one day a year like this will see me right

rene herse steilacoom gravel tyres

despite my many 'tales from the crypt' concerning the hebridean weather, its vengeance returned on saturday to prevent a single wheel being turned, either at leisure or in anger. though i'd figured the worst was to have invaded the afternoon, allowing, perchance, a sneaky run to debbie's for the ubiquitous double-egg roll, in point of fact, serious winds and horizontal rain pervaded throught the daylight hours, only tempering themselves as darkness fell.

if you will allow me to place this in some sort of context, the principal oppressiveness occured both early morning and early afternoon, with winds reaching nigh on 100kph. for all the bravado i may wish to engender on my behalf, at that speed, the likelihood of remaining upright on a bicycle is pretty much slim to none at all. with 45mm bora carbons on the ritchey, there was no chance whatsoever that particular bicycle could have been used.

the wind dropped a smidgeon around 11:30am, and i optimistically planned a quick out and back to debbie's using the 'cross bike, not only a tad more stable, but with 38mm gravel tyres still affixed, it would have allowed me to ride on the grassy dunes for the length of uiskentuie strand where the land and yours truly would have been at their most exposed. i've ridden this way before and even been blown off my bicycle while riding the grass, a surface that offers a less arduous surface on which to land.

rene herse steilacoom gravel tyres

however, as the years roll by, the sense of self-preservation appears to have increased; i still have to go into the office on monday morning and being blown into the path of a car would have rather mitigated against that. it's always better to run away and survive to ride another day.

that other day was sunday, one which had been flagged up as on the receiving end of 116kph winds on a forecast issued on thursday past. thankfully, that hardly turned out to be the case, sunday morning dawning to winds of only 70kph. though it may surprise you to learn, winds in that category are quite easily manageable, but given these were due to increase to 90kph by lunchtime, those campagnolo boras were still looking less than inviting. that made the only realistic choice, once again, to be my specialized cyclocross bicycle, despite its 38mm knobbly, rene herse gravel tyres.

i do have a pair of wheels in the bike shed fitted with 33mm road tyres, but rather unfortunately, given the circumstances, one of those was in need of a replacement inner tube, a task i should probably have carried out days ago, but quite frankly, hadn't. given my time of arising on sunday morning, effecting tube replacement followed by wheel replacement, really wasn't on the menu. gravel tyres it had to be.

rene herse steilacoom gravel tyres

having passed yet another year marker just over a week ago, i cannot deny that my top line speed, while never particularly impressive, has become even less so. combine that with my two regular sunday morning companions being almost two decades younger, if viewed from the helicopter, i'm usually the straggler at the back. i'm sure i need not point out that knobbly gravel tyres, removed from their natural habitat, are not quite the fastest option, so i had already informed my domestiques (as i like to refer) that i would probably assume the role of 'tail-end charlie', particularly since we've not seen charlie himself for many a long month.

rene herse steilacoom gravel tyres

so, i hear you ask, how well did those rene herse tyres perform, ostensibly well away from dust and gravel? even when only inflated to around 45psi, they actually did remarkably well. i did struggle manfully on the inclines and into direct headwinds, i assume at least in part due to the more substantial girth of the rubber, but probably equally so in light of their aging pilot. on the early part of the climb past the rspb's aoradh farm, i found myself ahead of my companions due to the serious degradation of the road surface suiting rene's knobbly bits (if you see what i mean), particularly well.

and when experiencing the joy of a 70kph+ tailwind, i had no difficulty in riding alongside my more smoothly shod companions.

rene herse steilacoom gravel tyres

once again, i hear questions about why on earth anyone would want to ride on metalled roads wearing wide, gravellous rubber? i'd tend to agree that a forced choice is no choice at all, and in yesterday's circumstances, there really was no option other than to take the cross bike with the tyres already in place. but, as is the case for many mountain and 'cross bikers, rough terrain is not necessarily right on your doorstep, frequently involving several kilometres on the road to get to the gnarly stuff.

but from my point of view, as a cyclist who often likes to pen reviews of various componentry, it's a bit like riding several thousand pounds worth of carbon road bike as slowly as possible to determine its ultimate manouevrability. taking tyres designed for a specific purpose out of their comfort zone, gives me, and ultimately you, an idea of their potential versatility. for, if you refer to my original review, you will learn that this particular pair of rene herse steilacoom tyres, retail at £87 each. that's a not insubstantial £174 per bicycle.

if you're anything like me, you like to get your money's worth. and i'm not entirely sure that spending that amount of cash purely to ride gravel, but potentially suffer to get there, might be perceived as neither versatile or value for money. in which case, i'm quite glad to have learned that the steilacoom rubber offers very much the best of one world, and makes a pretty successful attempt at the other. and also as something of a plus point, despite many off and onroad excursions since the arrived in september, there's no appreciable sign of wear and the tan sidewalls are as tan as ever they were.

rene herse tyres are distributed in the uk by sven cycles

monday 2 november 2020

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hogging the bandwagon

harely davidson e-bikes

in the early days of both rapha and rouleur, as dyed-in-the-wool roadies,we were constantly and rightly reminded of the sport's great heritage, principally concentrating on the heroes we all admired in black and white, but almost incidentally, acknowedging the historic marques on which they rode. though the bicycle as we know it, is only a smidgeon older than 100 years, in that relatively short time, we have come to appreciate the celeste of a bianchi, the lugwork of a colnago, and the grace and style of the early pinarellos.

those have been added to as cycling's heritage continues to grow, with bicycles from champions such as greg lemond, mario cipollini, and new kids to the peloton: bmc, factor and canyon. whether, in another hundred years, we'll view the latter additions and those who achieved victory from their saddles as worthy additions to this avowed great heritage, depends a great deal on whether vivid colour evokes nostalgia as emphatically as monochrome.

with organised sport having welcomed the concept of e-racing apparently with open arms, and the uci deep in discussion as to how to regulate a disparate peloton of cyclists riding in their living rooms, cycling has already changed. whether you view that as good or bad, probably depends on how smart your turbo-trainer is, and whether you partner is equitable to your commandeering of the television to watch scenes from watopia. the digital age has brought many a benefit both inside and outside the velocipedinal realm. i can't be the only one who had no great fondness for wired sensors on the fork feeding information to a small, bar-mounted computer.

the gps devices on which most of us now rely, are far more reliable and practical.

but having moved on from pre-race checks for hidden cancellara motors, the burgeoning portion of the cycle market is, without doubt, that of the e-bike. according to sources, in the netherlands, the e-bike outsells analogue bicycles. i would still contend that there are many purchasers of electric bicycles who could just as easily get from a to b on a regular bicycle; the 'e' prefix, however, would appear to have a cachet unrelated to its function.

do not misunderstand me; i'm well aware of the benefits to many, of a bicycle with electric augmentation, particularly as i write against a background of 100kph winds that have prevented my riding outdoors. (that said, i'm none too sure that electricity would have saved me from the resultant crosswinds). yet i still find myself confused as to the potential market for electric road bikes, particularly from the likes of colnago and pinarello. i would have thought (perhaps mistakenly), that those in thrall to skinny wheels and bendy bars, were more inclined to view speed and climbing prowess as the thrill of the chase, not factors to be overcome with an electric motor.

however, though i'm not often right, i'm probably wrong again.

you need only view tv adverts for mobile phones to realise that apple's original iphone innovation in 2007, along with its entire store of apps for pretty much everything, has been so closely copied, that it's often difficult to tell one brand from another, or even one advert from another. where there's the potential for commercial gain on a large scale, there will always be those willing to take a punt. the e-bike market, a potential bandwagon if ever there was one, appears no different, with the latest entrant to the world of motor assist, being that of motorbike supremos, harley davidson

with the first models due to arrive in the spring of 2021, harley have opted to thinly disguise the origin of their less powerful offspring under the name of the serial one cycle company, a reference to the nickname of their original motorcycle. brand director, aaron frank, scarcely concealed their apparent opportunism, stating, "The formation of Serial 1 allows Harley-Davidson to play a key role in this mobility revolution.", perhaps implying that, without them, pedal-assist might founder in the wilderness.

it would surely be cynical of me to cite a recent report stating that harley's motorcycle unit sales had fallen 27% in the their largest market of north america, while the company reported a loss of $92.2 million, after recording a profit of $195 million in 2019.

maybe the bicycle can save the (harley davidson) world after all.

sunday 1 november 2020

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ride inside. joe friel with jim rutberg. velopress softback 200pp £20.99

ride inside - friel and rutberg

as a resident of a country apparently obsessed with the weather, i'm unsure whether other countries hold weather forecasts with the same level of suspicion as do we. and, it transpires, our lack of faith in britain's meteorological forecasts are often well founded, not only on the basis of frequently being doused with rain when the weather-girl said it would be sunny, but even a lack of cohesion between two forecasts from the same online provider.

i was already aware that this weekend, the winds across the hebrides were likley to be a bit on the sturdy side, but i admit that i gulped rather loudly when one member of the velo club sent me a screenshot showing gusts in excess of 120kph for sunday. having not quite seen that one coming, i checked the same forecast on the office computer, where it showed only 80kph winds at the same period.

but, as if that were not confounding enough, as i sat down to write this review, i took one more look to learn that at mid-day on sunday, islay will allegedly be strafed by winds gusting to a smidgeon under 115kph. i need not tell you that even idiots such as yours truly would not venture out in those conditions. that's not cycling, it's windsurfing.

and something else that i do not consider deserves to be categorised as cycling, is the fastening of a bicycle to some sort of smart trainer and pedalling like blazes, faced only with an ipad or tv screen. yet the weather conditions described above, would surely persuade the sensible to move indoors to the roads of watopia, away from the likelihood of being blown to another island.

assuming i can remain upright, i enjoy the great outdoors; the different seasons can make even the same roads week in, week out seem entirely different at each turn, coupled with the chance to ride with friends in 'real' life, endng with coffee at debbie's rather than a tassimo pod in the kitchen. however, i am well aware that even under the current covid-19 restrictions, i still have unfettered access to endless kilometres of cycling outdoors, and that my arrogance and apparent diffidence towards those who may not, is not my best work.

for some, either the weather conditions are unfavourable, time constraints are hardly designed to help, or there are restrictions on access to suitable roads. in cases such as those, and i don't doubt they affect more than just a minority nowadays, the advent of smart trainers, smart bikes and online training aids such as zwift and peloton have seemed like manna from heaven.

but i doubt that many who are in thrall to such velocipedinal technology are content simply to ride in front of a screen, marvelling at the realism of the computer animation playing out on their high-definition screen. once the initial novelty has worn off, it may be that some serious training needs to be accommodated. which is precisley where messrs. friel and rutberg enter the fray with their latest velopress publication 'ride inside'.

if i'm brutally honest, i fear the authors may have tried to sell the concept of indoor training just a tad too hard, with a sixteen page chapter providing succour to those who are yet to be convinced. perhaps the best argument for the whole concept is illustrated by the example of pro rider, matt hayman. in 2016, he broke his arm riding omloop het nieuwsblad in late february.

"Determined not to lose the fitness he had worked so hard to gain, Hayman rode more than 1,000km on an indoor trainer in his garage, while his broken arm healed. [...] After nearly six hours of racing [...] Hayman had enough left in the tank to capture the biggest win of his career".

few of us are likeley to be riding next year's paris-roubaix, so the above story might be a bit moot, but i'm sure we all get the author's point.

however, i think friel may be slightly optimistic that the modern cyclist has access to unused space in the house or flat in which to setup their new, state of the art training camp, and his emphasis on the damaging effects of the sun also seem just a bit over the top. "...a lifetime of long days out under the blazing sun can lead to skin damage and increase the risk of developing skin cancer." his reference to 'blazing sun' demonstrates that this book was hardly written for the scots. and with some turbo trainers hardly the masters of discretion when it comes to noise, there's always the forbearance of other residents with which to contend.

there is recognition that, when it comes to making space for a future of indoor pain and suffering, not all riders are created equal. "Some athletes have elaborate 'pain caves' with widescreen TVs, high-powered fans, and racing mementos hanging on the walls for inspiration. Then there are riders who carved out a little space in the garage or living room, with enough space to perch a laptop nearby."

that said, presuming no real need to preach to the converted, the training precepts offered by friel and rutberg are more than likely to have you step out the door each morning, evidently fitter than you were the morning before. i believe the continued emphasis that riding indoors is perfectly acceptable in modern society, seems a bit unnecessary; if you've read as far as page 85, when the training programme actually begins, you probably need no more encouragement.

but the one thing over which the book has no control is that of the necessary equipment. as mentioned above, some indoor riders have access to state of the art, while others exist on the bare minimum. rather obviously, the difference between a debonair end to each session and looking like a squeezed out sponge, might well be a large fan pointing in the rider's direction. however, as with bicycles and apparel, those are hardly the responsibility of the book's authors.

in truth, the principles of cycle training remain the same or similar whether you're riding indoors or outdoors, but friel and rutberg are well enough experienced to accommodate any tacit differences that might exist. there are even sections on combining both indoor and outdoor training, as well as directions for the 'aging athlete' into which category i currently fall.

"It's not that competitive goals are less valuable to aging athletes or that specificity is less effective. It's that generalized conditioning is necessary to maintain the strength, mobility and balance to prevent injuries that would otherwise take you off the field of play."

if your intentions have been firmly nailed to the indoor mast, this could be the very manual that will make continued sense of it all. a bit like a new drum set, where random battering of every tom, snare and bass drum, gets tired quite quickly, once you've explored the nooks and crannies of watopia, what comes next? joe and jim are ready and willing to hold your hand, without once suggesting that you'd be better off outdoors in the wind and rain.

however, i'm sure i need not point out that i'm probably not their target customer, no matter what xc weather prognosticates for sunday lunchtime.

ride inside by friel and rutberg

saturday 31 october 2020

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the upper limits of sensibility

kryon mono

for my tea, yesterday, i had a portion of fresh pasta filled with ricotta cheese and spinach, a packet of which costs about £2.30, if memory serves correctly. a packet of this particular pasta recipe weighs 300g, but should i have been for a particularly strenuous bicycle ride before tea-time, or, as yesterday, spent more than an hour trying manfully to sound like simon philips playing toto's 'africa' or clem burke on blondie's 'heart of glass', i might think it prudent to have a second plateful.

but, in the world of food consumption, twice as much food usually costs twice as much money. it's an economic model replicated across many different areas of contemporary life. buying a king-size duvet as opposed to a standard size, will cost you more money, and if the croft features seven windows and yours only five, my new double-glazing will undoubtedly cost me a bit more. i think i have probably made my point, laboured though it is, particularly well.

kryon mono

however, when it comes to velocipedinal matters, more often than not, precisely the opposite seems to be the case. for instance, the brand new, founder's edition specialized aethos features a frame weighing a uci illegal 585g, with a price-tag of £13,000. lower your target just a smidgeon and opt for the pro or expert version, and despite the weight increasing to a sliver under 700g, the cost more than halves to only £5,500.

oddly enough, we, as cyclists, seem to be pretty much ok with that. let's face it, if you had a spare £13,000 in the back pocket of your cycle jersey, you'd scarcely think twice about spending it on a top-of-the-range bicycle, despite the 215g difference between that and the more basic frame. those few grammes are highly unlikely to make any appreciable difference to how quickly we reach the coffee shop, even if sited atop alpe d'huez. so, at an all-up weight of around 6.5kg the pro version is close on 700g heavier than the claimed weight of the founder's edition, meaning owners of the latter it will have paid almost £900 per 100g saved.

kryon mono

succinctly put, the less we get for our money, the more it costs us.

but then we move from the sublime to the plain ridiculous, when considering a wall-mounted bracket on which to store your founder's edition, specialized aethos. naturally enough, you'd want to acquire something in keeping with the bike's lightweight magnificence, stylish enough to prevent unwanted remarks from a non-cycling partner, and strong enough to bear a few grammes in excess of 5kg.

thankfully, the folks at kryon have got your back, offering the minimalist mono, stainless steel wall-mounting bracket that includes a secure locking feature. it can be mounted indoors, in the bikeshed or garage, or even outside, if you're willing to leave a £13,000 bicycle in the open air. and the cost for this weight-bearing resplendence?


kryon mono bicyle bracket

friday 30 october 2020

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who put the stripes on the lycra?

rapha strickland jersey

the life of a cyclist has been immeasurably changed for the better over the last couple of decades. granted, there have been developments that arguably fit the category of solutions looking for problems, but aside from a concomitant increase in the price of pretty much everything, most can be seen as beneficial. for instance, tyres have become wider, tougher and more comfortable to ride, bicycles have become lighter with no apparent decrease in strength and there seems greater attention paid to ergonomics and bike fit. and for those who recall cycling shorts featuring 'real chamois', the current state of the art, as regards padded inserts, is the best it's ever been.

rapha strickland jersey

and who could forget so-called trade jerseys which once featured fabric that only retained its shape long enough to be photographed for the catalogues?

it's arguably the cycle jersey that has seen the greatest development, both in materials used, anatomic fit, breathability and in the application of graphics about its person. we are indeed, a long, long way from the archetypal woollen jersey, a velocipedinal garment that had a nasty habit of dragging on the rear tyre when it became wet, or when carrying more than just coffee money in one of the three rear pockets. many of the current examples feature scalloped rear pockets, allowing ease of access, augmented by a fourth, zipped version, zip garages, preventing those nasty little nips on the nape of the neck, and sleeves of a decent length that stay put in the heat of battle.

rapha strickland jersey

in tandem with all of the above, the art and technique of dye-sublimation has allowed a graphic freedom scarcely dreamed of by those previously tasked with sewing individual letters to the front of a wool jersey. nowadays, pretty much anything you can conceive in adobe illustrator, can be printed onto the front and back of a cycle jersey. such graphic development, allied to much-improved and more economic printing techniques, has meant an upsurge in the offerings of custom cycle jerseys, available to all and sundry.

a tad late to the party, but seemingly intent on occupying the cutting edge, is rapha custom, launched to great approbation in march of last year with a series of kits designed in conjunction with clubs across the world, and including richard sachs' cyclocross team. since that initial launch, rapha have frequently featured new and innovative custom designs on their website, including one for american rider, colin strickland, winner of 2019's dirty kanza gravel race. the jersey and shorts combination is a striking example of the designer's art, and a custom kit, soon to be available to the buying public, along with a matching bicycle.

rapha strickland jersey

the jersey, shorts and bicycle were originally previewed prior to strickland's participation in the 'mid-south' gravel race which took place in mid-march this year, and was designed by rapha's custom apparel graphic designer, jess money. i asked her if her design for the strickland jersey was 'simply' a graphic idea applied to a cycle jersey, or one specifically arrived at to suit the mid-south gravel event? and is the design motif representative of anything specific?

"The kit for Colin was really focused on his character. He's a real hitter with a lot of Texan charm, so we wanted to make a kit that felt as unique as him. He had a great vision from the off and a really specific brief inspired by geology and native American culture. So we spent a lot of time researching the terrain and environment Colin would be riding in, with the aim of the kit and bike to look like it had been carved out of the landscape.
rapha strickland jersey "The placement of the print was also a key element in ensuring the final product linked back to the landscape and so placing a wrap-around print engrained a feeling of being part of the terrain. It also played a vital role in providing visibility for the team, with the bright orange and white on the top half of the Gilet and Jersey, and then naturally fading to darker colours lower down where road and dirty spray may occur. This was all part of an overarching geologic desert landscape theme."

the advantage of you and i designing a custom jersey, is generally no requirement to incorporate any logos, the shape or colours of which can often clash with the ideas or colour schemes we had in mind. you need only take a look at some of the team jerseys worn by lower-rung italian teams to see how that often works out. so, did the inclusion of sponsor graphics on Colin Strickland's jersey pose any problems for jess at the design stage, or did she deliberately keep the main graphic to the lower portion to leave space for the logos?

rapha strickland jersey

"All logos were placed to balance out the artwork composition, grouped together in only three locations and in a solid contrast colour, it allowed for the graphics to freely flow across the garment. This reserved approach meant we could have several main points of focus, with easy to see logos and a bold graphic. It all has a sense of harmony."

as i mentioned above, and in a move that has become more common in the pro-peloton, the team kit release is accompanied by a similarly liveried, 'allied' gravel bike. on the basis that you can hardly apply dye-sublimation to something as physical as a carbon fibre bicycle frame, had jess designed the graphics on the bicycle independently, or was the brief to design for both simultaneously?

rapha strickland jersey

"The bike was designed in unison with the kit, again looking at the terrain the bike would be ridden on and how we could place graphics to make it look like it had been carved out of the landscape. Using colours from the kit, we went with a rich deep green on the base and placed print to highlight unique features of the bike, like the asymmetric chain stay.
"The Allied team did an incredible job placing the detailed print in pretty tricky places. The end result with the fade to burnt orange really pops. As the bike was an RCC exclusive we all wanted to ensure we maintained our classic RCC touch points, so that even though the result is something we've never done before, it still feels recognisably Rapha."

the rapha colin strickland jersey and allied bicycle will soon be made available for sale to rapha cycle club members.

thursday 29 october 2020

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mountains according to g. geraint thomas. quercus hardback 243pp illus. £16.99

mountains according to g - geraint thomas

in 2008, i participated in the hot chillee, london to paris ride, an event in which twice british road-race champion and eurosport commentator, brian smith also took part. though brian and i began the ride in different groups, we ended the ride in the same one, and it is one of my enduring memories, riding on the champs elysées, alongside mr smith. however, earlier in the parcours, we had both been riding one of the event's seemingly endless ascents, in which brian had been led out by david harmon, before being let loose to compete with yours truly for the summit.

i much fancied myself as a grimpeur in those days, regularly reaching the top of the climbs before others in my group. in this case, i was once again victorious by a few millimetres, full of self-congratulation, until i looked over and realised that, while i had grovelled the last few metres in the easiest gear i had at my disposal, brian was still in the big ring. it's moments like that when you realise all of mr smith's comments about 'muscle memory', were probably perfectly true.

lets be realistic; when watching le tour, il giro or la vuelta, even the poor souls scrabbling at the back in the 'grupetto', can climb considerably better than either you or i. so when a former tour winner puts his name to the cover of a publication, with the word 'mountains', in the title, it would be a brave wannabe who poo poo'd the idea.

i confess, geraint thomas would not be the first rider i'd have thought of when considering grand tour grimpeurship. and on looking at the so-called mountains listed in the contents, i was beginning to think my suspicions were being confirmed. the oude kwaremont, cauberg, koppenberg, the cat and fiddle; i doubt any of us would be inclined to classify the foregoing as 'mountains'. big hills, certainly, really hard hills, definitely, but mountains?

secondly, this is the third in what could, conceivably be an endless series: 'the world of cycling according to g', 'the tour according to g', and now 'mountains according to g'. one can imagine a contract being fulfilled. but, i am more than pleased to report, my cynicism is not only unfounded, but completely misplaced.

thomas' knowledge of the climbs contained within the book's 240+ pages was never in doubt, but the entertaining and oft-times, self-deprecating manner in which they are described, makes this book not only a welcome publication, but one that you should seriously consider purchasing, either for yourself, or as the ideal christmas present for the cyclist in your life.

written in conjunction with tom fordyce, and aptly illustrated by bruce doscher, even if your back wheel seems glued to the road when winding ascents beckon, this is a most entertaining ride. thomas takes us back to his early years, before one-day classics and three-week grand tours were a part of the daily grind. he opens with the clamber up wales' rhigos as a junior member of the maindy flyers club at fourteen years old.

"Forget the bright lights of Port Talbot, its quaint, picturesque charms. Nothing else that happens today can ever top this."

'mountains' is divided into thematic, geographical sections, straying across belgium, france, italy, australia, monaco and austria to mention but a few. and though the author unfortunately dropped out of this year's giro d'italia, the stelvio at least would have featured on his race-plan.

"You genuinely look forward to the Stelvio, as a rider. Yes, it's a brute. Yes, you will suffer on it. But so much has happened up there, so many Giros won and lost, so many reputations made or blown away. None of us would want to finish our pro careers without having danced up those hairpins. We'd feel incomplete."

however, if the stelvio is geraint's ying, the mortirolo is definitely his yang. "Oh no. Not the Mortirolo. [...] It shows you nothing but the dark corners of your soul."

in truth, the majority of us will never climb any of these mountains or hills, despite thomas's pointing out that they are all there for the taking. unlike, as he keenly mentions, the football fan who can never play at wembley, or the formula one fan for whom monaco or monza are forbidden, unrealisable fruit. i had worried that this would form some sort of guide book, alerting me to where i should place myself on the oude kwaremont to sport a chance of winning the ronde van vlaanderen. yes, he does dish out such advice, but hardly as a step-by-step.

if i have one concern about both the book and its author, it's perhaps one too many references to golf. i mean, really; golf?

"...a green tucked between natural mounds, a tee on a cliff top, a fairway wound around a stream". golf references aside, this is actually a little gem of a book, one that can easily be dipped into now and again, either to learn, or for brief moments of entertainment. the words may not have been precisely or entirely scribed by thomas himself, but the stories are indubitably his.

"We love a moan, but we love what causes the moan even more."

'mountains according to g' is published by quercus on thursday 29 october.

wednesday 28 october 2020

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mud, inglorious mud

muddy road

you will perhaps recall yesterday's posting which included reference to having been diverted from the velo club's planned route, by a herd of oncoming cattle. and in order that this article not descend into the vernacular, might i point out that cows are renowned for depositing boris johnson speeches all over the road when being driven from one field to the next. and, since cows scarcely have the savvy to get themselves from a to b, the quad bike driving behind simply adds to the newly-laid brown road covering.

that selfsame road continues on past the fields belonging to two neighbouring farms, one of which (rockside) constitutes an integral part of kilchoman distillery. those of you who live near, or are similarly surrounded by agriculture, can probably pop out and make a coffee, or go for a bike ride and join us later, because this will likely be familar ground (if you'll pardon the pun).

you see, all forms of agricultural manouevrings, involve driving in and out of fields, at this time of year, mostly muddy fields. the tyres fitted to rather enormous tractors and associated trailers, as well as more compact and bijou quad bikes, feature chunky treads designed to ease passage across muddy fields. those selfsame treads not only pick up sizeable quantities of mud, but often shed it just as quickly, unfortunately more than just a soupcon on the metalled roads along which hapless cyclists, such as ourselves, are inclined to travel.

quantities of mud, such as those described, can range between irritating and dangerous, particularly if you compare the tread patterns on road bike tyres with those on the average massey ferguson. and rarely does mud live alone; in my experience there's a tad more gravel accompaniment than you'd like to think.

so, should the peloton simply avoid such roads and concentrate on those that offer better ease of passage? well, that's advice with which i'd find more sympathy, were it not for the fact that such unconstricted routes are very few and far between around here. let's not forget, as the late paul sherwen was often wont to say, i'm living on an island, on which the number of available roads is somewhat finite. if we start avoiding farm roads, we could all end up on zwift more quickly than we'd prefer.

there is, however, recourse to a potential solution, one that ostensibly offers legal redress. according to the 1984 scottish roads act, under section 95, farmers and crofters are required to 'keep the roads clear from any materials deposited from tractors, trailers or implements.' unfortunately, i am insufficiently well aware of the roads act south of the border, or in any other nation, to know whether the scots are ahead of the curve, or whether there are equivalents just waiting to be accessed by the intrepid cyclist.

thankfully, it's not a case of riding up to the nearest farmhouse, knocking on the door, and presenting a photocopy of section 95 to a farmer eager and willing to comply with your objections. the simplest way forward would presumably be to contact either the police or your local roads department. however, though there have been occasions when just such a phone call or e-mail on our behalf should have proved prudent, this is a small and relatively close-knit community, one in which we tend to rely on everyone doing right by everyone else. telling tales on farmers possessed of ruddy enormous and scarily quick tractors, doesn't always seem like the smartest thing to do.

thankfully, that community spirit, more often than not, results in very few serious deposits of unwarranted mud. and based on the fact that we are often on conversational terms with the farmers concerned, there are far less intransigent ways of broaching the subject. however, on the scottish mainland, where you may simply be passing through, it may be helpful to know your available options, particularly if you or your bicycle has suffered as a result.

of course, the other option is to ride a cyclocross or gravel bike and view such incidents as part of your training objectives.

roads legislation, section 95

tuesday 27 october 2020

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