the obree way

the graeme obree way

wherever there are folks ready and waiting to improve their speed and fitness, there are at least a dozen others willing to provide the benefit of their reasoned philosophy as to just how that might be achieved. on the basis of books reviewed and articles read over the years, there seem at least as many different flavours of training as there are cycle racers. the upshot of this is that there seems no correct answer to the unvoiced question: 'how do i learn to go faster?'

modern methods are a far cry from fausto coppi's 'ride your bike, ride your bike and ride your bike', often consisting of shopping lists entailing heart-rate monitors, powermeters, turbo trainers that connect to television sets and a number of other technological advances that fausto likely never even dreamed of. on top of all that, there is a never ending recipe of gels, energy bars, energy drinks and other powders the efficacy of which i'm not really that sure of. add in technical terms seemingly invented for the occasion such as periodisation, tapering and the like, and suddenly the notion of spending a considerable portion of your year working all this into daily life begins to pale somewhat.

what's the freshly competitive cyclist to do?

in june of 2010, on behalf of ardbeg distillery, i invited graeme obree to be our after dinner speaker at a gourmet ride organised to celebrate ten years of the ardbeg committee. true to form, graeme not only agreed to fulfil such a role, but decided not only to join us on the 100km ride prior to dinner, but to ride his cerise steel bike from home in saltcoats with his luggage following behind on a little bob-trailer.

the graeme obree way

his accommodation for the weekend was situated around 30km from the ferry terminal, and as mine host, i was to ride there with graeme to ensure he was comfortable and settled into his bed and breakfast okay. i don't mind admitting that i struggled at points keeping up with mr obree, something surely not to be ashamed of considering his rather exceptional palmares. except, when we reached glenegedale and i offered to carry graeme's bag into the house, its weight was considerably more than that of the bike he was riding.

a definite case of 'we are not worthy'

moving swiftly on to the following day, and as we left debbie's in bruichladdich, graeme and one or two others moved a few paces ahead of my front wheel, a gap that i spent many kilometres trying to close all the way to bridgend, such was the pace being set by mr obree. when i mentioned this on the way to the ferry the following morning, graeme said that he'd kept his pace down because he felt some of the others were struggling a bit to keep up. quite obviously he is still a lot faster than even he thinks he is.

so wouldn't it be just ginger peachy if someone of the calibre of graeme obree were willing to share the kernel of his own training techniques, however seemingly eccentric they might be, and however much at odds with conventional thinking? a man who has twice claimed the hour record, posted a sub 18 time for ten miles, beaten chris boardman in the world 4,000 metre pursuit, and held the gold medal in that discipline, is bound to have a few nuggets of wisdom worth passing on.

thankfully, that's just exactly what he has done, and the obree way will be published later this month and available via graeme's website. i am extremely grateful to have been allowed to publish one or two extracts from this, as yet, unreleased book, the first of which appears today. as robert millar is quoted as saying "there's training and there's training."

read the extract here

posted monday 5 september 2011

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picture this. the photography of anthony skorochod

anthony skorochod

it's not often i have the chance to be topical. not that topicality doesn't invade from left-field every now and again, but often my settings for the day are too right-field to take advantage. were such topicality to happen along more regularly, you would think all the better of me for my skill of incorporation. always trying to impress, i suppose.

anyway, not that i intend to be topical quite to the time bonuses on the finish line (just in case this accidentally reaches the web server before some of you have watched the highlights), but the lack of live television coverage on either itv4 or so-called british eurosport of today's angliru stage of the vuelta has come in for some well-deserved and well-aimed criticism. rare are the occasions when britain can claim to have two riders first and second in one of the three grand tours, and more especially on a stage where all could switch from impending victory to impending doom and despondency.

though i have not checked the respective schedules, i believe the vuelta espana, led by wiggins and froome, riding for a british pro-tour team was bumped in favour of motorsport. i have no idea if both were televising the same race, but if ever anything were designed to put us in our place as to the national significance of cycle racing in the uk, today was probably it. british eurosport has two channels, so you'd figure that, if they were as committed to cycle racing as they'd like us to believe, one could have been made available for the vuelta, given the circumstances. london's look mum no hands were proudy trumpeting that they still had access to international eurosport, and were thus inviting all and sundry in the area to join them for a particularly exciting stage.

anthony skorochod

britain gives less than a fig for cycle sport, but is besotted with motorsport. that's just the way that it is. in the grand scheme of all that is international sport, cycling is undoubtedly of minority interest. thus those who spend the bulk of their time on the periphery of the sport are playing to a very small gallery. though not resident in the uk, photographer anthony skorochod possibly suffers even more for his art, as it's doubtful if north american media treats its cycle sport any better than britain does. arguably even worse. so, allowing for the fact that he populates a very small corner of a very small part of the sporting panoply, why take pictures of cyclists?

"IMy eldest son started cycling and racing at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in 2004 in the Air Products Program. I began taking cycling photos of my son then with an Olympus C-720.  I quickly realized this camera couldn't cut it, so I bought my first DSLR, a Canon Digital Rebel XT.  My son progressed from track to criteriums and then road racing; so did my photography.  After a couple of years, I realized I should upload my photos to a central location to share my work, and soon after, having spent hard-earned money which I didn't have, on photography gear, gasoline, and webhosting, I began charging money for my work and was born."

anthony skorochod

the advent of digital photography has pretty much turned everyone and his little brother into a photographer, a discussion i was having with a pro photographer only the other day. consistency and technical know-how will undoubtedly count in the long-term, but it's often a case of having the tenacity to hang on long enough until the wannabees fall by the wayside. with so many college courses and training centres offering qualifications in photography, a few certificates on the wall would surely go some way to assisting a burgeoning career behind the lens. is anthony formally trained, or is he just rather good at clicking?

I am not formally trained, I hold no degrees or certifications, nor have I ever attended any photography classes. I am 100% self-taught.  Everything I know I've learned from asking other photographers questions, viewing on-line learning lessons from Adobe, Canon, Scott Bourne, and buying books authored by Bryan Peterson, amongst several others.  Even viewing the EXIF data from other photographers photos was a big help. (EXIF data is information that a digital camera records in tandem with each image, specifying shutter speed, focal length, flash fire etc.) By viewing that information, I was able to find out 'how they did that.'"

i know that i've been taking photographs for what seems like forever, to illustrate my daily articles, but i'd never willingly admit to being what could notionally be referred to as a photographer. i know my place. that said, should the thought ever dawn that perhaps my black belt in photoshop could bail me out of a complete lack of knowledge, i'd have several years worth of images to convince the unwary. how long has mr skorochod been photographing cycling?

anthony skorochod

"Since 2004. I started at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center with track, then began photographing the Thursday Night Crits across the street at the Bob Rodale Fitness Park, then I progressed to photographing road racing, mainly in the Lancaster, PA area when RedRoseRacing was still in business."

my own recognisable style comes from the ten second timer available on my lumix compact, combined with layer blend modes in photoshop. if anything looks good, it's mostly accidental. however, taken out of the context of black and yellow pixels, i'm sure few would look in their direction in a frame on a wall. however, i'm happy to admit that all images of mine that appear on these pages are there simply by way of illustration. that's pretty much all i'm looking for. does anthony figure he has a recognisable style and has he any long-term aim concerning his imagery?

"I think I do have a recognizable style. I shoot in RAW (unconverted digital information) and apply a specific 'recipe' to all of my photos.  It consists of a certain level of sharpening, contrast, and saturation.  can usually tell when a photo is mine. My ultimate goal in photography is to work at it full-time. I'm in the 'downswing' of my career; I'm a Paramedic with almost 25 years in on the job, but I can't do that forever and photography is an excellent fall-back career."

several people involved in what i have rather disarmingly referred to as the periphery of any sporting activity, are there either as an accompaniment to their own sporting aspirations, however lowly those may be in the grand scheme of things, or as a substitute for an inability to take part. is anthony a frustrated cyclist?

anthony skorochod

"I would cycle if I could.  I've been out of shape since 1995, but believe it or not, I used to be a runner. I then met my wife, got married, had kids and steadily gained weight throughout the past 17 years, reaching a peak of 360lbs.  At that weight it's pretty hard to do much of anything, let alone cycling.  I underwent gastric-bypass surgery this past June and have lost over 80lbs in the past two and a half months.  I'm down to a 'cozy 260lbs as of this article.
  "I'd like to try my hand at cyclocross.  I won't be down to an ideal weight by this Fall, but definitely next year I'll be tearing it up with the rest of the CAT 4s in the MAC."

though it doesn't yet provide him with a living, does he consider photography an expensive hobby? "I don't consider it a hobby; more a part-time job. I run like a business and it does pay for itself in-season with a little to spare." any preference as to the type of cycle racing he captures with his lens? "Cyclocross, without a doubt."

no matter which particular strain of cycle sport meets personal preferences, few if any, take place in a static venue; travel is undoubtedly an occupational hazard. taking a look at the schedule anthony has posted on his website for the month of october, he's not going to be kicking his heels in the armchair too often. it's cyclocross season both in europe and north america, so does cyclocross excite skorochod as much as it excites richard sachs (anthony kindly supplied the photo of richard and debs sachs for the article i ran earlier last week)? "I can't wait for October. Cross season begins in less than ten days here in the MAC with the Nittany Lion Cross. By October it will definitely be in full swing. There are so many cool cross races here in the North East, that sometimes it's hard choosing which ones to go to."

anthony skorochod

my own theory as to a noticeable decline in the imagery offered over the years and across the board is one of expense. in the early to middle ground of the age of film, photography was almost the exclusive province of the professional or well to do. there was little point for the man in the street to own a camera because he likely had not the knowledge or wherewithal to develop expensive plates or subsequently, film. camera owners were almost exclusively professionals, and the resulting images were almost always well-crafted. though the web pretty much demands digital, does film figure in the imagery of skorochod?

"Besides fooling around with my fathers film SLRs back in the seventies as a child, I've never shot film as an adult. Film photography does not fit into my business model." this leads me on to the darling of many a cycling photographer: black and white. yet scouring the images on monochrome imagery is almost conspicuous by its absence. "I do B & W conversions every now and then. I prefer to display and sell my work like it happened: in living color. I feel most photographers display their work in B & W to try and compensate for a photo that would otherwise be discarded. I am not an 'artsy fartsy' photographer. Even with the few I do convert to monochrome, I'll still display the color version right next to them.

anthony skorochod

i can't be the only one to have noticed that, despite cycling occupying such a miniscule corner of the sporting world, it's a sport that seems well served by an unusually high number of photographers, both professional or otherwise. anthony must, therefore, bump into at least one or two of his peers at each event attended. is there a camaraderie amongst this agglomoration of lensmen, or is it more identified by a sense of competition? "Yes and no. All of the 'regular' photographers (in the MAC anyway) know each other and we're all friendly towards each other. I've even let one of them borrow a camera body during a race because something happened to his.
"However, I try and keep pointers to myself though, because at the end of the day they are still my competition."

if anthony concerns himself with pixels end to end, there's an even chance that somewhere in the process, adobe's photoshop is going to rear either its ugly head or its helpful list of menu commands, layers and filter options. is photoshop a friend or foe? "I tend to stay away from Photoshop. When I post-process, I'm usually doing it in batch mode at 1-2000 photos per race. I don't have time to process each one in PhotoShop. I use other software that excels with Canon RAW files in batch mode. However, due to the dirty/gritty nature of cyclocross there is an effect I like to apply every now and then that can only be applied in Photoshop or (Adobe) Lightroom. But I don't do that to very many photos; only a select few. The lighting has to be a certain way for it to be effective."

anthony skorochod

it's hard to deny that skorochod has built an impressive body of work, every bit the equal of many other photographers plying their trade in the realm of cycle sport. as with many technical pursuits, continued exposure (pardon the pun) to the vicissitudes of the genre, result in a noticeable improvement to the end result. is that the plan, or has anthony a more cunning scheme in his camera bag? "A long term goal is to shy away from individual photo sales in preference to working for sponsors. That's where the big bucks are. The cycling photographers who do this full-time are working for sponsors or the events themselves. They either simply don't offer individual photo sales, or just don't care about them. Right now, my bread and butter comes from the CAT 4 & 5 riders just starting out, and who don't have many photos of themselves.  My current work mainly focuses on them." \ all images copyright anthony skorochod and used with permission.

posted sunday 4 september 2011

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milani acciaio puro columbus xcr road bike

milani acciaio puro

i have seen it quoted earlier today, as eurobike draws to a close, that steel is the new carbon. it's unlikely this will infiltrate the professional peloton anytime soon, but more and more riders are realising that what is ridden by the pros is not necessarily the ideal object of adoration for the bikeshed. it's also notable that, though once discarded as yesterday's thing, particularly when aluminium appeared almost overnight before leading onto carbon, steel has remained a contemporary material for building bicycles. reynolds and columbus have not gone out of business; in fact rather than consign steel to the museum of cycling, both have continued to develop the material to match contemporary expectations.

you'd think that the main thrust would be in the realm of weight-weeniness, but that would hardly play to the material's strength, for it's very unlikely that it will ever equal of beat carbon at its own game. one of its detractions is the almost inevitable onset of ferrous oxide at sometime during its career, so maybe the obvious thing to do would be to develop a stainless steel tubeset . which is exactly what happened. there is more than one stainless tubeset on the market today, but milani of italy chose to build their acciaio puro from columbus xcr, and underline its build by forgetting to paint the front half.

is this something the steel aficionado should be considering? will it ever replace carbon? can you brush your hair in the top tube reflection?

read the review

posted saturday 3 september 2011

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bringing up the kids proper

cfr babygro

how often have you met with, or seen on tv, parents who are quite obviously living their own deficiencies through their children. goading the children into attending highland dancing classess week after week, interspersed with a string of weekends during the summer months attending competitions up and down the length of the country. or fathers goading their sons or daughters to race on a bicycle of far greater quality than is entirely seemly throughout the season of whichever style of cycle racing it is that their star has landed on. it is not an uncommon happenstance, though its obviousness is only visible to all but those involved.

this situation heads in one of only two directions; either the kids are burnt out after only a few years, or they get the best start in a sport that they truly love and go on to join the ranks of the professional peleton bringing their own brand of precociousness to the table.

there is no sell-by date for such a parental mission, and likely no entry-level either. if such is your mission in life, the garment displayed above for the junior cyclocross cyclist in your kindergarten is just one more thing to add to that cycling shopping list. ben kiel of house industries doesn't just purvey fonts, he has your child's best interests at heart. you know you want to, and junior will likely thank you from the bottom of his nappy (diaper) for this promising start in life.

as to what the logotype on the front truly means, you'll have to ask richard sachs. just don't spell it out to your offspring.

place an order for one right here

posted friday 2 september 2011

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it's tough at the top

craig hardie

television and the media in general, can make heroes out of pretty much anyone with a nice bicycle and the ability to beat all those trailing in their wake. granted, there has to be a considerable degree of effort on the part of the hero to not only reach such stratospheric heights, but to hang on in there over a disconcertingly long period of time. for if there is anything that the media do better than raising someone to lofty heights, it's dragging them back down again after putting them there. i've no real notion as to how much this affects a cycling hero/heroine in his/her daily life; perhaps in that position its as well to remove oneself from reading or watching, but aside from a welcome increase in salary, and probably several bicycles in the garage, it's a degree of pressure that wasn't on the original invite.

the majority of us will never reach such lofty heights, and apart from the salary and bicycles, of that i'm rather glad. in fact, for the bulk of the weekend pelotonese, the mere act of racing can place an unhealthy deficit on one's bank balance, something that has to be traded against the source of enjoyment and competition engendered.

there are many flavours of cycle competition, all with similar ups and downs, but surely few with as easy a point of entry as cyclocross? basically a field with some shimano tape stretched round a tree or two, and provided you can jump on and off a bicycle vaguely fitting the part, how hard can it be? actually, one whole heck of a lot harder, assuming of course that you'd like to approach success and enjoyment in equal measure.

"Cyclocross is one of the most inclusive sports I have ever taken part in. Everyone competing at their own level, flat out till the bell sounds, then trying even harder to hold position or gain one over that last lap.
"For me as a competitor it's about the challenge of the terrain as well as against fellow competitors. How fast can you go before trying to squeeze another 2%?
"Cyclocross is a discipline where you have to have a whole host of tools at your disposal to be up there: power, sprinting, technical, running. Not only that, but keeping your bikes running smoothly throughout the hour could mean the difference of a place or the dreaded DNF. To 'finish first you must first finish' is a quote that could have been made for 'cross."

craig hardie

the words are those of craig hardie, owner of hardie bikes, cairneyhill in fife, a man who fiercely enjoys his annual cyclocross seasons. in which case, is the intervening road season simply something that gets in the way of cantilevers and some narrow knobblies? "I think for some cyclocross racers that's exactly the case. As the road season continues, it's becoming more common to have people counting the days till 'cross season begins. More are basing their season around it and maybe finishing the road, or in my case grass track earlier to prepare for it."

having averred that the media may be complicit in creating the superstars of the sport, there's a not inconsiderable amount of work required on the part of any wannabes, and no less on the part of those who simply want to compete at the highest level they can manage. given that craig's seasonal thrust concerns the scottish 'cross circuit, how hard does he have to train in order to compete satisfactorily? "For me it's just about getting back on the 'cross bike about four or five weeks before the season starts. this allows me to get some of my technique sharpened including a few run ups with bike on shoulder. This soon reaches places you've not used in a while, but within a few weeks the body soon gets used to it and helps to lessen the shock of the first race.
"I do like to go into the season a bit under-trained. Once racing starts, I like to be pinging in the middle to late part of the season and racing gives you an edge, although the first race always seems way harder than I ever remembered!"

cyclocross is no less an attraction for either weight-weenies or those attracted by bike-porn. despite not being anywhere near fit enough, competitive enough or even interested in racing anyhting on two wheels, i do find myself seriously attracted to cielo's cross racer, bereft of bottle cage bolts though it is, and with a bottom bracket height destined to promote nosebleeds. what bicycle of choice keeps mr hardie out front? "For the last few seasons I have ridden a TREK XO-2 which has been a great bike and carried me to two series wins on the bounce. For last season I did get a spare bike; a TREK XO-1. I've never bothered much in past years about having a spare bike, relying solely on a set of spare wheels. Maybe it's a sign that the sport is getting more serious, with more and more riders using two."

which sort of brings me to my next point about the expense of participating these days. lots of us have more than one bike in the shed, though often of differing materials or styles. even road racing enthusiasts tend only to have a race bike and a training bike, the latter doubling as a winter hack. if the scottish circuit (and no disrespect, but it's not yet the series to which all other aspire), is encouraging riders to go the way of sven nys and have a panoply of cycles ready and waiting in the pit, then a season of cross must start to give some riders food for thought as to how expensive it can all become. add to that the cost of transport, and surely it becomes somewhat of an expensive hobby?

craig hardie

"To start with I would say no as you can compete on any type of bike in Scotland and then progress from there. Once you get a more specialist bike the outlay could be a bit more but as 'cross bikes can be used all year for commuting, training and nipping to the shops I'd say this makes them one of the most practical bikes out there. If you were to say to me you can only have one bike and which type, a 'cross bike would do it for me."

craig has at least, if he'd like to look at it in this way, a bicycle shop that he can promote during his weekly forays into the hinterlands of the homeland. does he attempt to justify his seasonal oubursts in this way? "First and foremost is the fun factor in the racing. I am positive that even if I didn't have the shop, I'd still be battering through the mud regardless. The advertising, to my mind, is a fringe benefit right enough though at times can result in unwanted pressure; the slightest mechanical and the guys are down on me like a ton of bricks:-)"

like any form of racing, what goes around will undoubtedly come around once more the following year, and it's a sure bet that it's possible to become caught up in simply taking each event as it comes, with no thought for the bigger picture. which is pretty much ok as an attitude, one that i'd likely adopt myself if push ever came to shove (which it won't, before you ask). however, as craig has already pointed out, he has two series victories to his credit over the past years. so does he have a cunning plan in mind, or happy to take things season by season?

"I just take it season by season. For me it's all about enjoying the ride and for as long as I'm able to fling my leg over a 'cross bike, I'm sure I'll keep at it".

in which case, i'm sure mr hardie will concur with mr sachs that 'cross fugkinc rules? "Exactly:) and that Sachs bloke knows a thing or two about 'cross, Hup! Hup! and roll on the racing.

hardie bikes | photos by marty steele

posted friday 2 september 2011

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rapha supercross

rapha supercross

"want to ride through the 'fountain of foam' while being pelted with giant marshmallows by king kong?"

here i am, on the cusp of preaching to the converted about the vicissitudes of cyclocross, and someone else has done more and quite obviously thought about it sooner than i. of course, i'm big and strong and man enough to avoid being deviated from my line. the ball has already been set in motion and you'll darned well sit it out with patient impunity. or something like that.

cyclocross is, in effect, little or nothing without cyclocross racing. for though i have declared myself immune from the attractions of placing a number over a back pocket, that doesn't mean i don't wish to watch others do so. i was privileged to have been presented with a copy of pdxcross' dirty pictures' and the level of fun, camaraderie and infectious mud depicted within its pages makes me want to enjoy the same, though standing behind a line of twisted tape with cowbell in hand. 'cross means different things to different folks, none of which are necessarily superior to the next, but i'd rather live without the expense and time needed to travel to portland every time i wish to indulge in the joys of that particular brand of cyclocross.

rapha didn't invent cyclocross, nor were they the catalyst that brought me to this particular branch of the sport in the first place, but i can't deny that their participation has, to a greater or lesser extent, provided a certain degree of enhancement. this involvement has taken on concrete shape since last year in north america with the formation of the rapha focus 'cross team, and now eases itself into the british psyche (sadly not quite north of the border) with a three race supercross series.

rapha supercross

the cross season is already fraught with a tight series of races pertaining to alternative championships, so gaps in the calendar are few and far between. thus rapha's three races are on saturday, october 15th at brockhole visitors' centre at lake windermere, sunday 16th october at huddersfield new college, west yorkshire and the following weekend at alexandra palace in london. entry for spectators is free and racing incoprporates under 10/12, under 16s, junior, senior, veteran, women and novices. in addition, for the spectating public there is belgian beer, frites and mayo, a dj from london, commentary from cyclevox and more cowbells than you can shake a cantilever at.

i've already made arrangements to attend the race at windermere, easily reached by train from glasgow central (in case any other cowbell aficionados from scotland feel like joining in), and i'd respectfully suggest you do likewise at whichever venue is nearest you. if you're of the racing fraternity, why not enter?

see you there.

rapha supercross

posted thursday 1 september 2011

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how do i know it's working?

trion-z wristband

in the late nineteen nineties, a new energy company lodged a planning application with argyll and bute council, to site three wind turbines on a hill up behind bowmore village. the planned addition to the islay skyline would not have been visible from the village itself, and only seen from some small houses on the cruach road if the residents had hung out the window by one ankle and performed several yoga moves to bring the propellors into view. their distance from same housing excluded them from even audible distraction.

moves were afoot during the discussions to provide some financial benefit to the local community, meaning any profits garnered wouldn't simply fill the coffers of the company concerned.

however, islay is a myriad of heritage sites, sites of special scientific interest lorded over by scottish natural heritage and the unfortunately overpowerful (and a private organisation) royal society for the protection of birds. the fly in the ointment, as regards the planning application, came in the shape of several thousand overwintering geese which generally arrive in late september, early october. the greylags, a minority species in the grand scheme of geese, usually headed straight for duich moss by way of the hill on which the three turbines were to be placed. snh and rspb contended that, because the turbines were not there the lprevious time the geese had arrived, they'd be stupid enough to fly straight into a 120 foot rotating propellor.

you and i would find that very hard to believe, flying in the face of logic as it quite obviously does. their evidence to support such a contention had been the erection of power cables across part of tiree (an island further north) into which hundreds of migrating swans had flown; because the cables hadn't been there before. no amount of pointing out that 120 feet of carbon/fibreglass propellor blade bears little similarity to a far narrower and thus less visible power cable would alter their perspective. the end -up of the application was that the energy company couldn't prove that the geese wouldn't fly into the turbines, while the conservation bodies conversely couldn't proved that they would.

trion-z wristband

in a conciliatory move, the energy company stated that they would dismantle the turbines if it was found that they were causing death and destruction to hundreds if not thousands of overwintering geese. however, argyll and bute's planning department found the decision to be outwith their practical experience and thus referred it to the scottish secretary of state for consideration. as is the case with any decision requiring political deliberation, the secretary took his time, but eventually came down on the side of the conservationists, perhaps unsurprisingly given that scottish natural heritage is a government sanctioned quango.

to this day, there are only one or two isolated private wind turbines on an island that has more than enough wind to spare.

this inability to prove either for or against has certain parallels with the trion-z currently inhabiting my right wrist, a compact and bijou, and not entirely unattractive wristband encapsulating two magnets that purport to combine 'trion:z's patented ionic and magnetic therapy into one unique and stylish wristband. with two identical loops of negative ion releasing "mineon health fibre" and twin patented anspo orientated therapeutic magnets, making it the most powerful ionic wristband on the market. should recommendation be required, apparently champion golfer rory mcilroy is known to wear one (though in mitigation, golfers probably need all the help they can get.)

i have been constantly wearing my black and white houndstooth pattern mineon health fibre version for an entire week now, both night and day, and there is every indication that it is doing absolutely damn all. however, lest i be judged for making snap judgements, i'm not quite sure just exactly what i expected. if trion-z had any serious marketing nous, they would likely have ensured that immediately upon wrist placement, i would have been able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and acquired the ability to rip london telephone directories in half with one hand. but of course, it conferred neither ability.

trion-z wristband

the theory behind magnet therapy is apparently based on a magnet's ability to attract more blood to the area on which it is placed, increasing both oxygen and nutrients. if true, i ought to have a wrist whose health is in a league all of its own. but i haven't. according to trion-z, magnetic therapy devices are now registered as prescribable medical devices in over fifty countries. what they fail to mention is whether the uk comprises one of those countries. they do, however, provide a list of well-known people who are advocates of the therapy such as cherie blair, prince william, michael jordan and andre agassi. being well-known, however, does not necessarily confer any level of medical or scientific intellect.

however, conversely, i really can't provide concrete evidence that my cute little band of ions and magnets is not having some effect on my energy levels and blood flow. for instance, over the past week, i have undertaken a couple of extended bicycle rides (by my standards, and in the pursuit of review criteria. perish the thought i should do so purely for personal pleasure), and found myself able to go slightly faster and further than expected. additionally, on the sunday ride, i was doing my best to be the impeccable lead-out man for spartacus as we neared the 30mph signs, only to sit up at the last minute and discover i'd dropped everyone some distance back.


possibly, but there are any number of other factors that could have contributed to such displays of unbridled power and speed. the girls in the office are of the opinion that, as someone who is generally regarded as reasonably fit and healthy, there is not much for the magnets and ions to work on. better, they said, to loan it to one of them, given that all admit to various deficiencies in their personal auras. maybe they're right. maybe i'm just a sucker for two bungie cords and a couple of magnets on my wrist.

perhaps the leap of faith now required is to remove the trion-z dual-loop bracelet, put it in a drawer and see whether i can win the tour of spain without it.

colantotte trion-z products are distributed to cycle stores in the uk by raleigh parts and accessories. the dual loop bracelet as tested retails at £19.99

posted thursday 1 september 2011

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

a visit to the endorphinage

richard sachs frames

"in august i start veering over from pavement to a 'cross course or three that i have in a nearby state forest and drop the time to 70 minutes of intensity a day, thereby mimicking the race situation and making every pedal stroke count atmo. in the past i have referred to this as 'going to the coffin', or 'spending time at the endorphinage', because the 70 minutes i do from that point forward become my training routine.

we all have to put aside some time to train for specific events or an entire series of events over and above any work that impinges on cycling time. but few of us have a legendary seven year plus waiting list for the fruit of our labours. as can perhaps be seen from one or two articles concerning the forthcoming cyclocross season i have lined up (making me seem far more organised than is truthfully the case), investment in 'cross is often over and above any commercial advantage to be gained from doing so. richard sachs is already in preparation for yet another season at the head of his rgm watches cyclocross team.

richard sachs team jacket

for many at this level it is often a case of sitting back and awaiting delivery of bicycles and associated sponsors' products, while weekdays or weekends are spent in the endorphinage as mr sachs has so eloquently put it in my opening quote. or perhaps at the lower levels, it's a case of ticking off items on the pre-season shopping list. however, richard is the bicycle sponsor and it is thus incumbent on him to not only construct enough bicycles to satisfy demand, but to have them all assembled and maintained. for the 2011/12 season, richard has built "eight new bicycles and 2-3 spares are ready just in case atmo." the frames have likely by now received their trinketry, consisting of cole t24 wheels shod with challenge tubulars, sram force groupsets, cane creek scx-5 cantilevers, and in a change from previous years, bars, stem and seatpost culled from zipp's new service course range

the latter alteration is, however, not the result of any dissatisfaction with the previous product, but entirely due to richard's defintion of family and a sense of honour he expects on both sides of the sponsorship fence. without going into any serious commercial narrative, he's keen on promoting and maintaining a familial approach often unseen in this day and age.

zipp service course

richard quite obviously has little need of using 'cross racing to advertise his prodigious output of handbuilt frames, so it beggars the question of why, as a man slightly older than myself, he continues to ply the uci c2 and uci c1 category circuit, leaping on and off, running and pedalling in the flames of competition. "as always, there are three key goals: to represent all the sponsors, suppliers, friends and followers superbly well twice each weekend at the events we attend. the calendar is complete and we are slated to compete in about 36 of these through the national championships in january. and, to have experiences with each other every weekend such that all of us involved would want to bottle every moment, every venue, every race, and every meal we all have together all season long and wish that it would last forever (i refer to this as making memories). and, for each of us to help all the others who we call team-mates reach the personal goals set for the 2011 racing season.

were the above reasons to appear at the foot of a full page advertisement in cyclocross magazine, it could be dismissed as just so much empty copywriter's hyperbole, but i have known richard long enough to know that he means every word. no amount of real world deterrence will shake him from those beliefs, and why the heck should it?


i asked how he was able to incorporate sufficient training to compete in a series that includes a number of professional racers. this was not intended to undermine richard's abilities as a 'cross racer, but simply to point out that there are those involved who have no other mode of employ other than racing bikes with 700c wheels and two sets of cantilevers. the opening quote was a part of the answer, preceded by "i basically ride all year long, even on snow days, in order to maintain a base and to get some quiet time away from the heavy social e-life i lead. by late spring i try to ramp up the intensity with road miles and by july, i could actually race; but i don't. i'd rather keep something in the tank for the autumn.

the lovely deb

the rgm watches, richard sachs race team has already its full complement of riders for the season: josh dillon, dan chabonov, and christian favata, e-richie, tld (the lovely deb), and buddy. the lovely deb refers to richard's better half who has been as much a part of the race team as the riders. buddy is their cute little highland terrier providing the competitive edge; the secret weapon. for someone who is not only the name on the downtube, but the general factotum who organises everything from the top down, often working in the pits for the others when not actually racing, what plans does he have for his own part of the season? "i'm very motivated to have a season in which my results more closely resemble my 2009 palmares rather than last year's. 2010 was a transition year for me/us here in warwick and i never felt 100 percent in control of my race destiny after the fourth weekend of the season."

cross fugkinc rules atmo

i'm not necessarily setting richard up as the shining example of someone obsessed with cyclocross, for i don't doubt that there are many others across the plains of america, the fields of europe and the odd corners of england and scotland who hold just as much affection for the sport as mr sachs, but few have been involved at this level for such a long period of time (around 16 years), yet not only retained such enthusiasm but honed it to such a fanatical degree.

the sport of cyclocross is undoubtedly experiencing a renaissance the like of which few sports have recently seen, arguably led by america (the 2013 uci world championships will be held in louisville, kentucky), but certainly spreading worldwide, one that holds just as great a desire to participate on those who attend as spectators, as it does on those competing. even if 'cross means standing ankle deep in mud, vigorously shaking all sizes of cowbell, the enthusiasm seems boundless.

as a parting question, i asked 'did cross still fugkinc rule?'

"without question atmo."

richard sachs

photo of richard and the lovely debs by anthony skorochod. reproduced with permission.

posted wednesday 31 august 2011

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who knew?

sram double tap lever

encouragingly, the news that autumn has arrived early brings with it, thoughts of a cyclocross season, something all but guaranteed to warm the cockles of your spd cleats. my relationship with cyclocross is based entirely on enthusiasm, a mild degree of obsession, and not a chance that i'll ever race anywhere. and that's my final word on the subject.

actually, that last bit is not true.

it's hard to tell just when the cross season really starts; there seems to be sporadic racing across entirely displaced parts of the world, none that truly admit to a season start, but all beating about the bush. so to speak. in the spirit of doing my bit for flandrianism, i figured i'd start by taking those cole wheels i reviewed only a few weeks back and fitting them to the hakkalugi; a simple enough equation you'd think. but life's not like that.

the ibis changes gear by means of some very nice sram force shifters and gear mechs, allied to a sram force cassette currently residing on a pair of easton wheels. the awkward part was sort of my own fault, by way of my request relayed to evans cycles all those weeks ago. i was asked as to whether i'd be happy with shimano pattern splines or campagnolo, and in the spirit of italo/scottish relations, i opted for the campagnolo version to fit to the colnago master; centaur's best pal. of course we all know, because marketing has made it painfully clear, that campagnolo cassettes do not play well with sram shifters.

campagnolo cassette

however, let us consider measurements that are so arcane, they are rarely the topic of discussion amongst the pelotonese. indexed gear shifters work on the premise that each click pulls or releases a pre-arranged length of wire. sort of why sram put stickers on their gear mechs advertising exact actuation. this length of wire is perfectly proportioned to the gap between each of those sprockets on that rear wheel. assuming gear setup is in the ballpark of correct, flicking through the gears is a process that few notice because it just works.

it's just the way modern cycling life is arranged for our benefit and riding pleasure.

sram force rear mech

just in case the guys and gals in marketing were correct, i left the vittoria road tyre in place while i slotted the cole rear wheel into the hakkalugi's dropouts. who would have guessed that the shifting up and down the cogs could be so smooth? with only a coupe of adjustments to the stop screws to line the jockey wheels under the cassette, i'm sure that the sram force rear mech had no idea that the place of manufacture stamped on the back is vicenza.

"but how will you cope with only a twenty-five sprocket?" i hear you ask. well, yes, admittedly the sram cassette features a big sprocket of 28 teeth, three more than the campag centaur. but i expect this will only make me stronger, harder and have me a gibbering wreck in a far shorter period of time. it's the flandrian way so i'm told, and i shall doubtless roll out the other side of the cross season a changed man.

sram force double tap

so just to complete the process i have readied the hakkalugi for my very own cross season, where i shall try valiantly to emulate the grace and poise of sven nys and, as usual, fail miserably. but the point is, i'll have great fun trying. the cole c24 lites are now wearing a very fine pair of continental speed king cross tyres, providing me with the first opportunity i can remember to operate a so-called double-whammy in the reviewing department.

for if you thought you'd heard the last of the coles, think again. now we'll find out if versatility is their middle name.

because it certainly isn't mine.

posted tuesday 30 august 2011

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