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

hero worship

gene krupa

in the march issue of american jazz and blues magazine downbeat, (or deadbeat, as my newsagent refers to it), there is an interview with jazz trumpeter, ambrose akinmusire, during which he states he is frequently asked how he came up with his own voice - in other words, from where did his individualistic style of playing arise? he said that he regularly replied that he didn't really have a style all of his own, "it's really just that i stole from people you don't know."

to an extent, it's a question frequently asked of all sorts of musicians, predominantly because those at the opposite end of the musical scale (pun not intended) are inclined to fixate on a favourite musician, or musicians, with the intention of copying their methodology. in drumming circles, there are an inordinate number of amateur and semi-professionals who have fixated on the sound and technique of steve gadd, one of the world's most recorded session drummers, and who has played with some of the world's finest musicians. likewise, john bonham of led zeppelin, jeff porcaro and several others i could mention and of whom you've never heard.

this is the public face of the conundrum, one that faces players of all instruments; when beginning to learn drums, guitar, saxophone, keyboard, etc., our betters will often suggest that we listen to the greats, transcribe some of their finest work (if you have the ability to do so), and learn how they achieved what they achieved. it's a system that could go one of two ways: either you become besotted with the technique and mannerisms of your heroes and subsequently seek to replicate that which brought them to the top, or, hopefully, you absorb the best of what they have to offer, build upon it, and develop your own style as a result.

thankfully, i appear not to have gone down the first route, because i'm pretty sure i don't sound like any of the drummers that have been, or continue to be, the subject of my admiration. granted, i ocasionally find myself sneaking in something i learned from phil collins or bill bruford, but since my technique was originally learned from louie bellson, gene krupa and buddy rich, it's ultimately become a mish-mash of them all, though well below their standard of playing (as you would expect).

but does the same work if we attempt to learn from the world's top road cyclists? do they, in fact, feature any stylistic or technical accomplishments from which we might learn. and i don't mean chris froome's habit of staring at his stem while riding elbows-out. i do recall once attempting to continually climb with my hands on the bar tops, because somewhere i have a poster of robert millar doing so on a tour de france mountain (it did not work out, since i found it less than effective than on the hoods). who amongst us has not tried to emulate marco pantani's dancing on the pedals on climbs less than half the gradient the diminutive italian plied his trade?

is this a logical transference to be adopted from the world of music? for instance, if your physique means it's more efficient to climb when seated, emulating marco might not be an effective means of becoming a better cyclist. and when browsing the pages of a recommended training manual, are we learning skills and techniques originated by cycling's greats, or attempting to make use of advice provided to them by their coaches, nutritionists and directeurs sportifs? in which case, perhaps it's the latter from whom we should be learning, rather than the riders themselves.

there are, however, parallels to me made. if i find myself impressed by the playing of jay bellerose, for example, it might be a valid option to look at who influenced him, leading back through the history of drumming and learning as we go. shift to velocipedinal matters, and take a look at the descending skills purveyed by tom pidcock. the brit enjoyed a successful career as a cyclocross rider before transferring to the road, along with his peers, wout van aert and mathieu van der poel. though i'm inclined to think that expert descenders have something that the rest of us don't possess, pidcock's bike handling skills were undoubtedly gained from his years on a 'cross bike, despite a complete lack of long, steep descents in koksijde.

the worst part about considering any of the above options, is that now it probably won't be just me who will spend the weekend examining all aspects of my pedalling technique, to source from whom i might have borrowed it.

you're welcome.

saturday 20 april 2024

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i don't believe it

farkin hill

though today's headline is predominantly regarded as the preserve of my hero, victor meldrew, star of the tv series one foot in the grave, in this particular case, i have made use of it in its original sense. it encapsulates my personal reaction to the latest report from the highly respected sustrans, which states that a majority of the uk's population want the government to shift its investment in road building schemes, to fund options for walking, cycling, public transport and the almost inexplicable 'wheeling'. at the risk of incurring the wrath of the report's authors, i would suggest that it is immediately filed under fiction.

from someone who writes daily of the benefits, joy and pragmatic benefits of cycling, that might appear to be both controversial, and contrary at the same time. in which case, allow me to elucidate.

i have worn the next clichéd response to the point of exhaustion, but in the current discussion, i believe it has a reputable degree of pertinence. in the latter part of the 20th century, the local voluntary sector committee acquired funding to engage the services of local minibus operators in extending transportation options on the island after 6pm, when the regular bus service ended for the day.

prior to implementation of the improved and apparently oft-requested adjunct to islay's daily transportation network, a survey was carried out across all the island's villages to ascertain potential support for the weeknight service. i'm led to believe that, in every instance, enthusiasm effectively guaranteed full seats within each of those minibuses. the reality was, as you might expect, somewhat different. in particular, the minibus running between bowmore and port ellen remained steadfastly empty, apparently the result of the residents of the latter village telling their inquisitors precisely what they thought they wanted to hear.

islay's bus service has been curtailed at 6pm daily since time immemorial, unsurprisingly leading the population to make alternative arrangements should they have need of attending events or hostelries during the evening hours. the vast majority of island residents own cars for that very reason. it transpired that, while port ellen residents figured they personally would have no need of the evening bus service, they thought others might, so in the spirit of altruism, answered yes for the potential benefit of their friends and neighbours. hence the empty buses.

though i have no concrete evidence to suggest that the nation's population is of similar mind, past experience would tend to suggest that might be the case. sustrans and their peers have been reporting of such population predilections for many a long year, yet bicycle sales have declined, while car use has increased. if i look about me in the hebrides, i see no evidence whatsoever of any increase in people walking or cycling, while the island's bus service, purely on visual evidence, is used no more than has ever been the case. yes, mine is but a tiny corner of the universe, but behaviourally, probably no different than anywhere else.

how often have we read in the nationals or seen on tv, the number of bus services reduced across the nation, and been told that the majority who are purportedly attracted to cycling, find britain's traffic to be largely off-putting? yet sustrans' report states that public demand for active travel over driving shows 50% wanting to walk more and 43% intending to cycle. i walk for almost two kilometres every weekeday morning before going to work, something i have done for almost 30 years. in all that time, i have seen no increase in the numbers i meet each morning, a figure that has remained steadfastly at zero (unless you count emma and her happy spaniel, milo).

additionally, there is effectively the same number of cyclists on a sunday morning as there was twenty years ago, and no more whatsoever who cycle commute. over that time, the car park near the croft has gained twice as many cars, and the streets of bowmore are, at certain times, clogged with vehicles every bit as much as any mainland town. there are people who live in a village that is no longer than 1.6km from end to end, who drive to work in the selfsame village. all the evidence would tend to suggest that the nation is playing a huge practical joke on the nice people at sustrans, and they're falling for it.

and despite the fact that i am one of a select number regularly invited to participate in a bona-fide national survey, never once have i been asked whether i'd be more inclined to cycle, walk, wheel or use public transport. i'd dearly love to be proved wrong, but i feel confident in my insurrectionist views.

friday 19 april 2024

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ride it like you stole it

locked e-bike

bike theft is a highly common problem across most of the country. thankfully, it has yet to intrude in the day to day life of the hebrides, but that could largely be due to the distinct lack of cyclists in the area. the most common 'theft' scenario on the island, is the occasional discovery of hitherto unseen bicycles in the front garden, having been temporarily purloined by those bereft of transport after a heavy night in the pub. bicycles disappearing forever is, thankfully, uncommon.

but a carefree attitude towards other people's property is a blight on modern society that shows little sign of disappearing, a blight that has impinged itself upon the popularity of the e-bike. if contemporary consumers are inclined to ease the act of mobility, it should perhaps be of no surprise that the nation's thieves are inclined to join the happy throng. as a naive islander, i thought long and hard as to why my cycle-friendly denims featured a large loop of material on the rear of the waistband, only to finally realise it was there to facilitate the carrying of a d-lock for my bicycle. as advised above, that is yet to be garmentage necessary on this side of the ferry terminal.

however, according to a freedom of information request by evolve e-bikes, thefts of e-bikes have increased by a whopping 250% in the last two years. that number becomes a tad more bearable on learning that total e-bike thefts now account for a rather minimal 6.2% of the total number of bike thefts. but then to whip the carpet from beneath us, it has been pointed out that this has increased from a less scary 1.4%. this indicates that, whatever else is going on the world at present, there a an increasing number of e-bikes being pinched.

to present the glaringly obvious, no-one wants their possessions to be stolen by unsavoury individuals, and in order to prevent that happening, we lock our doors, keep valuables away from prying eyes, and take out insurance against theft. similarly with motor cars; the lack of a key, or smart-fob, under favourable circumstances, not only prevents access to a locked vehicle, but the ability to start it, should the former have failed for one reason or another. bicycles are slightly harder objects to defend, given that they're often light enough to be carried off, if not locked to a substantial object. i'd like to think that owners of any type of bicycle in urban settings and inner cities, take every precaution to resist theft, but bike thefts continue nonetheless.

so could the manufacturers assist in this pursuit? quite probably. the specialized turbo vado reviewed in these very pixels a number of years ago, featured a key lock to prevent removal of the battery, even though the form factor would only allow use in yet another turbo vado. its lighter weight successor featured a battery encased within the downtube, one which could not be removed without special tools. however, in my e-bike innocence, i had imagined that removal of the key would have prevented the motor engaging under pedalling, but sadly, that was not the case. i believe i mentioned this in my review, wondering why such an obviously preventative measure had not been implemented.

the lack of a means of engaging the motor would obviously not prevent the bicycle being wheeled away if left unlocked, but it would surely not be outwith the realms of possibility to have both the motor and transmission lock, should the key be absent, making it a lot harder to move. however, even the weight of a basic e-bike would hardly stop two individuals lifting the bicycle into the back of a van, allowing lock circumvention off-site. where there is motive force to be enabled via a motor of any kind, there is surely also the option to disable it?

at the bottom of bowmore main street, there are two bike racks to which visiting cyclists will often padlock their touring bicycles. smug islanders, such as myself, will usually snigger at such methodology, safe in the knowledge that locally, hardly anyone cycles; concern that those non-cyclists would stoop to steal a laden touring bicycle with gearing that none understand, is largely misplaced. but i can understand why the privileged local cyclist might laugh in error; were those cyclists to get out of the habit of locking their prized possessions while in the hebrides, that habit might continue on return to the mainland. that, as we've already discussed, would not be a good idea.

whatever your opinion of the vicissitudes present in modern society, if you own a bicycle of any type, but especially of the e-bike variety, make sure you take every precaution to retain possession. get hold of the very best lock available and make sure you use it to securely fasten your bicycle to something immoveable. if the seat pin features a quick release, replace it with a secure bolt that requires a special key to remove, and make sure that your bike lock fits around not only the frame, but preferably one or both wheels. if in doubt, check with your local bike shop or police station (though the latter has often been accused of showing little interest in preventing bike theft). it's also worth fitting apple's air tags or some other means of tracking the bicycle should it be removed, and having the frame coded in some way to ensure you can identify it if found.

you do have to wonder, however, that, aside from lock manufacturers, whether the bicycle industry, and particularly those purveying e-bikes, invests in any inclusive anti-theft measures when designing new bicycles. the evidence would tend to suggest not.

photo: hiplok

thursday 18 april 2024

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consequences

ritchey butano ridge handlebar

i apologise in advance if part of today's monologue comes across as advertorial, an aspect of the following narrative that is essentially unintentional but quite possibly necessitous at the same time. the subject is that of internally routed cabling, whether for rim or disc brakes - though the former may now be persona-non-grata and thus immune from any immediate consequences. though i have not had cause to become involved in such matters directly, i'm led to believe from those who have, that this ultimately pointless aspect of velocipedinal progress has transformed what was once, at worst, a service procedure measured in hours, to one that is now likely to extend over a couple of days.

and remember, whatever your own opinion of integrated cable routing, utlimately you're the one paying for what can only ever be an aesthetic choice. you surely don't think that removing a cable or two from the airflow is actually making a tangible difference to your topline speed?

at any rate, tom ritchey has seen fit to offer the brand new, hot off the shelf, superlogic butano ridge handlebar, a carbon monocoque, one piece bar/stem combo "...that offers complete internal cable/wire/hose routing for modern gravel and road bike frames." bear in mind that all ritchey steel bicycle frames offer external routing for both rim and hydraulic disc brake options, as well as mechanical groupsets. the one concession would appear to be the option of internal rear derailleur cable routing for shimano's latest semi-wireless di2, assuming the battery to be enclosed within the seat tube. should you opt to fit the butano ridge bar and stem combo on your ritchey bicycle, internal cable routing from the bar-mounted levers is not a direct option.

of course, it could be that mr ritchey has future plans to redesign the headtubes on at least his gravel and road frames to join the internal cable club, but based on the more traditional construction currently on offer, i seriously hope not. yet, given the sheep-like mentality demonstrated by the bulk of the cycle industry's frame manufacturers, perhaps tom saw this as an opportunity not to be missed. though he personally may harbour suspicions similar to my own, over the whole integrated philosophy, business is business, and, in the words of the ancient proverb, "the prudent man looketh well to his going." in other words, if this looks to be a trend likely to persist well into the future, it would be somewhat naive to ignore any collateral benefits that might accrue.

i, like a number of velocipedinists, tend to undertake my own cycle maintenance, as much from the point of there being little option, given my location, as from the enjoyment and satisfaction of so doing. quite how long that remains a viable option, i know not, but i am ever grateful that ritchey bicycles have continued to offer cable, headset and bottom bracket options that will allow me, and other ritchey owners, to be masters of our own destiny well into the 21st century. given that steel remains their principal choice of frame material, barring accident, my ritchey logic will persist long after i've joined the velodrome in the sky.

i do feel sorry for those who are only just beginning their cycling careers, whatever that description might entail. according to my opinion, as richard sachs would say, too much of modern cycle technology exists simply because it can, rather than any particular need or demand for it to do so. already there is conjecture that the recent spate of accidents at professional level (van aert, roglic, vingegaard et al) might be laid at the door of the disc-brake; not necessarily on a specific level, but at the change in riding habits it has entailed. and how many companies enthusiastically adopted the press-fit bottom bracket, only to drop it like a hot potato when creak turned to crunch? and don't get me started on hookless or tubeless tyres.

ritchey's entrance into the monocoque carbon cockpit is, i'll admit, something of a surprise, but i'm sure that certain sales trends ought not to be allowed to pass unmolested. however, it does seem a shame that cycling's chaos theory spreads its ripples outward to those who would appear to favour more sensible riding solutions, generally untroubled by the fashion of the day. perhaps i'll get the option to find out what all the fuss is about at some point in the future, but in the interim, i harbour serious doubts that the majority of us are anywhere near fast enough to benefit from the minute advantages reputedly conferred by hidden cables.

but in the meantime, thank you tom.

ritchey butano ridge carbon handlebar

wednesday 17 april 2024

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prendas ciclismo ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

modern liquidity

flowbio s1 wearable

my recent review of alan murchison's excellent cook book for athletes, the cycling chef on the go, not only had me admit to rarely, if ever, drinking during my frequent bike rides, but subsequently looking a tad closer at the reasons why that might be the case. it's an oddity, the complexity of which i first noticed when undertaking my first hotchillee london-paris ride. at lunch on day one, i had drunk approximately half the liquid in my 500ml water bottle, despite the bicycle being replete with two bottle cages, themselves outfitted with a bottle each. on a personal level, that did not seem particularly outlandish, until i discovered that one of my fellow pelotoneers had emptied both of his bottles, was starting on his third and looked considerably more dishevelled than yours truly.

travelling further back in time, having received a selection of training manuals for review, in the spirit of suffering for your art, i had done my best to replicate at least some of the advice contained within. common to all was the advice to begin sipping from the water bottle within the first fifteen minutes of the bike ride, repeating the process every five minutes thereafter. the problem with that advice was soon perfectly clear, as in almost every case, i managed about three sips of whatever was in my bidon before i forgot to continue.

the mighty dave-t, hails from an earlier era, when club riders would insist on their winter bicycles featuring mudguards and a fixed wheel. the idea, as i understand it, was to acquire or encourage souplesse, all the better to challenge for victory during the upcoming season. and included within that sort of philosophy was apparently disdain for the carrying of a water bottle on rides under sixty miles in length. this appears to have relied, however, more on the concept of pain and suffering rather than any nutritional considerations. it was also, we might remind ourselves, the era when club rides often exceeded 100 miles, and if you couldn't keep up, you'd be left to your own devices to make it home.

however, there's no denying that, in my case, the vigours of youth have long since made a successful bid for freedom, and perhaps regular slurps of water (or a more tasty preparation) would help me maintain the little degree of fitness that has opted to remain. the difficulty that such an about change would confer is based on the knowledge that, as a creature of habit, my customary lack of drinking while riding is probably too solidly ingrained to overturn. yet, for a cost, it seems there may be a solution to my predicament.

a company by the name of flowbio has recently announced the launch of a product confoundingly named s1, and described as "the most accurate wearable hydration sensor for triathletes, cyclists and runners." averse as i am to any means of monitoring my current state of health, perhaps the simplicity of having to wear an armband sensor as i go about my daily existence, including those weekend bike rides, could prove that i have been totally remiss in my hydration ministrations over the past couple of decades. the stumbling block might be the apparent necessity for the use of the almost ubiquitous smartphone app, providing the necessary analysis data. i still count myself amongst the diminishing number of individuals bereft of smartphone.

that said, according to flowbio's website, the wearable device communicates via ant+ and bluetooth, so in theory it ought to work on my ipod. according to flowbio, the app is essential to review the recorded data.

assuming that to be the case, and for the princely sum of £329, i outfit myself with the above mentioned wearable technology, a second hurdle presents itself, one that would be shared with the hypothetical acquisition of a crank-based power-meter, should such a thing come to pass. there's a reason why highly qualified nutritionists and performance coaches charge so much after years at college: data interpretation. will i have the faintest idea of what the s1 is telling me? and will i know what do with the result?

so far, my apparent aversion to on-the-bike-hydration seems not to have produced any noticeably negative effects, but there's still a nagging concern that it might be, and by the time i realise what those effects are, it'll be too late. that said, i recall a highly quailfied nutritionist mention that that's what thirst is for. according to her, if my honed physique were to find itself running on empty, there would be no immediate need for an armband and smartphone app.

flowbio

tuesday 16 april 2024

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

ritchey comp xc offroad pedals

ritchey comp xc pedals

i have two bicycles that i ride most regularly, despite personal embarrassment that the other bicycles that i possess tend to sit, unused, though still loved, in the bike shed. the cyclocross bike gets regular outings on saturdays, partly because i enjoy riding the dunes at uiskentuie, and partly because there's no need to keep up with anyone on a solo ride. it's also the bicycle that i employ if i have need of travelling anywhere on the island for work, such as drop-in events at the local gaelic centre, or slightly farther afield such as the recent opening of port ellen distillery.

the gaelic centre is not a problem as far as footfall is concerned, but when visiting any of the distilleries (more frequently than you'd like to think), there will always be stairs with which to contend, and often flooring that is distinctly not road-cleat friendly (all those who have taken a tour of port ellen maltings will no precisely of which i speak). therefore, the pedals on the 'cross bike and the compatible cleats, are of the offroad variety, which is exactly as you'd expect. but if not actually involved in racing, and devoid of the requirement to seriously sprint for the village sign at bruichladdich, there's really no good reason to fit pedals to my ritchey road bike that demand a set of three-point fixing cleats; the ones that make you walk like a duck.

ritchey comp xc pedals

for the traditionalists amongst us, and i would generally count myself midst their number, a proper pair of road shoes with those large three-bolt plastic cleats might be a prerequisite of considering yourself to be a fully-paid up roadie, but in many cases, they're hardly the most pragmatic choice. granted, everyone's kilometreage may vary, but our sunday parcours includes a substantial proportion of single-track roads that feature unkempt grass verges, including those which border the numerous passing places. if stopping to allow traffic to pass, road cleats can be an affront to velocipedinal health and safety; the smaller, recessed two-bolt cleats and offroad shoes are a great deal safer.

a few of the sunday peloton took account of this situation several years ago, and though i do not subscribe to being a dedicated follower of fashion, i cannot deny having felt a smidgeon of envy regarding their increased mobility in the face of adversity. so when ritchey offered a pair of their comp xc offroad pedals for review, it seemed not only rude to refuse, but the ideal opportunity to emulate my comrades in arms (or feet).

ritchey offer the pedals in black, red, or orange. based on the fact that everyone knows red is faster than either, red was my first colour choice. and given the sharp detail they have added to my ritchey logic, i'm intending to replace the bar tape with similarly coloured fabric when time comes to update. maybe i am a dedicated follower of fashion after all.

ritchey comp xc pedals

featuring a cast-alloy body, both inner and outer bearings are straightforward ball-bearings rolling smoothly on a cro-moly axle at an all up weight of 331g. as with the majority of offroad pedals, they're designed for double-sided entry using shimano spd compatible cleats that come with the pedals. though i've not tested the theory so far, i believe it ought to be possible to service the bearings if and when the need arises; i may have to get back to you on that one. and far be it from me to criticise, i do have to wonder why ritchey bother to paint the cleats black, given that, after only two rides, the paint had all but scraped off. it is, of course a mere cosmetic detail, but it does seem a tad pointless.

strangely enough, a problem that i've only previously experienced with ritchey pedals occurred during the second ride. several years ago, i reviewed a pair of ritchey micro-road pedals, a product no longer available. after a few months of use, the steel cleats started to squeak quite loudly in use, a noise that i singularly failed to get rid of. the same happened with these, though considerably quieter. that said, a subtle application of grease, has put paid to any further noise, even in the face of particularly adverse riding conditions.

ritchey comp xc pedals

fitted from new, the pedal spring tension is set midway along the scale between really loose and really tight. i confess that this aspect of fitting escaped my attention until unclipping prior to the start of a very windy sunday ride. this is not to aver that the tension was particularly onerous, but it was a bit tighter than that of the pedals the ritcheys replaced. at the end of the day's ride, i backed off the tension ready for the next outing, though it transpired i may have overdone it with the allen wrench. the tension of both sides of pedals is now set to my satisfaction, but it's worth my pointing out that even when the tension was almost non-existent, not once did my foot pull out, even when standing up to climb.

though the paint has worn off both cleats, that applied to the pedals seems of a far stronger constitution, for so far, despite the weather and my occasional foot-based incompetence, they remain every bit as colourfully shiny as when removed from the box. ritchey also offer a more expensive and lighter pair of similar pedals, featuring a mid-axle needle bearing, accompanying a sealed cartridge outer bearing and an inner bushing. these are only available in black.

i've likely only covered a few kilometres less than 500 on the pedals so far, but at present, i'm more than satisfied. there's every likelihood that there will be a follow up to this review when a few hundred more kilometres have been covered, but at a cost of £57.90, ritchey's comp xc pedals would appear to be a very practical and cost-effective addition to any bicycle, whether designed for road or offroad.

monday 15 april 2024

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world bicycle relief

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we are (not) sailing

mv glen rosa

i was pointing out to friends at lunchtime on saturday, that, domiciled as we are on an island, we are considerably more fortunate than our mainland counterparts. this positivity is based on the knowledge that not only can we constantly moan about the weather and potholed roads, but we can vent our collective spleens in the direction of caledonain macbrayne. those who pay attention to scotland's ferry fiasco, will be well aware that calmac cannot seem to catch a break; aside from the two ferries that are currently six years late being built in ferguson's yard on the clyde, the advancing average age of the current fleet has given rise to intermittent, yet frequent delays, cancellations and disruptions.

on the islay route, we are regarded as requiring a two-vessel service, predominantly at the behest of the distilleries. aside fom the whisky tourists, the ten currently in production require to bring in supplies for the distillation of the amber nectar, as well as shipping of spirit for both maturation and bottling. over and above those ten, there are two others under construction, demanding materials and contractors to carry out the work in a timeous manner.

every vessel is required to undergo an annual refit, the shipping equivalent of an mot test for your car. the refit season tends to begin around november, and usually continues until easter of the following year. the larger ships generally require three to four weeks in drydock, meaning that substitutes require to be found in order to provide the lifeline services to the scottish islands. unfortunately, given the age of the vessels, rarely do they exit drydock on schedule, giving rise to a game of three-dimensional chinese puzzles to try and keep everyone happy.

calmac operate 34 ferries serving 22 major islands, so you can imagine the logistical challenges provided every year in order to satisfy the marine and coastguard agency demands for annual servicing.

at this precise moment in time, the islay service should be served by the thirteen year-old mv finlaggan and the 39 year-old mv hebridean isles. however, the latter has been suffering from a lack of heating and hot water for several weeks, and was taken off the route earlier last week for repairs. those should have seen it return by friday, but additional problems advise that it is now due to return to service later today. the desperate need for this to happen is pressured by the finlaggan being due to head for its delayed refit on monday 15 april, replaced while in drydock, by the smaller and much older mv lord of the isles.

the hope is that the finlaggan can be serviced within the projected timescale, allowing it to return in time for the whisky festival at the end of may. at that point, islay and jura residents must fervently hope that the captain currently on duty will be replaced by his opposite number. i say this because this past week has seen several sailings cancelled, including two on saturday afternoon, because reputedly the fellow is seriously lacking in confidence when berthing the vessel at any of our two island and one mainland ports.

i am no sailor by any stretch of the imagination, but despite winds in excess of 70kph last sunday, the other captain kept the boat sailing during storm kathleen. yesterday's winds were substantially lower, yet cancellations occurred. we have not had daily newspapers since last wednesday, and the local averagemarket has been devoid of daily supplies on at least a couple of occasions.

however, it would be foolish to pretend that weather conditions have actually been favourable. though mostly bright and sunny yesterday, the saturday parcours was strafed by a particularly onerous wind, making this old bloke on a bike actually work for once, and though the showers were heavy when they appeared, the intervening draught was sufficient to ensure i arrived home, physically drained, but dry. and it would be conceited to think that inclement weather is the sole preserve of the hebrides; noted cycling author and journalist, kenny pryde, tweeted yesterday that, as a glasgow resident, he has resigned himself to rarely being on the receiving end of ideal cycling weather "but, as a cyclist, this spell of weather is really starting to vex me."

for my part, i will usually go out cycling in pretty much anything that heads my way, if only because i'm reticent to let it beat me. however, there's a difference between enjoying the journey and cycling because 'it has to be done'. obviously enough, there are weather conditions in which it would foolish, if not downright dangerous, to cycle; i like to think i know at what point it changes from good to bad, possibly a line in the sand that's a bit farther out than to which most would subscribe. but having to continuously 'push the envelope', so to speak, inevitably leads to a curtailing of enthusiasm, no matter how many waterproofs i have at my command.

hopefully the weather gods will heed kenny pryde's supplications, and we can get back to pretending we're mathieu van der poel, wout van aert, or tadej pogacar, no longer having to conceal our stylish personas or honed physiques 'neath all-enveloping gore-tex.

photo of the launch of the mv glen rosa at ferguson's yard, glasgow on tuesday 9 april by john cunningham.

sunday 14 april 2024

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basics

bearing press

i have possessed a specialized crux elite cyclocross bicycle since july 2016, meaning that the fluorescent red, green and white machine has been a resident of the hebrides for almost eight years. and though this is not meant to be the culimination of a (very) long-term review, i can honestly say that it hasn't once let me down. i have replaced the disc pads on a couple of occasions, but have yet to move out of my comfort zone and do anything at all to the hydraulic fluid. whether that ought to have been taken care of before now, i know not, but i can say that the fluid is still pretty much in the same condition as it was when the bicycle arrived.

despite my avowed lack of maintenance, the brakes still work very efficiently.

i have had cause to replace the rear derailleur, but purely because i was unable to source suitable jockey wheels, when the bearings in the original set took a turn for the worse. the gear cables have yet to be replaced, despite the end of the rear mech cable having seriously frayed when someone decided to make off with the cable-end. since that particular cable is routed internally, the longer i can put off that job, the better. i'm also reasonably sure that the chainring will require replacement when next i change the chain, but that's a problem for another day.

however, a couple of weeks past, while heading inexorably towards coffee and a double-egg roll, i noted an occasional creaking noise, which, as you'd expect, appeared to emanate from the bottom bracket area. figuring it may be the crank bolt, which has required minor adjustment on previous occasions, i attempted to tighten it on arrival at debbie's, only to discover it to be fully tensioned. on leaving after lunch, the creaking gradually increased to embarrassing proportions, giving cause for concern that something was about to break.

on removing the driveside crank later that same day, lubricating the bolt and cleaning the spindle splines, on reassembly, the loud creak had thankfully, disappeared. however, when checking the press-fit bearings, it was clear that they were in need of replacement. hardly surprising after eight years of sterling service. i believe i have mentioned before, that specialized have tinkered with the bb30 standard, meaning i harbour a few doubts that the replacement bearings sitting on the kitchen table, might not be the ones that i need. however, at some point in the very near future, i will, once again, remove the crankset to check.

assuming all to be tip-top and bristol fashion, i am working on the not altogether confident assumption that i can hammer the bearings with a drift, removing them from their place in the bottom bracket, leaving the way clear to install the replacements, should i, by some strange quirk of fate, have actually managed to purchase the correct items. however, given the proximity of fragile carbon fibre, the thought of attempting to fit the new bearings via some carefully aimed hammer blows scarcely seems like the hi-tec means likely to result in success. to that end, i have purchased a simple bearing press which i have every faith, will prove suitable to have the crux up and running in no time at all.

i agree that it is my own fault for having ordered a tool from amazon instead of favouring a bona-fide bicycle shop, but if all goes according to plan, this is a tool that will see very little action, particularly if the replacement bearings last as long as their predecessors. almost every option from a proper bike shop cost considerably more than the pittance i paid for the tool in question, but therein lies the thrust of today's monologue.

i like to think of myself as a reasonably competent bicycle mechanic, as long as matters do not stray into the realms of electronics or hydraulics. therefore, i understand the concept of an interference fit, and how a bearing press works. but, in fact, that bearing press arrived with no instructions whatsoever (who knows, perhaps even the more costly items from bike shops would be the same - but at least i'd have recourse to contacting the shop to ask for some qualified advice). when you consider that cheap tools are frequently bought by those with little knowledge, a lack of any instructions could be seen as a recipe for disaster.

yet i own a toolset that allows for the removal and installation of the bearings on a campagnolo crankset, one that was adjudged sufficiently expensive to arrive with its own instruction booklet. unfortunately, those instructions failed to mention that the drive-side bearing is held in place by a spring-clip, one which requires to be removed prior to applying pressure to the removal device. that's all i'm going to say on that particular matter.

ought not it to be mandatory for any bicycle tool to be supplied with at least the bare minimum of instructions, given that the manufacturer has not the faintest idea as to the skillset possessed by the customer? there is, of course, a counter argument that says any job about which you are less than confident, ought to be passed to a bike shop mechanic anyway. what right has the rank amateur to be messing with processes about which they are manifestly uninformed in the first place? always assuming, of course, that there happens to be a bike shop in the locale which they can approach.

i'd have thought a simple set of instructions ought to cover most situations.

saturday 13 april 2024

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dealings

authorised dealer

though bicycle reviews on thewashingmachinepost are no longer something to be expected, in the days when these black and yellow pixels were often given over to the service of so doing, there was always a certain degree of conflict that effectively remains unresolved. as is the case with the majority of bicycles these days, from budget models to those eliciting a sharp intake of breath, the boxes in which they arrive frequently feature, in bold lettering on the exterior, a warning that, should the bicycle contained within be assembled by other than authorised personnel, there's a better than evens chance that the bogey man will get me in my sleep.

i have always assumed that the principal thrust of these emboldened warnings, applied solely to the vendor of the end product. always assuming that a bike shop is an authorised dealer of a particular marque, assembly by a member of their staff is perfectly acceptable, and any subsequent warranty claims will be courteously honoured. however, when just such a box arrived at the croft, it would surely have been obvious to all that my credentials for assembling that which was contained within, remained untested. a bit like who might be responsible for insuring any particular review machine, the subject of my technical ability to safely assemble the bicycle was never questioned.

and though, to the best of my knowledge, trek bicycles are the only manufacturer unwilling to ship a boxed bicycle directly to the customer, on one particular instance, no such restriction was placed on my receipt of a madone for review. the implication seemed to be that, if i was capable of writing a few thousand words about bicycles on a regular basis, then i obviously had the technical wherewithal to build one too. in my case, i'd like to think that was a fair assumption, but one that was never specifically tested.

in part, i am thankful that my days of reviewing bicycles has become the subject of history; today's machinery, incorporating as it does, a mixture of hydraulics and electronics with a package that often features proprietary technology, almost seems designed to underline my technical deficiencies. i have been reliably informed by someone who knows a great deal more than yours truly, that the major component manufacturers would dearly love to insist that everything be fitted, fettled and maintained by fully-qualified and factory trained mechanics on forfeit of warrantly. as soon as one pulls that particular trigger, you can bet that the others will be right behind them.

unfortunately, that would immediately exclude the home-mechanic and possibly the itinerant reviewer, unless they were willing to accept whatever fate awaited their presumed ignorance. in my opinion, that would be a sad development, though i can fully comprehend why there remains an impetus to implement such a strategy. i tend to think that installing a campagnolo record crankset is well within my capabilities; but what if i'm wrong?

no self-respecting manufacturer wishes to be the subject of negative headlines as a result of well-meaning incompetence on behalf of a paying customer, or a self-assured cycling blogger. which presumably explains the speedy riposte from bianchi over the paris-roubaix accusations of arkea professional, florian sénéchal.

the frenchman, who made four bike changes during sunday's race, finally finished in 60th place after suffering what he described as a "technical problem with our bikes". these seemingly centred around either the stems or forks, with sénéchal complaining of hearing "carbon noises", and changing bikes due to fears that the bicycle(s) was about to break. bianchi, however, have apparently shifted the blame to the team's mechanics who, they claim, ignored the manufacturer's instructions concerning assembly of the handlebars.

given the level at which professional team mechanics operate, if they experience problems assembling or preparing bicycles, then perhaps the manufacturers are right to print such stern warnings on the boxes. few of us can reach and maintain the speeds regularly demonstrated by professional riders, and even fewer have need of riding over cobbled roads similar to those that constitute the hell of the north. but in the midst of ever increasing motor traffic, on roads that seem to deteriorate before our very eyes, a self-inflicted technical problem that might result in injury is unlikely to be welcomed with open arms by the warranty department. the problem, from the manufacturers' point of view, might be the legal necessity of defending their handiwork that was subsequently maligned by the 'amateur'.

on a recent trip to scotland, the glasgow bus was preceded by a recovery vehicle carrying a motor car belonging to a friend of mine. when i mentioned this upon my return, she claimed to have experienced continual problems with said vehicle, the most recent, as witnessed by yours truly, to rebuild the master slave cylinder (whatever that is). although under warranty, the sales dealer was unable to accept the car until july this year, so it had been transported to an alternative.

ever helpful, i commiserated with her misgivings over the reliability of the average motor vehicle, explaining that to be one of the principal reasons why i eschewed ownership of a car, and preferring a bicycle at least in part, because i could personally repair almost every potential fault, should that ever prove necessary.

in the light of the above article, it seems highly likely that my insufferable smugness might soon melt away like snow off a drystone wall.

friday 12 april 2024

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

says it all, really

fantasy gravel

this is very much at risk of becoming a habit, but once again, i find myself in a position of defending my stance on gravel biking, if only because what follows below appears to place everything in yet another, possibly eccentric perspective. basically, for what it's worth, i have nothing at all against folks heading off into the hinterlands in search of gravel, or something remarkably close, though i do object to the aesthetics of so-called bikepacking bags. not that i actually believe anyone cares. it is of great succour that there is a recently invented genre of biking that might conceivably bring recruits to the party, recruits who might even be persuaded to remain even on discovering that this new invention is, in fact, not new at all.

and at the risk of repeating myself ad nauseam, it is my contention that gravel bikes are nothing more nor less than re-packaged cyclocross bicycles which were right under our noses all along. the industry's contention that this was an invention demanded by an eager, velocipedinally inclined public, smells very much like a marketing construct to boost declining sales of existing genres. well do i know that there are many who oppose such a stance, and that is, in a democratic world, perfectly ok. if you have the money, you can spend it on anything you darned well like. i have five expensive wood snare drums that evidence that very concept.

but could it be that, despite my cynicism in the face of increasing sales and corporate marketing hype, all is not well in the land of gravel? i base this suspicion on an e-mail received but a matter of days past from a company entitled fantasy gravel. the premise behind this smartphone-based app seems to be of similar constitution to the fantasy games that inhabit the world of the tour de france and any number of soccer tournaments. to quote directly from the e-missive, "Fantasy Gravel is the first game to follow and pick your winners at the gravel races worldwide. Follow your favorite athletes, pick your wins, and earn many prizes and cycling products." this would, i believe, pre-suppose that there is sufficient interest in and knowledge of gravel racing, to bring about a desire to indulge in such a state of fantasy. personally, and granted this may be as a result of my proclaimed disdain, i cannot name a single gravel rider, other than lachie morton.

but lest you think that i'm simply picking on the smallest kid on the world stage, the e-mail continues to unequivocally state, "Gravel racing is here to stay and has certainly become the fastest-growing sector of the cycling industry." so far so good; if we are to believe the progenitors of this pro-gravel indulgence, this appears to be an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something that will grow past all our wildest expectations.

but then, with no spoiler alert to let us down gently, the folks at fantasy gravel seem to throw doubt on their previous level of enthusiasm. for, if gravel is indeed 'here to stay' while proving to be the saviour of the bicycle industry, why is it necessary to impress "...how do we keep this momentum going and ensure continued growth?" surely in something with the propounded momentum reputedly demonstrated by the gravel meme, there ought not to be any perceived requirement for the great unwashed to intervene on its behalf? and if there is, are we convinced that playing fantasy games on a phone is the solution?

this is, however, as you may already be thinking, easy for me to say. i guarantee that, not only have i never participated in any form of online fantasy game, but there is precious little chance of that ever coming to pass. based on remarkably little knowledge, and even less solicitude, i harbour grave doubts that fantasy gravel provides "...a platform for [the athletes] to be more known and with the gamification creates a unique link with the gravel enthusiast." aside from the dubious grammar contained within that quote, i'd be inclined to think that the best way forward for the gravel category, would be that more folks bought gravel (cyclocross) bikes and headed off into the gravellous sunset.

but i've been wrong before.

thursday 11 april 2024

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

the cycling chef on the go - ride day recipes to fuel up, replenish and restore. alan murchison. bloomsbury hardback 192pp illus. £22

cycling chef on the go - alan murchison

time was when mrs washingmachinepost was all but obsessed with tv cookery programmes, of which there was (and still is) an inexplicably large number. though evolution has brought them together on their own channels rather than leaving them as culinary punctuation to normal viewing, they have shown an admirable persistence. would that the cycle show had displayed a similar level of tenacity.

though my other half was courageously self-employed as a childminder at the time, she implied that there might be a few spare hours available to augment our usual victuals, whereupon i imagined arriving home to an impressive spread of comestibles. unfortunately, it transpired that, along with millions of others, the act of watching programmes about cooking rarely translated into actual cooking, in our actual house, utitlising our actual oven.

i, on the other hand, could burn corn flakes without deliberately trying; even boiling water was not safe from my ministrations. apparently, platefuls of charred botulism do not a happy menu make. and therein lies the fallacy of the following book review.

bearing in mind the above mentioned book was kindly supplied by bloomsbury sport well in advance of publication, the cunning plan had been to choose one or two of mr murchison's comprehensive recipes, acquire the listed ingredients, and produce remarkable similar foodstuffs to those pictured and described within the book's 192 pages. however, as the saying goes, 'the best laid plans...' i will not bore you with the intervening happenstances that prevented the plan from being anything close to cunning, but suffice it to say there remains a notable scarcity of ride day recipes within the croft.

author and chef, alan murchison is remarkably well-versed in his metiér, able to clearly explain the rationale behind the selection of recipes included within 'the cycling chef on the go'. disappointingly (for him, not you or me), i fear i may be the exception to the rule that possibly makes me the wrong person to review the book's core philosophy. for starters, though i leave home every sunday morning with at least 250ml of water in my 500ml 'lion of flanders' water bottle, flying in the face of pages of well-intentioned advice, i return home with those same millilitres untouched. additionally, even on rides of near 70km, not one of my three rear pockets contain any form of sustenance.

yet, according to mr murchison, "...to professional, club and weekend riders alike, portable foods are as essential as a pump and a spare tube." a logic with which it is hard to deny if you're not me. granted, i am in the well-documented habit of punctuating the saturday ride with a double-egg roll, while sunday features a cheese and tomato toastie. and even though both items are consumed while sat in debbie's café, i'm taking that as at least tacit adherence to the master plan. in this sense, perhaps we could classify debbie's as a substitute team car?

in my defence, i harbour no illusions that my weekly cycling activities constitute anything close to the act of training, but if i'm brutally honest, mr murchison appears to suggest that the essential nature of on-the-bike feeding is applicable to all who turn a pedal in anger (or perhaps with simply an observable degree of earnestness).

the author's credentials are, however, impeccable: "These recipes are based around dishes I have created as a performance chef to leading teams and elite riders around the world." given the level of attention paid to the nutritional requirements of the contemporary professional, i doubt mr murchison would have gained success in his chosen vocation, were he not exemplary in his knowledge and close attention to detail.

where the majority of us are demonstrably remiss, is likely in our approach to preparation, bringing us neatly to the book's second chapter, entitled, 'Preparation is everything'. as he rightly states, "The chances are you won't have a support vehicle driving by to hand you fresh water or feeding stations distributing provisions..." he therefore advises that we ought to pack our musettes or pockets in advance, and to pay heed as to what it is with which the latter are filled. i can only plead guilty to having ignored this stage of proceedings for longer than i care to admit.

mr murchison goes on to educate us as to how the body assimilates the nutrients (or lack of) that we may or may not consume in the heat of what constitutes our own personal battle. he carefully outlines that, while sugar, is sugar, is sugar, there is a difference in the way variations such as glucose and fructose (for example) absorbed by our soon to be, powerful physiques. it is significant that the author's grasp of the latest nutritional ideologies is, as far as i can observe, right up to date, advising as he does of appropriate means of training one's digestive system to absorb increased amounts of carbohydrate and proteins. the latter has been cited as the reason why each subsequent season provides ever-increasing race speeds (witness the average velocities seen in the 2024 editions of milan-sanremo, de ronde van vlaanderen and most recently, paris-roubaix).

there is a wide range of recipes on offer here, from simple rice cakes for instant gratification, to meals you might consume prior to or following training or a specific event. for the majority, acquiring the listed ingredients will not be a problem, but i confess that several are not only challenging for a hebridean island-based velocipedinist, but in certain cases, utterly unobtainable. though the nice people at portnahaven's orsay sea salt would be happy to provide sea salt flakes, try as i might, i failed to source ground cassia cinnamon bark. then of course, there is one's dietary considerations to be observed: i will have no truck with coconut, i'm not much of a chocolate enthusiast (harbouring a healthy disdain for the white variety and verging on being allergic to chocolate chips), and then there's vegetarianism.

items such as murch mochi japanese-style corn and coconut cake, snickerish slices, and fruit 'n' nutella bites do not, as they say, float my boat (though i should admit that i'm the only one i know who would rather ride on flat tyres than eat nutella). however, adapting my day-to-day as per mr murchison's exemplary guidance, i fully intend to create (or die in the attempt) as many of the included recipes as time, availability and dietary preference allows.

this is perhaps a perfect example of "do as i say, and not as i do", whereby i implore you to acquire this book and raid as many recipes as you can. the narrative is impeccable; do not emulate my laissez faire attitude - eschew the double-egg rolls and toasties in favour of cherry, coconut and white choc energy bars, chocolate cherry pancake rolls, or ham, parmesan and feta rice cakes. that said, the minute our local averagemarket receives stock of sweet potatoes and i find out what the heck harissa paste is, i'm making vast quantities of sweet potato 'tattie' scones.

and though, from time immemorial, we have been advised not to judge a book by its cover, emil dacanay and sian rance are to be roundly congratulated for the cover design and page layout of a book that i'd have happily purchased for those aspects alone.

the cycling chef on the go by alan murchison, is published by bloomsbury sport on thursday 11 april.

wednesday 10 april 2024

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

why not?

mathieu van der poel - paris-roubaix 2024

in march 2020, after thirty-three years of acclaimed graphic design, andy altmann and david ellis announced they were closing down their successful design studio, why not associates, in order to pursue their own individual projects. having met when they were both students at the royal college of art, they claimed not to have intended setting up in business with each other, but when the jobs seemed to be arriving on an endless basis, they figured they ought to find somewhere to work and give themselves a name.

as 'why not associates' they found themselves a workspace in london's archer street, "...a practice built on experimentation and collaboration [...] a place where there was still room for the 'happy accident'. the name reputedly arose when they both accepted their fate; when asking themselves why they ought to setup a design studio, the collective answer was "why not?" it's a question probably more than one or two of us asked on sunday in relation to mathieu van der poel's impressive victory in paris-roubaix.

the query, however, was not aimed at mvdp, but at messrs pollit, pederson, kung, pithie and van dijke, all of whom observed the dutchman leave them in a cloud of cobble dust. i freely admit that i asked the question as an individual whose sole velocipedinal attribute is an ability to ride in winds that others more sensible than yours truly, have the perception to avoid. i guarantee that if any of my fellow sunday morning colleagues opt to sprint ahead on the col du rspb, i am not the fellow to whom you'd look to start (or end) the chase. it is therefore entirely hypocritical of me to point the finger at others for displaying the attributes of lead boots.

however...

if i might rewind to the sunday before the ronde van vlaanderen, lidl-trek rider, mads pedersen, a previous road world champion, comfortably outsprinted van der poel to win gent-wevelgem. if nothing else, that would surely demonstrate that pedersen is every bit the equal of van der poel, undermining any argument that his chances of catching mvdp on sunday were based on flights of fancy. pollit has arguably fewer credentials in that respect, but an alliance between the two would surely have given van der poel a run for his money.

yet, as happens so often in world-tour cycle racing, when one rider takes a flyer off the front, those left behind, instead of simply pushing harder on the pedals, demonstrate an observable tendency to look at each other, hoping that one or other will take up the chase. granted, at the front of the group when van der poel took his winning opportunity, was jasper philipsen, not only one of the sport's top sprinters, but riding for the same alpecin-deceuninck team. however, surely the knee-jerk reaction on behalf of the others would/should have been to set off in pursuit and worry about the consequences at a later point?

granted, pedersen made at least two failed attempts to do so, but the minute philipsen reached his back wheel, he sat up, presumably reckoning that the latter would simply sit on his wheel and fail to contribute to the chase. that particular point i clearly understand, but there seems little heed paid to the knowledge that van der poel was also a solo rider; irrespective of having a team-mate trailing any pursuer, would pedersen not have stood every chance of catching and equalling the dutchman, as he had shown at wevelgem?

sitting tight and looking at his closest adversaries was never going to work out; any chase really ought to have been instigated immediately.

it's a situation played out on almost a weekly basis throughout the season, and one that i'm not sure i quite comprehend. the basis appears to revolve around the common prospect of undertaking the bulk of the work to chase down the leader, before being outsprinted by the rider who simply sat on and enjoyed a free ride. but refusing to do anything at all in the forlorn hope that others will be happy to take on the task, generally means that any chances of victory are in the process of disappearing up the road. as was the case on sunday.

if we might turn the tables for a minute, had either pedersen or pollit scooted off the front with still 59.7km left to go, do we really think that van der poel would have sat and looked around. in reality, i well know that philipsen would have been sent up the road to police the break, but let's pretend that was not the case. hypothetically, place pollit, pedersen and van der poel in a lead group from which pedersen emulates van der poel's behaviour on sunday. can we really see the dutchman looking at pollit to chase? yet pedersen had already proved to the world, to mathieu and to himself, that he was every bit as good. sunday would have been a good time to remind himself of that ability.

for athletes who regularly demonstrate exacting ambition and competitiveness in the heat of battle, perhaps they ought to adopt the slogan beloved of britain's national lottery:

'you have to be in it to win it'

tuesday 9 april 2024

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

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

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

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