wood you?

timber window

prior to our moving to the hebrides, mrs washingmachinepost and i owned a small, two bedroom flat, one that we soon discovered was in need of upgrading the windows. despite the knowledge that the ubiquitous upvc double-glazing was renowned for being all but maintenance-free, at the time, i was drawn more to wood-framed replacements, despite the premium price those would have commanded. as it transpired, i wasn't too wide of the mark, and thewashingmachinepost household bank balance was unable to meet the demands.

however, before this became a problem of troublesome proportions, we moved, lock, stock and barrel to civilisation on the outer edge. the house in which we currently find ourselves originally featured timber-framed windows, but given the building's origination from the mid to late sixties, those windows were single-glazed, not the ideal partner on an island constantly strafed by winter winds. having garnered the necessary mortgage on the property, we eventually found ourselves in a position to replace the ageing and draughty windows, but sadly, only with the upvc disparaged above.

only part of this choice was based on economics; the island has several joiners/builders able and willing to offer replacement windows, but none were either willing or able to install the preferred wood frame option. given that we had no real wish to endure yet another draughty winter, we went for the soft option.

though the pigeon-holing of various stratas of modern-day society is hardly to be recommended or accepted, it would take a more tenacious individual than yours truly to attempt to outlaw the process. and at least a part of such an iniquity is that many of us fall into more than a single pigeon-hole. for instance, though i could easily be classified as a velocipedinist, seen from a different perspective, i could just as easily suffer the designation of drummer or percussionist. if such is a philosophy that meets with your own expectations, you can perhaps see that despite differing social or habitual trajectories, we may well share similar desires or needs.

for instance, further to the discussion above, i'd be willing to venture that many a cyclist is also a home-owner, and a proportion of those will, at some time or another, find themselves in need of replacement windows (though i'm fairly sure that this part of the venn diagram must be growing smaller by the year). however, perhaps desire might, at some time or another, gain the upper hand, and despite our abodes being already well-equipped in the double/triple/quadruple (delete as applicable) glazing department, we might find ourselves hankering after the more craftsman like wooden variety; perhaps trellised or possibly even a tad more ornate than the industrial uniformity of upvc.

assuming that to be the case, would it not be a wizard idea for purveyors of such products to advertise the availability of the available options, even to those who ride bicycles or, at a stretch, pound on a drumset?

well, irrespective of what you and i might think, a company called timber windows has grasped opportunity by the bottom bracket, and placed a full-page, colour advert for its timber window products in the current issue of cyclist magazine, for which i think they ought to be applauded (though i'm sure they'd be more appreciative of our approbation were we to avail ouselves of their product).

which once again, calls into question why our beloved bicycle manufacturers seem blissfully unconcerned or sufficiently perspicacious enough to advertise their wares in publications other than those concerned with bicycles? of course, i could well be talking out of turn, given that the only publication outwith the velocipedinal milieu to which i subscribe, is that of 'wired', a magazine which occasionally features a bicycle or two but, as far as i recall, has never featured an advertisement from any noted cycle marque. however, i would be more than happy to be proved wrong.

though i have advised this previously, when i asked several years ago, why cycle brands did not advertise in the likes of car magazines, or house and home type publications, i was told the problem was one of cost. however, i doubt that a full-page colour ad in house and garden, for example, is notoriously more expensive than a similar feature in rouleur, cyclist, or even modern drummer.

though many of us will have lost some faith in british cycling of late, there's still cycling uk working hard on behalf of britain's cyclists to improve the day to day experience. were the major cycle brands, such as specialized, trek, merida or canyon to actively advertise in the non-cycling press, perhaps more of the nation's uninitiated would find themselves in favour of adopting the way of the jedi. many of us already in thrall to the velocipedinal life, if not specifically aware of all the bicycles available, are well-versed in the ways of the internet to find out, should it be deemed necessary to adhere to velominati's rule #12 (the correct number of bikes to own is n+1).

those who see the motor car as the be all and end all of daily transport, even if only for a half-kilometre distance, have need of some enticement to switch to two wheels: the vast, untapped market, if you will. as advised above, organisations such as cycling uk are doing their best to to proselytise, but the world's cycle brands could play their part too, offering inroads to the cycling world and perhaps adding to their annual sales figures in the process.

monday 5 december 2022

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big time

billy ward big time

an erstwhile friend of mine is/was a new york drummer, particularly skilled at his art, beloved not only of his drum sponsor, but several high-profile singers and bands (including bb king) who have previously sought to employ his services. but apart from being one of the world's finest drummers, he is also a well-respected educator, having produced two instructional dvds and held drumming master classes, at one of which we met several years ago in edinburgh.

the first of these instructional dvds was entitled 'big time' through which he demonstrated his highly pragmatic approach to the drummer's basic duty; that of keeping time. there may be one or two drummers reading who would disagree with that concept; i know i have on occasion. however, no matter whether you think it the job of all the individual musicians to keep time, throughout the vast majority of my percussive career, such as it is, keeping time has been a prerequisite. and even if you think otherwise, i could pretty much guarantee that any variation in tempo will immediately be blamed on the drummer.

this fellow's own particular concept, as mentioned above, was the observation of big time; the big picture, if you will. fast tempos are relatively simple to maintain, principally on the basis that the notes arrive in speedy sequence, leaving little room to manouevre. medium to slow tempos, however, are by far the hardest in which to remain steadfast, specifically because there's so much space in which to go wrong. however, if the drummer can find the opportunity to increase his or her internal tempo, everything should, with perseverance, fall into place.

by way of a demonstration, while playing a slow tempo, it's eminently possible for the drummer to double or triple the internal gears (so to speak), by subdividing using, for instance, the heel of the hi-hat foot. thus, instead of counting (out loud or internally) 1,2,3,4, it would ease the slowness by counting 1&,2&,3&,4&, or even 1e&,2e&,3e&,4e&. if you've never tried it, now might be the perfect opportunity.

my friend has even been known to resort to clicking with his tongue while playing, observing big time, but all the while, subdividing to help continue keeping remarkably good time. due to the volume of even an un-miked drumset, what could be viewed as an annoying habit, or even a nervous tick, cannot be heard by anyone other than himself.

i realise that the majority reading will be querying precisely what this has to do with cycling, but a particularly inept bout of climbing on saturday morning had me wondering whether his concept could be (mis) applied to the art of pedalling? any climber worth his/her salt, is likely to advise that when climbing, particularly lengthy gradients, the ideal is to find a gear and rhythm that works for you, and sit in that groove to reach the summit, altering the rhythm dependent on gradient variations. of course, within the competitive milieu, real climbers display the ability to repeatedly vary the tempo in order to place their competitors under stress.

however, i believe that my contention remains true.

as the slope ahead increases, it's hard not to observe a notable slowing of cadence; everyone will do so at a differing rate, dependent on ability. but in order not to succumb to the iniquity of those slowing pedal revolutions, perhaps if, internally, we were able to maintain the groove from which we benefited on the flat, those climbing revolutions would appear less onerous, forestalling an embarrassing slowdown. for example, if we might assume a rolling cadence of 100 rpm, slowing to 50 on the gradient, counting 1&,2&,3&,4&, would equate to the original tempo. that counting might even assist with increasing the rate of climbing.

using one number that is exactly 50% of the other may seem rather trite and contrived, but as previously advised, numbers are not my strong point, so the easier the better. as one with an almost obsessive interest in drumming and percussive rhythms, i'm more inclined to play a pattern in my head, attempting to match it in direct correlation to the actuality of my decidedly retardant cadence. i will confess that my theory has not been exhaustively tested, but if nothing else, it provides an excellent means of boogying in the saddle.

if anyone else fancies having a go, might i suggest you begin with michael jackson's billie jean, before moving on to anything by brand x or the mahavishnu orchestra.

sunday 4 december 2022

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a change is going to come

classified hubset

there is a short video on youtube purporting to demonstrate why an eight to eleven speed gearset is better than that of twelve. unfortunately, though the demonstration would tend to suggest they may well be correct, the sole representative of the dozen sprockets is that of sram's xd setup, a system that requires a different hub arrangement than their non-twelve speed and different from the shimano and campagnolo offerings. in effect, the video's perpetrator has simply demonstrated why eight to eleven may be preferable to one particular brand of twelve.

yours truly, and several others, i'll warrant, have long debated the necessity of the continued increase in the number of rear sprockets available to the great unwashed. it's a debate tempered by the question 'how many gears do i actually need?', which sits very much at odds with the apparent marketing requirement of adding another sprocket at regular intervals to maintain a steady income. and as those gears increase, many who called time several years past, now become ever more agitated when time comes to replace a worn-out cassette, concerned they may struggle to find such a replacement, or if available, there may not be the ratios desired.

we have all waxed lyrical from time to time over the lack of compatibility within the industry, meaning that a shimano cassette will not fit a campagnolo freehub and vice versa. the weight was, at one time, firmly in the favour of the former, with sram having nailed their flag to the shimano mast. that was, until the advent of the aforementioned xd hub, meaning that none of the big three are in any way compatible with each other. though this may matter little to the aspiring roadie who has simply gone with whatever was fitted to the bicycle when new, it does mean that the retailers, apparently having not the greatest of times at present, now have the onus of stocking three variants to satisfy their customers.

in colloquial parlance, it's known as reinventing the wheel.

though i'm not advocating a return to the screw-on freewheel, at least in those days, everyone's hubshell bore the same size of threaded portion, allowing the consumer (that's you and me) to purchase pretty much any brand of freewheel we darned well liked, though i cannot deny that this wide offering of gearing came with the baggage of multiple freewheel removers for the high street bike shop.

i've no doubt that each and every manufacturer could provide a 300-page treatise on why their particular system not only differs from the competition, but makes perfect mechanical sense. if, like me, you either own or have ridden several different marques of groupset, you might be inclined to regard such evidence with a large dollop of salt. looking askance at the professional milieu, members of which ride whatever the sponsor provides. victories on the podium seem to depend far more on how many teams are provided with one brand of kit, rather than the efficiencies of one standing head and shoulders above the others.

the forthcoming season will apparently see the all conquering jumbo-visma riders switch from shimano to sram, a move that seems highly unlikely to have any notable bearing on the number of victories they might rack up over the season. yet, research and development teams continue to spend the r & d dollars to see if the wheel really can be invented.

one such reinvention which appears to be making serious inroads, is that of classified, no doubt benefitting from association with tom boonen as an investor. this company has recently attracted €22 million from active partners, at one time the financial muscle behind rapha and evans cycles. essentially their proprietary (disc only) rear hub, featuring yet another variation of the ubiquitous freehub, and one that is scarcely compatible with anything else, features an electronically controlled internal gear that allows the owner or cycle manufacturer to dispense with the front derailleur and inner ring. they reputedly have enegendered great interest from within the industry.

i will not attempt to reiterate the purported benefits of this system, though i don't doubt for one instant that it works every bit as well and efficiently as described. however, brief perusal of classified's website elicits the knowledge that the hub alone (along with the necessary electronic controller and appropriate cassette) costs £1200. though i'm hardly comparing like with like, my recently purchased handbuilt wheelset from condor cycles cost £416, featuring campagnolo record hubs. admittedly, a matching super-record twelve-speed cassette costs a not inconsiderable £320, but that still makes my complete wheelset just over half the cost of the classified electronic hubset.

and i received two wheels.

i will admit that it is particularly facetious of me to compare these two products on the basis of cost, for classified at present, is a small startup, and campagnolo is anything but. nor, indeed, can they be faulted on having the perspicacity and engineering expertise to bring their technology to the velocipedinal public. yet i can't help asking the question 'why?', not just of classified but the whole paradigm of so-called continued improvement. is there anything manifestly wrong with the current double chainset, a system that has existed for years? has the advent of electronica not already lifted gearchanging into the 21st century, arguably providing more efficiency and reputed ease of use?

i realise i'm probably speaking out of turn and that many will accuse me of desiring a return to five-speed freewheels and downtube gear levers; they may be right. but even if i agree with you, i'm not sure it removes the need to still ask the question 'why?'


saturday 3 december 2022

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mouth and money

herne hill velodrome

rapha cycle clothing was founded in 2004 by simon mottram, a gent who reigned as the company's ceo until december 2021, when he stood down from that position, but remains associated with the brand in his role of company founder. having found it impossible to buy the sort of cycle clothing he preferred in the early part of this decade, the only solution seemed to be to create a company of his own, with not only the aim of producing stylish apparel, but the longer term endeavour of attempting to bring the sport of road-racing to a far larger audience. whether the latter has been achieved or not, you'd probably have to ask him yourself, but given the higher profile that cycling appears to have at present, you'd likely have to admit that at least a part of that could be apportioned to the original imperial works.

however, proposing lofty ideals often brings with it the need to put your money where your branding is, and in ways other than direct sponsorship, such as rapha's affiliation not only with the much lamented, british-based rapha condor team, but also team sky and currently, ef education first. with that aim, rapha have to be congratulated on having created the rapha foundation in 2019 at the behest of mr mottram and current owners of the brand, americans tom and steuart walton. the rapha foundation, as a part of its mission statement, "...strives to take aspiring racers [...] to podiums at the top of the sport", doing so by providing grant funding to what i believe are termed 'grassroots' organisations.

in the uk, one such deserving mission (so to speak) is that of herne hill velodrome, a venue originating in 1891, and not long saved from disappearance due to the enthusiasm that the track has inspired in many cyclists and aspirants across the country's capital city. its tenacity in the face of adversity and a predilection for encouraging the very individuals that the rapha foundation was set up to encourage, has seen it become the latest recipent of an award from the foundation, adding to an initial grant received in 2019.

there may be some amongst you, and i would count myself within that number, who are aware that rapha's concentration on the road-racing side of the sport has diversified recently, with the introduction of their range of trailwear, aimed principally in the direction of the offroad brigade, by which i mean those in thrall to the mountains, the undergrowth and gravel. in 2004, rapha was at the forefront of the merino revolution, including this versatile wool in its sportwool jerseys and in baselayers, socks, caps and one or two other velocipedinal delights. it has now attempted, deliberately or otherwise, to do the same for the offroad world with the recent release of both men's and women's merino trailwear (an example of which i hope to review in the foreseeable future).

it is therefore, quite significant, i would venture, that a part of the £167,000 bestowed upon herne hill, will go towards the cost of increasing the availability of its offroad facilities and the recruitment of an offroad development officer. this latest grant also allows the extension of the role of youth development officer created with the aid of rapha foundation money in 2019. and while this financial largesse is more than welcome, herne hill is not the only organisation to benefit: both the dave rayner foundation and city academies will receive just over £122,000 each.

herne hill currently offers affordable, accessible cycling sessions, including track, road, mountain biking and cyclocross and prides itself on being the most affordable venue in london to learn, develop and compete on the track. regular users include female, youth, veteran and disabled riders from across the south east. rapha's co-managing director (they have two?) francois convercey, said, "as a brand, rapha has always been about cycling as a way of life, about the culture and the benefits the activity can bring to entire communities. i feel honoured that we are in a position to support the institutions that nurture a passion for cycling from an early age. organisations such as herne hill velodrome do not exist to earn a profit - their motives are far more noble than that. they deserve all the support they can get."

so the next time you look at apparel on rapha's website and exclaim 'how much?', you can surely take some satisfaction in the knowledge that at least a portion of those profits are being put to extremely good use in the name of cycling. who amongst us wouldn't have sold our last bottom bracket for the some of the opportunities being created by the rapha foundation?

rapha foundation

friday 2 december 2022

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reliably informed

race car

pedals, a bit like bottom brackets, tend to be the least thought of components on a bicycle because, quite simply, they just seem to work. like the bottom bracket, there isn't too much to go wrong, given that one features an axle rotating on two sets of bearings, while the other features a spindle with a pedal platform doing likewise. that said, the former has a better record in the longevity stakes than does the latter. in my days as a self-taught bicycle mechanic, i witnessed many a cheap bicycle continue to perform despite the bottom bracket bearing races having disintegrated, leaving acres of play between the few remaining bearings and the bearing cups.

modern iterations of the bottom bracket, including the once ubiquitous 'press-fit' variety tend to feature cartridge bearings, not immune from wear, but arguably better constituted to survive when it eventually infiltrates from the inside. i have met several excellent cyclists who continue to ride on worn brackets, apparently oblivious to the infection of noticeable lateral play 'down under (same goes for headsets).

pedals are of related concern, if only because their bearings are also prone to wear, possibly more so due to their smaller size. but they also occasionally suffer from the fact that they are open-ended and, it seems, occasionally prone to making a bid for escape from the open end. this very state of affairs occured to a colleague on a recent cycle trip to the neighbouring island of jura.

gleaned from various sources, it appears that crank brothers pedals, such as the candy and egg-beater were once particularly prone to suffering bearing-related malfeasances. several years past, i suffered two separate instances of bearing failure within days of each other on a pair of candy pedals and egg-beaters, both of which shared a similar bearing setup. the inboard needle bearings, not particularly well-sealed, were prone to having the race in which they were contained, disintegrate and jam any attempt at rotation.

the problem suffered by my cycling friend also concerned candy pedals, but in this case, the nylock nut securing the peal platform to the spindle managed to unscrew itself due to bearing failure, resulting in the pedal falling apart while still attached to his shoe cleat. unable to re-tighten the nut, due to a scarcity of suitably sized sockets on jura, meant he'd to remove the cleat and the pedal platform and ride home on the spindle. (newer versions of crank brothers pedals feature nylon bushings that have proved far more reliable).

a week or two later, i suffered a similar problem when one of my ritchey carbon road pedals achieved a similar feat while perambulating loch gorm on islay's west coast; about as far from home as it's possible to be on this particular hebridean island. fortunately, careful pedalling allowed me to make it home in one piece. then a matter of weeks later, one of the sunday morning peloton suffered almost exactly the same iniquity, only on far cheaper pedals. unfortunately, none of the above helps me make the point i'm aiming to illustrate.

though it would be a gross oversimplification to pretend that there have been no other velocipedinal mechanical sufferances over the years, on the whole, bicycles are not only very reliable, but demonstrate a commendable ability to function even when physics would suggest they shouldn't. but it's a salient fact that many mechanical problems suffered by the average bicycle are engendered by an admitted lack of maintenance and tlc. should evidence be required to prove that fact, witness those featuring in the world tour. despite often highlighting cutting edge technology in the process of being tried and tested by the best in the world, i can recall very few instances of riders being unable to continue due to insurmountable mechanical (or electrical) problems.

yes, they're pretty much all new bicycles, but remember that the majority cover more miles in a single season than many of us will achieve in a decade. granted, they're maintained within a centimetre of their young lives by some of the finest technicians in the world, but the same could be said for formula one cars, and i hardly need recount the number of retirements and dnfs suffered during the average grand prix. and if you take into account the financial investment required by that particular branch of motor sport and the telemetry on view in the pit lane, i'm not sure that it paints automotive technology in a particularly favourable light, compared to the reliability of the bicycle.

yes, i would agree that this is a bit like comparing strawberries and bricks, but both can be construed as modes of transport (a tad tenuously in the case of formula one), and neither make secret of the fact that they operate at the outer edge of their respective fields. and i'd also agree that there are considerably fewer moving parts on a bicycle than a race car, and that the former tends to move at a slower pace, presumably creating a less stressful crucible in which to operate.

however, i never said that this was a balanced equation, nor that i wrote from a wholly unbiased point of view, but i still think it notable that, when we move downstream to the more sedate family saloon car, the comparison continues to be borne out.

given my admitted preconceptions, it will surprise you not that i frequently take great glee in pointing out that motor cars, of whatever age or type, can be viewed as money pits. no matter how much cash is spent on keeping them mobile, at the end of it, the vehicle will be worth considerably less than it was prior to the expense. it may surprise you to know, however, that i've not had any car owner disagree with my rumbustious appraisal of the genre.

this is not to suggest that bicycles are immune from depreciation, but i think most would agree that a bicycle will continue to provide quality service for the lifetime of several cars. but in saying that, i now realise that i am probably, once again, playing to the gallery or preaching to the converted. so if you have any sympathy for today's motoring public, might i tempt fate and suggest that you send them a link to this monologue?

it's only fair.

thursday 1 december 2022

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who are you?

gravel bike

on my arrival in the hebrides, in retrospect, i would probably have answered to the description 'mountain biker', despite the fact that, prior to affiliating myself with the western corner of civilisation, i really cannot recall ever having ridden my muddy fox courier on anything other than tarmac. granted, my previous abode did not abound with offroad potential, but neither did i explore any possible options. islay, however, is not the offroad capital of the universe, though i'd agree that its geographical location might suggest otherwise.

even to this day, i can wander down bowmore main street of a summer's day and witness cars or vans festooned with state-of-the-art, dual suspension mountain bikes. i can but admit that i frequently wonder where the owners find terrain that demands such mechanical sophistication. for though there are any number of farm tracks or gravellous paths, the former inevitably lead to occupied farms, the owners of which are quite unlikely to offer a warm welcome to those interrupting the daily travail.

and the majorityof those gravel tracks were inevitably created to allow for peat cutting during the last century, a practice now in danger of disappearing due to the advent of central-heating and air-source heat pumps. other than the continued (substantial) demands of the distilleries, peat-cutting has become an endangered species. therefore, most of those tracks head into the hinterlands for perhaps a kilometre or two before coming to an abrupt and unceremonious halt.

the muddy fox eventually became a touring bike for a year or two, before being replaced with a squarer-tubed mtb, a bicycle that experienced its fair share of rough and ready bits of ground before its owner became fed up riding on tarmac to reach the more interesting bits of undergrowth, far enough distant from humanity as to offer unobservable moments of embarrassing face plants.

since those days, i have answered only to the roadie call sign, with the (very) occasional offroad foray aboard a cyclocross bicycle.

we have previously explored, at length, the lack of any explicable reason for the rise and rise of the gravel bike, and you will be glad to hear that i harbour no desire to reprise those at this point in time. however, the endless list of reasons, in the uk at least, can surely be explained away in part, by road-going cyclists becoming alarmed, impatient, or downright fed up with both the amount of vehicle traffic sharing the same space and the behaviour of an ever increasing minority of drivers towards cyclists. no doubt more would adopt the way of gravel, were it possible to commute without ever riding on tarmac.

but as has been a constant subject presented in articles, books and even youtube videos, large parts of mainland europe are far better served when it comes to separating bicycles from motorised transport by way of defined cycleways and a more benevolent cycling culture. in which case, there seem fewer reasons as to why riding offroad could be deemed necessary, other than for the sheer heck of it.

one of the european countries to which i alluded above is that of the netherlands, the national cycling association (ntfu) of which has surveyed the reasons as to the continuing popularity and growth of gravel bike riding.

following yesterday's discussion of very expensive chain wax, i can but conclude that, as a section of humanity, the velocipedinal subgroup must be populated by many of the financially well-heeled. the dutch contingent, it would seem, particularly so. as evidence of this conclusion, i might refer to the above mentioned survey, the results of which concluded that the average sales price of bike purchases is notably higher than that of the brexit afflicted uk. according to the ntfu, purchasers of e-bikes and high-spec gravel bikes have raised the country's average spend on those bicycles to €2,776. oddly enough, amongst those who admitted to also owning a road bike, the average spend on the latter was a substantially lower at €1500.

yet, having spent over €2,500 on a gravel bike, 40% of those who responded to the survey stated that they rode said bicycle up to four times per month, with another 40% claiming up to eight rides per month. hardly what might be construed as overuse. and despite having acquired bicycles almost always advertised as capable of rivalling a landrover defender when it comes to traversing the rough stuff, most riders claimed to seek "...fine to coarse gravel trails, flowy singletracks and paved roads." not to say that a gravel bike is incapable of accommodating all of the above, but once again, one has to wonder if so doing actually demanded a new genre of bicycle?

the purpose of the ntfu survey was apparently with a view to making greater inroads on land access and when discussing cycling trends with government agencies. so, despite the availability of endless kilometres of dutch cycle tracks, meaning potentially limited interaction between bicycles and cars, the intrepid netherlands velocipedinist still holds attraction for the gravel less travelled. on this side of the channel, we have cycling uk keeping tabs on government policies and attempting to expand the facilities available to the majority of cyclists. but perhaps their efforts would be carry greater weight if british cycling attempted to acquaint themselves with the real needs of their membership.

i am reliably informed that the current embarrassingly poor state of competitive british road cycling, cyclocross and arguably, mountain biking has been laid at the door of bc, an organisation that seems single-mindedly obsessed with the track. a lack of appropriate events has undoubtedly led, in part, to the demise of many professional road teams, while a deficit of funds, sponsorship and policing has drastically reduced the number of both amateur and professional events.

many a modern gravel bike has become the latter only in name, more closely resembling a top-level road bike with knobbly-tyres. perhaps more active lobbying on behalf of the uk sport's governing body alongside cycling uk could enable more to adopt the gravel path (deliberate pun), get away from motor traffic and give the gravel bike a reason to live.

because wall to wall cycle facilities are not arriving any day soon.

wednesday 30 november 2022

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(very) marginal gains

silca hot wax x

one of my sunday morning bike ride colleagues has recently outfitted his specialized diverge with sram's wi-fli technology to activate the rear gear mech, a singular necessity since the bicycle rides on a single front chainring. no need, therefore, for a similarly wireless front mech. though likely down to pilot error from both of us, we have independently experienced minor struggles with our sram gearchanging; he on the diverge, and yours truly with my specialized crux.

it appears that both bicycles had begun life with less than perfectly vertical replaceable dropouts. in my own case, this had frequently resulted in the jockey cage rubbing gently on the rear wheels spokes, depending on which wheelset had been fitted. this also manifested itself through irregular jumps between sprockets, a situation often replicated on my colleague's diverge. though a replacement, replacement hanger appears to have cured my own difficulties, i still frequently struggle with accuracy of changes which i have benevolently put down to my own clumsiness with the inner flip lever on the right brake lever.

my friend opted for an electronic upgrade with the aim of smoothing out some, if not all of those idiosyncracies, which on the basis of last sunday's ride, seems to have worked, and quite competently by all accounts. given my disassociation with electronica, i have opted to remain a martyr to the cause and persevere with my mechanical sram rival setup. since i rarely ride the 'cross bike in company, it's a situation with which i'm quite happy, with no real need of keeping up with anyone else.

since it's none of my business and is only peripheral to this discussion, i have no idea of the price tag attached to his recent 'improvement', but since the sunday ride has a rigidly enforced, 'leave no-one behind' policy, any performance enhancements are effectively rendered null and void under the circumstances. and given that the diverge features larger/wider tyres than feature on my ritchey logic, there are those additional watts of drag with which to contend. in other words, his gear-changing may be smoothness personified, we're pretty much all together on arrival at debbie's for coffee and toasties.

however, the quest for untrammeled speed continues apace, seemingly oblivious to any perceived need so to do, and in flagrant defiance of the current 'cost of living' crisis.

descending quite some distance from aero-formed hyperbikes to the allegedly over 90% efficient bicycle chain, there have been many usurpers joining the chain lube market of late, no doubt wishing to assist with the purported 100 man hours expended in lubricating the chain featured on filippo ganna's 3d-printed, hour record pinarello. though several of us disagree with the large sums of money spent in order to achieve that record, it is possible to comprehend why such extensive measures were employed to ensure the italian achieved the desired goal.

it would be foolish, however, to think that any one of us could have come within a day of ganna's record, even had we been sat aboard that selfsame bicycle, but it seems that there may be a sizeable number willing not only to aim in that general direction, but devastate their bank balances in the process. and unsurprisingly, there are those able, willing and ready to accede to their demands. in fact, it may be that those un-named purveyors are set more on creating the stick-based carrot to create that demand, than simply as an apparently altruistic reaction to an overheard clamour from the great unwashed.

in the midst of those i'm sure we could already name, along comes silca, perhaps more readily known for their highly engineered track pumps.

as one of a few recent product releases, silca have introduced hot wax x incorporating their graphene derivative, 'nanene'. before we venture any further, i should probably frame this release by pointing out that the uk price of a 300g tin has been announced as £220. for this tidy sum of money, silca advise that it offers up to 12 watts of power saving, compared to other chain wax products, and somewhat unbelievably, claims that it can extend chain life to an impressive 30,000km. should that in fact be true, the cost might seem well worth it, given that a campagnolo 12-speed chain (for example) retails at around £52. i generally reckon on getting about 5,000km from a single chain, so a tin of hot wax x would actually save me money in the long-term. however, my healthy sense of cynicism is likely to prevent me rushing to buy a tin.

however, extended chain life aside, how many of us actually need to save 12 watts (assuming that can be quantified in some comprehendable manner), or, perhaps more to the point, be in posssession of the physical wherewithal to take advantage? though you would imagine the principal beneficiaries to consist of the elite of the elite (the professional classes), they're fairly unlikely to be spending their own money, which means, presumably, that silca are looking to you and i to balance the books. and that despite the glaringly obvious fact that, to our own humdrum velocipedinal existence, however aspirational that may be, a tin of hot wax x with nanene, is unlikely to make one iota of difference.

remember when we used to just go for a bike ride?

silca products are distributed in the uk by saddleback.

tuesday 29 november 2022

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