squeaky cleats

squeaky cleats

i own a pair of road pedals from a manufacturer who shall remain nameless, that came with a pair of metal cleats, as is, i'm led to believe, relatively common in the offroad world. these cleats follow the offroad meme by utilising a two-bolt fixing as opposed to the the more common three point fixing plastic cleats more common in the peloton. while the form-factor and aesthetic is pleasantly minimal, after a few hundred kilometres, they began to creak; barely audibly to begin with, but ultimately loud enough that fellow members of the pelotonese began choosing to ride with others and i became 'twmp no-mates'.

not entirely in favour of ostracism, i changed my pedals back to a pair of regular road pedals, coincidentally, from the same manufacturer. these, i'm pleased to say, aside from a minor issue with the inboard bearings, have proven comfortable, reliable and relatively error free, just the sort of service you'd expect from a component that tends to be ignored until it begins to draw attention to itself. and that something suddenly raised its ugly head only a matter of days past.

as we returned from debbie's on friday afternoon and turned into a tailwind, i detected a hitherto unheard squeak/creak/rustle from the bicycle's nether regions. intially, i figured it to be the saddle, perhaps requiring a few turns on the seatpost bolt, but given that we had now ended our trip, there was no immediate means of testing that theory. as i headed out on a rather pleasant, if breezy sunday morning, the lack of any unexpected sound from any part of the bicycle suggested i might well have located the crux of the problem. sadly, i was later proved wrong, as the undentified sound reappeared en-route to uskentuie.

though i think it quite possible that my fellow pelotoneers suspected i was working on an unnanounced choreography project, the next few kilometres consisted of replicating a tap dance to identify whether the sound emanated from the cleats, the shoes, or something altogether more concerning. though simply the result of educated conjecture, i believe the creaking to result fom the cleat/pedal interface; the problem now is to effect a remedy.

it strikes me that such a malfeasance, likely common to many, would almost certainly have been the subject of one of those cheesy gcn youtube videos, but had it been so, i was unable to find one. so far, the only solution that has suggested itself is a squirt of the old faithful wd40, but that hardly seems a panacea likely to persist. it concerns me that, aside from the irritation factor, there's every possibility that i, once again, become 'twmp no mates', a situation that i'd prefer to avoid.

it has long been said that sales reps, with company cars, would simply increase the volume of the radio, should any squeaks, bangs or rattles arise during the drive from one client to the next. if any similar solution for cyclists exists, it has passed me by; i'd far rather cure the problem than simply obliterate it by surreptitious means. therefore, if anyone has come across this or a similar problem and found a bona-fide cure, i'd be more than grateful if you'd let me know.

monday 6 june 2022

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the downsides

saturday's weather

though last weekend saw the finale of the 2022 giro d'italia and the dauphiné follows closely on it's heels, despite this downhill run towards the tour de france, i still yearn for the spring classics, all of which i would happily swap for any grand tour you care to mention. and i know not whether such an admission is the result of mental conditioning, but given the usual hebridean weather patterns, perhaps i have been too heavily influenced by wind and rain? though this year so far, has produced little in the way of sun, blue sky and amenable temperatures, cursory observation from the saddle would tend to suggest that i ride better when conditions are worse.

saturday featured wall to wall sunshine from morning to night, accompanied by temperatures in the middle to upper teens, with winds gusting to a mere 18kph, which barely constitutes a draught around these here parts. if ever there was a day custom built in which to ride a bicycle, that would surely have been it. sunday, by slight contrast, had winds closer to 32kph, but the skies remained blue and temperatures were similar to saturday's. which is pretty much why a lack of cycling on saturday caused so much grief, as i'd have had the benefit of two days to sharpen those tan lines (though, in the grand scheme of things, it's grief of a very superficial nature.)

saturday was the final day of this year's fèis ìle, the islay whisky festival, bestowing fabulous weather upon ardbeg distillery for which it was their open day. concurrently with the whisky-fuelled bonhomie in the south of the island, the community pipe band had, for one reason or another, opted to make a tour of the island, stopping at several of the villages to scare cats and small children. as i may have mentioned on frequent occasions, i am percussively involved with this particular pipe band on both a teaching level and player of either snare or bass drum, depending on the requirements of the day.

having chosen to start this tour with a few moments of rousing drones and skirls at portnahaven in the extreme south west of islay, instructions were to meet at the practice hall for 1:30pm. given that i was up and about at 7am to distribute copies of the local newspaper via the royal mail van, i had examined several calculations that would have me shovel down a breakfast of porridge and orange juice, change into my secret identity, and head off to bruichladdich for a brief bout of froth supping, before time-trialling home for a shower.

under normal circumstances, that would have been perfectly doable, though i can but admit i prefer my bike rides to be longer and less fraught with deadlines. however, the potential fly-in-the-ointment was the appearance of a fellow known as the hebridean baker who was to have performed a book signing in the local bookstore at 11am. fearful that i may not have made it back in time to visit said baker for photographs (next issue of the paper), i elected not to indulge in such a fearful rush.

you can but imagine my disappointment on arrivng at the book store, only to learn that the hebridean baker was missing in action, having been thwarted in his attempt to visit islay by a broken bow thruster on the mv hebridean isles. what made matters worse was learning that this had happened on thursday eve, but no-one had thought to let me know. thus, i could easily have had a pedal on saturday morn, accompanied by a soya latte at debbie's.

situations like this, i would imagine, happen on a regular basis to any number of us, so it was less about the cause of the grief, than the grief itself. i have been in the habit of cycling every saturday morning for more years than mrs washingmachinepost would care to recall. with reference to my opening paragraph about the weather, these saturday outings have taken place no matter the conditions outdoors. in fact, when i have had waterproof apparel to review, wet and windy days have been welcomed with glee and gusto. but not being able to ride my bike yesterday was, to put not too fine a point on it, a bit of a bummer.

i do not consider myself to harbour an obsessive personality, though i daresay several would disagree. it's not always apparent to the individual, nor is it something to which it is seemly to admit. however, i now feel sadly diminished, as if one unintended day off the bike, had sapped my strength in similar manner to samson experiencing a haircut. and even though i maintain that i ride better in crap weather, looking up from the keyboard every few minutes to witness a blue sky utterly devoid of clouds, only served to add insult to injury.

make no mistake; i severely berated the pipe major at every opportunity, just in case he remained unaware of my velocipedinal displeasure. in the order of hierarchy applied to the natural world, everyone knows that cycling is several rungs higher than skirls and three-beat rolls.

sunday 5 june 2022

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are we there yet?

buffalo bikes with milk churns

on a small hebridean island, it's relatively simple to exist as a big fish in a small pond. my day job has only exacerbated this situation to the extent that, while attending an opening event for this year's fèis ìle, i was accosted by a tall gent who ran through all the usual pleasantries associated with meeting friends whom one has not seen for quite some time. unfortunately, even to this moment, i have no idea who he was, and rudimentary descriptions to friends and colleagues have, as yet, failed to reveal his identity. but he quite plainly knew who i was.

and during this past week's whisky festival, there has been a distinct upturn in the number of cyclists travelling islay's roads, several of whom, according to reports, have been less than courteous to motorists they have encountered en-route. rather obviously, i do not know any of these cyclists personally, nor do i have any jurisdiction over their errant behaviour, but nonetheless, anyone who has been slowed by their presence feels perfectly justified in stopping me in main street or in the averagemarket and laying-off about such abysmal velocipedinal behaviour.

big fish in a small pond.

the latter situation, however, is not all doom and gloom; occasionally my interlocutors have more positive outcomes in mind, and lately those have frequently concerned the seemingly irrepressible rise of the e-bike. to be honest, i have only ever ridden three electric bikes, one of which was the specialized turbo vado that was the subject of a twmp review a few years ago. i feel i ought to point out that, for the time being at least, i am most defintely not the e-bike's target market, keen as i am to continue to pedal under my own steam for as long as is practical. however, i cannot deny that the genre offers benefits, even if those often appear to be taken advantage of by those who could quite easily and perhaps more beneficially, ride a standard analogue bicycle.

my two principal reservations concerning the typical e-bike are but corollaries of their motive power. initially unaware that the standard pedelec had its speed capped at 25kph, the kangaroo effect that i experienced on the very first run, had me thinking there was something amiss with the bicycle's setup. as an individual who regularly cycles a trifle quicker than 25kph, every time that limit was exceeded, the motor would cut out, leaving me riding a substantially heavier bike than my regular choice, entirely under my own power. not unnaturally, this would immediately slow me in my tracks, encouraging the motor to cut in once more, and so on, and so on.

thus, the very essence of the e-bike turned me into a passenger, riding hither and thither at continuous average speed of 25kph, both uphill and down dale. there really was little incentive to do otherwise.

and then, of course, there's the battery. the specialized, in common with many other pedelecs, offered three distinct levels of motor assistance, the highest of which drained the battery more quickly than the other two. depending on the day's parcours, i spent many of my assisted bike rides, trying mentally to figure out whether i would have sufficient battery power to get me home. the thought of having to ride tens of kilometres on a heavy bicycle (22kg) into an atlantic headwind, scarcely bore thinking about. however, judging by the numbers i see on e-bikes these days, those are concerns considerably far from the minds of others.

but then there's the s-pedelec, an e-bike with a more powerful motor, capable of riding at 45kph, a class of e-bike that, is not street legal as a bicycle, in the uk. however, given the increasing numbers of e-bike retailers and customers, i doubt i'm the only one who thinks it more than likely there will soon be (if not already) pressure on the powers that be, to raise the speed bar and accommodate such bicycles without the current need to have a driving licence, tax, insurance and helmet. (in the uk, s-pedelecs are currently classed as mopeds).

but should that day come to pass, i would venture that we'd be guilty of somewhat stretching the definition of bicycle and cycling. revolt cycling ag, a swiss startup, have announced a bicycle, named the opium (a bit close to the bone, i would think) that will incorporate a 1670wh battery capable of offering a range of approximately 250km per charge. the bicycles are expected to feature an internal nine or twelve-speed gearbox, paired with a rear hub mounted, brushless motor, actuated by a gates carbon belt-drive. due to the weight engendered by all of the above, and the s-pedelec categorisation, stopping power is provided by two four-piston hydraulic brakes, featuring an abs function acting upon 230mm rotors.

for comparison's sake, my specialized crux cyclocross bike sports a 160mm front rotor and 140mm rear. you can perhaps visualise what i meant by stretching the definition of the word 'bicycle'. first deliveries of these opium bicycles are expected by 2023, but i seriously wonder whether it is logical to encourage such developments? if aimed squarely at the current moped market, which, i confess, i always thought would have been the market even for present e-bikes (boy, was i wrong), it makes a degree of sense. but should s-pedelecs be ultimately legitimised as bicycles, something which requires such impressive stopping power and promises velocities approaching many urban speed limits, doesn't quite fit into what i might refer to as 'jack thurston territory'.

as a machine, the bicycle has its heritage as a simple and economic mode of transport. yes, there are road and mountain bikes available, the price tags of which completely dismantle such notions, but purchasers of such bicycles are unlikely to be using them for the daily commute. i was always of the genuine opinion that the e-bike market would remain small; it is a great boon for the physically challenged and the elderly, but i was naive enough to think that those with the wherewithal to simply 'ride a bike' would eschew the promise of electrons, and continue to so to do.

the analogue bicycle continues to exist in large numbers, but the electric shadow is getting bigger (and more complex) by the minute. it is worth taking a look at the buffalo bicycle as espoused by world bicycle relief, the all but indestructible machine provided by the charity to those in regions of africa. there are images of rake-like farmers riding these heavy bikes over miles and miles of dusty tracks, taking their milk in large churns to market. or african metal workers riding their buffalo bikes laden with many kilos of steel, simply to continue their trade.

such bicycles are designed to encompass almost any purpose and to be simply maintained and repaired, even by the roadside. no doubt the recipients of buffalo bikes would be overjoyed to receive a machine with four-pot disc calipers and a combination of motor and battery that would have them cover substantial distances at speed. but the potential costs of maintenance and a pressing need to find a sturdy supply of electricity might eventually give cause for second thoughts.

progress is a hard taskmaster to halt in its tracks, but as we attempt to find a solution for the worldwide energy crisis, has at least one part of the answer, devoid of 230mm disc rotors, not been staring us in the face for well over a century?

buffalo bicycle

saturday 4 june 2022

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space exploration

dott e-bike with wreframe car

in august each year (covid excepted), i return to scotland to visit my mother who is now well into her nineties. i'd like to do so more often, but the nature of my job tends to mitigate against that happening, so i prefer to nip over in the summer months, as i can accompany her on several brief and hopefully dry perambulations of the courtyard behind her residence. little has changed by way of transport demands since i first moved to islay in the late 1980s. the ferries may have become a bit larger and arguably quicker, but i'm still looking at a two hour boat trip, folowed by two coach trips taking in excess of four hours.

the final part of the journey into central glasgow, to buchanan bus station, pretty much hits the buffers on the approach to anniesland cross along great western road, where the coach arrival time more or less coincides with the end of the school day and general congestion on the way into glasgow. i can but imagine how frustrating that is for the citylink driver. however, invariably that period of delay has me missing the 16:05 bus service west, having to settle for the 16:20 or, on rare occasions, the 16:35. either of the latter will undoubtedly bring the bus into conflict with traffic leaving glasgow over the kingston bridge and the motorways beyond, involving lengthy stationary periods where there is little else to do but marvel at the predicament in which humanity has unceremoniously dropped itself.

at that time of day, motor vehicles heading into the city experience little in the way of obstructive traffic queues, while vehicles departing for the suburbs and further south west are regularly nose to tail for several very slow miles. yet watching the vehicles that do manage to pass the bus on adjacent lanes and carriageways, no matter the size of the vehicle, there is almost inevitably a sole occupant, utilising almost a tonne of metal to transport themselves whatever distance they have need of traversing. subsequent mileage on the bus will often demonstrate that those single occupants are heading in the very same direction as am i and my fellow passengers on a remarkably frequent and economic service.

so why does everyone drive?

i am scarcely old enough to remember the glasgow of yesteryear, but even a quick scan of the surrounds will show that vast swathes of what can only have been pleasant, open greenery, have now been replaced with grey armco, black tarmac and concrete supports; far less pleasing to the eye. yet, despite growing evidence of endemic climate change, we continue to place faith in motorised personal transport. electric vehicles might well reduce localised pollution, but there's little doubt that they won't restore any of the countryside, and they certainly won't reduce the amount of road space required. in fact, recent statistics tend to support the theory that there will be even greater demand for more roads.

you and i can. of course, occupy the moral high ground, for we eschew motorised transport of a personal nature, keen to transport and explore by bicycle, often with the assistance of public transport. yet evidence would tend to suggest that, north of the border at least, the scottish government has hardly shown that its new control of scotrail is following an exemplary path. but surely logic will show that, while commuting by motor car may have its merits, on entering a city or urban area, the purported benefits turn into distinct disadvantages.

aside from traffic congestion often slowing matters to a crawl, there's the often inequitable problem of finding somewhere to park. preferably close enough to one's destination to obviate the need for a taxi, train, or long walk. many of the park and ride solutions make perfect sense, but are frequently viewed as being ideal for everyone else, '...but not suitable for me.' even supposing the latter to be true, necessitating arrival at the final destination in the very car that has been driven from home, space for that vehicle and many others like it, will still need to be found. and preferably free of charge.

i am led to believe that in tokyo, japan, purchasing a motor vehicle can only be completed on proof of an appropriate parking space. it would be an interesting scenario were such a restriction to be implemented in the uk. but in the city and urban regions, wouldn't it make far better sense to travel either by the aforementioned public transport options, or perhaps, by bicycle? admittedly, pubic transport, in britain at least, seems only grudgingly to accept that bicycles might be the best option for those last few miles. i doubt anyone has attempted to carry a pinarello dogma onto a london bus, the underground, or a commuter train service. the latter may offer bike spaces, but only if you've booked far enough ahead, and on condition that no-one else has thought to do likewise on the same service, on the same day, at the same time.

however, it's often the space that parked cars occupy that demonstrates the iniquity of that particular mode of travel. bowmore village has an estimated population of 1000 people, a village that measures marginally in excess of 1.5km from one end to the other. yet, despite featuring several wide roads along which cattle were once driven in the 18th and 19th centuries, those roads are virtually all choked with parked cars, twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. that aspect is no doubt multiplied several times over in respect of cities and large towns.

yet those motor cars, often featuring a single occupant, spend far more of their working lives, sat stationary by the kerbside, taking up room in the process of doing nothing. during wednesday's open day at bowmore distillery, i passed an amalgamation of at least ten bicycles surrounding a lamp post, occupying less space than an suv. and in an attempt to demonstrate such disparity of occupied volume, micromobility company dott has hit upon a novel means of demonstrating just how much more space a motor car takes up than (in their case) an e-bike. the photo atop this feature demonstrates just how that works.

according to related statistics, in london, if less than 1% switched from driving to cycling, over 88km of roads could be saved - more than the lengths of the north & south circulars combined. london's mayor announced in a recent press release, that traffic congestion in the city cost the economy £5.1bn per year, the equivalent of £1,211 per driver. and, as i rather tautologically pointed out above, shifting to electric cars is unlikely to make any dent in that situation. there will still be a majority of single occupant vehicles perambulating britain's roads, only powered by batteries, rather than fossil fuels.

the mayor's message also pointed out that more than 33% of london car trips could be walked in under 25 minutes and 66% could be cycled in less than 20 minutes. yet still the car pervades, even in the face of frequently irrefutable logic. it seems that these numbers also suffer from the contention that though no reason can be seen as to why others couldn't do so ' my particular case, i have to have the car'. if people spent as much time cycling or walking as they do inventing excuses as to why they, personally, couldn't possibly cycle or walk, the country's roads would be far more pleasant and less troubled, and bike proponents, such as dott, wouldn't need to surround their bicycles with wireframe replicas of motor cars.

dott cycle hire

friday 3 june 2022

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