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identity crisis

bunnahbahin distillery

lord carlos of mercian, now sadly departed this life, came late to cycling in his mid-forties. his brother, still a keen cyclist, gifted him a bicycle for his birthday one year and he felt honour bound to use it. thus began his velocipedinal life, bringing the bicycle (a marin hybrid) to work in the back of a volkswagen caddy during the summer months, then cycling home. he cycled back to the office the following morning, popped the marin in the caddy once more, and drove home at day's end.

this 'once a week' cycling gradually expanded and continued through the winter months, eventually leaving the volkswagen berthed in his driveway and eventually sold, at which point, he was cycling to work five days a week and often riding to meetings in the evenings as well as attending outdoor events at the weekend. however, his views on the bicycle were initially quite dogmatic, insisting that it was simply a convenient and environmentally harmless means of transport. it should surprise you not, therefore, that in wet weather, he rode in wellies, footwear that also allowed him to feed a small herd of highland cattle en-route.

he maintained, throughout this early period, that he was simply 'a bloke with a bike', and certainly not the sort of cyclist who rode in circles each and every sunday morning, before stopping for coffee. this, to lord carlos, was anathema; the bicycle was a means of getting from a to b, and should not be simply an end in in and of itself. however, working in the same office, it transpired that my subliminal pressure gradually wore him down, and he eventually joined the velo club for the sunday morning ride. once again, new horizons beckoned,and he subsequently participated in more than just a few sportives, including the etape caledonia, as well as taking his bike south each christmas and new year when visiting his parents.

many of us will never have have adopted the 'bloke with a bike' stance, despite its arguably more pragmatic stance than that of many a sunday peloton across the country. i recall that, as a child, my father would often take my mother, brother and i for a drive into the ayrshire countryside of a sunday afternoon, with no purpose other than to view the scenery and perhaps stop somewhere for an ice-cream or bag of chips. during my weekly perambulations, i see many drivers doing precisely that, with no ulterior motive other than driving the car, and no particular destination in mind. the obvious downside there, of course, is the ultimate environmental cost of so doing.

however, just as a reminder of the practicality of the bicycle, even on days when the north wind doth blow, accompanied by serious precipitation, and temperatures close to zero, it's an excellent idea to accomplish something during any given bike ride. and by 'accomplish', i don't mean the acquisition of some strava badge, or similar.

now that we're pretty well into december, and unhindered by the 'festive season' definition, there are events taking place all across the island, inviting, as the strawbs once sang, '...the inquisitive young.' just such an event takes place at kilchoman distillery on each weekend leading up to christmas, a distillery that happens to be on my regular saturday parcours. thus, instead of simply riding the perimeter road around loch gorm, purely because it is there, i was able to visit the craft stalls and chat to the visitor centre staff as punctuation to my bike ride.

a man with a purpose, at last.

the sub-zero bike ride (wind chill is a dangerous thing) was also an opportunity to photograph products on review, a singular purpose i have been known to trot out to mrs washingmachinepost, when it seems necessary to justify the need for a bike ride during somewhat serious weather. both excuses are, of course, more in the mind than presentable as tangible evidence, but it does the soul a power of good, every now and again, reminding that honed physique that the bicycle can also be a means to an end, rather than enjoyment without purpose.

so before you engage with this year's festive 500, give it a try once or twice. it may not be character building per se, but it does bolster occupation of the moral high ground.

just to be clear, and to avoid any irate e-mails, the photo was taken at bunnahabhain distillery, and not kilchoman as mentioned above.

sunday 5 december 2021

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rouleur

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mix'n'match

brake cables

in the halcyon days of brake cables exiting the top of the brake levers, in the days before those cables became trapped under the bar tape (in retrospect, the first steps towards the total concealment so prevalent today), it was possible to have campagnolo brake levers (for instance) actuating any brand of caliper brake you may have affixed to the bicycle. because physics, at this level, is simple; pull the lever, the cable pulls the caliper and the brake pads retarded the wheels. or at least, sometimes they did.

it was mountain biking that began the downward spiral of dubious compatibility. to all intents and purposes, cantilever brakes followed similar mechanical principles to that of the aforementioned road calipers, and perhaps explained why there was such a plentiful aftermarket for all manner of super-duper cantilever brakes. i have an ibis hakkalugi 'cross bike that features campagnolo levers matched with fsa carbon cantis. and somewhere within the nooks and crannies of the bikeshed, is another set of expensive aftermarket cantilevers, the name of which escapes me, as does their precise location.

the hakkalugi stops just fine, thank you for asking.

but then the linear-pull brake, or v-brake to you and me, arrived, reputedly requiring a brake lever that accommodated its graduated cable pull. whether that purported requirement was entirely genuine, i was never very sure, having combined standard levers with v-brakes on several occasions, without undue concern.

obviousy enough, the major component manufacturers would prefer that you maintain congruity throughout the system; while any brand of rim brakes will almost certainly work with any brand of road levers, the deciding factor will always be the gearing system compatibility. if you've ever combined campagnolo gearing with a shimano cassette, even if of the same sprocket count, don't come crying to me when it doesn't quite work as required. just ask my colnago c40.

and though those same manufacturers will insist that, in this age of hydraulic disc brakes, plagues of frogs and hordes of locusts will visit upon your bikeshed if you mix'n'match, it transpires that this is not necessarily the case. for once again, there are unalterable mechanical principles at work; hydraulics are hydraulics wherever they are. unless, of course, they happen to use incompatible hydraulic fluids. magura, campagnolo and shimano all use a mineral-based fluid, while sram are the odd ones out, using dot fluid instead, a liquid that doesn't play nicely with the seals on the former.

since many bicycles, in a break with the traditions of yesteryear, are sold as complete bikes, the manufacturer can tweak seatstay and chainstay angles to accommodate the disc calipers of the preferrred oem supplier. but, as pointed out by velonews' lennard zinn, not everyone's calipers will fit a particularly tight angle between chainstay and seatstay, necessitating the occasional substitution. according to mr zinn, combining a shimano lever with a campagnolo disc caliper, resulted in performance that felt like an upgrade.

mixing'n'matching is, i'd imagine, far less prevalent nowadays; if you purchase a complete bicycle, you're more than likely to leave well alone, unless a component needs upgrading or replacing. it's also quite likely that any applicable warranty will be null and void if varying marques are used. component manufacturers have all but instilled within every one of us, that their way is the only way; any deviation will be punished with inferior shifting or braking.

mostly, but not always, true.

saturday 4 december 2021

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steam gives way to sail

steam gives way to sail

the above heading is far more complex than its simplicity would suggest. basically the essence of the statement holds true, insisting that power-driven vessels ought to avoid or give way to sailing vessels when under sail. that seems then to be immediately contradicted when international regulations for preventing collisions at sea proceed to state that 'ships, tugboats with tows, commerical ferries and fishing vessels have right of way over sailing vessels'. for it appears that ships are those specifically designed to carry cargo or passengers, while boats is apparently a generic designation covering pretty much anything that floats. so it appears collision avoidance may depend on how you classify the vessel on which you sail and the one about to t-bone its hull.

and just to add to the confusion, if a yacht with sails is using its inboard or outboard motor for propulsion, it is considered to be a power vessel and thus not worthy of being given way to by those otherwise advised so to do when sailpower is order of the day. apparently, to avoid untoward discrimination, if the sails are up, but the engine is being used, a cone ought best be hoist forward of the mast to inform other sea-users of this fact.

but what, i hear you ask, is the protocol should two sailing vessels come upon one another, heading along the same trajectory? apparently, the boat on the starboard tack has right of way. (nope, me neither.) so basically it would appear that sail has right of way over larger, more powerful vessels, except when it hasn't.

that such a system ought to populate the roads seems something of an unrequited pipedream. in this week's edition of islay's local newspaper, appears a letter written by a resident recently returned to cycling for purposes of gaining fitness. the reason for cycling is really neither here nor there, but this born-again cyclist has noticed that, on the island's singletrack roads with passing places, remarkably few car drivers seem predisposed to pull into a nearby passing place in order to allow the passage of the letter writer. i am sorely tempted to write in reply, simply saying, "welcome to my world".

as i have recounted to the point of boredom, those of us in the velo club have valiantly hoped for sight of the honour system, whereby whoever is closest to a passing place, ought to courteously give way. it will not surprise you to learn that courtesy seems to be entirely one-sided, leaning heavily towards the cyclist.

however, following ten years of campaigning, it appears that cycling uk's propositions that the introduction of a hierarchy of road users will recognise that those who pose the greatest risk to others, should be held to a higher level of responsibility. thus, cars ought to give way to cyclists, who, in turn, should do likewise for pedestrians. subject to approval by peers and members of parliament, this will become law and an official part of the highway code within a matter of months.

happily, the changes might not simply stop at notional ideas of hierarchy. clearer guidance will suggest that cyclists ought to be given at least 1.5 metres clearance when overtaken, and helpfully suggest that drivers and/or passengers should use the so-called 'dutch reach' when opening car doors, undermining the common 'sorry mate, i didn't see you' excuse paraded when a cyclist slams into an open car door.

however, not to undermine the excellent work undertaken by cycling uk and the willingness of parliament to give serious consideration to these changes, incorporating these in the highway code might not be the palliative we'd like to hope for. even as obsessed cyclists, when was the last time you opened a copy of the highway code? i'm ashamed to admit, for me, it was when sitting my driving test at the age of 17. and that wasn't yesterday. i tend to think the same could be said for the majority of cyclists and car drivers.

granted, those due to sit their driving test in 2022 might find themselves appropriately educated, but what of the 30 million drivers already on britain's roads? are any of them likely to nip into a passing place this weekend to let the newspaper letter writer continue on their merry way?

friday 3 december 2021

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galloway cycling

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the road book 2021 - edited by ned boulting

the road book

" It's big, it's fat and it's full'o tasty facts. Wisden eat your heart out." - tom southam

one definition of 'osmosis' is the assimilation of ideas or information of which you may not have been aware was being accumulated. with reference to the current discussion about to begin, it was the subject of lunchtime conversation at work recently, when most of us noticed having acquired information to which we had not been aware we were even paying attention. for example, a work colleague lives on a farm and, like the majority of the nationwide farming community, is beset with form after downloadable form, requiring completion on behalf of one agricultural department after another, detailing sheep and cattle movements and numerous other farming machinations.

the road book

it's well nigh impossible to live on an island such as islay without acquiring some notion of farming happenstances, as is the hope that distilling might pass by unannounced. the former, however, has demonstrated an osmotic dalliance, since each and every one of us in the office now has a more than passing comprehension of the vicissitudes of contemporary farming. the question that surfaced during the aforementioned lunchtime conversation, was quite what was being done with all the gathered information? for instance, why would it be found necessary to notify the authorities as to how many sheep were presented to the ram, and why they would be interested in how many lambs were subjected to the same process.

in farming parlance, who the **** puts lambs to the ram in the first place?

the road book

that office osmosis works in other ways too, particularly with regard to velocipedinal matters. i fear that, if questioned, you'd find that my colleagues are particularly well-versed in the delights of italian componentry, chromed steel lugs, and the alarming cost of carbon wheelsets, despite never having been aware, in the first place, that such information had been either offered or retained. but the true cycling obsessive must surely leverage the process of osmosis to further extend the mantra that two wheels are, indeed, good. and to ensure pin-point accuracy, it may be necessary to enlist the services of potential information overload.

the road book

and that is exactly where the annual road book enters the feed-zone. edited by itv4's voice of the tour de france, ned boulting, nearly 800 pages of tightly-packed doorstop can tell you every minuscule detail about the past season that you could possibly ever need to know. and, by osmotic implication, that everyone else needs to know too. for instance, how often have you found yourself in a queue at the local average market, when the face-masked individual behind you has leaned forward to enquire who finished in 130th place on stage fifteen of this year's giro d'italia (based on a true story - maybe). in case this actually happens to you, it was a. ghebreigzabheir

and should the same situation occur during those three weeks in july, the answer would have been b. van poppel.

and mr boulting's road book stops not there; when it comes to the three grand tours, the extensive stage listings are accompanied by a precis of how the racing took place, what weather was prevalent on that particular day, a profile of the parcours, the general classification, and those wearing the principal jerseys. what you do with such copious amounts of information is entirely up to you, but being in possession of a copy of last year's road book, i've found more occasions than you'd think to look up more than you'd think.

the road book

the season is introduced with words by several of the year's notable winners, such as milan/san-remo winner, jasper stuyven, paralympian, dame sarah storey, first winner of the women's paris-roubaix, lizzie deignan. if nothing else, it proves that cyclists appear to be confident, enlightened writers.

"At that point I know there were people looking at each other in the peloton and saying, 'She's crazy.' And of course, it was crazy." - lizzie deignan.

naturally enough, tour winner, tadej pogacar, is given his own space, while the results of every uci sanctioned road and cyclocross race are interspersed with short features by riders and noted cycling writers. and to be quite parochial about racing matters, there is also a comprehensive overview of british domestic cycle racing. ineos grenadiers' youngster, tom pidcock offers a precis of his rise to the top, through the mud and barriers, dan martin completes the set, and daniel friebe takes a look at the vuelta according to primoz roglic. and if, like me, your knowledge of team personnel is sadly lacking, there's an entire section to bring you and i up to speed.

i'd be lying if i said i'd checked every single race result (just in case they made a mistake), or indeed, read every last commentary. with 794 pages filled with pristine, yet quite small print, and so much information to absorb, if we both waited until i'd closed the back cover, next year's book would be up for grabs. £50 is arguably rather a lot of money to pay for a book full of numbers, statistics, superb chapter heading illustrations, colour images and pavé endpapers, but just think how foolish you'll feel if you meet that someone in the average market queue.

if cycling is indeed a religion, then this is the bible.

the road book

the road book

thursday 2 december 2021

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for the love of il pirata

the pantani brothers

in the 1999 giro d'italia, at the foot of the final climb of stage 15, marco pantani, wearing the pink jersey, either unships his chain, or suffers a rear wheel puncture. either way, having been distanced by his competitors, he heads off just ahead of the mercatone uno team car intent on regaining his place in the peloton. it is, for want of a better description, a tour de force, for not only does he reach a racing peloton, but overtakes them all with a pedalling style that has often been described as 'dancing', usually out of the saddle. history will record that stage 15 of the 1999 giro d'italia was won by marco pantani, 21 seconds ahead of laurent jalabert, who reputedly said that had he not moved out the way, marco would likely have run him over.

the pantani brothers

the video of this particular demonstration of the bald-headed italian's prowess is one of those which greets visitors to the pantani brothers website, an enterprise based in glasgow's south side, dealing primarily in vintage steel road bikes and original retro-clothing. matthew and mark haffie, not brothers, but who are also known as the pantani brothers, have succeeded in transforming an obsession into a sustainable business, in the process, finding a visible and tangible means of revering their hero, 'il pirata'. that said, though there are a number of scots in glasgow with italian ancestry, they're probably not related to the troubled italian cyclist.

so i asked matthew haffie why they/the business are called the pantani brothers?

the pantani brothers

"The Pantani Brothers name arose by chance. Our friend, who owns a picture framing gallery, coined the name, as we were never out of the place getting our Marco Pantani memorabilia framed. It stuck immediately. Unsurprisingly, Pantani Brothers is our homage to the late Marco Pantani: a troubled, yet inspirational figure."

just as there would be widespread surprise in bowmore main street, were i to be seen wearing a glasgow rangers jersey featuring my name across the shoulders, it would be particularly odd to come across chaps who refer to themselves and the daily grind by reference to an iconic italian cyclist who are not, themselves velocipedinal obsessives. would it, therefore, be reasonable to assume that the pantani brothers are long-time cyclists (bear in mind, marco pantani's best years were last century). and are they both racers?

the pantani brothers

"We have been into cycling for most of our lives, although the passion became a real obsession about 4/5 years ago. Since then it has become a full-time business! Funny you ask, we have never raced... although you will see the Pantani Brothers at races in the next year or two. This is something we have been working towards!"

as a self-confessed luddite, the sight of a web page populated with examples of steel downtubes featuring the names gitane, bianchi, falcon, olmo, merckx and peugeot are food for the soul. i'm not denying that 21st century technology doesn't have its attractions, but i'd be likely to argue very forcibly that carbon can scarcely hold a candle to the aesthetic possessed by a lugged steel frame, replete with polished alloy, and preferably italian, componentry.

the pantani brothers

however, as mentioned above, the pantani brothers is not only a personal moniker, but a business. and as many will know, it's not always a good idea to mix business with pleasure. so, despite racks of vintage clothing and steel bicycles, are the pantanis averse to modernity, such as carbon and aero, or just in love with vintage lugged steel, and all that goes along with that?

"Can we sit on the fence?

"Disc brakes are a no no... but aero and early 2000s carbon is a definite yes! We are very much into the early TVT carbon and bikes which have the aero design such as our Peugeot ZX1. Likewise the Pantani era Bianchis are a favourite. Can't beat the Celeste. If anyone has a Wilier Alpe D'Huez, we are in the market!

"Our showponies are a pair of limited edition Pantani corsairs which were released as a fundraiser for the Pantani foundation. However, steel is our real foundation. Steel bikes ignited the passion for the business. We have a very early 1940s Swiss Tebag which is an incredible ride. It's the same model used by the like of Koblet, Kubler and Bartali back then. We love to get the old Raleigh documentary or Hell of the North on and just sit back and admire the grind."

the pantani brothers

conjoined with that enthusiasm for yesteryear must be the need to turn a profit at the end of the day. so doing would surely depend on finding a great deal more scots with the same interests, enough to part with money, reputedly not a scotsman's strongest suit. the late-lamented prendas ciclismo have amply demonstrated there is a sturdy market for retro clothing, so having the real thing on a rack of coathangers ought to present more than just a commercial opportunity. but have they found there to be a large, untapped market in scotland for vintage road bikes?

"Vintage road bikes are popular in Glasgow, although I would hesitate to say at a high level. In our opinion people prefer the low end every day rides such as your Raleigh, Peugeot or BSA. It's rare to find someone with a real upmarket vintage bike out on the road. We are hoping to change this, or at least give people the option to find something higher brow.

"Bikes are becoming more popular which is fantastic, as there are far too many vehicles dominating the city. Bikes are definitely the way forward either way, so we hope to inspire as many people as possible."

as one with also more than a passing interest in vintage drums, i'm more than well aware that an engraved slingerland radio king counterhoop is really no indicator of the quality of the drum's internal condition. split reinforcement rings, snare strainers with missing parts and dubious bearing edges have all been enough to put me off parting with cash. because appellation of the word vintage to drums or bicycles is not necessarily a mark of quality. is there an endless supply of velocipedinal vintage, or have matthew and mark had to look hard and long to find items of suitable quality?

the pantani brothers

"It's a long hard look. We are very selective of what we buy. At the moment, we have a really impressive range of steel which has hardly seen any use. We were honoured to be given the chance to buy a large collection of bikes from someone who had inherited a collection.

"The guy was a real cycling fanatic. He toured the country to get to all the races from the 60s right through to the 00s. The guy was an artist. He has preserved a whole era of cycling history and kept it alive for us today. You won't get many chances to buy better conditioned bicycles than from his collection. We will be continuing to release some of these bikes early in 2022, with many available now."

the pantani brothers

simon mottram, soon to stand down as chief executive of rapha, once asked me what was my five-year plan for the future of thewashingmachinepost, at which point i had to admit that i had no plan whatsoever, never mind one that might last as long as five years. however, that must constitute an even more difficult ask for the pantani brothers, given their basis in vintage, a commodity, if it might be phrased as such, of which no more is being made. with that in mind, what are their cunning plans for the future?

"Meet more people and learn more!

"We've already built a whole new network of connections from ex-pros to collectors. It's great to hear everyone's stories and continue to learn about things others are passionate about. 'Get more Marco' is a lifelong goal. There's a couple of pieces missing from our collection, so we are on the hunt for those.

"Overall though, stay profitable! We love that we are able to work with our passion on a daily basis, but it's difficult to continually compete with bigger companies! If anything, we want to encourage people to shop local and support small businesses, as it would make significant changes in the world. We really appreciate all the support we get and can't thank people like yourself enough for mentioning us!"

the pantani brothers

wednesday 1 december 2021

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wheelsmith ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

how far would you go?

lightweight obermayer wheel

i am very much not the right person of whom to ask the above question, for in general, i am more than satisfied with my lot (velocipedinally speaking). the ritchey logic sitting in the bikeshed, eagerly awaiting my ritchey cleats, is well-specced with campagnolo's twelve-speed record groupset (rim brakes - luddites have pride too you know), a pair of vicenza's bora wto carbon wheels and a very nice set of rene herse tyres. tom ritchey's steel frame is certainly not the lightest on the market, but that is of little real concern, since i'm scarcely quick enough these days to benefit from a loss of grammes.

however, it has been a long-standing ambition to feature campagnolo record on any of my bicycles; the fact that this has been achieved, offers great satisfaction as i perambulate the estates, while a camapagnolo wheelset is a welcome bonus. i do not posit this as the sort of velocipedinal satisfaction suitable for everyone; it simply happens to fit my aspirations. others may lust after the lightest and reputedly fastest carbon on the shop floor, with either shimano's, sram's or campagnolo's flagship products festooned about its person. but is there a point at which all this should stop, or, just like velominati's rule #12, does the equation advise endless acquisition?

ultimately, should the latter be widely invoked, it would surely depend on financial circumstances. though i have 'only' mechanical record componentry to ease my journeys, in point of fact, that has always been my summit, so to speak. i have no real need to step up to super-record, and no interest in electronic shifting whatsoever. and i doubt that the world's component manufacturers specifically impose a progress route through their wares. there will be many cyclists who have no idea about just which gear or brakeset is fitted to their bicycle; but of those who do, it seems not outlandish to suppose that riders on shimano's entry-level 'sora' products have little or no idea of the next rung on the derailleur ladder.

however, i'm inclined to think that those of you reading this are more than well-acquainted with each subsequent step towards groupset excellence, saving every penny to move from sora (for example) through tiagra and onto 105. the latter, i'm sure a well-crafted survey would reveal, would probably be the lowest many would be willing to go, while still retaining the chutzpah to ride clad in rapha or assos.

maybe, maybe not.

however, there is a stratosphere of velocipedinality that seems destined to draw several gasps of disbelief on learnng of the price tag, hung insouciantly about its collective person. and it's a level of aspiration well beyond the means of most of us. shimano's eleven-speed dura-ace groupset has an rrp of over £3,000, though you can find it online for about half that price. campagnolo's super-record eps groupset pretty much outdoes that, costing more than £4,000, at which point you'd really have to be a serious obsessive.

most of us can't afford to be quite so obsessive.

however, over and above complete bicycles costing in excess of £11,500, german wheel specialists, lightweight have just released a carbon wheelset that seems almost too expensive to take outside the house. named after the company's co-founder, heinz obermayer, to quote lightweight, their new product is "the ultimate disc performance wheel and suitable for (mountainous) roads, training and competition." you can but admire the spirit of a company that suggests you might spend as much as £7,000 for a pair of wheels on which to train.

lightweight were one of the first manufacturers to offer review product on thewashingmachinepost. i had enquired after availability of their ventoux wheelset for review, but the wait list apparently precluded that option, upon which they immediately asked if i'd like to review their standard wheelset. i recall the local postie calling in at the office to inform that he had a box for me in the back of the van, but due to its lack of heft, he figured the box was empty. that was lightweight's standard wheelset, even when fitted with a pair of continental tubulars.

strictly speaking, the obermayer evo carbon wheelset has a recommended retail price of £6,599, the dearer set to which i alluded above is the more exclusive schwarz edition. having ridden two sets of lightweight wheels in my career, i can attest to their overt superbness (is that a word?), but i'm happy to admire from afar, without any compulsion to start saving the pennies. and i'd imagine that many of you will feel likewise.

but one must assume that the existence of such astronomically priced bicycles and components demonstrates that there are those in positions of persuasion who believe that there are others eager and willing to avail themselves of such componentry, even if they are rather few in number. and on recent form, i doubt it's likely to end there. granted, there will be those professional riders who seek every last advantage towards victory, those likely to - and capable of - purchasing just such a wheelset to replace the sponsor's product. but i do worry that we're heading towards increased disparity in the ranks, where social standing will be dictated by velocipedinal excess.

is it time to look more closely at our other carbon footprint?

lightweight obermayer wheels

tuesday 30 november 2021

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world bicycle relief

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as always, if you have any comments, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.

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