yes, this early

mv finlaggan at port askaig

those domiciled north of the border may already be at least slightly familiar with the tale about to unfold, since scotland's national press has been filling its columns with the intricacies for quite some time. though i've no real wish to kick a shipyard when it's down, fergusons' shipyard in glasgow has to bear the brunt of the initial problem. arguments have raged as to why transport scotland apportioned the build of two new ferries for the calmac fleet to a failing shipyard (which subsequently had to be nationalised) that caledonian maritime assets ltd (cmal) claim they had not approved in the first place.

to either simplify or complicate matters, transport scotland is the government department that oversees all of scotland's national transport policies, and to which cmal is answerable. cmal owns the ferries and the piers, which are operated on their behalf by caledonian macbrayne. the first of the two ferries under construction at ferguson's yard was expected to enter service on the ardrossan-brodick route in 2018, but has yet to be completed. the second vessel, which is little more than an empty hull at present, was intended for the lochmaddy-lochboisdale service to replace the ship currently plying that route.

the major problem with the ferries is their ages. the expected lifespan of a west coast ferry is 25 years, yet the vessel currently sailing daily from ardrossan to brodick on the isle of arran, is 39 years old. it should be currently assisted by the 37 year-old hebridean isles, but it broke down several weeks past and has yet to be repaired. so scotland's newspapers have had a field day pointing out that of the five major vessels on the fleet, four of them are currently broken. but from islay's point of view, there appears to be a somewhat disconcerting disconnect.

november until easter comprises the annual refit season, when calmac has to play chinese puzzles, moving ships from here to there in order to provide cover. all ships are required to undergo an annual refit (the seagoing equivalent of a car's mot test), but this year has proved a tad more awkward than anyone had hoped for or expected. arran's principal ferry, the caledonian isles has been found to have considerably more problems than expected and has thus massively over-run its refit period. the ferries currently providing arran with its ferry service while the caledonian isles is being fixed, are the arran and the hebridean isles, though, as i've pointed out, the latter is currently broken.

both those ships should have been serving the islay route as from 4 march, but the current revised timetable has the arran continuing to sail from ardrossan to brodick until 31 march. however, and here's where the disconnect applies, islay's current ferry, the finlaggan is due to leave the route to enter dry-dock on 15 march. that being the case, and with no other suitably sized ferry available, it's beginning to look as if islay will be without any ferry service for a period of at least two weeks.

it's unlikely that this will come to pass, but at present, calmac have offered no mitigations.

so, given that thewashingmachinepost is ostensibly a cycling blog, concerned with all matters velocipedinal, of what possible relevance can the problems afflicting scotland's west coast ferry services be to the intrepid cyclist? taken on their own merit, they have no relevance, other than to those who may be inclined to visit this haven of civilisation for the purposes of riding their bicycles. and because of the problems outlined above and more with which i will regale you in a minute, with the ride of the falling rain due to take place on sunday 6 august, it's as well that i advise you well in advance to ensure your ferry place is booked if you intend joining the merry throng.

but rotfr is five months distant, i hear you say.

until a couple of years past, the outer hebridean islands (uist, lewis, barra et al) had the highest annual tonnage of seaborne freight, for which they have long been provided with an overnight, freight-only vessel. however, as of 2022, islay has overtaken the western isles as the recipient of the greatest amount of freight, mostly due to the amount of distillery building and increased output of the existing distilleries. we do not have a dedicated freight boat and calmac have not seen fit to augment the number of sailings over the length of the summer timetable to cope. in short, if you don't book soon, you might find yourselves without confirmed passage. bicycles travel free of charge, so if you intend leaving the car at kennacraig, you're pretty much guaranteed passage, but if you're relying on bringing the car with you, really, you need to book as soon as you possibly can.

hopefully the technical woes will have been taken care of by the time the summer holidays hove into view, but i wouldn't necessarily hold your breath. there's currently no guarantee that islay will be served by a two ferry service at any point over the coming months, and with the aforementioned excess of freight, it's highly possible that any last minute plans or bookings might well be foiled by ongoing technical or logistical problems.

you're welcome.

ride of the falling rain 2023

monday 6 march 2023

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colnago c68 allroad

at the current count, a fastidious cycling obsessive would be expected to have filled the bike shed with at least five variations of bicycle: road, cross, gravel, mtb and tourer. the only variation to that total of which i can think, is the possibility of stowing a downhill mountain bike midst the others, just in case. though the bicycle can be considered a particularly versatile machine, each does show its limitations now and again, dependent on how adventurous you are, or what variety of conditions are thrown in front of you on the average ride.

as an admitted creature of habit, i tend to ride the same route over and over again. that's not to say that i choose the same direction for each portion of the parcours, but by and large, i travel the same roads week in, week out. visiting cyclists over the years have enquired as to whether those of us in the velo club ever become weary of riding the limited number of kilometres available to the trusty islander? generally, the answer is a resounding 'no', but on further investigation, it frequently transpires that, despite access to considerably more kilometres than are at our fingertips, those visiting cyclists are also guilty of riding the same route each and every weekend. i have seen this at first hand on returning to civilisation on the bus from glasgow; every weekend it is possible to witness the same peloton riding the same route.

perhaps that would indicate that it is not simply the island bound velocipedinist who incurs habitual mores.

colnago c68 allroad

personally, the habit extends a tad wider than simply the route taken each week; on saturdays i ride my cyclocross bicycle and on sundays i ride my road bike. aside from habit, however, there is a degree of pragmatism in my velocipedinal choice, given that saturday is alone time, with no-one else with whom to keep up. the 33mm 'cross tyres tend to roll a smidgeon slower than the 27mm rubber fitted to the ritchey, and if the weather proves more than just a tad inclement, i can flip onto the grass at uiskentuie to offer a softer landing, should the crosswind prove stronger than yours truly. i'd be less than willing to subject the ritchey to such iniquities.

beginning on the outskirts of bridgend village is a short length of unsurfaced footpath entitled 'nancy's path', so-called after the elderly woman who used to walk from her house along the main road to the village shop. though intended for all, the path was effectively cleared to allow her a greater degree of safety on her way to purchase the daily shop. it's a path rarely used these days, but as i exit the road leading from mulindry, assuming i am aboard my cyclocross bicycle, i nip through the gap in the wall and ride to the hotel along the gravel, mud, stones and dead leaves, simply because i can and it would seem rude not to.

and then, just yesterday, having ridden past the auction mart on my way home, a last minute decision had me take the track through bridgend woods, exiting on the bowmore road at south lodge. i confess that, after a week of dry, windless weather, i had expected the track to be virtually bone-dry, but the latter part was filled with squirmy tyre inducing mud, for which i found myself in completely the wrong gear, and requiring to test my less than modest bike-handling skills. yet again, that is not an option i would have favoured if aboard the ritchey.

colnago c68 allroad

situations such as the above call into question the purported versatility of the bicycle, leaning heavily on the choice made prior to departure. i have no idea of the condition of the roads surrounding your own location, but those across the island have been in decline for several years, particularly the single tracks that we tend to favour over the main routes. that becomes even more pertinent a choice as we head ever nearer to easter and the holiday seasons that will follow. on certain stretches, there are no homesteads, lowering their priority for any remedial repairs. what might prove to be an attainable ideal, would be a bicycle that features the best bits of a road bike, but with a few options that might allow for tailoring to the conditions ahead. though once again, that's probably a series of decisions that would need to be made prior to departure.

i can see hands raised at the back of the room, doubtlessly keen to point out that certain brands of gravel bike already have that covered, a point with which i would find myself in agreement. but, though it's probably all down to nomenclature, a change may be afoot if the latest version of colnago's c68 is anything to go by. described as the c68 allroad, the c68 frame that serves as the basis for the allroad features a higher stack height up front combined with a shorter reach. this places the rider in a less aero position, while transferring some of the weight away from the hands and forearms to your posterior on the saddle. and to help with roads such as those in islay's backwoods, this particular c68 is capable of sporting up to 38mm tyres.

there does seem to be somewhat of a crossover between this version of the c68 and colnago's gravel bike, the g3-x,though the latter is a monocoque built in the far east, while the c68 is of lugged construction and still made in cambiago. but might it be that, having languished at the tail-end of cycle development for several years, colnago might just have experienced a lightbulb moment? i daresay there are other bicycles available that would fit a similar bill, but to the best of my knowledge, they're different bicycles, not lateral moves from a former flagship road bike (the v4rs seems to have usurped the c-series at the cutting edge).

the clever part is that, apart from those of you who have competitive ideals, this is probably the very bicycle that most of us actually need. whether it's what we actually want, remains to be seen.

colnago c68 allroad

colnago c68 allroad

sunday 5 march 2023

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and maybe that's because...

mactaggart leisure centre

in yesterday's monologue, i highlighted (yet again) the apparent law of diminishing returns, where the bicycle industry continues to forge ahead with its avowed technological development and ever-increasing costs, yet sales figures over the past couple of years would tend to suggest that customers, prospective and otherwise, seem to be staying away in droves. it's a state of affairs that has resulted in closures, staff layoffs and purported price reductions even this early in the year. and it's possible, in the uk at least, that there's an explicable reason for the doomsday outcome.

rising prices of goods for sale, for services provided (only yesterday i received an e-mail from my broadband provider indicating that, at the end of this month, i will be charged at least an extra £7 per month for exactly the same services currently provided) and energy costs have had an impact upon everyone, apart from, it seems, those providing the energy in the first place. given the eyewatering profits accrued by almost all the energy providers, i am at a complete loss to comprehend why ofgem cheerfully allow the increase in charges every six months; as far as i, or anyone else, can see, any increase in costs could easily be accommodated from those enormous profits, without the need to increase the charges to the consumer.

the island's distilleries appear to be in an enviable position, able to pay their staff increased wages, along with an island living allowance, and fend off the sizeable increase in energy prices one would imagine they incur due to the nature of the business. but others are not so fortunate, one of which is the local leisure centre, not only suffering from staff shortages (ironically, at the behest of the distilleries paying substantially better wages), but massive increases in energy costs and shortages of the chemicals required to for the day to day operation of the centre. but they continue to honour their obligations to the local schools, offering not only swimming lessons, but swimming galas into the bargain.

and therein lies what we might appraise as not the problem with swimming, but perchance the problem with the schools. or at least the scottish/british education system. while there is compulsory provision made within the curriculum for primary age children to receive swimming lessons (we live on an island, so the ability to swim is seen as something of a prerequisite. the ferries are well-equipped with safety gear, but swimming cannot but help, should something untoward happen).

but as the world rushes headlong towards the much vaunted net-zero promulgated by the climate-change crisis, there's really not much, if anything, being done by the education system to prepare today's generation as to the future they might be about to inherit. granted, there are all manner of projects being undertaken in the classroom, well-meaning in intent, but ultimately produced in isolation, with little in the way of practical outcomes. yet, with motorised transport about to undergo one of the biggest changes in its history, with the international mexican wave of bans on petrol/diesel car production in favour of electric vehicles, there's an opportunity to change all that.

as has been pointed out by many better qualified than i, the electric vehicle will not solve all the problems on its own. perhaps if it were possible to educate children at primary school age as to the efficacy and economy of the bicycle as a pragmatic means of transport, there would be considerably less need for government and organisations such as cycling uk to instigate regular campaigns to achieve just that. maybe the occasional bike gala and regular cycling lessons or outings, entirely separate from whatever the current name is for the cycling proficiency scheme, would begin to inculcate the next generation to that which we already know?

that way, the cycle industry would be assured of a brighter future, as would the world at large. however, i cannot but feel dismay that, even when events such as walk to school week and cycle to school week are in force, there are teaching staff within easy reach of their school, still take the car. leading by example should never be underestimated. teaching climate change as if it were an academic subject, separated from real life, is never going to come across convincingly.

and, as graeme obree once pointed out, the joy of the bicycle is that it can be both transport and enjoyment, providing smiles and health benefits at the same time. after all, there exists neither swim to school week, nor golf to school week.

saturday 4 march 2023

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it wasn't supposed to end up like this


i have lived on the island of islay for over half my life, having moved here in 1987. at that point, the population of the isle was reckoned to be a smidgeon under 3,500, a few hundred higher than is allegedly the case today. yet, within the last decade, house-building has been far greater than i can recall, a situation corroborated by many others. it's a situation that i have struggled to comprehend, to the extent that i wrote a newspaper article on the subject a few years past. how can it be that there are supposedly fewer and fewer people living on islay's shores, yet we apparently require more and more houses?

admittedly, some of those recently built have been on behalf of those with the financial wherewithal to own a second-home (something of a blight in the hebrides and scotland's west coast), but only a stone's throw from the croft, already 51 examples of social-housing have been built and occupied, and planning was recently submitted for a further 17. a similar number have been built in the other of islay's principal two villages. one explanation surrounds the possibility that the younger members of the community no longer wish to move away, particularly when there are several well-paid jobs available at the ever increasing number of distilleries. the contention is that those youngsters no longer wish to remain at home with mum and dad, desiring a place of their own, but financially unable to gain that first foot on the property ladder. (the average property price on islay has been mooted as circa £300,000).

however, that being true, it rather undermines the theory that the island's population is decreasing; more than likely, it would indicate the opposite. however, one apparently positive outcome from all this building is that all that new social housing comprises well-insulated properties, heated by the reputedly environmentally-sound air-source heating. which, in a moment of serendipity, leads me neatly onto the main subject of the day.

the bicycle.

it is a mode of transport that, legend has it, proved itself during the covid pandemic, and in a world that seeks to wean itself off fossil fuels and particularly, russian gas, one that would appear to tick all the necessary boxes. by and large, it is a particularly economic means of getting from a to b, the price of entry is generally a lot lower than that of the motor car, even if opting for the electric version (the present-day scott foil notwithstanding), and it is more than equal to undertaking the average length of commute that statistics assure us is common in the uk.

but yet, i am not the only one who has detailed the economic woes of the cycle industry forecast for 2023. sizeable companies have laid off staff, there are already stories of new bicycles being sold at healthy discounts and numbers published by the bicycle association contend that, with the exception of gravel bikes, every other genre of bicycle has either shown a sales downturn, or, in the case of the saviour of the cycle industry, stalemate over a two-year period. it would not be totally outlandish to think that perhaps the industry saw all this coming from a long way off, and that's why it 'invented' the gravel bike, it makes a great deal of sense to prepare in advance.

and it's not just the bicycle companies that appear to be in trouble. i mentioned only last week about the unsustainability of sustainable cycle clothing purveyor, presca. and now comes the news that specialized (remember them?) only five years on from purchasing women's clothing firm machines for freedom, they have opted to close it down. celebrating the purchase in 2018, specialized claimed it was "a bold investment in women's leadership." (whatever you intepret that to mean). surely things weren't meant to go this way? wasn't the rise and rise of the bicycle supposed to continue, if not forever, certainly for a while longer than is seemingly the case. and if the world is truly on the path to net-zero, why is this happening?

islay has been chosen as one of six islands to attempt carbon neutrality by 2040, which, with so many energy hungry distilleries, is likely to be a seriously uphill struggle. decarbonising the distilleries is the most obvious way to make a sizeable difference, but there's no doubt that, at some point in proceedings, the transport elephant in the room will require to be addressed. given the low traffic numbers on the island, even during peak times, you'd be forgiven for thinking, within each village at least, the bicycle would be an obvious choice.

islay is very far from being the cycle industry's principal target market - very much the opposite. the problem is worldwide and signs are hardly encouraging.

definitely a problem to ponder.

friday 3 march 2023

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you'd be wrong.

go, until you run out

specialized tero x

along the hem of the recently reviewed rapha gore-tex explore jacket are the words 'go until you're lost', an exhortation that, as mentioned in the review, is a tad difficult to achieve on the island which i've called home for the last thirty-five plus years. there really isn't any island road along which i have not pedalled. however, the intention behind rapha's urging is well intended, given that the jacket forms part of a range that is geared towards those expected to travel the road less travelled. call it bikepacking, call it gravel-riding or whatever else you like, but heading into the hinterlands with scarce idea of where you might end up is flavour of the month, for which, as we are all well aware, it is entirely necessary to purchase yet another type of bicycle. all good and well if you're looking for just such an excuse, but otherwise, perhaps an unwarranted expense.

but considering the apparent increase in road traffic over recent decades, it's not at all surprising that many cyclists are attracted to the offroad realm, whether accessed along a purpose-built cycle track or multi-use path, gravel tracks through nearby woods, or entirely gung-ho aboard knobbly tyres as part of the gnarly-dudes society. and with the hutchison tyres release of 50mm gravel tyres, offroad velocipedinal life has become distinguishable only by the shape of the bars at the pointy end of proceedings.

however, it matters little whether you intend simply to dab a toe in the undergrowth, or augment the gravel bike with every form of bike bag known to personkind, intent on emulating the irrepressible, markus stitz in your gravellous endeavours. keeping away from traffic, when the authorities seem less than inclined to provide safe cycling facilities has become a thing, in this, the third decade of the 21st century. however, all is not quite as it seems, with modern-society intent on making its own mark upon that which was once viewed as freedom from the rat-race.

there have been several outdoor series broadcast on national television, featuring those who figure they can make it as substitute sas members, those who have opted to live off grid in the face of environmental difficulties, and others who simply want to pit themselves against nature to see who wins. for some, it's an integral part of life, that may only express itself, for example, through those who wish to attack the cobbles of paris-roubaix, or others who like to match their own times against that of marco pantani, when conquering the 21 hairpins of alpe d'huez. at its simplest, it takes the form of man or woman testing themselves against the elements.

but the rug has already been pulled from under that particular venture with mountain bike manufacturers intent on removing a part of the equation via an electric motor in the frame. i do understand that the advent of the e-bike in all its various forms, including that of the e-mountain bike, has allowed many an individual with health or mobility problems, to join with the in-crowd, but even casual observation has brought to light many who have either taken the battery road due to an inherent obsession with gadgetry, or because it's a darned sight less physically demanding than working your butt off to achieve offroad nirvana.

until now, the new gravel kid on the block seems to have escaped more or less intact, with even dedicated gravel groupsets eschewing the electron. but that situation was never really going to last, and specialized's introduction of the tero x adventure e-bike has pretty much confirmed such a theory. powered by their own motor system, the tero x features full suspension and flat as opposed to bendy bars, front and rear lights with sufficient lumens to find your way through the darkened undergrowth and exemplary cargo-carrying capacity.

according to specialized, "Over the mountains, through the forest, across the desert, or simply down the lane, we can't help but seek out adventure. The Turbo Tero X means one thing: you're going to need a bigger map". what they have conveniently failed to mention is that the map ought best be able to pinpoint the nearest charging point. unlike the standard e-bike, if and when the battery runs dry, it could be a far more onerous task to ride home across rough ground, with every cubic centimetre of carrying capacity filled to the brim. as if the latter may not be heavy enough, an e-bike with motor and empty battery certainly will be.

this will, undoubtedly, be the forerunner of many similar machines, intent on sanitising at least a part of the adventure cycle, and increasing the world's dependency on electricity. of course, there is no compulsion to purchase just such a velocipede if you don't want to (and, unsurprisingly, i don't), but i now fear for the world's trees, because someone, somewhere, is, at this very minute, trying to figure out how to include a charging point in the trunks or branches.

we're all doomed, i tell you.

thursday 2 march 2023

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altogether now

shimano cues

as i may have mentioned, i am (or was) in the habit of replacing the chains on my bicycles perhaps a tad more often than strictly necessary. however this perhaps misguided profligacy took hold in the days when a bicycle chain was priced as the basic component it surely is. but that was before the burgeoning and incremental increases in the number of sprockets added between the locknut and the hub flange on the rear wheel. not altogether convincingly, the component manufacturers insist that more sprockets mean vast improvements in chain technology. and price.

so nowadays i have curbed my minor chain obsession, relying more on inveterate chain-cleaning and degreasing in the possibly forlorn hope that so doing will extend its lifecycle. when drivetrain componentry begins to absorb a greater proprtion of one's meagre income, it's time to swallow that pride, and look for a lower-priced alternative, a quest that can sometimes be beset with unforeseen difficulties.

the ritchey logic wears its campagnolo record 12-speed groupset well, but in the hebrides' equivalent of belgian toothpaste, its nether regions do not survive as well as they might in the hills of tuscany. a record/super-record 12-speed cassette can easily cost the wrong side of £300, but thankfully the chorus equivalent, though still a tad pricey, will relieve my bank account of a far more amenable £175 and make not one jot of difference to my velocipedinal enjoyment. but that may be where any ideas of equitability end.

when last replacing the campagnolo chain, i harboured fears that the inner ring may also have experienced unsustainable wear, requiring its replacement to avoid any skipping under my considerable power output (i guy can dream, can't he?). as it transpires, campagnolo apparently employ an executive whose job it is to ensure that any perceived interchangeability between groupsets is squashed at birth. i know this because a chorus 12-speed chainset fields an entirely different bolt circle diameter than its record and super-record stablemates. thankfully, there seems less of a difference in cost between respective chainrings than their accompanying cassettes, but still a disparity exists.

then there's the notoriously expensive chain tool favoured by vicenza, who maintain, perhaps with some proven conviction, that rivetting a chain is preferable to the so-called power-link alternatives. i own bicycles featuring campagnolo ten, eleven and twelve speed groupsets, the chains of which can all be serviced by this singularly impressive and aesthetically pleasing device. however, in the light of my recent ruminations on constructing a cyclocross bicycle augmented with campagnolo's well-reviewed ekar groupset, i have once more come across italy's disdain for any form of compatibility. having increased the sprocket complement to thirteen, vicenza now requires that i purchase a tool compatible with the chain required to access that extra set of teeth.

that's at least another £140.

the less obsessive amongst you will, by now, have already reached for your e-mail client to suggest that it's my own fault for buying campagnolo. there may be a great deal of sense in such a suggestion, but as with everything in the velocipedinal realm, the heart wants what the heart wants. but my limited experience with the vagaries of alternate brands may simply have left me with a vague appraisal of their own peculiarities; they may be better, they might be worse, but at least one of them has begun to make inroads to a smattering of compatibility, even if currently confined to the lower orders.

in an attempt to unify its nine, ten and eleven speed road offerings, shimano has introduced the oddly named cues, a groupset that seeks to replace tiagra, sora, claris, deore, alivio, acera and altus. i realise that there will be an entire strata of roadies who are blissfully unaware that any of the above ever existed, but there are probably considerably more for whom these have been the economic bread and butter of their bendy-bar riding. shimano's emphasis in so doing is that of durability, forming a high profile extension of their linkglide technology, reputedly offering three times the lifespan of their more esoteric offerings.

according to shimano, the sprocket spacing across nine, ten and eleven-speed drivetrains has been unified, allowing more compatibility and interchangeability amongst individual components, and should it be deemed necessary, riding styles. it may be baby steps at present, but one can but hope that this tokyo-based venture will encourage campagnolo to realise that making their two record variants compatible with chorus and centaur in a similar manner might not only simplify the production process, but attract more customers. i base the latter claim on the potential upgrade process; i may have bought myself a bicycle with lowly centaur, but if compatible with chorus and above, i could upgrade individual components as and when need and finances allow, without having to junk the lot and buy an entire groupset all in one go.

and always willing to suffer for your art, i'm more than happy to review the results.

wednesday 1 march 2023

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might i suggest...

the greatest show on earth 1975

with road racing beginning to get into its seasonal stride, with stage races aplenty and the onset of the one-day classics, a bit like formula one motor racing, there's an opportunity to not only display the new tech that has been worked on since last year, but find out if it actually works as well as originally hoped. it's been a few years since we became inured to the advent of what is generally referred to as the aero bike, designs of which have notionally 'benefitted' from the relaxation of one or two uci rules. the proportions which once governed the relationship between the width and depth of tubing profiles has allowed the intrepid bicycle designer to create ostensibly flatter, thinner tubes (even though, strictly speaking, a monocoque carbon frame is scarcely comprised of individual tubes.)

though i find it hard to equate flatter bike profiles with the inevitable lateral push they'll receive in crosswinds, the wind-tunnel reputedly offers over-arching evidence against, and few seem keen to compare with real-world aerodynamics. and when you take into account that the money involved in sponsoring professional teams arrives at the behest of cycle sales to definably non-professionals, this lack of real-world nous is one that troubles me from time to time. bicycle design, even in this reputedly aerodynamic age, seems to exist every bit at the whim of fashion (dropped seatstays anyone?); the professionals will always have access to the latest, but our bank balances are far less equipped to buy a new frame every year, just to remain at one with our heroes.

as a perhaps less than pertinent example, how many of us are saddled with press-fit bottom brackets, now that threaded is back with a bang?

i based my opening observation on sight of a gcn youtube video in which a presenter trawled the back of the team marquees at the emirates tour, to provide an insight into the "cool new tech" augmenting this year's time-trial bikes. the gantries that serve as tri-bar arm-rests, many of which appear to have been 3d-printed, do very little to enhance the complete lack of aesthetic exhibited on such hi-tech machinery. other than extreme over-use of the word "cool", and chainrings the size of king arthur's round table, there seemed little of great note. but it does all pose a singularly important question.


there's every possibility that bicycle manufacturers occupy more time in the wind tunnels that the world's aviation industry, allying this with computer fluid dynamics to find the optimum means of cheating air-induced drag. i don't doubt that there has been many an incremental adjustment made since last years' time-trial bikes left the mold, but from the outside looking in, it all seems like a very expensive waste of time.

if we accept that such investigations and technological advancements are ultimately geared towards having the contracted riders travel even a few seconds faster than their competitors, external to the physical properties of those who will ride them in the heat of battle, one has to seriously question the point. there cannot be a world tour bicycle sponsor that does not have access to the cutting edge technology that would be likely to provide a tangible benefit. in other words, they're all asking the same questions and presumably all receiving the same answers.

therefore, having spent an inordinately large amount of research and development dollars on creating some of the most hideous looking creations in the modern sport, when it comes down to the previously mentioned 'heat of battle', there is surely insufficient technological separation to justify the budgetary largesse? refraining from adding a clearcoat to raw carbon fibre in order to save weight (on a time-trial bike?) brings to mind the philosophical mantra 'clutching at straws'. and when so many riders now programme their time-trial exploits based on their bar-mounted power displays, it seems the excitement quotient may already have left the building.

thus, i am more than happy to join with chris froome in calling for time-trial specific bikes to be banned completely. if you think i may be in danger of exhibiting tendencies that might have me classed as a flying buttress short of a cathedral, i suggest you watch 'the greatest show on earth' a documentary film of eddy merckx in the 1975 giro d'italia. the time-trial from forty-eight years past was conducted aboard standard road bikes, and offers as exciting a visual feast as any you're likely to see. it's the riders that create the excitement, not the machinery aboard which they ride.

i can see little opposition to such a suggestion arriving at the behest of the bicycle companies. for starters, they would save a veritable fortune, savings that could possibly trickle-down to the proletariat by way of lowered prices. and secondly, time-trial bikes can hardly be amongst anyone's best sellers, given their severely restricted market. couple that with no future need to supply an entire team with one or two extra bicycles each year, and it is surely a win win situation?

and while we're here, let's have the uci clamp down on ever increasing chainring sizes. fifty-six teeth would seem a less than arbitrary maximum. and at the behest of one of my sunday morning colleagues, perhaps there could be a limit placed on the strength of tint featured on riders' cycling shades, allowing the fan in ardent quest for excitement by seeing more of an individual's face. once again, i might refer my reader to 'the greatest show on earth', where every facial experession can be seen from stage start to stage end.

just remember, it's not all about the bike.

tuesday 28 february 2023

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