where's waldo?


sunday's weather was something of a shock to the system, one which may be better illustrated if i point out the mere fraction of the velo club who turned out for the morning's bike ride. on a good day, with a following wind we can muster a turnout of nine cyclists, a vast improvement on last year's maximum of four and a huge difference to the days when i cycled alone. it pains me greatly to admit that only two of us braved the rain and galeforce winds, but i cannot deny that i took great pleasure in pointing out to the absentees how bad their prospects are looking for the rest of the winter.

heck, even the ferries sailed.


the wind is pretty much self-evident; there's no disguising that sort of climatic factor, but the forecast of rain appeared possibly erroneous, as the two of us who did venture forth made it all the way to debbie's without suffering the iniquity of precipitation. it was pretty much at that point that things went downhill, discovering that the forecast was pretty accurate after all. because debbie's faces out over loch indaal which itself empties into the atlantic ocean, there's not a lot to hinder a clear view of the incoming squalls. that's sort of the point when you realise that not every cloud has a silver lining.

cycling in the uk, however, has often been compared to a silver lining with a cloud. the rapid increase in those cycling is the silver lining, but the cloud can be viewed in terms of the increasing number of bicycles that have to go somewhere while their owners do stuff, like shopping, eating, drinking or working. we're very fortunate over here than you can leave a few bob's worth of bicycle outside a shop or café and guarantee that it will still be where you left it when you return. that is very much the opposite of the situation everywhere else in the so-called civilised world.


thus steps have to be taken to protect your silver lining, whether it be state of the art carbon, or what many commuters refer to as a beater. if commuting, the necessity of carrying a substantial d-lock or similar is seen as less onerous than doing so while dressed like a refugee from the peloton riding a sliver of carbon fibre. perhaps the solution would be to attach a device to the bicycle (always assuming it satisfies the style police). something like radu tutueanu's waldo bicycle alarm for example.

though i'd imagine the repetitive phrase "there's an app for that" has lost a some of its humorous lustre, but in the case of the waldo bike alarm, an app is precisely the means of control. though radu doesn't totally discard the idea of a sturdy lock also safeguarding your bike, the waldo not only emits an ear-splitting alarm if tampered with, it will also allow you to track the location of you bicycle if it has been lifted in your absence. similarly, if you manage to forget where you left the bike (does that ever happen?), the smartphone app will tell you where it is.


from a thief's point of view, perhaps the easy way round this would be to remove waldo from the bicycle, but the design and construction of the alarm makes that a tad easier to say than to do. waldo features a tamper resistant casing and a stainless steel bracket/clamp holding it tightly onto your bike's seat tube. the alarm emits a 100db sound and connects with your smartphone via a gsm chip embedded in the device. in the event of someone attempting to block the signal, any subsequent break in transmission will set off the alarm and simultaneously notify your smartphone.

it's a sad fact that if a thief really wants to steal your bike, they probably will, but having it connected in this manner surely mitigates against it disappearing for good? as radu said, doubling up with a good quality lock would hopefully make sure that you could return to a bicycle that was in precisely the same place and condition as you left it. if you get in quick with a pre-order, you can buy one of the first 100 for a mere €99 instead of the €159 imposed upon latecomers.

do i need to spell it out?

waldo bike alarm

monday 9 november 2015

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wickens and soderstrom bike cleaner no.1

bike cleaner no.1

you will likely not have noticed if you don't reside in either the highlands and island of scotland, but we are being discriminated against. though many of us living in the above noted region would count it amongst the very best of places to live, rain and gales notwithstanding, much like any comparably rural idyll, it has its pluses and minuses, though in my opinion, the former far outweighs the latter. the discrimination to which i refer is entirely at the hands of the nation's haulage contractors.

several years ago, when computer memory was measured in megabytes rather than gigabytes, i ordered a memory chip to upgrade my apple computer. i forget precisely the astronomical price that i was charged for this, but since the carriage was a mere pittance, bike cleaner no.1 i opted to purchase nonetheless. everything went completely downhill from that point; according to the supplier, because i lived in the highlands and islands, the £1.50 carriage suddenly became £19. overall, it was still costing me less than the competition, so i elected to continue with my inflated purchase anyway.

disappointment turned to anger on receiving the memory chip (these are a couple of milimetres thick, by approximately eight centimetres long) as it was contained inside a padded jiffy bag and had been sent through the post. i might point out that currently, it costs no more to send a package by royal mail from london to islay than it does to do so in the opposite direction.

i took the package round to bowmore post office and asked the nice lady if she could tell me what the cost would be to return the package to its destination by recorded delivery. £1.50. meaning i had just been charged an excess of £17.50 because of where i live at no extra cost to the supplier.

bike cleaner no.1

take a gander across many of the online retailers and i could almost guarantee you'll find that sending to the highlands and islands costs substantially more than if sending to a mainland destination. yet chain reaction cycles based in ireland, are able to send most items free of charge and in most cases, alarmingly quickly. i sense a conspiracy theory at work.

wickens and soderstrom, the rather elaborately named purveyors of cycle lubricants and cleaners are not, so far as i can tell, an online retailer. their slightly infuriating website (superfast broadband on islay? you're 'avin' a larf?) offers illustrated descriptions of their products, followed by a recommended retail price. in this particular case, our conversation concerns their no.1 bike cleaner. i am in the fortunate position of receiving review products free of charge in every respect, but the arrival of a container of the aforesaid bike cleaner did give cause for concern.

unpacking a box with an apparently empty clear container inside, apart from a smattering of bubbly liquid at the bottom, would immediately lead most of us to figure that the contents had leaked into the box. happily, it appears that in order to minimise distribution costs, wickens & soderstrom offer this modest quantity as a concentrate. prior to use, the bottle need only be filled with cool, clear water. this minimal distribution model is to be roundly applauded.

bike cleaner no.1

there are many products similar to this one on the market; the idea is to spray the liquid all over a dirty bicycle (such as the one on which i returned from bridgend woods), leave it for five or ten minutes, then wash off with either a cloth or a water spray. if i was a tad more organised, i'd have one of those karcher pressure washers at my disposal (ifs and buts...). in this case i simply filled a similar bottle to that which i had received from w&s and squirted water all over the ibis, finishing off with the truly magical purple harry magic sponge.

first off, the no.1 bike cleaner did precisely what it said on the label, but used up half the bottle on one dirty bicycle. i'd imagine it might be necessary to use a smidgeon more if the dirt has dried onto the frame. in its favour, the cleaner is safe on pretty much every frame material known to cycle-kind. the minimally filled bottle retails at £7 while a 120ml refill bottle, which makes up six 500ml bottles, costs £14. if you're in the habit of getting dirty more than once a week, or even just once a week, this could prove a potentially more costly solution over my more usual bucket of soapy water.

however, bearing in mind the cyclists' mantra of 'never stand when you can sit and never sit when you can lie down', after a mucky and potentially knackering saturday morning ride, anything that eases the task of cleaning the bicycle is likely to be welcomed with open sponge.

wickens & soderstrom

sunday 8 november 2015

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clement crusade pdx cyclocross tyres

clement crusade pdx

i don't watch formula one motor racing. in fact, i don't watch any form of motor racing, mostly because i find it a) tedious, b) over-rated and c) because i'm not particularly interested in motor cars. a bit like football players, i think the guys in formula one are grossly overpaid, and though they take risks not always seen in other sports, it's not like that came as a last minute surprise.

it is a sport that has often defended or justified its existence by claiming immunity from prosecution on the grounds of development potential. engine management systems, the very items that volkswagen have recently found new ways to use, traction control, semi-automatic gearboxes and aerodynamics are all factors in the case for the defense, along with tyre compounds, tread patterns and carcase profiles. i believe it is no longer within the rules to race so-called slick tyres, those with no tread whatsoever. physics would dictate that the more rubber on the tarmac, the better the grip, but no tread at all means ice-skating if it happens to rain during a race, necessitating a whole clump of desperate pit stops.

clement crusade pdx

bicycles probably don't benefit that much from this high-speed development, for even a tyre with no tread whatsoever, is unlikely to aquaplane in the wet. in the majority of cases, we simply don't pedal fast enough. tyre treads ostensibly exist to clear water from under the tyre where it ought to connect with the road, at least that's the case with car tyres. it will not have escaped your attention however, that bicyclists sliding off the road in the rain rarely do so for lack of tread. the pros are pretty much all on tubulars the bulk of which still feature the herringbone treads that have featured for many a long year.

that doesn't mean that tyre development for bicycles has no future. there's always room for improvement.

clement crusade pdx

cyclocross, on the other hand, benefits from any number of varying tread patterns, mostly due to the format of the racing. unlike stage racing or even one-day classics, the practice of recconoitering the course coupled with racing that lasts on average, around sixty minutes, means that it is perfectly possible to identify which type of tyre would best suit the parcours and individual riding style.

though it's hardly hoogerheide or the koppenbergcross, bridgend woods offers several variations in surface texture affected by both tread pattern and tyre pressure, both of which can be further affected by the prevailing weather. the tracks through the woods are used predominantly by walkers and dog-walkers, though the existence of a central grassy portion bordered by grassless tracks would suggest that at times, there are still motor vehicles traversing the network of paths. given the wood's history as the grounds of islay house and the nobility that were once resident, most of the current motor traffic likely consists of range rovers and quad bikes.

clement crusade pdx

on my first visit to portland, oregon, the guys from pdxcross presented me with a copy of their book 'dirty pictures' filled with the cyclocross eccentricity that is peculiar to portland. for that reason and despite its belgian heritage, i will always identify cyclocross with the oregon town, odd though that may be. thus, when clement tyres offer a 'cross tyre named after portland's cross crusade followed by the three letters signifying portland international airport - pdx - i could think of no good reason not to have a pair on the ibis hakkalugi courtesy of the nice folks at 2pure.

clement claim that the tyres have a 'particular love for mud.', however, they underline the tyre's versatility by pointing out that the centre knobs offer a speedy roll on both hardpack and tarmac. at 33mm wide, their versatility is not diluted by the widths currently offered by the growing trend for gravel riding, many of which reach the upper thirties.

clement crusade pdx

living without a motor car, any trips to the woods to play at being jeremy powers or sven nys must first cover the 5km of tarmaced road before mud, grass and rocky roads beckon. at the present the foregoing are frequently disguised by thick carpets of copper coloured leaves running the full width of the paths. aside from being squirmy all of their own, the leaves often conceal hidden pitfalls behind the sofa, just waiting to catch the unwary unawares (that's me, in case you were wondering)

though i seem now to have grasped the mounting/dismounting bit of the equation, such success is often undermined by my often suspect handling skills, particularly over wet leaves. same goes for mud, though the prevalence of the gloopy stuff in the woods at this time of year offers virtually endless opportunities to practice remaining upright. the crusade pdx tyres' propensity for mud-clearing makes them ideal to maintain an almost straight line when riding the thick, grassy middle, featured on pretty much every pathway throughout the woods. hurtling downhill through squirmy mud is mostly ameliorated by the existence of gravity, but turn the tables and ride back up (if i'm honest, this was mostly to avoid irritating a couple of elderly dog-walkers) and their grip even when standing, was particularly impressive.

clement crusade pdx

i'm often guilty of namby pamby cornering when offroad, something that gets worse the older i become. i have no wish to phone the office on a monday morning with the phrase "you'll never guess what happened on saturday morning...". however, after a number of albeit interrupted circuits of the woods, the crusade pdx tyres had instilled sufficient confidence to extend my derring-do above and beyond the call of duty. better still, i didn't fall off.

according to the label on the black sidewall, the recommended pressure range is 45-45psi, one i felt honour bound to adhere to until i was able to adjudge differently. at 45psi they felt not only comfortable, but pretty much devoid of skittishness. however, i couldn't help feeling both they and i would benefit from a tad less air, so midway through my life in the woods, i lowered the pressure to the low thirties.

but don't tell mr clement.

clement crusade pdx

softer tyres, even over the rocky portions, were pretty darned ginger peachy. though everything's relative, i was definitely faster through the corners and the grip in the mud was so much of an eye-opener, that i seriously considered changing my surname to powers by deed poll.

every ride in the woods is inevitably followed by several kilometres across the grass and sheep at uiskentuie on the way to froth supping at deb's in bruichladdich. sheep, aside from being inordinately suicidal, are renowned for following each other, in most cases along meandering tracks in the grass only a few inches wide. the fun part is trying to ride those tracks as fast as possible and simply accepting the occasional unexpected dip along the way. clouting the sides of those tracks is a highly frequent occurence, the dangers of which were considerably lessened by the pdx profile. which is just as well, because uiskentuie's sheep are definitely not house-trained.

all in all, this is the ideal set of 'cross rubber for those who do not have a willing and able pit crew eagerly proffering a spare bike with alternative rubber when the nature of the course alters from beginning to end. wet grass, wet leaves, mud, gravel, rocks and hardpack are all treated with insouciant disdain by clement's pdx rubber. and if your abilities are on a par with mine, just hang on and enjoy the ride.

clement tyres are distributed in the uk by 2pure | clement tyres

saturday 7 november 2015

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lord carlos was visited by his brother and velocipedinal entourage only the other week, joined by yet another group of cyclists intent on visiting all eight distilleries during the ensuing week. serendipity saw fit to have both groups conjoin with the usual sunday morning ride, turning a mere smattering of cyclists into a mobile obstacle of twenty cyclists. if only i'd had the foresight to invite members of the press; a group this large in late october was most certainly newsworthy.


the distillery lot had, rather optimistically we thought, decided to visit both caol ila and bunnahabhain before heading much further south for lunch at ardbeg. though the sunday ride leaves debbie's at 10am, this, they had planned, would allow them to be sitting down at the old kiln café by 12:30. as i made mention at the time, either they were one heck of a lot faster than they appeared, or planning wasn't their strong suit. however, adhering to this master plan, we opted to accompany them as far as ballygrant before we and lord carlos's lot turned south on the glen road.


during the intervening kilometres, it seems that some degree of sense had prevailed, and the whisky party had opted to turn when we turned and head directly to ardbeg distillery for that lunch that was apparently beckoning even stronger by the minute.

islay's glen road leads from knocklearach farm in the north, via barr and cattadale farms all the way through to avonvoggie farm just off the high road. i mention this purely to illustrate the fact that this single track road of around 12km is traversed predominantly by farm traffic. concomitantly, its surface is not similar to anything you might find atop a billiard table. this very fact was mentioned to me by at least a couple of those who accompanied us on the downhill section past storakaig.


in truth, those of us in the road fraternity are rather keen to not only have our cake, but accompanied by a strong desire to eat it too. for come next spring, we will all be glued to our internet devices and eurosport channels, watching races such as the ronde van vlaanderen and paris roubaix. though i perhaps pre-empt matters a little too far ahead of time, i'd be willing to bet that groans of derision will accompany any rider with the temerity to ride the gutters in place of the chunky cobbles we all know and (think we) love.

like i said: cake, have, eat.


in truth, we scarcely know we're born. palabana is a zambian village pretty much in the middle of nowhere, served by little more than a furrowed track that scarcely deserves the apellation of road. though the children of the village have school to attend, there are no school buses or, it would appear, motorised transport of any description. there are cattle to be milked, water to be collected, firewood to be gathered, all of which was historically done on foot.


such chores and activities all take quite a chunk of time, leaving little for the daily activities that most of us in the west would take for granted. palabana, however is a community on the move, for in the village, they have sturdy bicycles supplied by world bicycle relief, enabling the younger villagers to get to school, to deliver their milk and in an example that ought to put many a westerner to shame, one industrious villager cycles 50 miles to buy steel for his business, riding home with up to 220lbs of the metal on the rear rack.

remember that next time you moan about a lack of a compact chainset.


palabana is not unique; there are many similar villages all across the african continent who depend on the gift of bicycles. life in remote areas such as this is hard enough as it is without having to walk five miles to school after having completed the morning's chores, or attempting to get milk to the dairy co-op. in the latter case, the bicycle has enabled a 68 year-old dairy farmer to send twice as much milk as was the case before the bicycle.

though many of us have the luxury of owning several bikes and riding them round in circles purely for fun, to others they are a lifeline without which riding the cobbles of roubai rather pales into insignificance. with the season of excess heading inexorably in our direction, perhaps as responsible keepers of the velocipede, it would do us proud to set aside even a small amount to donate to world bicycle relief. that way, maybe even more of palabana's residents will have a very happy new year.


donate to world bicycle relief

friday 6 november 2015

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the man who made things out of trees. robert penn. particular books hardback 234pp illus. £16.99

the man who made things out of trees

it's many a year since any drummer worth his/her salt was able to say they would 'bash those skins' and mean precisely that. remo belli, founded remo drumheads in 1957 and spent many of the following years trying fearlessly to introduce the plastic (mylar) drumhead to a market that had relied entirely on stretched calfskin since the advent of the drumset in the early part of the 20th century.

for many drummers, the remo drumhead was manna from heaven, while others, traditional to the last, held onto the calfskin option for as long as they could. the advent of rock'n'roll in the early sixties no doubt aided remo belli in his marketing attempts, since here was an entirely new breed of drummer, no longer, quite literally hide bound by tradition.

natural drum heads were often the bane of the earnest percussionist, for though the sound produced from calfskin is arguably superior to that of plastic, the former suffered greatly from the vicissitudes of both temperature and humidity. neither of those had any effect on mylar, meaning a drumset could be tuned on receipt and pretty much remain that way for days if not weeks on end. remo have been joined by a number of competitors, most notably aquarian and evans and it is of great testament to the legacy of the deposed calfskin head that both remo and aquarian have attempted on several occasions to produce a plastic head that emulates the traditional model not only in sound but visually.

drum construction, however, has remained almost entirely traditional with both steam bent single ply shells and multiple ply, glued shells taking precedence. british made drums historically were predominantly made from birch, based mostly on the ready availability of that particular wood in the uk, while north america has relied pretty much on maple, a remarkably common wood across the larger continent. oddly, despite its reputation as perhaps the most versatile of wood types, very few drum companies have fashioned drums from ash, one that might have been expected to feature heavily in the uk, where ash is almost ubiquitous in all walks of life.

but that's not to say that ash hasn't featured in the percussive world at all.

robert penn is perhaps well-known amongst velocipedinists for his previous book, 'it's all about the bike', in which he documented his worldwide componentry search to pursue 'happiness on two wheels. this was also the subject of a television documentary. mr penn is probably the only author i can think of, who could successfully write a book in which the hero is a rather large ash tree.

this is not a work of fiction in which we learn of the allegorical arborial travels of said ash tree, but a remarkably engaging tale of what happened to the tree after felling and the subsequent conversion of its sawn planks into a variety of utilitarian artefacts, the precise number of which penn enumerates in the final chapter. it's an impressive total.

robert penn purchased a small wood on the edge of the black mountains in south wales. "The woodland is on a south-facing slope. Fields and moorland enclose it on two sides... Mixed deciduous trees, including rarely planted species, are arranged haphazardly. Perhaps trees have stood here for a very long time."

as the third most common broad-leaved tree in britain and historically used in the making of "ladders, tent pegs, butcher's blocks, boat hooks, beanpoles, looms, bobbins, sieve rims, fishing rods..." and at least eight other items listed by penn in his opening chapter. even roald amundsen made dog sleds out of ash for his successful 1911 expedition to the south pole. the point is well made that the wood's ubiquity is pretty much all-encompassing, even if i do not own any ash wood drums.

as the owner of a wood containing several ash trees, penn decided "...the best way to learn more about the ash tree was to fell one." 'the man who made things out of trees' is perhaps a slightly misleading title, for though the book goes on to document the many uses to which penn's ash tree is put, in point of fact, it is not mr penn who does the making.

though his travels do eventually bring him into contact with folks who construct bicycle frames out of wood (these won't be seen in the peloton anytime soon, principally on the basis of their weight being around 2kg), i'm hanging on the tenuous thread that robert penn is a published cycling author and that at least a portion of his ash tree is placed in the hands of a traditional wheelwright. though the resulting wheels are ostensibly destined for some form of horse-drawn vehicle ("The wooden wheel is one of the greatest technological advances in the chronicle of the human race..."), on appraising the wood brought to wheelwright phill gregson, it seems there was some hope that the welsh-grown ash tree would find some service in the bicycle world "This 1-inch board has got lovely straight grain. I'll steam-bend it, to make some wooden bicycle wheels."

throughout this particular chapter, in a formula that is repeated across the remainder of the book, penn investigates the history of that which is about to be made from his tree and of its makers. in this case, the wheel and its builders. because robert himself is obviously fascinated with every possible aspect of the skills demonstrated by the myriad of craftsmen he meets and indeed the heritage of the industries in which they exist, as a reader there is no other choice but to inhabit his world. compulsive would be something of an understatement.

the size of penn's felled ash provides an almost endless opportunity for a set of comprehensive narratives where the wood becomes cereal bowls for the penn family, a writing desk, tent pegs and an arrow. penn also visits a baseball bat workshop in north america, a toboggan fabricator in austria and an irish hurling stick maker. for reasons pertaining to distance and specific wood requirements, not all of these situations were able to make use of the black mountain ash, even though all traditionally use the wood at the centre of their world.

part of the restrictions concerned the very real threats to ash trees in europe via ash die-back and in north america with the presumably accidental but devastating introduction of the emerald ash borer beetle. the former has already infiltrated the united kingdom; the latter has yet to be seen on these shores, but penn's postscript posits that it may well be only a matter of time.

'the man who made things out of trees' is a fascinating read, made all the more so by penn's infectious narrative style. he is well-versed in the intracacies of wood, something of a dying art it seems and if the book comes across as a subliminal means of instilling the same delights in its readers, then that is something to be loudly applauded in my opinion. i was left with the embarrassing knowledge that i knew remarkably little about the many roles ash has played and continues to play in our daily existence, it is a situation for which we should be truly grateful. i also know a few more arcane and eminently quotable facts about baseball that had previously escaped me.

and it could well explain in a convoluted way, why i now have this overweening need to fit my wooden drumset with calfskin heads.

thursday 5 november 2015

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ashmei go-vember

allegedly, campionissimo fausto coppi was a stickler for impeccable appearance, not only on his own behalf but also that of the riders in his team. it has been said that if any rider came down to breakfast with a visibly hirsute appearance, he was immediately sent back up to his room to remedy the situation forthwith. it's a situation with which i have great sympathy. though ignoring it would allow me an extra few minutes in bed of a sunday morning, i always ensure that my five-bladed gilette razor with a totally pointless battery powered buzz-mode is given the opportunity to smooth that rugged visage.

it seems that this particular sensibility has the velo club divided if sunday morning apperances are anything to go by. two of the peloton have fully constituted beards, while others prefer the so-called five-o'clock-shadow, designer scruff. at least three of us appear to have sided with the campionissimo's diktat.

through several of my more widely ranging friends and acquaintances, i'm not unaware the the penultimate month of the year has been restyled as movember over the past few years, encouraging the male population to grow some fur under their noses, all in the noble cause of charity. at the risk of being something of a victor meldrew character (my hero), while not in any way disapproving of such a project, i can pretty much guarantee that my own spelling of the month remains firmly with that on the calendar. my gilette will remain fully employed throughout the next 26 days.

however, there's really no denying that the growing of facial hair is hardly an onerous pastime. at no time in the preceding months have the monthlies prepared us by way of training schedules for movember. despite feverish searching all across the interweb, i have been unable to find diets that offer to promote facial growth. it's still a case of pretty much carrying on with life as per usual while your beard, moustache or goatee carries on regardless.

in order to remedy this situation and aim for a bit more activity on bahlf of at least the male half of the population, the movember foundation have teamed up with the nice people at ashmei cycle clothing to instigate the far more activity friendly go-vember. this in no way interferes with the charitable concept of mo-vember, but provides something of a pleasant reward for participants. basically, ashmei are offering 35% off their range of clothing for all those who sign up.

signing up involves undertaking to walk/run a mile each and every day of november, or alternatively, riding at least five miles. by way of proof, you're required to log every mile on strava and at the end of thirty days, e-mail your strava identity to ashmei and on verification, they will send you a well-earned discount code. the chronologically obsessed amongst you will, of course, have realised that on reading this, there are less than thirty days left of the month. however, based on the premise that ashmei were a tad late in announcing this initiative, they have graciously allowed an extension into december in order that you might complete thirty days of activity.

the movember foundation is a global charity committed to men living happier, healthier, longer lives. since 2003, millions have joined the men's health movement, raising £402 million and funding over 1,000 programmes focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity.

so, if moustaches, miles, fundraising and a hefty clothing discount appeal to your sensibilities, click over to ashmei's go-vember fundraising page to join the fun or alternatively check and i promise i won't tell fausto.

wednesday 4 november 2015

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seasonal fettling


i'm jumping the gun somewhat in making reference to the festive 500, a compulsive annual cycling fiesta that is a salve for the velocipedinally inclined over the christmas break. no doubt the tv channels have already compiled their festive programming, but waiting at least until after guy fawkes night before announcing or even surreptitiously leaking snippets of what we can expect to keep us glued to the high definition enormously smart tv glowering in the corner. unless of course, like me, you'd find that to be the very situation you'd prefer to avoid when taking a break from the daily work routine.

rather than watching endless re-runs of only fools and horses and the big bang theory, i'd far rather go out on my bike, whatever the weather. in fact, the more inclement the outdoor conditions the better, because it means my aura of self-righteousness can become unbearably unbearable for at least a week or so. however, this inculcated insufferability does not come without a price.


only a matter of years ago, condemned by my obsession to ride with a clean chain, i extended my day of kilometres by popping the bike on the workstand and degreasing a rather mucky chain, prior to lubing for the following day's pain and suffering. in the process of carrying out the above process, i discovered a cracked link in the chain, a factor that could easily have cut short any attempt at garnering the requisite 500 kilometres in the alotted time.

though i freely admit that the chain cleaning habit has less to do with any notional maintenance regime and far more with an obsessive aesthetic need, there's little doubt that keeping everything running smoothly makes more than just a little sense. and particularly at this ostensibly grubby time of year. for those with the requisite mechanical knowledge, this will be either second nature or no big deal. for those without said knowledge, it's more than likely that your friendly neighbourhood bike shop is closed for the festive holidays, rendering any untoward mechanical failures as something of a dead end.


there is, of course, always the option of booking the bicycle into the bike shop as soon as possible, prevention generally being a lot better than cure. but if you're willing to accept that the crack in my chain could conceivably have occurred during the festive 500, extraneously to any prior maintenance, then surely learning the basics wouldn't be such a bad idea? that then brings us onto which bike specific tools might be required in order that this recently acquired mechanical ability does not fall on stony ground.

much as i'd love to spend the rest of our time together this very day discussing the various arcane devices that can remove boy scouts from horses' hooves, i have been saved from so doing by those expedient chaps and chapesses at halfords. combining words and pictures into what i believe is referred to as an infographic, they have filled almost as many pixels as i am capable of with salient information regarding chain lubrication, tyre pressures, tools for the job and how to keep things ticking over.


rather expectedly, the short section on upgrading your bike (a well-worn christmas tradition) would have you visit your nearest branch of halfords to acquire the needed bits and bobs, but in order to maintain my hard won neutrality in such matters, it behoves me well to underline that other cycle retailers are also available. unless you live where i live and they simply don't.

whether or not you have plans to undertake the festive 500 this year or not, there's bound to be an opportunity to extract the cycle from the bike shed at some time over the happy holidays. and since i'd hate for that to become a mechanical disappointment (though likey no more than you yourself), either check it yourself, or give the bike shop/halfords a call when you get home.


but don't come crying to me if you don't.

halfords guide to bike maintenance

tuesday 3 november 2015

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