eccentric? moi?

wind road sign

as you will be thoroughly bored of reading, islay currently features nine malt whisky distilleries, with a further two under construction and two others awaiting planning decisions. add to that, the fact that there is another distillery in craighouse on jura, and there is a veritable playground for whisky aficionados almost within shouting distance of each other. as if that were insufficient, there are three gin companies on islay and a new rum company, along with another gin distillery at lussa on jura and also deer island rum.

but there are nigh on 50 distilleries at speyside on the east side of scotland, a number that dwarfs the agglomeration of distilleries on islay and jura. so why are we always harping on about whisky on islay? is there perhaps a cycling blogger near speyside who has a far better case than i?

as a non-drinker, i have tasted none of the islay malts, nor am i ever likely to do so. all i know about whisky is culled from interaction with others on the island; it's very difficult to avoid the subject in such a small place. however, i was told many years ago, by an esteemed whisky writer, that while there are many more distilleries on speyside, aficionados of the islay malts are far more likely to visit their island home, than are those more enthused by the east coast. i have no way of verifying that to be the case, but i do know, from several friends in the local industry, that the numbers visiting islay's distilleries are substantial, and not just during what might be regarded as the summer season.

almost every january, without exception, it is possible to meet japanese whisky tourists in bowmore main street. usually they consist of a male and female, remarkably young, and wearing every item of clothing they own to stave off the biting wind and rain that tend to populate that particular month. not everybody's idea of fun.

occasionally, visitors to the island arrive by bicycle, and stay long enough to join us on the sunday ride, as one german fellow has done over the past two sundays. i confess that i thought him slightly reticent to join the conversation until his nationality was pointed out, along with the explanation that his english wasn't great and he was having a bit of difficulty comprehending our accents when riding into a headwind. that made considerably more sense.

coincidentally, he arrived at the bowmore meet point this morning as i pedalled from the croft, informing me as we stopped to wait for a third member, that, in germany, he would not have gone cycling that particular sunday. on enquiring why that might be, he explained "too windy". since friday past, the windspeed has equalled or exceeded 45kph. admittedly, that's a tad disfavourable for perambulations of islay's atlantic coast, but certainly nowhere near strong enough to prevent a bike ride. but following his enlightening statement, i now wonder whether our own cycling activities are particularly eccentric?

i recall participating in the 2017 hot chillee london-paris ride, during which, on the friday afternoon, we pedalled into a headwind a few kph short of 30. on that occasion, i went from the back of the peloton to the front without expending any extra effort. when we stopped for lunch, even the ride captains were moaning about the headwind, and at dinner that evening, the super-duper riders in group one, far more elite and fit than yours truly, did likewise. i'm pretty sure i did myself no favours by smugly pointing out that it could hardly be classed as a headwind until reaching at least 38kph.

how to win friends and influence people.

however, no matter the purported eccentricity of riding in winds of that speed, it has to be made plain that, if we restricted ourselves to winds lower than 30kph, there would not be much in the way of cycling taking place on the outer edge. of course, that does not exclude the veracity of my german friend's statement; i have watched live coverage of professional races on the tellybox where the commentary team have paid lip service to the headwind encountered by the peloton, claiming it to have disrupted their chase of the day's breakaway. subsequent investigation has often elicited that 'headwind' to be little more than a breeze, often hovering around 20kph.

not for nothing does velominati have rule #5

velominati - keepers of the cog

monday 20 june 2022

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at times, islay resembles little more than an industrial estate. scottish water are around halfway through replacing the water pipes in bowmore village, so there has been a movable traffic-light obstacle around main street for the last few months, as sections of road are dug up, pipes inserted, filled in and re-tarmac'd. this has coincided with the council effecting repairs to several pavements around the village, while on the approach to/departure from the village, scottish and southern electricity networks (ssen) are upgrading the underground and overhead cables to offer greater resilience during inclement weather.

if you add in the fact that there are road repairs underway on the high road, plus two distilleries being constructed in port ellen village, along with the pot ale tankers that ply the roads seven days a week, and the many articulated trucks keeping the distilleries and construction works supplied, these are not the idyllic country roads that many seem to think they'll find on disembarking the ferry. take into account that an ever-growing number of visitors to the isle arrive by motorhome or campervan, with frequently scant ablity to drive them along the island's singletrack roads, and it's a wonder there hasn't been any recent major traffic incidents.

that said, for the intrepid cyclist, weekends at least are less fraught with danger than i have perhaps portrayed. aside from the occasional wayward campervan, the roads less travelled pretty much continue to stay that way. unless, of course, you happen to perambulate the singletrack roads that lead ultimately, to a distillery. but out of the island's nine distilleries, that really only applies to four.

the village of bowmore, is almost slap bang in the centre of the island, a place through which much of the island's traffic proceeds. down main street and along shore street, or vice versa, is the well-trammeled way for vehicle traffic. but it's also a popular route for some of the local kids on their scooters or bmx bicycles, if only because main street peaks at a 6% gradient, down which one can achieve a decent speed without much in the way of physical effort.

disappointingly, argyll & bute council, in a cost-cutting measure, disbanded their road safety department some three or four years past. the council was one of only two in scotland that had not signed up to bikeability, preferring, instead, to undertake the teaching of cycle proficiency in schools via their road safety department. only, as i've just pointed out, that no longer exists. admittedly, the pandemic put paid to any thoughts of teaching cycle proficiency in any form for the past two years, but now that educational life is pretty much back to normal, it seems that it has evaporated as an integral part of the annual school curriculum.

i did enquire on behalf of the primary schools how they might sign-up for the bikeability scheme, and was informed that they had merely to contact the scheme's administrators and the rest of the process would be taken care of. so far as i'm aware, none have done so. but perhaps, despite the apparent dangers even on what ought to be quiet country roads, there would be no real point in their doing so.

under the current cost of living crisis that has made inroads to household budgets in many different ways, the government decided to apply a portion of their largesse towards the nation's motorists, reducing the duty by 5p per litre on petrol and diesel. this, i am reliably informed, will cost the treasury a reported £5 billion per year, yet the government's five year funding commitment to the walking and cycling budget, is a mere £2 billion, by which time, if it remains in place, the fuel subsidy will have reached £25 billion.

and in at least one reported case, a local authority has turned to parents to help pay for bikeability training, due to a funding shortfall. compare that with the scottish greens, who had previously proposed a £100 grant to ensure low income families could provide their children with access to a bicycle. and the capital city of estonia has announced a €100 contribution towards the purchase of a bicycle for children aged between ten and 15, following successful completion of a cycle training programme.

for reasons best known to themselves, the uk government seems only to pay minimal lip service towards so-called active travel, while contributing substantially towards the purses of high income groups, those who use the most fuel via the driving of thirsty suvs. in the process of so doing, they have conveniently ignored that fact that half of the poorest fifth of britain's population, don't have a car, and therefore have seen no economic benefit from the annual £5 billion mentioned above.

if the climate change targets are to be achieved in the time allowed, car use needs to be substantially reduced, while encouraging more folks to walk or cycle. according to the government's own figures, 21% of all car journeys are under one mile distance, while 71% are less than five miles. both these distances would be easily accomplished on foot or by bicycle, leaving only 29% of car journeys to be dealt with en-route to net-zero. and if the bikeability scheme was properly funded, resulting in a bicycle (or a contribution towards the purchase of) for all those successfully completing such training, perhaps there would be less future need for heavy marketing or propaganda to persuade more folks to leave the car at home and cycle, walk or take to public transport instead.

but leaving aside all thoughts of climate change (would that we could), surely it makes sense to educate youngsters on how to ride on roads that become busier with motor traffic year on year, even those in rural or island areas? as matters currently stand, a parent can acquire a bicycle for their offspring of pretty much any age, with no physical barrier whatsoever to their subsequently riding the same roads as populated by 40ft articulated pot-ale tankers. hardly what you'd call a match made in heaven. the very least both governments could do, is ensure that the youngest members of society are provided with sufficient road skills to ensure their safety when walking or cycling.

in this respect, both boris and nicola speak with forked tongues.

sunday 19 june 2022

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nostalgia is exactly what it used to be

vintage steel bikes

somewhat tired with the almost weekly changes applied to early years mountain bikes -who could keep up with regular changes in the favoured colour of anodising? - i looked sideways to the road bike, a genre that seemed, at the time, almost immune to change. with few exceptions, there seemed little difference between the bicycles ridden by eddy merckx, and those available on bike shop floors in the early 1990s.i know you will scarcely bat an eyelid when i admit that was a situation that brought me comfort and joy.

though it offers less than favourable comment on my velocipedinal disposition, acquiring the latest muddy fox only to have its state-of-the-art personage usurped by a new, different format and colour only a matter of months later, was surely comparable to having the neighbours erect a conservatory after you bought a new garden shed. road bikes, on the contrary, seemed to be preserved in time, or at least for a longer time than their offroad counterparts. i am, of course, referring to reynolds 531 lugged steel, and cables exiting the top of the brake levers.

eager to exploit my purported mechanical skills, i bought a frame and components, built myself a pair of wheels and figured i was the bees knees on an island that has scarce interest in either buzzy leg joints or bicycles.

of course, the bicycle industry is the bicycle industry; companies that build mountain bikes frequently build road bikes too. a streamlining of features across both types would surely reduce costs and inventory, while improving the bottom line? thus, as mountain biking adopted aluminium, so did road, both ultimately transitioning, via titanium, to carbon fibre. the simplest and most economic shape for metal, is round, or oval tubing; carbon fibre, on the other hand, can be molded into any shape the designer desires, whether necessary or otherwise.

bicycle design, apart from any engineering concepts, is a subjective subject. what i think looks quite smooth might differ slightly or greatly from your own opinions. that said, i find it hard to reconcile the current range of time-trial bikes as espoused by not only the world tour, but those participating at the top level in domestic competition. to place not too fine a point on it, the majority are absolutely hideous.

why this is the case remains, to me at least, somewhat of a mystery. the design of both commercial and military aircraft, all of which have to deal with aerodynamic factors well in excess of those experienced by a mere time-trial machine, in the majority of cases, is considerably more aesthetically pleasing than van aert's cervelo, for instance. and though i am definitely less than interested in motor cars, it's hard to deny that models from porsche, ferrari and lamborghini have completely avoided the ugly stick in the quest for aerodynamic speed. so one then wonders why time-trial bicycles have to be so darned ugly?

though this is a factor that has preyed on my sensibilities for more years than i'm willing to admit, the veracity of such a point of view was forcibly underlined by a feature in the current issue of the comic. in an effort to verify how beryl burton's time-trial exploits would have compared with present day records had she had access to current technology, differentiations were made in the wind tunnel between a female rider aboard a replica of burton's steel raleigh (with cables exiting the top of the brake levers) and an ultra modern, carbon fibre time-trial bike.

the results are of mere academic interest, for beryl is no longer amongst us, and she rode the technology prevailing at the time. but some folks are interested in that sort of thing. however, for me, the most striking facet of the article was the visual juxtaposition of beryl's bike against that with which it was compared. not only the bicycles, but mrs burton's apparel which was decidedly less space-age than a long-sleeve skinsuit, accompanied by knee-length oversocks and a visored teardrop helmet.

i'm sure you can guess which i believe held greater appeal.

vintage steel bikes

saturday 18 june 2022

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play together on pedals

play on pedals

a gent of my acquaint has a nine year-old son who decided of his own volition, that he wanted to buy himself a drum with his pocket money. being a liberal sort of fellow, he acquiesced to this request, but with one proviso; that he seek lessons to learn to play the drum correctly. as it transpires, rather than a snare drum that is best placed on a stand, he opted for a marching drum affixed to a harness, suggesting that he hoped to follow the way of the kilt and the sporran.

generally i would have suggested that he attend band practice on a monday eve, where snare drum tuition is a part of my monday evening repertoire. however, as a lad with more interests than a university full of students, mondays were out due to football coaching. ever the good guy, i offered to take him for half an hour of lessons on a thursday after school. the music teacher at the local secondary school graciously allowed use of a music room in which to carry out each lesson.

out on bikes with grampy

anyone who teaches children in any discipline, will have an idea of the expectations from a nine year-old. generally i would have suggested we wait until his tenth birthday, the age at which, experience has taught me, is the most propitious at which to start. in fact, it's the same reason that the artist formerly known as the cycling proficiency scheme was generally only taught to the upper classes in primary schools. a road safety officer once confided that, commence at an earlier age, and there was a strong likelihood that they'd fail to retain information from one week to the next.

his answer had been in response to my enquiry why cycling proficency was not included across the majority of classes in primary schools. surely, i had proposed, the sooner we introduced children to the delights of cycling, the better the chances of them becoming avid cyclists in later life? ah, the naivety of youth.

however, in principle, such a strategy has much to commend it. for instance, in the weekly drumset lessons carried out at the secondary school mentioned above, even those in third year are considerably better sight readers than am i, some having been taught since primary school, but certainly introduced to so doing in first and second year at secondary. conversely, in my time at secondary school, music lessons consisted primarily of singing sea shanties and gilbert and sullivan. instrumental tuition took place as extra-curricular activities, and was certainly not a part of music periods throughout the week. and, at the time, more obsessed with the visual arts, i swapped music for painting.

this meant that, even as an adult, my sight reading abilities leave a great deal to be desired, and i frequently wish i had received proper tuition as a kid. why wouldn't that also be true for cycling?

perhaps harbouring similar ideals as my own, play together on pedals is a project curated by cyclinguk scotland. this consists of offering drop-in sessions for parents and pre-school children to help maintain a healthy lifestyle while having fun and learning skills that they will hope retain and make use of throughout the rest of their lives. ultimately, a perhaps forlorn hope is that the project will result in the family car being left at home in favour of more active travel by both yoing and old.

the latest stage in this education is the distribution of copies of 'out on bikes with grumpy', part of a bookbug explorer bag gifted to pre-school children across scotland. launched earlier this month, the book describes what happens when a little girl and her grandfather go cycling to explore their local area, enjoying opportunities to spot a variety of wildlife along the way, while seeing who can pedal faster. as is often the case, the little girl suspects that grampy is guilty of cheating.

there are already a number of cycling-related kids' books on the market, the perfect choice for birthdays or other special occasions, to hopefully inspire the nation's youth at a very early age. that way, when they grow up, they might eschew any opportunities to ride an e-bike until their lazier teenage years or when infirmity bites back. and starting them young means they'll be grateful to you for longer.


friday 17 june 2022

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the end of the world as we know it?


according to news announced over the past two days, the government has decided to end the subsidy previously available to purchasers of new electric cars. qualifying this decision, they explained that, instead of offering money to individuals via a grant system that was, i believe, originally instigated to help kick-start the ev industry, funding would be applied to the not inconsiderable problem of expanding the charging network required to keep those electric vehicles on the move. i shall, for the time being at least, avoid engaging in the discussion that shows electric vehicles not to be the solution to pollution and climate change that they purport to be.

the most recently installed ev charger on islay has been fitted to the outer wall of the local housing offices, where it is intended to offer means of charging an allegedly very expensive electric van intended for use by the maintenance team. unfortunately, i am reliably informed that the limited range of said vehicle has rendered it all but impractical for the purpose for which it was acquired. but meanwhile, the public ev charging offerings on islay have not improved within the last two and a half years. the local council has advised that they hope, over the coming year, to increase the number of installed public chargers, but only when funding allows.

i'm sure that somewhere along the line, i missed a public briefing that explained why, but i'm just a tad mystified why the charging points are the responsibility of local councils. petrol stations, the fossil-fuel predecessors of ev chargers, arose as a result of the need to satisfy demand; score one for market forces. i well know that, having set climate change targets, quite likely without thinking the whole thing through, westminster and holyrood are close to being hoist by their own petard. with electric vehicles now produced by the majority of the world's major vehicle manufacturers, it would be a brave politician who claimed the industry was still in need of financial inducement.

britain's best selling electric car is elon musk's tesla 3, with a base price in excess of £40,000. yet, as a result of the disbandment of the subsidy, an ev consultant at volkswagen financial services said that it was hugely disappointing, with insufficient being done to assist low income families join the transition to electric vehicles. my question would be just how many low-income familes were ever in the market for an expensive electric vehicle in the first place? as i recall, the grant was £1,500 but only applicable to evs under £32,000. so how many low-income families were ever likely to have considered spending £30,500 on an ev?

i have previously detailed in these very pixels, how i once enquired of the chancellor of the exchequer, via my local mp, why there was no concomitant, proportional grant available to prospective purchasers of e-bikes. the response ultimately resulted in my local council stating they'd spent their portion of monies devloved from westminster to holyrood to lochgilphead to improve active travel. not quite the question originally asked. but, when it comes to bicycles (the entire motor industry is way above my pay grade) why is there currently (pun intended) such a desire to make everything electric in the first place?

skarper a start-up heavily endorsed by sir chris hoy, has developed a device that attaches to a wide-range of bicycles and effects e-drive assistance via the rear disc-brake rotor. chris hoy is quoted as saying, "I truly believe this is going to make a significant impact on the industry by opening up cycling to a much wider audience.", to which i feel i must reiterate the question, "what's with the need to make everything electric in the first place?" this easily removable device, available for pre-order, is expected to be priced at around £1,000.

aside from the oft-repeated need to offset the effect of climate change, it's not so long since we were being repeatedly advised that britain was on the cusp of an obesity crisis, though by my reckoning, little was being done to remedy the situation. at the risk of teaching my grannies to suck eggs, expending more calories than you ingest, will ultimately result in weight loss, slightly mitigated by an increase in muscle mass through frequent exercise. it is no doubt declaring the glaringly obvious to point out that riding an analogue bicycle will entail an expenditure of more calories than the same distance covered on an e-bike, even if the latter is placed on the lowest level of power assist.

so why are we encouraging absolutely everyone to go electric?

and while electric vehicles and electric bicycles are pollution-free at point of use, there's no escaping the fact that both rely on energy that has to be generated somehow and somewhere, even if eventually via renewables. analogue bikes are free from such baggage, generally a bit cheaper to purchase, and somewhat lighter and less restricted as to range. though i'm woefully unqualified to undertake a technical discussion, the very phrase lithium-ion conjures up mental images of pollution in the few countries where the base metals required actually exist. and once again, at the risk of becoming even more out of my depth, doesn't it concern any western governments that the battery materials they require in substantial quantities, are the preserve of countries, such as chile, argentina and china?

russian gas, anyone?

thursday 16 june 2022

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though i will not mention the occasion, lest the name of the guilty party become public knowledge, i once rode well over 100km on a pair of rim-brake carbon wheels, but with standard brake pads, rather than those specifically designed for carbon. the latter is not a good conductor of heat, thus specially formulated compounds are designed to shift as much heat from the rim surface as possible, enhancing the ability to stop. i confess i'd originally blamed the fact that the bicycle which i was astride was setup continental-style: rear brake right, front brake left. however, the entire affair almost came to a less than satisfactory end on approach to a busy roundabout, when i discovered that despite two fully grasped brake levers, the bicycle had no intention of stopping.

sheer good luck allowed me to slip, without injury, between two cars already perambulating the roundabout, rolling on through to the exit i thought i'd never make. one can only surmise what might have happened had it been raining.

since that particular day, i have ridden many a pair of carbon-rimmed wheels, mostly with rim brakes and always with the appropriate pads fitted. as with everything, some are decidedly better than others. for those never to have experienced my original misfortune, older readers will perhaps understand when i say it bore a remarkable resemblance to those childhood velocipedes which featured textured chromed steel rims, which, when it rained, had no intention of stopping whatsoever.

whatever possessed the cycle manufacturers of the day to make available such utterly inefficient machinery to the feet and hands of britain's future generations, is quite beyond comprehension. today's health and safety executive would have had a field day throughout the management offices if not the boardroom for such a laissez-faire attitude towards child safety. good grief, mrs washingmachinepost has foam donuts affixed to the kitchen and sitting room doors, in order that little fingers escape the possibility of being inadvertently nipped (or worse) should they be closed by one or other of the little darlings.

however, when braking threatened to improve on mountain bikes in the early 1990s, some form of voluntary health and safety appeared to have intervened on the users' behalf. when sr suntour were still a viable competitor to shimano, they licensed the pedersen cantilever braking system. this relied on a integral helical cam within the body of the brake; when the brake pads made contact with the wheel rim, the forward motion pulled the shoe along this cam, increasing the pressure applied to the rim, and thus exponentially improving the braking power with no additional input from the rider. for this reason, it was described as a self-energising system.

the small paper booklet included in the box strongly advised against fitting these cantilever brakes to the front fork, on the basis that pulling hard on a front-mounted pair would run the risk of encouraging a pandemic of face-plants. of course, hundreds of us ignored such wording, fitted them anyway and mostly survived to tell the tale.

their existence was relatively short-lived, however, following shimano's invention of the linear pull, or v-brake. though i am an engineering degree short of pointless conjecture, common lore would have it that the v-brake exerted more and smoother braking power than did the self-energising variant. additionally, the latter was visibly heavier and contrary to mountain biking's growing obsession with weight-weeniness. for the life of me, i do not recall any remonstrations about confining the v-brake to the rear wheel only.

so, does this mean that, even though braking power became allegedly considerably more powerful than that which we rode as kids, our collective psyche improved at a similar rate, encouraging us to pull the rear brake a matter of seconds ahead of the front, preventing an unexpected and un-wished-for journey over the handlebars. and though the above concerns predominantly the world of offroad cycling, road-cycling described a similar trajectory.

the original weinnman caliper brakes often exhibited more fore and aft movement than side-to-side, providing their very own rendition of childhood wet weather braking. and though campagnolo's much sought after delta brakes were an aesthetic delight for roadies, their braking power left a great deal to be desired. however, both campagnolo and shimano replaced possibilities with practicalities by means of the once ubiquitous dual-pivot caliper brakes.

evidence of the reputed stopping power of the latter was once emphasised by vicenza, who subsequently replaced the dual-pivot rear caliper with a single-pivot design on the basis that research had indicated the twin version produced more stopping power at the rear wheel than was found to be necessary. if of any supporting evidence, i constantly found shimano-equipped road bicycles to feature a predilection for locking the rear wheel, even under modest lever pull. but yet again, unlike the warnings accompanying the pedersen brake, no specific caution was included in the box.

so what of modernity? mountain bikes are lighter, road bikes are even lighter, and disc-equipped e-bikes are being ridden by folks who probably haven't seen a saddle since prior to entering their teens. yet all feature hydraulic disc brakes offering arguably the same stopping power as motorbikes capable of travelling considerably faster and having to stop a lot more quickly. so why did sr suntour offer those prohibitions concerning the fitting of their self-energising cantilever brakes to the front forks? were we being duped by an astute marketing department, or has our grasp of the finer points of cycling become ever more finely tuned?

my money's on the marketing bit.

wednesday 15 june 2022

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ritchey retro

in the 1980s, when needing some sort of a quality bike upgrade from the extremely rudimentary road bike i had mistakenly purchased, i opted to join the band wagon in force at the time, and acquired an original muddy fox couriermountain bike, coincidentally purchased from a cycle shop in kilmarnock under the partial ownership of graeme obree. magazine adverts for almost any brand of mountain bike at the time emphasised many of the very traits currently appended to the present-day gravel bike craze, underlining the sort of terrain and territory to which purchasers could expect to be transported (pun intended).

of course, at the time, featuring as many as eighteen gears made such adventure seem, if not immediately tangible, the sort of thing that ownership of a mountain bike promised to everyone other than the possessor. even amongst those within bicycle shop distance of my abode at the time, were a few die-hards who embraced every aspect of those carefully concocted media ploys, convinced that they now resembled power rangers with bicycles. however, though messrs. breeze, ritchey, fisher and the other boys in the band had kick-started the whole enchilada on beach cruisers with coaster brakes, a quick nostalgic survey of the machinery available at the time, makes one wonder how many of them survived a pootle to the shops.

the latter journey, as it transpired, was probaby the most common route undertaken by many too many mountain bikes of the time. i can but hold my hand up in embarrassed fashion, to admit that my own muddy fox courier spent the bulk of its career riding between home and work, all of which involved metalled roads. a bit like the current gravel craze, it was soon apparent that the uk was less than well-equipped to cater for those who wished to throw themselves round berms and over drop-offs midst the undergrowth on their weekends off. i am not the only one to have queried just how much gravel is available on the this side of the atlantic (though i have been happily surprised on occasion).

however, given the style and quality of many bicycles available at the time, the mountain bike arrived at pretty much exactly the right time. not only on a solitary occasion has the genre been accorded the honour of reputedly saving the bicycle industry. it may come as something of a surprise, but not everyone likes drop bars (though admittedly the majority of gravel bikes tend to feature just such steering accoutrements).

but, as has been pointed out throughout history, there is nothing more assured than change, and the mountain bike's ascendancy had to end, or at least fade, at some time in its career. though it might be purely because it fits within the orbit of my very small world, observation would suggest that, since the late 1990s/early 2000s, the majority of technological development has been at the behest of the road bike. that is not to say that mountain biking has been stopped in its tracks, but even a cursory look across the broadcast schedules, would tend to support the theory that road cycling owns a higher profile than that of mtb.

itv4 has, ending sunday last, provided the uk viewer with an hour's worth of highlights from the criterium du dauphiné each evening, in comparison to not one minute given over to any mountain biking event you care to mention. not even ineos rider, tom pidcock's, success in that particular arena has encouraged any curated broadcast time. and, at this particular moment, though it's scarcely possible to open a cycling website or publication without falling over another treatise on gravel biking or bikepacking, i have yet to witness uk coverage of unbound xl or britain's very own dirty reiver (though i confess i have no real idea whether the latter is a competitive event).

even the early mountain bikes, by comparison with the ten-speed racers of yesteryear, were a substantially different kettle of fish, with long-cage derailleurs, three chainrings, flat bars and chunky tyres, though i do believe the tube profiles were remarkably similar. the gravel bike phenomenon, in a very short space of time, has surreptitiously infiltrated the road bike psyche, in several cases, emulating top end road bikes simply with the capability of accepting wider tyres. it took remarkably little time to move from gravel bikes such as the ritchey outback aimed more at the bikepacker, to the likes of cervelo's aspero, wind-tunnel tested to perform as aerodynamically as possible, no matter the ground over which it is ridden.

and the latter approach seems to be the one more commonly adopted, for whatever reason, even in this remote(ish) corner of the hebrides. when we have been joined by visiting riders. it is noticeable that many have been astride gravel bicycles, and though islay's roads often resemble gravel tracks, none of our regular sunday parcours deliberately include specific gravel territory. so is it possible that we are about to witness history repeat itself, with gravel bikes, even at the high end, simply acting as trendy road bike substitutes, with scarce ambition or intention to head into the undergrowth.

if it turns out that i'm right, and i've been wrong before, i will append the word consultancy to thewashingmachinepost at the top of the page, before becoming insufferably overbearing at every opportunity.

photo: ritchey bicycles

tuesday 14 june 2022

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