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

no ifs or butts

assos/whoop bibshorts

a few weeks past, i met with members of the team working towards the installation of an offshore windfarm between the north coast of islay and south-west of the isle of colonsay, my visit was to form the basis of an interview published in the last issue of the island's community newspaper, and took place in advance of the third and fourth drop-in events being hosted by the team, following one on jura and another on colonsay. one of the questions i had posed was whether they were required by legislation to undertake these explanatory events, or whether they were doing so because they wished to do so.

it transpires that it was the latter; there is currently no onus upon the windfarm proposers to consult with any of the local communities that might be affected by the siting of a large number of wind turbines within sighting distance of all three islands. the rationale behind doing so, according to the project manager, is a genuine desire to keep residents informed about a development that might potentially affect portions of their lives, and to understand any positive or negative reactions ahead of time. assuming this to be a genuine pursuit, it forms a major departure in circumstances; those of us who live on the outer edge are, by now, well acquainted with outside agencies dropping major developments upon us from a great height, without so much as a by-your-leave.

you need only take a look at the number of new distilleries that have sprouted in recent months.

such conditions are hardly unknown elsewhere; i'd imagine that the hs2 rail development fits that particular bill quite well. and as intrepid velocipedinists, we should also be aware of matters proceeding in a similar vein. hands up all those who found themselves struggling with the square taper bottom bracket, and immediately writing to the major manfacturers, asking for a whole slew of new bottom bracket standards that would render the entire industry incompatible with itself? similarly, i'm unaware of any professional cyclists who begged their component sponsors to develop hydraulic disc brakes in the quest for untrammeled victory.

those, and other so-called technological advancements were also dropped upon us from unimaginable heights. many will query my point, for though what i state is perfectly true, bicycle stuff hardly compares with having to view 35 huge wind turbines on the horizon, where once there was only a horizon. however, as we are undoubtedly in thrall to the professional milieu, irrespective of any claimed immunity from such matters, the fact that it's darned near impossible to purchase a quality road bike that sports rim brakes, or a complete lack of top componentry from the three major manufacturers that might be found compatible with a square-taper bottom bracket is undeniable.

how long before those of us with a fascination for either, find ourselves trawling the bargain bins to find replacements for worn out components?

but those processes have not ended. slowly but surely, road bike chainsets are acquiring integrated power meters, whether there is any real point to such integration in the first place. we have previously discussed the advent of the power meter, predominantly on the basis that few of us are suitably qualified to comprehend the data which they provide, and little of which is likely to impact on our day to day, unless we have specific sporting aspirations. and now it seems that swiss apparel manufacturers assos, are becoming complicit, by way of a partnership with whoop a company recently highlighted for bringing artificial intelligence to their online coaching system, which itself depends on wearable technology.

in this particular case, assos have integrated a pod into two styles of bibshort, capable of concealing a whoop 4.0 sensor, allowing the cyclist to track their health and fitness data as they ride. it seems likely, however, that sales will be purely to those intending to make use of the pod, since there would be little point in acquiring a pair otherwise.

at least it won't follow in the footsteps of rapha's early bibshorts which contained a rear pocket for your race radio.

saturday 25 may 2024

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

adopting a stance

craviotto snare drums

wooden snare drums come in two distinct flavours: single-ply solid shell, and multiple ply, the least of which i've come across, consisting of three plies (not necessarily all of the same wood type). i own five wood shell snare drums, of various woods and numbers of plies, so i cannot speak of those made from a single, steam-bent single plank of wood. the most well-known purveyors of the latter, are craviotto and noble and cooley, though there are other less well-known brands. early slingerland radio king snares from the 1940s and 50s were constructed in such a fashion, and much sought after nowadays.

since the single-ply, steam-bent version is more labour intensive to construct, they tend to command higher prices, and i have just recently read many contributions to a drum forum discussing the pros and cons of spending large sums of money to acquire what are often beatifully made snare drums, against any perceived sound value over those constructed from multiple plies. the argument/discussion bears particular comparison with those on cycling forums related to whether there is any real point in spending around £2,600 on shimano dura-ace di2 as opposed to £1,700 on shimano 105 di2. the same discussion could just as easily be made concerning campagnolo super-record wireless as opposed to chorus mechanical, or two differing sram groupsets of your choice.

if nothing else, it proves that, whether cyclists or drummers (or both), we're all pretty much the same.

the nub of the drum discussion was a post from an owner of a particularly expensive craviotto snare, who valiantly admitted that he was less than impressed with its sound, no matter the variety of tunings he had attempted. as with pretty much any online discussion, what started out as a serious attempt to discover where he might be going wrong, ultimately descended into arguments over the marketing of so-called luxury drums, which feature exemplary craftsmanship and looks, but, at the end of the day, are still just drums. one individual even went so far as to state he'd take a steel maxwin snare over a craviotto any day.

to place that in cyclist's parlance, it's the equivalent of riding a £99, sunday supplement mountain bike, rather than a pinarello dogma.

but, to an extent, the point was well made. though it would border on the insane to ask geraint thomas to ride the £99 jobby instead of his pinarello, both have wheels, pedals and gears and will fulfil the basic functions required of a bicycle. i doubt any of us would choose the cheaper option over the pinarello, but for many non-cyclists the choice matters little. however, whatever the expert drummers might think of spending unjustifiably large sums of cash on boutique snare drums, there is a difference to be experienced.

under acoustic conditions, in a small room, even an uninformed audience might appreciate the sound and tone of an expensive drum. however, move to larger venues, where the drumset is amplified through a public address system, it's pretty much impossible to tell the difference between one snare drum and another. however, from the drummer's point of view, while there may be an infinitesimal difference in sound between cheap and expensive, the confidence and satisfaction to be gained from playing a quality instrument should not be undersold. i own five 14" wood snare drums, all of different depths and woods; i can tell the difference between them all when playing them in the croft, but sat in a local hostelry, with a noisy audience and an even noisier bass player and guitarist...

i'm sure you know where i'm coming from.

a singular conclusion, highlighted from the drum forum discussion, was that, if you could afford it, or simply desired the opportunity to purchase what you perceived as a snare drum of calibre, then that's exactly what you should do. there may, in fact, be no appreciable difference in sound between cheap'n'cheerful and expensive luxury, but if it makes you feel good about your drumming, then that's the way to go.

which, i now realise, is exactly what should be the case when it comes to bicycles. as i sit here at my laptop, an advertisement showing in my web browser portrays a specialized s-works tarmac bicycle at a retail price of £12,000 (though they have a bit of a nerve charging £34 delivery on a bike at that price). owning and riding one of these would make no difference whatsoever to my abilities as a rider, but if it made me feel as if it did, and i had the money (spoiler alert: i don't), then why the heck not? my ritchey logic, which costs considerably less, is outfitted with a twelve-speed campagnolo record mechanical groupset. the latter is way too good for me, but it makes me feel better than when i rode campagnolo potenza, even though the latter worked every bit as well as its big brother.

of course, it could just be that the marketing is starting to work.

craviotto drums

friday 24 may 2024

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

wax on. wax off

melted candle

prior to my move to the hebrides, my gainful employment was curated by an aircraft catering services company at one of scotland's former major airports. like many seasonal industries, it employed seasonal staff, frequently those on summer break from universities and colleges. during my second summer in the stores section of the business, one of the seasonal staff was not only a fellow cyclist, but lived nearby my own place of residence. therefore, when our shifts and days of work coincided, we would ride together to and from work.

though neither of us were dyed-in-the-wool cyclists, my velocipedinal companion's grandfather had apparently been a cyclist of note, in the age when it was necessary that bicyclists carried out their own maintenance. he had handed down the habit of returning from any given bike ride, removing the chain and placing it in a bath of diesel fuel. while this soaked overnight, a second chain, removed from the same bath of diesel would be fitted to the bicycle, ready for next day's commute. this, he assured me, was a process carried out on a daily basis, as evidenced by his unnaturally clean and well-lubricated chain.

it is a practice that i did not choose to emulate, quite possibly on the grounds that i was likely too lazy to do so. in my case, return to the homestead usually meant parking the bicycle in the bikeshed and rushing indoors to scoff as early a tea as cooking would allow.

this laissez-faire attitude has long been tempered by life on a hebridean island, where the weather patterns and salt-sea air have demanded that i pay a tad more attention to my bicycle's well-being, lest a rash of ferrous-oxide begin to replace its painted exterior, beginning, most likely, with the chain. though winters on islay are invariably wet and windy, ensuring that i frequently return from a bike ride dripping from head to toe, it behoves me well to at least give the chain a quick wipe with an oily rag, if only to prevent it turning orange before the dried-out me has an opportunity to degrease and lubricate its links.

however, though hardly a new means of chain lubrication, the act of waxing the blighter has, once again, become popular amongst the professionals. and whatever they do, we must follow. but while a lad brought up as a 'one drip per link, three-in one', sort of fellow finds himself eager to learn more, the idea of waxing the chain perhaps engenders more questions than answers. for instance, is there a particular type of wax that ought to be employed? could i simply light a scented candle and drip the wax onto the chain, one link at a time (always assuming my aim is true)? or is it necessary to acquire bike-chain specific wax and proceed from there?

according to the latest issue of cyclist magazine, cycling ceramic offer everything the intrepid waxer will need to emulate the professional milieu: protective gloves, a prep bag, a cord from which to hang it, a container in which to submerge it and, of course, the requisite block of wax. the only thing missing is a suitable means of melting said block of wax, a problem that would probably prevent me from adopting the process in the first place. let's face it, if i found the fitting of tubeless tyres to be incessant faff, what price chain-waxing?

of course, there is one further nail in the coffin of chain wax adoption, namely, a campagnolo chain. as detailed to the point of boredom, vicenza still prefers that its chains be affixed to the bicycle by means of a specific, included chain rivet, featuring a guide-pin, and requires the oft-discussed campagnolo chain tool. the accompanying literature clearly states that, should the chain require to be removed and re-fitted for any particular reason, it is inadvisable to re-use the aforementioned rivet (or any of the others, for that matter). on pain of acquiring another of the rivets with guide pin, and fitting it several links distant from the original. this is a process that campagnolo advises should be carried out only twice.

waxing a bicycle chain reputedly reduces wear and tear on the drive-train, and under normal circumstances, a rider ought to expect a lifespan of around 900km, but if riding in wet weather, the wax ought best be replaced after each ride. i believe i can encapsulate the kernel of the foreseeable problem by pointing out, this is scotland, where rain is our birthright. why else would the island be almost obliterated by whisky distilleries? daily re-waxing combined with a campagnolo twelve-speed chain does not a happy cyclist make.

and i believe that is the effectively sound reason behind vicenza producing an ultra-link to join the 13 speed chain that forms part of its gravel ekar groupset, but is also available for their twelve-speed chains. i can see a few raised hands at the back of the room, so i'm just going to say, if you'd bought a £150+ campagnolo chain rivet tool, would you leave it in the bikeshed and buy a £16.99 ultra-link?

wax or no wax, one has to consider a decent return on one's investment.

cyclingceramic.com

thursday 23 may 2024

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rationale

porteus manufacturer brass plate

any tour of an islay distillery will, of necessity bring you into contact (not literally) with the mill room, in which the dried, and possibly peated barley is transformed from a handful of dessicated grain into varying levels of refined powder to be employed in the subsequent distilling process. in the older and even one or two of the more recent distilleries, the machine responsible for transforming the barley will likely be painted red and feature a brass plate proclaiming it to have been manufactured by the porteus company. the porteus malt mill went out of production in the 1970s, not because it had been superseded, or didn't work properly, but essentially because they never broke down. the company effectively went out of business because there was never any need for it to be replaced.

therein lies a salutory lesson as to the rationale behind capitalism. it's why computers are not designed to perform at peak level indefinitely, or why the bodywork on motor cars is not as well protected from the elements as it undoubtedly could be. it's also why cycle clothing purveyors rarely maintain one design for longer than a single season, introducing a new, better version a few months later, sales of which will hopefully maintain their forward financial progress. and one of the reasons that computers appear to be less productive as they age, is generally the result of a symbiotic relationship with the software producers.

the product cycle of the latter was generally reckoned to be eighteen months; if you purchased version 1.0, it was likely that you'd wait a year and a half before not only were you offered version 2.0, but by that time, you'd hopefully be crying out for it. the latter state of affairs was explicitly encouraged by the promise of must have new features. the commercial future of the software company effectively relied upon the purchase of a continuous stream of upgrades.

there would also appear to be a level of complicity between the producers of computer hardware and software. as the former become more powerful, the latter take advantage of this fact to produce software that can benefit from the upgraded performance. and so it goes, until even ipads possess more computing power than was present in the entire nasa space programme. however, the proliferation of illegal software copies meant that the majority of software producers have shifted to the subscription method, one that has proven pivotal in their continued success.

in the good old days of yore, were i to have purchased a legitimate version of adobe photoshop (for example), delivered on a dvd installer, the emergence of upgrades that i could scarcely afford did not prevent continued use of my purchased copy. however, under the present-day subscription model, though i receive regular updates as a part of my monthly payments, the moment i decide to end these, for whatever reason, not even the most recent version will continue to work. this potentially leaves me with a sizeable number of files that i can no longer open. in other words, i, and all other subscribers, are trapped. the continued modification of computer operating systems virtually guarantees that my now ancient dvd copy will no longer be compatible, always assuming i could find a dvd player from which to have it installed.

which kind of calls into question the upgrade paradigm currently (not) employed by the bicycle component industry.

i almost ask this question as a result of the flurry of media activity surrounding the recent release of sram's red axs groupset. this has seen review videos from gcn, road.cc, dave arthur and several others, along with a multi-page review in the recent issue of the comic. it has been hard to be an interested cyclist without having bumped into sram's latest somewhere along the road. a purchase price in excess of £3,700 for the non-powermeter version sets it outwith many velocipedinal pockets. but i do wonder how, in the grand scheme of all that is reputedly great and good, this is all supposed to work?

as a confirmed campagnolo aficionado, i am more than content with the record mechanical groupset that adorns my ritchey logic. but how enthused (or distracted) would i have to be, to ditch my black carbon and take advantage of sram's latest? or, perhaps more to the point, what of the hapless roadie who already owns a bicycle festooned with sram red wireless? with no first hand experience of sram's latest, i am unable to comment on its efficacy, but while i don't doubt it demonstrates an improvement over its predecessor, is it likely to prove equitable to an outlay in excess of £3,700? and other than those in the market for a very high-end bicycle with the red axs groupset fitted as original equipment, who's likely to buy? with all the major component providers leaning towards enforcing installation by authorised mechanics on penalty of opting not to honour the warranty, i personally would be very wary of spending such a large sum of money on pain of breakages or malfunctions becoming my sole responsibility.

handing it over to my (non-existent) local bike shop would simply add an extra layer of expense.

the continued development of stuff that seems already to work admirably is open to continual debate, but bearing in mind the sad story of the porteus malt mill, it's not too hard to understand why endless cycle component upgrades continue ad finitum. and i can only presume that we're the mugs that are paying for it all.

wednesday 22 may 2024

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

return of the jedi

kona bicycles

it appears to be a little-known fact that tom ritchey, one of the originators of the mountain bike, had, at one point in the company's timeline, sold the whole affair to specialized bicycles, a substantial percentage of which is owned by merida bikes. the latter, founded by the taiwanese tseng family, continue to own the majority share in the family business. and then there's greg lemond, founder of his own bike company, subsequently sold to trek bicycles and, after a great deal of anguish, bought by its rightful owner in 2008. tom ritchey was also able to re-acquire his own bicycles from specialized, prospering today as an independent manufacturer bearing the founder's name on the downtube.

others have fared less well in the independence stakes. at one time it was part of the cunning plan that ernesto colnago's grandson, alessandro, would take over the reigns on his grandfather's retiral. the spanner in that particular works arrived via the purchase of colnago (ironically, given the title of this piece, on star wars day 2020) by uae-based chimera investments. with this particular piece of knowledge, it makes a great deal more sense that the title sponsor of the current pink jersey wearer, is joined in its world tour venture by one of italy's (sic) most revered marques.

a number of years ago, when ardbeg distillery was skirting the edges of marketing sensibility with the commissioning of two orange county choppers decorated in the corporate colours, soon followed by a dragster tractor (yes, really) and one or two other eccentricities, i mentioned to their management that perhaps they could offer a limited range of ardbeg green pinarellos, given the marque's ownership by l. catterton, a subsidiary of ardbeg's parent company, louis vuitton moet hennessy (lvmh). sadly, that particular option has effectively evaporated, following the subsequent sale of pinarello to mining billionaire, ivan glasenberg (for a rumoured price of £170 million).

i realise that we have broached these parameters only recently, but cyclists across the world ought perhaps to gain succour from the fact that messrs. ritchey and lemond were able to regain control of their velocipedinal namesakes. however, undermining the optimism just a smidgeon, it's worth noting that both the above were dealing with other bicycle companies, within which we must assume there is still some love of the bicycle to the exclusion of untrammeled profits. italy's two principal brands are in the possession of large, money driven investment companies, presumably a tad more concentrated on an appropriate return on investment. though i would hardly attempt to exclude the possibility, it does seem unlikely that either ernesto or fausto would have the same success in regaining ownership of the bicycles that feature their respective names.

the other major italian marque, that of bianchi, is owned by cycleurope, a company that is, itself, owned by swedish holding company, grimaldi industri. that would presumably make re-acquisition by edoardo's modern-day successors, should they wish to do so, considerably more difficult.

but perhaps all is not lost to the universe of investment and holding companies, international monoliths who possibly view cycling as an avenue to treat their shareholders and investors to a ringside seat at the giro, vuelta or le tour. aside from that, a bike company within the cloud, is quite likely to appear simply as a column on the corporate excel spreadsheet. but maybe the jedi are already using the force, creating what i believe might be referred to as 'the thin end of the wedge'

only a matter of weeks past, the demise of kona bicycles was prophesied due to their wholesale and unexpected departure from america's sea otter expo. owners of kona bicycles, kent outdoors, recently re-named from kent watersports, would, by its very name, give the impression that the owners are as much invested in the sporting realm as tom ritchey and greg lemond. you might imagine that the boardroom features an inordinate number of surfboards balanced againt the wall, while an extravaganza of kona bikes occupies the majority of parking space at kent headquarters. but kent outdoors is, in fact, hierarchically owned by private equity company, seawall capital, more likely, one might assume, to have teslas and cadillacs slotted into its own parking spaces.

but the expiry of kona has possibly been exaggerated, due to its reported purchase by the original owners, dan gerhard and jake heilbron. for one thing, it offers succour to the downtrodden to learn that a famous bicycle company is about to be owned by individuals with 'real' names, and minus the word 'investments' used as a suffix. as part of their future plans for the company, gerhard and heilbron are joined by "...a team of dedicated, experienced kona employees."

and already the two are bucking the trend by suspending their direct to customer sales in favour of renewing links with the network of independent bicycle stores that support sales of kona bikes to eager customers. and it seems there might be other advantages to small is beautiful, to wit: "private ownership allows us to be more streamlined, more flexible, and quicker on our feet. this, combined with the support of our suppliers, means we can deliver high quality bikes in a distinctly kona flavour at super attractive prices."

in a world that has become strategically dominated by investment companies, wholly obligated to their shareholders and the seriously flawed concept of perpetual growth, it is gratifying to learn that there are still those with a vested interest in the realm that was once, and is again, not only their means of livelihood, but the principal objective of their endeavours.

"tenacious, resilient, straight talking, gritty and sometimes covered in grease, we are committed to keeping the distinctly kona flavoured bike buzz flowing, and helping people find freedom and fun. we are back. we are still here. let's ride."

kona bicycles

tuesday 21 may 2024

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

beach towels

deckchairs and beachtowels

there is an apocryphal cliché that residents of a certain european country have a habit of leaving their beach towels on the deckchairs and sun-loungers when on vacation at holiday destinations across the world, in order to reserve them for the following day, but to the exclusion of their fellow visitors. in truth, i have seen this take place, but whether it happens as a matter of course to this day, i know not. however, whether this annoying habit still takes place or not, holidaymakers from that particular country are still tarred with that reputation.

it was at least in part, the subject of conversation as we dined al fresco on lattés and toasties on the patio at debbie's. for by sunday next week (26 may), the feeding frenzy of the 2024 edition of fèis ìle will already be underway. and it is tradition that the first sunday of each festival belongs to bruichladdich distillery, situated but a few metres from debbie's, the latter being the very destination to which we'll be headed following yet another sunday morning ride.

and barring unforeseen events, it will also likely be the day when pogi stands atop the giro d'italia podium, with likely the largest winning gap since gianni bugno's in 1990.

however, to return to the outskirts of the whisky festival, the perceived need to leave beach towels on the outdoor benches at debbie's, emulating the holidaymakers from that diplomatically un-named country, is a situation that we have learned from previous years. despite the distillery asking propsective attendees to park their cars at a space set aside on uiskentuie strand, and make use of the free shuttle buses into the village, i can almost guarantee that the roadsides throughout the small village that surrounds the distillery, will be nose to tail with cars belonging to those who have completely ignored those pleas.

and though the gates of the distillery do not open until 12:30, debbie's will open at 8am to cater for the endless stream of those wishing food and drink to keep them occupied until those gates open after mid-day. i confess that part of the lunchtime conversation mentioned above, was not only about the beach towels, but quite why so many, so-called whisky aficionados find it necessary to hang about a small hebridean village over four hours ahead of the event in which they intend to participate.

the sunday parcours, as advised on previous occasions, sticks rigidly to the same route each week, as a pragmatic throwback from the covid years. with the island having been placed in lockdown, transport to which was solely for lifeline purposes, the ferry service was curtailed to one return sailing per day, and none on sundays. debbie's is, apart from a fine hostelry serving the finest coffee west of milan (i have written testament to that effect), set within the local mini-market and post office. with no sailings on sundays, there was subsequently no sunday papers delivered, and thus no reason for the premises to open before noon.

several of the available sunday morning routes had a tendency to bring us to debbie's front door between 11:30 and 11:45, meaning an occasional wait in often less than clement circumstances. depending on the temperature, sometimes we were persuaded simply to cut our losses and head home, awaiting the following weekend to avail ourselves of a quality coffee. as a result, we devised a parcours that, assuming a reasonable average speed, would bring us to the coffee stop at the appointed hour. since then, we have simply repeated the process on a weekly basis.

which, as you may now surmise. provides us with a potential seating problem come next sunday. for as we return from the heat of battle around loch gorm (deftly avoiding those who have opted to head to kilchoman distillery for a less frenetic option than that of bruichladdich), arriving at debbie's around noon, or slightly thereafter. though there is no chance whatsoever that we might replicate the speed and effort of the man in the pink jersey, we still look forward to a healthy repast, washed down with that excellent coffee. however, what is easily predicted is not only a queue to be served, but the likelihood of nowhere to sit for the purposes of consumption.

the decision, therefore, seems perfectly clear; do we delay the start of the sunday ride by around thirty minutes, ensuring arrival after the distillery gates have opened, or should we maintain tradition, start at the usual time, but simply ride a smidgeon slower?

it's at times like this that you really miss the strategies of a directeur sportif.

monday 20 may 2024

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

smooth

sram 1x transmission

i have possessed a specialized crux cyclocross bicycle for almost eight years, a bicycle i described as one of the finest bicycles i'd ever ridden. not just the finest cyclocross bike, but one of the finest overall. in the intervening years, i have found nothing to change my mind, other than the fact that specialized, apparently eager to find a bandwagon suitable for jumping on, now market the machine as a gravel bike that is coincidentally capable of being ridden in cyclocross events. just like colnago, now that i come to think of it.

the only minor downside to the crux, at least the model that is ensconced within thewashingmachinepost bikeshed, is the fitment of a press-fit bottom bracket. the fact that specialized saw fit to insert an aluminium sleeve inside the carbon to avoid the apocryphal creaks and groans that affected several other brands, has meant that, throughout those ninety-six months, the bottom bracket has performed splendidly. so far, so good. but i have already detailed, elsewhere, the insurmountable faff involved in replacing the bearings when they reach the end-of-life.

it would be so much simpler to have been able to replace a pair of threaded b/b cups, or even involve myself in the now skilled practice of removing and replacing the bearings on a campagnolo crankset. particularly now that i have the required tools. however, more experienced mechanics will be aware that if one part of the transmission requires replacement, there's a good chance that its peers won't be far behind. the cassette sprockets were replaced not so very long ago, as was the rear derailleur, due to the disintegration of the jockey wheel bearings and the lack of suitable replacements to be found.

the simplest means of determining the state of the b/b bearings without dismantling the whole enchilada, was simply to drop the chain off and spin the cranks. oddly, the more worn of the two was the non-drive side. but following the bearing replacement, there was still an audible sign of wear which i took to be the chainring teeth. even following a good clean with lemon degreaser, a certain amount of noise persisted, so i opted to purchase a new, 40t sram chainring (the cranks are sram rival).

still hanging on the wall inside the previously referred to bike shed, are two shiny campagnolo chainsets on which it was (relative) simplicity to unscrew the chainring bolts, slide the ring over the crank arm and affix its replacement in the reverse manner. there was never any need to remove the entire crank arm, and both inner and outer rings featured the same bolt-circle-diameter. the rival crankset features only one chainring, but due to the fifth bolt being situated behind the crank arm, removal is considerably simpler with the driveside crank off the bike. surely a simpler method would either to have the bolts arranged (like campagnolo) around the crank arm, or, as in others, simply thread the bolt into the back of the crank arm?

it seems sram don't work that way.

as with many chainrings, the bolts thread into retainers on the inner face of the chainring, requiring an allen wrench to be inserted into front and rear to prevent them simply spinning pointlessly. and though the back of the crank arm is scalloped, it was still a bit of a struggle to insert the shorter end of an allen key into the (raised) retainer to hold it in place while manfully wrestling with the other side. it will surprise you not at all, that four of the bolts were removed with relative ease, while one did its very best to try my patience. suffice it say, a couple of hours later (twice the amount of time i had expected) the crux sported a new chainring.

unlike campagnolo, sram are content to join their chains using a powerlink, an option i believe vicenza now offers on the ekar thirteen-speed chain. prior to installation of the latter, i removed the cassette sprockets and gave them a thorough dousing with the aforementioned lemon degreaser. and while i was at it, i did the same to the derailleur jockey wheels. superficially, i think it a grave error to fit a shiny new chain to a grubby transmission.

i'm sure many of you have undertaken similar procedures on your own bicycles, or perhaps you just hand it into the local bike shop and ask them to suffer the slings and arrows of technical woes. my teaching my grannies (no offence intended) to suck eggs could easily be seen as a pointless monologue. but it's less about the process of change than about the process of change.

unless you're in the habit of regularly riding your bicycle through gritty mud and subsequently pressure-washing its nooks and crannies, wear and tear tends to be incremental, meaning that it's only when the stars fall completely out of alignment, that we are forced into action. in my case, i was finding an observable slowing of the saturday ride and distinct difficulties in ascending the stairs for a shower on my return. granted, i am definitely not getting any younger, but i appeared to be suffering considerably less when riding my ritchey logic on the sunday ride, a bicycle that recently had its very own bottom bracket bearings upgraded.

you can almost see the light bulb moment.

the professionals have a team of mechanics who regularly service and check their bicycles on almost a daily basis, with components changed in advance of their degradation. we, on the other hand, scarcely have the same good fortune, generally left to our own devices when it comes to decisions about when and what might be replaced. and that, obviously enough, depends a great deal on how au fait you happen to be with the mechanical aspects of cycling. in the days when i repaired bicycles for a living, it was more than common to be presented with components that were well past their sell-by date, the wear on which had frequently passed on their sense of dismay to those around them.

i tend to mark the date on which i replace a chain, and repeat the exercise four months later, irrespective of the level of wear. so doing has possibly saved me several cassette replacements due to excessive abrasion. i confess that leaving the bearings on the crux for as long as i did (eight years) was pretty much at the behest of the time and effort required to replace them (cowardice), but i promise i'll not do so for a second time. suffice it to say that my average speed on yesterday's ride was almost 2kph faster than usual, meaning that, had i been a tad more perspicacious, i could have saved myself a great deal of effort over recent months.

the moral of the story? look after your bike and it will look after you.

sunday 19 may 2024

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

wireless

islay undersea power cable

around the beginning of the present decade, the uk ceo of the ford motor company stated that britain would need to be installing around 400 electric vehicle charging points per week in order to satisfy the created demand by the proposed restriction on manufacturing petrol and diesel engines beyond 2030. anecdotally, and quite possibly officially, the current rate of installation is nowhere near that. according to official statistics, at the end of april this year, there were a scant 61,232 charging points nationwide, though this represents a 45%increase on the number available at the same time in 2023.

locally, there has been not a single additional public ev charging point installed in the last two or three years, despite a noticeable increase in the number of electric vehicles plying the island's roadways. however, the problem seems less about a lack of the units themselves, and possibly more to do with the electricity network being incapable of coping.

there are currently 16 new houses being constructed on the outskirts of port charlotte village which, rumour has it, will be unable to make use of their associated heat pumps due to a lack of network capacity. friends of mine are in the process of constructing a new brewery opposite islay international airport, alongside a soon to be built distillery. neither is able to have a full grid connection until at least 2027. i believe a similar situation exists at portintruan distillery, a building that, when finished, will possibly be the largest on the island.

earlier in the week, i attended a drop-in event held by scottish and southern electricity networks (ssen) to explain how and why they intend to install a new undersea cable (see cross-section image above), supplying power from the mainland to the island. the cable will lie on the seabed under the sound of islay, the narrow stretch of water separating islay and jura. these cables have a projected lifespan of between 20 and 25 years, but due to the tidal conditions in the sound, these particular cables have to be replaced every ten or twelve years.

the engineers present at the drop-in explained that, although the cable is capable of carrying increased power over its predecessor, in fact, we won't be gaining any particular advantage from its installation. this is entirely at the behest of the power network on jura and subsequently on islay. it's the constriction of the latter that has instigated a feasibility study into the possibilities of running a spur from the proposed machairwind offshore windfarm between islay's north coast and the isle of colonsay. so while the demand for greater amounts of electricity is almost insurmountable, actually supplying it is seemingly a different matter.

that said, perhaps the supply and demand situation is less acute than we might think. according to a report on the bbc, sales of electric vehicles are on the decrease, following years of soaring sales, somewhat akin to sales of e-bikes, which, by all accounts, are not as healthy as once they were. the report continues to point out that road transport accounts for 12% of planetary greenhouse gas emissions (apparently reaching 27% of uk emissions). therefore, if the government's already postponed plans to replace fossil fuels with electric vehicles are to be achieved, dropping sales could be an insurmountable problem.

lower sales are reputedly the result of high prices, something with which chinese manufacturers could undoubtedly assist, were it not for western governments protecting the home product by imposing punitive tariffs on imported chinese evs. possibly an excellent demonstration of how you can't have your cake and eat it too. in 2020, there were ten million electric vehicles on the road, a number that had increased to 45 million by 2023. but according to the international energy agency (iea), by 2035 there will need to be 790 million, a required 27% annual sales increase. (my italics)

but of course, that is utter nonsense.

the figure is possibly correct if we are to rely entirely on electric vehicles to reach net zero, but that is a very singular and blinkered approach. yes, there will undoubtedly need to be an increase in the number of evs on the roads, given that there's no viable means of uninventing the car, or public demand for same. but what of the bicycle? if the world's governments spent as much time and effort educating and drafting appropriate legislation to curb the number of individuals who drive unbelievably minimal distances instead of walking or cycling, we surely wouldn't need all of those 790 million electric vehicles. building additional infrastructure to aid those who claim they would walk or cycle if it were easier to undertake, and adopting a belligerent stance against those who make unsubstantiated use of their cars, could still achieve net zero within the current time frame.

why is it that almost every government and a substantial number of those in their charge only ever see the car as a solution to everything? most of us have already proved them wrong.

saturday 18 may 2024

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less is less

50th anniversary super-record groupset

in 1953, campagnolo introduced the first bicycle groupset, with their gran sport edition, meaning that, for the first time, the intrepid cyclist could purchase a matching set of front and rear gear mechs, along with a hubset and gear levers. though there had been cycle componentry available from manufacturers other than vicenza's finest, in most cases those had been of the individual variety, when compatibility did not form a significant part of each brand's marketing speak.

on failing miserably to fit a campagnolo chain to a chorus groupset many years ago, despite using a park tool workshop chain tool, i made reference to the possibility of simply using a sram chain fitment of which would have been made considerably simpler by use of a power-link. yet, while that would have negated any requirement for any brand of chain tool, i was advised that, had i suffered any subsequent problems due to this substitution, campagnolo would not have looked kindly upon any warranty claims.

wimp that i am, i retreated in the face of copywriting, and bought one of those alarmingly expensive campagnolo chain tools. granted, the latter is an excellent example of italian engineering, but i'm pretty sure that a sram chain, or its method of fitment, would have actually have caused any grief in the first place. that said, i have little doubt that sram would have taken a similar stance, had i pursued any warranty claim with them, had the chain actually been found to cause difficulties while routing through the record components.

whether the advent of the groupset was simply the first salvo in warranty-gate, i know not, but it has certainly played into the hands of the groupset manufacturers.

that said, it would surely be only an act of obtuse rebellion to consider combining components from differing manufacturers on one bike frame? why on earth would you opt to purchase brake/gear levers from shimano, for instance, and hope or expect that they would work seamlessly with derailleurs courced from campagnolo? i have seen instances where vicenza's disc calipers have been combined with a different brand of levers, but purely in the interests of fitment, where the more logical choice would have caused insurmountable difficulties due to the characteristics of the frame. that's not to suggest, however, that so doing had the blessing from the warranty departments of either.

mixing some stuff does work just because it does. but considering the financial penalty of getting it wrong, better to leave that to a qualified shop mechanic. in other words, don't try this at home. i'm sure we all know someone who, for reasons of stupidity or bone-headed determination, has attempted to match ten speed levers from one marque with an eleven speed block and rear derailleur from another, simply because they can. i'm not sure anyone is really surprised when it results in wholesale failure.

but whatever your views on the compatibility or lack thereof amongst the principal gear and brake components currently available, the big three have been demonstrably guilty of removing items from what is defined as a groupset, yet with apparently no protest or even recognition from either the great unwashed or cognoscenti. though many will be peripherally aware of this having taken place, it was only the recent offer of a 50th anniversary campagnolo super record groupset, that made it plain just what has gone missing.

issued in 1983, the anniversary groupset (almost too glorious to be sullied by fitment to a bicycle) consisted of a polished, engraved alloy crankset, a seatpost, a pair of rim brakes and associated brake levers, a pair of polished alloy hubs (for freewheel only) with those iconic q/r levers, a pair of alloy quill pedals, complete with toeclips and straps, both front and rear derailleurs, downtube gear levers, an italian threaded, square taper bottom bracket and a headset. missing in action was a chain and freewheel. however, in mitigation, chains were of standard issue in the early eighties, and with standard threads on everyone's hubs, you could fit any block your heart desired.

take a quick glance at today's groupsets, pedals, headsets, seatposts and hubs are notable by their absence. but given the incompatibilities that have surfaced in the last forty years, that's hardly surprising. and there are particularly good reasons for the absence of some of those items; headsets are no longer one-inch; in fact headsets are no longer headsets. there are too may differing pedal systems currently available, and it seems that nobody apart from me rides handbuilt wheels anymore. but one of the major absences from the contemporary groupset is even more pertinent: aesthetics.

it will come as little surprise that, despite the price of the proffered 50th anniversary groupset, i actually considered its purchase, purely on its good looks. little, if anything, is shiny nowadays, chainsets either feature cast, one-piece chainring/cranksets, or have the chainring bolts accessible on the inner-face, requiring removal of the chainset to remove or replace rings. and everything is black, either carbon or paint. on the crankset featured in the anniversary record groupset, both chainrings utilise the same bolt circle diameter. as i recently discovered, the bcd on my 12-speed record crankset differs for each ring, and it requires removal of the inner ring to gain access to those fastening the outer ring. (the word aaaaaarrrrgh, springs to mind).

as californian digital type foundry, emigré has cultivated as an apt slogan 'design is a good idea'. as was a complete, shiny groupset. (ironically, the e-mail advising of the campag groupset arrived simultaneously with several others promoting sram's new red axs groupset. i know which i prefer.

campagnolo super record 50th anniversary groupset

friday 17 may 2024

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world bicycle relief

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headcase

star wars stormtrooper

it will surprise no-one at all that i was the first cyclist on the island to own and wear a cycle helmet, a choice based on the premise that i'd rather be a fungus than a vegetable. the latter being a statement realised after some helmet wearers found themselves being name-called as mushroom heads. those early bell helmets were, as nowadays, constructed from polystyrene, but instead of the ubiquitous bonded plastic outer shell that is de rigeur these days, those early models featured elasticated lycra covers, often with mesh panels to aid ventilation.

the internals mostly consisted of differently sized velcro'd felt pads in order to tune the fit. it would be a year or two before the adjustable internal cage appeared, making it possible for manufacturers to produce only two distinct sizes as opposed to often four in the early days.

the choice to wear a helmet in the first place arose from a section of my almost daily parcours. the trip in either direction featured the climb to borraichill, near carrabus, offering a rapid descent in either direction, across roads that were peppered with loose gravel. though i rather enjoyed the speedy descents, it dawned on me that, particularly during the winter months, were i to become a cropper at any point, i could potentially lie unseen for quite some time before anyone realised i was there. the options, therefore, were two-fold; either i could slow down to a safer speed, or i could start wearing a cycle helmet to protect my noggin should the gravel get the better of me.

that said, i still believe it to be the right and proper decision not to make cycle helmet use mandatory in the uk. though i, and all my sunday morning colleagues, would never leave home on the bike without wearing a helmet, for folks who perhaps only ride to the shops or possibly to work or school, any legal necessity to wear a helmet might encourage them to drive, or simply not go at all. the uci made helmets mandatory for professional riders in 2003 following the death of andrey kivilev in paris-nice. the rule had been simmering in the background as far back as the early 1990s, but kivilev's death from an almost stationary fall provided the necessary impetus.

as i recall, however, the early days of mandatory helmet use allowed the pros to divest themselves of those helmets at the foot of the final climb of the day. it wasn't long, however, until even that get-out clause was closed. as the technology developed, helmets became lighter, stronger and better ventilated, to the extent where you'd scarcely know you were wwearing one. on several embarrasing occasions, i have ridden away from debbie's, only to turn round, convinced i'd left the helmet on the coffee table, when, in fact, i was actually wearing it. helmets are intrinsically like insurance policies, in that you buy and wear one, but hope you'll never have to use it in anger.

the late lord carlos of mercian had good cause to be thankful he wore a helmet. after reaching the top of a short climb ahead of my colleagues, i backed off to wait for them, as lord carlos, seemingly oblivious to everything around him, rode into my rear wheel and fell off, banging his helmet on the tarmac. this incident completely destroyed one side of his helmet, without which he'd have been discovering whether or not he liked hospital food. but no matter how the manufacturers style their helmets through aesthetic streamlining and bright colours, a bit like wheels and cranksets, they are no more nor less than items of specific functionality.

unless, of course, you're a time-triallist.

i once owned a black, carbon-fibre, tear-drop shaped tt helmet which featured a clear visor, a helmet that had been sent for review, but which seemed more at home in a star wars movie than on my head. since those days, time trial helmets have become ever more ridiculous, all in the name of aerodynamics. some of those witnessed in last week's giro d'italia time trial pushed the envelope of good taste to absurd proportions. we've already had the ludicrousness sported by visma lease-a-bike, the gregory porter style balaclavas that augment helmets from specialized, and two small 'aerofoils' attached to the lower portion of the visor, obscuring the rider's cheeks.

there was a discussion held within a minimalist (two of us) peloton at the weekend, where we fervently hoped that the uci would exercise its ability to ban anything it darn well likes, and state that tt helmets are now persona non-grata, on the basis that they make the sport's top professionals look like complete dorks. the purpose of a cycle helmet is to protect one's cranium: full-stop. anyone caught attempting to replicate the headgear of an empire stormtrooper should be made to clear the parcours of each tour de france time-trial course with a toothbrush.

make it so, mr sulu.

wednesday 15 may 2024

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showers pass ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

king of sports: cycle road racing - peter ward mbe. pendle press paperback. 158pp illus £15

king of sports

this year's eurosport coverage of the giro d'italia has been enlivened recently by the addition of education first/easypost chief executive, jonathan vaughters. in addition to his laid-back colorado drawl, mr vaughters is remarkably well appraised of modern nutrition methods, training schedules, power outputs, bike technology; all the minutiae with which you'd hope a man in his position would be acquainted.

the information with which he has regaled us during stage commentary has been most enlightening, but several aeons removed from fausto coppi's advice to ride a bike, ride a bike, and ride a bike. only a few decades later, eddy merckx, though possibly phrasing it a tad differently, essentially said the same thing. it was probably during the era of chris boardman that suddenly, quantity was no longer the master of all it surveyed, having begun to be supplanted by quality. depending on your point of view, things have either become worse or better since then.

there is now a well-heeled industry surrounding the modern world of competitive cycling, one that has inveigled its way into almost every aspect of the sport/activity, even those in which no real demand exists. only the other day i was on the receiving end of a press release informing me that two members of aerodynamics company, aerotech had succeeded in considerably reducing the time taken to cover the 55 mile route in the annual etape caledonia. thereby hangs an intriguing story, but i'll save that for another day. however, for what i will categorise as the rest of us, the sporting life may consist of a slightly different hue.

staying with the competitive realm for the time being, however, some six decades past, matters were a tad more straightforward and, dare i say it, simpler. and there's no need to simply take my word for it: pendle press director, sherif dhaimish, having found an original copy of peter ward's 1967 book king of sports, effectively a manual for the aspiring road cyclist, opted to revive it for the modern age. and mr ward, later made an mbe for his services to cycling, had excellent credentials for so doing. a stage winner at the 1956 tour of britain, winner of over 30 first class races and a regular cycle commuter to his job as a british aerospace engineer. king of sports, was, in fact, the first manual of its type to be publshed in english.

the mighty dave-t, a man with a wicked sense of humour, told me shortly after moving here to the centre of the universe, that in his day, it was not encouraged to carry a water bottle on the bike if the ride was likely to be of 60 miles or less. this in direct contravention of the current belief that even office workers ought to consume several times their own body weight in water throughout the working day. i was never too sure whether he was winding me up or not, but i need only look at page 29 of the chapter that concerns itself with training.

"When your distances are over 60 miles you can carry food and one bottle of liquid refreshment. take a few extra biscuits or sandwiches as it is far better to arrive home with them in your musette than to die of hunger 20 miles from home.
"Your body's reserves are ample for training under 60 miles."

note the complete lack of mention of isotonic drinks, gels and carbohydrate nutrition bars. just ask tadej what kind of biscuits or sandwiches he prefers on the passo di gavia. however, as mr daimish refers in his publisher's note "Peter's work strips cycling back to the foundation of what it takes to reach your potential on a bike, which isn't the latest gadgets - it's your health, wellbeing and a love for riding." this is not the re-publishing of an ancient work purely for curiosity's sake. many, if not all of the contents of this book were hard won by the premier cyclists of the day. and to risk the overuse of a cliché 'it never did them any harm.'

the contents alone demonstrate that matters have not changed entirely from the 1960s; the subject headings are essentially the same - only the methodology may have changed out of all recognition. aside from the previously mentioned training procedures, mr ward enlightens upon diet, exercise, preparation, clothing, tactics, and good sportsmanship, amongst others. however, perhaps the only one of those that still persists in its original state, is that of sportsmanship. for that reason alone, cycle sport might still be referred to as the beautiful sport.

and as if to prove my earlier point that this is a book for you and i, "It is time all riders realised that if everyone stops correctly at halt signs, police controlled or not, no one will gain an unfair advantage in bunch or breakaway." a book of which the entire contents are firmly rooted in daily reality. and lest we forget that the great champions of the past achieved such deserved adulation for a reason, mr ward quotes fausto coppi as saying "Always remember that the other chap is suffering as much as you are."

though i have no wish to impose my hard-won luddite tendencies upon even those who ought to know better, despite the intervening sixty years since this book was originally published, there is much within that would benefit the current crop of sunday morning pelotons. jonathan vaughters may allude to the current professional riders' ability to consume 120g of carbohydrate per hour, but neither you nor i can or need to do likewise. that said, i cannot say that i have much truck with pete ward's advice to consume a plate of uncooked porridge. he's more than welcome to that.

thankfully, within the chapter concerning mechanical equipment, there is no mention of tubeless tyres, one reason, i'm sure, that i favour that era over the present. and it's nice to read of the freewheel (remember them?) referred to as 'the block'. though i now ride a twelve-speed groupset, i still refer to my collection of sprockets in that manner. as does the mighty dave-t. and while there will doubtless be overwhelming public disparagement, mr ward's contention that the racing bicycle frame "...must be built of 531 double-butted or Kromo tubing throughout." is actually as sensible today for the regular cyclist, as it was in 1965.

there is brilliance and worth on every page, but not everyone will realise it.

wednesday 15 may 2024

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

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

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book reviews

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