a convenient settlement

thomas lang

my apologies if i'm about to tell you stuff you already know, but you can perhaps imagine the difficulties of standing atop a virtual soap-box, making pronouncements to an audience of whose proclivities i effectively know nought. and in order that i manage to make the point i'm trying to make, fear i must make use of comparisons that sit well with me, in the vain hope that they might make some sense to those of you on the other side of the fence. and though i can imagine the gasps of 'oh no, not again', there are drums involved once again.

though contained within our smart tv is unfettered access to netflix, i find occasional evening entertainment, when normal television is found wanting (more evenings than i'd prefer) by perusing numerous youtube videos. i'm sure it would bolster my street cred if i could relate that these are of a velocipedinal nature, but in point of fact, many of them are jazz concerts, or the freakishly astonishing technical abilities of the upper echelon of the percussion genre.

a gentleman who sits easily within the latter category, is american-based, austrian drummer, thomas lang. though there are many who can equal his hand dexterity, rumbling across his cymbals and toms with consummate ease, mr lang's claim to fame would have to be that of his double bass drum technique. this man can play patterns with his feet that most of us would struggle (and i really do mean struggle) to accomplish with hands and a pair of sticks.

i have one bass drum pedal actuated by my non-too athletic right foot, a limb that has been trying to emulate a john bonham (led zeppelin) pattern since i was a teenager. sadly, without the success for which i have been searching.

levon helm

the way the music industry is set up these days, very few musicians are to be found in the same location with each other when recording. many a modern drummer is required to have their own, fully-equipped studio, not just for practise, but for recording too. therefore, were i to have reached the professional ranks, it would be incumbent upon me to not only afford the ability to play and read, but to produce studio quality recordings of my work. to take mr lang as the perfect example, musicians will generally send him a file of their guitar or keyboard musings, to which he will add his drumming, before returning a digital file when completed.

as an aside, only yesterday did i note keith carlock, steely dan's touring drummer, posting on twitter to advertise his availability for recording projects. carlock is amongst the world's finest drummers; if he's actively looking for work, you can but imagine the havoc that covid-19 has wreaked upon the life of the studio musician.

however, having watched, on youtube, thomas lang recording a complex drum part for a computer game soundtrack, while apparently reading a score, not only was i humbled by his astonishing abilities, but enthused that i should perhaps indulge in some serious practice of my own. yet only a matter of hours later, i found myself listening to a levon helm (the band) album from 1980, entitled 'american son'. across the first three songs on the album, such was the simplicity of levon helm's drumming, that i doubt he deviated from the simple rhythm more than once or twice. fills were conspicuous by their absence.

and though i would dearly love to be favourably compared with either thomas lang or keith carlock, while having engaged in serious study of both tony williams and elvin jones, in reality, the few gigs i manage to find these days, are a darned sight closer to levon helm than any of the above mentioned drummers. though there is nothing wrong with ambition and the wish to better one's status, there does come a time in life when i think it only right and proper to accept that the phone is very unlikely to be ringing, offering a world tour with john mclaughlin or wynton marsalis.

levon helm - american son

many, many years ago, when rapha sponsored their own rapha condor domestic cycle team, i received a team photo from imperial works into which i photoshopped myself, replete with team kit, purporting in the accompanying article, that i was indeed, a bona-fide member. the spurious feature ended with my commenting that despite several e-mails and unreturned phone messages, manager john herety had yet to send me my training or race programme for the season.

yet, in similar manner to the possibilities available to the earnest and intrepid percussionist, hours and kilometres aboard the bicycle attacked with fervour, could conceivably hone my pedalling abilities close to that of the best of my age group on the domestic scene (always allowing for a soupcon of artistic licence). to be honest, it might be a great deal of fun trying, though i fear the spirit may be more willing than the physical abilities at my command. but, given my age and location, would there be any real point in so doing? considering the prevaling winds that strafe the principality, there's a minimum level of physical endurance required simply to move forward in the face of galeforce winds. and i wouldn't be surprised that such endurance might be a tad more than required in more sheltered regions.

however, we hold no races or time-trials this side of the ferry terminal at kennacraig, and the likelihood of that changing is slim to none at all. without a car and endless finance, the chances of my travelling regularly to the mainland to satisfy any latent competitive instinct will doubtless fare every bit the same. in short, the only impetus to ride more quickly would come either from my peers, or myself.

so, rather than potentially attempting to emulate either peter sagan or egan bernal (as if), i am content to set my sights considerably lower, no doubt a realisation that has impressed itself upon many of you reading this. aside from being a fine singer, levon helm provided a level of drumming that is much admired throughout the percussive community. there would be no shame, or accusations of indolence, if i admitted that i was now endeavouring to emulate his economy of style, with the emphasis placed on the latter. and, if truth be told, that would probably be a far more sensible notion, than continuing to believe i am the hebridean bill bruford or vinnie colaiuta.

so, no matter the number of articles to appear in the cycling press offering strict nutritional advice, proclaiming the annual mileage at which i should be aiming, or offering to educate me as to the perfect way to climb mont ventoux or alpe d'huez, actually enjoying my bike riding these days is a great deal less onerous. provided i can reach home on sunday lunchtime before mrs washingmachinepost has need of calling out the coastguard, all is well with the world.

monday 6 july 2020

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staying true to the dark-side

record twelve-speed cassette

my brother and i both worked in the same newsagents when we were teenagers, delivering newspapers around different parts of the same town. he looks nothing like me; i've often said to folks that they'd be bound to recognise him on that very basis. and alongside this factor, he's about as slow as a week in the jail. ideally, we'd have both eaten breakfast at the same time each morning, and left for our respective paper-rounds at the same time, as you'd expect brothers to do. in point of fact, his tardiness usually meant that i was leaving the newsagent's as he was arriving.

you'd also have been able to differentiate between the two of us by way of our bicycles. while i was pragmatically aboard the oft-mentioned raleigh twenty, with its large tartan box sat upon the rear rack, he rode a red and green, ten-speed racer. though i may have had an easier time of delivering newspapers due to the practicality of having a three-speed sturmey archer and a kickstand, like most teenagers of the time, i'd have given that away in a heartbeat for a ten-speed racer of my own.

mr benzie, at the bicycle shop just past the library in kyle street, was a curmudgeonly aberdonian, who went to great lengths to put me off getting a ten-speed all of my own. according to his gruff response to my endless questions, derailleur gears were nothing if not unreliable, highly prone to mis-shifting or irretrievably breaking down altogether. and in any case, if all i was doing was delivering newspapers and riding to school, what on earth did i need ten gears for anyway? in retrospect, it seems odd that a bike shop owner would put such great effort into dissuading anyone not to buy a new bicycle, even if his basic argument was more than sound.

perhaps the oddity of the time, was the very fact that i wanted a ten-speed racer in the first place? i knew nothing of bike racing, had never heard of either the tour de france or eddy merckx, and true to mr benzie's perspicacity, all i did was deliver newspapers and ride about three miles to school, five days a week. i have no recollection whether my brother's steel racing bike was particularly special; i'd be inclined to think that the frame was simply plain gauge steel, running on steel-rimmed wheels, and using derailleurs that resembled bits of bent tin. after so many years, all i can recall is that it was red and green, had ten gears and drop handlebars.

and it's the last time i can recall having bike-envy.

however, the phrase 'everything comes to he who waits', has, in my case at least, a ring of truth about it. in the 1980s i did own a couple of what i would now recognise as bicycle shaped objects, but at the time bore the verisimilitude of ten-speed racers. and in reality, both did indeed, sport five rear sprockets and twin chainrings. while one succeeded the other, the final replacement, and the bicycle that i brought with me to the hebrides, was a muddy fox courier, with a total of eighteen gears, realised by way of a six-speed freewheel and three chainrings up front. as a commuting bicycle, it was unparalleled, subsequently doubling as a highly practical touring bike too.

those days are now far behind me. i own several racing bikes at present, none of which sink as low as a mere ten gears. in fact, the bicycle with the least number of derailleur gears, offers a theoretical total of twenty, while the current velocipede du jour, my steel ritchey logic, bears a state-of-the-art twelve-speed cassette, matched to a carbon chainset with the right and proper, twin chainrings. but, despite this exponential increase in gear capacity, offering a level of flexibility every bit the equal of those available to the professional classes, something has never changed.

since the end of last year, i have lubricated my twelve-speed campagnolo chain with the not inexpensive, yet highly effective revolube, a synthetic liquid that adheres to the chain with limpet-like tendencies. a perceived benefit of its lubricating properties is a level of cleanliness not often seen with such a product. despite having only removed the cassette for cleaning on one occasion since last november, the sprockets are not as mucky as you'd expect, following an hebridean winter.

that fact alone, visually demonstrates that, despite having progressed from a mere five rear sprockets, formerly constituted as a freewheel and now in a more practical cassette format, i probably don't need that many gears. i'd even go so far as to say that i do not have the necessary fitness to effectively use so many sprockets. and, if i might position myself as mr average, no different to my fellow velo club members, or most of you reading these black and yellow pixels. if you take a look at the image atop this article, you will note that the larger sprockets are dark from frequent use, while the smaller ones are still remarkably clean and unfettered with minimal contact from the chain.

so, while i, and many like me, effect a level of street credibility based on our gear count, there's every likelihood we'd fare every bit as well on ten-speed racers. i'm not decrying the technology that has taken gear changing as close as it gets to thought control, but the number of shiny sprockets on my record groupset don't lie.

of course, it's probably better to have and not need, than the converse argument. and that's probably all the justification you or i need.

sunday 5 july 2020

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a few words with the seat post's amy righton

the seatpost

the contemporary bicycle we all know and love, is, in essence, an amalgamation of trinketry, festooned about a central, double-diamond frame, each component playing its part in getting the rider from a to b as quickly (or slowly) and comfortably as possible. the only exception to the latter point would likely be the professionals; in the words of quickstep manager, patrick lefevre, "i don't pay my riders to be comfortable."

whether you choose to ride shimano, sram or campagnolo, your body shape, body weight and the length of your hair has no bearing whatsoever on the adjustment (or lack of) applied to the rear derailleur. and whether there are ten, eleven or twelve sprockets affixed to the rear wheel is nobody's business but your own. in fact, should you have a complete change of heart or contract, mid-season, a wholesale change of componentry brand is highly unlikely to engender any physical difference to the act of riding your bicycle.

the seatpost

but, the one component that can effectively make or break a bike ride, is the saddle. though i'd be loathe to even attempt to survey the differing shapes and sizes of the velocipedinal posterior, at a rough guess, i'd figure us all to be somewhat different in that region, and thus deserving of a saddle that fits our requirements. several bibshort purveyors such as scotland's endura, offer varying sizes of chamois pad to suit differing widths of sit-bones, while many saddle manufacturers offer each style in a more than a single width.

brooks, for instance, feature at least four widths across their cambium range.

but, even a quick poll of nearby cyclists will likely reveal few who found 'their' saddle at the first attempt. and with so many saddles on the market, how the heck is anyone supposed to discover the ideal seat without spending more money than the cost of the bike in the first place? the selle italia website, for instance, splits their range into six categories: road, offroad, gravel, triathlon, commuting and urban (even if some of those appear to have distinct crossovers). there are 45 variations alone, under the road heading, the dearest of which is priced at €440, and the cheapest €80. and that's only a single manufacturer.

the seatpost

amy righton is all too familiar with your pain (in both senses of that word) when it comes to saddle choice. during the recent period of lockdown, she took the unusual step of setting up 'the seat post' to allow you and me to try before we buy. for a flat fee of £15, amy offers a 30-day trial of any saddle she has available. if it transpires that it's not the right one, send it back and try another one. what's not to like? so i asked amy, what enticed her to set up the seat post?

"Having spent almost two years being investigated for blood in my urine, my doctor and I worked out it was due to damage from my saddle. The saddle I had was one that 'came with the bike' and was actually male specific. A very good friend is a female health specialist, so together, we explored the saddle options.
"I had been into bike shops before and not been able to ask the male bike shop assistant about female seats, specific to my female anatomy."

the seatpost

anyone who has found the saddle that 'came with the bike' less than palatable, will well know that trying to find an alternative can be a thankless and lengthy task. how on earth, as a new cyclist, do you know what to look for; wide, narrow, padded, with a slot in the middle, without a slot. in fact, if the former, what width should that slot be? has amy personally found it hard to locate the perfect saddle?

"Yes. Lots of trial and error and I don't think people should have to stockpile saddles to find the perfect one. And that 'perfect one' might change as you change as well. I found that, between children, my saddle was very uncomfortable, but it has changed again as I have moved from a road bike to a triathlon bike."

so, we're all agreed that finding the right saddle is the holy grail. shouldn't that simply involve a trip to the local bike shop to see what's on offer? well, in theory, that's the way it should work, but no shop of which i know, stocks even the full range from one manufacturer, let alone every saddle from every manufacturer. i'm sure they'd all love to cater to our every need, but there's the not inconsequential matter of the cost of doing so. given the service that the seat post has on offer, surely this must have required a substantial financial outlay to have available a wide range of saddles for trial?

the seatpost

"I approached the saddle makers that have put so much design and thought into each saddle. Jcob saddles are incredible in terms of innovation, and the team there have been amazing. I still plan on growing the collection, as there needs to be something for everyone. All of the saddles have also been tried by myself and the local cycling club." and have all those that you have approached been amenable to your efforts? "Well, one large brand didn't want to work with me, saying that, what I was offering would 'confuse' the market." perhaps a myopic attitude that might come back to bite them.

but, harking back to the 45 models of saddle on offer from a single manufacturer, arguably applicable to a single cycling discipline, you'd think that the many years of research and development, allied to the trends and styles of the day, would have resulted in the perfect saddle. modern frame design has moved towards a smidgeon of ubiquity, due to each manufacturer using similar design software, and all asking basically the same questions. you might think that state of affairs might also have infiltrated the art of saddle design. but, with such a colossal availability of different saddles from so many different manufacturers, why does amy think it's so hard to find the one that's 'just right'?

the seatpost

"You're right, there are so many saddles and I think it is this that makes it hard to find the one. Everyone has their own idea of what will or won't work for them. I have seen people trying 'trendy' saddles, which is fine if that works. However, I don't ever think you should have to spend £200 on a saddle to then cable-tie it together, and I am not afraid to say that.
"We are purportedly a sport of marginal gains. One lady I spoke with, said she chose the lightest saddle she could find for race day, but all her other rides were on a huge, padded saddle, as she gets terrible sores. That would be fine, but now she has such bad scar tissue, that she's now struggling even with the padded saddle, to the point of maybe stopping riding altogether."

yet, while the bulk of the sporting milieu seems overly concerned with the male of the species, many of whom are possibly too macho to admit that their saddle's 'killing them', the seat post is currently specifically aimed at female bicyclists. does amy harbour any intention of expanding the business to include male riders too?

"I did initially aim at females, because that's what I know best, however, a good number of my sales have been to male riders. I think the fact that I contacted a male cycle group and said 'Hey guys, it's not ok to have tingly balls'. I followed that up with an article showing there's a significant relationship between cycling-induced perineal compression, leading to vascular, endothelial, and neurogenic dysfunction in men and subsequent development of erectile dysfunction (Journal of Sex Medicine, July, 2010)
the seatpost "I'm not too prudish to have those important conversations. I have a good few male blog articles to follow, as well as doing a good bit of promo stuff with British cycling. I also have professional Ironman competitor, Josh Holman (Winner of Dubai 70.3 Ironman 2020), who is guiding me on the male side of the business."

the very fact that amy has invested so much time, money and effort in setting up 'the seat post', would surely give her and us cause for optimism. the implication is that, somewhere out there, the perfect saddle is waiting for each and every one of us. but does amy really believe that it's possible to find the perfect saddle? "Yes! Definitely. It just might take a trial or two. I tried a Prologo saddle, loved it and thought 'well this is my new saddle'. I then undertook a 100 mile ride on the DeltaM Cobb saddle, and I could have gone around again!"

the seat post

saturday 4 july 2020

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draughting season


the covid pandemic and its subsequent period of lockdown, has all but obscured the seasons from view. or at least, they've messed with observation of those seasons, while each groundhog day brings one very much like the last, and every likelihood of the next one being the same. my daily employ, at present, is in an office currently closed to the public, which it has been for the last fourteen weeks. currently most of the staff are furloughed, with only two of us sitting at desks from morning till late afternoon, reiterating the same conversations as if from a pre-determined rota. with nothing by way of outside interaction, we both have difficulty remembering which day it is (though that might also be a result of the ageing process).

because of this and because i spend most of my working hours sat in a computer chair, staring at an imac screen, i make sure that, after breakfast each morning, i take a walk of near 1.5 kilometres, come rain or shine. along the length of this walk, at a respectful distance, is the village sewage works, from which, thankfully, there has never been even a hint of an unsavoury aroma. until earlier this week.

at least, the pungent odour affecting my nostrils as i passed the facility appeared to be emanating from the sewage plant, if only on the basis of unconsidered association. considering it has remained odourless for the last ten or twelve years, i was somewhat relieved to realise that the 'fresh country air' was, in fact, the result of the field in front having been in receipt of a dose of 'muck spreading'. the majority of the fields bordering the road sport substantial growth of barley, ultimately intended for bruichladdich distillery's 2021 production. it is currently in the throes of turning from green to a more golden hue.

however, the field now scribbled with brown, had previously seen a luxurious growth of grass, which had now been shorn to minimal stubble, having been cut for silage. for those not of a rural disposition, silage eventually consists of grass stored in all but airtight, black silage bags providing winter feed for sheep and cattle. the usual process consists of a combine shovelling the cut grass into a large trailer, driven in parallel the length and breadth of the field, before being taken to the farm for storage. in larger areas of grass over several fields, the tractors work in tandem; one in the field, while the other transports the cut grass.

this is what is often referred to as draughting season.

though it can be utilised by both strava and none strava adherents alike, the opportunity to do so should always appear accidental. were the peloton to hide near the farm gate, awaiting the tractor and trailer to exit, it would undermine any potential street credibility and no doubt elicit a severe talking to from the tractor driver. thus, one ought to appear as if coming upon the emerging trailer purely by chance, hunkering down behind and preparing to eat straw as you accelerate behind. such is the height of these trailers, that they punch a large hole through the air, very much to the advantage of a following cyclist, realising hitherto unattainable speeds, and strava bragging rights, if you're into that sort of thing.

one of the benefits of residing in a rural and agricultural region is that, assuming the weather over the summer months to be found favourable, this procedure is carried out at least twice, and not necessarily by all farms at the same time. it's the farming equivalent of motor-pacing, but always assuming that the driver doesn't notice you draughting behind, and that you take note of the fact that the brake lights on the trailers rarely seem to be connected.

missing the latter point could lead to a healthy faceful of delicious grass.

friday 3 july 2020

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money makes the wheels go round

hot tubes - rapha foundation - megan mcmahon

those of us in the velo club, despite its long, inconsequential existence, have made no secret of the fact that we're quite happy the way things are. the hypothetical rule-book still states: rule 1 - there are no rules; rule 2 - see rule 1. we have made many a merry jest that the now derelict phone box at carnduncan is our preferred venue for not only the meetings we never hold, but for the annual dinner-dance that never takes place. you could call us rustic or even quirky; i think we'd answer to either.

the saving grace of such a lackadaisical approach to velocipedinal life, is the concomitant lack of a need for funding. many years ago there was an islay and jura sports association of sorts brought into existence, an organisation that proffered untold funding for organisations similar to our own. thinking that we might (just might) wish to hold the occasional time-trial down uiskentuie strand, we decided to apply for money to purchase a quality stopwatch that a designated future timekeeper might use to verify the club champion (in retrospect, a calendar might have been more appropriate).

however, it transpired that, not only had we asked for too little cash to justify the paperwork, but in order to be considered for funding, we would have had to become a properly constituted body, with office-bearers and a charitable constitution. since all we really wanted to do was to ride our bikes each and every sunday morning, with the occasional extra-curricular excursion thrown in for good measure, electing a president seemed like too onerous a task, so we declined and lived happily ever after without a stopwatch.

i've no doubt there are many pelotons similar to ours, but also recognise that there are others with greater goals in mind, some of which will cost a substantial amount of money to achieve, money that is quite probably in short supply. let's be honest, though cycling is the be-all-and-end-all for most of us, in the grand scheme of things, we are a very small particle in the sporting milieu. and that's even supposing that the money required is intended for sporting purposes in the first place. many are the cycling organisations throughout the world for whom riding quickly is very far down the order of business.

thus, it is often incumbent on the cycling world to look after its own, through loans, grants and free facilities that might encourage old and young alike, to adopt the bicycle as their means of transport, means of fitness and yes, means of competition. it is for this latter purpose that the rapha foundation was created, dispensing monies to deserving cycle organisations across the uk and usa. the last round favoured the home-grown talent, while the most recent round of dispensations was squarely aimed across the pond.

this month, a total of five north-american-based cycling organisations will benefit from the third round of rapha foundation funding, amounting to $750,000. the aim is to encourage, support and inspire underrepresented young people to engage and thrive in the sport of cycling. july's recipients are the cascade bicycle club, cycle kids, inc., the detroit fitness foundation and the idiosyncratically named, hot tubes development cycling team, inc., who join the national interscholastic cycling association, in sharing the latest round of 2020 grants. these are awarded to support community programmes in the hope of producing the next generation of high-promise athletes.

the rapha foundation has donated over $1 million so far, and the next round of funding applications are now open to uk cycling charities. rapha's founder are chief executive officer, simon mottram told me, "It's amazing to think we are already a year into the Foundation's work, and we have already distributed over $1million. We are starting to receive reports back from the grantees, showing how the money has been used to support the next generation of riders. It's great to see the direct action rapha is now taking to improve the health of the sport at grass roots level."

elizabeth stevenson, an elite rider with recipients, detroit fitness foundation said, "Detroit Fitness Foundation and The Lexus Velodrome have had a monumental impact on not only me, but many others, ever since it opened to the public in January 2018. It serves as a great place to train or even to sit back and watch a bike race. The atmosphere is welcoming and the racing is spectacular.
"Detroit Fitness Foundation welcomes new people who never even knew track cycling existed, all the way up to experienced, elite riders with multiple-time National and World Championship wins. It is a unique place involving the whole community and all levels of racers. Many experienced riders are invited to come and race from all around the country. They put on a show, while also helping less experienced riders with their tactics and speed during the races.
"This sense of cycling community has helped me as a racer. I feel confident all year round that I have a place and opportunity to ride my bike. Track cycling is my passion."

so, if we assume that your cycling charity bears no relation to the velo club and might potentially benefit from the foundation's largesse, now would be the time to apply and achieve a great deal more than a mythical clubhouse that resembles a red phone box with a missing front door.

header image: meg mcmahon

the rapha foundation

thursday 2 july 2020

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the beginning of print

flatbed litho printing press

it's hard for me to realise that my sole visit to north america's handbuilt bicycle show (nahbs) was some eight years ago, in california's capital city, sacramento. this was well into the mid-point of the resurgence of the individual bike builder, working midst gas bottles, jigs and files in what its portland, oregon incumbents always referred to as 'spaces'. having been guided around several of the more prominent practitioners a few years earlier, by the inimitable chris distefano, the phrase "great space, man" was one oft repeated (not by me, i hasten to add).

much to my shame, i've not really followed the fortunes of nahbs in the intervening years, but for what are perhaps obvious enough reasons, the majority of frame builders of the time had invested in either lugged or tig-welded steel. this was presumably due to the ready availability of suitable steel tubing at prices unlikely to bankrupt them prior to gaining their first customer orders. despite the progression from steel, to aluminium, to titanium and then away from metal to carbon fibre, the ferrous material has survived well, to the extent that several major manufacturers, such as gios and battaglin, actively promote steel as a viable contemporary material. and the great richard sachs still produces state-of-the-art, lugged steel frames on a regular basis.

i think it's worth reiterating that a personal career as a frame-builder was never ever on the cards. i cannot deny how inspiring it is to watch craftsmen at work, transforming a pile of bare metal tubes into a strong, yet pliable structure, that will likely outlive its builder. but as ronnie corbett used to say on 'the frost report', "i know my place. even now, eight years down the line, i can still visualise myself in my own 'space', stepping back to admire my handiwork, putting the gas flame through the hose, and blowing self and bicycle to the great parcours in the sky.

i believe i may be correct in saying that the only prominent bicycle manufacturer to emulate the tubes and lugs of a steel frame, but in carbon, is ernesto colnago. the iconic colnago c40 was effectively the carbon fibre equivalent of his steel master frameset, but in a material so new to the velocipedinal world, that the thought of building with burnt plastic in any other way, had yet to be commercially explored. colnago currently have the majority of their frames produced in the far east, but the carbon-lugged c64 continues to be produced in smaller numbers from a workshop beneath ernesto's house in cambiago.

i read recently, an article that propounded that modern-day technology had advanced relatively little since the second industrial revolution in the mind 1950s. we do indeed have computers and even phones nowadays, that would put to shame the electronics included in the early space missions, but since the advent of the iphone in 2007, mobile phones have scarcely altered one whit. they may have increased in both size and speed, and now offer cameras that rival the slr and professional level video cameras, but intrinsically, despite 13 years of brief history, there's not a lot to show other than some colours that would previously been afraid to associate themselves with phones.

the bicycle may be a prime example of my contention. the double-diamond structure has scarcely varied since its inception. yes, we have sloping top tubes, yes, the seatstays may join lower down the seat-tube, but given that monocoque frames essentially no longer employ 'tubes' in their true sense, doesn't it seem odd that contemporary manufacture seeks to emulate its ancestors, rather than explore alternatives that would better exploit the properties of this space-age material? but, though it's a big but (if you'll pardon the phrase), that might be about to change.

several those little doohickies that we clamp to our handlebars to grasp the garmins or wahoos, have long been produced by means of three-d printing. if you have the money, there are saddles manufactured by similar means, and it now seems likely that, in the not too distant future, three-d printing will provide your bicycle. perhaps in true jetson's style, we'll soon be able to flick through an online catalogue, choose the bike and colour we fancy, click 'submit', and have it delivered to the front door in a couple of days.

co-founder of windymilla bicycles, henry furniss is at the forefront of a new 3d printing technology that produces custom lugs to permit the manufacture of made-to-measure carbon frames. he and his team of engineering friends are currently messing about with variations on a theme, in the hope that they'll have a prototype up and running later this summer. and i'd be willing to bet that, if mr furniss is printing lugs, someone, somewhere is thinking along the lines of an entire frame.

just be assured that it's not me.

wednesday 1 july 2020

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free balloon

along with many others, i owe my allegiance to apple computers. not that they have any untoward hold over me; nobody in the ipod department knows where the negatives are hidden, for instance, i just prefer using apple computers to the unfortunate rigmarole involved in negotiating the nightmare that is microsoft windows. there will be many who think the contrary, and that's ok; as a colleague of mine is in the habit of saying "it's just as well we're all different."

due to my distaste with what i like to refer to as 'the dark-side' i am blissfully unaware of the software packages that arrive free of charge on a new windows computer, but i do know of those that frequently arrive with a new macintosh, including pages, numbers, keynote and garageband, a music creation application that is far more powerful and easy to use than any free piece of software deserves to be.

but most recently, in apple's battle to invade the market currently dominated by 'netflix', the company has been providing purchasers of new macs, ipods and ipads with one year's free subscription to apple tv. mrs washingmachine post has a new enough ipad that allows her this viewing luxury, should she wish to take advantage of apple's largesse. however, such is her adherence to the 'netflix' domain, i'm fairly sure that the ios app remains dormant.

offering freebies to encourage purchase of certain goods is hardly the most innovative of marketing strategies. though i no longer subscribe to any computer magazines, others may recall the cover mount compact discs that would usually tear a strip off the glossy cover when removed. one of the companies from which we purchase office stationery, if prodded at time of ordering, will add a free gift to the order; invariably this consists of a tin of shortbread, biscuits or even, on one occasion, a digital camera that failed to work. the oddity behind this particular state of affairs is that these free gifts have no bearing whatsoever on the financial worth of our orders. to claim otherwise would be to undermine the definition of the word 'incentive'.

however, leaving aside the world of free gifts, the majority of the world revolves around the concept of 'market forces', equally well translated as 'survival of the fittest'. if i might use the bicycle industry as an example, the major purveyors of bicycles lay out their wares via the medium of team sponsorship, magazine adverts and possibly bike store windows. implicit or explicit in all of the above will usually be the concept of price, perhaps the ultimate incentive or dis-incentive. for surely 'tis a simple process of identifying the price point at which negotiations should commence, then choosing which model appears to offer the biggest bang for buck?

naturally enough this process is scarcely exclusive to the bicycle industry. it's also how we choose breakfast cereal, shampoo and probably, fizzy water. however, incentives might also be applied by way of an external authority for all manner of spurious reasons. it is but a matter of days since i pointed out that the uk government currently offers a £3,000 discount on new electric motor cars, ostensibly to kick-start an industry that one feels is perfectly able to stand on its own two feet. though the rationale behind ownership of an electric vehicle is based predominantly on presumed ecological sympathies, in point of fact, the vehicles are manufactured due to proposed government emission restrictions and a desire to capture a sizeable portion of an emerging market.

one would imagine that sales ought to depend upon pricing and industrial strength marketing, rather than taxpayers' money being dispensed to the fortunate few.

lockdown has apparently fostered an increased number to adopt the bicycle as their principal mode of transport in these troubled times, either by way of purchase, or the hoped-for resurrection of the bicycle shaped object that has lain in the shed these past three years. repairs have allegedly increased in value by 26% between january and march of this year, but the same source reports that bicycle sales, despite the much vaunted shortages on the shop floors, had declined in value by 4%. april was considerably more cheering, with sales increasing in value by 99%.

however, it appears that, endless discussion and development surrounding the ubiquitous e-bike notwithstanding, this sector of the market has been somewhat depressing. between 2018 and 2019, sales increased 50% year on year, yet lowered to 27% in the first three months of 2020, before rallying, comparatively, to 55% in april.

bicycle association executive director, steve gardis said, "E-bikes have the potential to make even longer or more hilly cycling commutes practical and enjoyable, which is why it's disappointing that take-up under lockdown hasn't accelerated as it has for (non-e) bikes. That's why the Bicycle Association believes the data for April reinforces the case for the government to really push e-bikes as a transport solution with a purchase incentive scheme."

happy though i would be to accept any 'free' money from government, i really have to ask why? there is a wide range of e-bikes on the market at varying price points, all available for interested parties to purchase to suit their needs and budget. either these are commercially viable, or they're not. unlike petrol and diesel cars, the non-electric alternative emits no pollution whatsoever, and riding without motor assistance is likely only to increase fitness amongst the population. if i were in government (and you should thank your lucky stars that i am not for any number of reasons), i would think thrice before signing off on a treasury incentive to purchase an e-bike. if you want one, and can afford it - fill your boots.

otherwise, rule #5.

tuesday 30 june 2020

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