withdrawal symptoms

wout van aert, hamme

i have long thought of myself as a fickle sort of chap, one who swtiches allegiance from one thing to another, based far less on fashion or trend, but more on possibly spurious opportunity. this is far more apparent in my percussive ideals than my velocipedinal aspirations, but to be sure, the latter exist no matter how much i'd like to deny them.

from one evening to the next, i can find myself switching from a traditional stick grip to that of matched, yet by the time i awake the following morning, or even before going to bed, i have had cause to reconsider, searching for youtube videos that might reinforce either option. the worst aspect of the latter is my searching for footage of an australian drummer by the name of virgil donati, a contemporary and remarkably dextrous traditional grip practitioner. the fly-in-the-ointment is the fact that the music played by virgil bears no relation whatsoever to that which i am asked to do. he manages more odd-time signatures in one video than i have achieved in a lifetime.

and then there's buddy and gene and why i own a vintage marine pearl clad drumset.

cycling is sort of the same, though with perhaps fewer twists and turns than the percussive life. currently, it's cyclocross, massively encouraged by the amount of live coverage given to the super prestige, x2o badkamers and uci world series. only this past weekend, saturday featured wout demolishing the opposition in hamme, in the badkamers series, while sunday showed mvdp doing likewise in besancon. granted, it must be seriously disappointing for those actually participating in any of the above 'cross series to be left standing by the dutchman and belgian, but it's mostly fun to watch.

yet the road-racing season is also underway down under, where the weather appears to be more clement, but somehow, and this might be more to do with the hebridean mindset, all that sun, short sleeves and bibshorts appear a tad more 'namby-pamby' by comparison to the mudfests that were both the dutch and british national cyclocross championships. combine that with the fact that scotland's cameron mason took sixth place in hamme and you can possibly envisage just why cyclocross is my current flavour of the month.

but next weekend will witness the cyclocross world championships from hoogerheide, effectively bringing to an end this wonderful spree, despite the knowledge that there are still one or two following events to round off differing championships. then suddenly, life will be bereft of cyclocross. and it's not even as if 'cross features greatly in my weekly parcours. yes, i occasionally trundle down the grassy dunes of uiskentuie strand, and there's many a potholed islay road that all but demands a sturdy set of 'cross rubber, but by and large, it's roadie-ville for me, a state of affairs which i share with a large majority.

granted, there's the enticing prospect of the spring classics on the horizon, with omloop het nieuwsblad on 25 february, followed the next day, by kuurne-brussels-kuurne, but i find myself currently contemplating life as one of those for whom the road season is simply one long stretch that gets in the way of 'cross racing.

however, i stated in my opening paragraph that i find fickleness to be an encroaching and embarrassing character flaw, so by the time the winner has crossed the line at omloop, i will probably be, once again, a dyed-in-the-wool roadie, at least as far as the spring classics are concerned. in that particular case, i can admit to a great deal of similarities in my weekly riding; rain, wind, cold, belgian toothpaste and roads travailed predominantly by tractors. so while i may be nowhere near the average speeds demonstrated by the professionals, i can sympathise with the weather conditions in which many of the classics are ridden. in fact, even as we rode home yesterday from debbie's the conversation switched as to why the professionals, in preparation for riding in such conditions, tend to head south for the winter, instead of joining us on sunday mornings for a few hours of rule #5 purgatory.

but, if you promise not to tell, i'll confide that i'm already checking to see when the first cyclocross events of autumn 2023 are scheduled to take place, while investigating the possibility of acquiring another 'cross bike for next winter.

see; fickle.

monday 30 january 2023

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vic firth drumsticks

in an attempt to save islay's community form a dearth of indigenous entertainment, along with a few friends, i have become part of a band, playing music specifically aimed at the local function market. though i can think of not one song on the set list that is ever likely to feature on my ipod playlist, the idea is to play for weddings, functions, dinner dances and similar events throughout the year. though at one time, there was more than one musical group constituted to do likewise, at the present time it is, what i believe would be correctly referred to as a null set.

of course, this didn't just occur yesterday; even amongst experienced musicians (and some of us actually are), it takes time to build a reasonable repertoire, capable of being featured across an engagement of two or more hours. truth be told, this particular project commenced last summer, and next weekend, we find ourselves in the gratifying position of playing our first gig at a local wedding in the rhinns hall, portnahaven.

the village, along with its hall, is on the southwest tip of the island, at least seven miles south west of port charlotte on the coast of which, according to the mighty dave-t, the atlantic acts as his 'water-feature'. though it may seem a tad overwrought, despite the wedding not taking place until saturday 4 february, it was decided that, yesterday, we should descend upon the hall en-masse, replete with instruments, backline and pa system, to investigate the environs in which we would strut our stuff, so to speak. this turned out to have been a wizard wheeze, given the decidedly user-unfriendly acoustic properties of the high, peaked ceiling.

for those of a musical persuasion, the trouble experienced in achieving a beneficial sound both on and off stage, will hopefully engender sympathetic feelings. for those who are more likely to attend a wedding rather than feature as part of the evening's entertainment, the above will probably appear as just so much yada, yada.

however, aside from the lengthy and frustrating amount of time involved in apparently getting nowhere, was the parallel amount of frustration in being unable to head out on the bike during a particularly fine, sunny and mild day. granted, i was fortunate enough to have been out on the bicycle on thursday and friday afternoons, but both excursions, though disappointingly short, formed a part of the daily travail, and, in my book, don't really count.

though i am inclined to experience particularly excellent mental health, i tend to put that down to the opportunity to enjoy a solo bike ride each and every saturday, combined with a soya latte and double-egg roll at debbie's. augmented with a velo club group ride on sunday mornings, and lately, on-screen cyclocross on sunday afternoons, when it's time to return to the office on monday morning, i have gained sufficient velocipedinal succour to last until the following saturday.

as previously advised, i am a creature of habit, one of which is that saturday ride. however, the timing of yesterday's extended and troublesome sound-check precluded any opportunity to drag the specialized, kicking and screaming from the bike shed. and though you would be correct in pointing out that i surely must find physical and musical solace when playing my drumset, those factors were disappointingly absent from our afternoon musical ministrations, due predominantly to a public address system that seemed hellbent on defying the will of its operators.

there is, however, something of a happy ending. when next saturday dawns, the very day of (hopefully) matrimonial joy for bride and groom, our presence is not required until 7:30 of the pm. and despite the desire of certain members of the band to endure further self-inflicted audio strife for at least a couple of hours prior to that time, there will be sufficient opportunity for a good few solitary kilometres, a latte and the all-important, double-egg roll. music-making is great, but it really shouldn't get in the way of a bike ride.

sometimes you get the mountain...

sunday 29 january 2023

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softwear engineering


on thursday afternoon, i attended a cmal public presentation in port ellen's ramsay hall, concerning the proposed pier upgrade at the southern edge of the village. this is one of two ferry ports on the island, the benefits of which are many fold, depending on the prevailing wind direction on any given day. the potential downside to this two port arrangement, is that, quite frequently, those arriving via port ellen can be unaware that the terminal at port askaig in the north, even exists, thus returning to port ellen for the outward journey instead of at port askaig. i'm almost ashamed to admit that such circumstances are often a source of mirth to those of us who live here.

however, caledonian maritime assets ltd (cmal) are one of three companies involved in servicing the western isles by way of vehicle and passenger ferries. basically, cmal own the boats and the piers, while caledonian macbrayne (calmac) simply operate them. however, there is a third company, david macbrayne ltd, which is responsible for employing the staff. with two new ferries for the islay under construction at the cemre shipyard in turkey, all eyes have turned to upgrading the piers to greet the new boats, which is where the house of cards starts to collapse.

currently, our largest ferry serving the islay route, the mv finlaggan, is capable of carrying a maximum of 85 cars. the new boats will carry a maximum of 108 cars. port ellen pier and, i believe, port askaig pier (owned by argyll & bute council) feature only sufficient marshalling provision for the finlaggan's 85. hence the need for upgrades. the fly-in-the-ointment is that cmal have yet to decide which upgrade option will go ahead (the very reason for the public presentation), following which there will be all sorts of harbour provision orders to complete and various other legal matters before construction can begin.

according to current reports, the two ferries under construction are already three weeks ahead of schedule, with the first due for delivery in october of 2024 and the second in february 2025. disappointingly, work to upgrade port ellen pier is unlikely now to commence until after the boats have arrived. which means, if you've been paying attention, that the extra capacity of both boats will be unavailable until the upgrade works have been completed, probably in 2027. you really couldn't make this up.

but while i was attending this presentation, staring glibly at the proposed timeline, a friend of mine poked me in the ribs to say hello. a tall, well built fellow, he also cycles the highways and byways of the island, but i was wont to point out that i had not seen him aboard his bicycle in recent months. he admitted to having a wattbike at his house, and when the weather turned inclement, he was apt to ride that, rather than face the elements. unlike yours truly, he said, "i'm a fair weather cyclist." to which i replied that unless i was in danger of being blown off my bike (it happens), i'd go out no matter what.

billy connolly once suggested that scotland had only two seasons; july and winter, a suggestion that's not as far-fetched or humorous as it sounds. from a reviewer's point of view, it is the ideal location to check the veracity of all manner of wind and waterproof clothing, subjecting it to conditions it would be hard to replicate anywhere else in the uk, let alone scotland. for though it would be highly practical to appraise the waterproofing of garmentage anywhere along scotland's west coast, its the driving winds that often put islay at the cutting edge of such investigations. i probably possess more wind and waterproof clothing than most cyclists of my acquaint, and given an inherent tendency to ride in pretty much anything, they are always put to good use.

however, one aspect of the scottish outdoor velocipedinal life that tends to get lost in the deluge, is that of waterproof overshoes. i own two distinct variations: one features both waterproofing and insulation, while the other's unique selling point is that of waterproofing alone. of course, the supposition that any make or type of overshoe provides waterproofing is something of a forlorn hope. when one's legwear becomes saturated, the water simply pours inside the footwear, no matter how waterproof the exterior might be. and given that every style of overshoe has to make room for cleats, there's at least one gaping hole in the bottom, a hole that has a tendency to let water in, no matter how good its intentions might be.

however, such infractions are common right across the board, as, indeed, is that of softwear. at some point in time, every cyclist has to get off the bike and walk to the coffee stop, or to the bike shed. it's movement that i'm sure we all attempt to minimise, though predominantly on the basis of trying to save wear on the cleats. but no matter how much carbon, kevlar or other heavy duty material is woven into the soles of your overshoes, sooner or later, they're going to fall apart, some decidedly sooner than later.

however, perhaps succour is close to hand with only a modest degree of lateral thinking. this week's comic features an article on the latest airless tyre development to arrive at the bicycle wheel at the behest of nasa. it appears they have brought the technology developed for the tyres on the mars rover to the bicycle. these comprise a woven steel casing which memorises its original shape, thus when riding over bumpy ground, it will constantly re-assert its stature. to make it more user and road friendly, the woven steel features an outer coating of synthetic and replaceable rubber.

though technology is simply a word i can spell, it seems to me perfectly possible that such a feature could be applied to the soles of a pair of overshoes, offering the required flexibility with the capacity to return to the original shape should one find oneself traipsing across rough ground. made from steel, it would undoubtedly outlast the current materials, and given that the tyre rubber can be removed and replaced, i see no reason why the same ability would not be conferred upon the overshoe soles.

so when this undoubtedly happens, just remember where you read it first.

saturday 28 january 2023

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the cost of living - crisis?

enve melee

at one time in the past, i would have been able to inform you on what day of the month specific magazines on order from my local newsagent would arrive. however, currently, as a result of either the ageing process, or simply because things have changed in the realm of magazine distribution, i am constantly surprised to find a magazine concealed inside my daily newspaper. especially after i've spent wasted minutes digging through every pocket to compile sufficient loose change to tender what i thought was the correct amount. one of those days occurred a couple of days ago, when my copy of cyclist magazine hid inside my guardian.

though that particular copy has yet to be read at leisure, as is my wont, i skimmed through a few articles on return to the office, just when i thought no-one was looking. editor pete muir's disparagement of electronic groupsets definitely struck a chord, and i e-mailed the gentleman to offer my support for his commendable perspicacity. and though i'd have you believe that bicycle reviews are the last thing to be found on my reading agenda, i cannot deny having a squint at those on offer towards the back of the magazine.

by the time you reach what passes for maturity, i'm reliably informed that preferences for frames, components, or complete bicycles, have been long installed in the subconscious. therefore it would take an outstanding review, coupled with either a substantial inheritance, or an error in your favour by the bank, to have you move from a conditioned favourite, to something that seems too good to pass up.

in my case, the above contention would appear to be particularly true, so my cursory glance at the cyclist cycle reviews, was never in any serious danger of resulting in an impulsive purchase. however, while perusing the sidebar details, i came across the all-up price of an enve melee, a tidy looking carbon machine that gained a favourable review, stretching from a not inexpensive £5300 for the frame, to the as tested price of 12,600. unless you are jeff bezos, elon musk or nadhim zahawi, that's an awful lot of money to pay for a bicycle.

to place this in some sort of relatable perspective, glasgow's bike for good is currently aiming for an extended crowdfunding total of £25,000 to stay afloat for the year. that's the price of two enve melee bicycles. or perhaps one and two-thirds of a colnago v4rs. when a bicycle-related business that undertakes particularly worthwhile social activities, and resuscitates forgotten bikes can survive for a year, for the price of two road bikes, any thoughts of perspective are surely redundant?

and though i do have a tendency to notice car number plates without paying much attention to the types of car to which they are attached, i have noted that the present economic situation seems to have acquired a plethora of dacia duster motor cars, few of which bear personalised number plates. a quick check elicits that the purchase price of a duster begins at a shade over £14,000. i count myself amongst those who issue haughty snorts of derision when someone exclaims at the price of a bicycle, keen to point out that you could buy a car for that sort of money. in return, i am frequently brought to state just how many bicycles could have been purchased for the cost of that 72 plate volvo.

but considering the amount of materials and technology that is packed into even a dacia duster, how on earth can it be cheaper to purchase than a colnago road bike? particularly when the reviewer of said colnago was moved to write "It's safe, it's conservative, it's a paint job from a venture capitalist consortium and not something conceived over a late lunch with half a bottle of Barolo. Let the pros save their grams, but please allow my heart to be set aflutter." based on that alone, one would not surely be chastised for querying the purchase price of a bicycle that is notably bereft of ernesto's signature.

my jar of sacla pesto has increased from a mere £1.99 a month or so ago, to a breathtaking £3.35, so there's no need to read the newspapers or watch the news to be aware of the cost-of-living-crisis. but one really does have to wonder whatever has happened to the reality of the cost-of-cycling? granted, there are other bicycles available at considerably lower prices (cyclist also features a specialized diverge at £7,500 and a scott addict gravel for £5,799, though i realise that, though cheaper, they don't exactly help me make my point).

obviously, nobody is forcing any of us to purchase from cervelo, enve, or the upper regions of the specialized catalogue. but at one time, we probably could.

friday 27 january 2023

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in parallel


just as there still exists a flat earth society, proposing that, despite visual evidence from the international space station, the world is a flat disc, there is also a widely held belief that our own universe is but one of any number of universes, a theory that continues to engender debate even today. this multiverse theory has both proponents and naysayers, though even if it proves to be true, quite what effect this might have on our daily lives is probably purely of academic interest. only but 13 years ago, stephen feeney claimed that evidence from a microwave probe provided evidence that our universe may have collided with a parallel universes in the distant past, though, as you'd probably expect, this has been disputed, if only on the basis that there is no evidence of gravitational pull arising from universes other than ours.

this appears to be accidentally topical as the movie 'everything everywhere all at once' has received eleven oscar nominations.

of course, from a science fiction point of view, the possibility of alternate universes provides the ideal platform on which to base many a novel or comic book, several of which behave as if the multiverse were an actual, proven and tangible thing. however, several accepted theories of physics would apparently be due for a re-write, should conclusive proof of parallel universes be confirmed anytime soon.

that said, it's perhaps not only science fiction that has adopted the multiverse as part of daily life. from reading the press release affirning the takeover of fatmap by everyone's favourite gps data provider, strava, i have grave concerns that those involved actually inhabit a parallel universe, from which they have briefly visited this past week. strava has borne the brunt of heavy criticism recently, following varying levels of subscription increases throughout their world, in several cases leading to subscribers quite unaware of just how much strava expected them to pay. the acquisition and subsequent implementation of the features available via the fatmap app, may convince many to remain true to their tracking masters.

however, the worded wrapping in which this acquisition has been sealed, can only have me conclude that those responsible are not of this world, if only on the evidence of their command (or lack of) the english language. for instance, strava ceo and co-founder, michael horvath, believes that "maps and tools are powerful unlocks...", but stops short of explaining just what an 'unlock' might be. he continues by including the fine fellows at fatmap and explaining that they share the strava vision of inspiring "...more people to move, by empowering them to discover and experience the joy of the outdoors.", a basic action that mr horvath appears to conclude is likely to remain unexplored without the assistance of what i might term stravatmap.

it also appears, from the lofty heights of the universe next door, that this new partnership, will offer "...the opportunity to reimagine the purpose of maps..." i would expect that for the majority of individuals, whether acolytes of strava or fatmap, that the purpose of a map has rarely been in doubt, and i can scarcely imagine quite what alternatives they think they, or we, have in mind. surely the principal purpose of a map is to offer a means of finding one's way from point a to point b, either directly, or circuitously, but with reasonable confidence that a satisfactory end result will ensue.

the wordplay, unfortunately, only gets worse, when mr horvath states, " they inspire exploration is an outsized advantage for a differentiated outdoor experience." despite my long-held notion that i am reasonably well educated, i truly haven't the faintest idea of quite what that actually means. does anyone know what a 'differentiated outdoor experience' is?

misha gopal of fatmap may truly be of our own universe, saying "...we wanted to build a map designed specifically to help people to explore." though this aim may be more to the benefit those who are already subscribed to the latter, such as hikers, mountain bikers, skiers and trail runners. to that it would seem pertinent to add gravel cyclists, though i'd imagine that road cyclists may already be well-served by the current map technology available on existing gps devices.

of course, once again, my lofty cycnicism has me poke holes in what may be a beneficial partnership between two logical entities. however, i harbour great hopes that, at some point in time, chief executive officers will either take an evening class in basic, grammatical english, or simply tell it like it is: 'we've just bought 'fatmap'for their mapping expertise, and we expect this to prove beneficial to our existing customers.' that sort of thing.

but then, in a parallel universe, perhaps 'unlocks' and 'differentiated outdoor experiences' are classed as basic english? or whatever language is colloquial in the multiverse. |

thursday 26 january 2023

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oh dear

stelvio magazine rip

i began writing thewashingmachinepost amost 27 years ago, predominantly as a means of enticing as many readers as possible to enjoy the cycling life as much as did i. across those two-score and seven years, i figure i'm probably more obsessed with cycling than was the case in the mid-nineties, though it would be very hard to deny that i have become a tad more cynical about the motives of those in charge (if, indeed, anyone actually is in charge). though there is a certain similarlty between my early recollections and the notion that distant events are often viewed through rose-tinted glasses, it occurs that this might have more to do with early naivety than the past being truly superior to the present.

unfortunately, and for at least the second day in succession, i have no good news to pass on, or even on which to offer comment. that said, even though an honours degree in hindsight is a handy qualification to have, at the original point of discovery, i cannot deny i did harbour a few doubts about today's subject, but more on that later.

my involvement with islay's community newspaper, extends to being party to minor economic details, one of which has dogged the publishing industry for more years than i can truthfully recall: paper costs. given the casul way in which newspapers and magazines are supplied on a sale-or-return basis to retailers, and the lackadaisical way in which we cast our read newspapers in the recycle bin a day later, would give the impression that, just like talk, paper is cheap. and relatively speaking, that may be true. but last year, the paper costs for the newspaper rose by a sum in excess of 35%, and there's every probability this year will be no different.

while food retailers appear to have no difficulty raising prices to cover their own increasing costs, newspapers, magazines and probably books, tread a very fine economic line. not only is there likely to be a preconceived upper cost with which the reading public is still willing to part, a figure that no-one actually knows until it is passed, but with the continual rise in popularity of social media and online new outlets, the market for physycal newsprint could evaporate unannounced at any moment. once per week, i assist in the teaching of journalism at the local secondary school, during which i have discovered that none of the nine pupils regularly reads any printed news.

in the grand scheme of things, newsprint, as a tangible medium, is quite cheap, far more so than the more quality offerings demanded by those who purchase magazines. according to the colophon in rouleur magazine, the latest issue is printed on amadeus silk, amber graphics, and upm fine papers which, amongst other credentials, explains perhaps why the (back) cover price is £13. at just under half that cost, cyclist magazine doesn't appear to inform the reader on what stock it is printed, but it's easy to see that it is one or two levels of quality lower than that favoured by rouleur.

when the likes of cycle sport and procycling could still be seen on the shelves of w h smith, it was possible to see what was probably the biggest elephant in the room. in the 50s and 60s, it could be up to a week or more before british cycling fans learned the results of the tour de france or giro, unless they could read french and had access to daily copies of l'equipe or la gazetta dello sport. events such as the spring classics probably required engagement of the services of a private investigator.

those days are long gone, but i do wonder how many of us actually read the post tour issues, for instance, reprising the three weeks in july, when the majority would have watched it daily on eurosport/gcn and garnered considerably more detail from a perusing of or and listening to the myriad of podcasts on the subject. by the time the printed press arrived on the doormat or the newsagents in august, where was the point of reading? that was probably the point of no return.

none of the above is news, if you'll pardon the pun. the younger generation pretty much live on their smartphones or ipads, a state of affairs that has gained considerable traction since the release of the iphone in 2007. so, when in july 2022, the inestimable jeremy whittle announced the publication of a new, quarterly cycling magazine entitled stelvio, i cannot deny i was somewhat surprised, particularly following the demise of procycling and america's outside publishing deciding to end production of peloton magazine.

the canning of peloton was even harder to comprehend, given that it had partially morphed into a cycling-based lifestyle magazine, with loosely related articles on french wines, scotch whisky and designer coffees as well as the velocipedinal fare. so launching a new cycling magazine in the uk, when two long-lived predecessors had failed, did seem a tad optimistic. however, with jeremy whittle as editor, peter cossins as features editor, if anyone could make a go of things, they were probably the chaps you would think could do it.

sadly, it seems they couldn't.

arriving in my inbox this morning was an e-mail addressed "Dear Stelvio customer.
"Regrettably we have come to the decision to cease publication of Stelvio magazine.
"Following the publication of issues 1 and 2, we took a winter break ahead of issue 3 in an effort to address a number of factors limiting the success of the magazine and planned to return in March.
"However, we have been unable to make the changes required to allow us to continue publication."

so, following the news that the bicycle industry, apart from road cycling and bicycle repairs, is suffering a notable downturn in fortunes, it seems that the malaise, unlike water, has not yet found its own level. many, many years ago, those i believed had a greater degree of perspicacity than did i, attempted to convince me that i ought to monetise thewashingmachinepost with the aim of it becoming my full-time occupation. i have a strong inkling that, had i done so, we wouldn't be having this conversation today.

r.i.p. stelvio. (oddly enough, stelvio's website still invites browsers to take out a subscription).

wednesday 25 january 2023

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very interesting

islay e-wheels

the last couple of weeks have, if nothing else, demonstrated that the bicycle industry, as was, is experiencing a bit of a downturn in its fortunes. i've made mention of this situation on a couple of occasions at least, referencing the fact that specialized have behaved poorly towards their band of former influencers, and also towards at least 8% of their employees. and according to reports, they're not the only ones in this situation. and all this despite the rosy future for cycling that was prophesied during the periods of covid lockdown.

there are one or two bright spots on the horizon, but we'll get to those in a moment; firstly, let me point to something of a dichotomy in the american report that may have inadvertently described the bulk of these possible anomalies.

firstly, there is tangible evidence of an overall downturn in the market for bicycles, according to this report from the world federation of sporting goods industry (wfsgi), and its partners in this exploration, mckinsey & company, a consultancy with a mission to 'help create positive, enduring change in the world.' between them, they have interviewed numerous chief executives in the industry and undertaken consumer research to arrive at a conclusion about the current state of the velocipedinal industry.

despite holding a headline title that describes them as a world federation, it seems that specific corners of their research principally references the north american market, which, the figure at the bottom of the balance sheet demonstrates, has suffered a 16.9% drop in income. the second surely questionable aspect of the report, seems intent on referring to the entire enchilada of bicycles, no matter their intended purpose, as 'sporting goods', even if we hold up a sturmey-archer, three-speed brompton folding bicycle as an example.

and there are figures to show that the one-time saviour of the bike industry - the mountain bike - has experienced a 13% downturn in its fortunes, but with corresponding numbers to demonstrate what we all knew anyway, that the current saviour of the bike industry, is the e-bike. sales in this sector have risen by 16% since 2021, while demonstrating 400% growth (not a typo) since prior to the covid pandemic. the latter news will doubtless be manna from heaven for several manufacturers, but possibly not for those who once regarded themselves as the mainstays of the bicycle business. by way of explanation, there have been a sizeable number of new entrants to the e-bike market, and despite the phenomenal growth shown above, that might not be assisting the bank balances of trek, specialized or giant.

that said, in 2019, the e-bike market was marginally below $200 million dollars, but has now achieved a market valuation of close on $700 million. it will be interesting to note whether subsequent years will eventualy flatline and possibly decrease, when e-bikes become a tad less trendy, as happened with the mountain bike.

for a more specific example, there are three e-bike hire outlets on islay, not all of which purchased their machinery from recognisable brands; that may well be a situation reflected elsewhere.

there is, thankfully, succour to be gained from the plethora of statistics on offer from the wfsgi report. aside from the rise and rise of the ubiquitous e-bike, the only two categories that posted noticeable growth, were road cycling and bike repairs. that said, he giveth and then he taketh away; both categories managed a solitary one percent increase. and there is, of course, a tautological shadow cast by the slump in demand for bicycles: helmet sales decreased by 15% and despite miniscule growth in bike repairs, tyres and tube sales declined by 10%.

still regarded as the sporting market, active apparel, despite posting a 3.9% dip in sales last year, remains ahead of its pre-covid numbers: $24.98 billion. and that in itself brings a whole new set of unanswered questions. in order to make comparisons a smidgeon simpler, i'll remain in dollar values, so the average purchase price of an e-bike, according to one of the largest e-bike retailers in the uk, is $3,300, sales of which obviously contributed to the $700 million valuation. yet clothing sales are over 30 times greater. it would be interesting to learn what percentage of that figure is devoted to cycling apparel, and whether it continues to show growth. we can derive some knowledge from learning that rapha's sales grew by 38% in 2020, and figures posted by grand view research foretell 4.6% growth in cycling apparel sales between 2020 and 2027, from $4.37 billion to $7.88 billion.

but despite the pockets of despondency outlined above, by 2027, the world bicycle market is expected to reach $80 billion, so despite any misgivings, none of us will wake up tomorrow and learn that our obsession has evaporated overnight. and with a dollop of good luck, that should be the last time this year that i use so many numbers and percentage signs in one set of black and yellow pixels.

here's hoping.

tuesday 24 january 2023

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