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an imperfect storm

bicycle components

a well-known, major online cycle retailer, which shall remain nameless, but i figure you'll probably know of whom i write, has become a principal irritant in the eyes of many potential customers. and though i write from personal experience, i know from others that the irritation is not confined to the croft.

though i do not wish to dwell on my own mechanical woes, suffice it to say, i require a replacement rear derailleur for my specialized cyclocross bicycle. in the habit of ordering from said online retailer, i dutifully typed the brand and number of sprockets into their home-page search field, and was rewarded with a sizeable number of options, displayed in the form of several thumbnail images, accompanied by the price of each. however, clicking on all that fitted specification and budget, returned a larger image accompanied, in every case, by red lettering indicating that every option was out of stock.

i do understand that the supply chain is going through something of a hard time at present, but if it's not in stock, either highlight this on the thumbnail image, or simply remove the item from the search results. i doubt many of us enjoy a good fifteen minutes of clicking on a series of results, only to find them out of stock. in the unlikely event that someone influential from said online retailer reads this and recognises the problem, might i suggest you do something about it?

the out of stock message, however, is not confined to this one retailer; the problem is far more widespread than that. only last week i read of a bricks and mortar retailer with a customer who required a similar component as yours truly, though evidently one further up the food chain. on contacting the manufacturer, the shop was told they could supply the customer's needs by august this year. unless, of course, he wished to upgrade to the electronic version for considerably more money, in which case, he could have it by march.

thankfully, the majority of bicycle components offer a substantial mechanical life, unless, of course, they become damaged as a result of an accident. for many of us, it's not quite life or death. in my case, the part still works, but not as effectively as it was designed to do. and, indeed, i have other bicycles i could ride in the meantime. however, there are those who race and those who use their bicycles to commute to and from work or school, for whom a lengthy period of enforced downtime would either incur great inconvenience, or have them resort to the car or public transport.

according to sram's chief executive officer, ken lousberg, demand for their products as a result of covid encouraging more to cycle, has increased as much as 100% on certain products. he claims that the company is currently running continuous shifts at their factories in order to bring supply in line with demand, stating that they've never had so much product available on the shelves as is currently the case. so why is it that online and offline uk retailers seem not to have benefited appropriately?

the obvious target for shortages of any kind in the uk would surely be brexit and the hassles it has caused for receipt of product from europe. one supplier, who prefers to remain nameless, in order to provide review items for the post (and likely elsewhere), has had to have the item sent to their media department and have it mailed directly to me. the previous, corporate method, incurs more red tape than any of us are willing to handle. and there's also the tangible reality that many containers are getting stuck in western ports. in other words, though the turnround at the asian ports of supply has improved dramatically, congestion at this end undermines the majority of those improvements.

and, of course, it's not only the little bits and pieces that are in short or slow supply. those in charge at several major uk cycle importers contend that we'll likely see continued production and supply issues throughout the remainder of 2022. it's not purely the bicycle industry that is suffering, but, at the risk of being parochial and self-absorbed, it's the bicycle stuff that's likely to concern most of us.

so, if this was the year you'd planned on upgrading your bicycle, or the componentry on your existing velocipede, it may be worth delaying that for a few months until things improve.

however, such advice is of little succour to those with broken bits that need replaced sooner, rather than later. admittedly, if you search around, you'll probably manage to find something to keep the cycle in trim. i was able to source the very derailleur i needed, and grabbed a cassette and chain while i was about it, just in case those prove to be a problem in the future. for though supply chain issues may be ironed out, if the number of cyclists has increased as much as we're being told, sometime soon, they too are going to be needing new parts to replace things that have worn out, a factor that could keep things in short supply for longer than might otherwise have been the case.

if for no other reason than this, it remains excellent advice to keep the bicycle in tip top condition, keeping it clean and having it serviced regularly. not to do so might result in some unplanned and unwanted downtime, a potential travesty as the weather begins to improve and daylight hours lengthen.

once again, you're welcome.

sunday 16 january 2022

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bluetrain publishing ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

cyclists' defence fund

cyclists' defence fund

on my second visit to portland, oregon, i was privileged to have been loaned a bicycle on which to get around, at the time, the cycling capital of north america. more used to the british regime, where it mostly pays to give way to motorised traffic, purely on the basis that they will rarely return the favour, i was confused on reaching a four-way junction, on my way to sugar wheelworks. a car approaching from the right, stopped at the junction more or less as i came to halt during my own trajectory. road markings indicated that no-one seemed to have right of way, and i had expected the driver to assert the might of his tonne of steel and exercise his option to prioritise his trip.

confusingly for me, he stopped and indicated that i should move first. conditioned to the british way of thinking, i indicated that he ought to take precedence, until it became plain that we would be there all day, for he had no intention of moving first. i would imagine i'd struggle to find many uk cyclists who have experienced a similar situation on this side of the atlantic.

however, the latest version of the highway code introduces changes that might possibly begin to make my portland situation more common on uk roads, always assuming that existing motorists find the time to purchase and read this new highway code. i think that might be a hope too far. but were they to do so, they would discover that a new hierarchy is advised, where we have theoretically reached the road-going equivalent of 'steam must give way to sail'. thus car drivers now have the onus of looking out for cyclists, and we in turn should prioritise pedestrians.

but what happens when none of those situations prevail? what happens when, for instance, a motorist hits and either kills or injures a cyclist?

experience shows that the law seems predominantly to be on the side of the motorist. it often seems that a paltry fine, a few points on a licence will accompany a stern letting-off. manslaughter seems not to apply in cases of drivers changing stations on the radio, changing compact discs, or, more commonly these days, talking on their mobile phones. the latter is a highly common occurrence, despite legislation outlawing the practice. it is a feature of islay life to indulge in what is referred to as 'the islay wave', a local custom whereby we all wave to each other when passing on the road, every bit as applicable to cyclists as to motorists. however, it is often of great concern to pass a motorist or truck driver, holding a phone in one hand, while waving with the other, neither hand on the steering wheel.

the local police seem oblivious.

i have often mentioned that i think it good practice for every cyclist to possess third-party insurance, achievable through membership of either british cycling, or cycling uk. membership of either also brings free legal advice and support in the event of an accident. however, cycling uk also operates a cyclists' defence fund which "specifically helps fight significant legal cases involving cyclists and cycling, especially those which could set important precedents for the future and could affect the safety of all cyclists."

to highlight this, they have produced a short animated film illustrating two cases where legal procedure unfairly placed the onus on the cyclists, neither of whom were at fault, yet a cyclist, opting to legally ride on the road rather than cross three lanes of traffic to reach a cycle path, was prosecuted by the police. the cyclists' defence fund stepped in on all three cases. however, as we are all aware, legal process these days can cost a great deal more than a small fortune, money that many individuals cannot afford to risk, in case they lose their case in court.

in order to continue this essential service on behalf of the cycling public the fund needs money, and that's where you and i come in. hopefully it's a fund of which we will never need to avail ourselves, but as more and more vehicles fill our roads, that expectation may well become a forlorn hope. contributions can either be made via a monthly direct debit, or a one-off payment by card. i'll leave it to your own discretion and judgment as to which option you choose.

cyclists' defence fund | cdf video

saturday 15 january 2022

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endura cycle clothing ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

trendy

gravel biking

within the last couple of weeks, apple computer became the first american-based company to reach a capitalisation of three trillion dollars, five hundred billion more than the current value of britain's national debt. achieving this has a lot to do with the performance of its share price, a factor that seems to depend very little on a company's financial performance. however, apple's $104 billion profit in 2020 no doubt played a strategic part in the trillion dollar bit, aided and abetted by sales of the ubiquitous iphone. its launch in 2007 became the beginning of the end for a number of high-profle mobile phone manufacturers.

since 2016, the iphone has been the world's most successful smartphone, despite apparently incremental upgrades, where simply toying with the size, colour and processor speed seems not to have dissuaded millions from upgrading to the latest version. and not confined solely to cupertino, i find it distinctly odd that the majority of smartphones are advertised on the basis of the quality of their cameras, rather than any inherent ability to make phone calls. yet, where once apple were at the vanguard of technology, they seem to have adopted the wait and see philosophy practised by ernesto colnago.

at the annual international tech show several years past, there was more than a single start-up demonstrating the ability of hi-resolution screens to bend and fold while still maintaining a useable integrity. it's a feature that has been notably exploited by apple's main rival, samsung, with their galaxy z fold3. rumours have abounded for many months that apple has also been working on a foldable phone, though for the present, none have been seen in the flesh. a well-respected apple rumour monger has declared that cupertino is indeed working on a folding phone, but, like ernesto, is biding its time to see "whether foldable smartphones will continue to have a place in the market, or will fall into obsolescence."

that very situation could have applied to the ascending world of the gravel bike, but quite plainly didn't. unlike german manufacturer, kalkhoff, who dismissed the advent of the mountain bike as 'just a fad' and almost went out of business as a result, every bike manufacturer and their best pal has not only eagerly entered the gravel market, but already managed to split the genre into at least two unequal parts.

in evidence for my contention, compare the ritchey outback, with its plethora of braze-ons for racks and cages etc., with cervelo's aspero 5, described by the jumbo-visma bike sponsor as 'a faster, lighter, better looking aspero', a bike that resembles little more than a road bike with knobbly tyres and rather large climbing gears. it seems that the choice is between bikepacking on the road less travelled, or being a lycra lout on the road less travelled.

the decision, that no-one seems keen to make, could be to watch from a safe distance to see if gravel bikes will continue to have a place in the market, or will fall into obsolescence. for let us not forget that, in essence, the gravel bike has been here before, only in the first incarnation, it was designated as a hybrid. in this case, the hybrid status referred to being half road bike, half mountain bike. while the mountain bike market was still maturing, it was the bicycle that pretty much everyone needed, but not the bike many wanted. 700c semi-knobblies married to a road style frame, augmented with mountain bike gearing. mountain bikes, obviously enough, survived untainted; the hybrid more or less disappeared without trace, until resurfacing in carbon fibre with disc brakes and a new, trendier name.

much like the continued exapnsion of the scotch whisky market, at some point, the bubble's going to burst. granted, the uci has offered its blessing by sanctioning an international gravel series, a move decried by many gravel aficionados as the beginning of the end of gravel's devil-may-care attitude. that said, such an attitude seems to have survived almost intact within mountain biking, despite its uci status. and then, of course, there's still the age-old question of quite why we need gravel when we already have mountain biking and cyclocross?

i'm sure there is a commercial bicycle manufacturer which has yet to bite the bullet and add a gravel bicycle to their range, but offhand, i can't think of one. no doubt new trends in cycling have to be grabbed with both hands by all and sundry, lest it turn out to be highly popular, and their tardiness result in diminished profits and shareholder unrest. though i have little in the way of commercial nous, sometimes i wish that a bicycle supremo with the same relative clout as apple, would opt to wait and see, or even decide to pass altogether.

and then i wake up.

friday 14 january 2022

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world bicycle relief

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stop messing about

a pile of bicycles

in the latter part of last century into the beginning of the current one, it was not unusual to find magazine adverts promising two mountain bikes for a penny less than £100. with good reason, those and their kin were subsequently dubbed 'bicycle shaped objects' by many a cycle mechanic and the cycling press. to this i can attest, having had a bowmore resident bring one to my back door, confused as to why the rear wheel continually pulled to one side as soon as the pedals were depressed.

convinced that this was simply a case of pilot error, i pulled the appropriately sized spanner from the bikeshed to tighten the wheelnut. but the minute any pressure was placed on either pedal, the wheel dutifully pulled to one side and jammed against the chainstay. on further investigation, it transpired that the drive-side droput had been welded squint, meaning that the wheelnut could not sit flat against its surface, thus unable to hold the wheel in place.

on contacting the customer service department, the plaintiff was told that a replacement would be sent out, but there was no need to return the faulty bike.

around the same time, i had two others with similar faults: one had the two cantilever posts on the rear chainstay welded at different heights, and a child's bicycle had the rear cantilever cable stop welded too high on the wishbone stay, meaning the cable could not fit into the cable stop correctly, affecting the efficiency of the rear brakes (they didn't work at all). there have been others with no grease in the bottom bracket bearings, one where the cantilever posts had been welded onto the back of the front forks, which had then been fitted back to front to place the brakes at the front. i'm sure there are a legion of bicycle mechanics with similar stories, always assuming they deigned to work on such bicycle shaped objects in the first place.

the trade supplier from whom i purchased my stock of cables, brake shoes, wheels, saddles, etc., confided that certain of their lines had suffered, because bike shops were buying up these cheap'n'nasty bicycle shaped objects and strippng them down for spares. let's face it, if you could buy a bicycle for £50, yet achieve close to £40 for the wheels alone, wouldn't you?

however, sales of bicycle shaped objects was hardly confined to the colour supplements; many a supermarket decided to get in on the act, from whence arose the image of a kid's bicycle on a display stand in tesco with the front forks assembled back to front. if ever the bicycle industry needed an advert demonstrating why prospective customers ought to stick to bona-fide bike shops, that was probably it.

however, there comes a point in time when enough is simply enough, and it appears that time has arrived. following a discussion in trade magazine bikebiz in november last year, an american-based campaign has begun to call upon the manufacturers to "stop producing and selling bikes that fall apart after a few months of use." aside from being potentially harmful to the environment, cheap rubbish such as this is more than likely to erode customer confidence at the entry level. the latter makes a great deal of sense, if you accept that, having purchased just such an item, intent on adopting a velocipedinal lifestyle, to find it disintegrate before their very eyes is hardly the introduction anyone would appreciate.

however, i find it hard to believe that these unidentified manufacturers are blissfully unaware that their products are distinctly sub-standard. in which case, appealing to their better nature seems likely to fall upon deaf ears. i would have thought that perhaps a concerted campaign on behalf of the cycling industry to underline the advantages of purchasing from a local bike shop, instead of from a sparkly advert in a weekend colour supplement, would be a more cogent solution.

this would kill two birds with one stone (not that i condone any methods of culling innocent birds), by advising the inexperienced and unwary against potential disappointment as a result of purchasing a bicycle shaped object, while supportng the nation's network of independent bike shops, particularly as the world gets to grip with the effects of the covid pandemic.

just a thought.

bicycle petition

thursday 13 january 2022

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rapha ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

should you do it yourself?

park tool cone spanners

bicycle wheels are complex items, round structures that have to maintain as near perfect roundness as balancing the lateral forces between one side of the wheel and the other. those forces are just a smidgeon unequal on the rear wheel due to the existence of an ever increasing number of sprockets. building bicycle wheels was once seen as one of the black arts; though there are a number of devices available to the earnest wheelbuilder to ensure equality of tension on each spoke and the elimination of any low-spots on the rim that affect the circularity, the (near) perfect wheel relies as much upon the ability and experience and skill of the builder.

unless, of course, it's a factory build. the construction aspects are remarkably similar, but the skills (if they can still be referred to as such) exist in the programming of machinery used in the build process. adjustment is not always user-friendly.

i reviewed a brand of factory built wheels, one which shall remain nameless, several years ago. following a bike ride, when putting the bicycle back in the bikeshed, i noted that the rear wheel had taken on the form of a potato crisp, a situation that had not existed during the ride. a standard spoke features a thread at one end and a 'j' bend at the other. however, this particular brand replaced the 'j' bend with a proprietary fitting, meaning a non-standard replacement had to be sourced at substantial expense. when replacing the broken spoke, another one broke, at which point i gave up and sent the wheels back.

the point of this early discussion has less to do with wheels and more to do with repairs. if you break a spoke, do you have the ability to fix it? in fact, if any part of your bicycle malfunctions, could you rectify the problem, even if you had the necessary tools? and just to open the discussion more widely, should you? does it make practical and economic sense to consider undertaking your own repairs and servicing, purchasing the bare minimum of tools and arming yourself with a manual or two explaining how certain aspects of the bicycle can be fettled?

bear in mind that, nowadays, many bike shop mechanics are professionally trained in the minutiae of modern-day bicycles, fully aware of the risks associated with incorrect assembly or fitting. it's also more than likely that the shop is insured against damage while the bicycle is in their possession, and that there will be some guarantee on any work carried out. and if you don't mind me harping on yet again, my campagnolo twelve-speed compatible chain tool cost me £150. if i acquire a campagnolo ekar equipped gravel bike, i'd need to buy yet another tool to fit the ekar chain. that's a lot of money for relatively infrequent use.

in the days when such things still played an essential part in wheel hubs, i purchased a full set of park tool cone-wrenches to cover all bases. and bear in mind that, for a number of years at least, i repaired the majority of bicycles on the island, which i felt justified my purchase. currently, a similar set will relieve you of just over £60. i should point out that, with the advent of cartridge bearings, cone spanners are rarely demanded nowadays and that you need not necessarily purchase the whole range of sizes.

so maybe it would make a great deal more sense to simply drop the bike off at the bike shop and let them worry about from where that noise emanates. let's face it, contemporary bicycles and componentry are a great deal more reliable than was once the case, while the onset of internal cable routing (cervelo's upcoming cyclocross bike, supports only internal cable routing and only electronic groupsets) has turned a ten minute maintenance job, into one that could last all day.

however, to a certain degree, i'm acting as devil's advocate. though i have no bicycle shop in which i might leave anything for repair, as i've said on many an occasion, bicycle fettling qualifies as one of life's (perhaps not so simple) pleasures. it brings with it the confidence of understanding the inner workings of whichever bicycle you happen to be riding, quickly able to comprehend when something's not working the way it ought to, and possibly even how to fix it when you get home.

i'm sufficiently distanced from bike shop culture to be unaware of the costs involved in having your bike fixed, though fairly clued up on the price of doing it for myself. aside from which, i quite like having the small amount of technical knowledge i possess. obviously enough, your situation and circumstances may differ; if the services of your local bike shop are second to none, maybe you should stay put, unless you are a serious wannabe mechanic. maybe they offer classes in bike maintenance that would allow you to undertake the simpler pleasures and leave the heavy lifting to the guys behind the counter.

i like to believe that, though untrained, i have a good working knowledge of cycle mechanics. however, that knowledge stops short of anything to do with electronics and pretty much only skirts the periphery of hydraulics and press-fit bearings. it's a conversation you can have with yourself while out on the next solo ride.

you're welcome.

wednesday 12 january 2022

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galloway cycling

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tell me about it

free data

i have , on occasion, referred to strava as 'facebook for cyclists', ever since the software platform decided to add the facility for its members to converse with each other via an included messaging and social media addition. this interactivity feature, ostensibly included to allow strava protagonists to offer comment and kudos on the activities of others, was likely more to encourage the spending of more time within strava's four corners of the web browser. should you enquire as to why that might be the case, the single-word answer would most likely be 'data'.

though i believe strava now charge members for the majority of their 'services', ownership of this freely given data, helps monetise their venture, making anonymised information available to transport departments acrosee the world, frequently keen to ensure their traffic planning activities more closely resemble the likely demand from runners and cyclists. no point, i should imagine, in building a bridge solely for the use of cyclists and runners, if your particular corner of urbanity is bereft of adherents to either activity.

though someone recently asked why, if we're always told to read the small print, why isn't it larger, the important part of strava's small print states, 'You grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display any Content and any name, username or likeness that you post on or in connection with the Services in all media formats and channels now known or later developed without compensation to you.' in plain english, strava can use all your stuff anywhere, for any reason, free of charge until such time as you delete said content or your account. for this, they're more than willing to take your money.

this very closely resembles the parody terms and conditions included with a now defunct piece of software called auto illustrator. ostensibly a vector drawing package, the controls were deliberately set to do pretty much the opposite of what you'd hope they'd achieve, while the user agreement stated that were any valuable works of art created with the software, the creators owned the copyright and any income derived thereof. to make sure the user participated in this eccentric snippet of humour, auto-illustrator would not load until the agreement had actually been read and agreed. unfortunately, so keen are most of us to use the services for which we've just paid, we sign the terms and conditions without reading a word.

though the majority of terms and conditions may well be fairly innocuous, you still need to be aware of how much information you're also providing to all and sundry. there were some noted occasions when criminals were targeting strava members on the basis of knowing when they were out cycling, and what other expensive bicycles were left behind in the bikeshed.

and just like facebook, instagram and probably twitter, the indoor chaps are no different. peloton explains that, while it intends to maintain the security of your personal data, it reserves the right to provide an anonymised version to third parties or agents acting on its behalf. zwift apparently does likewise. and when it comes to some of those dockless bike hire initiatives, i recall reading of a chinese entry into the british market which was garnering substantial financial investment back home. the article explained that this was not because bike hire was likely to make millionaires out of them all, but as a result of the data collected from the system's users.

it may be of some comfort to learn that said company has now departed the uk.

this catalogue of acquisition was underlined earlier this week when garmin released their 2021 'connect fitness' report, one that apparently confirmed a near 50% increase in gravel cycling. such information has been gathered from the connect fitness app featured on the garmin smart watch. while increases in almost every strain of fitness activity throughout the pandemic should be of great optimism to us all, i would suggest, however, that garmin's saving grace is that their 'connect' service is free of charge. but the fact that it's relatively easy to export the activities into strava, brings us back to the 'bang for buck' conundrum once again.

in these days of internet scams, data breaches and the like, it pays to be particularly careful about whichever online service with which you find favour, and it would hardly seem overly objectionable for a company to make use of your freely supplied data, if there's no charge for said service. however, there's an annual subscription costs for zwift and peloton, also bearing in mind that the latter requires purchase of a not inexpensive proprietary indoor exercise bike. the cost of strava premium has been commended as worth the outlay, partly on the basis that in providing a service, it would be churlish to complain about the price. however, i'm of a mind that, if you're paying for any of the above, there ought to be a simple means of restricting their use of the data you generate.

if i was paid to write an article for rouleur magazine, then hawked it round every other cycling publication and website, how happy would ian clevery be?

tuesday 11 january 2022

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kop van de wedstrijd

belgian national cyclocross championship

like many a cycling fan, i confess i was ignorant of cyclocross for many a long year. when i say 'ignorant', i don't mean i'd never heard of its existence, but i had no recollection of ever having viewed a cyclocross event, and i can't honestly say i had much of a clue as to what it was all about. and though i doubt it paints me in a better light, the light bulb came on during sven nys' domination of the sport, purely because he rode a colnago, a fact that i'm sure makes me seem even more superficial than i like to think i really am.

however, having notionally 'discovered' cyclocross, knowledge about which was aided and abetted by richard sachs across the pond, my awareness led me to seek out live coverage of european races, its existence in the uk being more obscure than avant-garde jazz. these frequently filled little more than the size of a postage stamp in the middle of the web browser, usually obscured by on-screen adverts that could not be dismissed before viewing them for 30 secods or a minute.

those adverts, just like the ones that appear midway through a youtube video, had me thoroughly confused. considering just how difficult it was to find the cyclocross coverage in the first place, why on earth would i then decide to click on one which took me away from that i had struggled to find?

british national cyclocross championship

however, advertisements not withstanding, an added frisson was the flemish commentary, none of which i understood, but was conveniently augmented by on-screen updates informing me as to just who were the riders becoming more and more disguised with gloopy mud. so adept were those competitors at leaping aboard their bicycles following jumping of hurdles, or running up a hill, that i imagined it to be the sort of physical action possessed by us all. it took but a mere few expeditions to bridgend woods to discover that this was very far from the truth.

during this period, america became even more in thrall to 'cross than had yours truly, a fact that coincided with my two visits to portland's fair city, where i was presented with a book of photos from their most recent 'cross season entitled 'dirty pictures'. i still have that copy today. rapha's association with american national 'cross champion, jeremy powers, led to several online conversations with the gent, including a facetime interview while he sat in the campervan prior to a race in belgium. he was also kind enough to teach me (from a distance), just how to dismount and re-mount in the manner of a true professional, a skill i no longer possess due to lack of use.

the latest issue of cyclist magazine could reasonably have been re-titled 'gravel' magazine without anyone actually noticing, and it would be a true velocipedinal hermit who was totally unaware of the rise and rise of gravel. it's a situation that continues to remain a mystery to me when we already had cyclocross bicycles that would appear to achieve much the same end result.

belgian national cyclocross championship

however, cyclocross may have been given a higher profile of its own following the choice of mathieu van der poel, wout van aert and tom pidcock to join the road-racing peloton with notable success. this alone may have brought greater numbers to investigate the winter 'cross season, particularly over the past few months when the latter two opted to begin their 'cross seasons simultaneously. van aert's successes (nine wins from ten starts, including this past weekend's belgian national championships) along with impressive achievements by pidcock can only have improved its status, even if, due to injury, the hoped for competition between van der poel and van aert failed to materialise.

but perhaps the singular difference over the past few weeks has been the wall-to-wall coverage offered by eurosport/gcn, most of which lost nothing by being free of both adverts and commentary (on eurosport player at least). and it's not simply been coverage of the elite mens' races; womens cyclocross and junior events have also benefited from the same eurosport/gcn largesse, surely impressive enough to encourage those who sponsor both riders and events? and were live coverage of the uci world cup and super prestige series insufficient to gain the broadcaster a whole slew of brownie points, they even offered similarly excellent coverage of the weekend's british cyclocross championships, the elite race being won by thomas mein, closely followed by rising star, cameron mason.

belgian national cyclocross championship

i still fail to comprehend why reigning champion, tom pidcock, chose to attend an ineos road training camp in mallorca, rather than defend his title ahead of the world championship race in fayetteville, arkansas. but then, i'm not altogether sure why wout has decided to give the world's a miss. you will by now have realised that there's a lot about professional cycle racing i don't understand.

eurosport/gcn is what might be regarded as an easy target. despite the logistics of offering live coverage over a wide range of differing sports, we all moan when broadcasts are delayed or cancelled due to the overrun of the preceding event, or when live coverage is continually interrupted by ad breaks occurring just as an important attack or incident has taken place. like i said, it's an easy target.

so, with the cyclocross season almost ended for another year, i think it only fair that we offer a concerted chapeau! to the folks at eurosport/gcn for adding to our velocipedinal enjoyment and knowledge. that £6.99 every month has been well worth the spending.

eurosport player

monday 10 january 2022

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hot chillee ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

endura freezing-point overshoes ii

endura freezing point overshoes ii

i recall robert millar (pippa york) stating that, once past 30 years old, it was necessary to train twice as hard simply to remain at the same level as before. that may have been an oversimplification, or even a slight exaggeration, but there's no denying that, as the years roll by, it becomes harder and harder to retain the same level of stamina and speed as we all took for granted when mere youngsters. phil cavell pays credence to this state of affairs in his excellent book 'the midlife cyclist', providing advice as to how the more earnest amongst us might stave off some of the effects of getting older. but ultimately, the game's a bogey.

endura freezing point overshoes ii

having never raced with a number on my back, nor having any real desire so to do, i can't honestly say that i've not undertaken any serious training regime, ever. there have been occasions on which i've placed myself under duress for the purposes of reviewing a book dedicated to the training process, but never for any longer than absolutely necessary. i figure that's probably why i find zwift such an easy target; why would i subject myself to indoor stress and strain for no real purpose?

endura freezing point overshoes ii

however, the consoling factor in the face of diminishing velocity, is a predilection for going out riding in pretty much any weather you care to mention. granted, if the crosswinds are in excess of 80kph, i'll reluctantly stay at home, for it's really, really hard to remain upright in winds of that strength. however, such conditions not withstanding, i'll ride in gales, rain, hail, snow, sunshine; pretty much anything the hebrides can throw in the direction of an intrepid cyclist. however, this is scarcely a case of unbridled derring-do; it has far more to do with possessing a wide range of weatherproof clothing, ownership of which would be utterly pointless were i to resort to a smart turbo trainer and visions of watopia.

endura freezing point overshoes ii

that said, it's still possible to underestimate certain factors of the prevailing climate on any given day. the past few weeks have varied dramatically between temperatures of eleven degrees and yesterday's three degrees. the danger here is either resembling a mobile sauna, or clambering into the fridge after the bike ride to thaw out. according to common velocipedinal lore, if you're comfortably warm within the first five kilometres, then you're overdressed. by and large, i've found that to be true, but islay is an island of two halves, split almost down the middle by sea lochs both north and south. to the east of loch indaal, it can be as much as three degrees warmer than to the west, a situation that will only reveal itself on reaching the latter side of the water.

endura freezing point overshoes ii

since the parcours on the west side of the loch subsequently skirts the shores of the north atlantic, that's the section for which it is pertinent to dress, even if it does lead to some initial overheating on leaving the croft. however, it's often the extremities that feel it most; face, hands and feet, with the latter being the least likely to recover sooner rather than later.

let's face it, once clipped in, your feet have little opportunity for independent movement that might result in heat generation. you can blow on your hands, move them about, or even stop and clap into the wind for a while. the face too, can be turned away from the direction of impinging hailstones, snow, or even just plain icy wind. and i'm sure many will agree that riding with numb feet, is not high on anyone's 'to do' list.

which is why it's important to plan ahead, donning thick winter socks and covering everything in waterproof and preferably insulated overshoes. like endura's second generation of freezing point overshoes for instance.

endura freezing point overshoes ii

i owned two pairs of the original freezing-point overshoes, both of which offered sterling service until they simply wore out due to continued use. the latest model replaces the outer fabric of the first version with neoprene, a surface off which any water simply rolls to the ground. following two weeks of continued use, with both three-point road shoes and two-point offroad footwear, i have yet to suffer from wet feet. in fact the complete dryness of the fleece lining attests to the effectiveness of the outer surface. and it's that grey fleece lining that makes these stand out from ordinary overshoes.

despite the met office weather forecast displaying temperatures of three degrees, and windchill that makes it feel four degrees colder, my feet have stayed cosy and dry.

endura freezing point overshoes ii

though any pair of overshoes wil eventually suffer from wear on the soles, endura's solution is to feature an aramid fabric, stitched with aramid thread, offering the required amount of flexibility, while remaining sturdy in the face of adversity. the rear zips have now been offset to prevent the zip digging in at the heel and calf muscle, and there's some gloopy silicon around the top to prevent unwanted water ingress. be warned, however, that a pair of these will dispense with any spurious excuses you might concoct, as to why you can't go out in all weathers.

endura freezing point overshoes are available only in black and in sizes ranging from small to xl, with a retail price of £49.99. | endura freezing point overshoe ii

sunday 09 january 2022

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audience participation

sustrans cleanup

the current covid pandemic, in a beneficial spin-off, has encouraged or even mandated a growing proportion of britain's population to take to the saddle, often as an alternative to the motor car or public transport. in a great many cases, local council response, particularly in cities and urban areas, has been to install so-called pop-up cycle lanes to ease passage for those now commuting by bicycle. unfortunately, despite petitions and protests, a number of these temporary facilities have been subsequently removed, either through perceived lack of use, or at the behest of complaint from the motoring public, aghast that they have been compelled to share their roads with mere cyclists.

the corollary to this has been isolated cases where such rudimentary facilties have been made more permanent or even extended. having said that, there are still examples to be seen of cycling facilities that effectively go nowhere, or are bizarrely intersected by road junctions or parking that renders them close to pointless. optimism that the time of the bicycle had arrived at last may have been somewhat premature, continuing the cry that more would cycle were appropriate facilties to be provided

there's every possibility that we'll just never be satisfied.

but while any increase or improvement to cycling facilties is generally to be welcomed, cycledom is scarcely without an existing network joining various parts of scotland, currently cared for by sustrans. however, unlike the nation's road network, maintenance of the national cycle network is not solely the responsibility of the government, nor of regional councils and their roads departments. maintenance.

sustrans scotland are the custodians of the national cycle network in scotland, and we are supported in maintaining and improving the network by a wide mixture of public and private bodies. less than 51 miles of the national cycle network in scotland is owned and maintained by sustrans. The rest is owned by a variety of partners including local authorities, national organisations and private landowners. partners including transport scotland, local authorities, regional transport partnerships, green action trust, naturescot, the forestry commission, scottish canals as well as private landowners all play a role in improving and promoting the network.

sustrans cleanup

the 'real' stuff, such as creating and curating the surfaces on which we can ride our bicycles, is best left to sustrans and their partners and contractors, people who have the knowledge and expertise to keep the bridleways, former rail routes, bridges, surfaces and the like, in presentable, safe and useable condition. that does not mean, however, that there's nothing for the rest of us to do. according to sustrans, it really is the little things that matter. in may last year, sustrans partnered with keep scotland beautiful to curate a 'summer clean pledge', asking volunteers to pledge just 20 minutes of their time to clear a mile of the national cycle network of litter.

network engagement co-ordinator, laura white, said, "Our target was to clean up 500 miles during the three-week campaign. In the end, nearly 100 people pledged their time and they cleaned 600 miles of Network routes across Scotland."

so, assuming you figure it's time to put something back into the network you've probably moaned didn't exist at some time or another, what sort of things need done? well, you could take a couple of minutes just to clean up a portion of the network. you can even ask sustrans for a re-useable bag for the purpose, by e-mailing volunteers-scotland@sustrans.org.uk. or, perhaps, you could clean up some signposting along the route, removing any graffiti, grime or overgrowing vegetation. for those bird or animal watchers, you can record instances of either that you see along the way, via their online form.

or, on matters closer to our puncture repair outfits, you can report potholes, fallen trees or fly-tipping to scotland@sustrans.org.uk. realistically, we can scarcely continue to moan incessantly about how little our velocipedinal needs are catered for, yet leave everything to someone else, simply because we feel entitled. i can't help but feel that the country's roads would be in a (marginally) better state, if similar ideals were held by the motoring public.

you know it makes sense.

top photo: laura white-sustrans | inset photo: john linton - sustrans

sustrans.org.uk

saturday 08 january 2022

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rouleur

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missing in action

uci rainbow stripes

imagine that you are a rolling stones fan, or perhaps an aficionado of the band, genesis, or even a follower of level 42. (you could, of course, simply insert the name of any band at this particular point). having purchased a ticket for a performance by any of the above, imagine how tee'd off you might be if mick jagger decided that he would excuse himself from the tour, in favour of continuing with the yoga lessons he'd taken up during lockdown. or perhaps if phil collins left centre stage noticeably empty after signing up for a series of online sessions on his new peloton bike.

wouldn't you be rather miffed?

or, having waited out all those weeks of covid restrictions, desperate to welcome live music once again by attending a level 42 concert in glasgow's ovo hydro venue, only to discover that bassist/singer, mark king, opted to play with messrs copeland and belew in gizmodrome.

miffed once again.

the competitive side of cycling is a conplicated business, one that has endured increased complication over the last two years due to the covid pandemic. i posted on twitter only a few days past, just how many sleeps there were between posting and sitting glued to eurosport/gcn to watch the 2022 paris-roubaix. i did the same last year, then they moved paris-roubaix to october. the same situation occurred in 2020, only the october plan came to nought. with so many races of differing uci importance taking place across a finite period of twelve months, populated by riders who seem no longer content to stick to a single discipline, riding for teams who have sponsors with marketing strategies frequently at odds with the location of each event, it's a wonder a cunning plan ever comes together.

for instance, jumbo visma's two main sponsors probably have limited market interest in the uk, possibly meaning the main beneficiary of wout van aert's tour of britain victory last year was cervelo bicycles. scheduling of international events can only be a logistical nightmare, particularly if the organisers hope to attract the sport's top riders in order to better satisfy their sponsors. would aj bell be quite so free and easy with their purse-strings, if the invited teams opted to send their 'd' teams, devoid of anyone you've ever heard of?

followers of european cyclocross, both the uci world cup and super prestige series, will no doubt have been glued to their tv or computer screens, hoping either that van aert might have become fed up washing his skinsuit and stayed at home, or with fingers crossed that he'd continue his unbroken winning streak and become even more of a 'cross hero than he already was. i recall watching 'cross when sven nys was in the habit of disappearing into the distance as wout has done over the past few weeks. and were it not for the sterling performances by britain's tom pidcock, wout would have had no-one to talk to across the festive period.

cycling, however, differs in one important aspect from the oft compared, formula one motor racing. each formula one world championship event has to be contested by the teams sanctioned to do so, and since it's also a drivers' championship, by the same drivers each time. the uci's cyclocross world cup series mandates no such requirement. the reason that wout van aert and tom pidcock often start at the back of the grid is because they both started their 'cross season midway through the world cup series. similarly that of the super prestige.

eli iserbyt took victory of the world cup series following sunday's 'cross race in hulst by dint of having a larger gap over second place than there are available points on offer. wout van aert and tom pidcock don't even appear in the top ten, despite van aert having beaten iserbyt in every world cup race up to that point. that surely means that avid followers of either the world cup or super prestige, can only view van aert, pidcock or even van der poel as interlopers, scarcely worthy of their posters on bedroom walls?

however, when it comes to the annual world championships of any particular cycling discipline, it would not be too outlandish to expect the world's best to compete against each other. so doing would ensure that whomsoever wears the rainbow stripes is a champion worthy of adulation. however, the vagaries and vicissitudes of the competitive velocipedinal world offer a great deal of wiggle room, particularly for those at the top of their game.

the current world cyclocross champion is mathieu van der poel, who, due to injury, will not compete in this year's championsip race at fayeteville, arkansas, usa. given that particular state of affairs, following his eight wins from nine starts, would automatically favour wout van aert to win the 2022 world cyclocross championship. except van aert, at the age of 26, has been world 'cross champion three times already, and has his eyes on road racing's spring classics. consequently, he's decided to give fayeteville a body swerve, in case jet lag upsets his forthcoming northern european road campaign.

british fans will likely applaud his decision, for based on recent results, that puts tom pidcock in pole position for the win. but should he fulfil that ambition, van aert's absence will undoubtedly detract just a smidgeon from those rainbow bands. after all, the only time pidcock has been able to distance van aert was when the latter's chain stuck after quarter of a lap at hulst. that he subsequently made his way from 40th up to 4th would lend credence to the likelihood of wva trouncing pidcock in arkansas, had he opted to compete.

of course, maybe we like it that way. maybe we prefer our champions to make their own decisions based on a notional career path, rather than adhere to the expectations we've been conditioned to hold. formula one victory depends almost entirely on money and technological excellence; would lewis hamilton really be quite so far along the road to sainthood were he to have been contracted to one of the teams occupying a more lowly station on the starting grid?

maybe cycling doesn't need one definable champion, even if he does still beat his opponents after crashing and having to change footwear in the pits. take each race as it comes and enjoy the spectacle.

friday 07 january 2022

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return on investment

porsche 911 turbo

i have never knowingly denied being something of a cheapskate, though obviously i'd prefer that questions regarding my thriftyness were kept to a minimum. but then again, my alleged cheapness may, in fact, simply be a mistaken case of procrastination. i believe i may have previously mentioned a pressing need to replace the twelve-speed cassette on my bora wto wheels prior to replacing the chain. if memory serves, i may have done so as long ago as november. like i said; procrastination.

at one time, i was efficient (or stupid) enough to change my chain every three months, thus preserving the integrity of my drive-train. 2021, however, has seen a growing 'lackadaisical-ness' about some mechanical aspects of my velocipedinal life. for instance, the ritchey has had to survive on one chain since early june, at which point, due to the replacement skipping on a couple of worn sprockets, i'd to cobble together a hybrid cassette. this was formed from half a record branded item and the other half consisting of the still functioning chorus sprockets. despite an unregulated jump between two adjacent sprockets, my frankenstein's cassette has functioned seemlessly in the interim.

however, as admitted a couple of months ago, the chain is now long overdue for replacement, a situation that was supposed to accompany the reversion to a pair of ritchey alloy wheels. this was to outwit the hebridean winter gales, allowing unfettered pedalling no matter the forecast du jour. as part of this seasonal fettling, new rene herse tyres have also been ordered, along with the appropriate size of inner tubes, replete with shorter valve stems more visually compatible with considerably shallower alloy rims.

according to the latest statistics, annual running costs for the most expensive car to own in the uk - land rover's range rover - amount to £4,900, not including additional average insurance costs of £1,223. it is only marginally more expensive than porchse's 911 which will rob you of £4,300 and fuel costs of at least 58 pence per mile. a new tyre for the latter can set you back as much as £853. by comparison, the cost of £90 for a 700x28c rene herse chinook pass tyre, rather pales into insignificance.

i dread to think what it would cost to replace the gearbox of a range rover or porsche 911.

and that is, believe it or not, a valid comparison. granted, there's little chance of any of us out accelerating a porsche, or replicating the luxurious interior of a range rover, but those are, to put not too fine a point on it, mere fripperies. those of us who have opted for a bicycle instead of a motor car, can rest assured that our annual outgoings for maintenance will be considerably less than even the price for a single porsche compatible tyre.

on average, a campagnolo twelve-speed chain is priced at around £50, though the tool to fit it was another £150. the twelve-speed chorus cassette cost me £160, and a pair of chinook pass tyres would run to £180. on past experience, the only one of those needing replaced on an annual basis would be the chain. and were i to revisit my four chains a year regime, that would amount to £200, somewhat less than the near £5,000 for a range rover.

i'd be the first to agree that i am comparing apples with garden shovels, but following a brief period of internal moaning after checking my paypal balance, at least some of the foregoing has lessened the blow, along with the knowledge that i rarely, if ever, have trouble findng a parking space. even the £17,000 sarto with mellenstein wheels featured in an otherwise innocuous youtube video, will have maintenance costs considerably below those of any motor car

so the next time some idiot in a car passes too close, cuts you up at a junction, or overtakes on a blind corner, try very, very hard to feel sorry for them.

thursday 06 january 2022

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

do as you would be done by

bike racks

i cannot deny that i live in the rural idyll. yes, the current temperatures may be darned close to zero degrees, the wind in excess of 60kph and the sky regularly depositing substantial amounts of hailstones, but it's a great place to live. and that's despite two ferry crews having contracted covid and the islay route currently being served by the oldest (37 years) ferry operated by calmac, leading to a substantial backlog trying to leave for the mainland. and did i mention that the last two sailings on tuesday were cancelled due to weather conditions that were identical to those prevailing in the morning when the ferry did sail?

but those are features, not bugs. when travelling to and from the mainland, i always travel by ferry, rather than the half hour flight to glasgow, because, for me, the former underlines the fact that i live on an island on purpose. way too many people escape the rat race to the scottish islands and then moan endlessly about poor broadband, dubious mobile phone signals, terrible roads, highly infrequent public transport, high food and petrol costs and the endlessly moving target that is the island's ferry service.

the simple answer would be not to move in the first place.

but if i might revisit my opening sentence, i still believe that i live in the rural idyll. even at times like the annual whisky festival, when the population experiences a dramatic increase, what we'd categorise as busy roads, are not a patch on those of urban and city locations on the mainland. so when i internally moan when i have to wait more than twenty seconds to cross bowmore main street, or have to stand in a passing place for a couple of minutes while six cars pass in a row, it's well worth reminding myself that so doing is hardly what might be termed a hardship.

serious crime is pretty much non-existent, and traffic accidents highly uncommon. there's even sufficient manouevring room to allow meeting foreign drivers in hired cars on the wrong side of the road without resulting in a collision.

however, close calls are not totally excluded, and i can see, to a certain extent, why others in this rural idyll are unusually reticent to adopt the bicycle as their means of transport or leisure activity. since being blessed with a gorgeous daughter, number one son, previously a regular member of the sunday morning peloton, has scarcely turned a pedal in anger. the only two occasions on which either of his bicycles have seen the great outdoors, were during the 2020 festive holiday and, more recently, the 2021 festive holiday.

on the latter occasion, as we wended our merry way towards coffee and double-egg rolls at debbie's, my son riding on the right, we were passed by a car on which, had there been another coat of paint, he'd have been knocked off his bicycle. when there are several police forces across the country actively enforcing the maintenance of at least 1.5 metres between car and cyclist, it's disappointing that there are still members of the motoring public who seem entirely oblivious of such safety matters. and i'm also well aware that incidents such as the above happen considerably more often on the mainland than this isolated incident near crosshouses, south of bridgend.

but, that said, given the perennial need for self-preservation by almost all the nation's cyclists, it comes as something of a disappointment that there are still those with a cleated foot in each camp, who do not practice that which we are in the habit of preaching. on my return from the ubiquitous double-egg roll at lunchtime on tuesday, as i approached a notorious blind-corner, the vehicle following overtook on the approach to said corner. that, in itself, is scarcely a notable event; it happens all the time. however, as the car passed, the sight of two bicycles on a rear-rack was something of a disappointment.

surely it does not seem too outlandish to hope that we'd look after our own? overtaking ahead of a blind-corner has little to do with driving per se, far more to do with common sense. if i can't see what's round a corner, nobody behind me is likely to be any better informed. when that driver is also a cyclist, you'd rather hope for a more intelligent and sympathetic appraisal of such a situation. i have said on more than a single occasion, that the world features more than just a few of idiots; some of them ride bikes, some of them drive cars, some of them walk. it seems that such idiocy has the ability to cross disciplines.

wednesday 05 january 2022

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state of the (van) aert

jumbo visma service course

whether you have any particular interest in formula one motor racing or not, it's likely your awareness of the so-called 'sport' extends far enough to know that it's an incredibly expensive activity, from the cost of the cars and their engines, to the somewhat exhorbitant amounts paid to (some of) the drivers. for instance, recently deposed formula one champion, lewis hamilton is reckoned to earn in excess of £48 million from his mercedes contract alone. for a quick comparison, two-times tour de france winner, tadej pogacar earns around £5 million from his uae cycling contract.

jumbo visma service course

of course, it hardly stops there. many formula one drivers (and top level world tour cyclists) can top up their salaries with individual sponsorships. and then there's the cost of placing your logo on a formula one car. the latter depends on where that logo is placed, based, i'd imagine, on how many hours it can be seen in front of a television audience. prices for a logo on the rear wing or sidepod start at around £19 million, depending on with which team you're in discussion.

jumbo visma service course

there is always the possibility, or even likelihood, that this invokes lord levehume's apocryphal statement "fifty percent of my advertising spend is ineffective. if only i knew which fifty percent." but chances are, nowadays, there are so many metrics tracking services that can be hired or invoked, that everyone knows just how effective is their advertising, wherever they have decided to direct their marketing spend.

by comparison to formula one, world tour cycling is seen as a relatively cheap means of making the public aware of your product(s) or services. jim radcliffe, owner of ineos, has spent at least two seasons sponsoring a cycling team under the name of ineos grenadiers, ostensibly the name of his own vehicle offered as a replacement for the late lamented, original land rover defender. that particular vehicle, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the land rover it's designed to replace, has yet to go on sale, but mr radcliffe has, so far, effectively spent around £80 million advertising it on world tour jerseys. britain's tom pidcock took an excellent victory in sunday's cyclocross race in baal over the very sort of terrain the grenadier has been designed to operate, while displaying as much on the front of his british champion's jersey.

jumbo visma service course

bear in mind that two years' of paying team ineos' budget is not that much more than lewis hamilton earns in one year. either mr radcliffe is satisfied with his investment, or simply has enough money to indulge his interest in cycling, without actually weighing up the costs.

naturally enough, as with formula one, annual budgets in cycling vary quite considerably. one of the sport's oldest teams, movistar, has an annual budget of around £17 million, deceuninck quickstep have another £4 million to play with, while primoz roglic at jumbo visma benefits from their annual expenditure of just over £22 million. lead sponsor, 'jumbo' is a 'dedicated and proven outcome-focused lottery enabler, providing lotteries with the tools needed to succeed and grow their returns.', while visma, on the other hand, is a private company based in norway, 'providing business software and IT related development and consultancy' and with an annual turnover of just over £1 billion.

jumbo visma service course

you would not be alone in wondering how advertising on wout van aert's cycle jersey actually benefits either of those companies, but it obviously does in some way or another.

but there's also the bicycles that the team rides. for a couple of years, jumbo visma rode bianchi bicycles, before switching to cervelo last year. as has been pointed out by more than a few individuals, van aert has recently been demolishing the aspirations of many a cyclocross rider aboard a cervelo cross bike that doesn't actually exist as yet, though they have promised a commercial appearance later this year. and here we were thinking that the uci demanded no bike could be raced that's not (currently) commercially available.

jumbo visma service course

it's as well to take with a pinch of salt, statements like that published by pinarello during their sponsorship of team sky. in this, they implied that team sky had chosen pinarello bicycles for their superior build, technology and aptitude for the job, features which are probably perfectly true. however, the real reason they (and pretty much every other world tour team) ride the bikes they do, is because pinarello paid a sizeable sum of money to have them do so. same goes for clothing providers. not only do they have to supply a vast wealth of goods, but have to pay for the privilege.

so what does all this money actually mean?

well, at least one facet of the equation can be gauged from the recently released film of the jumbo visma service course, obviously based closely on thewashingmachinepost bikeshed. aside from admiring the size and antiseptic cleanliness of the facility, the unique wheel light in one of the meeting rooms and the artfulness of what i presume is cleverly edited drone footage, just look at the number of black and yellow (once again, closely resembling that of thewashingmachinepost) cervelos racked in row after row.

everybody should have a bike shed like this.

jumbo visma service course

jumbo visma service course

tuesday 04 january 2022

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wabi woolens ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

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

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