i should imagine that we're all pretty much agreed that the bicycle is a particularly marvellous invention. according to graeme obree, mankind's two most important creations are the bicycle and the duvet, a contention with which i am in total agreement, particularly in the light of owning a mavic winter jacket that is, in effect, a duvet with sleeves. and aside from the health benefits (from the bike, not the duvet), the bicycle is in possession of an impressive level of versatility.

as one who, in truth, has little need of cycle commuting (i don't live far enough from the office), my two principal bicycles are setup for scooting around the principality of a weekend, clad predominantly in specific cycle clothing, as opposed to the regular garmentage worn by the civilian population. however, on occasion - and those occasions appear to be on the increase - it is necessary to indulge in both minor and major deviations to accommodate the day job. two such diversions occupied part of sunday, necessitating minor adjustments to the firmament (i swapped road pedals for a pair of crank brothers' candy pedals to allow for more normal perambulation).


at christmas last year, bridgend hotel, around 5km from the croft, offered the island's youngsters the opporchancity to breakfast with santa, an event that had considerable uptake. building upon that, the manager organised breakfast with the easter bunny for easter sunday, a novelty i thought would make for a suitable photo in islay's local newspaper. so, prior to joining the rest of the peloton for the sunday morning ride, i popped out to the hotel, and nabbed a few photos, prior to riding to the grand départ.

easter weekend would often see an increase, not only in road traffic, but visiting cyclists, both of which were almost conspicuous by their absence, particularly the cycling fraternity. there were, however, two obstacles that might explain that. firstly, the never ending ferry saga; we ought to have been served by two vessels by now, but in fact, there's only one, so it's eminently possible that many were unable to get here in the first place. my daughter and her family were amongst that number. (currently, it's allegedly not possible to book a vehicle on or off the island for the remainder of this month). secondly, islay was strafed by a south-easterly galeforce wind on both saturday and sunday, reaching 70kph on the latter.

such speeds are still within the realm of possibility, though acquiring the knack of riding in crosswinds of that velocity, does take a bit of doing. unfortunately, for one of our sunday peloton, that's a work in progress, leaving the poor soul trailing on more than one occasion. granted, there are some luxurious moments of untrammeled freewheeling (we managed not to pedal at all for almost four kilometres en-route to bridgend village), but those are offset at some points of the parcours by headwinds right on the nose. such moments are simply gruntwork; a veritable heads down, no nonsense, mindless boogie (with apologies to alberto y los trios paranoias).

the tricky bits are brought on by 70kph crosswinds, particularly on uiskentuie strand, a five kilometre stretch of road on which there is no shelter whatsoever from the relentless crosswind. character building.

duck derby

but at the end of the latter trial of strength and stamina, was the second social engagement of the day; the annual duck derby, held on the river sorn as it meanders its way towards loch indaal. the last time this event was held, i asked another to take photos; after all, it's paris-roubaix sunday, and one has to adhere to one's priorities. however, all i received was three images of the backs of spectators: useless. so this year, i opted to gather the images myself.

basically, folks buy a numbered duck, and the one which reaches the finish line in first place is named the winner. i cannot deny that there were considerably more yellow plastic ducks than i'd expected, and the attendance was every bit as exceptional. it's astounding just how much community spirit still exists on an island that is in danger of becoming overrun with distilleries and the aficionados who take every opportunity to visit and satiate their obsession.

that said, portions of the return trip to the croft were verging on the brutal, from a wind that we'd forlornly hoped had left along with winter. and all this on the one bicycle.

sometimes the bike makes it all about something else.

monday 10 april 2023

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in house

apple gear mech

though i'd prefer not to get into a debate over the relative merits of a microsoft windows based pc compared to that of the apple macintosh, there's no doubt that the latter sports a distinct advantage over the former when it comes to the marrying of software and hardware. this is not to disparage windows in any way, though i confess that my experiences with that particular operating system, to date, have scarcely been favourable. however, given that apple not only creates the hardware, but the software on which it operates, it must surely be a great deal more simple to ensure that one works seamlessly with the other.

when you consider microsoft's operating system, which admittedly has the lion's share of the computer market due to its keen-ness to license for use by almost anyone, it has the onerous problem of existing as a one-size-fits-all solution. to place this in some sort of perspective, if i were to expand my horizons and enter the computer hardware market, i could retail my own brand of twmp machines. these would be unable to run apple's osx operating system because that is apple's sole prerogative and unavailable to the likes of you and i. so my only option is to install windows, and keep my fingers crossed that all works the way i hope it will.

aside from a brief period of licensing that ended every bit as quickly as it began, apple has kept tight hold of its property.

while i'd be the first to agree that bicycles and components are a far cry from computers and their operating systems, it strikes me as remarkable that none of the major brands have adopted apple's lead and created their own component brands, specifically designed to fit their frames. now, before you all drop on me from a great height to tell me that there are a number of bicycle brands who already do so (my ritchey logic is outfitted with a ritchey seatpost, stem and handlebars, and at one time featured ritchey bar tape and a ritchey saddle), none that i know of manufacture gear sets, rim brakes or hydraulic discs. a few (i'm thinking of both specialized and ritchey) offer their own-branded wheelsets and tyres while others, such as cannondale, affix their own cranksets.

but i can't buy a ritchey with a ritchey derailleur, nor can customers of specialized, trek or cannondale, to mention but a few of the larger, wealthier brands. i imagine that predominantly shimano and sram would be a bit miffed to lose out on even a portion of what seems to be a particularly lucrative market, but instead of manufacturing frames designed to accommodate someone else's operating system, they'd surely be able to create a greater level of integration by making their own? i have indeed, bored for britain on the lack of compatibility across the velocipedinal milieu, but given the current level at which the latter sits, it's doubtful that anyone could actually make it any worse.

you would, i believe, be well within your remit to ask whether it's a situation that would actually make any difference? surely bike manufacturers have enough with which to contend, investigating how many degrees of aero can be invested in the latest batch of carbon fibre, without having to explore the intricacies of derailleur actuation and friction co-efficiencies in the average disc brake caliper. i would tend to agree with that appreciation, but it was one of those recall notices issued by a swiss bicycle manufacturer that gave cause for second thoughts.

open cycles appear to have hit a problem with their campagnolo ekar equipped gravel bikes, related to the hydraulic brake hose where it enters the frame. according to the recall notice, "Due to the particular construction of the Campagnolo hydraulic disc brake hoses, they are more susceptible to damage at the entry point/port into the OPEN frames, versus hydraulic brake hoses from other brands." i'd have imagined that open cycles might have engineered appropriate compatibility into their frames at the design stage, since it appears that this particular model is exclusively available with ekar. then again, had there been consultations between the two manufacturers, perhaps all could have been solved prior to the bikes reaching the shop floor.

perhaps it's just one of those things that happens when you're looking the other way, and i doubt that open cycles are a large enough concern to invest in creating their own groupset. i'm sure you can see where i'm going with this. (the bicycles themselves are hardly cheap and nasty, retailing at between £4,000 and £6,500).

that said, maybe i ought to be very careful what i wish for.

sunday 9 april 2023

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the dated game

velonews image

my background is very much entrenched in print. it's the very study that formed the basis of my latter year at college, and it was the original reason i was taken on for the job i have today. disappointingly, it seems it's also a stock-in-trade that may have blinkered my approach to espousing the joys and vicissitudes of journalism. for the past eight months or so, i have visited the local secondary school once a week to assist with the journalism class, a role for which i'm not sure i'm perfectly qualified, but to be honest, i'm possibly the closest the island has at present.

and why do i think my approach was a tad myopic? because both i and the class teacher based our instruction on that of the printed page, when contemporary journalism has many others avenues of expression. blogging, for one, vlogging and podcasts for two others, all of which require similar abilities as far as news and information gathering are concerned, but are presented to generation z in formats perhaps more in tune with their means of consumption. the disappointing part results from the fact that this was a facet of the subject that only occurred to me two-thirds of the way through the course, and effectively too late to investigate in any depth.

i should have made earlier recognition, if only on the basis that it's something that affected my own career. in the late 1990s, the interwebs became available to the great unwashed, where previously they had been the preserve of those with an interest or qualification in the computing sciences. when anything new and shiny happens along, there will always be those happy and willing to take advantage, a state of affairs that translated into a decline in print-based work, such as posters, booklets, programmes, leaflets et al, all of which had provided the basis for freelance design work.

in an effort to remain relevant and retain the income on which i had become reliant, i taught myself to design and publish websites, including several long weeks during which i explored every crevice and script within adobe's flash software, when clients decided they'd rather like to have some movement about their html. this moved onto the once ubiquitous, cascading style sheets (css), which definitely made life simpler (eventually), but meant that i was still spending an inordinate number of hours studying a subject in which i had only financial interest. there's really not as much fun to be had slaving over inscrutable code, as there is making pretty pictures for print.

however, attempting to make my services as relevant and all-encompassing as possible, i also offered blatantly obvious (to me at least) advice over how they ought best to make use of the website which i had just provided. i advised those in the accommodation industry to retain every e-mail address of every actual and potential customer, in order that, if business proved a tad slack in the off-season, they could contact with details of special offers. additionally, i mentioned that, at the very least, the website ought best be kept up to date. sadly, very little heed was paid, and several websites on the island, still advise that it's flybe who will transport them to islay international airport, when in fact loganair have serviced the route for many a long year.

of course, the big problem in terms of updating an accommodation website, is that there is rarely much change to be seen from one year end until the next. unless, of course, the owner changes the bed linen, redecorates, or alters the tariff. that, you would think, is not a problem that might inflict itself upon an international cycling website. with changes in circumstances happening on a daily basis, there must surely be endless opportunity to update cycling web pages an a more than regular basis. yet, that seems not to be the case with velonews, admittedly a site i tend to visit infrequently, but one that, historically, has offered up velocipedinal information of interest.

i confess that the last visit was a number of weeks past, at which time i noted that lennard zinn's usually excellent technical faq section hadn't been updated since december last year. and then, only yesterday, i had cause to visit once again; the page still shows december 20 2022 and on the gear page, surely a section that sits one place behind the race news section in immediacy, the top story dates from february 1. i did e-mail velonews to ask whether there was some problem, but, unsurprisingly, i have yet to receive a reply.

velonews, which used to be allied to the monthly velopress magazine, was closed down when taken over by owners outside , along with the excellent peloton magazine. outside also owns cyclingtips, an online magazine reputed to have dispensed with the services of several long-serving journalists in recent months. does this mean that cycling is losing its lustre across the pond? and maybe even on this side of the atlantic, with news that the online retailer probikekit is to close.

what is happening?

image: velonews

saturday 8 april 2023

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the colour purple


fractionally over 56 years ago, in march 1967, american guitarist, jimi hendrix, released his second single entitled 'purple haze, the follow up to his first release, 'hey joe'. 'purple haze' topped out at number three in the uk charts, a substantial improvement over its highest placing at 65 in america's billboard charts. generally speaking, it was a song that fared better in europe than in hendrix' home nation. and for those under a certain age, allow me to inform you that jimi hendrix was a seattle-born, (left-handed) guitarist and songwriter, who blazed remarkably brightly for a period of four years in the 1960s, before succumbing to the mantra, 'live fast, die young'. the rock and roll hall of fame has described him as 'arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music'.

hendrix died in september 1970 from 'barbiturate-related asphyxia', at the age of 28.

in a clever, but totally unrelated manner, mountain bike specialists, hayes, have released a limited edition of its highly popular dominion a4 brake kit which they have denoted as the 'purple hayes', the colour of the levers paying a phonically related tribute to the hendrix song mentioned above. the original edition, released at the turn of the century, featured the same colour and zinc construction.

and if i might briefly return to the world of music, i noticed only the other evening, that musical instrument distributor, gewa was promoting its latest electronic drum set as now available in black sparkle, a colour that, as you might suspect, has no tangible bearing on the efficacy of their electronic percussion. there is, of course, no denying the importance of colour in our daily lives, from the necessitous (traffic lights), to the trivial (pink drum sticks). it is essentially colour that allows us to recognise when ineos rider, tom pidcock, is moving through the peloton when seen from the helicopter footage, or which rider is leading the points competition in the tour de france.

if you doubt the veracity of my assertions, try watching snooker on a black and white television.

however, with reference to the two examples highlighted above, it's clear to note that the bicycle industry, along with others, has begun to view colour differentiation as simile, or euphemism for progress. if the cycle jersey was red last year, imagine how much more effective it will prove this year, now that it's available in green. and while it may appear that, once again, i am poking the edges of the frittata, it's just possible that they might be onto something. if i may cite the humble flashing rear led bicycle light as an example, there have been studies claiming that this device has become so ubiquitous in traffic, that drivers have essentially become 'blind' to its existence.

similar surveys have concluded the same with regard to any fluorescent yellow garment. when even the tour guides at islay's distilleries are glad in chartreuse waistcoats, the colour has become so pervasive, as to have lost its original significance and effectiveness. dustmen, road workers, delivery drivers, bus drivers, police...when everyone is clad with such similarity, it's often those otherwise coloured who stand out more. yet, each year, i witness visiting cyclists clad in fluorescent yellow jackets in their own efforts to be visible, while there are many other, non-fluorescent colours that will highlight our presence to the motoring and/or pedestrian public. several of these have already been exploited by the world's principal cycle-clothing purveyors.

so, while it often appears that a simple change of colour may signify a dearth of innovation in the world of velocipedinal garmentage (and i cannot deny that many so-called 'new' releases imitate that contention), taking advantage of progress in the world of colour perception could be deemed every bit as important as implementation of the latest wind-tunnel tests.

however, if i stoop low enough to become devil's advocate for more than just a moment, what if that truly is the case; that technical clothing development has run into the proverbial 'brick wall'"? that particular conclusion, devoid such as it is of concrete evidence, may live in tandem (pun intended) with the question i broached several months past, when querying what frame material might follow on from carbon. and supposing my conjecture to be true, i'd imagine there is a statute of limitations on just how often we will remain satisfied with accepting the same jersey or bicycle frame in a different colour for subsequent seasons.

for instance, in the first decade of this century, rapha, then the new kid on the block, suffered regular website meltdown on the release of its spring/summer or autumn/winter collections, so eager was its customer/fan base to acquire the latest from imperial works. but unless thewashingmachinepost has been removed from rapha's press release mailing list, no such curated collection is in the pipeworks for 2023. endura too, has exhibited a noticeable dearth of new product in the past year (though they did produce a stowable, fluorescent, breathable waterproof jacket of particular note). now, there could be any number of reasons for this state of affairs, but i'd be willing to presume that it's at the behest of the metaphorical brick wall mentioned above.

and while that may be seen as a probem, not only for marketing departments throughout the industry, but for the cognoscenti who have become expectant of an endless series of new and essential releases, perhaps we should gain succour from such a situation, cheered by the knowledge that the current state-of-the-art is, indeed, state-of-the-art.

friday 7 april 2023

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sense and sensibility

carbon fibre mat

the company for which i worked during my summer holidays as a student, offered an annual chairman's prize to the employee who was able to demonstrate a product or process that might ultimately benefit the company and its considerable number of employees across the nation. sadly, i remain unaware of any instances in which the prize was awarded, though that doesn't mean it wasn't. however, in the habit of drawing weekly (weakly?) cartoons for the company noticeboard, i tendered one as my entry for said prize; the waterproof teabag, ostensibly suggesting that here was a product that could be re-used ad finitum, thus saving hundreds if not thousands of pounds over an annual period.

though it did gain some muted laughter, i doubt it was ever considered to be a serious contestant. however, with an honours degree in hindsight, it may well have been the first notable attempt to reduce the amount of material used in commercial circles, effectively reducing demands upon a world we now know we have been abusing for decades. or at least it would have been had it been a real thing.

in similar light to that of the waterproof teabag, i have always held my suspicions over the reputed biodegradable carrier bag, examples of which were widely available prior to the introduction of the carrier bag charge now legally demanded by uk grocery stores and supermarkets. for instance, how long would such a receptacle survive in daily use, prior to its disposal? was it indeed possible, that the bag would disintegrate in the rain on the way home with the shopping; and if not on the first occasion, perhaps later that week? it's a confusing, if occasionally worrying situation.

step up the materials ladder to carbon fibre and there can be seen to be similar concerns. it's not that carbon fibre behaves like asbestos, for example, causing untold harms to its adherents; in use it is perfectly stable (thankfully, as it generally forms the wing roots of the worlds largest airliners), but it's the manufacture and potential for recycling that give greatest cause for concern. but, in an effort to address the problem, the sport's governing body, the union cycliste international (uci) has joined the carbon fibre circular alliance, and brought on-board scott sports due to its lengthy support of the uci's world cycling centre. they have worked with lineat composites to demonstrate that it is actually possible to reclaim carbon fibre from broken or end of life components.

the resulting material has been shown to be perfectly suitable for use in new components.

looking in a different direction, however, a gentleman by the name of shaun scallan, a man with three-decades of experience in sustainability and renewable energy has proposed an intriguing solution to the problem: 'let's ban carbon fibre.' he contends that athletes (including cyclists) ought to be required to compete on or with sporting equipment that can be readily recycled, pointing out that the principal reason for using carbon-fibre bicycle frames in the first place, is to increase speeds and reduce race times.

it's kind of hard to argue with his point that improving speeds and race times through technology is essentially a pointless exercise. on the contrary, it ought to be the contest between human competitors that provides entertainment and inspiration, rather than as a result of 'technological enhancements'. that is surely the modern formation of graeme obree's contention that training ought to be outlawed and individuals compete on the basis of their natural talent (though it's more than possible that graeme's tongue was firmly planetd in his cheek at the time).

on closer investigation, mr scallan's contentions seem disarminlgy simple and unerringly logical. if we were to place tadej, wout and mathieu on bicycles from eddy's era, or even earlier, that of fausto coppi, would we be any less entertained? and if the answer is 'no' what does that say about the bicycle industry's objectives? because if the sport's finest riders would be no better off without carbon-fibre, it sure as heck isn't making any difference for you and me.

though i think it quite likely that mr scallan will be listened to every bit as closely as i am, if cycling is destined to take a long, hard look at its environmental credentials, from manufacture, to endless convoys of team cars, to recycling potential, maybe it really is time to put the carbon aside in favour of a material that lasts longer (the average lifespan of carbon-fibre sports equipment is reckoned to be a miserly three years) and can be easily recycled at any point during its working life. the uci's participation is to be welcomed as an important first step, but perhaps rather than developing wireless gear systems, or methods of dispensing with the services of gear hangers, the velocipedinal boffins would be better concentrating on the environmental aspects of their original ministrations.

thursday 6 april 2023

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built-in obsolescence?

plugged wall socket

though the following might seem to be a simple continuation of my many monologues deriding the increased presence of electronica in velocipedinal circles, in point of fact, this particular monologue is the result of real-world exasperation. and in bringing this to your possibly inattentive attention, i find myself at the risk of leaving my laboured point open to derision from those entrenched in the modern way of doing things. but while i am not so secretly proud of my luddite persuasions, i do fervently hope that these are not in my possession through misplaced ideals. technology of any description has within its remit, a pressing need to evolve, either as a result of an overarching desire to solve a restrictive problem, or as within the cycling and other industries, a need to continuously sell more product.

the problem is often not with the technology, but with the word itself. many tv adverts make great play of using the word to describe any method of achieving a desired state of affairs, because it's a buzzword that often conjures up mental images of boffins in a laboratory, feverishly searching for a solution to the problem of dog hair infesting the innards of a vacuum cleaner.

figuring out not only how to get several astronauts to mars and how they might survive on the surface for more than a few minutes, is a prime example of how the march of technology might make notable progress. coding an app that allows the great unwashed to decide how their bicycle changes gear considerably less of an achievement. and that's the bit that concerns me (and others) most. a bike ride ought surely to be a means of escaping from the strictures of society if even only for a relatively brief period. but imagine opening the bike shed door as the first step towards velocipedinal nirvana, only to learn that the rear tyre has deflated overnight.

that particular problem, to which we will assign the adjective, mechanical, may be an irritation, but one that's easily remedied. however, imagine a similar scenario in which the necessary app refuses to load on your smartphone (assuming you possess just such a device). i'm sure the majority of us have experienced a laptop or desktop computer that failed to fire up, often resulting in several hours of frustrated panic because, guess who forgot to backup the hard disk? though i doubt there is a bicycle on the current market that depends wholly on computer control, it would be a committed optimist who believes it will remain that way forever.

as detailed elsewhere, i had the great good fortune to be invited to one of islay's older and more prominent distilleries last friday. prior to the grand depart, i outfitted my bicycle with a flashing rear light, a water bottle and a diplomatically un-named gps device to the handlebar bracket. except, the latter failed to fire up, despite several attempts to restart en-route. when it finally made it past the startup screens, the graphic inviting me to commence logging my ride only succumbed to a finger press by changing colour, but no more. to make matters worse, it took several lengthy pressings on the side button to switch the device off. nonetheless, my bike ride was every bit as enjoyable as only a bike ride can be, partly predicated on the knowledge that i really only need the time of day section on-screen.

the other seven sections are simply the icing on a battery-powered cake.

now, the part of this discussion that leaves me open to ridicule is the age of the malfunctioning gps device. according to the startup screen (when it works), the operating system dates from over five years ago, leaving the way open for the more technically astute to point to that likely being the cause of its distress. perhaps there is indeed a whole slew of updates that have never been applied because i refuse to use strava and thus have no good reason to connect the device to my computer. and based on the number of software updates that, the day after release, are quickly superseded by bug fixes, there's no guarantee that any number of decimal point versions would have prevented my weekend annoyance. the situation has also highlighted the fact that there appears no way to perform an external backup.

and, no, i can't believe i actually said that.

the bar-mounted gps device in question continues not to perform its designated tasks with its previous gusto; i either have to learn to wear a watch when riding, or suck it up and buy a new one. i very much doubt that mine is an isolated case, and, in the grand scheme of things, it's a definably piddly little first-world problem. but, as i appraise myself daily of the happenings in the cycling world around me, i see dark clouds ahead. only a day or so past, the oddly monikered 4iiii innovations inc., purveyor of 'power-driven cycling performance', announced its latest firmware update to its precision 3 powermeter.

until the present, upgrading a bicycle, whether necessary or otherwise, usually involved drooling over exotic componentry, before checking any possible incompatibilities and prior to shopping around for the best price. no-one i know has trawled the web searching for any missed firmware updates for their powermeters, gps devices, wireless gearchanging or heart-rate monitors. and that's before we even consider the indoor world of virtual racing and smart trainers. according to 4iiii, this firmware update adds "...gyroscope, responsive cadence and power output."

and, as if to add insult to injury, president and ceo of 4iiii, phil white is quoted as saying, "We're committed to disrupting every part of the cycling experience we touch. With this update, we'll be able to integrate features powered by our patented 3D power meter system and machine learning without decreasing long battery life and the precision for which 4iiii is known.

"In addition to these features, we also see this firmware as a way to start to treat power meters as tech platforms for cyclists. Innovations like this will allow us to further unlock a rider's potential with simplified training tools." the highlighting is mine. i'm sure you can understand why.

4iiii innovations

wednesday 5 april 2023

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100 greatest cycling climbs of spain. simon warren. vertebrate publishing paperback. 239pp illus. £14.95

100 climbs of spain - simon warren

i could be wrong, but i'd be willing to bet that there are more cyclists inspired by thoughts of emulating robert millar, marco pantani or federico bahamontes, than any of the sport's acknowledged sprinters. we are, by nature, a collection of romantic idealists for whom the mental picture of ascending with speed and panache is most often very much at odds with reality. every sunday morning we ascend the col du rspb at aoradh farm, a steep, but short gradient up which i used to fly. video evidence would surely testify to that doubtful fact.

only one gentleman of my acquaint, ever seemed to consider himself to be the island's finest sprinter, though his current adherence to the e-bike craze may point to there having been endemic problems in the first place. certainly, it's the climbs that often attract the largest crowds in any given race; witness those lining the roadsides on the cobbled bergs in sunday's tour of flanders, framed by marquees and refreshments tables for those awaiting the next ascent. couple that with the sound knowledge that the average sporting velocipedinist can't, in fact, climb very well, and you have the perfect conundrum that has featured as the backdrop to the career of obsessive climbing documenter, simon warren.

100 climbs of spain - simon warren

to date, the fellow has climbed the tour de france, britain, the giro, the cobbled gradients of belgium, the hills of wales, scotland and various parts of england, and has now turned his attentions to spain, including those of mallorca and the canary islands. my extremely limited geographical knowledge is constantly surprised that there as many as 100 climbable hills/mountains in any country other than the himalayas, while my distinct lack of any sense of adventure effectively keeps my campagnolo wheels and challenge tyres dissatisfyingly close to sea-level. however, as i have mentioned on many an occasion, a guy can dream can't he?

those of us who regularly witness each year's vuelta espana, will by now have learned that it's a country in possession of some seriously steep and tall mountains, discovery of which seem to have become a serial obsession of the race organisers. as if the angliru were scarcely enough. for most of us, that particular climb will always be more than enough, and for that particular reason, mr warren has provided a comprehensive mini-chapter describing his own experiences on the angliru. but consider this; his first attempt failed when equipped with a 39x27 gear combination. four years later, attempting the zoncolan, he "...came armed with a more sensible lowest gear of 34x28. would it be enough." (i recommend purchasing a copy to find out).

100 climbs of spain - simon warren

for the 'lesser' climbs featured in the book, there are still a scary number with double-digit gradients in excess of 20% - alto de la camperona, la bola del mundo, ermita de alba, to name but a few, the latter topping out at a frightening 30%. in his introduction, simon warren details the process by which he rode all of the climbs contained within, a narrative that is arduous enough in its own right before moving on to each specific climb.

"What adventures, what roads [...] I hope this book helps you plan your trips and hope you find these amazing roads as breathtaking as I did."

assuming that is precisely what you intend to undertake, the documentation is impressively concise and explanatory, commencing with a full-page illustration topped by simon's marks out of ten. beneath a comprehensive text description is not only a simple location map and route map, but a profile highlighting the position of the climb's maximum gradient. these are accompanied by brief directions, altitudes, along with average and maximum gradients. any more and there's a distinct possibility we'd conclude that we're made of less stern stuff than the author and quickly turn the page.

i have, in my possession, almost all of the 100 climbs series, and i hope you will not think the less of me when i tell you that, despite the safe assumption that i will probably never ride any of them, i have a frequent habit of pulling one or other from the bookshelf to revel in someone else's pain and suffering on the mountains. granted, it's not a tangible substitute, but i've always got the col du rspb to fall back on.

grimpeur or dreamer, this is great.

100 greatest cycling climbs of spain is published by vertebrate publishing on thursday 6 april.

tuesday 4 april 2023

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