thewashingmachinepost




..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

interviews & features | dvds | equipment | clothing | books | videos

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

ritchey logic ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

the definition of definition

energy bars

it probably does me no favours whatsoever to admit that, while each and every bike ride is augmented with a lion of flanders water bottle on the downtube, ten times out of ten, i will return to the croft having consumed none of the water contained within. in the process of reviewing a training manual many years ago and intent on following the instructions in order that i might test the veracity of its contents, i observed the directive to begin drinking within ten minutes into the ride. after that, i was encouraged to sip from the bottle every five minutes. probably indicating that i have the attention span of a gnat, after only a few of those five minute sips, i forgot all about it and simply rode my bicycle.

it has frequently been pointed out to me that my liquid intake on a daily basis seems particularly low, but in fact, it has ever been thus; i drink only when i'm thirsty. and that, as i recall, was the countermanding advice from a nutritionist quoted in (i think), an issue of the comic. according to her, that was precisely what thirst was for. failing to eat properly on a lengthy ride can easily be defined as an error; by the time the mistake has been recognised, it's effectively too late, given the period over which your body can absorb the carbohydrates that would put you back on your feet (so to speak). liquid, however, is apparently far more easily assimilated, so drink when you're thirsty and don't bother if you're not.

the velo club's sunday morning ride is divided into three distinct stages: pedal for around 50km, stop at debbie's for coffee and a toastie, then ride about 15km homeward. unlike several of my compatriots, i never carry any food with me, such as energy bars or gels, and as pointed out above, i rarely drink any of the water in my lion of flanders water bottle. there is no doubt that i am getting slower by the year, but i tend to think that has far more to do with age than with my irrational drinking habits. however, that undoubtedly says more about me than the practice of consuming solids and liquids while riding a bicycle.

that could very well be because i don't think of any of my rides as training in the accepted sense of that word. maddie dixon, sports nutrition expert at coastal sports nutrition would surely be keen to point out the error of my ways. according to her, "Underfuelling in the short term won't do lasting damage, but it will probably have you being left behind and exhausted by the end of the day." over longer distances than practised by the velo club, i have no doubt that she's probably correct. however, she goes on to point out that "...chronically under-fuelling your training will have mid to longer-term consequences." not only to my cycling, but my health. this has brought me to call into question the rather subjective term (in this case) implied by the word training.

for instance, just because i don't consider my 70km or so on the bicycle each sunday morning to be training, could it be that it actually is? or are we playing with semantics here? does it only become training when i say it is? what's the difference between training and a fast bike ride? i can usually average between 23-25kph, and i have a notion that would scarcely differ if i decided to actually train. however, for a bloke in his late sixties, i'm quite content with that speed; sure, i get dropped from time to time, but my fellow pelotoneers are all more than 16 years my juniors. if i'm dropping them, does that mean they need to start training?

reading further through the proffered expert advice, reveals that rides of less than 121km fall into the category of short rides, meaning that the sunday ride is not considered to be long. however, i am told that even over such distances, i ought best concentrate on a balanced meal with the emphasis on carbohydrates (does porridge count?). but it gets worse (or better, depending on your point of view).

ms. dixon reckons that i ought to eat about two to four hours before going for a ride, which would entail arising between 5:30 - 6am. i will definitely not be doing that on a sunday morning. my meal ought to be "something with a little protein and low in fibre and fat." she suggests something like a turkey and avocado sandwich (i'm a vegetarian) on whole grain bread, or perhaps oats with honey/jam, banana and peanut butter. but the clincher, seen from my vantage point is "Water is crucial. Ensure you stay hydrated no matter the length of your journey."

but following the pre-ride eating advice as outlined above, ms dixon proceeds to advise that during my bike ride of less than 120km, i might want to snack on a banana or a small energy bar. she makes no mention of a cheese and tomato toastie at debbie's. the part that bothers me and one that probably will not be cleared up, brings me back round to the definition of training. for instance, let's take that sunday morning bike ride. if it's just a bike ride, then there's probably no need to arise at stupid o'clock, consume a hearty and healthy meal before clambering aboard my bicycle, replete with gels, energy bars and bananas in my back pockets and a full water bottle on the downtube. however, if the plan is to train to get faster, even if that's only advanced by 1kph, then perhaps i ought to heed ms. dixon's expert advice?

do not misunderstand me, i am not casting doubt on maddie dixon's expert advice - far from it. but i do need someone to clear up just what is and what is not regarded as training, because it appears that my diet (and liquid intake) might depend upon it.

coastal sports nutrition

saturday 20 july 2024

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

the paradigm redefined

all road bicycle

a good friend of mine, now sadly departed, once earnestly informed me that, in the 1960s, a european manufacturer of luxury cars produced a vehicle that possessed, not by design, abominable handling. the only feasible remedy would have been to completely redesign the chassis, a commercially untenable solution, so instead they turned to the marketing department. the latter's means of defraying any possible concern from customers was to turn the problem on its head, by asserting that drive-ability of said vehicle was achievable solely on behalf of those with the skill to master its idiosyncracies. the subsequent belief system turned the vehicle's owners into an elite class; anyone who said otherwise was plainly a less capable driver.

similarly, i'm led to believe, the makers of a popular dishwashing liquid, the strength of which demonstrated a proclivity to cause mild skin rashes on a percentage of regular users. once again, the solution lay with the company's marketing department, who successfully encouraged customers to believe in a hitherto unrecognised propensity to be an avowed kindness to hands that washed dishes. in the world of commercial endeavour, such circumstances are hardly unknown. let's face it, the sole purpose of marketing is to encourage the great unwashed to purchase products of which they were scarcely aware they needed.

and still, the meme continues.

just past midweek, i was in receipt of a press release from a well-known uk purveyor of quality bicycles. one of the reasons they're well-known is through sponsorship of a uk-based professional cycle team, as well as the more common magazine advertisement and a slew of highly commendable press reviews. apparently unsatisfied with their present-day reputation, they have not stinted on their use of hyperbole to position themselves at the forefront of the velocipedinal avant-garde.

with the persistent infiltration of the gravel bicycle in our collective psyche, has arrived the dawning realisation that the reputed joys of riding the road less travelled can be easily transferred to the road bike that we all know and love. the principal thrust of this innovation has been seen on many bicycles over the past few years, in the shape and form of increased tyre clearance to accommodate an ever-widening of said tyres. where once the badge of a pure road bike was seen as a pair of treadless 25mm tyres revelling in ultra-close clearances between fork legs and chainstays, modernity has taught us that 30mm rolls more easily and sufficient clearance is the new black.

however, effectively ignoring a preponderance of all of the above, the bicycle company which shall remain nameless now claims to have 'redefined road', which, by the tone of the press release, i'm assuming is being positioned as a 'good thing'. and it appears that said range of bicycles can be all things to all people, delightfully free from any compromise or deficiencies. we are advised that the frames possess 'world-class aerodynamic performance' with 'road-focused, horizon-expanding capabilities.'

over the years, i have deliberately curated a highly cynical attitude which, by and large, has served me well so far, at the expense of unintentionally irritating one or two people, but there are statements within this marketing-driven missive that, to me at least, seem somewhat contradictory. for instance they claim that aero-optimised technology has been combined with the endurance properties provided by a less taut geometry, offering the reputed benefit of being able to ride all day, but across a variety of differing terrain. combining each of the foregoing apparently results in an 'enhanced ride experience' yet with little or no diminution in performance.

of course, such terms are entirely subjective and relative; it is left to our own apprehension as to what the ride experience is being compared, in order for it to be described as 'enhanced'.

obviously there has been a redefining of definitions, and not necessarily by the company residing at the top of the marketing ploy. for instance, uci cyclocross regulations demand a minimum tyre width of 33mm. from experience, i am well-aware that my cyclocross bicycle, when thus shod, is scarcely competitive with the speeds attainable on my ritchey logic, featuring 28mm tyres, yet these three new 'allroad' bicycles (one is an e-bike) feature tyre clearances between 35mm and 38mm. though we have been enlightened by the knowledge that wider rolls better, there is a statute of limitations resulting from the law of diminishing returns. in other words, 38mm is unlikely to roll faster than 28mm.

which doesn't really match up with claims of maximum performance.

in point of fact, i tend to think that the development of so-called all road bicycles is a rather spiffing idea. very few of us need the sort of machinery ridden by tadej, jonas and biniam, but instead, something capable of coping with britain's disintegrating roads, all manner of road furniture, and perchance the odd gravel track where tarmac just won't do. and many can appreciate the advantages of just such a genre of bicycle, intelligent enough, when invited, to appraise the veracity of that with which we are presented. the press-release seems to lean rather heavily on overkill to frame the bicycles under discussion as being revolutionary and reputedly "...redefining what's possible on a road bike."

as it transpires, these particular machines seem rather nicely priced, beginning at £1699 to £2,999. as with almost everything velocipedinal, the opportunity to spend considerably more has also been catered for by the top of the range model. but please, please, please just tell us the specifications, prices alongside a few photos, but dump the marketing hyperbole.

we're not stupid.

friday 19 july 2024

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

world bicycle relief

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

proper recycling

strava family

i, and several others, have droned on incessantly regarding the apparently endless level of so-called innovation that afflicts the bicycle industry. only a matter of days past, i received a missive from a good friend of mine, about the suntour/pedersen self-energising cantilever brakes that were once the darling of the mountain bike world. their reputedly startling efficiency in the face of adverse deceleration was subsequently overturned by the relative simplicity of the v-brake, but even that has effectively been consigned to history by the hydraulic disc brake, a means of stopping that has even inveigled its way onto the hapless road bike.

but rather than discussing the pros and cons of deceleration, we perhaps ought to be looking a smidgeon more closely at the acceleration of development by both cycle and component manufacturers, assured as we are by their marketing departments of the overwhelming necessity of ownership, but in reality, simply an unsubtle means of maintaining or increasing the sales figures. though you may think me naive in such matters, i am well aware that any business requires to turn a profit in order to remain solvent, but i still maintain that this does not need to be an endless and perpetual quest. there surely has to be a point at which any business is making sufficient return on investment to pay the bills?

but then, of course, there is the ever-present notion of relevance. once you've sold everyone double-glazing, then what do you do? in the case of double-glazing, you add one or two more panes of glass and hope that everyone falls for the subterfuge. in the case of the bicycle, if a different type of carbon fibre or method of layup fails to attract, there's always aero tubing, the addition of the previously mentioned disc-brake, or perhaps the wizard wheeze of stuffing all the cables and hoses inside the frame. surely that ought to work?

but instead of having products from a single manufacturer (yes, i'm looking at you, campagnolo) that fail to be interchangeable, perhaps the bottom line could not only be kept healthy, but in the process, gain the unfailing approbation of those who may have bought a previous model? such happenstances, however, are hardly the preserve of the bicycle industry, but in the light of how self-congratulatory we can often be regarding our professed environmental credentials, bicycles tend to be every bit as much a part of the built-in obsolescence that afflicts many other facets of modern life.

could the industry as a whole, perhaps take after isla rowntree, former and again, current owner of islabikes? prior to retiring as owner of the latter, islabikes had been making quality bicycles for children for eighteen years, with an over-arching philosophy that each bike be robust and sturdy enough to not only serve the child for which it was purchased, but younger siblings or relations to whom it may be handed down. additionally, their construction eschewed any technology that was deemed superfluous for the average child, such as suspension, oversized tubing, or an incredible heavyness of being.

as i can attest from personal experience, children tend to be far less attentive to their bicycles' wellbeing than those of us who demand the latest in pointless doohickies, bringing an inevitable need for regular maintenance. let's face it, if you'd owned an islabike for eighteen years, there's a better than evens chance it will require one or more spare parts. which is where we join isla rowntree in july 2024. though she continues to state that no more new bikes will be produced, she and a colleague are now operating an online repository for spare parts.

"We sold nearly 250,000 Islabikes - some may need a little love and care by now, but most can be rejuvenated with a few parts."

the ability for that to happen was one of the principal design parameters of the islabikes range, augmented by the bonus of backwards compatibility, meaning newer components were always designed to fit older models. so is that a possible forward route for the rest of the industry? take development to a practical limit, then stop and concentrate on maintaining all existing frames and components, rather than bringing out the latest must have item on which nothing from the previous range will fit?

it has often been promoted that it's not that humankind needs to build more environmentally sensitive products, but that it needs to stop making more unnecessary stuff altogether, thus reducing our impact on a dying planet. i'd prefer not to come across as a dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist, because i really don't see myself that way, but do we really need close on nine bottom bracket 'standards' and differing chainring bolt circle diameters that prevent interchangeability between products from the same manufacturer? are four-point crank arms a major improvement over the previous five?

now, about the vehicle convoy in the tour de france...

thursday 18 july 2024

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

share the pain

strava family

i cannot deny, i had forgotten it existed, perhaps due to a drop-off in actual interest from members of the velo club. seemingly gone are the days when the three riders up ahead would suddenly take off in an unwarranted direction, leaving me to wonder what it was i might have said to cause this sudden departure. it was only following a brief passage of time that i would learn of a hitherto unknown or un-created nearby strava section that had been calling to them from their garmins.

lest you think my luddite tendencies extend that far, let me just confirm the existence of just such a gps device upon my own handlebars, but that which it may or may not record, remains between me, myself and i; strava hasn't a clue where i've been, what i've done, and just how slowly that may or may not have been accomplished.

as the years have rolled by, my personal use of the social media formerly known as twitter has considerably diminished. in common with my refusal to acquire cymbals that highlight the sixth decade of the 20th century with an apostrophe (ie 60's - it's a plural, not a possessive), i find myself less and less in favour of a platform that insists on being recognised solely by the 24th letter of the alphabet. whether that is the reason others have fallen away from x.com or not, i'm unaware, but it certainly no longer fulfils the original reasons that encouraged me to sign up.

in a different way i think the same may be true of strava.

no longer is strava a topic of conversation in the sunday morning peloton; its place has been taken by zwift and discussions concerning the correct functioning and calibration of wattbikes. these, to be honest, are every bit as tedious as when strava was first and foremost; i'm eternally grateful that we have some decent scenery around these here parts, or i may have cause to reconsider just who my friends are.

but this lack of concentrated conversation concerning strava might have spread even as far as strava towers in san francisco, as their most recent development seems ominously like a means of bolstering the coffers. despite turning in a decent profit (revenue of $275 in 2023), word on the velodrome would indicate that, while the company's installed number of users continues to grow, the number of active users is in decline. this has proved to be the case with many indoor training activities following the reputed end of the covid pandemic. already, peloton has instigated a rental service in the face of declining sales, and the departure of its ceo.

strava's latest strategy, (and i could be well wide of the mark by touting this as a hedge against further decline of regular use), has been to offer a shared annual subscription, comfortingly entitled the family plan. cheerfully continuing to describe their subscribers as athletes, this extended plan allows those athletes to share with anyone they'd like, such as friends, family or training partners, as long as those who fit the latter descriptions all live in the same country and are not already strava subscribers. though i get the family angle, i'm afraid my stingie-ness would be inclined to advise my training partners/friends to pay for their own subscriptions (£8.99/month or £54.99/year in the uk).

however, should your financial largesse be several levels more generous than my own, a family plan will cost you £99.99 per year, with no apparent monthly payment option. according to strava's reseaerch, over half their athletes (notice how tired that gets very quickly?) say that they're motivated by friends and family members who work out, and 77% feel more connected when they see friends' and families' activities on strava. that, i would contend, ought surely to be of concern to society?

however, the colourfully named zipporah allen, chief business officer at strava, offered by justification that "the magic of strava lies in the motivation that's found in our global community." all of a sudden, that apostrophe in 60's seems far more benign.

strava

wednesday 17 july 2024

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

happy days are here again

mercian

a matter of a week ago, as i headed down bowmore main street for a ristretto at a nearby coffee and book emporium, i espied two bicycles atop a parked car. in a moment of arrogant disparagement, i failed to note the branding on that furthest from my deliberate path, but i did note that the other bore the unmistakeable lettering attributed to mercian cycles on the downtube. it would not be unfair to say that the bicycle had seen better days; the paintwork lacked any sheen whatsoever, and what may once have been an attractive red and cream colour scheme, now looked a tad dowdy, with the red veering close to light brown and the cream almost entirely comprising a shade of off-white.

nonetheless, it still bore attractive qualities personified by two downtube gear levers of indeterminate branding, what was once undoubtedly a polished alloy chainset, and brake cables that exited the top of the brake levers. all the above was festooned about a lugged steel frame, the fabric of which offered great appeal to the retro part of my velocipedinal appreciation. lord carlos would indeed, have been similarly impressed.

however, what lessened that impressiveness to a substantial degree was the fitment of a black plastic rear derailleur that truly had no business being attached to such a stately bicycle. what on earth had the owner been thinking to append such an unsavoury gear-changing device to steel tubing with the word mercian about its person? though halfords or evans cycles would hardly feature a suitable replacement for what had originally graced the rear dropout, there are plenty of alternative sources that would have been only too happy to comply, had they ever been asked in the first place.

standards, dear boy, standards.

that said, this bicycle's presence before me was a salient reminder that the company responsible for producing said marque had recently decided that the current market, obsessed with integrated cables and disc brakes along with gravel and aero, was not predisposed towards their more traditional, steel offerings, and had thus opted to wind up the business for good. i'd imagine that, apart from a few die-hards and luddites such as yours truly, we're possibly the only individuals troubled by such a despondent set of circumstances. as it turns out, a select few derby-based cycling enthusiasts deemed it to presage an unpalatable future, and opted to acquire the business, lock, stock and barrel.

there will, of course, be those who view this as akin to reviving blockbuster video, tower records, or even woolworths, but some things are just worth saving, and i'd like to point out that i think mercian cycles to be of far greater importance to civilisation, than any of the aforementioned. just like vinyl records, cassettes, and real books as opposed to the 'e' variety, i'm ever hopeful that cycling society will regain its love for steel bicycles, particularly those joined by cast lugs. i doubt there's any real harm in harbouring ambition, even if its achievement is essentially outwith my direct control.

according to those who are now the brand's new owners, they will "...continue to hand-build our frames in the heart of England, maintaining the heritage and spirit of Mercian Cycles while fostering innovation and growth." rather obviously, the continuation of the marque is something that will require external support; the new owners need sales to survive. keeping mercian cycles alive needs to be more than an intangible ideal. fortunately, there will be some continuation in the manner in which mercian bicycles are built, for as part of the transition, the business has retained many of the 'talented craftsmen' who build each bike by hand.

much to the dismay of many, i'm sure, a mercian vincitore with chater-lea chainset and grand tour pedals, handbuilt wheels on polished alloy campagnolo record hubs, new-old-stock campagnolo record groupset and a honey coloured brooks b17 saddle would be very much the 'bees-knees'.

that's christmas sorted.

tuesday 16 july 2024

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

hot chillee ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

across the great divide

goalposts

friday afternoon brought seasonal, yet un-hebridean weather; sun is not something to which we have become in any way accustomed over the past few, so-called, summer months. alternate fridays demand that i and two sunday morning colleagues, ride to debbie's to deliver copies of the local newspaper. in other words, an excuse for coffee. we were not long there before we were joined by a married couple, also on bicycles, but which turned out to have battery charged motive power. of this we were unaware until, in conversation, the gent made it plain that he and his wife were not professionals like my colleagues and i.

the odd part is that, while i doubt he was kidding, by describing us thus, he was highlighting the difference between them, as holidaying visitors and ourselves. happy to use e-bikes as a means of visiting as many of the distilleries as they could cram into a week's visit, their relationship with the bicycle was somewhat different than our own. had this meeting transpired even five years ago, i'm pretty sure that their bicycles would have been relatively tired touring bikes, with rear racks and a single pannier attached. technology has effectively lightened their load, so to speak.

of course, the mistaken allusion to professionalism on our behalf utterly fails to hold water. however, fast we like to think we are on the road from bowmore to bruichladdich, even the guys in the tour's grupetto would arrive well before the velo club peloton. however, a bit like a go-faster stripe on the side of a motor car, it is possible to look the part while not actually being the part. for starters, all our bicycles feature drop handlebars and a smattering of carbon fibre, even when astride steel frames. and we're generally inclined to wear bona-fide cycle jerseys and bibshorts, completing the facade as long as no-one checks the average speed on my garmin.

in our defence, i've yet to see anyone in the local swimming pool wearing levis; specific cycling apparel, while resembling that of the professional classes, is by far the most comfortable and pragmatic for the job.

i'd like to think that those of us in the local peloton are happy to engage visiting cyclists in conversation, offering any snippets of local information that might prove useful during their visit; elitist we are not. but there's no doubt that our mode of dress effectively separates us from both touring and leisure cyclists.

so does that actually make us elitist by definition, despite all that i've explained above? and by inference, i include every cyclist who identifies with the above description. let's not beat about the bush, being a cyclist in the uk leaves us wide open to accusations of eccentricity or idiosyncracy. those who commute to work or school each day will be well aware of that, probably far more so than yours truly. several of the major, and minor apparel purveyors have done their best to provide cycling apparel that fulfils every needful demand, yet looks more like everyday clothing than a jersey with three rear pockets.

the jury is still out on whether that's actually possible.

soccer fans seem to easily blend into daily society, even to the extent of wearing their jerseys into the local averagemarket. i was even in the band at a wedding reception when one of the guests dressed in such a manner, without so much as a raised eyebrow from his fellow guests. i'm not sure that would elicit a similar scenario were someone to have arrived wearing a visma lease-a-bike jersey.

so let's just accept the fact that we're a little bit different, and celebrate the fact. i'm not sure that the onus is on us, as cyclists, to attempt to fit into 'normal' society. there will have been far more watching last night's euros final, than glued to the tour de france stage on itv4 during the afternoon. (it's telling that the soccer final was shown on itv1, while velocipedinal matters are happily relegated to itv4). i cannot deny that there is a secret pleasure in attempting to discuss the outcome of the stage with the girls in the office, well aware that they're not at all interested. because they'll likely mention the soccer final, about which i couldn't give a classified hub.

but come the revolution...

monday 15 july 2024

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

cycling uk ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

the real thing

dw drumset

mrs washingmachinepost has been in scotland this past week visiting our daughter and grandsons. this change in circumstances has allowed me to setup the smaller of my two drumsets in the sitting room, all the better to hopefully improve my percussive skills on the real thing, as opposed to a practice pad that sits on my knees. the latter allows the honing of sticking skills, but offers little in the way of opportunity to improve my co-ordination and, indeed, my reading skills. these render the word 'rudimentary' particularly inadequate, and that, in the coming weeks, might prove a bit of a problem.

i have previously mentioned that i visit the local secondary school on a weekly basis to tutor drumming at three different levels; national 5, higher and advanced higher. unfortunately, from my point of view, the lad set to undertake higher drumming this coming year, is remarkably good and has already covered the majority of the curriculum. repeating it week in, week out, would promise little more than a very boring time for both of us.

in order to forestall this potential boredom, the music teacher has provided me with an alternative, the scores of which provide an opportunity to improve the chap's musical, reading and improvisational skills. i'm more than familiar with the regular fare which i have taught for the past seven years, and even though i'd still be hard pushed to sight-read any of the pieces, i'm perfectly capable of noting where errors are being made, and well enough versed to demonstrate how to play the more difficult parts. the stuff in this book is going to be new to both of us, and i'd prefer not to start the year on the back foot.

therefore, having my drumset assembled in the middle of the sitting room has provided the opportunity for yours truly to read the charts which will soon become a regular part of both our weekly digest. in the process of reading these charts, i have come to realise that were i to have had the facility or opportunity to practise in this manner over the length of my drumming career, i would be a considerably better drummer than is presently the case.

however, along with many aspiring musicians, my housing circumstances preclude practising at all on a real drumset; living in terraced housing has its sonic disadvantages. though i count myself as an enthusiastic and none too loud drummer, i'm not sure my close neighbours would be likely to agree.

thankfully, that's not a set of circumstances that afflict my velocipedinal activities; in fact, quite the opposite. prior to moving to the hebrides, i had a fair distance to ride before reaching open road, but even then there was substantially more vehicle traffic than is the case on islay. i feel sorry for friends who live in the big cities. a long ago visit to a colleague in london town resulted in a long and remarkably fraught bike ride to reach the leafy lanes on the city's outskirts, and even then, leafy lanes bordered with hedges did not offer a safe haven from irate drivers, upset because they'd been held up for two seconds longer than expected.

to that degree, i fully understand the desire of many to acquire a smart trainer and join the ranks of the zwifties. but it strikes me that riding in such a manner is akin to my having to drum on a practice pad; it fulfils a need, but it's very definitely not the real thing. which is why i simply do not comprehend why those who live in less worrying environs, find it necessary to ride indoors. granted, north of the border has a perfectly justified reputation for being wet, or windy, or often both. but, at the risk of pointing out the glaringly obvious, that's what waterproofs are for.

assuming that you might want to race, or simply perform well in a series of sportives, at some point in time, the elements will have to be braved. you simply cannot learn to ride in a headwind while pedalling in your living room. nor can you adapt well to riding in pouring rain by the same means. those for whom riding outside is feasible and reasonably safe, would, in my humble opinion, be well advised to take advantage. just like the fortunate residents in towns and cities across the pond, who can setup a drumset in a basement and practise to their hearts' content without fearing a knock on the door from irate neighbours.

i have seen demonstrated a mode of 'air drumming' in which the drummer's limbs are tracked by sensors, returning the sounds that each would make were a real drumset to have been present. or there's the almost ubiquitous e-drumset, where donning a pair of headphones means while you hear drum sounds, the neighbours hear only the equivalent of a practice pad. but both of those have more in common with zwift and its peers, than with wood on a plastic head attached to a cylinder of wood.

i am resigned to my fate as a drummer residing in a row of conjoined houses; it's probably too late to realise much in the way of improvement in any case. but if the great outdoors is just outside your back gate, might i suggest you take advantage of the real thing, no matter the incumbent weather conditions? technology is doing its very best to consign us all to a virtual world conditioned by artificial intelligence, a state of affairs almost inconceivable only a decade ago, but i think we'd be better off with the real thing. other than track bikes, the bicycle was designed for the great outdoors.

let's try and keep it that way.

sunday 14 july 2024

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

backstage

backstage

in my latter years of secondary education, i was a member of the school drama society, not, i hasten to add, because i harboured any bohemian or thespian aspirations, but as stage manager for both school plays and, accidentally, for the school opera, the latter presented in the town hall (sadly, now converted into flats). with the drama club existing under the ministrations of the art teacher, as a future art student, there was a certain amount of intangible pressure to take on one role or another. i opted for scenic designer/painter and stage manager. the transformation from empty stage into the interior of a country house, was well worth witnessing, even at school level.

and a bit like islay whisky aficionados pretending to believe that the spirit is actually matured in a stone warehouse only centimetres from the ocean, if the scenery is appropriately created, the audience will suspend disbelief and invest in the alternate world that has hopefully been created. my art teacher taught me which colours excelled under stage lighting, and which i should avoid, and so accomplished were the actors and actresses (one of whom went onto a successful career on stage and at the movies), that the whole enchilada drew parents and staff into the very world we'd hoped to create.

yet only a few footsteps taken backstage would have revealed the pretence; the scenery (known as flats) consisted of sheets of hardboard nailed to a wooden frame, and held upright by angled supports, augmented with heavy weights to forestall any untoward movement. the outward portion of the flats were painted, or wallpapered to resemble the interior of a room, also concealing several individuals whose job it was to enhance the pretence practiced upon an expectant audience. it is a common ploy that can be seen at pretty much any theatre across the world.

a similar state of affairs can be witnessed if examining the html code that allows these black and yellow pixels to be seen more or less in the manner i fervently hope is present across the various devices on which reading takes place. web browsers need instruction on how these words and pictures are intended to be seen, instructions that i have pre-defined through what are referred to as cascading style sheets (css), though i'm not ashamed to admit that my grasp of such matters is rudimental at best. though you and i see a background of yellow, the web browser needs to know, either that it's #ffcc45 or 255,204,69.

the principle i'm trying very badly to describe was probably best illustrated by the movie series the matrix; effectively the workings and machinery behind our day to day world. and it is a state of affairs that permeates cycling, every bit as much as it does almost every other strain of modern living. watch any recent youtube video looking at this year's eurobike, and though the outward gloss persists even there, if you look close enough, there are an endless number of clues.

the outward presentation of the world of cycling, the one in which we are all invested to one degree or other, consists of possibly the widest range of suitable apparel available to any sport, along with an even wider range of bicycles and componentry. the facade is sustained, to a certain extent, by cycling websites (yes, possibly even this one), cycling media and related marketing outlets. the end result is, by and large, immaculately conceived, one into which we have willingly fallen hook, line and sinker. the longer we remain inhabitants, the less discriminating we become and the less likely we are to notice the ever-present hints.

some of those backstage pretences floated to the surface post-covid, when the cycling industry found itself in a bit of a pickle, predominantly due to overstocking, compounded by diminished sales. lowered ticket prices on bikeshop floors were the main hint, simply accepted as a bonus by those with limited perspective on the man behind the curtain.

backstage, however, matters are less carefull concealed and considerably less velocipedinally inclined, designed to appeal solely to those whose principal activity is to keep those of us in the matrix supplied with that which our hearts desire, quite frequently without any fascination for the world they support. to briefly elucidate that of which i write, a london-based investment bank with expertise in m & a (mergers and acquisitions) has apparently identified the bicycle industry as one ripe for a new wave of the latter.

we have previously discussed the fact that many of cycling's premier brands are owned by large, multi-national conglomerates or investment companies, mostly because they see cycling as likely to offer a healthy return on investment. in the case of tadej's favoured marque, chimera investments llc did indeed see a decent return, with colnago's profits having tripled in the past year. it's reasonably easy to identify in which part of the matrix you have landed, by analysing the use of language; to wit:

"With the market broadly expected to have largely dealt with its overstock problem in 2025, the report forecasts gradual recovery with significant upside in the medium to long term, with 2026 and 2027 marking 'pivotal years for increased M&A activity and investment opportunities'.

how many of us have had that conversation in the sunday morning peloton?

it is, however, a relationship with symbiotic properties; one depends very much upon the other. without our obsessing over carbon layup, electronic everything and constant switching between aero, non-aero and ultra-light, everything would come to a grinding halt, no-one would invest, and we'd still be riding lugged steel-tubing, with downtube gear levers and brake cables that exit the top of the levers. if that sounds like bliss, consider that even that particular niche corner is catered for on this side of the scenery. but the fact that there are enough willing to buy into the first part of that proposition, means there's still plenty of work for the stage managers and scene painters.

there has to be a light side of the moon, to contrast with the dark side.

image: ron bull/toronto star

saturday 13 july 2024

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

wheelsmith ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

outsmarted

disc_brake

the recently ended eurobike expo in germany had on show many thousands of new developments, many of which were based on the way things seem to have been heading for the past few years. anything electronic, preferably wireless and 3d-printed was given exhibition space and often nodding approbation from those who had the stamina to walk the various halls. though i've never attended eurobike (and to be honest, i'm very unlikely ever to do so), the majority of details brought to the fore by the likes of gcn, hambini and dave arthur were almost certainly aimed at the pointy and expensive end of the cycling market. the sort of technology that's probably covertly being tested in france at present, but yet to be adopted by the industry at large.

however, the cycle industry is one which at least partially relies on the trickle down philosophy, where expensive technology eventually reaches the masses. the poster boy for that assumption would surely be shimano's di2, or sram's axs, both of which began life at the top, and have now reached the lower castes, where the price of admission is far more amenable to the rest of us. in several cases, it's possible that the trickling calls into question the very need for the top of the range offering. if 105 works every bit as well as dura-ace, why not save a few pennies and buy aero wheels that you don't need?

however, in our closeted, idiosyncratic corner of the world, there is a tendency to think only in terms of dura-ace, ultegra and 105, or red, force and rival. but any of you who have kids of a certain age, will be acquainted with the deeper penetration of technology, one example of which arrived at the back door of the croft only yesterday afternoon. many a long year has passed since kids' mountain bikes featured disc brakes, predominantly of the cable variety; after all, which nine or ten year-old has need of the stopping power or complexity of hydraulics?

as it transpires, need seems to have very little to do with it, even if the example under discussion exploits the two extremes in one bicycle. to make matters worse, said velocipede is a rather large bmx style machine, with a width of handlebar that challenges that of a hebridean single track stretch of tarmac.

on arrival, this bmx (do top-level bmx bikes actually feature hydraulic disc brakes? surely the very definition of pointlessness?) was minus the larger part of the front brake lever, with only the handlebar bracket left as evidence that such a lever was ever there in the first place. that lever was originally connected to a deep-drop front caliper rim brake that looks as if fabricated from bacofoil. yet the rear wheel is replete with a hydraulic disc brake, several levels of evolution above its frontmost partner. or at least, it would be more efficient technology were it in working order. which it isn't. in fact pulling hard on the lever elicits no response whatosever, indicating either a distinct lack of hydraulic fluid, or an entire atmosphere of air bubbles contained within. either way, i find myself totally unequipped to know where to begin.

though i'd prefer that you not think the less of me, my technical abilities were acquired long before hydraulic disc brakes were a twinkle in the bicycle industry's eye. should it turn out to be devoid of fluid, i have no idea which type. if simply a case of the brakes needing bled, i confess i have no idea where to start. it's a potential problem that i have successfully avoided when related to my specialized crux cyclocross bike, principally on the basis that the sram disc brakes in its possession continue to work precisely as desired. however, i do have to wonder of the logic of applying such technology to children's bicycles.

the basis for my consternation is bolstered by the two bikes that accompanied the latter's arrival. on one, both front and rear gear cables appear to be in need of replacement, predominantly due to the bicycle having spent remarkably little time indoors (as evidenced by a chain that retained its odd shape when removed). by and large, children do not look after their bicycles. more often than not, they are to be seen lying forlornly on the pavement, where they've probably lain for more than a week. and you can almost guarantee that, when dropped (as they inevitably would have been), it would be with the derailleur side down.

when i was that age, my father insisted that i fix each and every puncture, that i checked the tyre pressure at least once a week, and that every chain link (and only the rollers), received a measured drop of three-in-one oil every saturday morning.

even casual observation would suggest that those days are long gone, and that the demise of the average child's bicycle is hastened both by a complete lack of maintenance by any member of the family, and an apparent reduction in quality of build. while events such as eurobike concentrate on the next series of big things, it would be nice if a few sections of the industry had the perspicacity to realise which of those technologies simply do not belong on a child's bicycle. statistics would suggest that there are far fewer independent local bike shops than there were when i were a lad, playing directly into the current state of affairs that dictates few parents seem willing to seek professional fettling for junior's bicycle.

kids' bikes ought to be the very paragons of simplicity, remaining compliant with the meagre mechanical ability of the average parent. children under the age of ten simply do not need hydraulic disc brakes, full suspension, or more than five gears. whatever happened to common sense?

friday 12 july 2024

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

willow bicycles ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

i've changed my mind

trek bicycle

in the beginning, there was the threaded steerer and a headset to match, where any play in the headset could be initially cured by wielding a sizeable pair of spanners and tightening the two locknuts to prevent that fore and aft play when braking. the additional advantage of the threaded steerer was its partnering with the once ubiquitous, quill stem, allowing a raising and lowering of the bars, depending on the rider's height. it's a feature that still persists on the eurobike award winning buffalo s2 promoted by world bicycle relief. i believe it's possibly that feature alone that allows wbr to substantially minimize the requirement to keep stock of several frame sizes, and allow for a more pragmatic approach to the provision of bicycles in the poorer regions of africa.

the advent of the a-headset pretty much ruined any chances of continuing the ability to adjust handlebar height to suit each rider, though it's a courtesy that would hardly have survived the encroachment of carbon fibre in any case. aluminium eventually brought the necessity of fitting internal and subsequently, integrated headsets, if only to forestall any thoughts of equipping bicycles with very large external headsets.

though matters seem now to have been taken out of his hands, ernesto colnago was once on record as saying that no bicycle bearing his name on the downtube, would ever be fitted with an integrated headset. however, at around the same time he also alluded to the notion that never would any colnago bicycle be built anywhere other than italy, so you can see how that worked out. i often wonder if ernesto was arm-wrestled into capitulation; if left solely to his discretion, would tadej be riding aboard a colnago bicycle constructed in italy, with both internal headset and bottom bracket. or does the great man lie awake at night, harbouring regrets of making such bold statements?

i wonder the same thing about the trek bicycle company, which, in something of a rash move, made it plain several years ago, that never would they allow any of their authorised dealers to ship a bike direct to the customer without first having visited said dealership to receive a full bike fit, ensuring that their eventual purchase was admirably and technically suited to their size and purpose. this, said trek at the time, was to prevent unnecessary and potentially expensive returns, when the customer realised they'd ordered the wrong size. this, i can recount from personal experience, extended to the intrepid reviewer.

at the time of the initial announcement, i e-mailed trek's management to point out that, as an island dweller, and in common with those domiciled in britain's more remote rural locations, they had, in effect, added a surcharge to the purchase of one of their bicycles. had i set my heart on a new trek bicycle, i would have required to undertake two ferry journeys, two bus trips and incurred an overnight stay in glasgow city, in order to comply with their apparently restrictive practice. in fact, there was the very likelihood that i might have had need of a second night's stay in glasgow (location of my nearest trek dealer), should the timing of the necessitous bike-fit been unable to fit in with bus and ferry times for the return trip, one on which i may well have been unable to transport the desired and now perfectly fitting, trek bicycle.

it may not be surprising that they did not respond to my e-mail. however, on the off-chance that this might have heralded similar practices by other bicycle manufacturers, i contacted several uk distributors to enquire if this was likely to be the case. thankfully, none seemed keen to follow in trek's tyre-tracks.

a short period later, in response to a request to review the trek madone of the day, i was advised to visit alpine bikes in glasgow to undergo the bikefit mentioned above before they would ship the bicycle across to islay. strangely enough, and despite having undergone the required bikefit, when the bicycle arrived in its cardboard box, none of the parameters revealed by the fitter had been applied to the madone. go figure.

however, now that a number of years have passed and the retail landscape (as i believe is the correct reference) has unquestionably altered, trek have obviously had time and cause to reconsider, having recently announced that it will now be possible to place online orders for their bikes. and in order that their authorised dealers do not have their collective noses put out of joint, should the requested bicycle be in stock at the customer's nearest dealer, the sale (and profit) will be theirs to process. otherwise, trek will ship the bicycle from the warehouse, and the nearest dealer will be suitably compensated.

but as at least one social media commentator has pointed out, trek operate a network of branded stores, sometimes in relatively close proximity to an independent bike shop; so how will they figure out to which any commission ought to be paid? now that everything is becoming simpler, it seems that complexity is rarely far away. and whatever happened to the need to ensure the model and size ordered are the prudent choice?

money still talks.

wednesday 10 july 2024

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

help me out here

classified hub

i have been fortunate enough to try all three electronic groupsets from sram, shimano and campagnolo, though admittedly the latter was their super-record eps system and not the super-record wireless groupset with which i have serious aesthetic concerns. however, those are entirely subjective and in no way should detract from the veracity of the wireless gear-changing. there are those who swear by electronic shifting, and i can see why, though i am also personally acquainted with riders who have subsequently returned to mechanical shifting following various technical problems with buttons and batteries.

from my own point of view, while i had minor problems with campagnolo system (in the days before vicenza produced its own disc brakes, the review version featured formula discs and levers, and it was a design flaw in the latter that fomented the problem), i cannot deny that each system did exactly what it said on the tin, even in the foul weather that often permeates the scottish hebrides, but, as i have repeated to the point of tediousness, it still seems like a solution looking for a problem.

my ritchey logic features a mechanical 2x campagnolo record groupset, while the specialized crux sports a sram rival 1x groupset, and though pressing buttons rather than pressing levers requires a tiny bit less effort, considering we could undoubtedly find a means of transport that was a tad easier than getting about by bicycle, surely the whole point of riding road, gravel, mountain or 'cross bikes is to become fitter and gain physical strength? in which case, where's the problem with levers? why spend around double the retail cost of mechanical simply to save a micro amount of energy?

so that inevitably leads onto the knowledge that, presumably following successful use by lotto dstny rider, victor campanaerts, the much vaunted classified system is now in use by the ineos world tour team. for those unfamiliar, the classified gearing setup purports to replace the need for a front derailleur and use of a double-chainset. this it does by means of an internal gearing cluster within the proprietary rear hub. working only with thru-axle disc equipped hubs (which, in itself, likely proves little in the way of a barrier to ownership nowadays), the wireless changing is accomplished by a button situated 'neath the bar tape at a point of contact suitable to the individual rider.

that button is connected to classified's smart handlebar unit, secreted in the bar end. a button press sends a signal to the lever that tightens the thru-axle in place in this case, equipped with a wireless receiver; on receipt of a button-push, thus effecting a gear change which replicates that of a front derailleur across two chainrings. regular up-and-down gear changes are untroubled, taken care of as they are by whichever gear system takes your fancy, upon a rear cassette featuring a proprietary freehub attachment, available for both sram/shimano and campagnolo. since that all sounds perfectly spiffing, where on earth could i have found a problem? have i not always been firmly of the opinion that the future of cycle gearing lies internally?

according to classified, the benefits of the system include the ability to change even under full load at power outputs well in excess of anything you and i could ever conceive. on a twelve-speed cassette, all 24 gears are available in small steps (though presumably dependent on the choice of cassette range). it is reputedly more efficient than either 1x or 2x systems (though personally, i've seen no statistics to support this contention) and shifting takes place within 150 milliseconds, possibly quicker than either you or i can decide we need to change gear. so far, so good.

but to take a look at a different set of numbers, a campagnolo super-record front derailleur retails at (the highest priced that i could find) £170 while a super-record inner chainring can be had for as much as £130. adding both together demands that your credit card or paypal account be lightened to the tune of £300. sram and shimano tend to cost a bit less.

however, opting to fit a classified system, compatible with any of the above, will trouble the card and paypal by a substantially greater figure - to wit: £2,300 (as stated on the classified website). bear in mind that, if you're a campagnolo aficionado, such a choice will exclude the full range of bora wheels, as indeed it will for shimano and zipp. many roadies possess two sets of wheels, allowing a spare pair or the potential for a change of rubber, depending on weather conditions. that means a classified enabled wheelset. assuming you'd like a custom set from your favoured wheelbuilder, the necessary parts will cost around £1,000 excluding rims, spokes and build price. the cost of a cassette may or may not be extra.

however, assuming i wish to follow in the tyretracks of geraint thomas, with only one set of wheels, i'd need to justify an additional expenditure of £2,000. but just to add insult to injury, in the majority of cases, prospective classified owners will already possess an inner chainring and a front gear mech, bringing us neatly back to the figure of £2,300 simply to replace the front derailleur. and it's worth bearing in mind that the professionals keen to use and praise the system were either provided with it free of charge as part of a team sponsorship deal, or at a discount.

am i missing something?

tuesday 9 july 2024

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

campagnolo ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

endura cycle clothing ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

as always, if you have any comments, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.

top of page.

.......................................................................................................................................................................................................... thewashingmachinepost

top of page.

.......................................................................................................................................................................................................... ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

book reviews

top of page.

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................