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

really?

pinarello dogma

in and around the turn of the century, a colleague and i were involved with a collaboration between highlands and islands enterprise (hie) and british telecom (bt), the original aim of which was to provide wall-to-wall broadband for the island of islay, long before the technology became a part of everyday life. the thinking, at the time, was that being able to demonstrate the effectiveness and veracity of the technology on an allegedly remote scottish island, would have provided bt with a saleable product that could be replicated across the country. after all, if it worked here, how much simpler would installation be in less remote rural locations?

however, as the technology developed, apparently in ways unforeseen by either hie or bt, the proposed offerings available to the islanders became diluted to the level of almost complete pointlessness. the final result was a solitary website, described as a portal to the island, featuring accommodation and travel information, as well as a loosely described interconnectedness between islay businesses and organisations, despite the prior existence of two similar websites of considerably longer standing. the embarrassing culmination of this, following months of training, travel and information courses, was a half-hearted launch of said website in a tent at the annual islay show. that was in the days when launching a website was a big deal, and press releases were issued by all and sundry to announce similar events.

substitute the word 'bicycle' for 'website', and we seem nowadays to be in the era when the release of a new model is deserving of acres of print and a large smattering of videos. the latter are mostly at the behest of either a concerted press launch in an attractive location, or the supply from a fleet of test models to favoured outlets such as gcn, dave arthur, cycling weekly, road.cc, or cade media to mention but a few. that is precisely what has occurred in the past couple of days, as pinarello foisted yet another variation of their dogma series upon a velocipedinal public who already knew it was coming.

those who spend at least some of their waking hours within these black and yellow pixels, may recall that i pointed out the less-than-subtle tactic employed during the recent critérium du dauphiné, when ineos clearly had the new bike on the roof of their team vehicles, and their mechanics pretended to be outraged that cycling journalists had been so bold as to film and photograph the reputedly clandestine machinery. and it may fall predominantly to team ineos riders to highlight the bicycles in public, given the somewhat exhorbitant cost of acquiring your own personal model for the £12,600 recommended retail price.

however, all that is as maybe, and depending on your desperation to own a new pinarello dogma f, with its reputed 0.2% aerodynamic gain, or indeed, your ability to pay for it without re-mortgaging the house, or selling a kidney, you might welcome the news, or prefer to get on with something more interesting instead.

incidentally, i note that colnago almost simultaneously launched the diet version of tadej's v4rs, simply named the v4. visually almost identical to the slovenian's giro winning bicycle, the latter sports less salubrious groupsets and is far more bank account friendly; less than half that of the pinarello at £5,500. perhaps the notable fact that the v4 will not be appearing at a tour de france near you has curtailed colnago's enthusiasm for inviting journalists to tuscany, or posting out a model or two to the above youtube outlets.

so, is it time to put the (hydraulic disc) brakes on new bicycle launches? by all means, advertise every last minuscule technological advancement contained within its carbon frame, but can we please dial down the melodrama, especially if one of the purported developments features the decimal point in front of the quoted percentage. we all know what a new bike looks like, and we're all more than aware that all announced improvements designed exclusively to benefit the likes of tadej and geraint, won't make one iota of difference to the likes of you and i on the sunday morning bike ride.

image: pinarello

saturday 22 june 2024

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legging it

cyclist legs

according to velominati, via the final of their rules (and one that tadej seems happy to flout on a regular basis), #95, you ought never to lift your bike over your head. this particular rule, however, may have less to do with a sense of fair play and the style council, and a tad more to do with the common knowledge that road cyclists generally possess the upper body strength of a twelve year-old girl. how embarassing would it be to take victory on the summit of a pyrenean mountain, clamber off to the adulation of the spectators and throw your back out when trying to raise your impossibly light carbon bicycle above your head? very much a case of 'don't try this at home'.

regular advice to the road crew would generally consist of remaining all but motionless from the waist up, an instruction that the late lord carlos of mercian was wont to ignore from the outset. it's also a contortion that alerts even the most inept of cycling commentators to the strugglings of those in the breakaway, when the shoulders begin to rock'n'roll.

this is not some arcane flight of fancy that is solely applicable to the professional classes. wrangling the handlebars to your will on steep climbs, is inevitable if only to maintain some degree of upper body firmity when faced with the imposition of an unfair gradient. under less extravagant circumstances, the upper torso contributes very little to the expression of forward motion. the latter is reckoned to be the sole preserve of the legs, or 'guns', as velominati would surely describe them, on the basis of their being guardians to surely the most powerful muscles in the body.

it may truthfully be that the habit of wearing bibshorts is more at the behest of displaying sculpted musculature to an adoring public than any concerns over inadvertently attracting oil stains from the chainset.

though a particular benefit of persistent hard cycling is a strengthening of the cardiovascular system, there's little doubt that it's the legs that will promulgate such a healthy state of physical being. it is the latter that experience the rapid onset of lactic acid burn, training for which can either lessen the pain, or assist the brain in the pursuit of tolerable suffering. however, recent research by the university of copenhagen has learned that a year's worth of heavy resistance training around retirement age (something of a moving target in modern-day britain) results in the preservation of vital leg strength in later years.

oddly, a recently published report in the guardian newspaper singularly failed to mention cycling in any of its paragraphs. instead, the article suggested lifting heavy weights with your legs three times a week for those circling retirement age, could prove highly beneficial in the long term. i confess that, apart from lifting my four year-old grand-daughter when she sits on my shins, i have never considered any specific indoor leg-strengthening exercises. i am, however, content to struggle manfully on the 7% gradient of the col du rspb every sunday morning, followed by an almost laughable attempt at rouleuring the flat road between ballinaby and saligo into a strength-sapping headwind.

in attempting to verify the predicted outcome of their research, the university observed 451 people around retirement age involved in a regulated ageing study. split into three mixed gender groups, one undertook twelve months of heavy resistance training, one experienced moderate-intensity training, while a third group continued in the relatively lethargic manner to which they had become accustomed. those in the first group lifted unspecified heavy weights, three times per week. having measured bone and muscle strength prior to the study's commencement, they were again measured after one, two and four years.

those with the hardest workload appear to have maintained their leg strength over time, while the other groups experienced a loss of strength in their legs. with allied research appearing to show that a person's overall health suffers increased debilitation when mobility is restricted, maintaining leg strength may prove of greater importance to long-term health.

those of us who indulge in at least a few kilometres of increased velocipedinal exertion each and every week, are surely manoeuvring ourselves into the upper percentile of a healthy society. and the best part is that such an achievement can be acquired while doing that which we love doing. it may be that we will struggle to fight off our children's offspring when they attempt to steal our seat cushions, but evidence would suggest that we can easily run away from the consequences.

cycling is life; the rest is mere detail.

friday 21 june 2024

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no competition

games controllers

the following will undoubtedly prove just how out of touch i am with modern life, and just how close i have become to emulating the angst of my tv mentor, victor meldrew (from the tv series one foot in the grave). however, if no-one speaks up, things are almost bound to go from bad to worse.

in the days before the interwebs were fully-formed, my chosen vocation required that i remain au-fait with the functional possibilities of the apple mac computers i employed to achieve financial remuneration. a part of this process involved subscribing to one or two macintosh computer publications, one of which arrived each month with a cover-mount compact disc (remember those?). contained within each shiny plastic disc was a number of folders containing a wide variety of software compatible with the aforementioned computers. these included software updates, product demos, useful and useless items of shareware, and inevitably, one folder entitled games.

in each and every case, that folder remained unopened.

we have previously discussed my lack of a competitive gene, a condition that has left my numerous cycle jerseys bereft of safety pin holes resulting from the attachment of a race number. in every case, even during the sunday morning bike rides, i have no particular desire to race any of my velocipedinal peers to the village sign at bruichladdich; nor do i much care if i'm the last to reach the summit of the col du rspb.

it is a trait that was unknowingly crafted in my junior years, upon realising that not only could i not play the card game of snap!, but that i had no particular interest in doing so. nor was i overwhelmingly desirous of playing any of the board games that occupy childlike minds. monopoly, scrabble, draughts, snakes and ladders and several others no longer recalled, gained cursory attention, but i would never be the one to suggest playing. when older, i learned how to play chess, my sole claim to fame being the beating of the school chess club champion, even though he was the one telling me how to move the pieces towards victory. i had to be told i had won.

at college, i managed to easily dispatch the colleague who explained to me how to play snooker; only on realising that it was a game requiring unpossessed skill, was i soundly beaten in every subsequent game. that would doubtless explain my sudden loss of interest. however, while all the above might have engaged a portion of my grey matter, they singularly failed to engender any improvement in physical fitness. but in my defence, i should point out that i had no real interest in that particular aspect of life either. so the fact that i ignored the computer disc games folder was, i believe, almost predictable.

however, the discovery of cycling, and particularly the road discipline, while hardly fostering any sense of competition, made substantial inroads into my physical and mental health, both of which are alive and well even today. which is why, to a certain extent, i despair in advance for those who are currently heading towards adulthood, or have reached its foothills.

the youngest member of the velo club is in his mid-forties, whilst the eldest - the mighty dave-t - is now in his eighties. yet every saturday, i head out on my bicycle to ride around 70km on my own, before choosing to do likewise in the sunday morning peloton the following day. i would hardly categorise this as sporting activity, due predominantly to the lack of any blatant competitiveness, but there's little doubt that it has a great deal to do with our collective fitness levels. but i've a notion that, for those very reasons, we have found it all but impossible to recruit any youthful domestiques

so, you might ask, what is my point?

along with my tuesday edition of the guardian newspaper, came a supplement entitled 'the future of video games and esports'. the problem, as i see it, is the conflation of video gaming and the allusion to a sporting component. if i understood the gist of the eight-page pullout, the word esports relates to video games with a competitive element. to that degree, perhaps these are every bit as innocuous as playing monopoly to discover who ends the game owning the most amount of property and money in the bank. however, to the best of my knowledge, no-one ever suggested that monopoly become a part of the olympic games.

so it appears that esports are essentially computer gaming tournaments watched by those with lesser abilities than those being watched. it genuinely appears that there is precious little sporting activity included. one of the included articles within the feature took the form of an interview with a professor of ethics and games technology (?) at staffordshire university. i believe i would not be incorrect in assuming that the selfsame university is unlikely to be the employer of a professor of cycling, despite the latter potentially not only involving genuine sporting aspirations, but health and transportational benefits to boot.

on the following page, another interview with an interim course director of esports at the same university, in which he revealed that the educational establishment has recently opened an esports facility costing £2.7 million. personally, i have no problem with people playing computer games, nor indeed of attending university course to learn how to produce, broadcast, develop or write the software. i am also given to understand that islay's high school proposes to introduce an esports class in the coming years. but appending the word sports seems reminiscent of prefixing any industrial process with the word bio to pretend that it's environmentally beneficial.

playstations, gameboys and xboxes are specifically for gaming. sporting activity, such as proper cycling, is an entirely different bucket of valve caps, entirely undeserving of being preceded by the letter e.

and don't you forget it.

wednesday 19 june 2024

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world bicycle relief

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the popular kids?

super-prestige cyclocross

eurosport launched a couple of years after mrs washingmachinepost and i moved to the hebrides, but it was a few years later before we succumbed to the dish on the wall and donated money on a monthly basis to rupert murdoch's sky tv. this inadvertently brought us into contact with eurosport, a channel that, as far as i can recall, did not exist in broadcasting terms, as a separate entity. not being even remotely sports-minded, it was a couple of digits on the remote control that were rarely, if ever, pressed in sequence, a situation that changed for the better when eurosport commenced broadcasting coverage of the tour de france in 1991.

unlike the modern programming that bombards us with largely unnecessary punditry, in the early 1990s, before the invention of british eurosport, the tv footage began within the final couple of hours of each stage, and we would be treated to the dulcet tones and inveterate ramblings of the inimitable david duffield and his eventual sidekick, the somewhat disgraced, david harmon. however, confidence was frequently undermined by sudden changes in programming, the over-running of prior live broadcasts, and often immediate switching to the next event the second the winner had crossed the finish line.

i'm led to believe that the change in broadcasting habits was the recognition that audience figures might increase if efforts were made to explain the intricacies of grand tour cycle-racing. hence the punditry. no longer was eurosport solely concerned with entertaining the cognoscenti, but keen to include as many of the great-unwashed as possible. however, with the arrival, in 1999, of british eurosport, though grand tour coverage continued to excel, the british suffix, almost with one fell swoop, led to the exclusion of certain european races that were apparently considered to be of little interest on this side of the channel.

it is a salient fact that change is an integral part of life; nothing stays the same forever, and john donne's epithet that 'no man is an island' turned out to be every bit as applicable to corporate life as to that of the individual. america's discovery channel began to take an interest (financially and otherwise) in eurosport in 2012, eventually leading to full ownership in 2015. meanwhile, discovery channel itself had become a part of warner brothers, a conglomerate that acquired a majority stake in play sports network, an online broadcast startup based in bath in england, created by simon wear and mia walter. play sports network is also the parent company of youtube cycling broadcasters, global cycling network (gcn).

as corporate matters go, often unrelated to the sports in question, change rarely ends for reasons entirely unrelated to the aforementioned sports; in our case, cycle racing. the arrival of gcn+ brought us a second on-screen logo when it appeared that the tail had begun wagging the dog, eurosport's cycle programming seemingly becoming the preserve of gcn's personnel.

to almost bring the story up to date, it was gcn's relationship with play sports that had it feature in the same sentence as eurosport, but when discovery announced last year, that it was selling play sports, gcn+ was effectively closed down. and though it seems that gcn's dan lloyd retains some jurisdiction over the choice of commentary teams apportioned to each event (in cyclocross, for example, jeremy powers was originally employed by gcn, and could still occasionally be heard offering expert comment while we watched mvdp leave everyone trailing in his dust), from a live broadcast point of view, global cycling network appears to have had its day.

things almost appear to have come full circle with the recent announcement that warner brothers/discovery (wbd) has sold the play sports network back to messrs wear and walter. wbd will retain a minority interest in the company, but keep hold of the broadcast rights for all the cycling events previously streamed on gcn+. however, it appears that matters might not end here, with wbd explaining their continued minority stake "...with a view to working with Play Sports Network's leadership on the long-term development of the business."

thankfully, despite all the above listed manoeuvres, cycling seems not to have been lost in the crowd. there has been no apparent diminution of effort on our behalf, and the fact that eurosport offers virtually complete coverage of track cycling and not only the european cyclocross season, but north america's too, generally reckoned to be a minority interest wrapped up in a slightly larger minority interest, that forms a small part of the original minority interest, is viewed by most of us as highly welcome succour to the brave. while the cycle industry ponders its next economic move, it really is of great comfort that armchair viewing, despite its convoluted back office, remains as healthy as ever.

that surely means that we're still the popular kids.

tuesday 18 june 2024

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meanwhile, in a parallel universe, not very far away...

zwift ride

like the majority of those with little better to do than read this stuff, i have spent many a year setting up my two main bicycles. to wit: a ritchey logic steel road bicycle, and a carbon specialized crux cyclocross bike. the latter i have partially detailed only the other day, after fitting a pair of 33mm challenge chicane 'cross tyres, principally to take advantage of the summer we're currently not experiencing.

this bicycle has already been on the receiving end of fortifying fettling of its nether regions this year, my having replaced the press-fit bottom bracket bearings, fitted a new single 40t chainring, a new chain and a thorough cleaning of the cassette. the latter may not make too much physical difference, but it satisfies my aesthetic demands by providing an acceptable level of sparkle to the transmission. despite very little in the way of an increase in speed, these upgrades have engendered an intangible level of confidence that allowed me to insouciantly pass four e-bikers at speed on the approach to bowmore village on saturday afternoon.

(i did say hello as i passed)

though once i would have expressly defined myself as a bona-fide roadie, were i to possess a business card for my velocipedinal activities, it would currently impress upon any hapless recipient that i also harbour cyclocross pretensions, upon which i undoubtedly inscribe an exaggerated level of ability. as a result, my finances frequently have need of being shared between on and offroad aspirations.

from a roadie point of view, though deep-rimmed carbon wheels add a certain air to proceedings, it transpires that, particularly during the winter months, the carbon part has proved to be somewhat of a liability. the result, leaning more towards pragmatism as opposed to looks, brought a proper pair of 32h campagnolo record hubs, laced stainless steel three-cross to mavic open pro rims. thanks to the wheelbuilding expertise that lurks within london's condor cycles, these wheels are likely to outlast both you and i. otherwise, it's fairly traditional fare: alloy ritchey bars, carbon ritchey seatpost and a twelve-speed mechanical campagnolo record groupset.

the older i get, and subsequently, the less alacritous, the simpler it is to come to terms with the knowledge that many of today's technical innovations, while possibly of marginal use to the professional classes, are but mere decoration for the rest of us. i do not possess any form of electronic trickery, and the ritchey stops on standard dual pivot calipers, yet rarely am i substantially distanced by any of my considerably younger peers, simply by way of the technology on which they ride.

my tedious approach to all of the above does not, however, prevent both frame and component manufacturers attempting to discover or create the next big thing for our future delectation.

but it appears that there is now a parallel universe in which similar, though possibly unrelated development dollars are being invested. and all of this simply to benefit the cyclists intent on not actually going anywhere. it seems that zwift, dissatisfied with simply offering residents of watopia the opportunity to pretend they're pedalling ever farther and wider, have turned their attentions to the machinery on which the above might be achieved.

announced only within this past week, and available from 26 june, zwift ride maintains the pretence of being a bicycle while eschewing several of the items that would allow it to be used for commuting, shopping or riding to and from school. for starters, it features no wheels whatsoever, with the front fork fixed to the floor and taking on the job of simply stabilising the entire structure. oddly, and perhaps solely for design purposes, the frame tubes resemble those once beloved of the aero brigade, even down to the seatstays joining half-way down the seat tube. of course, replacing the rear wheel is a smart trainer with installed cassette, yet the frame features no rear derailleur, chain slack accommodated by a pulley-wheel situated behind the crankset.

it is of interest that zwift has opted to retain the resemblance to a regular bicycle when there is, quite possibly, no need to do so, other than provide somewhere to place the water bottle cages. of necessity, however, though decidedly unrequired in our universe, is the option to fit a zwift ride tablet holder (£39.99) upon which food, towel and phone might be placed, alongside an ipad offering a window into the highways and byways of watopia.

though undoubtedly intended as a selling point, i find it of concern that zwift ceo, eric min, commented, "...when i look at my zwift ride, it looks like it belongs in my home." given its demonstrable inability to be physically ridden outdoors, i would query where else he might expect it to belong?

the pretend bicycle, allied with a wahoo kickr core, bears a price tag of £1,199. it seems not unreasonable to assume that purchasers of said device will also possess at least one bona-fide bicycle on which they can ride in the 'real' universe, perhaps inadvertently adding to the price of admission applied to the velocipedinal milieu. with even teenagers now to be seen aboard e-bikes, despite their youthful exuberance being perfectly aligned with riding acoustic bikes, i fear that at least one of the above-mentioned universes is doomed.

it's probably too early to know which one.

monday 17 june 2024

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

the heart grows fonder

badkamers_trofee_veldrijden

those who, for one reason or another, failed to watch this year's giro d'italia, you missed a race that was way more entertaining than the final result might suggest. though tadej pogacar was head and shoulders above the competition, with no disrespect intended to either felipe martinez or geraint thomas, neither were ever in a position to challenge the slovenian's dominant form. and while a victory of almost ten minutes in the final standings would, by itself, suggest a possibly robotic performance by the man in the pink jersey, in truth pogacar showed much in the way of real personality.

should evidence be required for the latter, on the final mountain stage, while in the lead, but under pressure, pogacar had the presence of mind to take a bottle from a roadside soigneur and cross to the opposite side of the road to hand it to a young fan who had been running alongside for a few metres. no matter that at that particular point in the race, the pink jersey was already his to keep, such a benevolent action was impressive to witness.

however, much to the chagrin of many a cycling fan, the be all and end all of the season, particularly for the sponsors, has to be the tour de france, a race that, like many a big brother personality, seems to become ever more famous purely on the basis that it's already famous. the event itself is no more nor less of a race than either the giro or the vuelta, yet so many teams and riders appear to base their entire season around those three weeks in july. for that very reason, i prefer not to feature it as a subject while underway, purely in order to offer a refuge, however slight, for those who, like me, consider it to be the wrong side of overkill.

but i still watch every stage.

despite the giro occupying the same length of time and the same number of stages as le tour, it is sometimes seen by some riders as training for july. one race that has come to fulfil that specific remit, is surely the critérium du dauphiné, won this year, but only just, by former jumbo visma leader, primoz roglic. though his former team must surely be one of the unluckiest in recent memory, his dauphiné yellow jersey was pushed in the latter stages by visma lease-a-bike's matteo jorgenson, with the indomitable canadian, derek gee in third.

while there was never any real doubt that roglic would be going to the tour (and perhaps its importance is underlined by the fact that his new team owners, red bull, have opted to assert their naming rights as the grande boucle begins), but jorgenson's far superior performance to that of his team-mate, sepp kuss, must surely guarantee him a place on the tour team in just under two weeks' time. hopefully, in order to give tadej something to worry about, alongside jonas vingegaard and even more hopefully, wout van aert.

in pursuit of a victory of his own in italy, the belgian had undertaken a more compact and bijou cyclocross season this year, replacing mud and hurdles with training at altitude. as we now know, a serious racing accident in a somewhat innocuous one-day classic put paid to all that. hopefully, for this year's cyclocross season, van aert will realise that the best laid plans of mice and men, etc., and engage more fully with the world cup, badkamers, exact and super prestige trophies, instead of opting for more training on high. because, despite the spring classics season, the giro, the dauphiné and the tours of romandie and switzerland, i really, really miss cyclocross.

yet the realisation that i am one of those velocipedinists who finds the classics and the three grand tours to be simply events that get in the way of the next 'cross season has brought an inexplicable degree of comfort.

long may that persist.

sunday 16 june 2024

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the pain of the amateur

challenge chicane tyre

prior to the advent of the thru-axle, designed specifically to resist the increased forces provided by the disc-brake, we were familiar with the speedy wheel change, in the event of a crevaison, presumably a skill developed by team mechanics in the hope of rivalling their counterparts in formula one motor racing. some of them have come commendably close. with the thru-axle requiring to be removed completely to allow dislodgment of the wheel, the formula one simile has occasionally been emulated by a mechanic with an electric drill in hand for even swifter removal of the axle.

such a change in wheelanomics has more or less resulted in wheel-changes being replaced by the bike-change, any sign of a puncture being eventually followed by the arrival of the team car and the sight of a mechanic lifting a suitable machine from the roofrack. one has to feel a tad sorry for the neutral service mechanics aboard a motorbike festooned with spare wheels. during this year's giro, when a rider suffered a broken spoke on his rear wheel, he opted to ride on until the team car could reach him, despite a shimano neutral service bike being right there alongside.

though the commentator implied that the team was on campagnolo, it's my understanding that neutral service, whether shimano or otherwise, is likely to have wheels with both types of freehub. the question now, i'd imagine, surrounds whether the mechanic sat in the back seat of the team car, remains fenced in by a number of wheelsets, given the preferred option of a bike change. though the thru-axle has transformed the service provided, perhaps it has benefitted the hard-pressed mechanic, offering a smidgeon more room in the back of the car.

however, though i'm sure there's probably an exception or two somewhere across the land, i fear the majority of sunday morning pelotons have little choice but to proceed at the behest of their own self-sufficiency, packing at least one inner tube and a tyre lever in the saddle packs of which velominati so heartily disapproves. though i'm led to believe every amateur peloton harbours at least one individual with a mechanical disposition, it's hardly a substitute for a following skoda with an array of spare bicycles on the roof.

and thus is the lot of the non-professional.

yet that amateur hardship scenario appears to have become a deal harder than was once the case. with many aboard machinery that relies on electrons to change gear, and hydraulics to stop, should either of the above malfunction en-route to the coffee stop, there's a better than evens chance someone will have to call home for a lift. the tools that might offer potential repair are likely too complex, too large and too expensive to be carried in a jersey back pocket. similarly the likelihood of the sole individual with mechanical pretensions having holstered a black and decker drill in one of the three polyester receptacles to more speedily remove and replace a wheel.

however, humorous asides, aside, the real problem appears to be curated by the modern-day tyre. those of us in the sunday peloton who may have need of releasing a deflated inner-tube from its rubber container (and don't think you're necessarily home-free, just because you've fitted tubeless) face a task that seems rarely to be the simple matter it ought to be. though i have been fortunate of late not to have suffered the slings and arrows of in-ride deflation, i did just replace the tyres on my cyclocross bike only yesterday afternoon. with the challenge grifo rear tyre showing little in the way of tread, i opted to replace both front and rear with a pair of challenge chicane 700x33c 'cross tyres.

now i love challenge tyres to the moon and back, but they are total b*st*rds to fit when new. despite possessing a sturdy, pink tyre lever and a tyre-jack, i still have aching thumbs from attempting to squish the inner-tube between the rim flanges before attempting to seat the bead on the rim. folding tyres are also a bit of a faff when removed from the box, displaying an irritating predilection for flopping all over the place when attempting to fit the first bead over the rim edge.

but every single pair of challenge tyres i have owned, whether road or 'cross, has tried both patience, thumbs and temper, when trying to get the last couple of centimetres in place.

things are hard enough when sat on the back door step surrounded by tools, a pressure gauge and a track pump; heaven knows how matters will proceed when stuck at saligo bay on the atlantic coast in a galeforce wind and driving rain attempting to refit that selfsame tyre. though professional mechanics receive deserved approbation for their tireless devotion to their team riders, unless challenge and their peers have a change of heart (and sidewall dimensions) sometime soon, i'll be expecting a round of applause.

challenge tyres

saturday 15 june 2024

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ch,ch,ch, changes

laverack am64

only a matter of days past, i offered praised to specialized bicycles for returning, however briefly, to the exploration of metallurgy in a sideways look at their crux gravel/cyclocross bicycle. according to mike sinyard's company, the reason they had been able to do so, was a welding technique called, d'aluisio smartweld. granted, this technique appears not to offer the sort of smoothness that conceals where one aluminium tube joins with its neighbour, even though such techniques, i believe, do actually exist in real life, but d'aluisio smartweld is not one of them.

carbon monocoque construction effectively dispenses with the idea of tubing altogether, even though historical terminology continues the meme in spite of evidence to the contrary. however, methods of conjoining metal and carbon tubing still persist. along with other framebuilders, the pre-eminent richard sachs continues to braze his pego-richie tubing into fashioned steel lugs, a technique that has existed for more than a century. others, such as tom ritchey, favour tig welding, offering a less brazen (pun intended) means of connection. steven shand's original preferred means was that of the more labour-intensive fillet-brazing, providing the smoothest of smooth joints.

and until recently, colnago's c series replicated the steel frames which inspired their first foray into lugged carbon fibre with the iconic c-40. ultimately, however, lugs of any description are close to becoming an endangered species in the wild. technology, as we have learned in recent years, is no respecter of tradition when it comes to bicycle construction (or componentry), perhaps none more so than additive manufacturing. a drastic reduction in costs has allowed, what we might once have referred to as the cottage industry, to produce a more bespoke experience for their customers.

additive manufacturing is more commonly known as 3-d printing, a technique that has begun to provide gizmos and widgets that can be produced in smaller numbers than economically allowed by larger-scale production methods. stems, handlebars, saddles and device brackets are all available at varying price points. and though there are others who have dabbled successfully in frame construction (filippo ganna's hour-record pinarello was almost entirely produced via additive manufacturing), it need not extend to such gargantuan levels (ganna's frames are reputed to have cost well in excess of £60,000 each) according to oliver laverack and david clow at framebuilders j. laverack.

renowned for being the builders behind the if-you-have-to-ask,-you-can't-afford-it aston martin .1r, oliver laverack is quoted as saying, "Over the four years it took us to develop the .1R we learned a great deal...". the result is a technique that has spread to their own commercial offerings, featuring double-butted titanium tubes. all models in the laverack range are now available with am64, denoting the term additive manufacturing alongside the grade of titanium alloy used for 3-d printing (ti-6al-4v), a material which offers a particularly high strength to weight ratio.

technology such as this, however, arrives at a premium cost, though still comfortably within the latest price parameters defined by several carbon bicycles. for instance, a complete build including an am64 titanium frame, enve carbon fork, stem, aero carbon wheels, handlebar, headset, seatpost, streamline bottom bracket, brooks c13 cambium saddle and twelve-speed ultegra or grx di2 groupset, still arrives with a price tag of less than £10,000. if you add in a bike fit and custom geometry, however, there's an additional £495 with which to contend. road frame only, excluding bespoke geometry and fitting, will give you a fiver change from £7,000. i can't pretend that those prices are anything other than expensive, but compared to colnago's c68 fleur-de-lys, it's a veritable bargain.

how long, we might ask, before additive manufacturing offers an entire, economically affordable, titanium frame? that, i believe, depends greatly on what you'd define as affordable.

j. laverack am64 titanium frames

friday 14 june 2024

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

the more things change...

independent bookshop week

though twitter has changed its moniker to x, it's still not what once it was. or, perhaps more correctly, we're not what it once was; to all intents and purposes x does pretty much the same job that it did when invented in 2006, but like almost everything that changes little in its mode of operation, we've become a tad fed up with it. of all those who were regular tweeters when i joined in 2008, which, i believe, places me in the category known as early adopters, very few, if any are still there. i confess that, while i check my twmp account on a daily basis, i rarely post anything at all, let alone anything that might be thought interesting.

most of those who were prominent on twitter when i first joined have either departed that particular hip scene, or have adopted the same low profile as yours truly. yet despite this apparent loss of faith, i monitor two separate accounts, one decidedly more frequently than the other. in my place of work, it is frequently helpful to monitor the machinations of calmac ferries, citylink coaches and numerous other relevant accounts. in this modern world, it is often as effective to use social media as a news source, as the more traditional methods.

in my personal account, unsurprisingly, i tend to have followed those with at least one foot in the velocipedinal universe, accounts that are all but absent from those visible on the office computer. and, on the basis that i frequently contribute book reviews within islay's community newspaper, i have followed a number of publishers and bookseller, a division of contemporary life that seems to have convincingly found its feet during the covid years, and something that persists with vigour to this day.

though the comparison may seem somewhat estranged, there is something of an affinity between bookshops and bike stores, both of which have been maligned and undercut by the internets. when it's 10:30pm in the evening and you are overcome with desire for a biography of jazz drummer, art blakey, as the ghostbusters were in the habit of exclaiming, 'who ya gonna call?' it is indicative of a society that not only demands, but expects instant gratification; assuming you have amazon prime, there's a better than evens chance that you'll be reading about ibrahim ibn buhaina (art blakey's adopted islamic identity) by teatime the following day.

what bookshop can compete with that? online bikeshops may not offer such alacrity, but you can see the similarities.

but, just like many a bikeshop, a bookshop is not solely about the books. if you're of a certain disposition (and i am), perusing the shelves of a bookshop is infinitely more satisfying that scrolling through amazon's website. though i am not a habitual visitor to bikeshops, some, through even modest creativity, simply demand to be visited. however, from what i can see, they are singularly far poorer at publicising their existence, than are the nation's indepndent bookshops. in fact, based purely on observation, cycling as a whole is far less adept at publicising its existence (with the exception of markus stitz) than is the bookshop/publishing milieu.

for instance, even as i type, we are midway through the uk's national bike week, the existence of which i was reminded purely by accident. despite the number of cycle-related accounts followed by @twmp, i have seen scarce mention of this fact. if recollection serves well, yesterday was bike-to-work-day a fact that, if widely known, was also widely ignored. when cycling to a windfarm information event yesterday afternoon, i can guarantee i saw not a single cyclist (other than myself).

yet from 15 - 22 june it's independent bookshop week, a fact of which i have been reminded a considerable number of times each and every day since last friday, and a fact that i expect also to be reminded about each and every day until it comes to a close. i'll cheerfully confess that x is the only form of social media with which i interact, and it's eminently possible that national bike week has been publicised to within an inch of its life on facebook, tik-tok, instagram and other means of which i am sadly unaware. but i remain to be convinced.

if anyone from cycling uk, british cycling, or the bicycle association happens to be reading, please try to get your act together for next year. if you really want to impress and improve upon current cycle use in the uk, you're going to have to do a great deal better. just like the bookshops, i figure that i, and every other resident in britain should have been bombarded with bike week messages from morning till nightfall during the week leading up to the week-long event, and then again during the week in question.

i would agree that i'm not the target audience; i already cycle as often as i can. but in the off-chance that i exist as a social media hermit, i queried a number of my friends and acquaintances, well-known as social media addicts; not one had heard of national bike week. however, in their defence, none was aware of independent bookshop week either.

thursday 13 june 2024

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

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

pedal to the metal

specialized crux dsw

while i would dearly love to add the word 'metallurgist' to my hypothetical business card (which already names me as a senior publishing executive (northern hemisphere) and social media consultant), the fragility of such an apellation would be seriously undermined should anyone look too closely. in an ideal world, i'd have myself nominated as a knowledge management consultant, purely on the basis that it's a highly difficult claim to successfully repute - predominantly on the basis that, along with yours truly, very few people know what the title actually means. however, from a purely personal point of view, i have creatively re-positioned the word in contemporary vocabulary, to spuriously mean that i have a (velocipedinal) affinity for metals.

of my two regular rides, one is constructed from round steel tubing, the principal defection to the blackstuff being via its carbon fork. admittedly its bikeshed bedfellow is wholly carbon, but it does one no harm to keep an eye on the opposition. as we have discussed during previous conversations, the carbon bicycle alluded to above takes the form of a specialized crux elite, when the crux was a definedly bona-fide cyclocross bike. never ones to avoid a bandwagon on which they might jump, specialized have re-positioned the crux as a gravel bike, with all the negative implications contained within that definition.

in fact, when next on specialized's website, look sufficiently close and you might note that the crux is categorised as both a cyclocross and a gravel bike. the giveaway tell-tale is the width of the tyres fitted as standard to the majority of crux models, checking in at 38mm. as any obsessive cyclocross aficionado will tell you, the uci has mandated that, for competition use, cyclocross bicycles are restricted to a maximum of 33mm. thus, were you to spend £7,000 on a specialized crux pro, with the intention of joining tom, wout and mathieu on the cross circuit later this year, you'd have to shell out a few more pounds to acquire race legal rubber.

however, disagreements over whether 'cross is a subset of gravel or vice-versa, until very recently, any flavour of specialized crux would have proved to be carbon from front to back and top to bottom, demonstrating the direction in which accepted development has traditionally travelled. yet, as recently as 2016, i reviewed a polished aluminium specialized crux e5 x1, a bicycle outfitted with a sram rival groupset and which, a mere eight years ago, could be purchased for the princely sum of £1,800.

how things have changed.

in what carbon fans might depict as a retrograde step, specialized have re-introduced an aluminium metal crux frame, kept as lightweight as possible by means of their previously controversial and awkwardly named, d'aluisio smartweld welding process. this has allowed the proffering of a 9.37kg bicycle, less than one kilogramme heavier than the comparable carbon crux comp. though the proof may be in dragging the pudding through the undergrowth, cycling socialisation would suggest that metal trounces burnt plastic in the durability stakes. whether the latter proves true or otherwise, those of a certain age are predisposed to believe that to be a truism. in which case, moving from carbon fibre to metal (aluminium) could be seen as a progressive step in the right direction (understood to be finally settling on steel as the only truly pragmatic choice).

of course, just as bike frame materials tend to change at a glacial pace, financial matters could probably outgun tadej in a time-trial. for that reason, what once weighed in at £1,800, now retails at a less favourable £2,300, admittedly a rise of only £500 in the space of eight years. according to my opinion (as richard sachs might say), this is deserving of our approbation, though not quite as favourable as either a steel ritchey cyclocross bicycle, or ultimately, one of mr sachs custom versions with one of his delectable fork crowns and a set of cantilevers.

well played specialized and i look forward to the arrival of a steel version

specialized cruz dsw

wednesday 12 june 2024

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

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

a sense of purpose

stage monitor

i spent two evenings of the recent weekend demonstrating my limited percussive abilities at a local hostelry, along with two gents with whom i have a long (musical) history. the area available for guitar, bass and a not altogether huge drumset is, to be blunt, somewhat compact and bijou, intrusions into the percussive domain arriving courtesy of a guitar amplifier and one of the public address speakers. these restrictions undoubtedly limit my ability to achieve certain outcomes, but on the basis that i have been playing the same venue around four times per year for more years than i can truthfully remember, i'm sort of used to it by now.

many an aspiring musician at an early point in his or her career harbours dreams of making it, whatever that actually means. i am well acquainted with a number of respected professional jazz musicians, all of whom earn sufficient amounts to support themselves and their families, but i seriously doubt any would confirm that they'd made it. the latter conjures images of a successful string of concerts initially nation-wide, leading inevitably to world tours and lucrative recording contracts. personally, my ideal of having made it, when still in my youth, revolved predominantly around either being the drummer in a resident jazz piano trio, presenting a musical menu just sufficiently outwith the commercial milieu to attract occasional approbation from fellow musicians and an appreciative audience.

those of you who have visited islay in the past may have familiarised yourselves sufficiently to recognise that the island is hardly the centre of the musical universe, effectively rendering the above aspiration null and void. the alternative, less jazz-based, was the possibility that i might achieve some success as a studio session drummer, rather undermined by my unfortunate inability to sight-read to an appreciable standard.

by now, of course, i am long past the age when either of the above might still be achievable, a situation that i believe can be extended to my weekend colleagues (though i sometimes wonder about the guitarist). nowadays, my more modest, though not necessarily any more achievable yearnings, are to occupy a stage on which there is more than sufficient space to comfortably setup my drumset, possibly on a small riser, offering unlimited elbow room. included in the above would be a monitor sound system that enabled me to hear any accompanying musicians with pinpoint clarity, or, at lower sound levels, musicians who played with sufficient perspicacity not to drown out the rest of the band. i'm thinking jazz piano trio here (red garland, thelonious monk, bill evans - you catch my drift?)

contemplating the unlikelihood of any of the above conferred similar thoughts about what it is i might desire or expect from my weekly kilometreage on the bicycle. having never pinned a number on my back for competitive reasons, i believe i passed that particularly high water mark several decades past, resigning myself to the knowledge that whatever my unaided top speed at present, it will continue to decrease in the coming years. oddly enough, that is not something that i fear; i'll settle for retaining the ability to ride my bicycle as often as possible, along with the stamina to plough recklessly into galeforce headwinds and horizontal rain. aside from the latter situation, which is all but exclusive to the hebrides, i figure most of us hold fairly limited, yet similar demands from our cycling exploits.

i have no great desire to own the latest in carbon fibre augmented with wireless electronics, though i would hardly condemn anyone for whom such ambitions fill their waking dreams. personally, i'd settle for a set of amber sidewall tyres that did not disguise their amberness from view after only a few winter kilometres, and even as much as one-third of of wout van aert's bike handling skills. i daresay there will be those at the back of the room issuing guffaws at such tame, desultory ambitions, however unlikely either are to be realised. that said, i believe it's of some importance to maintain one or two ambitions in a jersey back pocket; as the years roll by, the simple act of riding a bicycle may be held front and centre, but a little extra-curricular motivation always comes in handy in moments of despair.

tuesday 11 june 2024

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

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

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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