt appears on the uci banned list, i have neither seen nor heard of any professionals downing a swift dram before the grand départ. yet whisky aficionados do not seem reticent to spend their money not only on bottles of islay's and jura's finest, but on whisky branded jerseys and bibs. bruichladdich have already set plans in motion to have endura produce long-sleeve winter jackets in their trademark blue, though when these will be seen is open to question. once again, i'll get back to you.

hot chillee's sven thiele and his partner in crime, brian smith, have even been known to hold a regular friday evening online whisky tasting, with assistance from the feverishly training david brodie, a tour guide at bunnahabhain distillery. i have not joined in their merrymaking, but i'd be somewhat surprised if cycling was even a minor topic of discussion, despite it being the glue that brought them together in the frst place. maybe i should have paid more attention to sven during our occasional conversations?

i have asked a wide range of both whisky aficionados and distillery marketing departments quite what it is that makes it possible to mention cycling and whisky in the same sentence without being laughed out of the room. but what makes it worse and at least partially incomprehensible, is the fact that i own jerseys and shorts from four of islay's distilleries, yet i'm teetotal.

that makes even less sense than did mark and hank.

friday 18 february 2022

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

the view from above

lucinda brand drone footage

if i recall the short eurosport piece broadcast during the tour de france several years ago, broadcast pictures gathered from the motorbike cameras and helicopters belonging to the host broadcaster, are beamed to a light aircraft flying in circles at altitude above the day's parcours. the signals received are subsequently sent to a satellite in orbit around the planet, from where they are forwarded to the eurosport studio in paris. live broadcasts are then simply transmitted to our television sets or across the internet to the online player. the editing of highlights takes place almost simultaneously to allow for timeous showing later that same evening.

flying a helicopter for an hour can cost up to £6,000, so allowing for six hours per stage of a grand tour, that's a not inconsiderable sum just for each helicopter (and there's rarely only one), never mind the cost of that aeroplane overhead, several motorbikes, and presumably renting time on a satellite. that knowledge might explain why we've occasionally refered to eurosport as "the home of advertising.", and why there's often so much of it every hour. it doesn't however, explain why the online player frequently offers commentary and advert free broadcasts.

watching the bobsleigh heats on the bbc the other night, i caught sight of the remote camera on a rail alongside the icy track, allowing capture of the starting few metres. similar devices have been seen at european cyclocross events, mostly pirouetting along overhead cables to follow the action from a more intriguing angle. this past season, that seemed a somewhat regressive step, considering i could swear i had seen the cast shadow of a drone in previous years' events.

taking into account the progress made with drone technology and the concomitant reduction in costs, surely cycle racing would be the ideal sport to benefit from drone coverage? it therefore seemed a bit of a mystery as to why drones have seemed conspicuous by their absence this past season, particularly during the world championships in fayetteville, arkansas. once again, though with admittedly good reason, it would seem that the uci might be responsible. just such a device was employed at the recent gavere super-prestige 'cross event, but the footage was banned due to the organisers having failed to apply for its use.

the footage, a brief clip of which is available on gcn racing, was a tad different from that previously witnessed, with the drone flying almost at head height, following lucinda brand (see illustration above). the good news, however, is that uci chief executive officer, peter van den abeele has announced that drone use has been approved for live recording commencing tuesday 1 march. this would surely be a preferable to the complex and largely uncontrolled footage previously broadcast by velon from within the peloton from cameras attached under the saddle or under the handlebars.

rather obviously, such flying devices will need to be controlled by professional operators; the unapproved drone used to capture the gcn footage seemed perilously close to several spectators. nobody wants a subsequent ban as a result of a near miss, or worse. however, the chaps at aso, organisers of the tour de france don't see drone use as a suitable means of filming road races, stating the blindingly obvious fact that the inages would not be the same as from a helicopter.

no sheep sherlock.

yet, as cycling tries to reduce its carbon footprint and use of expensive resources, whether aso figure it looks as good or not, it might have to be the result of a push or a shove, whether they like the pictures or not. race organisers will have to ensure that any drone use does not interfere with the sporting aspect of the event, and that detailed risk assessments must be undertaken to include riders, officials and spectators. and unsurprisingly, insurance features large in the requirements. so maybe from march onwards, we'll quite literally look at cycling from an altogether different point of view.

thursday 17 february 2022

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

the circle game

rapha in norway

in 2014, rapha cycling apparel announced the formation of rapha travel, initially offering cyclists the opportunity to travel to a number of unique european locations for several days of behaving like and being treated as professional cyclists without an inherent requirement to cycle at race speeds. the opening gambit was a four-day trip to le grand banc in provence, once a small hamlet before being restored to a remarkably cute and hobbit-like holiday location.

i consider myself highly fortunate to have been invited to that particular inaugural trip as a guest of rapha, flying from heathrow to marseille with founder, simon mottram, and then owner of evans cycles, nick evans and his wife. on arrival at marseille airport, we were collected in ex-team sky jaguar xkf estate cars and driven to le grand banc. my room for the duration featured a castle-like wooden door with a vintage iron handle, partially obscured by something akin to ivy growing around the dry-stone doorway. inside was a small, tiled hallway, leading to a shower and bathroom to the right and a bedroom in which there were two double beds on one of which was laid out a complimentary rapha classic sportwool jersey, while a range of personal care products such as chamois cream, shaving cream and soap sat on the dressing table. the view from the window looked out over the valley below.

there was a live-in french couple who cooked fresh meals each day: on arrival we sat outside at a large wooden table under the roof overhang, with a clear view along the neighbouring valley for a meal the likes of which i'd never seen before. the elevated placement of le grand banc, subsequently became my bete noire, unable to climb the steep ascent from the roads below, without clambering off near the summit, unable to pedal any farther.

the bicycles on which all guests rode were black, rapha liveried, pinarello dogmas, featuring our names and national flags on the individual top tubes, along with a kask helmet similarly branded. on our return from each day's ride, a professional mechanic whisked the bike away to a fully-equipped workshop, before fettling and cleaning, sparkling and ready for the next day's bike ride. following the obligatory shower, the day's apparel was placed inside a washbag and left outside the room door, from which it was collected, washed, dried and was ready and waiting following the next day's outing. and the attendance of thor hushovd's masseur allowed us to individually arrange an appointment for a massage before dinner.

for partners who had no wish to cycle, there were daily trips arranged to wineries, goats' cheese makers and local markets.

i'd be delighted to inform you of where we rode each day, but to be quite honest, i had very little idea of where i was at any point of any particular day. i do know that on the friday, the plan had been to ascend the ventoux, but poor weather on the provence mountain's summit prevented that happening, so we rode along the lanesque gorge instead, riding through limestone tunnels near the summit. to this day, it ranks as the finest day on a bicycle i have ever experienced.

the venture was headed up by californian, brad sauber, an experienced cycle travel expert, who i recall was not overly impressed with the cool, wet weather we experienced on one day in particular. despite being by far the slowest of the guests in attendance, i was never left to my own devices, accompanied at all times by an experienced guide. and when the jaguar team cars had moved on ahead to cater to the others, the renault mini-bus would periodically return to ensure that all was well with the lanterne rouge. though i was a non-fee paying guest, the website tariff showed the four days to have cost £1500, a price that i initially thought a tad on the expensive side. by the time i was flying back to heathrow, i was trying to figure out how they'd managed to offer so much for so little.

and then, a few years later, having expanded into the usa and further afield, it was gone. the closure of rapha travel came as a surprise, for the rationale behind the venture had purportedly been the result of dissatisfaction with prevous travel partners. the solution, according to legend, was for rapha to take care of business themselves, presenting the travel and cycling experience in the manner they thought best. the closure of rapha travel, coincidental or not, also took place in close proximity to the company takeover by the grandson heirs to the walmart fortune.

during recent sunday morning pelotonic conversation, we have bemoaned the disappearance of rapha travel, thinking it may have been a better option than the various rapha clubs dotted around the world. but then, we are but flandrians of the west, simple folk who have no experience of running a successful, multi-national cycling apparel business.

but then, by the powers of narrative magic, we arrive in mid february 2022, to the news that rapha have signed up as apparel partners to and investors in leblanq, a cycle travel company founded by former chef with heston blumenthal's fat duck group, ashely palmer-watts, and ex-professional cyclist justin clarke. their avowed aim is to offer high-end cycling getaways with top-tier gastronomy in the uk and europe. does that sound at all familiar?

also signed up are specialized, who will provide aethos bikes for guests. with prices beginning at near £2000, leblanq are also offering access to cycling royalty: brad wiggins and chris hoy, to name but two. (a three-day jaunt with the latter, to dunskey estate in stranraer, scotland costs £2495 and is currently sold out.) those who are members of rapha's cycle club can gain exclusive access to a september trip to norway, hosted by thor hushovd. also investing in leblanq are tim ashton and simon kimble, who, if memory serves correctly, were investors in simon mottram's nascent rapha cycling apparel in 2004.

i am tempted to invoke the phrase, 'reinventing the wheel', but that might seems a tad obvious.

leblanq-legendary joyriding

photo: marius nilsen/rapha

wednesday 16 february 2022

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


cruddy jockey wheel

it has been, by my own admission, a ridiculously long, drawn-out process that was finally resolved late yesterday afternoon. you may have gathered from either my words, or the occasional accompanying image, that the ritchey logic has worn a pair of campagnolo bora wto 45mm carbon wheels for the past couple of years. and while i am more than satisfied that vicenza has done its homework in producing a deep-rimmed wheelset that can fend off reasonably substantial crosswinds, there comes a point in time when the risk is far greater than the aesthetics of fielding just such a wheelset.

at those points in time, i have resorted to riding my specialized crux cyclocross bike, which currently finds itself wearing an excellent pair of challenge strade bianche 700x33 road tyres. since the wheelsmiths to which those are fitted feature a far lower profile than the boras, when push comes to hefty shove, i can ride the crux in crosswinds of up to 80kph. above that, mrs washingmachinepost insists on seeing a copy of my life insurance policy.

however, whatever current research might indicate, 33mm wide rubber struggles to compete with sunday morning colleagues riding svelte carbon fibre and 25mm tyres. i would therefore be happier if i could join the party on the ritchey, were it not for fears over crosswind gusts sending me in the direction of colonsay. lest you think i exaggerate, a few years past, specialized kindly loaned a pair of roval 64mm carbon wheels for review, during which time, i was blown from one side of the road to the other by an unexpected gust of wind, and there was literally nothing i could do about it. i suffered a similar fate many years ago when reviewing a pair of carbonsports lightweight standards, attached to a colnago c50.

with west coast storms often featuring winds of close proximity to 100kph (speeds in which i would be highly reticent to ride), in november last year, i thought it a prudent choice to revert to more suitable alloy-rimmed wheels to fend off the worst of the winds, and allow for less nervous cycling. however, this option brought with it its own baggage; the fitting of a new cassette surely also demands a new chain?

procrastination, at which i am a past master, brought me to late january before placing an order for a campagnolo 12-speed cassette with a very handy 32 tooth large sprocket. for, as mrs washingmachinepost has frequently mentioned of late, i'm not getting any younger. then there was the next hurdle of preparing the wheelset, a pair of ritchey zeta alloys that had sat forlornly in the bike shed since the boras arrived. for reasons that i won't bore you with at present, these required a modest degree of fettling, a stage of preparation that has yet to be accomplished, but only when i manage to get a round 'tooit' will it be taken care of.

therefore, in order to expedite matters, i turned to an excellent pair of wheelsmith race 24s that were readily to hand and in need of no fettling whatsoever. you will gather from the preceding monologue that matters had finally reached the stage of coagulation; in other words, fitting everything in place. that was programmed to happen on sunday afternoon, when the weather forecast promised a dry, windless afternoon. not for the first time has xcweather been well wide of the mark. so on monday afternoon, i played hooky from work an hour early and all became well with the world.

but there are, as you would expect, the fine details to be taken care of. bluntly put: crud.

it seems a tad incongruous to fit a shiny new cassette with accompanying chain to existing componentry that bears the definitive marks incurred by riding in an agricultural environment. to be more specific, the jockey cage on the record rear mech and the chainrings. the chainrings were the more obvious of the two, where oily crud can be easily viewed on both sides of the teeth, and is relatively straightforward to clean.

the two jockey wheels and the cage in which they live, however, seemed to contain more crud than could be found on the road to islay house square. using copious quantities of degreaser and the probing of every nook and cranny with a narrow, flat-blade screwdriver, i all but managed to obscure the kitchen window in front of which i demonstrated my mechanical prowess. this level of crud came as something of a surprise; i was sure there would be some, but as it turns out, there was some, multiplied by a factor of ten.

so the point of my extremely lengthy preceding diatribe (i did state that i was a master of procrastination) is that, as a subsection of humanity, in general, we are extremely poor at bike maintenance. not necessarily the clever stuff, like cable replacement, brake adjustment, wheel truing and the like, but the more mundane tasks, such as cleaning the accumulated crud from around the rear mech jockey wheels. so now that i've pointed it out, i want every last one of you to get out to the bikeshed, grab the bicycle firmly by the handlebars, and get scrubbing. i will be checking.

you're welcome.

tuesday 15 february 2022

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