the courteous cyclist

always think ahead

a friend of mine, not necessarily noted for issuing observant epithets, once announced that 'people don't read signs'. while this does appear to be a rather sweeping statement, in essence it might well be true. affixed to the office front door, is a sign denoting our opening hours, along with an adjunct pointing out that we're closed for lunch from 12:30pm until 1am. if i had a pound coin for everyone who has read that part of the notice, checked the time on their watch, and tried the door handle anyway, i would have enough to reture to a caribbean island. quite why this is the case, i know not.

though not confined to any printed or displayed sign, during the summer months, as the velo club congregates at debbie's ready for the grand départ at 10am, any number of individuals park opposite and cross over in search of a coffee. helpful as ever, at least one of us will point out that debbie's doesn't open until 11am. oddly enough, having been made aware of this, we will usually be thanked, before they carry on and try the door anyway. perhaps on the mainland, it's usual for pelotons of cyclists to play practical jokes on unsuspecting members of the public, but we've not yet cottoned onto that, so far.

thus, despite the council's road department having revamped many of the passing places peppered along the island's singletrack roads, the old sign-reading parable comes into play. presumably based on evidence that the travelling public have been blissfully unaware of the purpose behind those tarmac insets in the grass verges, the traditional black and white posts have been replaced by signs that bluntly declare passing place. while you would imagine that just such a sign would leave no room for incomprehension, it's still remarkably common for visiting motorists to drive blissfully past without manner aforethought for the cyclists heading in the opposite direction.

as the years have passed, islay has become increasingly more international in its outlook, predominantly due to the ever-increasing number of distilleries, so there's just a faint possibility that the words passing place do not translate well into foreign languages. however, i think it likely that i am being far too generous in giving them the benefit of the doubt.

it has to be said that problems such as continually having to dip in and out of passing places all day long, is a bit on the irritating side. but divest those problems of their associated baggage, and the solution(s) become more clearly defined. simply put, any non-commuting bike ride is basically a case of riding in a circle, ultimately heading for home, with no real need to hurry, even when training. though traffic conditions will vary widely, depending on geographical location, in truth, we're all guilty of doing the same thing. and irrespective of your stance on the rights of cyclists compared with those of motorists (essentially, exactly the same), it's hard to deny that we are considerably slower. therefore, on a singletrack road, if there are vehicles approaching from behind, i think it indefensible not to get out of the way as soon as it is safe to do so.

as mentioned on previous occasions, i have unwittingly become a spokesman for my people; in the summer months, scarcely a week goes by without a motoring acquaintance detailing how long they'd to sit behind one, or a group of cyclists before the idiots got out the way. it is very hard for me to do anything other than share their consternation. there will always be occasions when a prevailing headwind masks the sound of a following vehicle, but it is simply good manners to move out the way as soon as practical.

looking at the problem from the opposite direction, where speed is less of a factor, it would be nice to think that the honour system would prevail: whoever finds themselves closer to a passing place, ought surely to pull in? however, being realistic, nine times out of ten, that's not going to happen and the oncoming motorist will (arrogantly, in my opinion) generally expect the cyclist to make the first move. the balance is frequently restored if the peloton numbers at least four, but there's no denying that being courteous and allowing the motorist to pass, gains a substantial number of brownie points. for might i remind you, in most cases, none of us have actually to be somewhere at a specific time, so where's the harm?

similarly, though many an idiot will overtake on a blind corner (on a two-lane road), putting both themselves and the cyclist(s) at risk, when a driver safely remains slowly behind, until they can see the road to be clear ahead, it does no harm to give a brief wave in recognition of their patience. yes, i agree, that's what any motorist ought to do as a matter of course, but yet again, courtesy costs nothing.

i am well aware that traffic conditions in the hebrides and the western-isles can be substantially different than in urban or inner-city settings, and there will undoubtedly be situations in which being courteous may be less than pragmatic. additionally, if you're heading to work, school or college, delays due to inconsiderate motorists, may be a tad harder to ameliorate amicably. however, climate change notwithstanding, there are likely to be more cars and more bicycles on the world's roads by the end of 2020.

try and be the bigger person.

monday 6 january 2020

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never mind the quality, feel the width


in the first few years of moving to the hebrides, i plied my trade as an artist by cycling to the most westerly reaches of the isle in search of rugged, interesting and sculpted landscapes from which i might derive both charcoal drawings and ultimately, oils or watercolours. the bicycle du jour had not yet attained the status of skinny wheels and bendy bars, thus progress was often slow, augmented as i was, with appropriate drawing materials encased in rear-mounted panniers. and since the occasional offroad trip may have been deemed necessary, the bicycle was fitted with knobbly rubber to ease forward passage.

over the course of a year, without specifically trying, i was likely to average around 3000 miles, a figure more or less accurately displayed on a cateye computer mounted to the handlebars, each mile clicked off by way of a wire running down the fork leg. the cateye was also capable of recording cadence too, but which nomadic artist is really interested in that sort of data? as the new year approached, and the number on the computer became closer to the magic 3,000, i would find myself taking odd detours just to bring the numbers up, just so that i could reach my target.

in other words, the numbers game.

at that particular time, i had no need to cover any specific mileage, for i was hardly in training, and to be honest, nobody really cared, other than yours truly. though i now ride less often than was the case in those halcyon days of yore, i travel farther on each ride, so i figure i'm still hitting the magic 3,000 mile mark, though in all honesty, that's mostly by way of back-of-the-envelope calculations, for i no longer keep specific details and strava is not on my horizons.

but i note from the copy of 'cycling weekly' in debbie's this past weekend, they are encouraging readers to set themselves a target of riding 5,000 miles by the end of 2020. a bit like a multiplication of rapha's festive 500, that seems to be a most laudable challenge, and one i might even have attempted myself, had age and enthusiasm been on my side. yet, is riding any specified annual distance conducive to anything in particular? is this not simply a variation on the numbers game, in spite of the many examples to the contrary, several of which have been published in the pages of 'cycling weekly'? maybe 5,000 miles at a calculated average of 15 miles per hour would have been more conducive to a tangible outcome; and wasn't it peter keen and chris boardman who reasoned that it was far less about the quantity and more about the quality?

as pointed out in the comic's article, 5,000 miles per year, equates to 416 miles per month, or just over 100 miles per week, a distance probably well within the reach of the majority of us. but, as the magazine helpfully points out, that needs to be every week of the year, something to be balanced against the possibility of a varying workload, possible illness and holidays, all of which will entail a period of catchup, something that ought best be factored into the overall challenge.

none of that, however, mitigates the notion that the target mileage is an unqualified, arbitrary distance, one that has no guaranteed, beneficial outcome. i'm not entirely sure that there's any point to simply increasing the number of miles you ride each week, unless, of course, you well know you've been slacking of late. because it's more than possible that forcing the issue might have the opposite effect to that 'the comic' hopes to instil.

that said, if your new year's resolution is to ride your bicycle more often, this might be the very kick in the bibshorts you were looking for. after all, wasn't it fausto coppi who said "ride your bike, ride your bike and ride your bike"?

cycling weekly

sunday 5 january 2020

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back to the future

crystal ball

an esteemed colleague recently sent me a link to an online article in which an informed velocipedinal author set out his predictions for how we might expect our bicycles to develop over the next decade. some of these are largely unexceptional, but based on prognostications made by bicycle quarterly as to how things were likely to transpire over the last decade. with the latter in mind, the author provided his own update for the next ten years. my concern here is whether his predictions are grounded in knowledge of current developments yet to be released, or simply on his own wishes and desires. simply put, though many are logical and indeed, hardly controversial, similar projections from someone more involved in the design and production of bicycles could conceivably be at odds with the above.

i might refer you to developments such as external bottom brackets, integrated headsets and, most recently, hydraulic disc brakes. these are all common features on mountain, 'cross and road bikes, but not all at the behest of the customer (that's you and me). therefore, what we might see as the logical future of our own adopted genre of bicycle riding, might not always coincide with what the manufacturer would like us to purchase.

if i can take disc brakes as a prime example, a frame capable of accepting the latter has need of mounting brackets fitted to the front fork and rear chainstay. these brackets could, with a subsequent respray, be welded to a steel frame without losing structural integrity. but few riders nowadays are sat aboard this ferrous material, and those who are could be seen as likely to favour the tried and tested caliper or cantilever brake. aluminium is ruled out of a disc brake upgrade due to the heat treatment applied at manufacture; subsequent welding would likely undo the benefits, and it's not logical or economic to consider a carbon upgrade in any way shape or form.

therefore, the more cynical amongst us (who me?) can only surmise that the wholesale imposition of disc brakes upon the peloton at large, must surely have been a marketing initiative designed to have us purchase all new frames or bicycles. and, if we're honest, who amongst us saw that coming ten years ago?

but, insider information aside, might the publication of future predictions be likely to end in an own goal? for instance, the article prophesies that road tyre widths will continue to grow to a maximum of 38mm, removing the differentiation between a road bike and a gravel bike. however, the author was quick to point out that a perceived disadvantage was the reduced wear experienced by wider rubber, meaning a concomitant reduction in tyre sales. rather obviously, a solution to the latter would be softer, faster wearing rubber. but they'd never do that to us, would they?

however, that wider rubber might play into the hands of those manufacturers keen to separate us from our hard-earned cryptocurrency. i currently ride a ritchey logic steel frame (one which i assure you, will never feature any kind of disc rotor), which tom ritchey advises, will accept up to 30mm wide rubber, advice that i am pleased to relate, i have verified. but if the article's prophesy comes true and i desperately wish to live at the cutting edge, i will undoubtedly need a new frame. in fact, i am unaware of any present day road bike that will accept such wide tyres (though the majority of 'cross bikes and gravel bikes will do so with ease).

i'm not sure that i see the professional peloton moving wholesale to a tyre width of 38mm, but if the current trend of adding offroad sections to many a parcours continues, it's likely i'll be proved wrong (again).

i have no idea just how far ahead the average research and development department within the bicycle industry looks; perhaps ten years is barely scratching the surface. however, i'd be willing to bet that there are secret squirrel projects currently underway, the likes of which we have barely even considered, and of which i am almost honour bound to disapprove. i do tend to agree that the distinction between gravel and road is likely to disappear, though i'm really not sure that a shift to smaller 650b wheels is on the cards.

as a result, i am less than inclined to offer any prognostications of my own, on two distinct counts: 1) i'm almost certain to be considerably wide of the mark, and 2) i'd be frightened to think that i might be responsible for saddling (pun intended) the pelotonese with a new and wholly unwelcome facet to the sunday bike ride. the responsibility of so doing would weigh heavily on my brow, only partially redeemed by the thought of a substantial royalties cheque.

predictions for the 2020s

saturday 4 january 2020

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in whom we trust

movistar 2020

i have pointed out on a previous occasion, that the definition of sponsorship can vary somewhat between different strains of commercial life. you will frequently find a link on the websites of several cycle and component manufacturers that invites enquiries from potential 'sponsorees' (if there is such a word), detailing the type of athlete or individual they might be willing to consider. sponsorship, as such, does not necessarily entail receipt of free kit; sometimes a prospective deal will simply offer a discount on product. but, unless you have an impressive palmares that covers several pages, you have to start somewhere.

movistar 2020

from a cycling point of view, the nomenclature used mostly indicates that the sponsor has decided to favour the sponsoree; that is the more acceptable definition. however, in the world of musical instruments, the shoe is made to appear as if on the other foot, where the musician endorses the product, making it appear as if they have granted favour to the sponsor. thus, in a recent interview on andertons music shop youtube channel, brazilian guitarist lari basilio proclaimed that she currently endorsed laney amplifiers, as opposed to being sponsored by them.

but, the question remains; in either case, should we trust the opinions of the sponsored or endorsers?

movistar 2020

perhaps the most itinerant endorser in the world of music, is drummer vinnie colaiuta. vinnie spent most of his early career playing yamaha drums and zildjian cymbals, before directing his favour elsewhere and jumping ship to gretsch drums. during this period of his career, he was instrumental (pardon the pun) in developing a specific line of zildjian cymbals, and was provided with a signature snare drum by gretsch. it seems, however, that vinnie has a nomadic streak, subsequently moving from gretsch to ludwig and ditching zildjian for their swiss competitors, paiste. keen to make a bit of a splash (pun, once again, unintended), paiste announced colaiuta's collaboration on their revamped 602 essentials line.

movistar 2020

after the briefest of periods, vinnie departed the ludwig fold, had a custom kit built, but subsequently returned to the gretsch family (as appears to be the current mode of address), where an apparently grateful drum manufacturer, once again, bestowed yet another signature snare drum. so why on earth would we trust mr colaiuta's drums or cymbals du jour? there's no real doubt that, even if i acquired a replica of vinnie's setup, there's not a chance i'd sound even remotely like him. and we all know all too well, that were we to be provided with a bona-fide team bicycle, it would scarcely transform any one of us into the sort of cyclist likely to be offered a contract. but yet again, does the sponsorship model actually work?

arriving in my inbox over the past two days, have been several e-mails concerning the movistar team and the changes that are taking place for the new year and new season. though alejandro valverde and the other boys (and girls) in the band, have ridden with campagnolo affixed to their canyon bicycles for several seasons, it seems, for the foreseeable future at least, italiana is being replaced with sram components and zipp wheels. with scotland's endura not renewing their clothing contract for 2020, valverde will now be wearing alé clothing. naturally enough, all this will now be espoused as the very pinnacle of technology and the extra edge that enables them to increase the movistar palmares over the coming season.

"I have been very curious about SRAM and Zipp for many years, and I am excited to be a part of the SRAM family. The componentry and the technology, the support, and how well they listen to the riders is unique and impressive," said Alejandro Valverde.

movistar 2020

meanwhile, in interviews with vinnie colaiuta, he has praised 'that great gretsch sound', which was apparently foremost in fostering his career and sound, even when he was playing yamaha (and probably ludwig). on switching to the latter, he states that he did so for 'musical reasons', a statement which should be taken with a large mine of salt. musicians endorse product, particularly drums, because no matter in which part of the world they find themselves, the manufacturer will have provided their exact setup waiting on the stage. so, the same as in cycling, up to a point, commercial realities outweigh pragmatism or even favour.

"I look forward to racing on the new AXS gearing ranges. The idea of smaller steps between the gears should benefit a rider like me who relies on a consistent cadence when I time trial or climb," added Enric Mas.

therefore, no matter the forceful announcements and colour photos sent in my direction by the proud new sponsors, we all know that the movistar team will fare every bit as well as they would have done had they been still riding campagnolo and endura. while the professionals will ride on whatever they are provided with, at that level, no-one is making rubbish, so a change from one equipment sponsor to another, is highly unlikely to be detrimental come the finish line. therefore, apart from research and development, you do have to wonder why professional cycling sponsors invest quite so much money in ensuring designated teams use their products?

because we'd never ask a pro (cyclist or drummer) for equipment advice, would we?

friday 3 january 2020

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new year revolutions

the world

i have seen most of the jim carrey movie the grinch, and while it leans a tad too heavily towards the slapstick for my liking, that hasn't stopped several of my colleagues referring to me in that light. this strikes me as a bit unfair; after all, i send christmas cards, i buy presents and i participate in 'the mince pie ride'; what more does a guy have to do? that said, i fear there may be a grain of truth in their assertions, for i can think of nothing worse than spending an afternoon or evening making small-talk and playing monopoly, trivial pursuits, or charades, after having consumed far more food than strictly necessary. and it doesn't actually get any better come new year.

while a substantial portion of the local community gathered at bowmore harbour to bring in 2020 to the sound of bagpipes against the backdrop of a firework display, i headed for bed long before 11pm, less than interested in the revelry that scotland describes as hogmanay. but, if i'm honest, my grinch-like tendencies had been given an airing long before.

adjacent to the croft is a footpath that ends in a wide, circular area, expressly designed as a turning point for emergency vehicles, should they have need of attending any of the surrounding houses. it has to be admitted that the latter occurrence is remarkably rare, thus, several of the car-owning residents had taken upon themselves to park their cars in the turning circle. a few years past, after an unfortunate incident nearby, where an ambulance had been unable to gain access, we all received letters detailing why it was no longer acceptable that cars be parked in this location, a happenstance that, as a non-car owner, didn't actually affect yours truly.

for several years, the diktat was obeyed; cars did not drive at speed along the footpath simply to park, and the children in the care of mrs washingmachinepost were free to play ball games, cycle or skateboard without danger of damaging any illegally parked motor cars. however, it seems that the nature of the average motorist, no matter how rational they may appear in day to day life, compels them to park their vehicles as close to home, work, or the shops as they can, no matter how much of an inconvenience this may prove to others. this situation peaked on new year's eve, when, at one point, there were ten cars and a transit van parked in the turning area, where no car ought to be.

this is scarcely an isolated incident, and though i'm sure that such traffic iniquities happen with unfailing regularity in mainland, urban settings, this is supposed to be a small, rural community, one that visitors to the island will appreciate for its rustic charm, flanked by nine malt whisky distilleries. instead, they're likey to find cars double-parked in main street on a saturday afternoon, cars with the engines still running, because the driver needed to visit one of the village shops and the mere thought of having to walk from a parking space was not one open to consideration.

the council extended portions of the pavements several years ago to provide pinch-points on a very wide main road, solely to prevent the boy racers speeding side by side, up and down the street after the hours of darkness. however, more than one driver has decided that, though where they used to park outside a relative's house is now a pavement, that should not prevent them parking their large german saloon anyway, no matter that it often blocks pedestrian ease of access.

none of this actually relates to cycling, at least not in a direct manner. but as many folks will have made new year's resolutions over the course of the past day or so, i'd hopefully suggest that these might be a smidgeon less self-centred than thoughts of a gym membership, or giving up chocolate.

it's easy to hold the moral high ground in these days of climate change awareness, when you either walk or cycle everywhere, and with nothing so distasteful as a motor car in the driveway, but it appears there may be a burgeoning necessity for us all to do likewise, rather than figure that the government will take care of it. driving less than a mile to work may seem like a small, forgiveable infraction, but if everyone else did likewise (and sometimes it seems that they do), the world will remain without a paddle. bicycles may not be the ultimate solution capable of saving the world (though i'd be prepared to argue the point), but even electric cars have to acquire their energy from somewhere, and it sure isn't unicorn poop.

sorry to be so serious right at the beginning of a new year, but it seems prudent to think about making the right choice while we still have the option (and, yes, i do realise i'm likely preaching to the converted).

thursday 2 january 2020

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a small price to pay?

world bicycle relief field mechanic

to use a completely inappropriate comparison from the start, take a look at the branding affixed to the exterior of your nearest apple store. it is, in pretty much every case, a white apple, with a chunk missing from the right-hand side and a leaf at the top. there is no other wording, and no garish colours. for the aspirant graphic designer, that is the holy grail; the only other of which i can think that comes close, would be that of shell petroleum: a simplified yellow scallop shell on a red background. earlier versions of that logo more usually incorporated the word 'shell' either imposed upon the yellow shell, or placed beneath. the word you're looking for is simplicity.

of course, those are two examples taken slightly out of context: both are international in their acclaim and significance. it would be a great deal harder to design a logo for a local business which also remained bereft of any wording, one that would scarcely have any significance outside its immediate realm of influence, were that wording to be devoid of location. for instance, islay car hire features a simplified outline of a car which may have been in use long enough to be recognised locally. but take the same outline and plaster it on a hoarding in central glasgow, and it would mean little, if anything at all, were it not augmented by the above mentioned text.

as i said, a tad left of field and totally out of context. but while neither apple nor shell have sported logos drastically different than their current editions, their predecessors were notionally more complex. both present excellent examples of refinement and simplification, the latter being arguably the principal target of any designer worth his or her salt. in which case, i'm inclined to ask why the attainment of simplicity seems not to be one adopted elsewhere?

bicycles, for example.

of course, that sort of depends on where it is you look for that simplification. the buffalo bicycles, thousands of which have been donated by world bicycle relief, espouse an admirable simplicity of design, in line with the circumstances in which they are expected to perform. the more remote parts of africa are hardly peppered with a quality bike shop behind every sand dune or adjacent to the nearest watering hole. those particular bicycles are designed and built to be all but indestructible and easily and economically repaired by those trained by wbr.

in the first world, however, we are party to the fruits of technological development that never sleeps, or even stands back and takes a good look at itself now and again. the mountain bike revolution of the early 1980s began with a bunch of hippies hammering down a steep hillside, on machinery definitively not designed for the purpose. if ever the latter note were thought of as questionable, bear in mind they'd to repack the coaster brakes with grease before doing the same again. nowadays, a carbon-fibre downhill mountain bike costs several thousand pounds, features hydraulic suspension front and rear, wide, knobbly tyres and possibly even an electric motor, essentially to achieve the same result.

road bikes, meanwhile, have acquired construction techniques solely achievable in state-of-the-art, far eastern factories, using carbon fibre nano-tubes and exhibiting a stiffness that scarcely commends them to the average member of an amateur peloton. and as the years go by, the number of sprockets attached to the rear wheel seems to increase exponentially for no readily apparent reason. these bikes too, have acquired electrics and electronics for both propulsion and gear-changing. where once the road bike was environmentally friendly (after a fashion), it is now likely to demand a ready supply of lithium and be largely unrecyclable due to being mostly plastic.

i'm sure that the majority of us accept this to be the result of progress, the bicycle industry simply taking advantage of technological advancements that may not have been initially pointed in its direction. but simplicity it most certainly is not, perhaps an objective that has become lost in the monocoque mists of recent time. or maybe the simple life was never on the cards at all. it was the straightforwardness of the road bike that attracted me to the genre in the first place: lugged steel frames, caliper brakes, friction actuated downtube levers and wheels with more than 30 spokes.

do not mistake the foregoing as a further manifestation of my avowed ludditeness, for nothing could be further from the truth. though my current bicycle sports a (tig-welded) steel frame, its gearset comprises twelve sprockets, actuated by a complexity of function within the bar-mounted, carbon-fibre brake levers, while forward motion is enabled via two, 45mm deep, carbon-fibre rimmed wheels. it has just seen me comfortably through 500 festive kilometres and i wouldn't swap it for the world, but i can't think of a single component that is simpler than its ancestors of only thirty years ago.

it would be foolish to deny that, despite an increased complexity of function, the modern bicycle's human interface is as readily accessible as ever it was. but whereas it was once eminently feasible to carry out one's own maintenance, that is rapidly becoming less and less the case. when i first became involved with bicycles, trained mechanics were almost as rare as hen's teeth, but nowadays, pretty much every new bicycle arrives inside a cardboard box, clearly declaring on the lid, that the warranty might well be in question if assembled by other than an authorised mechanic. and, to be quite frank, the majority of us aren't.

during a recent bike ride, i was appraised by my cycling colleague, that an acquaintance of his had submitted a dual-suspension mountain bike for a full-service in the local bike store. on collection, he was presented with a bill of well over £600, eliciting a sharp intake of breath. but nowadays, a cycle mechanic needs to be conversant with electronics, electrics, hydraulics, and pneumatics over and above all the fettling abilities we have come to expect. incessant progress means having to keep abreast of the latest velocipedinal advances, training for which costs money, costs which are then passed onto the customer, who still expects the same standard of fettling as when sprockets numbered five, chainsets were 52/42 and gear levers were on the downtube.

happy new year

wednesday 1 january 2020

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it's not just outside that's free

cyclocross diegem

last week, i was charged with printing out a collection of photos for a hapless individual whose inkjet had, as they all seem to do, run out of ink. unfortunately, the said individual had little grasp of even basic internet technologies and attempted to send all ten images via e-mail. though your own mileage may vary, my e-mail server is not capable of coping with over 40mb of attachments on a single e-mail. though you'd think the wholesale rejection of the initial send might have suggested an alternative method of transmission, but no, it apparently didn't. i subsequently replied, helpfully including a link to, an online service that allows anyone to upload up to 2gb of files, while sending the intended recipient an e-mail with a download link.

and the best bit about wetransfer, is that it is, up to 2gb, completely free.

cyclocross diegem

in this respect, the internet is the weirdest of places: you need only have a scrabble through apple's app store to learn just how many useful iphone/ipad/mac applications can be had free of charge. though i'm all in favour of altruism, i, for one, cannot fathom why folks willingly spend their own time, writing code for the benefit of others, and charging no money whatsoever. and yet, our good fortune continues.

decades past, the only way to discover the results of the tour de france or even the giro d'italia, was to await delivery of cycling weekly. but in the early 1980s, channel four introduced a half-hour daily programme which, admittedly, contained considerably less than 30 minutes of racing coverage, but offered a more immediate solution to enjoying france's grand tour. however, even with the arrival of eurosport on satellite tv, race coverage continued to be centred around europe's principal events. 'lesser' races need not apply.

cyclocross diegem

unless, of course, you were happy to investigate the nooks and crannies of the interweb, where there was almost always postage-stamp sized, live coverage of the most arcane of spring classics, or obscure three-day tours. commentary was undoubtedly only available in flemish, dutch or french, but somehow, that only added to the authenticity (and incomprehension). and, given belgium's obsession with frites and mayo, come the winter months, there was cyclocross. brexit notwithstanding, and despite the uk having been, allegedly, a welcome member of the european union, as time passed, more and more of these sneaky little broadcasts, not only became more expansive and larger format, they also frequently became geo-restricted, meaning unavailable to those intent on watching from a british ip address. sadly, and often inexplicably, that also applied to the official uci youtube channel.

thankfully, finding alternatives (which occasionally included english-commentary eurosport broadcasts) was greatly eased through internet sites such as and, which still list an impressive selection of live feeds for races you've never even heard of.

cyclocross diegem

then along came global cycling network, a youtube channel run as a subsidiary of play sports network, itself 71% owned by the discovery communications who, in a quirk of fate, are also the owners of eurosport. so, while the latter demands a monthly subscription fee to watch sports, including cycling, via its online player, gcn provide all their programming free of charge.

nope, me neither.

now, like many of you, i have come across many gcn curated videos on youtube, as i endlessly search for a method of drumming that fits with my lackadaisical attitude to practicing. i have watched remarkably few of these. titles such as '6 weirdest things cyclists do', 'cycling rules you can definitely break', christmas do's and don'ts (note the incorrect use of an apostrophe in 'do's'), and 'lamest cycling controversies', would appear to be contrived to appeal to folks other than yours truly, though i suppose they mean well in their own way.

cyclocross diegem

however, gcn also feature a racing channel, one that currently offers the very best of european elite cyclocross, including the uci world cup and the super prestige series. and it's all streamed live, utterly free of charge and available to watch again mere minutes after the event has completed. on sunday evening past, i watched floodlit 'cross from diegem, with informed commentary from marty mcdonald and helen wyman. i confess that i switched off two laps from the finish line, lacking the enthusiasm to watch another solo effort from matthieu van der poel. however, while i still reserve judgment on the main channel with its more trite coverage of the intricacies of cycle sport, i'm first in the queue to offer a round of applause for such excellent coverage of top level cyclocross.

compare that with amazon, which spent undisclosed millions for the rights to show 20 uk premier league soccer matches each year for the next three years. football fans who fancy watching any of those matches, will have to subscribe to amazon prime for an annual fee of a mere £79. who says cycling isn't better than football?

global cycling network race channel

tuesday 31 december 2019

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