the brompton: engineering for change. will butler-adams & dan davies. profile books hardback. 278pp illus. £25

brompton: engineering for change - butler-adams

"Our philosophy demands the following: To offer only products which have real practical value, to avoid developments and designs whose primary appeal is superficial and unlikely to be genuinely useful."
an excerpt from the brompton company philosophy.

form follows function; a mantra either beloved of designers of all kinds everywhere, or one regarded with disdain. perhaps glaring examples of form that paid little attention to function, would be gothic architecture and 1950s american automobiles. on the other hand, to extend the motor car connection, the citroen 2cv and the volkswagen beetle are two in which form very definitely follows function. and though it pains me to write, cars raced in formula one, aside from their colour schemes also feature a form that follows function.

bicycles, by and large, at least until carbon fibre entered the fray, are entirely functional, a state of affairs that was punctuated only by the trend for ornate lugwork in the mid twentieth century. and even then, the function of the latter was to identify one marque against another. and i confess, it had never occurred to me that the iconic brompton folding bicycle was pretty much the epitome of the aforementioned mantra. it's one thing to make a statement as identified above, but a whole 'nuther bucket of hinges to stick to it in the face of changing trends.

the original brompton (named after brompton oratory which the inventor viewed through his kitchen window in knightsbridge) was conceived, the author relates, by the 'engineering genius', andrew ritchie, in 1975. its existence is predominantly at the behest of ritchie's dislike of the ride quality of the bickerton folding bike, one which he thought he could improve. i confess that many years ago, i received a brompton for review, a bicycle which arrived folded within a cardboard box. it does me no favours to admit that, after spending 45 minutes attempting to unfold it, i'd to resort to youtube, a video which gave me the metaphorical slap on the face for being such an idiot.

until that point, every other folding bike i'd come across, folded in half laterally; the front half folded alongside the rear. the brompton however, due to its ingenious, andrew ritchie invented hinge, effectively folds beneath itself, the rear wheel assembly fitting into place beneath the curved 'top tube'. this allows brompton to attach two small wheels to the end of the rear rack, enabling it to be pulled along by the saddle, in the manner of many modern-day suitcases.

the author, it transpires, is the current chief executive officer, a chartered engineer, who joined brompton from ici in 2002, and has overseen its progress from manufacturing almost 10,000 bikes per year until the present, when its output has almost reached ten times that number. at its manufacturing beginnings in 1995, the company employed 31; it now has a staff of 786, and a turnover of £105 million. even if you've never ridden or folded a brompton, those numbers alone are impressive.

but as with many 'genius' engineers, they're far better left alone to concentrate on what they do best and let others ensure that their genius can be turned into sales and subsequent profits. my grasp of economics is rudimentary, to say the least, but it doesn't take a hedge fund manager to comprehend the author's undoubted suitability for the position he currently holds. the fact that he too is an engineer no doubt aided and abetted the travails of a business in which many of the processes are carried out in-house.

as mr butler-adams relates, "The key problems to solve in a folding bike are rigidity and strength, and the easiest way to make something strong is to add more metal to the structure. Conversely, the easiest way to make a bike that weighs less, is to remove metal from it, and this will, other things being equal, make the structure weaker." rather obviously, a folding bike defines a specific purpose, one that will allow for portability both before and after any bike ride. but there's little point in that ease of carriage, if it rides like a noodle. and having outside contractors manufacture complex and individual parts for limited numbers of a unique piece of machinery could conceivably make its retail price too high to encourage sales figures that might offset the problem.

the author, by his own testimony, business acumen and apparent lack of ego, seems the perfect fit for the company, but also sufficiently aware to detail the beginnings of the brompton folding bike from the 1975 invention of that hinge, through the early days of start-stop manufacture, the not unexpected difficulties of acquiring sufficient finance and the inevitable upscaling and moving of premises, as the brompton's fortunes improved.

"This, then, is the story of the Brompton bicycle [...] It's told from a particular point of view - mine - and that means there are bound to be some biases and blind spots, but I've done my best to be honest and to consult other people who sometimes remembered things slightly differently."

the first part of mr butler-adams' narrative (the book is divided into complementary sections) is all about making bikes. "I'm going to spend some time discussing in detail things I learned about the manufacture of the Brompton bike during two decades in a factory."

describing the folding bike as "...a massive compromise...", he moves on to discuss the tolerances required to manufacture the brompton, the concept of the 'jigs' used to create consistency of output, having to acquire an expensive and bespoke cnc machine for in-house manufacture, and the importance of quality. and while early steel bicycles were joined together by means of cast lugs, the steel parts on a brompton are conjoined by fillet-brazing, a highly skilled task. the philosophy at brompton allows any employee in any department to check if they have the aptitude and skill to undertake this highly paid job.

but, as stated above, will butler-adams is the ceo of brompton, the skills for which are not necessarily the same as those required to physically build a bicycle. in a section entitled 'building a company' the author reiterates this fact by pointing out that "...a company has a lot more moving parts." this opening paragraph is faced by a copy of a letter from the design director of ti-raleigh, informing a previous brompton director, that they would not be opting to manufacture the folding bike on the basis that it was unlikely to sell in sufficient quantities to make it a commercial reality.

as ceo he seems keenly aware that, in order to progress the business to improved profitability "...everything has to change so that anything can stay the same." and that "It is not easy for anyone to be the second chief executive of a company founded by a genius." he details the various arrangements made internationally to secure profitable overseas distribution, and how brompton eventually brought/bought many of these back under their own jurisdiction to retain the control he was sure they needed to progress in a profitable manner

butler-adams also possesses a perspicacity that often seems rare in modern manufacturing and business administration, keenly aware of the brompton's ability to change lives for the better within inner-city and urban environments, but without resorting to extraneous attempts to become fashionable. reprising the historical change from the horse to the motor car he points out that the over 50% of the world's population who live in cities account not only for 80% of the planet's economic output, but 60% of its greenhouse gases. if, as forecast, the population of the world's cities continues to increase, the means by which that population moves about, is unlikely to be solved by electric cars.

this chapter also includes the classic image of 42 folded bromptons occupying a single car parking space.

and having broached the subject of electric transport, he moves on to detail the almost tortuous history of bringing an electric brompton to market. while many ordinary e-bike manufacturers are content to simply add a motor and battery to an existing frame design, the brompton is a substantially different challenge due to the overarching requirement for portability. in other words, there's little point in electrifying the brompton if its owners would have to enrol in a body-building course to be able to lift it.

"At times we toyed with the idea of taking one of these motors and putting it onto a Brompton anyway, just so that we were in the game, but only bodybuilders or rugby players would be able to carry one."

if i could think of a legitimate reason to own a brompton, i'd have one in a heartbeat. it may be a bicycle that offers nothing other than the function for which it was designed, but that's not to say its form-factor is not intriguing and extremely pleasing to the eye. nor indeed that the 'nothing' isn't a major substantiality in and of itself. having ridden bromptons on more than a single occasion, i can testify to their sense of fun, and even their suitability for the rural landscape, even if the folding part would be a feature little used this far west. this book has only increased that desire. while it admittedly deals with engineering concepts and business practices, the narrative is compulsive (i completed reading in a little over four hours) and well worth £25 of anyone's money. even more so if you own or are a prospective owner of a brompton bicycle.

they really ought to include a copy with every brompton sold.

monday 19 december 2022

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does it work?


at the very start of this century, islay's distilleries decided to join with the ailing islay festival to create the festival of malt and music, otherwise known as fèis ìle. and as a small aside, though the distilleries refer to it with the word 'malt' taking pride of place, the original festival folks, prefer the word 'music' to be foremost. fun to watch from the sidelines.

however, there was little doubt that the original festival had all but run its course, suffering predominantly from a lack of funds to ensure its continuance into the 21st century. allied with the distilleries, however, whose principal product commands a premium price, it became possible for the former to organise the peripheral entertainments, while the big boys got on with the job of making whisky into even more of an attraction than it already was. from the outside looking in, it seems bizarre that folks will travel from all over the world to listen to a manager or head distiller explain the subtle nuances that are said to exist within each dram, following which, they will cheerfully be guided round premises which carry out exactly the same process as their eight island peers.

nonetheless, despite my teetotal cynicism, on the last week of may each year, the population of islay doubles or trebles with an influx of so-called aficionados of the dram, eager to listen and watch almost exactly the same as they were shown during the previous year's festival. not only is it a boon for the distillery shops, but also for accommodation providers across the island; at festival time there are scarcely any spare beds to be found. and having drammed themselves silly each day for a week, they are then in need of more substantial sustenance, meaning the island's hotels and restaurants are booked out for the eight or nine days of the event.

however, though it would surely be foolhardy to make such an effort to arrive on the outer edge and restrict one's palate to a single distillery, it is a truism that many are attracted to the product of a single distillery, in much the same way as football supporters tend to pledge their allegiance to one specific team. and, if you're willing to accept this as the case, the self-anointed cognoscenti are more than likely in the habit of purchasing bottles emanating from their favoured stillhouse. so does that mean that the others are wasting their time?

following the very first festival of malt and music in 2000, on the approach to the 2001 event, one of the managers opened the first planning meeting by declaring that his bosses had demanded of him that he ask the assembled festival committee (which consisted of representatives of each of the island's distillers, along with one from jura which had also decided to join the happy throng), just what they hoped to gain from participation? some twenty one years later, that seems like one of the daftest questions that could have been asked, but it does contain a kernel enquiry that must surely ring true for a great deal of businesses. basically, his question had asked, "so what do we get out of it?"

and to be fair, it was a highly pertinent question.

in 2022, bruichladdich distillery, which always occupies the first sunday of the festival, brought over to islay, at considerable expense, a professional sound and stage hire company, the many flight cases of which filled an entire 40ft articulated truck. if you add to that the food and drink provided at very nominal charge, the staffing costs incurred and numerous other expenditures of which i'm doubtless unaware, each distillery's open day draws heavily on the marketing budget. and, as the gentleman asked in 2001, for what, exactly?

it has often been said that there's no such thing as a free lunch, and to a certain extent, that remains predominantly true. each distillery offers at least one festival bottling, exclusively available on the day, and quite frequently at a premium price. i seriously doubt that visitors to the festival purchase their quota from only a single distillery, but it might give the game away to inform you that a well-known whisky auction company occupies a daily stance, where purchasers can deposit their bottles in the certainty of realising twice or three times the purchase price come the next auction. the distilleries gain income from the original sales, while the more financially astute amongst the visitors, subsequently do likewise.

a symbiotic relationship.

but does it actually sell more whisky in the long run? and does it convert ardbeggians (for instance) to laddies? for while there's no doubt that all ten distilleries could probably content themselves with having achieved an expensive bit of community service to the island, i'd imagine that the long term approach has less to do with altruism and more to do with commerce. and, assuming that to be the case, how do they know it's working in their favour?

it is, i believe, the modern equivalent of the statement made by john wanamaker in the late 1800s: "half of my advertising budget is wasted. if only i knew which half." recent events suggest that the specialized bike company (for one) is trying to answer that very question. specialized have long held the belief that providing so-called influencers with free bikes, kit and a modest stipend, then letting them tell stories involving the same, was beneficial to the brand. but then suddenly they didn't, with several of those influencers being informed last week, that their services would no longer be required.

speclalized provided bicycles for total energie, quickstep and bora hansgrohe in 2021 (and bizarrely, have decided to sponsor football team, rcd mallorca), but the perennial question must be whether so doing actually influences any of us to put our money where their mouth is, and buy a specialized bicycle. for i believe that most of us are intelligent enough to realise that it is very rarely the bicycle that won the race. i think peter sagan would still have worn rainbow bands had he been aboard a pinarello or canyon instead of a specialized. what if it is purely coincidental that mike sinyard's company (part owned by merida) sells thousands of bicycles, and would continue to do so even if they supplied not one bicycle to the world tour?

the same question might be asked of every other team's bicycle sponsor. mr sinyard, or his marketing department, appear convinced, having extended their sponsorship of quick-step through to 2027.

sponsorship of cycle teams, or individual riders, must surely be similar to the open conceit that every dram of islay whisky has been matured in an oak cask by the sea wall, infused with the salt-sea air and providing those seaweed flavours beloved of the manager's masterclasses. maybe it's just all smoke and mirrors, and perhaps someone has actually worked out the efficacy of both situations. in which case, one can only suppose that it is a favourable one, or there are a number of cycle teams that would surely be visiting their local bike shops to ask about discounts.

sunday 18 december 2022

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it's only logical

ritchey logic

there is an inherent problem with the act of reviewing any product, though in this specific case, we'll confine ourselves to those within the velocipedinal realm. pretty much everything, when new, works as designed, predominantly because, whatever it is, it's already been through the mill courtesy of the manufacturer. bicycle frames, componentry, clothing, helmets and various accessories have been designed, produced, revised, tested, tested some more and subsequently revised once more prior to being packed in a box ready to send to bicycle dealers all across the world. in which case, you might genuinely wonder, what is the point of sending a review sample to me, or any number of other scribes, journalists or bloggers?

the answer, if you haven't already guessed, is one of veracity. i, along with probably every other member of the cycling media, am in constant receipt of press releases, regaling me with the technical, design, and standout features of any number of bikes, jerseys, groupsets, bibshorts; you name it, there's probably been a press release describing it. and that is entirely as you would expect in this age of marketing, but that doesn't mean to say i, or anyone else, has to take the manufacturer at their word. how many adverts have you seen on tv where the voiceover advises that a singer or group have released "...their incredible new album."

for where would be the point in describing this "...mediocre new single that you might want to buy, but only if you're stuck for something to listen to."?

thus, despite the hours, days, weeks and months it has taken to bring any new or improved product to market, no-one's really going to take the manufacturer's word for it, that this is, without doubt, the greatest thing since sliced bread. which is where i, and others like me, come in, to ride, wear, or change gear with an independent mindset that might better inform you as to whether you should spend your own hard-earned money. and it surely behoves the innocent reader, to only pay attention to those in whom he or she is inclined to place their trust. after all, what if i, in the guise of reviewer, haven't the faintest notion of that which i write about?

ritchey logic

however, the intrinsic downfall of this situation, one which does not solely apply to the world of the bicycle, is that almost every item sent for review is brand new and still in the packet. with an almost endless stream of new product arriving on the market by the day, it would surely be a tad redundant for me, or any other reviewer, to spend a period of six months to a year, before reporting back as to the efficacy of any particular product? many clothing manufacturers order a limited number of any specific garment, and despite my attempts at a timeous turnround of any review, it would not be the first time that i have published words describing a cycle garment only to learn that the product has sold out and is unlikely to be re-stocked.

and it's not only clothing. while groupsets will often feature only cosmetic differences year on year, there's a strong possibility that certain models of bicycle will be surpassed after only twelve months, though once again, this might be purely cosmetic, where the manufacturer has decided to offer it in blue this year, rather than last year's red.

on the other hand, some products seem to remain unchanged for many a long year, experiencing solely a colour change as the years roll by. one such product would surely be that of tom ritchey's logic road bike frame, one that has indeed altered colour since my own example arrived five years ago. but the only notable change across those sixty months has been the arrival of a disc option accompanying the 50th anniversary frameset which still caters for rim brake aficionados (such as yours truly), but was limited to only 150 worldwide.

constructed from triple-butted, tig-welded ritchey logic tubing, the logic frameset (and this applies to the disc version too) has changed little in the 30 years in which it has been available. and, in an effort to circumvent the 'as new' review factor, it seemed timely to offer a glance at my own experiences over the past five years of riding a steel ritchey logic, now that it has had time to properly settle in.

over those five years, the logic frameset has been home to, originally, a campagnolo chorus eleven-speed groupset, subsequently upgraded to the record twelve-speed on which it rides today. similarly, it has featured more than a single set of ritchey handlebars, not because there was anything wrong with any of them, but simply because simon and jeff at ritchey have been kind enough to send different models for review. the same goes for stems to grasp hold of those bars. currently my ritchey logic features a wcs ergomax handlebar, aimed more at the gravel market, but a set that has proved most efficacious and comfortable over islay's often gravellous singletrack roads. they're held in place by a wcs chicane stem, which features an ingenious hinge at the top, meaning only two clamp botls and the ability to hold the bars in place while the latter are tightened in place.

ritchey logic

the original setup featured a wcs 1-bolt alloy seatpost, which worked more than effectively, but my curiosity was piqued by ritchey's own 1-bolt carbon equivalent at a substantially higher price. ritchey were kind enough to supply one of these that i might satisfy that curiosity as to what benefit would be gained by spending more than £100 extra. in truth, it really only ironed out one or two smidgeons of road buzz and save a gram or two, but it's at least there if you want one.

i did go through two pairs of ritchey wcs carbon road pedals both of which failed in the bearing department (and are no longer available on the ritchey website). these were preceded by a pair of ritchey micro-road pedals which utilised cleats of similar size to their offroad pedals. though i'd only to change from those on receipt of a couple of pairs of three-point road shoes for review, it seems that they too are missing in action from ritchey's website. my saddle of choice is a well-worn brooks cambium, atop that carbon ritchey seatpost.

ritchey logic

but to eventually reach the much delayed point of this diatribe, the logic has been a veritable delight to ride, whether rolling on a ritchey classic zeta wheelset, a pair of handbuilt wheelsmiths, campagnolo's bora wto wheels, or the custom built mavic/campagnolo record set that currently garnish its magnificence. the frame is pretty much unscathed other than a scratch on the top tube suffered when another cyclist roughly attempted to remove their own bicycle from the bike rack outside debbie's. however, even that failed to expose the metal underneath

i have ridden in winds that i really shouldn't have, on icy roads, through torrential rain and even the occasionally sunny day. i rode the logic on the etape loch ness and more than one ride of the falling rain. it may not feature the extreme lightweight promised by contemporary carbon fibre, nor indeed, the tube shapes that constitute the current idea of aero (passenger jets aren't flat and square). and though its constitution has survived one or two unattended falls, it promises to offer sterling service for many more years to come, continuing to offer an arguably unsurpassed ride quality.

the only frame maintenance required over the course of the last five years, has been replacement of the integrated headset bearings, a task which proved to be simplicity itself (knock the worn ones out, drop the new ones in). in short, it performs every bit as well today as it did in 2017. and one of the best bits? even the disc version retails at only £1300, making it stunning value for money. i have the t-shirt to prove it.

ritchey logic frameset

saturday 17 december 2022

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rapha impact report

the news earlier this week that american scientists had successfully created nuclear fusion was greeted not only with joy, but with mitigation. the $3.5 billion experiment conducted at california's national ignition facility, succeeded in replicating the energy source that powers the sun, by using a 192 beam laser, capable of heating a tiny amount of hydrogen to 100 million degrees celcius (actually hotter than the sun's core). the experiment input 2.05 megajoules of energy, to realise 3.15 megajoules of energy output; the first time this has been achieved.

and while this brings the promise of a nuclear fusion reactor a step closer, the existence of which would provide the means of offering the world limitless, clean energy via this process is still a long way off. and, as pointed out by those with far greater knowledge than i, the experiment's success did not take into account of the energy required to power the laser in the first place.

ironically, this qualified success in the field of nuclear fusion came only days prior to publication in the guardian newspaper, in its twice-weekly long read section, of a visit to sellafield in the north of england. once the site of a magnox reactor, employed to produce the plutonium required by the nuclear arms industry, it has latterly become a repository of nuclear waste, a substantial quantity of which emanated from beyond britain's shores. what was once thought to be an economic success for the uk, has, in fact, turned into a money-pit, one into which billions of pounds will have to be thrown for the foreseeable future, as the plant has to continually renew the repositories into which varying levels of nuclear waste have been dumped.

in the 1950s, nuclear power was expected to supply britain's power network with electricity that would be 'too cheap to meter', unlike the mining of coal to supply britain's coal-fired power stations. yet, as the world has set itself targets to wean itself off fossil fuels such as coal and oil in favour of renewables, comes a government announcement that planning has been approved for a new coal mine in cumbria, the market for which seems in grave doubt. the coking coal it is designed to produce is, apparently, too sulphurous for the british steelworks it had once hoped to supply. and evidence would suggest that the majority of the world's steel works are in transition mode to move away from reliance on coal, leading the ordinary man and woman in the street (that's you and me) to wonder what would be the point of it all?

it also transpires that, even if the coal remains un-burned, the very act of retrieving it will add several hundred thousand tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

however, it may also bring at least a portion of us velocipedinists to realise that, while our bicycles may be pollution-free at point of use, they do have an environmental impact at the point of manufacture. carbon fibre is worse, taking up to fourteen times as much energy to produce than steel, though it arguably has a longer lifecycle due to the likelihood of a longer lifecycle (though whether that equates to fourteen times as long, is probably open to debate).

this is not intended to be a part of my luddite manifesto, promoting the use of steel-framed bicycles over those made of carbon-fibre. it's simply a statement of fact. and it forms part of an admittedly long-winded way of pointing out that, while as bicyclists, we like to think of ourselves as inherently 'green' and thus immune from accusations of contributing to climate change, there's every likelihood that such immunity is a tad on the tenuous side. the fact that many steelworks immediately responded to the government's go-ahead for the cumbrian coal mine, by pointing out that they had rejected coking coal due to its high sulphur content, provides an indication that the industry is attempting to clean-up its act, and ultimately, steel bicycle frames (to lean a bit heavily on the parochial).

it would be naive to think that the carbon-fibre industry is not doing likewise, nor, indeed the rest of the cycle industry. there's not much to be gained from having a false green image, if you're not endeavouring to, as captain picard would surely have said, "make it so.' and one of the more prominent characters in our velocipedinal play, now ensconced in its relatively new london premises, is cycling apparel purveyor, rapha.

there are still many who consider rapha to be little more than a remarkably clever and successful marketing ploy, intent more on creating profit, than entrenching themselves as an integral part of cycling's great panoply. for that to have succeeded would likely have necessitated recruiting employees with no great affiliation for the act of cycling. from personal experience, i know that not to be true. yet rapha admit that they have a long way to go to achieve some of their self-imposed targets in the process of reaching a singular goal; to inspire the world to live life by bike.

the fashion industry, in which the seemingly separate cycle industry is indubitably ingrained, has often been on the receiving end of criticism that would point to its environmental credentials being less than pristine. this is a fact of which the residents of the former imperial works are keen to acknowledge. "We're positive about the progress we've made in the past twelve months - including 100 per cent carbon neutral shipping, keeping 9,000 garments on the road through our free customer repairs service, and achieving 99 per cent organic cotton use across our SS22 products."

it would be unfair to suggest that, within the industry, rapha are the only inhabitants looking at their environmental impact (trek published a similar report earlier this year), but even a cursory glance at this recently released report reveals that it is pretty much all encompassing and stunningly comprehensive. but just like the intelligence that would have us place our faith in governments to save us from climate change without incurring personal input, perhaps rather than sitting back and letting the industry do it all, we should/could take a look at our own personal cleat-prints?

after all, every little helps.

friday 16 december 2022

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park life

secure bike parking

almost adjacent to the croft is a relatively large car park in which residents of nearby housing can, tautologically, park their cars. were i also to own a motor vehicel, i too would have use of this space should i wish to do so. when mrs washingmachinepost and i moved here all those years ago, there was a very minimal number of cars parked in this space; no more than ten, if memory serves correctly. that situation has changed drastically in the intervening years, with many households now possessing three or more vehicles, with the kids having grown-up and purchased their own (in several instances) unrequired vehicles. add to that the one or two trades vans, and we now look out over a car park that is often filled to excess.

sadly, this is not at all unusual in any part of the country, though its effect is possibly exaggerated here on the outer edge, given its island and rural setting. cars have, in essence, ruined the villages of this island, and i don't doubt many of those on scotland's west coast. it seems a problem unlikely to go away anytime soon, with planning regulations demanding a minimum of two vehicle spaces per abode, often reluctant to include parking spaces on the public roads. this is a situation about to get totally out of hand when the electric meme kicks in and cars not only require parking spaces, but the ability to be charged overnight.

not every part of the world, however, has set itself the target of providing public parking spaces at the expense of the city or regional council. japan, for instance, requires that would-be owners of motor vehicles must first prove that they have a bona-fide parking space within two kilometres of their residence, before they're allowed to complete the purchase. and with one or two exceptions, that space cannot be on a public street, on pain of it being towed if left there after 3am.

it would be interesting to see how a regulation such as the above would affect car ownership in britain.

but it's not only car owners that experience parking problems. leaving a bicycle anywhere on islay, or many of the other hebridean islands is not a major consideration. i do have to smile when watching summer cycling visitors wrapping two padlock chains around bicycle and bike rack, when leaving them for some sightseeing or a distillery tour. though it's probably better not to get out of the habit prior to returning to the mainland, there's very little chance of the bicycle being purloined by a third party; i can't persuade folks here to ride bicycles at all, so there's little incentive for them to nick one.

however, there are those domiciled in flats, maisonettes and other types of accommodation that preclude any form of safe parking for their bicycles. and though the bicycle is considerably less bulky than a motor car, i can but imagine the expletives dispensed by her indoors, were i to attempt to take the ritchey inside following a wet and windy ride. and that's to say nothing of the oily chain. perhaps such individuals would be the only beneficiaries of colnago's vaunted 46 saved grammes on their v4rs frameset, when having to cart it up several flights of stairs because it won't fit in the lift.

this lack of suitable, safe parking for bicycles that the scottish government believes exists as an avoidable hurdle in persuading individuals to leave the car behind and switch to the bicycle. as a result, cycling scotland, funded by transport scotland has announced a £2 million fund to provide local authorities with the financial wherewithal to support the installation of secure cycle parking where the authorities deem it necessary.

scotland's minister for active travel, patrick harvie, said, "Cycling Scotland's own research indicates just how much safe and secure cycling storage matters in deciding whether to own a bike and for opportunities to choose cycling. As part of our Programme for Government, we promised to bring forward funding this year to expand storage infrastructure, helping to build a more active nation where more people can choose cycling for those shorter, everyday journeys."

earlier this year, i contacted my local authority to enquire if their planning department was required to insist on cycle parking along with the obligatory car parking. disappointingly, their answer was no, and the tone of the reply more or less indicated that there were no plans to alter that situation. getting people on bikes is going to require a great deal of joined up thinking, in which there are currently one or two notable blanks. whether those are filled anytime soon is open to lengthy debate, but at least the instigation of secure cycle parking where required is a step in the right direction.

thursday 15 december 2022

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the road book 2022 5th edition. edited by ned boulting. 861pp illus. £50

the road book 2022

i'm not much of a tv connoisseur; when office colleagues discuss at length their weekend viewing on netflix, sky, apple tv or any number of alterntive streaming services, i know not of what they speak. my regular tv viewing consists primarily of big bang theory reruns, punctuated only by episodes of last of the summer wine. and in an attempt to appear au fait with the festive season, i will admit to having watched the occasional christmas movie.

however, when those same colleagues describe broadcast episodes fraught with danger, terror, horror and any number of social documentaries and film-noire series, i am more than content with my own viewing. anything by disney or hanna-barbera gets my vote. it is a scenario that bears tangential connection with my attitude to facts and figures, a far harder exclusion with which to deal.

in the process of compiling these daily monologues, it is frequently necessary to undertake research that ranges from the simple to the extenuating, much of which involves frequent reference to statistics, enumerators and denominators. as a simplistic example, compare the tour de france victories between tadej pogacar (two), geraint thomas (one) and lord voldemort (depending on to whom you speak, either seven or none). add in such factors as the average gradient across alpe d'huez (8%) or the length of last year's longest giro d'italia stage (203 kilometres) and i doubt i need continue, having succinctly made my point.

for some, however, facts and figures are as bread and butter, always curious to learn more and, perchance, drop them into any conversation that appears as if it might stray from the original topic. a member of the band in which i currently find myself, is mildly obsessed with the accuracy of reproducing contemporary pop and folk material, while the rest of us are happier creating an approximate verisimilitude. as long as the chorus is close enough for jazz, we're happy to proceed.

as one of the office colleagues mentioned above is prone to saying "it's just as well we're all different."

therefore, on receipt of a review copy of this year's edition of the ned boulting edited road book, you can perhaps comprehend my apprehension. facts and figures, even when comprehensively annotated in a format as enticing as this, are very far from my bread and butter. i take great delight in watching as many road and cyclocross races as does the next man or woman, but i truly have little desire to wade through over eight hundred pages of race results, particularly concerning several events of which i have never heard.

that, on a superficial level, might seem like a spoiler alert, but on the contrary, i would give my wholehearted recommendation that you part with your fifty pounds and take possession of this colossal volume.

the road book 2022

at the end of a long road which passes laphroaig, lagavulin and ardbeg distilleries and ends about a mile past claggain bay on islay's southern coast, is ardtalla farmhouse, the first or final abode on ardtalla estate, owned by the mactaggart family. the lightswitches on the walls testify to it have featured electricity at one time, but currently, its unique selling point is a complete lack of electrons. heating is provided by a gravity feed oil tank, and lighting is by portable gas lamp. the interior decor, at least on the last occasion i visited, was hardly contemporary habitat, but in the open plan dining area adjacent to the kitchen, the surrounding shelves house dozens of leather bound volumes of hansard. though i have no evidence to suggest those holidaying at the farmhouse are in the habit of reading the latter, their existence adds a certain gravitas to the premises.

granted, it will take many years of cycle racing to accumulate as many individual copies of the road book, but a bookshelf laden with all editions to date, will surely say a great deal about the possessing velocipedinist. for the road book is, in essence, a reference book, in the same way as is collins english dictionary, or hardbound copies of encyclopaedia britannica. the road book is not a volume that expressly commends itself to bedtime reading, and its heft effectively precludes popping it in the daily lunch pail for noon-day perusal.

that said, within this fundamentally business-like publication, are several polished diamonds and one blazing jewel.

following on from the pavé decorated endpapers, are words from a few of 2022's race victors: lorena wiebes, matej mohoric and magnus cort, to name but three, followed by editor, ned boulting's, introduction to this year's edition.

"2022 was about two things: France and July."

those are amongst the polished diamonds, but you will perhaps give credence to my exhortations that you avail yourselves of the words of the inimitable herbie sykes. the author of the recently re-printed (rapha editions) 'eagle of the canavese' is seen all to rarely (in my humble opinion) in print these days, to the extent that his brief biography of the winner of a stage at the giro della valle d'aosta, tekeste woldu (nope, me neither) is as manna from above.

"He was earmarked for a priesthood in the Coptic Orthodox Church, but the seminary didn't agree with him and nor, seemingly, he with it."

to aver that herbie's writing is worth the £50 price of admission alone, might be viewed as a tad extreme, but it's certainly worth a substantial proportion.

and if you're still struggling with justifiable reasons to acquire one of the 1500 limited copies of the 2022 road book, imagine for a moment just how much possession of a copy would say about your dedication to the cause, to say nothing of the endless opportunity to quote suitably obscure facts during this weekend's mince pie ride. if you consider yourself to be a roadie of even minor consequence, you absolutely have to own this book. and if you've never read anything by herbie sykes - now's your chance.

the road book 2022

the road book 2022

wednesday 14 december 2022

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

weight watchers

colnago v4rs

the concept of 'weight' is one that affects almost every aspect of life, from how heavy your case might be prior to travelling by aeroplance, to joining evening classes to help lose some for those who feel they may have indulged in one too many cakes or pies. however, though there are empirical measurements applied across the board, in effect, the concept of 'weight' is one of relative terms. i read in yesterday's newspaper that a humpback whale weighs in at 40,000 kilogrammes, far heavier than any of us, but quite possibly a svelte number for such a large mammal.

history records that the earliest systems of weights and measures originated between three and four thousand years before the birth of christ, though even the earliest civilisations had some means of differentiating between amounts of grain, distances and matters pertaining to their rudimentary agriculture. historians think it highly possible that these pertained only to localised areas, and had not yet reached a commonality whereby one area of civilisation might even trade equitably with another nearby. and it's also more than likely that there was little parity between measurements.

for instance, a quantity of dry grains, for example, were totally unrelated to those of liquids and neither featuring any similarity to other units of measurement intended to categorise units of length. given the standardisation that exists almost worldwide today, those early civilisations must have had a harder time than most coming to terms with the world around them, and attempting to make sense of it all. at least nowadays, if i purchase a kilogramme of apples in glasgow, i can rest assured that i'm likely to receive the same amount if subsequently purchase the same weight in new york (the fact that the americans still adhere to the imperial system of measurements, notwithstanding. in fact, that might demonstrate a perfect example of how one system can be easily translated into another).

the knowledge that this early problem has been satisfactorily resolved could scarcely have been better demonstrated by sunday's uci world series cyclocross race in dublin. to explain further, the majority of such events generally take place on mainland europe in the likes of belgium or holland, yet when the whole enchilada was transported across the water to southern ireland, not only were the uci able to verify the minimum weights of wout and tom's bicycles, but satisfactorily measure the width of their sanctioned tyres at 33mm.

and at this point we must reluctantly (or otherwise) admit that the world of the bicycle is constrained by all manner of measurements, not least of which is that of weight. but i cannot deny that it came as something of a surprise to learn that the uci minimum bicycle weight of 6.8kg is also applicable to those racing cyclocross. from the point of view of the uninitiated, repeated calls for the sport's governing body to reduce that minimum figure, have received the constant riposte that the number is in place to enforce safety. aigle's contention revolves around the notion (scentific or otherwise) that anything less will compromise the safety of the bicycle, despite clear demonstration over recent years, that lighter bicycles can be designed and even built, while retaining their ful composure in the face of adversity.

i would have thought that the rough and tumble of cyclocross would have demanded a few more kilos to err more on the side of safety.

however, it would be a velocipedinal hermit indeed, who was unaware of the constant striving not only for aerodynamic purity, but an incredible lightness of being. one need only pay close attention to the latest iteration of any given road or cyclocross bicycle, from at least the major manufacturers, to note that articles are invariably accompanied by detailed accounts of the man/woman hours spent removing as much carbon as they dare. at least until next year.

it has been pointed out by those considerably more technically aware than yours truly, that the weight aspect of the contemporary road bike might well be over-rated, given that it's an aspect which really only comes into its own when the road heads upwards. granted, for those who regularly inhabit the grupetto in grand tour stages are no doubt ever grateful to their bicycle sponsors for having scrubbed off more grammes of weight, but when engaged in the heat of battle, rushing towards the finish-line, more mass usually equals greater momentum and thus the very speed required by those at the pointy end.

changing bicycles specifically for mountain stages goes back to the days of laurent jalabert, preceded by the apocryphal tales of jacques anquetil removing the bottle from his cage to place it in a jersey rear pocket in order to lighten the bicycle for the ascent. however, given the substantial advances made in cycle technology in recent years, it's quite likely that there are few options left when it comes time to release this year's model. in other words, the law of diminishing returns, where it costs considerably more to lose a few grammes today, than it did to lose kilograms many years past.

however, though it is tacitly acknowledged that this frames the current situation, there are ways and means of attempting to exaggerate the situation, one of which probably all of us have employed on monday mornings in the office. when asked by work colleagues as to the distance cycled over the weekend, answering in kilometres instead of miles serves mainly to have us appear more animalistic; interpid in every way. similarly that of speed. racing up uiskentuie strand at 30kph sounds far more impressive than a comparably derisory 18 mph. however, when asked by our better halves as to how much further to the café, five miles sounds far more achievable than eight kilometres.

it's a subterfuge that persists to this very moment, epitomised by the latest press-release from colnago. announcing the arrival of their v4rs (built to win), a machine reputably considered as a complete unit, rather than the sum of several parts, they have been keen to underline the input of uae team emirates, the implication being that tadej is their white feather. according to colnago, during this process they focussed on 'clear and defined areas, such as: aerodynamics, weight, real dynamic stiffness, geometry, robustness and reliability.' however, the word 'weight' seems to have been hidden amongst the other factors, something for which there might be a very good reason.

earlier, we were discussing weight being a relative term, depending on the unit of measure deployed. for instance, one ounce, a very minor quantity in imperial terms, seems positively gargantuan when expressed as 28 grammes. and here is where colnago's hyperbole kicks in, when describng the weight of their v4rs frame compared to that of its predecessor, the tour winning v3rs. not content with promising a saving of 0.75 watts at 50kph (a speed we all achieve regularly on the sunday ride), colnago aver that this latest production is a whole 47 grammes lighter.

that's just over one and a half ounces.

tuesday 13 december 2022

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