do it yourself

deluxe cycle repair workstation

it was several years ago, while en-route to debbie's in bruichladdich, in pouring rain and galeforce wind, that i noticed a cyclist stopped at the side of the strand with the bicycle lying upside down on the grass. as i drew closer and pulled to a halt to see if i could assist, i realised that he was attempting to find the hole in his inner tube, with aspirations to patch it and carry on his less than merry way. always willing to be the good samaritan, i removed the spare inner tube i always carry in a seatpack and offered it to get him going again. right diameter but narrower width, i figured it would work at least until he found somewhere to purchase a replacement.

for once, resisting the temptation to be a smart-ass, i simply helped him fit the tube and left him to his own devices (he was headed in the opposite direction), riding on for my now well-deserved coffee.

deluxe cycle repair workstation

had i had a camera with me, it would have been very much a case of 'what's wrong with this picture?" for starters, who in their right mind heads out on a cycle tour of any duration, without so much as one spare inner tube, never mind a few more? and it scarcely takes a qualified cycle mechanic to realise that the chances of finding a puncture hole in an inner-tube in the middle of a galeforce fuelled rainstorm, are slim to non-existent. and even if luck had been on his side, and the puncture had been pin-pointed (pardon the pun), it would take a great deal of fortitude to have a patch stick on a very wet inner tube, inserted into a similarly deluged tyre.

the practical solution is to do as i did, and fit a replacement tube. there would be plenty of time to fix the puncture on arrival at the next accommodation stop.

cycle touring in any location always holds the risk of a mechanical malfeasance. if luck is on your side, it will be something as simple as a puncture and you'll be carrying a spare. either that, or the sudden loss of pressure will occur right outside a bicycle shop. but there are all manner of other iniquities that can befall a bicycle nowadays, particularly as they become ever more complex and festooned with different sized bolts and nuts, to say little of a mixture of philips head screws, allen and torx bolts.

deluxe cycle repair workstation

in 1998, i cycled from bowmore to campbeltown (with a little bit of aid from calmac), sailed to ballycastle on ireland's north coast, then rode to dublin over two days. my colleague at the time, featured tubulars on his road bike, two of which punctured between going and returning. fortunately he had a couple of spare tubs with him, but after the second tub had gone pop, his level of concern rose exponentially. i, on the other hand carried more than just a few spare inners, plus allen keys, torx keys, cassette remover, spoke key, spare spokes and a few other items that virtually turned one pannier into a mobile workshop.

deluxe cycle repair workstation

surprisingly or otherwise, i did make use of a couple of spokes, the cassette remover and the spoke key. i also used two inner tubes. fortunately, our first night stop was at a bed & breakfast with a well-equipped garage, where i was able to use a bench vice to remove a cassette and subsequently replace a couple of broken spokes. but i pride myself on a decent level of mechanical expertise; i have the ability to make use of the tools i own, and, in this case, those that i carried.

one has to have concern for the mechanical abilities of riders who fail to carry even a spare inner-tube.

however, argyll & bute council has sourced some funding with which they propose to site several bicycle repair workstations throughout the region, particularly on recognised cycle tourist routes, one of which is islay. according to the council "The stations will provide basic repair tools, which members of the public can use when needed. These stations are widely found in public spaces elsewhere in Scotland, including university and college campuses, at tourist destinations and on popular cycle routes. The cycle repair stations will help promote cycle tourism and the use of bicycles more generally for leisure and commuter users."

deluxe cycle repair workstation

as a local cyclist apparently worthy of mention, my opinion has been sought as to where one, or possibly two of these repair stations might best be placed, and i am currently in discussion with the interested parties. according to the manufacturer, these repair stations feature phillips and standard screwdrivers, steel core tyre levers, headset/pedal wrench, 8/10mm cone wrench, 9/11mm cone wrench, torx T-25 and a hex key set, all of which are securely attached to retractable braided, stainless steel cables to prevent them being removed. the unit also sports two extending arms on which the saddle might be placed to hold the bicycle up while necessary repairs are carried out. there appears to be an option to pair with an indoor our outdoor pump, an option i certainly intend to recommend.

however, what the repair station will not cater for is use by the ham-fisted. it's all very well offering a selection of cone spanners, but only if the rider has the faintest idea where the cones are situated on their bicycle, and subsequently how to adjust them. the inclusion of a pedal wrench makes some level of sense, but i do wonder just how many bicycles nowadays require headset spanners. and if they do, which size: one inch or 1.125"? i am all in favour of this initiative and don't doubt that its services will be made regular use of, but i wonder if it might be prudent to include a basic repair manual to help make best use of the tools?

which serves as a timely reminder that, should you be making use of relaxed lockdown restrictions to go cycle touring this summer, please learn mechanical basics relevant to your bicycle, and carry a couple of spare inner-tubes.

monday 27 july 2020

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same as it ever was

london pollution

as part of the day job, i have been canvassing local accommodation providers as to the level of bookings and occupancy they have experienced since scotland's tourism industry resumed on 15 july. very much in one of those 'all our eggs in one basket' situations, islay and many of the west coast islands, are heavily dependent on the tourist dollar, so those whose businesses are centred around that premise had great need of the industry's resumption; the sooner the better.

however, not all have immediately rushed to open their doors, leading to almost a phased return of visitors. that might not be your immediate conclusion, however, after looking at at calmac's carrying figures. passenger numbers almost doubled between tuesday 14 july and re-opening day on 15 july, then pretty much doubled again by the weekend. all this despite restricted numbers on each of the two ferries, due to social-distancing.

but a number of premises have postponed the start of business until next weekend, by which time, i doubt we'll remember we ever experienced lockdown. not unnaturally, on an island that has remained covid free throughout, many residents are highly apprehensive of this impending influx, particularly when many visitors are arriving from south of the border, where the restrictions have been notably different from those of scotland. but to be honest, the main reticence to once again becoming a tourist destination, is the apparent disdain many appear to show towards residents and the island itself.

both the islands of colonsay and tiree restrict travel by caravans and motorhomes to those with confirmed campsite bookings. islay does not have that luxury, but argyll and bute council strongly advised against either modes of travel, unless already booked at one of the island's campsites. unfortunately, advising is a lot less restrictive than legal regulation; on saturday morning's bike ride, i observed at least two motorhomes and a caravan parked on open ground, nowhere near any form of campsite. the caravan has been in situ for a week.

it seems a tad inconsiderate to bring one of those behemoths across to islay and park it anywhere you darned well like, simply because that's what you want to do. and nobody, not even argyll and bute council is going to stop you exerting your freedom to roam and park where you choose.

that aside, one of the best things, for the local peloton, to come out of lockdown, was the almost total absence of traffic. on saturdays and sundays it was almost possible to cycle a full 65km without coming across any vehicles whatsoever, echoing early morning on christmas or new year's day. twitter and the national press, not to mention the cycling press, were fulsome in their praise of the numbers being attracted to cycling during lockdown, preferring the safety of individual transport, rather than attempt to use the public alternative.

cities across the world publicised the dramatic drop in pollution levels, presaging a new hope by implementing plans for pop-up cycle lanes at the expense of car traffic, promising themselves that this would herald the dawn of a new future, where walking and cycling would feature heavily in their plans for the future. meanwhile, bike stores, allowed to remain open as 'essential retail', bought as much stock as their premises would hold, and asked the masses to form an orderly queue for the services of their workshops and mechanics. but, not only did it seem too good to be true, it was too good to be true.

though restrictions as a result of the pandemic led to a substantial drop in road traffic, reducing pollution levels by up to 60% in parts of the uk, many (self-included) feared an inevitable rise once lockdown was relaxed. by the middle of last month, congestion levels in paris had risen to 60%, while stockholm experienced numbers noticeably higher than their usual, pre-lockdown, 80% peak. leeds, manchester, oxford, sheffield, cambridge, and london all reported double-digit growth in traffic generated, nitrogen dioxide levels, despite the government having announced significant investment in active travel initiatives.

no doubt city councils were earnest in their stated aims of preventing pollution and traffic levels to return to their pre-lockdown levels. many were the reports pointing out the considerable health benefits actually experienced by those most at risk from normal levels of pollution, while statistics demonstrated how many lives could be saved and the immense potential of financial benefits to the national health service. unfortunately, people always get in the way of any hoped for or theoretical benefits. advice to avoid public transport has seemingly not resulted in the continuation of the cycling and walking increase seen during lockdown, and now that some level of normality has returned, the masses have returned to their cars.

i like to think of myself as an optimist, but i am reminded of the definiton of a pessimist as 'an optimist who knows.'

sunday 26 july 2020

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the centre of the universe

rapha docklands cycle club

i live in a small hebridean village, the population of which is marginally greater than 1,000. more than two thirds of islay's 3,200 population is concentrated in the island's principal two villages, with the remaining numbers scattered throughout the smaller villages and more remotely situated houses. islay is but one of 23 inhabited islands within argyll and bute region, the total population of which is 86,260. nationwide, scotland's population is a smidgeon under 5.5 million, all of whom live within the 80,000 square kilometres north of the border.

rapha docklands cycle club

greater london occupies around 1,500 square kilometres and plays host to almost nine million individuals. even by my rudimentary arithmetic, you could fit over 53 londons into scotland. so when those of us who live out in the sticks complain that everything seems to be distinctly london-centric, i'd imagine the above statistics offer a pretty darned good reason as to why that is. it's not so very long ago that i asked rapha's simon mottram, why london featured two cycle clubs, with a third in manchester, while scotland had none whatsoever? was this blatant discrimination against the scots?

rapha docklands cycle club

but realistically, the only two possible locations for a rapha cycle club north of the border, would be either edinburgh (population circa 500,000) or glasgow (population, circa 600,000). their combined populations add up to a tad over 1 million, tautologically meaning the country's remaining five million plus, are rather widely spread, far away from a hypothetical rapha club sited in either of scotland's two major cities. in short, from mr mottram's point of view at least, the numbers just don't add up.

i offer all this as solace to any scots cyclists intent on bemoaning the fact that imperial works has just announced the appearance of a third rapha clubhouse, albeit temporarily, situated in london's canary wharf. this latest addition to the capital city's sportwool parcours will open on monday 27 july and remain open until 27 september. rapha promises "...a packed agenda of rides and events to help you explore the docks, quays and waterways of London's East End." i can but admit that the wide open spaces of an hebridean island are very much more to my liking than pretty much anything london has to offer, but then i make that statement from a lofty and privileged position. those living in one 53rd the size of scotland midst more than 1.5 times its population, will surely welcome this option with open handlebars.

rapha docklands cycle club

aside from the proven benefits of a rapha clubhouse (espresso and breakfast of poached egg and avocado on sourdough toast to die for) "...with the help of our official ride leaders, our itinerary of self-guided rides will have you cycling around the city in ways you'd never expect, revealing lesser-known areas of the capital."

but the propounded benefits of cycling in london bring with them their own self-generated problem; all those bicycles have to go somewhere while their riders get on with work, leisure and everything in between. though it is sometime since last i visited london village, i well-remember the miles and miles of railings peppered with signs advising against locking bicycles to them, on pain of removal. with transport for london fervently hoping to encourage cycling as a part of their solution to potential gridlock, one has to wonder just where those bicycles are expected to go when not in use?

village underground cycle parking

while current government guidelines advise against the opening of music venues, night clubs and concert halls, village underground in shoreditch have had the impressive initiative to offer their converted warehouse as a a cycle park capable of parking 400 bicycles at an extremely economic price. though hourly rates are available, parking your bicycle all day from 6am until 10pm, monday to saturday will cost a mere fiver per day. according to village underground, "The venue is staffed at all times and your bicycle will be stored indoors, away from the risk of bad weather. All staff will be wearing necessary PPE, undertaking regular hand-washing and sanitary procedures. Simply drop off your bike and pick it up when you're ready."

this is, however, far from being a no-frills service. They have intimated that not only will there be sales of a range of IPAs, beers, wines and spirits from the VU bar to take home, there will also be speciality coffees available up until midday. For the mechanically inept, or the more lazy amongst the pelotonese, local bike specialists, 'look mum no hands!' will be offering a free safety service check every Tuesday. the last time we offered one of those at bruichladdich distillery, only one person turned up.

so, while i am more than content with my little piece of heaven up here on the outer edge, for those who can but dream of being surrounded by sheep, distilleries and horizontal rain, london's looking pretty good over the next month or two.

rapha in canary wharf | village underground cycle parking

rapha images: saskia martin. village underground photo: beth crockett photography.

saturday 25 july 2020

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contact and trace

brompton - corerfid

not long after i moved to the hebrides, the owner of bowmore post office bought a few bikes to offer for hire. the disadvantage, from his point of view, was a complete lack of any technical or mechanical knowledge on his part. thus, any necessary repairs that are a part of any cycle hire scheme, became my remit, purely on the basis of having previously figured out the intricacies of an unnecessarily complex seat post on one hire bike.

however, one of the great advantages of bicycle hire on an island situated a two hour ferry journey from the mainland, is the extreme unlikelihood of theft. though the fellow who began the concept of cycle hire from the post office is long gone further north in scotland, his successors, while increasing the number of cycles available, survived intact with never a bicycle going missing in action. all this despite never once having bought any padlocks to keep the bicycles safe while on hire. i should probably also point out that neither did the hire fee ever stretch as far as providing any form of multi-tool, tyre lever or spare inner tube.

the early years of cycle tourism on islay were often filled with stifled laughter on behalf of the local cognoscenti, amused at visitors diligently locking their bicycles to signposts, lamp posts and subsequently the bike racks peppered around the island. i doubt any of the indigenous cyclists owns a padlock of any description. however, given the state of play in towns and cities on the mainland, i well recognise how important it is to securely affix a bicycle to an immoveable object when not on the island, and why it might be prudent not to get out of the habit when on holiday.

it's not too hard, therefore, to comprehend the complexities that face bike hirers on the mainland, particularly those less than dependent on docking stations. surprising though it may be, britain's iconic folding bike company, brompton has a hire fleet of over 2,300 folding bicycles, offering them not only to the public at large, but also to nhs staff at st bart's hospital and nhs london, including the 'wheels for heroes' scheme, whereby free rental is provided to nhs employees as an alternative to public transport during the current crisis.

so, how the heck to you keep tabs on a couple of thousand bicycles?

it's a question that had obviously occurred to the folks at brompton bike hire, prompting a partnership with lancashire-based core-rfid, a specialist software consultancy. the acronym 'rfid' refers to 'radio frequency identification' and core-rfid has provided brompton bike hire with rfid readers and tags to keep track of those 2,300 hire bicycles. their technical director, munzi ali said, "This technology helps Brompton Bike Hire track these valuable items, while showing their usage and value to the public and NHS staff."

impressively, as the uk's largest bicycle manufacturer, brompton builds 45,000 folding bikes every year, and is now intent on rapidly expanding throughout the country. they would contend, and most of us would probably agree, that the bicycle offers 'an efficient, flexible, healthy and environmentally friendly solution to travel for the future." especially if you know exactly where they are.

core rfid | brompton folding bikes

friday 24 july 2020

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art deco

chater lea grand tour crankset

a number of cycling apparel purveyors have spent the last decade and a half, trying to embellish, or supplant, what was previously regarded as the height of sartorial elegance. admittedly, that wasn't particularly hard to achieve from the outset, given that the majority of us seemed quite content with emulating the mobile billboards we were used to watching on eurosport. in retrospect, perhaps we were overly naive in spending money to promote products we had either never heard of, or never used.

chater lea grand tour crankset

and without naming names, perhaps it's a shame that cycle component manufacturers weren't always seen to be making similar attempts with their trinketry. admittedly, the products offered by the 'big three' could hardly be described as hideous, but many, self included, bemoan the loss of sculpted, polished alloy from the halcyon days of yore, frequently now replaced with either grey or black anodising, or inevitably black carbon fibre. the seeming ubiquity of many such items often threatens to obscure their identities, and with the current trend for aero-frames, one bicycle begins very much to look like the next.

and, once again to refrain from individual identification, there are some frighteningly industrial looking components on the market, which doubtless fulfil every last nuance of mechanical fortitude, without once appearing pulchritudinous in the process. the days of elaborately sculpted steel lugs and ornate fixings have seemingly gone the way of the dodo, without so much as a by-your-leave, arguably making the world a faster, yet less decorous place in which to cycle.

chater lea grand tour crankset

but those are merely generalisations, occasionally punctuated with an unexpected burst of elegance, inspired by a more decorative and individualistic past. just such a venture is that of the reborn chater lea, the current custodians of which have aims to restore beauty to the beautiful sport without once dropping the ball on mechanical efficiency. the first light of day from the 21st century chater lea took the form of their grand tour pedals, a review pair of which i had the great good fortune to receive in advance of public release. those pedals have now been followed by the grand tour crankset, every bit as superb in concept as the pedals it is likely to host.

chater lea last produced a new crankset in the early 1960s, and this latest release has been inspired by the originals from last century. the grand tour cranksets are available in three flavours: a double, featuring 46/30 chainrings, alongside two single ring chainsets offering either a 40 or a 36 chainring. in querying whether these were compatible with twelve-speed groupsets such as those from campagnolo and sram, chater lea's andy richman told me "Unfortunately, we are not right now supporting 12-speed. Just up to 11. It might work, but it's not been tested yet."

chater lea grand tour crankset

at a stretch, this might prove something of a hindrance if shimano subsequently shift to twelve in the near future, but since many riders in the market for just such an exquisite component are quite content with ten or eleven gears, i don't doubt that chater lea have their market well-sussed.

made entirely in the uk, every part of the cranksets including crank arms, chainrings, pins, and fixings are made with the finest of materials, including 7050 and 7075 grade aluminium, and 316 stainless steel. i seriously doubt that the ring configuration of the double crankset will endear itself to those intent on podium positions, aimed as they are, more at the gravel/'cross/touring market. and though the chainrings accommodate only the modern half-inch chain pitch, andrew said that, if there were sufficient interest, they'd be happy to look at producing rings capable of accepting traditional chains of 1/4 inch pitch.

the other barrier to acceptance by the pelotonese, may be their design to fit only a square taper bottom bracket and a sole crank arm length of 170mm. it does, however, compare favourably in weight with even a campagnolo record carbon crankset, weighing in at 668 grammes compared to campagnolo's 708 grammes, though it must be admitted that the italian option includes the ultra-torque bottom bracket spindle and bearing set. however, even a campy fan-boy such as yours truly prefers the ornate beauty of sculpted steel and alloy, to the modernity of black carbon fibre. as far as i'm concerned, a square-taper bottom bracket is simply the icing on the cake, and i'd definitely opt for the brass-look coating on the chainring bolts and dust caps.

chater lea grand tour crankset

projected price for this chater lea art is around £600, depending on choices, though it's worth putting that in perspective by my pointing out that chain reaction cycles currently charges £844 for campagnolo's super-record, twelve-speed chainset. i know which i'd choose.

commenting on the price issue, andrew richman told me, "Making products domestically in the UK (or the USA for that matter) requires a shift in thinking. Shipping designs to Asia has been 'the easy button' for a long time. Our vision is to extend high-end component manufacturing in the UK beyond just Hope Technologies. If your team comprises world class designers and engineers; and you work with precision manufacturing partners whose world is Formula 1, supercars and aerospace; and you use the finest materials; and everyone gets paid a living wage, then you end up where we are. When people say "wow thats expensive", we simply answer, "you are right. They are not cheap."

all three variations can be currently pre-ordered from the chater lea website.

chater lea

thursday 23 july 2020

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world bicycle relief, colombia

over the last six or seven months, the world has become a substantially different place. in most cases, it looks exactly as it always did, but there's no getting away from the fact that shops, cafés and restaurants that once offered unfettered access, are now carefully regulating the number of customers allowed to enter at any one time. many now have hand-sanitisers, the use of which is recommended to all customers, and the wearing of face-coverings has now become mandatory in most situations. chris froome's new team 'israeli start-up nation' posted an image on twitter recently, showing two riders training in andorra with face-masks, a country that mandates their wear when travelling through urban and city areas.

world bicycle relief, colombia

as cyclists, many across the world have suffered, not in the horrific manner that thousands of those infected with the virus have done, but by having their previous freedoms denied, ultimately resorting to zwift and its peers for a daily, or weekly fix in the saddle. and even when the lifting of such restrictions allowed for outdoor riding, there still persisted medical advice to do so in groups of no more than four or five, and to refrain from close drafting into the wind.

world bicycle relief, colombia

of course, it wasn't only the rank and file who no longer had the opportunity to cycle hither and thither, but the professionals too, all of whom had their careers and training plans put on hold, until the competitive milieu returns with a bang next month. though the aforementioned chris froome may find himself on the substitutes' bench for the tour, his team ineos nemesis, egan bernal, will head-up his own red and black peloton with a view to repeating last year's success and confirming sir dave's faith in having signed the colombian to an exclusive and reputedly lucrative deal.

world bicycle relief, colombia

but while bernal can be viewed as the pinnacle of colombian cycling, in a nation that shows similar enthusiasm for the sport as many of the traditional european nations, the lower rungs of colombian society do not mirror his success. according to world bicycle relief, traditionally a provider of bicycles to poorer african nations, nearly nine million colombians rely on their own two feet for daily transport. only 17% of rural students attend secondary school, while the covid-19 pandemic has only but increased the need for safe, reliable transport.

world bicycle relief, colombia

claiming that the four kilometre daily walk to school would be too dangerous for a 13 year-old girl to undertake on her own, mariangel romero's father walks her there every morning, and back again in the afternoon. from galapa to alpes de sevilla galapa school is a long and often dangerous trip for students on foot, while the price of a motorbike remains out of reach for the majority of impoverished families. having returned from venezuela for economic reasons, the romero family spent most of their savings crossing the border. the family of eight now lives in a two-bedroom home that more closely resembles the sort of steading in which you and i would store our bicycles.

world bicycle relief, colombia

and, in fact, a bicycle is one of the possessions kept in that second bedroom (most of the family sleeps in the other). unlike egan bernal's state of the art carbon fibre pinarello dogma, it's a far more sturdy and practical 'buffalo' bicycle, supplied by world bicycle relief. with the aid of that bicycle, mariangel can now safely commute to and from school, allowing her to save hours each day and making the reality of completing homework and chores a pragmatic option.

"My dream is to go to the United States, study with a music concentration, plus dance and guitar. Since I was little, I was a singer. I still sing during church and hope to sing in public one day."

you and i can help make this a reality for mariangel and help many other children and workers in colombia's less favoured rural areas, aiding them to build a better future, and improve conditions in a country that soon hopes to acknowledge a two-time winner of the tour de france. we may all have suffered some level of economic privations in recent times, but for those who may have a few pounds to spare, it is surely far better to have it put towards the cost of a donated 'buffalo' bicycle, than on the latest trinketry to impress the sunday peloton?

donate to world bicycle relief's work in colombia

world bicycle relief, colombia

wednesday 22 july 2020

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what a tangled web we watch

global cycling network

i have a number of friends who are older even than i, and who can recall the mid-to-late years of the 1900s, when cycle racing in the uk was possibly the most minor of minor sports, and finding reports on or information about european racing, depended on being able to read french or italian, and a newsagent with the skills to acquire copies of la gazetta della sport, or l'equipe. i believe there were occasional stage roundups on national tv, but you needed to know the secret handshake to find out when they were broadcast.

modernity and the interwebs have brought substantial improvement to that situation, firstly through channel four's exploratory coverage of the tour de france in the mid 1980s, and subsequently the emergence of eurosport to offer what was, at the time, unparalleled coverage of european racing, though initially confined to the grand tours.

with britain's increased successes via dave brailsford's team sky, including victories by prince bradley, chris froome, and geraint thomas, there was more impetus for britain's mainstream press to give cycling more than a tiny paragraph below the horse-racing results. track success and a trophy cabinet full of olympic gold medals only helped improve matters further. if tangible evidence of this were required, folks who would studiously avoid eye contact with yours truly during the tour de france, were now happy to engage in conversation themselves, even if they still failed to understand why yesterday's stage winner wasn't wearing the yellow jersey.

and while spring weekends used to be an exercise in sheer frustration, trying fervently to find a decent, postage-stamp sized online broadcast of even the major one-day classics, there are now pre-race discussions, live interviews and video-on-demand of events that even five years ago, would have remained as unpronounceable bookmarks among the early season classics. all this can only be good for the sport; more availability with quality broadcast and commentary, ought surely to attract the occasional channel hopper to the jedi mindset. though you and i could 'drop-in' on any race and almost immediately appraise the situation, via onscreen mentions of 'poursuivants', 'achtervolgers' or 'inseguitore', cycle racing remains something of an utter mystery to the great unwashed.

but the more things change, the more they stay the same. or in this case, the more they start to resemble corporate life. though channel four has long since departed the international cycling scene, domestically at least, they have been successfully replaced by itv4, with commentary by the dynamic duo of ned boulting and david millar.

eurosport's commentary pairings often seem a tad incongruous, while their coverage of the season's race schedule seems only to improve. probably their worst fault is advertising a start time to which they subsequently fail miserably to adhere. but then, that's live sport. and for those of us who have no wish to contribute to rupert murdoch's pension fund, eurosport offer eurosport player, a means of watching every last pedal stroke on a computer, tablet or phone screen.

(as an aside, and very much in eurosport's favour, the lack of live sport for the past few months has seen the broadcaster waive the monthly fee for this service. that alone, deserves a round of applause.)

but several of you will have taken note of the apparent rise and rise of global cycling network (gcn), originally framed as a youtube vlog, but now offering content such as the top ten confusing things about road cycling', 'can you learn to unicycle in a day?' and 'how to ride 100 miles.' latterly, they began to offer reasonably comprehensive, and very welcome live coverage of european cyclocross racing. it was, in retrospect, only a hop. skip and a jump away from tackling the more mainstream events, such as the tours, classics et al.

and lo and behold, that's precisely what they've done, via a free to download app, available from both apple and android stores. and, generous to a fault, for an opening offer, they're charging a mere £19.99 for twelve months' racing, discounted from the regular £39.99. gcn broadcasts are available in a number of countries, with certain event restrictions, however, those in the uk can look forward to a late summer and autumn of 54 events, including the re-scheduled grand tours and one-day classics. but the tangled web, as i would have it, only came to light when eurosport commentator, carlton kirby, tweeted to announce gcn's entrepreneurship.


well, not that they have in any way attempted to conceal it, and many of you may already be well-acquainted with the hierarchy, there are more similarities than differences in the attempt to arrest our eyeballs. several of gcn's listed events are asterisked as 'powered by eurosport', perhaps making at least some sense of carlton kirby's enthusiasm. a quick look under the 'about' menu on the gcn website informs the reader that the 'global cycling network' is a subsidiary of the 'play sports group' which encompasses the 'play sports network' and 'shift active media' a cycle marketing and communications agency.

you can begin to see the web expanding.

but, as is often the case in the corporate world, play sports group is not at the top of the tree, for it, in turn, is owned by discovery inc., owners of the various flavours of discovery channel and also, you may be interested to learn, owners of eurosport, the self-christened 'home of cycling'. which leads the cynic (such as myself), to wonder what on earth the point is of offering a second online viewing platform that duplicates the annual fee for eurosport player, to the penny. for currently the latter is also available at a most amenable £19.99, reduced from £39.99.

short of interminable exploration of acres of small print, the only question remaining would be why all the events listed under gcn's proposed live coverage in 2020, are not tagged as 'powered by eurosport'? and at the risk of becoming even more cynical, does this indicate that this is about to become a two tier service, one that might require subscription to both in order to watch every event? because, after all, discovery inc. own pretty much all that you can or can't see.

global cycling network

tuesday 21 july 2020

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