thewashingmachinepost




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just passing it on

passing place

of islay's nine malt whisky distilleries, three of them are situated along single-track roads: kilchoman, ardnahoe and bunnahabhain, at least two of which generally result in serious cases of mispronunciation. that's part of the fun, for those of us who live here. for hopefully obvious reasons, the routes to all three often feature serious amounts of traffic in both directions; those intent on visiting and those who have visited and are now heading to other places, as it used to say on the cask near bunnahabhain.

in the manner of railway sidings along single-rails, there are a preponderance of passing places to allow for free flow of traffic, many of which are now clearly signposted, though many are still indicated in the age-old manner, by way of a black and white hooped pole. the jury is currently out as to whether it's ignorance or arrogance (or a mixture of both) that both motorists and cyclists seem to ignore these altogether, leading to frustration on behalf of all parties. i've written on this subject almost every year for what seems like forever, and i rather hoped that last year was for the final time. but it seems there are those hell-bent on undermining that aspiration.

as we left debbie's at lunchtime yesterday, one of the local taxi drivers approached me with a belligerent agenda, enquiring as to whether i had any remaining copies of the cycle leaflet, produced on behalf of argyll and bute council several years ago. as it happens, i do still have some in the office, but before i could ask why, she explained that on her several trips to and from kilchoman distillery that morning, she had come across groups of cyclists, who continued to ride two or three abreast along the single-track road, ignoring all the passing places.

it seems fairly self-evident that all were heading towards the distillery, the principal difference being that the cyclists were on holiday and in no rush, while she, in a mini-bus, was working and in a bit more of a hurry than the cyclists. you can make all the excuses you like, but behaviour such as the above is simply selfish. within the leaflet mentioned, i tried to make it plain that those driving trucks, tractors, vans or minibuses are very likely to be working, and it behoves the itinerant cyclist to give way. to be perfectly honest, irrespective of who or what it is heading in your direction or following behind, no matter how much right you believe you have to occupy your own piece of the road, cyclists are inherently slower than motor vehicles.

it's only courteous to get out of the way when safe to do so.

i wholeheartedly agree that it would be quite excellent if such behaviour were reciprocated by any holidaying motorist who found themselves closer to a passing place than oncoming cyclists, but if i were you, i wouldn't bank on it. i live in hope that those for whom i have stopped to allow past, will show some sign of acknowledgment, but in the majority of cases, they drive past as if that's what i should have done in any case.

there are no rights and wrongs in these situations; currently, there is no legal requirement for cars to get out of the way of other cars, for cyclists to move out of the way of cars, or for cars to make way for bicycles. however, to get to where we're going, on single-track roads at least, we all have to make compromises. i realise the forgoing will only impact upon a select minority; i have no idea of the frequency with which passing places exist on the mainland and only a few of you will holiday on the western isles, but i'd be really happy if i didn't have to reiterate this in 2020.

just saying.

monday 6 may 2019

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just saying.

the sum of the parts

ritchey zeta wheels

hopefully, i have established beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the ritchey logic frameset is one of the finest examples of velocipedinal steel it is possible to keep ready and waiting in the bike shed. however, at the risk of stating the glaringly obvious, that frame is going nowhere unless it is suitably accessorised, in this case, that begins with a campagnolo record twelve-speed mechanical groupset; another collection of bits about which i have previously waxed lyrical. but also festooned about its person is a pair of ritchey classic zeta wheels, shod with goodyear eagle tyres and most recently, a brooks cambium organic light saddle. and keeping all of the above in a straight line, ritchey ergomax handlebars.

i have been riding the ritchey for more than twelve months and it remains every bit as impressive as ever. likewise, campagnolo's twelve record gears, which replaced the logic's original chorus groupset. however, the latter four components (wheels, tyres, saddle and bars), having been introduced by way of brief mentions, have now acquitted themselves well enough to deserve a follow up. and just to introduce a level of classification, all the aforementioned remained a part of the whole, during last weekend's riding of the etape loch ness.

goodyear eagle tyre

while a ride of marginally over 106km might be borderline for taking the bike from the bikeshed in the first place, it does provide an ideal distance to evaluate the efficacy of specific componentry such as those listed above. to be perfectly honest, i've no real idea just how long i'd need to keep riding a pair of wheels before i could write a definitive review, but the shiny ritchey zetas have currently served me remarkably well for more than 500 kilometres, and give every indication of so doing for several times that distance.

the minor irritation of a loose cassette that inflicted itself at the original point of fitting, has not subsequently reared its head. having fitted a thin spacer 'neath the lockring, all has been ginger peachy since. the front wheel has remained as true as the day it was removed from the box, but i did notice a minor deflection on the rear rim which was easily rectified with a spoke key. though the roads under the authority of highland council are considerably smoother than those ignored by argyll and bute, the wheels have survived many of those roads we keep for special occasions, something that i doubt will change in the future.

brooks cambium organic light saddle

the goodyear tyres are in a perfect position to backup my remarks about the difference in road conditions. though tubeless in nature, they're fitted to the ritchey with inner tubes, if only to avoid yet another rant about the iniquity of fitting tubeless. originally, i had difficulty in settling the front tyre, a portion of which sat lower on the rim than the rest. having remedied that particular situation, it appears i'd taken my eye off the ball with regard to the rear. it transpires it too had a 'flat spot', which islay's roads had managed to disguise. smooth highland tarmac, however, laid bare this self-inflicted anomaly, though one i believe i have now exorcised.

the goodyears, you may recall, are of a nominal 30mm width, providing comfort and joy at lower pressures than those required for 23 or 25mm. there is still scant clearance below the front record caliper, but that only becomes noticeable when riding through gravel, if the occasional small stone forces its way between tyre and caliper. i used to reckon on any pair of tyres lasting around 2,500km, a distance i should imagine is easily attainable if domiciled in the inverness region. i have set my sights a tad lower for the whisky isle, hoping that i'm wrong.

ritchey ergomax handlebars

there are few saddles in the world that give me cause for discomfort, but brooks' cambium range is one for which my bottom has great affinity. ranging from the narrow c13 to the much wider c19, via the c17 and c15, i find my comfort on any bicycle to be greatly enhanced, arguably to a greater degree aboard the organic light, recently reviewed over a relatively short distance. even after the etape's 100 plus kilometres, the very point in time when body parts tend to get tired, posterior comfort continued to reign. it may be that the few grammes saved over the standard c17 helped me get closer to the king of the mountains competition than would otherwise have been the case (just in case you're wondering, i was nowhere near it), but replacing the original metal frame with liquid wood, certainly hasn't compromised the comfort.

which brings me lastly to ritchey's ergomax bars. these differ from a standard set of alloy handlebars, by way of flattened top sections and flared drops. it's a look of which i had to be convinced, and i confess that the drops took a wee bit of getting used to. however, ridden over an extended distance in one sitting, ergonomically, these are particularly well considered. designed to favour the emerging gravel bike market, their constitution seems every bit as well adapted to road-riding. i am insufficiently performance oriented to know whether there's a trade-off riding on flared drops, but that's probably to miss the point somewhat, since i doubt that tom ritchey was aiming for gut-busting performance when stood in front of the drawing board.

this is probably one of those cases where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, with each component contributing to the excellence of its peers. there's no doubt that the purchase of a complete bicycle offers pretty much everything that any cyclist requires, but sometimes, if the spirit is willing, a more judicious mechanical amalgamation can brighten the horizon in unexpected ways.

or sometimes in expected ways.

ritchey classic zeta wheelset | goodyear eagle tyres | brooks organic light cambium saddle |
ritchey ergomax wcs handlebar

sunday 5 may 2019

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top of the class

capo velo

many, many years ago, when alberto contador still roamed the climbs of le tour, i was offered two pieces of advice with reference to thewashingmachinepost. one gent suggested that i should monetise the operation, based on his assessment of its inherent commerciality and appeal to advertisers. at least, i assume he was referring to advertising, because, for the life of me, i couldn't think of any alternative means of deriving an income for my scribblings. it was advice that i chose to ignore.

capo velo

the other comment concerned the content and how it may or may not have been seen as influential. for in my determined naivety, i was under the impression i had striven manfully to keep my own opinion dormant, or at least well-concealed throughout these daily writings. the gentleman, who shall remain nameless, on the contrary, stated that he enjoyed reading the post because of its opinionated stance. i don't mind admitting that this came as something of a shock, for i was unaware that i had an opinion worthy of discussion in the first place and, as previously mentioned, i truly believed i had kept it well under wraps.

of course, re-reading several articles from that point onwards, i realised that almost everything i had committed to pixels was, indeed, greatly opinionated. however, given that my site statistics have scarcely altered for many a long year, i can only assume that my opinions are less disagreeable than i had originally thought. but the perceived downside to this is that the opinions are solely mine and if they are au contraire to your own, there's little hope of salvation just around the corner.

capo velo

ten years ago, kickstarter brought the word crowdfunding to the notice of the great unwashed, a means of raising cash for a particular project (160,000 so far) without doing the endless rounds of venture capitalists or persuading mum and dad that it really would be a good idea to hand over their life-savings for a widget that everyone is bound to desire. the kickstarter model potentially brought together thousands of individuals who more or less agreed that the widget under consideration was a device worth having.

it's a principle that can probably be applied to other areas of contemporary, velocipedinal life.

a cycle website such as capo velo, for instance, relies not on the solitary viewpoint of one individual, but on a collective set of viewpoints, the basic principle behind kickstarting. sort of. scroll almost endlessly to the foot of the capo velo home page and select the about us link to find a portion of their mission statement reading thus: "As a cycling collective, we're passionate about its historical and cultural significance - past present and future." of course the same could be said about other cycling websites, but take note of the words 'collective' and 'we're', the very indicators that attest to more than one author.

capo velo

as an organised compendium of all matters cycling, capo velo can be used as both resource and entertainment, given its predilection for introducing cycling newness along with historical articles when racing took place in black and white. a bit like the music shop in which you used to hang out, when in the latter days of school or the early days of college, capo velo is the very pixelated leather couch in which to reside on a daily basis. and assuming you find this to your satisfaction, you may also wish to advertise this fact to your less enlightened peers by way of the brand new team kit.

produced by italy's alé, john at capo velo (which translates as 'top cyclist') told me that the sartorially eager may wish to migrate up a couple of sizes, given that the highly attractive team kit is drawn from 'alé's prr line. as we all well know, italian race-fit rarely bears an accurate resemblance to the average western cyclist (unless, of course, they are actually italian). for those who may wish to clothe themselves thusly, i have listed the link below that will allow online purchase. capo velo clothing is offered at cost. for those on this side of the atlantic in search of uniqueness, this might be the very kit to have, for capo velo is based across the pond and john is keen that the word is visually spread in the uk.

price is approximately $220 (approximately £170)

capo velo alebikewear

saturday 4 may 2019

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etape loch ness

etape loch ness 2019

cycling is often referred to as 'the beautiful sport', and in its purest form, that statement is arguably unassailable. however, cycling spreads its wheels a great deal wider than just the sporting milieu, even if the monthly magazines have a tendency to obscure that angle from view. it is also, obviously enough, one of the world's finest outdoor activities, not only because it tends to have a beneficial effect on the human cardio-vascular system, but it's every bit the ideal activity for both the individual and the larger group. each weekend, i can spend hours and hours all on my own, chasing whatever it is that might be providing the impetus on any particular week.

etape loch ness 2019

or, as in the case of the recent etape loch ness, i can ride with 5,649 other cyclists, almost none of whom i knew personally.

i like to consider myself a gregarious sort of fellow, happy to discuss the finer points of front derailleur adjustment, or point out the fallacy of electronic gear setups to any within earshot. the peloton size of the velo club's sunday morning ride is well within the grasp of my communicative abilities, though i'll admit that riding group four in hot chillee's londres-paris strained the outer fringes just a tad. but those more than five and a half thousand others entered into this year's loch ness sportive, threatened to unhinge any thoughts of velocipedinal stability. quite frankly, the portents were not good.

etape loch ness 2019

but, as i have mentioned on previous occasions, i am usually happy to suffer for someone else's art. in this modern age, to eschew an invite to ride one of the country's finest sportives, seemed tantamount to cowardice. hebridean or flandrien, that's not a self-inflicted accusation to be taken lightly. which is why i found myself spending a weekend in the truly excellent ardross glencairn guest house, a mere (long) stone's throw from inverness cathedral.

as is probably the case with pretty much any sportive you care to mention, the day prior to the commencement of battle had been set aside for registration, pre-ride mechanical checkups (shand cycles and cycle republic) and cleaning (finish line), while last minute clothing needs could be satisfied by endura, official loch ness kit, or, principal beneficiaries of the ride, macmillan cancer. should sustenance (liquid or solid) have been required after perusing the aofrementioned, singleton muir of ord were offering free drams, next door to a small tent distributing beer to the needy. carbo loading was provided by high five and fuel.

etape loch ness 2019

singleton muir of ord distillery, sponsor of both the king and queen of the mountains competitions, displayed a smart-looking jersey alongside the table of drams. i enquired of the distillery manager, looking proudly at the number of pre-orders for the jersey, why he'd decided to commission a cycle jersey in the first place? there is no shortage of cycle jerseys affiliated with islay's distilleries, but i was keen to find out why the trend was spreading farther and wider.

"we ordered two jerseys as sponsors of the k.o.m. competitions, but when they arrived at the office, they looked really impressive. so i argued the case to order more from endura and offer them for sale at an attractive price." he went on to tell me that they'd taken fourteen pre-orders in less than an hour. come the revolution etc.

etape loch ness 2019

etape loch ness takes place on closed roads, pretty much a necessity, given the size of the entry. one of those roads (the north side of the loch) is the principal tourist route into inverness from the south and west; i was told many of the entrants were keen to take advantage of riding a parcours, part of which was usually obscured by incessant traffic. closing roads in the age of the motor car is probably the result of a few hard-fought administrative and campaigning battles. the condition of so doing was doubtless getting every bicycle off the roads as quickly as possible, in order for normal civilisation to proceed at its bustling best.

for that to happen, necessitated setting off in controlled groups from 06:15 on sunday morning, itself demanding that breakfast take place at the unheard of hour of 04:30. my own start hour was 06:29, at which time it transpires some of the road surfaces were still a trifle damp from overnight dew. this led to a number of rather scary looking accidents, with early-morning speeding cyclists sliding off on the slippery centre-line paint. very much to their credit, ambulances and motorcycle marshals were in attendance almost immediately.

 etape loch ness 2019

for those of a more sedentary nature (i have my hand up at this point), a cool, slightly overcast but dry morning, offered a thoroughly stupendous ride down one side of loch ness and back along the other. mirroring the common caricature of the loch ness monster, the return trip featured three stonking climbs before half-distance. i have no idea of the gradients, for though my garmin offers such information, the black spots in front of my eyes as i breathed through my ears prevented me from taking specific note. it's as well that the roads were closed, for some of us used pretty much every centimetre available, though a surprising number dismounted and walked.

i heartily recommend having two plates of porridge for breakfast.

 etape loch ness 2019

the first rider home managed those 106 kilometres in under three hours, a fact that can only bring more tears to the eyes of those who took a tad longer. in the case of yours truly, the wrong side of four hours. the organisation was impeccable, ranging from (three) clearly signed feed stops, plenty of encouragement from the roadside marshals and no chance whatsoever of taking a wrong turning. arriving back to the shelter of eden court theatre, a cleverly styled medal, goody-bag and enough iced-buns to feed the entire population of inverness, welcomed the smilingly bedraggled. bear in mind that the total entry equated to every last person on islay going for a bike ride and inviting all their friends to join them. culture shock, and then some.

already, islay discussions are being held to plan a concerted attempt on the etape in 2020. meaning i have gone from someone who harboured serious misgivings about mixing with more than 5,500 other cyclists, to one who is eager to repeat the fun and frolics next year. if, like me, such large numbers have kept you away from inverness, i'm here to tell you that you simply don't know what you're missing.

would i lie to you?

grateful thanks to organisers, caledonia concepts and tricker pr for inviting me along for the ride, and to my friends john and angie for getting me to and from inverness safe and sound.

etape loch ness

friday 3 may 2019

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art lies in the details

the beast, the emperor and the milkman - harry shand rizello

in the 1950s, when all bicycles were fashioned from steel and mostly of lugged construction, they suffered an identity crisis that looms ahead of today's manipulated carbon fibre. in fact, it's probably wildly incorrect to state that this is a situation within immediate proximity; some would argue that not only is it already here, it has been for some considerable time. the verisimilitude of all those mid 20th century bicycles, led to frame-builders making strident efforts to differentiate their product from that of their peers and not entirely for reasons of egotism.

though the contemporary 'amateur' can often be difficult to separate from his/her professional counterparts, in the dim, dark days of yore, it needed only a minor infraction of the regulations governing amateur status that could see a promising, non-professional career ruined before it had properly begun. some of the latter were fortunate enough to be provided with bicycles by a nearby bike-store or framebuilder, keen to demonstrate the efficacy of the product or services without entering the higher stakes associated with the professional.

however, riding a bicycle clearly emblazoned with the name or logo of its producer, could, unfortunately, be mistakenly interpreted as a misdemeanour against true amateur status, resulting in a fine or curtailment of one's future aspirations. to get round this thorny problem while still advertising to the great unwashed, many a framebuilder, such as 'hetchins' for instance, took to producing ever more elaborately carved lugs, promoting not only a bevy of inherent skills, but distinguishing their bicycles from the competition, often without need for textual reinforcement on the downtube.

no such obstructions would appear to hinder the contemporary amateur cyclist; probably just as well, since their previously exclusive domain (the olympics) was opened to professional competitors. however, the identity crisis that afflicted those mid-century framebuilders, appears to have returned with a vengeance.

the beast, the emperor and the milkman - harry shand rizello

unlike steel, carbon fibre can not only be performance tuned, but it can be molded into pretty much any shape or profile you care to mention. this can be easily verified by the number of frames featuring square, rectangular or even triangular cross-sections. these may or may not be integral to the bicycle's performance quotient; personally, i figure many of those shapes are more the result of stylistic fancy than structural necessity, but given my total lack of engineering nous, that's not an observation on which i'd bet the farm.

but, the problem as i see it, is one of overweening uniformity, brought about technological advancement. many top of the range carbon frames are conceived as the result of computer-aided-design (cad), computer-aided-manufacturing (cam) and/or computational fluid dynamics (cfd). in order to achieve a perceived lead in the field, or, at the very least, to maintain parity, each and every frame manufacturer utilises the above methodology. and quite frankly, if they're all asking the same questions of their software, they're probably all getting the same answers. witness the recent trend to join the seatstays to the seat-tube around two-thirds the distance below the top tube. whether there is any mechanical/aerodynamic advantage to be gained from this innovation, is open to debate, but so doing has brought an unfortunate ubiquitous commonality.

often the only aspects separating one frame from another is the blunt typeface applied to the downtube.

however, not everyone subscribes to the same formula. i'm thinking in particular of livingston, scotland's shand cycles, originators of such superbly named steel beasts as the stoater, stooshie and skinnymalinky. these have recently been joined by the more italian sounding rizello, a road bike still fashioned from tig-welded steel, but this time featuring a carbon fork, a thru-axle dropout option and either caliper or disc-brakes.

the beast, the emperor and the milkman - harry shand rizello

no matter its means of construction, it would scarcely look out of place in a competitive peloton and the metallic purple disc brake version on the shand stand at the recently held etape loch ness, attracted more than its fair share of attention from the 5,000 plus entrants. i can see several murmurings at the back of the room, wondering what it might be that distinguishes the rizello from bicycles such as ritchey's logic and many other steel road bikes?

the clue, to a certain extent, is contained within today's heading. for though the majority of the shand range features die-cast, semi-ornate head tube badges, the rizello bucks the trend by having a brazed-on, highly polished 's' logo, which is both subtle and ostentatious at the same time. and rather than advertise the frame's columbus tubing origins with one of those, at one-time commonly beheld red and gold bird-logo decals, shand have painted on the seat-tube, a remarkably subtle replica of the bird just above the bottom bracket.

perhaps both of those have laid on the subtlety a tad heavy-handedly. after all, what if no-one notices? but the luxury bestowed upon purchasers of this superb, scottish-built bicycle, is that they'll know. and sometimes that is more than enough.

shand cycles rizello

thursday 2 may 2019

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the beast, the emperor and the milkman. a bone shaking tour through cycling's flemish heartlands. harry pearson. bloomsbury press hardback. 262pp illus. £18.99

"It looked like a scene painted by the Ghent-born expressionist Albert Servaes [...] thick and murky, black and brown renditions of Flemish pastoral scenes in which bent-backed peasants toil in grey, sucking soil [...] I had always thought they were overwrought, but now I saw that if anything, they were unrealistically uplifting."

the beast, the emperor and the milkman - harry pearson

just over two years ago, my son and i attended a world cup track meet at the chris hoy velodrome in glasgow's east end. though i am a native of glasgow, it is many a long year since i spent any great amount of time around town, thus my knowledge of the city's transport infrastructure is rudimental at best. the perceived easiest way to get from the city-centre to the velodrome is/was by taxi.

en-route to our destination, we came upon a compact group of cyclists, all clad in belgian national colours, heading pretty much in the same direction. surely, we reasoned, this wasn't the belgian national team that we would soon witness tramelling the boards dedicated to sir chris hoy?

that, as it transpired, is precisely who it was, perhaps intent on demonstrating the sort of hard man/woman persona that has informed that nation's cycling obsession for many a long year. it can surely be no accident that, not only does the belgian national kit seem rarely to alter from its iconic, blue and national stripes from year to year, but that it's also one of the better constituted design within the peloton of nations.

it is to my great regret that i have read no other material by harry pearson, though a quick scan of his previous publications would tend to mitigate against my so doing, given that they mostly appear to be concerned with football and cricket. however, one amongst his palmares, originally published in 1999 is entitled, 'a tall man in a low land' and is subtitled 'some time among the belgians'. that would certainly have given a clue as to one of his predilections. mr pearson apparently spent several months living in belgium, a nation reputedly obsessed with the bicycle, perhaps an implied condition of residence.

that being the case, harry pearson has not only taken the flemish way of the velocipede to heart, but absorbed its every twist, turn and hero into the very last fibre of his being. the back page of the dust jacket features a quote from the (almost) legendary, ned boulting, part of which states "To read his words on cycling and Flanders, two of the best things in the world, is a joy." i can only state that i wholeheartedly concur with the sentiments of mr boulting.

for those less well-versed in the intricacies of professional cycling lore, the title ('the beast, the emperor and the milkman) refers to roger, 'the beast of eeklo', de vlaeminck, rik, 'the emperor of herentals' van looy and frans 'the flying milkman' verbeek. those of you who thought nicknames began with 'il pirata', or 'the shark', need only take a quick trip through the book's excellent index to remedy that particular misapprehension.

pearson has one of the most attractive and easy going writing syles it has been my pleasure to read, augmented by an almost encylopaedic knowledge of his subject. it is indeed rare that a defined book on cycling offers a comprehensive lesson on central european political history.

"...within months, only a tiny corner of their small country remained in Belgian hnds - a triangle of West Flanders with a border that ran from the ridgeline south-east of Ypres to the fishing port of Nieuwpoort at the mouth of the river Ijzer."

however, the history lesson forms only a small part of pearson's narrative and only serves to underline his intrinsic knowledge of the origination of belgium's rich bicycle racing heritage. but lest you consider this book to be a dry, factual appreciation of belgium's national sport, nothing could be further from the truth.

"Flemings are northerners. They like ale and chips and complaining (I'm a Yorkshireman, so don't bother writing in)."

the list of contents provides only a cryptic clue as to all that can be found within the depths of the book's pages: 'brick chimneys and iron men', 'holey socks and a cool head', 'pot bellies and barbra streisand'. admit it; you're intrigued. of course, the reality behind the headlines is far more explicable and approachable: the 'sluitingsprijse oostmalle', 'omloop het nieuwsblad', 'dwars door west-vlaanderen' and several other delightfully unpronounceable races that form the bulk of the early season in belgium, or, to be more precise, flanders. thus harry pearson treats us to a specific year of wandering through the races and racing personalities that have apparently encouraged the national track team to ride their bikes to and from the scene of battle. the more anticipatory and perspicacious amongst you will likely have sussed that, in this book at least, all roads lead to the ronde van vlaanderen.

and, lest you think we are being lectured to by a learned professor, whose modus operandi is "do as i say, not as i do", there is no doubting that mr pearson is no different in his flandrien enthusiasm than are we.

"Later, when I had a shower, mud came out of my ears. I'd been soaking wet since midday, frozen stiff and stood by the side of the road for several hours in one of the poorest, ugliest and most deprived parts of northern Europe. There's no doubt about it, it's one of the best, most romantic days I've had in all my years of watching sport."

i've never met harry pearson, but after just over 250 pages, i figure i can visualise the two of us standing on the kappelmuur, him with his ale and chips, and me with a san pellegrino and a cone of frites and mayo, discussing how many shades of grey the weather can adopt in one hour. if this book does not find a place on your bookshelf, you really have no soul at all.

"The barman watched, put down the glass he was polishing, and shrugged, 'You want another one?' The beer I'd been drinking was 9.5 per cent. 'If I have another one you'll have to carry me to the train,' I told him. The barman looked out of the window. 'It's only 100 metres,' he said."

wednesday 1 may 2019

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built-in obsolescence?

freewheel

as a result of my recent talk about cycling at the local secondary school, one parent had the foresight to have her son drop the bike off at the croft for a checkover before he heads seriously uphill on his way to the claonaig-lochranza ferry. a quick glance at the most common sources of minor problems, elicited a possible loose headset and definitive lateral movement on the back wheel, movement that most likely pointed towards loose cones. the bicycle was thus hefted (and i do really mean 'hefted') onto the workstand and the rear wheel removed.

disappointingly, that lateral movement turned out to be something a deal more troubling than loose cones. on attempting to remove the quick-release skewer to gain clear access to the axle, threequarters of the axle came with it, leaving a short portion remaining at the freewheel end of the equation. this was always the potential problem with freewheels, as opposed to the nowadays more common freehub/cassette combination; with cones and bearings internally placed on each side of the hub, the section of axle stretching from the hub flange to the dropout is, in essence, unsupported. with teenagers highly likely to attempt tricks and jumps on their mountain bikes, it is not uncommon to come across broken axles such as that described above.

the freehub effectively solved this problem by allowing bearings to be placed at the outer edge of the cassette hub, in conjunction with the two sets contained within the actual hub shell. as the number of sprockets increased, thus requiring greater dishing of the rear wheel, that axle continued to be supported across its entire length. thru-axles have likely rendered any such problems null and void, since they maintain the same enlarged diameter throughout and are not dependent on cones, concentrating pressure points at specific parts of the axle.

i have no real idea as to the vintage of this particular bicycle, but it doesn't appear to be too elderly, so i was rather surprised to find an old-fashioned freewheel fitted as standard. the cassette hub has been around for more than a few years. but as campagnolo announce the availability of their twelve speeds trickling down to the chorus groupset, are owners of bicycles featuring the humble freewheel, in danger of being relegated to obsolescence?

at the risk of incurring the wrath of the wide variety of online parts suppliers (we're here too, you know?) a quick search for 'freewheel' on chain reaction cycles/wiggle elicits a single-speed freewheel and several freewheel removers. this almost mirrors the oddity of many years past, when at least two component suppliers still offered 1" headsets, but not a single 1" stem. you have to wonder why chain reaction offer several flavours of removers for freewheels which they do not sell. and just to complicate matters more than necessary, performing the same search on evans cycles displayed a greater slew of cassettes than the occasional freewheel. in these days of increasing velocipedinal complexity and an apparent diminishing of individual mechanical awareness, it seems highly possible that perusal of evans' website, might encourage an inept choice of component due to lack of knowledge.

there are so many present day items that have brought new meaning to the word obsolescence. when i started my graphic design career, files were stored on the industry standard scitex disc, one which connected to a macintosh computer via the scsi interface. both of those have gone the way of the dodo, as have zip disks, serial connection ports and firewire disks. though apple are serial culprits in these matters, anything stored on one or other of the above will probably be very hard or costly to retrieve; how long before people snigger when you mention your data is backed up on a usb drive?

though technology such as the freewheel, coupled with cup and cone bearing sets is undoubtedly outmoded and of dubious efficiency, i think it would be a shame for all that to disappear, making some wonderful, elderly cycling machinery, somewhat obsolescent. i'd hate to think that the classifieds at the back of the comic might offer the opportunity to nab a curly hetchins, but a lack of available components might render purchase of same, rather a lost pipedream.

of course, as a bona-fide luddite, i would say that, wouldn't i?

tuesday 30 april 2019

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