inherent complexity


several models of modern digital slr cameras offer the ability to save their images simultaneously as jpeg and raw files. for those not well-acquainted with the technology or terminology, jpeg is an acronym for joint photographic experts group, essentially a standards organisation that defines just how camera manufacturers and software producers create or intepret the file format. this has achieved something that the bicycle industry has singularly failed to do, curating an image format that is effectively identical whether implemented by nikon, canon, fuji, leica or any other camera manufacturer.

the jpeg format makes pre-determined decisions as to the sharpness, compression, colour, intensity and other pertinent factors at the point of saving, with no available input from the photographer. however, in order to allow the creative image-maker a greater level of control over their final images, the digital information gathered through the lens is stored simply as raw data. assuming you possess compatible software, that data can be user-manipulated prior to saving, allowing the photographer, assuming he or she knows what they're doing, a wide range of control over their imagery.

software to open these raw files was first implemented by the makers of adobe photoshop around ten or so years ago, in a programme tautologically named, camera raw. it wasn't long before adobe incorporated the software into its release versions of photoshop as an available filter, one that offered its parametric options for use on any rgb file type. this, initially, sported a very simple interface consisting of a vertical panel of horizontal sliders controlling aspects such as exposure, colour balance, white point, vibrance, clarity etc. it was particularly intuitive and simple to use, becoming for yours truly at least, the go to filter when enhancing digital images for publication, no matter the image format involved.

though i was once a member of adobe's pre-release programme, i no longer participate for a number of reasons, but this large, international group of contributors have no doubt weighed in on desired enhancements to the camera raw filter, to the extent that it has become substantially more complex to manipulate; in my humble opinion, the current version is a tad less user-friendly. and in fact, if you have to apply quite so many parameters to your raw file, it may point to a possible deficiency of skills as a photographer, or highlight that you bought the wrong camera.

the same fate befell another example of adobe's imaging software, namely, lightroom. an item of software originally designed to allow photographers to batch catalogue and keyword their images, it is now almost as complex as photoshop, calling into question the need for two imaging programmes that achieve remarkably similar results.

this apparently insatiable need to continually add features to an effective original idea is, sadly, not confined to the software industry. the bicycle industry is every bit as guilty. though there are many too many examples to cite within a single day's scribblings, the one staring me in the face while perusing the trade press yesterday, was that of ass savers, the original example of which was simplicity itself and highly effective.

on the presumption that some of you may have adopted hermit status and missed out on the whole ass-saver paradigm, let me explain that it consists of a plastic tail that slots into the underside of a bicycle saddle, extending over the rear wheel and protecting the rider's posterior and lower back from the spray thrown up by the tyre in wet weather. should the day's ride be scehduled to take place in dry weather, 'tis but simplicity itself to remove the ass-saver from under the saddle and stuff it in a jersey pocket.

as you might expect, this product arrives in all manner of widths and lengths, depending on your velocipedinal proclivities, and in a wide range of colours and prices beginning at around £8.99. however, since this is the bicycle industry, the need to perpetually innovate has meant that, while the original is still currently available, and remains as effective as ever, the manufacturer seemingly could not help itself from developing more complex, expensive and arguably less effective designs. the original ass-saver proved popular principally because, though it was actually a mudguard of sorts, it wasn't truly a mudguard.

some folks just don't know when (or how) to stop.

wednesday 13 march 2024

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in the latter decade of the 20th century, i became a stockist of muddy fox bicycles, a situation that benefitted them very little, but helped two guys selling bicycles to a more or less agnostic hebridean island to at least make minor inroads into popularising cycling just a tiny fraction more. i had owned an original white muddy fox courier, one of the first major forays into the mountain bike genre in the uk, and coincidentally, purchased from a bike shop in kilmarnock, part-owned by national icon, graeme obree. it seemed a logical step, when attempting to enter the cycle retail trade, to sell a marque in which i had modest personal investment.

as a part of that investment, i traipsed off to london town to an early 90s cycle exhibition with the express intention of meeting the folks at muddy fox, with whom i had been in contact for a year or so. however, on arriving at the venue, there was a large gap where the muddy fox stand ought to have been, and no-one seemed to have the faintest idea why this was the case.

somewhat miffed at having travelled the distance (bearing in mind i had still the return trip to endure), i called the muddy fox office to be told that there had been a delay in the arrival of their exhibition models, but this ought to be remedied within the day. hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it transpires that this effectively signalled the demise of the original company (the name is currently owned by a wholly unrelated concern), having sought to expand into the german market, stretched its finances a tad more than was prudent, and effectively gone bankrupt.

this situation was undoubtedly not the first instance of such, and is highly unlikely to be the last, particularly when the economic mantra suggests continual annual growth is not only sustainable, but entirely praiseworthy. the all but anonymous analysts who predict annual profits and the expected concomitant share price rise, are apt to presage the eventual downfall, or at least, regrouping of many an otherwise successful business. when apple became the first company in the history of the universe to reach a capitalisation of one trillion dollars, their share price dropped, reputedly because those selfsame analysts figured such economic success was untenable.

rapha began life twenty years ago, bringing the velocipedinal world to the realisation that quality cycling kit could be acquired in fabrics other than thin polyester replicating the team jerseys of the day, or dye-sublimated in a colourful explosion of obscure logos. sportwool was/is a blend of merino wool and polyester, creating a somewhat luxurious jersey that satisfied the long-held suspicion of founder, simon mottram, that there was nothing available at the time that he'd be willing to purchase for his own cycling forays.

the company was regularly pilloried at the time for appearing somewhat narcissistically centred around their pain and suffering mantra, combined with monochrome imagery married to a similar colour strategy employed in their jersey designs. soon after, there were a number of cycling apparel startups who received cease and desist letters from rapha's lawyers, predominantly on the basis of the uncanny resemblance of their products to those of imperial works. i have no idea how many of those purveyors paid heed, but suffice it to say, few of them are still around today.

such practices are not infrequent, but nor are they necessarily bullying or inequitable. if you've spent many a week, month or year defining an original and successful product, it's only natural that you'd be a smidgeon put out by someone appearing to piggyback on your success with a very similar, yet lower cost alternative. and it's well to recall that the specialized bicycle company once threatened legal action over a one-woman wheelbuilder in portland, oregon, who had the audacity to name her business 'epic wheelworks'.

it is of little comfort, therefore, to realise that rapha, now under american investment company ownership (through the uk registered carpegna ltd), releases jersey after jersey closely resembling the very items that prompted mr mottram to create what is currently termed the classic range and of which there appear to be few examples on their website. arguably, they have outgrown the original premise, expanded worldwide, lost money for the last six years, and in the eyes of some, lost their way in the process.

thankfully, there are still those who adhere to the 'small is beautiful' paradigm, producing quality garments in relatively small numbers, content to continue as they began, all thoughts of world domination left firmly in the cutting room. amongst others (worth also mentioning velobici i think), one of those cycling apparel companies which continue to plough the sportwool furrow, is kent's torm. as you can read on their website, "It takes 2hrs and over 40 components to make a great jersey which is why me and Al make the best jerseys we can, not the most jerseys we can."

quite possibly modern economists would find such an attitude to be in direct contravention of modern financial strategies, but i believe we should be eternally grateful that there are still those who remain satisfied with what they have. when rapha began life in a former piano factory in london's kentish town, it consisted of four employees and a pink couch. that currently stands at 501 employees. torm still consists of the two fellows who started the company in 2009.

small is beautiful and less is more.

torm cycle clothing

tuesday 12 march 2024

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campagnolo bottom bracket bearing extractor

despite experimental contentions by caledonian maritime assets ltd. (cmal) that the prevailing winds across islay come predominantly from the south west, we seem, more often than not, to be strafed by those emanating from the east. that has most certainly been the case over the past week, when particularly chilling and relatively strong easterlies have had us revisit the thermostat settings on the central heating.

i am fortunate that, more years ago than i can recall, mavic sent me what i have regularly described as a duvet with sleeves, the very jacketage that will shield me well from those chilling drafts, and which has gained greater employment these past few months than during comparable times in previous years. its only disadvantage is a lack of serious waterproofing, though a stowaway goretex over the top seems to work just ginger peachy.

my saturday perambulations on the cyclocross bicycle were dramatically slowed by windspeeds of nigh on 60kph. these were undoubtedly augmented by the vicissitudes of physics that point out cold air to be more dense than the warmer variety. basically from saligo bay on the atlantic coast all the way to bridgend village in the centre of the island, constituted one solid, freezing cold headwind. the physical equivalent of riding into a mattress for 20km.

by the time the bicycle was safely stowed in thewashingmachinepost bike shed, any physical fitness i once possessed was but a distant memory. climbing the stairs for a hot shower was what i would describe as an effort. aside from the knowledge that one's aerobic capacity declines at a disappointing rate past the age of fifty, it seems too, that any recovery powers i may have owned have also moved elsewhere and left me behind to fare as best i can.

therefore, come sunday morning bike ride preparations, i was scarcely the poster boy for the joys of cycling. the fact that the weather forecast turned out to be considerably less than accurate did nothing to ameliorate the situation. according to the on-screen graphics, precipitation was to have remained a theoretical discouragement until mid-afternoon. the undoing of that lie could be felt as i rode to the rendezvous point, visible as concerted raindrops on my rudy projects. it did not get better.

the full 65km sunday parcours includes a full circumambulation of loch gorm, but since none of us fancied the slog from kilchoman distillery all the way to debbie's, we cut it short, and headed left to the ostentatiously, yet curiously named rock mountain (which features a few rocks, but no sign of a mountain). this diversion brought us to deb's around half-an-hour earlier than usual for a very welcome toastie. if only someone had switched on the table-side heater.

when riding through inclement weather, the trick appears to be thinking of absolutely anything other than the discomfort being experienced at the time. usually, in my case, this might revolve around whether i actually need another snare drum or cymbal (no i don't), whether to watch all episodes of columbo on tv, or switch at some strategic point to watch the big bang theory, or in many an instance, harbour concerted ruminations over my sanity in riding through such weather conditions in the first place.

however, yesterday, as i turned towards home and claimed the benefit of a tailwind that had not subsided one iota since the grand départ, i noted just how smoothly my campagnolo-equipped ritchey was travelling, akin to hearing duke ellington's blues to be there from newport, 1956.

just how much attention do you pay towards the bottom bracket? is it a component that you take entirely for granted, or are you as fastidious as eddy, constantly appraising the efficacy of your bicycle's velocipedinal componentry? though i fear it paints me in a very poor light, i must admit that i'm usually oblivious to the latter unless it no longer performs as desired. the bottom bracket, however, appears one of the real unsung heroes of the sunday bike ride (other days are also available). it is a component that has suffered through the turbulent years, subjected to many ill-conceived standards arriving from way too many corners of the industry.

the specialized features a press-fit b/b. thankfully, if only from the point of maintenance and creaking, the majority of manufacturers seem to have returned to the threaded external cups, even if not everyone implements this in the same way. in my own case, campagnolo's frame cups appear very similar to those of the competition, even subsuming to the same tool pattern for fitting and removal. however, while shimano, for instance, place the bearings within those selfsame cups, vicenza prefers to fit them on the crank arms. whether it's better or easier to replace those bearings by extricating them from their affixed position, as opposed to unscrewing the cups from the frame, is open to debate. however, it's hard to deny that a new set of bearings, all else being equal, offers a noticeably luxurious pedalling action.

it is but a month or so since i replaced those very bearings, and i think it quite impressive that their improved constitution managed to punch through the cold, wind and rain to highlight their improved demeanour. so next time you're out on the bike, take a moment or two to notice your bottom bracket; make it feel wanted. if you owe it some tlc, don't put it off any longer than absolutely necessary. suffering the scorn of a disregarded bottom bracket is something you do not want to suffer, particularly when in the midst of meteorological inclemency.

monday 11 march 2024

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it's all too much

asleep on the couch

over the years, i have had many a perambulatory conversation with the mighty dave-t, discourses which have covered a great many topics, one of which concerned itself with the scarcity of race information and results in the late 1950s, early 1960s, when dave-t was a mere lad. with britain punching well below its weight in european cycle racing, the british press and tv were scarcely interested in a sport that was but a very minor niche on this side of the channel.

when it came to even the greatest of major races, the tour de france, it could take several days to learn of the stage results, unless subscribed to the comic, and even then, the coverage was a mere fraction of that which many of us enjoy today. the bbc or itv would occasionally feature a minute or two of recorded footage, but at the time, the days of wall to wall live coverage were still several decades in the future.

though these parsimonious times were well in advance of my own awareness of cycle racing - which began, like many, with channel 4's half hour daily slot in the 1980s - depending on to whom you talk, the thrill of the chase and the excitement of finding gold, was every bit as much a part of being a cycling fan in those days, as lusting after italian lugged steel. even in the 1980s, there was a bookstore in glasgow's st. vincent street, in which, if you clambered all the way to the top floor, it was possible to find copies of l'equipe and la gazzetta dello sport along with the occasional foreign cycle magazine, bought , in my case, purely for the photos; european languages continue to defy me, even today.

the intrigue may have been the same for me as for many others, trying to relate many of the photos to inscrutable paragraphs of text, in a vain attempt to learn more about this arcane sport in which britain seemed ill-equipped to compete.

gradually, over the intervening years, cycle racing has gained many an acolyte, all of whom are now particularly well served within the mainstream media. while the early classics such as het nieuwsblad and kuurne-brussels-kuurne may be paid only lip service on the results page come monday morning, the major classics and the grand tours often garner at least a half-page in what we once referred to as the broadsheets. and while both cycle sport and procycling have gone the way of the dodo, and rouleur has been diluted almost to the point of insignificance, there's still the perennial comic to satisfy the earnest velocipedinist.

meanwhile the web, which harbours no space constraints, and which may well have caused the untimely demise of the two publications referred to above, provides daily updates on pretty much every aspect of cycle racing about which you may wish to learn. and then there's eurosport and itv4 on the tellybox, offering unparalleled live and highlight coverage of races that we once never even knew existed, including almost every major cyclocross and track event across a busy, and getting busier, season. so much so, that, in stark contrast to the mighty dave-t's teenage years, i find it impossible to keep up. were i to watch every broadcast, i'd likely have to give up working, and even cycling.

that particular situation, however, seems only to have become even worse, curated by gcn's apparent need to produce a specific number of youtube videos each week. and many other, independent pundits have recently joined the happy throng, from britain, europe and across the pond. this was blatantly apparent on the approach to het nieuwsblad, kbk and paris-nice. aside from interviews with the favourites, both pre and post race, were videos claiming to tell of five things we learned from kuurne-brussels-kuurne, those on whom to keep watch during het nieuwsblad and conjecture as to whether remco or primoz would excel on the finish line in nice.

in short, cycle racing has all but reached the same level of punditry as has long been the case with both premier league football and formula one motor racing. does anyone actually watch some or all of these videos, before or after watching the race live or in highlights form, grabbing a quick scour of the comic, cycling news, bike radar and any number of american websites to boot? isn't it better to simply view either live coverage or highlights, learn of the gc standings, then switch off and get back to real life?

isn't it all just a bit too much?

sunday 10 march 2024

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spot the difference

ritchey cross bike

one of the world's major bicycle shows comes to an end today in taipei having opened the 2024 season on wednesday 6 march. and for those who have recently or not so recently purchased a gravel bike, it may come as little surprise that the latter genre is now regarded as the driver of sales as the bicycle industry hopes to return to some semblance of normality. but while the dawn of the gravel trail has spawned not only a never ending stream of bicycles, but a whole raft of events in support, other than tyre width, is it worth asking the question, 'is there any real difference?'

for what it's worth (probably not much), my own theory is that the popularity of cyclocross, a distinctly european sport, in north america around the end of the 21st century's first decade, pointed quite clearly to the bike industry that resides therein, that they were essentially to be found on the back foot. cyclocross is definably not a north american invention; to right such a glaringly obvious wrong, it was necessary to invent something that could be proudly owned by the usa, no matter the uncanny resemblance of gravel bikes to those of cyclocross. other than the fact that gravel bikes tend to run on mountain bike width tyres, where's the difference?

and since companies such as trek, specialized and the like are north american by birth and, along with giant, amongst the world's largest bicycle mnufacturers, who was going to argue? if you find that an unpalatable truth, sitting in thewashingmachinepost bike shed is a fluorescent orange and green specialized crux, a bicycle that arrived for review, categorised under the heading of cyclocross, a less prestigious model than that ridden to many a victory by a young tom pidcock. i'm happy to wait for a minute or two while you click over to the specialized website, select bikes, scroll down to the road category to realise that the crux has become both a gravel bike as well as a cyclocross bicycle. whichever link you select, it takes you to the same page.

at the risk of becoming overly repetitive, if specialized classifies cyclocross and gravel bikes as one and the same thing, perhaps that's because they are. yet many an industry representative and reputable members of the cycling media would argue otherwise. just like the manner in which r'n'b music altered overnight from referring to the likes of the rolling stones and gary moore, to that of completely different, yet sophisticated black music which replaced drums with drum machines. granted, the crux still features seatstays that connect to the rear of the top tube, while the company's other gravel bike (the diverge), sports the more contemporary stays that connect further down the seat-tube. but that's more an aesthetic error than something likely to affect classification.

it may also point to the future discontinuation of the crux in favour of the diverge. after all, with the possible exception of ridley bikes, i'd imagine there are truckloads more gravel bikes sold than cyclocross models. that points both to the power of marketing and the probable gullibility of the contemporary customer. if anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, a great many gravel bikes suffer a similar fate to that of the mountain bike in spending very little time offroad. several local acquaintances have either purchased a gravel bike or enquired about doing so, yet with no real intention of ever riding offroad.

but in terms of riding, while there are dedicated roadies who delight in either a 25mm tyre or 28mm if a tad more perspicacious, is it perhaps time to further explore the all-road genre, featuring frames with tyre clearance that would allow gravellous explorations, but look and perform every bit as well with smooth 28mm rubber? a friend of mine was instrumental in curating the gralloch uci sanctioned gravel event near dumfries and in recent correspondence, said that the effect on the little village in which he resides has been "amazing", with gravel riders recently forming two out of three cafe clients.

it's clear from the above that gravel is actually a thing, possibly having recruited some of those who would previously numbered amongst the mountain bike fraternity, though there may be those who have one cleat still in the roadie camp. nonetheless, their collective gravel excursions could easily have taken place aboard cyclocross bikes, had the latter been marketed with the same gusto as their gravel brethren. whether that's the fault of cyclocross's insularity, or as a result of my long-held contention that america needed some contemporary, bicycle-selling, offroad action all of its own, i know not. after all, ridley (for example) or even ritchey, have been producing championship winning 'cross bikes for decades, but seemingly never thought to create a bigger platform on which to market them. heck, even tom ritchey has added a gravel frame (outback) to the range, despite having sold a cyclocross frame since 1994.

yet gravel is the star of the 2024 taipei show. it's a funny old world.

saturday 9 march 2024

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the definition of definition

specialized turbo porto

my webhost offers all manner of software tools to track and quantify just how well (or otherwise) thewashingmachinepost is doing in its own little niche portion of the interwebs. i doubt it will surprise anyone to learn that i tend to ignore every last app or product for which i pay an annual fee. while this could, i agree, smack of over-confidence bordering on arrogance, it is definably nothing of the sort. as the post approaches its 28th year of online existence, rather than celebrate this fact by promising wide-ranging changes to its form factor, i propose to do nothing. it's a promise i'm highly confident of keeping, and an aspiration for which i am well-equipped to realise.

though i have frequently received offers of carefully curated third-party contributions, i am in the habit of replying 'thank you, but no thank you' because i enjoy the daily ritual of finding and writing about what i fervently hope is of interest to others. but irrespective of what my webhost keenly desires to inform me concerning the international reach of these black and yellow pixels, the amount of time spent within the browser window and any collateral pages that might be accessed during those visits, it wouldn't change my modus operandi. i can safely say, therefore, that any likelihood of my expanding the online footprint or definition of that which i practise, is highly unlikely.

but, taking an educated guess at those few who do visit regularly, i'd be inclined to categorise them in the manner to which an erstwhile acquaintance of mine once made mention. those keen to indulge (as do i) in the obscure corners of what he referred to as road bike culture. the fuzzy bit round the edges is, of course, quite how you or i might define the words 'road bike'. you will be pleased to hear that i do not propose to investigate further, but suffice it to say, i'm inclined to include a reasonably wide range of velocipedes within that vague definition, if only because it appears to be something of a moving target.

when i began writing in the mid 1990s, there was no such thing as an e-bike, at least not in the sense we know today. and the very notion of a cargo bike, particularly one with a battery and a motor, was even less a part of pelotonic conversation or definition. however, if there's one thing that has become increasingly evident, it's the fact that progress progresses almost unhindered, and that a leopard still possesses the ability to change its spots at will. take specialized bicycles, for instance.

mike sinyard's company, now part-owned by merida, began life as a purveyor of mountain bikes before including highly respected road bikes within their catalogue. that they have excelled in this category can be witnessed in their sponsorship of both quickstep and bora hansgrohe in the world tour, both particularly high-profile and successful teams, quite probably somewhat demanding in their desire for bicycles that display a similar quest for excellence in the highest realms of cycle sport. i doubt many would disagree with their claim to produce performance bicycles.

the idiosyncracy in the room is categorising just how we, or they, might define the word 'performance'.

specialized for perhaps obvious reasons, have opted for a wide-ranging definition, particularly with the recent unveiling of their entry into the uk cargo bike market. i figure few of us would be keen to ride their turbo porto on the sunday morning ride, and not only because specialized insist on prefixing the majority of their e-bikes with the word turbo. but in this particular instance, the manufacturer has opted to define the word performance in reference to the motor's ability to deliver 90nm of torque (nope, me neither) powered by a 750 watt battery. in this respect at least, they claim, "no bike in its class has more power".

i confess that i am insufficiently well-informed to vouch for the veracity of their claim. however, the trade publication, bike biz has pointed out that the e-cargo bike world is already an 'already crowded market segment'. that said, considering its seemingly economic price tag of £5,500, perhaps they are indeed onto something.

the e-cargo bike market seems oddly ill-defined; either an ideal solution to the so-called 'last mile' delivery paradigm, or the very utility vehicle suitable for family use, perchance to take the kids to school, transport items of furniture, or collect the entire weekly shop in one fell swoop. yet, while i verge on the edge of cynicism, i can't help thinking that more of us might wish to consider the acquisition of just such a bicycle, particularly by those who wish to embrace the ideal of dispensing with the car. after all, specialized confidently refers to the porto as "the most thoughtfully refined, family-first cargo bike in its category"

it has, at least, made a bit of a performance with its marketing rhetoric: "it's more than just a luxury ride, it's the luxury to bring it all."

friday 8 march 2024

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fit like*

mike willis - always another adventure

the question why any of us ride our bikes has come to be one inhabiting both the inquisitive and the existential, and one to which there is probably not a singular response. whether the world of velocipedinal participation made any attempt to discuss with itself, just such a question, as the encroaching availability of wattbikes and zwift made rapid inroads, is one no doubt for social historians to consider, but since we're already down the rabbit hole at this point, why do you ride your bicycle?

stock answers would surely pertain to transportation, to enjoyment, sociability, fitness and possibly, in a minority of cases, that of competition. but what will utlimately apply to all of the above, are the encroaching vicissitudes of age, and how, quite frankly, to deal with them. no matter whether you ride your bike to work, to school, or to the shops, or whether you still harbour desires to get on british cycling's performance plan, the older you get, the harder it becomes. and that, i feel i should point out, applies to both indoor and outdoor versions of the activity.

however, the encroachment of age-related slowing is a subtle one (unless your livelihood depends on winning, in which case, it's probably anything but subtle). i recall robert millar (as was) claiming that, past the age of thirty, it was necessary to train twice as hard as his twenty-something competitors, simply to remain at the same level. whether he exaggerated or not isn't really the point, because there's no real denying that none of us are as fast, fit, or supple as was once the case. how we deal with that depends on how long cycling remains a joy to behold.

i am now in my late 60s, and more than well aware of my declining speed. where once i would have been the grimpeur to reach the summit more easily and more quickly than my pelotonic companions, i am now consigned to engaging the largest sprocket i possess in an attempt to reach the top of any hill you care to mention before bedtime. my nightmares are filled with visions of cyclists disappearing into the distance while i try manfully to maintain forward momentum.

in answer to this, i have postulated the well-supported theory that gravity acts more strongly upon the over-sixties, evidenced by my tardy progess on ascents, while mostly outrunning my sunday morning colleagues on the descents. were i better versed in physics, i'm sure i could provide the necessary equations to prove such conjectures. however, i am constrained in my despondency with the knowledge that i am in the habit of riding my bicycle(s), because i enjoy doing so. somehow, the knowledge that i should undertake specific training in order to maintain what little seems to be left, only serves to take the fun out of it all.

however, i fear it would be selfish of me to place my own thoughts and needs in front of others, despite the fact that, personally, i can offer little in the way of succour or even advice to those for whom declining athleticism is more of a concern. however, on second thoughts, i could mention that my regular weekend sorties totalling nigh on 160km seem well placed to maintain my current excellent state of health and fitness. and perhaps more to the point, i'm no heavier now than i was two decades past and i can still fit into all my clothes, despite remaining loyal to the same sizes i inhabited when a teenager.

for all others, there's simon willis' always another adventure youtube channel.

featured amongst videos that summarise the best hikes on the isle of eigg, emergency winter kit and a loch ness llama (yes, really), is mr willis' older athlete series, dealing with pretty much all the questions you might have about maintaining fitness as the years roll by, whether you're doing so in advance of it happening, or in desperate hindsight. learning that aerobic capability decreases by 15% every ten years from the age of fifty onwards, certainly explains a lot. it's just a shame that youtube video links are usually too long and convoluted to repeat mid-peloton.

if your integrity is greater than my lackadaisical approach, i have included a link below to the always another adventure youtube channel.

always another adventure

*with apologies to any aberdonians reading.

thursday 7 march 2024

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better latté than never

fuelmachine subscriptions

commercial coffee machines are frequently impressive and shiny, ranging from devices that appear to be perfect examples of the plumbers' art, occasionally resembling scale models of the pipework to be found 'neath the majority of public swimming pools. others exude the very persona of modernity, featuring an array of lights and buttons across the front of a colour co-ordinated casing. as the years roll by, the latter seem to be in the majority, presumably allowing nascent coffee houses and cafés to save months or even years of barista training.

as an example, i frequent a local coffee hostelry every thursday afternoon for what i have humorously designated a 'rocket fuel'. in point of fact, it is produced each and every thursday by the simple strategy of pressing the button marked flat white. the difference is that the resultant powerful, ristretto strength drink is never introduced to any form of milk; regular, soya or oat. the existence of this button has meant that no matter which of the several members of staff employed is charged with serving my 'rocket fuel', the quality and strength appears not to vary.

this may be the very strategy that renders extensive barista training null and void. had i the time and a suitable contact, i would dearly love to enquire of the coffee school in portland, oregon, whether the rise of the semi-automated coffee machine has had any noticeable effect on their student intake. i would tend to imagine that to be the case.

more than just a few of us must surely have come upon a coffee establishment where the products served appear to have relied upon the mistaken assumption that a complex-looking coffee machine will, by its very nature, produce top notch coffees without so much as the need to read the operating manual. a takeaway cup with a pale brown liquid topped by a few milky bubbles is not the ideal encouragement to foster return visits.

just what a 'proper' double espresso is supposed to taste like will have surely been made plain at early versions of what used to be known as the 'rouleur classic'. australian owner of italy's rocket espresso company, andrew meo, would usually be found in attendance, dispensing complimentary tiny cups of stunningly effective portions of the black liquid. i still contend that, following one of those, i simply floated around the exhibition, at least a couple of centimetres above the floor. from those days onwards, i have procrastinated over the purchase of one of andrew's superlative coffee machines, but put off both by the high cost of admission, and the fear that i might end up drinking more very strong coffee than is truly good for me.

and while the latter is still a real consideration, former team sky and british champion cyclist, russ downing, seems to have possibly cured the former consideration. in collaboration with rocket espresso in milan, mr downing has engendered a subscription model to make these truly excellent coffee machines, which would enhance any kitchen in which they are placed, a tad more affordable. beginning at £79 per month, you too can possess a rocket espresso coffee machine and grinder, along with 1kg of fuel coffee beans.

according to russ downing, espresso is well known to boost performance, though personally, i cannot truthfully speak to that contention. on the other hand, when espresso tastes that good, who really cares?

the other reason for preferring not to feature a coffee machine in the croft, is the perceived danger that my weekend visits to debbie's would no longer be special. at the risk of upsetting messrs. downing and meo, i worry that coffee might become a more commonplace beverage than i'd be willing to admit. but for £67 each month, i might be willing to find out if i'm wrong.

wednesday 6 march 2024

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philately will get you nowhere

wiggle-red bull

i have, from time to time, broached the subject of ownership within the cycle industry and its associated sporting activities. for instance, it has been widely reported that red bull, an energy drink with reputed health concerns, not least due to the percentage of caffeine in its recipe, has effectively taken ownership of world tour cycle team, bora hansgrohe. you may note that, as far as i'm aware, this is an ownership issue as opposed to a sponsorship deal.

while i'm sure that primoz roglic is quite happy with this state of affairs, as well as team founder, ralph denk, depending on which source you query, it can be concluded that either he or red bull possess ownership of the team. however, should we opt to believe the latter conjecture, it should be noted that the manufacturer of a so-called energy drink, has spread its cash far and wide to include a dominant formula one racing team, events featuring daring aerobatics and the helmets of wout van aert and tom pidcock. it seems almost an oddity that bora riders wear dark green/lime green helmets, in spite of red bull's sponsorship/ownership.

my point, being made in a rather heavy-handed style at present, is that red bull do not make bicycles, nor indeed, anything that might be described as cycling accessories or components. their investment, therefore, surely resides on the likelihood that involvement in the sport will ultimately add to the corporate coffers. there is nothing startlingly unusual in that; professional cycling's entire financial model is based on money being invested by high-profile sponsors with no other connection to cycling. the downside to this, as has been examined in great detail by minds far more acute than my own, is that when cycling fails to live up to their expectations, or effectively runs the course of a marketing strategy, they simply up sticks and head in alternative directions."

ownership, if nothing else, exaggerates that state of affairs, but instead of a cycle team manager searching for new sponsors, it's now a business that risks entering administration and all that such entails. we should be thankful, no doubt, that cycling continues to fare well in the present economic climate, overstocking and price reductions notwithstanding, but if and when that situation upends itself, businesses still owned by those with a vested interest in cycling per se, no doubt thank their lucky stars. those in the possession of so-called investment companies are likely to be a lot less enthusiastic.

which is why it might be a case of 'out of the frying pan and into the fire' for the combination of wiggle and chain reaction cycles. aside from their very public descent into corporate disarray following the refusal of the parent company to part with any further capital in their favour, a very public everything must go sale on behalf of both retailers (which, in essence, is a single entity), has surely undermined the confidence of the pelotonese in their staying power, should they ever find a fairy godmother to revive the brands.

that might be something we're all about to find out, following the reported purchase of both brands by mike ashley's frasers group. mr ashley already owns evans cycles and probikekit, yet fundamentally has no intrinsic interest in bicycles. in fact, depending once again on to whom you listen, it seems possible that mr ashley's interest centres on the brand names themselves, as opposed to what it is they (used to) represent.

what it is i'm sure the majority of us would like to hear from mr ashley, is praise for the wide range of cycling accessories available from wiggle, or the comprehensive array of campagnolo componentry featured on chain reaction cycles. learning that wiggle's in-house clothing brand, dhb is part of the deal, it would be food for the soul to hear that house of fraser group had designs on bolstering the apparel range to the point where it might seriously challenge rapha, endura or castelli.

instead, according to a report in the times newspaper, frasers group was attracted to wiggle crc's digital footprint, with strong social media and online presence a key aspect. while those are undoubtedly attractive pre-requisites, nowhere have i seen or read reports that indicates the purchase of vitus bikes' intellectual property, as part of the deal, is likely to result in a desire to bring the brand to the professional peloton within a matter of years.

at the risk of repeating myself and over-labouring the point (though as i write that, it dawns on me that i may already have done so), cycling has effectively found itself to be the plaything of rich investors invariably beholden to their shareholders, a situation that will disappear as quickly as snow off a drystone wall, if cycling begins to lose its lustre overnight.

the question remains; how do we get it back?

tuesday 5 march 2024

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