remember the little people

cervelo s5

aileen, who currently operates debbie's café in bruichladdich, is kind enough to have on order, a weekly copy of the comic, purely to allow the velo club the luxury of having something suitable to read while awaiting the serving of a double-egg roll and soya latte. on yesterday's visit, as i did precisely that, i was unable to find this week's copy, so settled for last week's (which i'd yet to read), rather than interrupt aileen's busy workload simply to seek out the current issue.

though the principal content surrounded the tour de femme, towards the back of the issue was an appraisal of cervélo's worst kept secret, the s5. this was the hitherto unreleased frameset ridden to tour victory by jonas vingegaard and to a green jersey by the redoubtable wout van aert. of course, while the frame appears to inhabit the very extremities of the cutting edge in terms of its aerodynamic proclivities, we should not kid ourselves that the jumbo visma team would have been any less successful had they been aboard a different marque.

that's simply good marketing, allied to a dominant team. this can be witnessed by the hyperbole included on the cervélo website, to wit: "...this bike propelled Wout to the highest ever Points Classification score of the modern era. At 480, Wout was some 194 points ahead of his nearest rival-tangible proof that Cervélo keeps delivering aerodynamic gains to our World Tour athletes." that's as may be.

but the principal factor of this recently released frameset, apart from its 'cost of living crisis' price tag, is the fact that it is suitable only for electronic groupsets. unlike those who criticise rapha's prices on the basis that they want it but can't afford it, i am slightly disappointed to find cervélo following this particular route. no, i can't afford one, and no, i didn't want one anyway, but i very much doubt that cervélo are the only manufacturer who have consigned mechanical groupsets to the dustbin; it's quite possible that they are in league with shimano who have apparently done likewise.

i have ridden both shimano and campagnolo electronic groupsets, and i cannot deny that they work pretty much as designed. but it does concern me that folks will pay a substantial premium to press a switch, rather than a lever, particularly when the latter is hardly the most onerous task faced by the intrepid cyclist. if, as many of the magazines proclaim, cycling is the toughest of sports, where's the problem in pushing a lever to change gear?

but the art of remaindering does not stop there, for the s5, in common with several of its peers, has also dispensed with the possibility of rim brakes, something that shimano and sram have yet to announce, though i wouldn't put it past either of them. i would agree entirely with those who point out that, if a cervélo is not to my liking, there are plenty more frames in the sea, but my concerned riposte would be, 'but for how long? and with regard to disc brakes, saturday morning demonstrated, to me at least, why rim brakes should not be allowed to disappear.

according to my garmin on saturday's ride, the ambient temperature was 28 degrees, very definitely a heatwave in the hebrides. fortunately, there were cooling breezes to be found blowing from both the atlantic ocean and loch indaal, meaning my ritchey logic featured fully functioning air conditioning. the ritchey consists of a steel frameset with a carbon fork, available in both disc and non-disc formats. it's setup to work with mechanical groupsets, featuring all the necessary frame-mounted cable stops. but should i experience a complete change of heart and opt for a campagnolo super-record eps groupset, it would not be hard to fit. at least i have the option.

and its ability to feature rim brakes was one for which, on saturday morning, i was most welcoming. for it has become my habit to ride my specialized crux on saturdays, outfitted with 33mm challenge road tyres, but with sram hydraulic disc brakes. in the 28 degree heat as advertised above, the hydraulic fluid had expanded, causing the brake pads to rub loudly on the disc rotors, an ailment for which there was no immediate short-term solution, other than to confine it to the bikeshed and take the ritchey instead.

no doubt there are many reading who have already one hand on their e-mail account to advise just how i could have easily coped with the situation, but my point is that, with caliper brakes, it's a problem that will never rear its ugly head in the first place. the hebrides is very raely a location that experiences heatwaves at all, but if the climate change prognostications are to be believed, temperatures such as these may become as commonplace as winter gales. meaning there will be periods during which my cross bike might be persona non grata, just as there are periods when i cannot ride on deep section carbon wheels.

i am, at present, unaware of any similar problems that might afflict an electronic groupset, other than the need to remember to charge the battery at some point, but i'm enough of a pessimist to know that the more complex things become, the greater the chances of something going horribly wrong. how difficult would it have been for cervélo to have made the s5 compatible with mechanical groupsests? not very, i'd wager. but it's also highly likely that for those who can afford a cervélo s5 in the first place, an electronic groupset is well within budget.

but why not continue to accommodate those who choose not to press buttons, as well as those who do?

sunday 14 august 2022

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lithium-ion battery

as with every delineated subject, certain factors are worth repeating, though possibly not this one. however, the irritation factor is sufficient that i'm going to go ahead and repeat it anyway. those with less than a vested interest are more than welcome to nip off and do something more interesting instead.

the catalyst for my distress was an article published in the guardian newspaper of tuesday 9 august, under the heading 'uk cycling growth at risk of being left behind by europe, say experts'. and, aside from wondering just who these experts might be (a gent from the bicycle association, for one), i see no reason to doubt the veracity of the statement, given the present government's predilection for paying lip service to the art of cycling as transport.

basing the article on figures published by the department for transport, it contends that depsite the level of cycling in britain having risen 'significantly' (33%) since covid, sales of bicycles are not keeping pace. if i might interject at this point to state a perhaps obvious reason for these circumstances, i have long read that britain's households are party to possession of a substantial number of bicycles; the mystery has long centred around why so few are actually ridden for transportation or leisure purposes. the fact that cycling has risen, yet cycle sales haven't, could surely be explained by many of those latent bicycles being pressed into use?

the key to apprehension here might well be the citing of the informed opinion of the bicycle association's executive director, given that the organisation represents the needs of the bicycle industry. while it would be a falsehood to contend that cycle shop owners and cycle manufacturers are not buoyed by an increase in bums on saddles, they would likely be even happier were the increase to have provided more direct benefit to themselves. however, my irritation is not so much with those who had hoped for greater financial gain, but with some of the measures being proposed by the industry to promulgate it, ostensibly on different grounds.

according to the latest bicycle association report, cycle sales have diminished by around 25% from pre-pandemic levels. this, however, is not a state of affairs experienced across the board; the so-called 'mainstream' categories, including children's cycles are the worst affected, while the sort of stuff aboard which, you and i are likely to be seen (the 'enthusiast' market) including road and gravel bikes, is experiencing sales growth.

contradictions abound, however, with the association's ceo claiming that the cost of living crisis may be to blame in whole or in part, despite the knowledge that the bicycle has no need of expensive fuel to keep it running, and is surely more likely to alleviate household costs than add to them? cyclinguk then weighs in by claiming that cycle sales accelerated in march of this year, apparently due to the rising cost of vehicle fuel. their particular concern surrounds the possibility of sales dipping once again, if petrol prices subsequently decrease. and if you're beginning to think that there's little that would keep either of the above mentioned organisations happy, then you may well be right.

however, something that i believe i have mentioned on at least two prior occasions, concerns the almost ubiquitous e-bike. referring to the article, a department of transport spokesperson claimed that they were implementing a number of measures to support more people to use e-bikes, including £8 million for a national e-bike pilot to boost take-up and tax benefits in place to buy e-cycles through the cycle-to-work-scheme.


there are a number of folks for whom the e-bike must be like manna from heaven, but it seems that many of those would be sufficiently able-bodied to ride an analogue bicycle, just like you and i. analogue bicycles need very little maintenance and no power source other than a reasonably fit pair of legs. e-bikes in regular use, will likely require daily charging with electricity that has to be generated by some manner of means. however, this is a country that promulgates freedom of choice, so who am i to say whether those who want an e-bike should or shouldn't be allowed, no matter the physical state of their well-being?

however, that said, i see little or no reason as to why those who choose electricity should receive any greater governmental favour than those who prefer human-power. electric bicycles can already be acquired through the cycle-to-work-scheme and it would seem to me to be decidely discriminatory to favour those in thrall to the electron, while offering no comparable benefit to the essentially more environmentally conscious.

i am not the target market of the e-bike and nor will be many of those reading. the average cost of an e-bike is reputedly around the £2,500 mark, for which it is also possible to acquire a quality road, mountain or gravel bike. if the powers that be wish to support and encourage the british public to choose cycling as an alternative to public transport or the motor car, i think it more democratic to do so across the board, rather than favour one faction over another.

we're cyclists too, you know.

saturday 13 august 2022

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the sound of the machine - my life in kraftwerk and beyond. karl bartos. omnibus press hardback 634pp illus. £20

the sound of the machine-karl bartos

though i have met many an individual who protests that they care little for jazz, classical, opera, heavy metal (delete as applicable), i have not come across anyone who claims to have no relationship with music whatsoever. this differs substantially from activities such as cycling, football or foods such as avocado or peanut butter. if i might put myself forward as a prime example, i have no affinity with football/soccer, whatsoever. though the women's team recently praised to the hilt following their victory against germany will no doubt be recorded as a turning point in the history of that particular branch of the sport, four pages one day, followed by five pages the next alongside an eight-page pullout in my daily newspaper, did little to instill any greater love of the so-called 'beautiful game'.

and though that newspaper did everything in its power to do achieve the contrary, it suffers greatly by comparison with the all encompassing ambience of music. i recall when joining an art college band as drummer, being told that i would subsequently never listen to music in the same way again. i confess, i failed to comprehend the value of that advice, though i have since come to learn the validity of the statement. even i have become annoyed with myself when, listening to an album of indeterminate genre, i can only think 'what were they thinking with that snare drum sound?'

and though music can provide a source of solace in difficult times (when mrs washingmachinepost and i were first married, the incumbent of a nearby flat played the same song over and over and over again all night following, as we later discovered, a breakup with his girlfriend), it can also provide, as someone with greater perspicacity than i once described it, 'the soundtrack to our lives'. while that may be a gross overstatement relating to this current book review, the possibly tenuous connection between music and cycling is the author's part in both the composition and recording of german electronic stars, kraftwerk's single, tour de france, first released in 1983, the year prior to robert millar's king of the mountains triumph.

kraftwerk later produced an entire album of the same name, by which time karl(heinz) bartos had left to pursue other directions in electronic music.

the second state of affinity which (again, tenuously) exists between bartos and myself, is that of drumming. karl bartos was born in may 1952, his full forename of karlheinz being a compromise between the desires of his parents (who preferred karl) and grandparents. the sound of the beatles from the early 1960s, introduced by his sister's army boyfriend, quite literally and metaphorically, struck a chord with young karlheinz, inspring him to become involved himself. amongst he and his schoolfriends grew the desire to form a band, a situation replicated across most of europe, the uk and north america. his peers were already en-route to learning guitar and bass...

"As well as a band name, our line-up needed a drummer. That was a law of nature; every band had a drummer. So I begged and pleaded with my parents until they gave in and bought me a drum kit." the difference between he and i (aside from the glaringly obvious), is surely down to the fact that i'd to wait until my college years to buy my own drum kit.

bartos' progress, however, ultimately took him from nascent german beat groups, through the realisation that "... reading notes was the basic prerequisite for changing my path in life..." and the desire to undertake collegiate and academic instruction in classical percussion at the robert schumann conservatory. it was a decision with which his father found little favour: "For him, work had nothing to do with fulfilment and happiness; it was a duty you had to perform to earn your living. My wish to become a musician seemed nothing less than utopian to him." so far, so non-velocipedinal.

meanwhile, bartos continued emulating yours truly, "'I'd saved up three thousand marks and I spent it on my first car, a grey second-hand Citroen 2CV [...] (it) reached a top speed of 100 km/h, and when it got that fast it felt like plummeting to the ground in an out-of-control Messerschmitt ME-109." mine was yellow.

while studying and performing orchestral and operatic percussion, becoming exposed to the outer fringes of the musical world, including that of stockhausen, john cage and jazz, his college tutor one day said to him, "I got a call from the Kraftwerk group. They're looking for a classical percussionist for their concerts." kraftwerk was the brainchild of ralf hutter and florian schneider, who were the proud possessors of kling klang studios "...a large, high-ceilinged room: about twelve metres by six metres, with about six-metre ceilings. White brick walls, the obligatory egg cartons."

gradually karl's association with the world of classical music began to diminish in favour of kraftwerk's electronica, leading to his becoming a full-time member, though essentially still freelance, a situation that would eventually result in a degree of dissonance between the three. the common problems of apportioning of royalties and composition credits that has featured in so many professional band breakups.

along the way, matters that presumably ultimately led to the tour de france connection, began in 1979. "... Florian started turning up at the studio on a shiny chrome racing bike. It looked incredibly cool. It was very delicate, extremely light, and almost reminded me of the body of a dragonfly. [...] Then on 21 April, I got myself my first racing bike from Willi Muller's cycle shop: a Koga Miyata." though he adopted the way of the saddle for a few years, bartos admits that he found running more to his liking.

in 1983, they approached the task of producing the original 'tour de france' composition. "For this song, I had come up with a simple chord structure some time previously, which served as a basic scheme." then came the suggestion to offer the single to tour organisers, aso, but despite "In France, Pathé Marconi placed ads... 'The anthem of the summer, this year the official theme-tune of the tour. That sounded not bad at all, but sadly the single wasn't released to sync with the tour, after all."

after the parting of the ways between bartos and kraftwerk, the former moved on to enjoy a successful career as a composer and producer in the world of electronic music, none of which has any bearing on our lives as cyclists, but pretty much everything to do with contemporary music. this is no small autobiography, weighing in (literally) at over 600 pages. this book could hold my back door open in the face of an atlantic gale. however, it is well-written, well-illustrated, compulsive, and enlightening. far be it for me to burst the velocipedinal bubble, but just occasionally, there's more to life than just cycling (though admittedly not much).

suffice it to say, i doubt i'll ever listen to a kraftwerk album in the same way ever again.

thanks to the generosity of the publisher, i have one copy of 'the sound of the machine' to give away to the first sender of the correct answer to this question. who won the tour de france in 1983? e-mail your answer, name and postal address to closing date is friday 19 august.

wednesday 10 august 2022

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the sound of silence


most evenings, the residents of the village of bowmore are effectively forced to listen to the soundscape of wannabe max verstappens, as they race up main street and squeal their way round the corner at the round church, sitting stoically at the top of main street. similar to many rural villages, the main street and several of those adjoining are remarkably wide, having once been used to drive catttle to market or cows to the former dairy in flora street. however, a couple of decades past the road was effectively narrowed by the imposition of traffic-calming measures, after the previous generation showed tendencies to race each other side by side.

i know this is not a practice confined to vilages on islay, for it happens in small towns within argyll and bute on the mainland, and i'm fairly sure it's a practice that occurs in other islands farther north. no doubt there are research psychologists who could explain such aberrant vehicular behaviour, and as if the practice of driving perilously close to the speed limit on populated streets weren't bad enough, the soundtrack accompanying the evening grand prix is provided by exhausts the diameters of which often resemble drainpipes.

it is surely a matter of double-standards when a careful driver can be ticked off by the police for the noise made by a hole in their exhaust, yet deliberately making your vehicle sound like a formula-one race car is apparently quite acceptable. though barely disguised visits from traffic police have resulted in asbos being dished out for anti-social behaviour and speeding, little or nothing is said or done about the cacophony emanating from the car engines.

the irony of the situation is not one that is lost on yours truly.

according to common lore, now is about the time in the future that cartoon series, the jetsons, prophesied would be populated with jet cars and other futuristic technology. granted, there are a few one-man airborne vehicles apparently modelled on the sort of drones owned by photographers to gain aerial shots of whatever, but they seem confined to treeline heights rather than capable of reaching the moon. however, 1950s cartoons and several science fiction movies may have been more accurate in their predictions than we might have thought.

in many of the above, land-based vehicles often appear devoid of fossil fuel exhausts and glide almost silently along futuristic roadways, perhaps emitting only a silvery whine as they pass. a bit like the current crop of electric vehicles. it's a comparison that sprung to mind as i walked home from work at the end of last week. just as i turned left opposite the fire station, i was aware of the electric hum of an ev or hybrid vehicle, the exact opposite of the evenings' drag races.

that, however, is a state of affairs that has given rise to cause for concern; it seems that silence might not be as golden as it was purported to be.

when out cycling at the weekends, particularly on islay's single track roads, the intrepid rider needs to exercise multi-tasking between listening intently and constantly looking behind, lest a motor vehicle approach unexpectedly. though not the subject of this discussion, at this time of year, you might be surprised to hear that visitors are not always particularly vigilant when it comes to dealing with cyclists ahead, attempting to pass when really, there is scant room to do so. and should we be ploughing into a headwind, it's all but impossible to hear a vehicle approach from behind.

the increasing number of electric vehicles on the roads has made this a tad more difficult. when approaching internal combustion powered vehicles can be heard, it's often possible to gauge the outcome by the engine sound. determining whether or not you're about to be passed no matter what, allows a few moments to decide whether evasive action may be necessary. electric vehicles, some of them at least, can easily creep up unannounced, a problem that is only going to get worse.

however, 'tis not only cyclists that have chanced upon this potential series of difficulties. pedestrians, particularly those with sight problems, are every bit as at risk, bringing congress in north america to pass a law in 2010 entitled the pedestrian safety enhancement act. this has ensured that every ev and hybrid made in the past two years must be equipped with a pedestrian waring system. there are similar enactments on this side of the atlantic. but if you thought that the solution would simply involve making those evs sound like conventional cars, you'd be somewhat wide of the mark.

manufacturers such as bmw and volkswagen have recruited musicians and composers to assist them in crafting suitable electrically generated sounds. i confess i think this to be a high value case of overthinking the problem. but rather than dwell on the extensive measures undertaken by the automotive industry to solve what seems a difficulty with an easy solution, might i be the first to point the finger in our direction?

almost without fail, as i return from the saturday bike ride, i come across pedestrians crossing the road having neither looked nor listened prior to heading for the other side. but had they even listened, what would they have heard? other than my own puffing and panting, my ritchey logic produces no appreciable sound. and while a collision between a pedestrian and an embarrassingly slow-moving cyclist is unlikely to result in serious injury (unlike being hit by almost a tonne of electrically propelled motor car), we're demonstratively quieter than any of them.

though i understand the vicissitudes visited on the walking public by all but soundless vehicles, i was rather looking forward to the silence eventually to descend upon villages, towns and cities across the nation. after all, noise is a form of pollution too, and it seems rather odd that so much effort is being put into adding it artificially. because once they've succeeded with the car, i fear that we might be next, even though we've been silent citizens for more than 100 years.

tuesday 9 august 2022

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