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fassa bicycle protection

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the mighty dave t's words of the week

the mighty dave t

"it's not the cough that carries you off, it's the coffin they carry you off in."

©2019 the mighty dave t, is a prendas sponsored rider and le patron of the thoroughly decent fellows.


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this is cambridge

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ritchey wcs upgrade ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

grounds for success

coffee fabrics

under the auspices of a previous editor at our local newspaper, a small, domestic espresso machine was purchased allowing for a daily soupcon of rocket fuel. or at least, that was the plan. in point of fact, though that machine creates a visually stimulating crema atop that small cup of java, the brown liquid beneath the frothy surface does leave something to be desired. strength, mostly.

and once again, telling personal tales out of school, the receptacle in which the ground coffee is placed prior to brewing, features a flippable plastic lever, the purpose of which always escaped me. only by accident did i realise that flipping it forward allowed the disposal of waste coffee grounds into the kitchen bin without also disposing of the perforated holder. thus, i can now indulge in the age-old practice of noisily battering it against the inside of the bin in the vain hope that those caked coffee duds will easily fall out.

it's a practice that takes place all across the world, given that coffee is still, by far, the most common hot drink in the western world. that very newspaper mentioned above, recently printed an article based on a press-release from caledonian macbrayne ferries, pointing out that, across all their west-coast routes, coffee outsold tea by a ratio of almost two to one. we don't possess what is often termed 'the high street', yet, aside from debbie's, there are now several hostelries across the principality, offering various qualities of coffee, all of which must be producing a substantial quantity of waste coffee grounds.

and if those simply end up in landfill, it quite literally is 'waste'.

this is a state of affairs that has probably occurred to several individuals in the course of a visit to costa or starbucks, but in particular to jason chen, who turned his observation into a business opportunity. only 0.2 percent of the ground coffee actually ends up in your cup, meaning the other 99.8 percent might well be practical for use elsewhere. garmentage, for instance and to be more specific, cycling garmentage. and, as it turns out, coffee grounds emulate one of the principle benefits of merino wool: they take away body odours.

in an ideal world, creating fabric from coffee grounds would prove to be an entirely ethical and environmentally sound process, and rather fortunately, that has turned out to be the case. to turn coffee into fabric, it has to be combined with strands of polyester, the latter being sourced from recycled plastic bottles. once combined into a fabric, it not only becomes an odour-eater, but fast-drying, virtually waterproof and almost impervious to ultra-violet light, protecting pigments and fibres. timberland has used it in shoe fabric, helping to prevent stinky feet.

one t-shirt requires three cups of coffee grounds and five recycled plastic bottles. given that taiwan alone (where mr chen and his s.café business are based) produces 30 tonnes of coffee grounds from six million cups of coffee, that's a lot of t-shirts.

scotland, to state the glaringly obvious, is a considerable distance from taiwan, party to weather conditions and temperatures that those in the south and east china seas would scarcely countenance. it would be naive to think that the taiwanese have less requirement for waterproofs than do we, but smartly, scottish outdoor clothing supplier, findra has launched the 'stroma technical jacket' utilising this rather clever coffee-based fabric.

it now needs only a visionary entrepreneur to find a means of massaging used tea-bags into a pair of thermal bibtights, or waterproof overshoes.

findra outdoor clothing

saturday 16 february 2019

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

the more things change, the more they stay the same

gravel road

it was mrs washingmachinepost who first separated me from four wheels and put me on two. my initial place of employ on leaving college was a shade under five kilometres from my home and using the car for such a short journey (one that i had walked daily when employed as a student in the summer months), was swallowing more petrol than i had budgeted for. prior to the days of electronic engine management systems, motor cars had a manual choke fitted to the carburettor, allowing for a greater influx of fuel when the engine was cold in the mornings.

on such a short journey, the choke was open fully on the way to work and again on the return journey some eight hours later.

so mrs twmp kindly ordered a steel viscount road bike from her mail-order catalogue and the future die was set. i dare any one of you to deny that, in similar set of circumstances (ie, that of your first bike), you wouldn't immediately look to improving and upgrading the constitution of that plain gauge machine. unfortunately, due to considerably less research into the subject than would have been prudent, the viscount's eventual replacement was scarcely any better than its predecessor. despite the manufacturer ostensibly offering an internal corrosion warranty, when said bicycle started to exhibit a bubbling of the paint due to such a malfeasance, the bike shop seemed less than concerned.

with these circumstances coinciding with the advent of the new-fangled mountain bike, i decided enough was enough and plunged a substantially greater amount of cash into one of the first muddy fox couriers to reach the uk market.

like many an early purchaser, i had no earthly notion of coming within a hundred miles of a mountain, notwithstanding the fact that there was scarcely anything resembling a mountain within a hundred miles. however, the spread of gears via the ubiquitous triple chainset, wide, comfy tyres and a more upright stance than encouraged by a set of drop bars, made the courier the ideal commuting bicycle, though the componentry was still in the early stages of development and didn't quite match the claims made for such machinery by muddy fox's marketing department.

it would be wrong to portray myself as a confirmed roadie who had been stealthily snaffled by the lure of the offroad fraternity, for in truth, i was utterly unaware that such a scene existed. yet, through frequent visits to local bike shops to accessorise the mtb, it became plain that there was a growing, if small, community intent on throwing themselves down the side of big hills that presumably qualified as an ideal and safer substitute for the lack of local mountains. however, as a confirmed wimp who needed to arrive in one piece for work on a monday morning, the rationale behind this nascent mountain bike scene remained an obscure, incomprehensible anathema, no matter how promising the advertisements.

industry-wise, the mountain bike was regarded as its saviour. though i was hardly involved in such matters at the time, i believe sales of road bikes and other flavours were essentially flat at the time, but the arrival of knobbly tyred bicycles quickly turned that around. i doubt many had the faintest idea as to who tom ritchey, charlie breeze and gary fisher really were, happy simply to acquire a piece of americana, simply because that's where the cool kids lived.

velocipedinal life has changed noticeably since those halcyon days of yore: mountain bikes are still around, but more closely resemble farm gates with springs and currently in serious danger of losing two of those three chainrings, if that has not already come to pass. so-called downhill bikes thoroughly deserve that apellation, since the majority cannot easily be ridden uphill under any circumstances. and there was even a point in relatively recent history, when the marketeers had named dual suspension machines as 'playbikes' in order to divert attention away from the emperor's new clothes that few, if any, really needed to wear.

yet, here we are, approaching the end of the second decade of the 21st century and america, followed blindly, it seems, by britain and europe, has once again decided to espouse the desire to leave the road-going world behind and embrace the offroad lifestyle, by way of reinvention. except this time it has by-passed the mountain bike, handing us instead, the gravel bike, a genre of bicycle that we were once happy to address by its more historic name, that of cyclocross.

yes indeed, there are differences, but they are small and ostensibly superficial. unburdened by the need for a governing body, tyre width rivals that of its mountain bike brethren and already moves are afoot to offer front suspension. in many cases, gravel has only visually retained its origins by way of a set of drop handlebars. you may well be thinking, 'so why should i care?', and in essence, i'd be inclined to agree with you, were it not for one salient message from the recently acquired evans cycles' trend spotting exercise.

aside from stating the obvious: that discs and e-bikes are here to stay, while front mechs might well be persona non grata offroad, they prognosticate that gravel and adventure riding are two sides of the same coin that is soon likely to experience a boom time, if it is not already doing so. according to the once troubled high street bike store, 'venturing off-road on drop bars is the quickest, most sure-fire way of injecting some fun and adventure into your riding.' i'm sure that mountain bikers and cyclocrossers will find that more than just vaguely familiar, while roadies might find it just a tad insulting.

with 'gravel specific' wheelsets, larger volume tyres and allegedly specific componentry, clothing and footwear, it's hard to think of an argument as to why the road bike, cross bike and mountain bike should not be joined by a fourth variant just in time for summer. or maybe not, as the case may be.

mind you, i'm eager to see how zwift deals with this trend.

friday 15 february 2019

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

fandom?

paris-roubaix aso/gruber images

with the imminent approach of what might be loosely termed the 'spring classics', my cycling fandom is gaining a welcome shot in the arm and a rejuvenation of enthusiasm. do not misunderstand; i am continually a cycling enthusiast, but determinedly old skool in my interpretation thereof. once upon a time, the tour of lombardy signalled the end of the professional cycling season, when the intrepid cycling fan could look forward not only a to a brief season of idiosyncratic hill-climbs (it's a brit sort of thing), but a six-day track season that has sadly diminished as the decades have rolled by.

and that's to say nothing of an imperative and compulsory cyclocross season.

but then, the uci, in its infinite wisdom, deigned to globalise the sport, with january's 'tour down under' being arguably the most high-profile example of that, effectively signalling professional cycling's mobius strip; the never-ending season. much as i hate to be a party-pooper, i have never managed to raise the enthusiasm for australia's pre-eminent cycling event. much to my embarrassment, i couldn't even tell you who won this year's race.

there is, of course, the potential for accusations of weather-envy. while the antipodes 'suffers' (if that's the correct word) from a heatwave, the hebrides has scarcely been worthy of comparison. though last year's festive 500 was probably the easiest in recent memory, it still necessitated a complementary degree of layering, in order to maintain a suitable core temperature. i'm happy to have the eccentric finger pointed in my direction when i admit that i rather enjoy riding in the wind and rain.

lest you think i am the sole harbinger of inclement velocpidinal activity, several recent conversations have brought me to the conclusion that this is not something that i practice alone. i do recall the days when i moaned incessantly that every hebridean weekend seemed fraught with gales and horizontal precipitation, timeously curated to place regualr obstacles in the path of cycling serenity. quite when that situation ended, i'd by fibbing if said i knew, but it transpires that more than just one of my pelotonic colleagues has found themselves blessed with a similar change in attitude.

maybe we're just collectively eccentric.

but then, when the aforementioned 'spring classics' finally arrive via eurosport or an internet sporza feed, we are able to identify if not with the speed of competition, at least those hard-man tendencies. and that goes for the women too. while the creme-de-la-creme of the tour de france are exhibiting their outward namby-pambyness, perambulating the inner recesses of las canadas in tenerife, our heroes clad in bib-threequarters, belgian winter caps and overshoes, are either being unceremoniously blown from one side of an echelon to the other, or bouncing their way across cobbles the size of small buildings.

it would seem, in my opinion at least, safe to assume that the majority of cycling fans are similarly engrossed and enthused.

but as i work myself into a frenzy a mere fifty eight days from this year's paris-roubaix, a pin emerges to puncture my self-created bubble. though by now i really ought to know better, i have always believed and inferred that those responsible for bringing pixelated cycling news, or the glorious colour that is ed pickering's procycling magazine, are as similarly obsessed as are we. but it takes only the corporate speak of a ceo to disavow me of that apparently mistaken notion. the colourfully named zillah byng-thorne of future publishing, welcoming the company's purchase of both cycling news and procycling (did they not previously own both?) used language that seems an entire ronde van vlaanderen from the wordage we'd use ourselves.

"The acquisition of these titles will expand our presence in the sport and outdoor leisure vertical, and is a clear demonstration of our strategy to leverage enduring content on our technology platform to further diversify our revenue streams."

and we thought that the uci were our biggest problem.

photo: aso/gruber images

thursday 14 february 2019

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

the way to go

raid cycling

many, many years ago, in a land far, far away (in mitigation, almost everywhere is far, far away from here) i had been invited by the very nice people at london's imperial works, to join them for the inaugural rapha travel to le grand banc in the provence region of france. naturally enough, as a seasoned travelling cyclist (no sniggering at the back), i had ridden in france on two previous occasions, by way of hot chillee's london-paris ride, but this was different. based in what had once been a small hamlet atop a hill in the middle of nowhere, i, and my fellow velocipedinists were tended to, hand and foot, while we explored the surrounding countryside, guided by those far more experienced with the trials and tribulations of cycling and that particular region of provence.

raid cycling

led by rapha travel's head of ceremonies, californian, brad sauber, i have no earthly idea of where we pedalled each day, though a prospective summitting of mont ventoux had to be abandoned in favour of one of the finest days' riding i have ever experienced, along the gorge la nesque. not only were we supplied with pinarello dogmas on which to perform our daily ministrations, but on each day's return, these were fettled by a resident mechanic while our tired and weary legs were fettled by thor hushovd's masseur. all this took place prior to the consumption of a home-cooked repast to refuel for the following day's struggle.

raid cycling

and the support vehicles were black, ex-team sky, jaguar xk estate cars.

it will ruin my well-earned, if a tad dubious, street cred to announce that, at dinner on our final evening, i was presented with a lanterne rouge cap as a result of my daily position in the peloton. not one who has ever been overly concerned by the latter, i enjoyed every single minute of that excursion, pretty much entirely due to the care, attention, humour and patience shown by mr sauber and his band of merry men. on my return to civilisation, i sent brad a small, fluffy highland cow for his desktop, proclaiming him to be an honorary scotsman, in view of his tenacity in the face of a bout of inclement weather that really did not equate with his californian temperament.

brad sauber

though you may or may not be immediately aware, rapha's travel project is in the process of coming to an end. and while i'd like to feel sorry for those who feel they may not now have the opportunity to experience a similar level of customer service, as outlined above, in truth, there is no need for such sentiment. for as of today, brad sauber unveils his own answer to the demise of the rapha operation: raid cycling

"After more than 30 years of riding and leading groups of cyclists around the world, I have created RAID to combine the best of cycling and travel for those who consider cycling a passion and are comfortable getting out of their comfort zones.
raid cycling "RAID experiences are more than the bikes and routes; we immerse our guests in local communities and culture through distinct lodging and restaurants along the way. We leverage our local teams and partner relationships to ensure every trip is as unique as every rider."

i should make it plain that this is not a hijacking of the rapha operation by a devilish usurper. as brad told me "With the sunsetting of Rapha Travel, I had to keep the adventure going! So many wonderful guests and incredible staff wanted to keep doing it! So I've done my best to keep the Rapha Travel spirit alive!" you will hopefully believe me when i say that, if anyone can achieve the latter, it's the man who effectively masterminded those few days in less than sunny provence.

raid cycling

raid cycling's travel programme for this year includes trips in japan, corsica, brad's californian locale, colorado, new mexico, america's pacific coast, utah and hawaii. each trip will include the highest level of attention, including support from an experienced race mechanic. each afternoon, a 'recovery lounge' will offer recovery, compressed air massage, along with local cuisine, augmented with a sampling of beers and the sort of beverages to which you wish to become accustomed. however, unlike the rapha setup, riders are encouraged to travel with their own bicycles, which will be prepared by raid's professional mechanics and repackaged for travel at the end of every trip. those for whom taking the bike is either impractical or undesirable, brad's crew can help with local bike rentals.

raid cycling

any who fear that such trips are for those just a peter sagan baseball cap short of a professional contract, i need only refer you to my experience in provence. no matter how far behind my co-travellers i drifted, i was always accompanied by a guide and periodically visited by a 'team' car, just to check i was surviving with a smile on my face. and when i arrived at the finish-line looking like i'd been dragged through a hedge backwards, i was immediately brought a reviving fruit and custard danish. brad says the rides are designed for "experienced intermediate to advanced riders", but would be happy to tailor trips for all skill levels all the way down to my level, at any one of a number of destinations.

if your spring/summer schedule is currently looking a tad empty, might i suggest that you pop over to raidcycling.cc and take a gander at the options on offer. i might even go riding with brad myself, some day, though for his sake, i'll choose somewhere warm and dry.

raidcycling.cc

wednesday 13 february 2019

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prendas ciclismo ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

it's a wrap

wrapping handlebars with ritchey

for those who read yesterday's review of ritchey's ergomax bars, you might have noticed my truthful and painfully embarrassing admission that my completion of the final stage in the equation, left more than a little to be desired. in common with my total misapprehension of the ability to mount and dismount a cyclocross bicycle, applying bar tape to a set of handlebars, is often mistaken (mostly by me) as a natural gift possessed by those with a history of bike fettling. my aberrant history of so doing, easily disproves that theory with vigour.

wrapping handlebars with ritchey

several of you may think an easy solution to the problem would be simply to reverse engineer the process by unravelling the bar tape on a review model, and i can't deny that the same thought has occurred to me. however, the concern here is that, far from uncovering (see what i did there?) the secret formula, i would create an unholy mess that would subsequently need to be explained to the lender of that review machine. i can foresee the telephone conversation even now: "hello, specialized? you're going to laugh when i tell you this, but...". though i prefer not to shift responsibility, rather you than me.

wrapping handlebars with ritchey

and it's not as if i've mastered the bulk of bar-tape wrapping, only foiled by a single facet of the technique. every book and video i have laboriously read or watched, commences with beginning the wrap by overhanging the end of the bars in order that the bar plug has material on which to gain purchase and to prevent all my hard work from unravelling during our first bike ride together.

no-one has (with perfectly good reason) suggested that the bar plugs be inserted at this early stages of the car crash, but oh, so often, when having unsuccessfully completed the wrap, i attempt to fit said plugs, there's always a tiny portion of the overhang that steadfastly refuses to do what it's told. and then there's the often exposed brake/gear lever bracket.

wrapping handlebars with ritchey

the latter aspect is often intended to be catered for by two short strips of tape included in the box, almost always longer than necessary and which rarely manage to seamlessy achieve the purpose for which they were designed. i should point out that we are still discussing my own shortcomings in this respect and not attempting to disparage the fine folks who created this essential component in the first place. and should you think this to be a rather trivial observation, let me advise you otherwise. on my first foray into the big, bad world after fitting and wrapping those ergomax bars, i was faced with a right-hand flip-lever on the record ergo-power that refused to change up the block.

wrapping handlebars with ritchey

since the lever had worked perfectly well prior to re-installation on the new handlebars, this aberration was obviously a case of pilot error. it transpired that one of those short strips of tape was preventing the downshift thumb-lever from fully retracting, thus stopping the flip-lever from doing its job correctly. thoroughly pleased with myself for diagnosing this malfeasance while riding, the problem was solved in minutes 'pon my return. but if i'd wrapped the tape properly in the first place...

however, the most common iniquity of wrapping bar tape to afflict the majority, is a smooth and professional finish at the end of the tape, adjacent to the stem. i can't be the only individual to find one side ending in a different position than its mirror image. i have usually managed to conceal this manifest incompetence by fitting a garmin bar bracket and disguising the greater gap at one side, than the other. however, on the basis that i'm always afraid that someone will notice, just when it matters most, i really need to master each and every aspect of wrapping bar tape in a repeatable and professional manner.

wrapping handlebars with ritchey

one has one's image and street cred to maintain.

it is, therefore, highly appropriate that those who 'created' the problem (so to speak) - in this case, ritchey bicycles - are also the providers of the perfect solution. in fact, so logical and apparently simple does this solution appear to be, that i was moved to e-mail my benefactor at the above mentioned industry (thank you mr beatson) to remark on how very much i wish i'd been aware of this prior to demonstrating my incompetence to the velocipedinal world at large. i have helpfully included a link below to their instructional 'how to wrap handlebars' youtube video. i do so, safe in the knowledge that there is probably an eager audience of thousands with as little idea as yours truly.

meanwhile, i'm off out to re-wrap those ergomax bars.

how to wrap handlebar tape by ritchey

tuesday 12 february 2019

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specialized bicycles ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

ritchey wcs ergomax alloy handlebar, wcs c220 84d stem and wcs pavé bar tape

rithcey ergomax bars

should you ever find yourself stuck indoors on a wet and windy day, bereft of any meaningful pastime or household chores, might i suggest taking a look through the websites of the many saddle purveyors in the world. in my saddle naivety, i genuinely figured that, by now, pretty much every variation on an admittedly basic theme would have been covered by now. john boultbee brooks filed the first patent for a bicycle saddle in 1882, well over 130 years ago, and though the materials available to the modern saddler are more widely varied than was the case in the late 19th century, it's very hard to believe that there can be much more to give.

ritchey ergomax bars

and by mere extrapolation, surely the same can be said about stems and handlebars? once fashioned from steel, other than track bars, pretty much everything nowadays utilises lightweight alloy or carbon, though i'm still slightly confused as to the use of the latter, since many an alloy stem or handlebar seems to be lighter than its carbon counterpart. however, that seems to have no direct bearing on the number of each component available. in the case under discussion, ritchey's website offers a total of twenty variations of handlebar and a dozen different stems.

however, it cannot have escaped your attention that we cyclists are a fickle lot, occasionally engaged in apparently subtle games of one-upmanship. but stood in a straight-line, we'd appear as a rather motley crew; all shapes, sizes, desires and needs. and though pragmatism on a bicycle really ought to be the overarching watchword, in reality, that is rarely the case. personally, i favour the traditional classic handlebar shape as espoused by eddy (and while we're here, how the heck can the comic place mr merckx in 20th place in their top forty influential cyclists? are they all too young to remember?), but many others are in thrall to the more modern anatomic/ergonomic variations.

ritchey ergomax bars

you can, perhaps, imagine my misgivings on receipt of ritchey's upgraded wcs bars and stem, as advertised above. in my age-old naivety, for me, a stem, is a stem, is a stem. it's the sort of component you fit and pretty much forget about. few amongst us will ever offer the sort of twisting forces that might call into question our choice of stem, other than perhaps one of dubious colour. ritchey describe their wcs c220 in nine different lengths (120mm version reviewed) and suitable for use with 1.125" and 1.25" steerers. using stainless steel bolts on both the steerer clamp and faceplate, the latter offers greater wrapround on the handlebar, presumably providing stiffness and added security of grip. there's also the added bonus of reducing any potential damage to lightweight bars.

as with the majority of modern-day stem and bar purveyors, ritchey recommend matching their bars with their stems to ensure best performance.

ritchey ergomax bars

i genuinely figured that i'd be inclined to dislike the ergomax bars, even for just using the word ergo in the name. rather than offer the regular curve favoured by both eddy and myself, these feature, what i believe is referred to as a parabolic curve, with a very short flat section on the drops. this particular region of the bars flares outwards by twelve degrees. that's preceded by a flattened, aero top section, though its function is probably more intent on providing additional comfort, rather than a potential increase in speed. ritchey's website claims that these are ideally suited to a gravel-bike, sweeping slightly backwards to ease strain on the wrists and rising just a tad before the clamp section to offer a slightly more upright posture.

ritchey ergomax bars

the latter claim might well be validated; the stem offers plus or minus six degrees, and as an aging cyclist, i ought probably to have flipped it upward to ease the strain on back and shoulders. however, desperate to cling onto to the last vestiges of aerodynamicism, i opted for the negative setting. having completed sufficient kilometres to judge, i'd say i got it right. and though i'm not a strava or gps obsessive, i did fear for there being sufficient space on the central, rounded, clamp area to fit an appropriate bracket, but i'm glad to say, these fears were unfounded.

according to the fitting instructions, when tightening up the faceplate bolts, each section of the clamp ought to show the same gap, both top and bottom. however, during the fit, initially the topmost bolts would only close so far, while the lower section closed entirely. however, perseverance is an admirable quality, and coupled with a smidgeon of ocd and a dod of wd40, i eventually had everything as it should be.

despite the misgivings outlined above, in practice, these bars offer their own brand of comfort and joy. yes, the flared drops are not exactly standard fare in the professional peloton, but you and i are not party to that level of cycling. patrick lefevre of deceuninck/quick-step claims that he doesn't pay his riders to be comfortable, a questionable practice that (thankfully) affects us not one whit. i seriously doubt that comfort on the bicycle can be over-rated.

ritchey were also kind enough to send a box of wcs pavé bar tape to complete the corporate image. this noticeably enhances the comfort on offer, particularly over potholed island roads, though i cannot pretend that my bar-wrapping skills are likely to inspire the next generation.

if you feel the need for a change, particularly in the cabin area, this bar/stem combination might be the very thing you're looking for and at a particularly economic price point.

ritchey's ergomax bars are available in matt black only and in four widths, rising in 2cm increments from 40cm - 46cm. retail cost is approximately £92. the + or - 6 degree wcs c220 alloy stem is available in two steerer diameters (1.125" and 1.25") and nine lengths in 10mm increments, from 60mm to 140mm (120mm reviewed).

ritchey logic

monday 11 february 2019

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rouleur magazine ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

climate change

rapha flyweight national jerseys

after saturday's bike ride, i fettled the ritchey for half an hour or so, cleaned and lubricated the chain, before popping it and the tools back in the bike shed. in sore need of coffee money for the sunday morning bike ride, i popped down the street to use the autoteller before crossing to the newsagent to enquire whether the papers had arrived. bearing in mind the last inquisition took place after 3pm, you may indeed wonder what century i'm living in.

rapha education first pro team jersey

many years ago, when the previous incarnation of the machrie hotel existed, it was not uncommon for the daily newspapers to be left in glasgow airport to make space for the golf bags of those nipping over to machrie golf links for a couple of rounds prior to boarding the afternoon flight to return from civilisation. having had this happen three times in one week, steps were taken to remove the franchise from the airline and have the newspapers brought in by ferry, a more reliable method of so doing.

though i still maintain that storms are only given names if they affect south of the border, the west coast was visited by storm erik on friday, announcing itself with 100+kph winds and more than a few gallons of horizontal rain. it is well known in the hebrides, that calmac rarely leave port if the winds look like achieving 60kph, so it will not surprise you to know that islay had no ferry service whatosever on friday, a state of affairs which continued into saturday, with the first ferry service leaving the mainland around 15:30 on saturday afternoon. the echo in the local averagemarket was almost tangible due to more than just a few empty shelves and no newspapers for a second day.

assos s9 equipe bib shorts

i admit, i would not have taken the bicycle out on friday, for not only would that have been foolish, it would have been downright dangerous. however, the winds on saturday morning, though still touching galeforce, and hardly strong enough to prevent velocipedinal activity, were still adjudged a bit breezy for the open sea. and it was a smidgeon on the cold side, necessitating a long-sleeve jersey, softshell, bibtights, winter hat and thermal gloves.

based on the principle that conditions (apart from no ferry for two days) are similar throughout the land, i would then seriously query why it is that our favoured clothing suppliers offer items that nobody in their right mind would wear in january or february, unless beneath several outer layers. don't get me wrong, i'm always happy to receive items of clothing for review, but short sleeve-jerseys with the thickness of toilet paper matched with bibshorts are hardly the apparel du jour that one would hope for while still in the throes of winter.

education first team

this started with rapha's release of the education first team kit to coincide with the commencement of their partnership at the tour down under. despite the press images depicting team members wearing long-sleeve jerseys and bibtights, none of those items are currently available for purchase on rapha's website. i understand that the weather in the southern hemisphere is probably ideal for the pro-team aero jersey and bibs that i received, but it sure as heck isn't as cosy up here.

assos s9 bibshorts box

rapha's launch was followed by the superb s9 equipe rs bibshorts from assos, a pair of which arrived in the mail only the other day. however, when trying these on to check the fit, i noticed that the box in which they were neatly packed, stated them to be designated for summer wear. i like to think of myself as an optimist, but galeforce winds, horizontal rain, low temperatures and cancelled ferries do not, methinks, a summer make.

and then rapha did it again.

on 5 february, imperial works released a selection of flyweight jerseys to 'celebrate our favourite places to ride', each resembling the tie-dye design featured on the education first team kit. at an average 112g in weight, it doesn't take me to point out that such an admittedly colourful garment is unlikely to fend off rain, hail and snow, unless concealed beneath several thermal layers.

i appreciate that nowadays, with the uci's globalisation of the sport, assos, rapha and their pals are similarly global in their reach, a fact that appears perhaps to have interrupted the former spring/summer and autumn/winter releases. however, i'm sure i'm not alone in hoping, nay, expecting, that offerings of velocipedinal apparel at this time of year, might better reflect the conditions in which many of us have to ride. by all means, provide the lightweight stuff for those blessed with an antipodean summer, but please don't forget those of us eagerly awaiting the arrival of the spring classics.

rapha jerseys | assos equipe rs bib shorts s9

sunday 10 february 2019

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campagnolo

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cycling the canal de la garonne. declan lyons. cicerone press paperback 188pp illus. £14.95

canal de la garonne - declan lyons

the early part of the year in the hebrides is fraught with draughty weather. it's a common complaint north of the border, however, that such weather systems only ever garner a nom de plume if they affect those south of that same border. this particular instance assumed the moniker 'storm erik', bringing with it, 100 kph winds and frequent bouts of horizontal rain. though i will admit to being somewhat directionally challenged, such is the frequency of a prevailing southerly that i'm usually well aware of from where any alarming crosswinds might arise.

canal de la garonne - declan lyons

scanning the map on the back cover of this cicerone publication, i can only assume that french prevailing winds inhabit an altogether different direction. at first look, riding from bordeaux to toulouse, would fly (quite literally) in the face of the draughts experienced on islay.

author, declan lyons, has apparently ridden the enclosed routes with great frequency, to the point where he probably knows each twist and turn like the back of his presumably track-mitted hand. the route roughly follows the canal de la garonne from the north-west town of bordeaux to that of toulouse farther south, both conveniently served by airports to ease arrival and departure, should air travel be your chosen means of approach. lyons has also (conveniently) considered that the majority of cyclists will be unlikely to traverse the 450 kilometres at a single sitting, breaking the journey into seven conveniently portioned rides, plus a prologue and a couple of round-trip excursions.

canal de la garonne - declan lyons

the prologue is, without doubt, the longest day in the saddle, covering as it does, 135km from bordeaux to lacanau océan on the french atlantic coast. generally speaking, the stage rides occupy between 40 - 50km, distances easily accommodated within a single-day's riding. the two excursions are around half those distances, allowing a more pedestrian tempo to take in the sights.

this is where cicerone's superb guides manage to score big time, with frequent box-outs, describing the sights of interest to be seen.

canal de la garonne - declan lyons

"Port-Saint-Marie traces its origins to the Romans... Although the town is now rundown and shabby, it is still well worth a visit."

"The Knights Templars built a church in the 12th century. The square is dilapidated but interesting, especially the small dancing figurines in an alcove above a door."

of course, before you even make it this far, the intrepid bicyclist will be keen to learn how to get there in the first place, what accommodation might be available along the route, and any food and drink idiosyncracies of which advantage might be taken as pedalling proceeds. lyon gives credence to the number of good-value bistros, restaurants and cafés when time comes to park the bicycle and take a well-earned rest. and should you be quizzical as to the style of bicycle on which to proceed, declan has that covered too.

canal de la garonne - declan lyons

though brexit might possibly make a hop across the channel a tad more fraught with obstacles than has hitherto been the case, many a british touring cyclist has 'cut their teeth', so to speak, on french roads. if this sounds like the very parcours to introduce yourselves to continental touring, i'd highly recommend you acquire a copy of 'cycling the canal de la garonne'. cicerone's guides are produced in a format that easily slides into a jersey pocket, or under that clear panel atop the handlebar bag.

having said that, the current fashion favouring bikepacking over panniers, might well have rendered the latter comment somewhat redundant.

cycling the canal de la garonne

saturday 09 february 2019

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app-titude

sram red etap axs

last weekend, as i headed out for my scheduled bike ride (something that looks as if it may be in serious doubt this weekend due to 60mph winds), pressing the 'ride' part of my garmin screen, resulted not in the display i was expecting. and before anyone fires of accusatory e-mails over my use of a bike-mounted gps unit, i should inform you that it is there solely to fulfil the purposes of an expensive digital clock. i don't wear a watch.

however, as owners of pretty much every gps unit on the market will know, there is such a thing as the default screen, one which frequently provides pretty much everything, apart from that which you hold dear. i've noticed that the garmin does this from time to time, particularly after charging, but for why, i cannot fathom. the immediate difficulty, is attempting to recollect just where that particular menu subset is hidden (to restore the screen to its former glory), midst the hundreds of presented options. and who amongst us carries the manual in one of those three back pockets?

sram red etap axs

i am, i like to think, reasonably computer literate; my decision not to own a smartphone has nothing to do with the panoply of alleged practicalities on offer. however, my choice to be recognised as a cyclist has a great deal to do with the perceived simplicity of function and the enjoyment of surveying the estates from the (relative) comfort of the saddle. as i have been at great pains to point out to my motoring colleagues and acquaintances (actually, to pretty much anyone within earshot), that having acquired a bicycle, the maintenance costs are almost embarrassingly low. and even with the relative complexity of modern gear systems you could still spell simplicity with a capital 's' (if i actually did such things in the first place).

disappointingly, that latter stance is in serious danger of becoming untrue in certain circumstances. i droned on yesterday about the iniquity of sram's latest red axs wireless electronica featuring a one-piece double-chainset. this effectively not only raises the price of admission, but ultimately raising the cost of maintenance, based on the somewhat tentative reasoning behind enhanced rigidity.

but, as is frequently the case in this modern velocipedinal world, it doesn't stop there. it would be unfair to lay the blame for the following squarely at the door of sram, but it will probably not have escaped the attention of those investigating the innards of red etap axs that sram are playing the personalisation card as an added extra. via a smartphone app, it is possible to programme the gearset to pretty much do your every bidding; "sequential shifting activates the next available gear using the assigned upshift and downshift buttons. automatic actuation of the front derailleur keeps your gear ratio and pedaling cadence steady. you can still manually command a front shift if you need to."

sram red etap axs

do not necessarily mistake my perceived cynicism; many of the features on offer may conceivably augment your pedalling pleasure. and sram have also offered an olive branch to confirmed luddites such as myself, stating "whether you're a technophobe or a technophile, axs is here for one sole reason: to help you forget about bike parts, and simply enjoy a better bike ride."

those are potentially comforting words, but as one who failed miserably to approach any sort of computer game, principally on the basis of 'couldn't be bothered to read the manual', i fail to understand how attempting to programme the electronica via the smartphone app helps anyone to '...forget about bike parts...'. the implication too, is that those of us who steadfastly refuse to adopt electrons are, in any way, living under the shadow of those selfsame bike parts. it speaks volumes that the 'gert lush', a bristol-based vintage bike festival was announced almost simultaneously to that of red etap axs.

to paraphrase a well-worn, transatlantic cliché, cyclists may eventually (if they've not already) become two factions divided by a common activity.

images courtesy of sram corporation

gert lush vintage cycle jamboree | sram red etap axs

friday 08 february 2019

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complexity

sram red etap axs

i fettled for slightly longer than expected on wednesday morning, fitting a new set of handlebars, stem and bar tape to the ritchey logic. these will now become the subject of a future review, but for that to happen, rather obviously, they needed to be affixed to the bicycle. i'll go into greater detail at a later date as to why the fettling took a tad longer than timetabled, but at least a part of the delayed action was due to my infamously poor bar tape wrapping.

however, i alerted you to this fettling purely as a means of explaining why i subsequently came across my two vintage, shiny, alloy campagnolo chainsets which hang from the bikeshed roof. when stowing the ritchey back in its resting place, i inadvertently nudged one from its hook. though they both still appear willing and eager to participate in velocipedinal activity, in truth, they are all but defunct for just such a purpose. though i'd need to pay slightly closer attention to be sure, i believe they last saw action in the days of eight-speed transmission.

back in the days of the dinosaurs, so to speak.

sram red etap axs

in those far off halcyon days, the square taper bottom bracket ruled the roost, a form of component that is likely only to be found on the cynically named bicycle-shaped-objects. or, now that i think about it, a track bicycle fitted with a camapgnolo pista chainset, a component that still remains faithful to this day.

if we're not very careful, and push comes to shove in the near future, those chainsets could find themselves remaindered for another (technological) reason. for like the majority of double or triple chainsets on the market, when one of those rings wears out, 'tis but a simple matter to order a replacement. on my shiny campag versions, such a manouevre could be carried out with the crank in situ, because the chainring bolts faced outwards. however, the top of the tree cranksets from shimano and campagnolo at least, those bolts face inwards, necessitating crank removal to replace any chainring you care to mention.

sram red etap axs

such a task may have been potentially obviated with yesterday's reveal of sram's new red etap axs wireless groupset, a set of componentry featuring a chainset that emulates the red cassette, in being hewn from a single piece of alloy. yes, you are correct, a sinlge piece of metal, meaning that, should your excessive power manage to wear out one of the rings, you'll have to replace the whole enchilada. and while we're on the subject of power, should you opt for the quarq power meter edition, the metering component is integrated into the one-piece ring-set, making for a more expensive replacement than you might have bargained for.

in mitigation, the nice people at sram will allow a half-price trade-in policy, but should we be concerned over moves that threaten to turn the bicycle into a two wheeled motor car?

sram's reasoning behind fitment of a one-piece ring set is, you will be unsurpised to hear, at the behest of the great god 'stiffness'. fashioning those rings as a single item, according to the manufacturer, results in better shifting thanks to rigid maintenance of the gap between the rings. conceivably two individual rings could theoretically move microscopically in relation to each other, but probably only if you possess the sort of power output that would scare chris hoy. i seriously doubt either you or i would notice. but bear in mind that a replacement, one-piece double chainring set is likely to cost around £250.

sram red etap axs

no doubt purchasers of the snappily named, sram red etap axs will bear sufficiently deep pockets to find such costs less than irritating, but surely the concern would be that not only do others follow suit (after all, sram have followed campagnolo in migrating to twelve speeds (more about that below), and there's always the possibility that such 'advancements' will trickle down the food chain, making the cheaper, more expensive, if you see what i mean. that said, so far there is no sign of sram's one piece cassette making its debut in their force groupset.

though the ritchey logic mentioned above is currently fitted with a campagnolo record twelve-speed groupset, vicenza has had either the good fortune or foresight to have designed each upgrade, since eight speed, to fit the same size freehub. the new sram axs setup might have you reaching for your flexible friend once again for a new set of wheels, or at least a new freehub. for their twelve speeds fit only the xd cassette hub, due to the adoption of a ten tooth small sprocket.

the bicycle industry is renowned for its apparent lack of compatibility amongst the myriad variations in componentry, and it would surely restrict future development were there to be specific parameters to which all must adhere. but might it also occur to those responsible for such technological developments, that their customer base, rather than the professionals for which all this is free, may find much of this to be a few steps just too far? new stuff is all very well, but it often appears that the cost of ownership is startting to spread well beyond the purchase price.

and the price tag on the power meter disc version of sram red etap axs is almost £4,000 .

sram red etap axs

thursday 07 february 2019

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galloway cycling

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velobici rené l/s thermal jersey

velobici rene l/s thermal jersey

though i did have something of a penchant for letterpress when at college, despite the tardiness involved in setting up a case, when third year came around, i opted for screenprinting as my preferred means of transferring designs to paper or fabric. for those unfamiliar with the genre, it involves a remarkably fine nylon mesh stretched over a frame, through which a dye is forced by means of a squeegee. the stencil representing the various colours involved can either be cut from paper and affixed to the underside of the screen, or the latter could be on the receiving end of a light sensitive coating, prior to exposure to carbon lighting. the stencil would block the light and allow the salient parts of the coating to be washed away. through these would be squeezed the ink or dye.

velobici rene l/s thermal jersey

wool-based fabrics such as sportwool and its kith and kin cannot be successfully dye-sublimated and thus have either to be screen-printed with any logos or designs, or, alternatively, embroidered. the latter method was the favoured means of applying graphics to woollen jerseys in the era during and prior to that of eddy, and i should imagine that the major cycling apparel purveyors breathed a sigh of relief when dye sublimation reared its convenient head in the peloton.

dye-sub (to which it is often referred) involves printing the colour designs applicable to each panel of a jersey, jacket or bibs from a computer design package onto a large format inkjet using thermal dyes. these are reproduced in reverse onto sheets subsequently placed upon polyester and transferred (the right way round) by means of a sophisticated heated iron.

velobici rene l/s thermal jersey

the velobici rené thermal jersey appears to be fabricated from a material closer in kind to polyester than to that of wool, but rather fabulously, the graphics are embroidered about its person. these are worth the price of admission in and of themselves, lending a sophisticated air to a sophisticated jersey. its medium weight vb/pro-v1 (nope, me neither) fabric offers a tangibly fabulous level of thermal comfort to protect that honed physique from any untoward inclement conditions. i do not wish to appear overly gushy, but simply wearing this jersey confers an almost regal stature, entirely separate from any physical prowess in the saddle.

velobici rene l/s thermal jersey

and just to show that a 100% designed and manufactured in england jersey can still set international standards, the jersey offers up a pocketage numbering five in total. there are, as one would obviously expect, the customary three, augmented by a waterproof and zipped fourth, then sneakily joined by a zipped fifth on the right hip. that particular individual turned out to be remarkably useful when accessorised with a tyre lever or two.

the stunningly well-adjudged sleeve length ends not at the wrists, but on the centre of each palm. this occurs via two thumbholes, meaning that wearing winter gloves will not result in even the faintest inkling of a draught. i have come across this feature before, but on those occasions, the layering of a glove over the fading ends of a sleeve, have often resulted in a modicum of discomfort. not so on bike rides with rené.

velobici rene l/s thermal jersey

the full-length zip is simplicity itself to move up or down depending on the required level of ventilation, while the modestly tall collar reinforces rené's winter personality. that luxurious fabric, it transpires, is remarkably windproof, yet breathable. it will surprise you not that this jersey spent much of the review period concealed 'neath an outer layer; it may be thermally warm, but when faced with sub-zero temperatures and intermittent precipitation, it seemed only fair to offer a modicum of protection. doing so, only served to underline the proffered breathability, providing a situation that can only be described as 'cosy'.

velobici rene l/s thermal jersey

the cheeky, chatty, embroidered thermal fabric offers a level of stretch that not only eases clambering inside, prior to the grand départ, but allows you to all but forget that it's there when wobbling all over the handlebars in the last few kilometres of the nearest gradient. velobici's use of the word comfort in the website description is well justified.

islay and its hebridean brethren occupy an autumn/winter mindset for more months than you'd hope, so rené and i will be getting to know each other a whole lot better before this year's tour de france spins around. velobici were kind enough to send a matching pair of embroidered logo rené bibshorts, which have also been subjected to the vicissitudes of winter, but 'neath padless bibtights. i will thus be reserving final judgment on those for a future review, when the climate resolves to welcome either unclad, or leg-warmered legs.

however, it's no secret that things are looking good so far.

velobici's rené jersey is available in maroon with gold embroidery in sizes ranging from xxs to xxl at a retail price of £190.

velobici rené l/s thermal jersey

wednesday 06 february 2019

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awesome

graeme obree - banned by the uci

if you've bought a new road frame or bicycle in the last three or four years, you might have noticed a sticker, somewhere about its person, advising that this particular result of your financial excess, has been certified by cycling's governing body as suitable for competitive use. to many of us, this probably constitutes completely unnecessary information, based on our lack of sporting commitment. however, it's possible this sticker could be viewed as a confirming endorsement of the frame's integrity, for any manufacturer worth their salt is unlikely to risk the embarrassment of having it fail on international television.

graeme obree - banned by the uci

however, given that the majority of us will scarcely come close to imposing the level of iniquity that the average professional rider can visit upon a hapless bicycle, this sticker is of purely academic interest

so far, to the best of my knowledge, the union cycliste internationale (uci) have yet to decree an equivalent badge of honour upon the trinketry fastened to that bicycle frame, enabling it to become other than an expensive, yet stationary object.

graeme obree - banned by the uci

i have no insider knowledge of the processes the uci require of the world's framebuilders to achieve this badge of distinction. nor am i aware as to how much variation is allowed from the original design, before the overlords in aigle require re-submission for continued certification. but, before you rush out to the bikeshed, intent on checking whether your participation in this year's tour is safe enough, i might re-iterate, unless you're a competing cyclist, this doesn't affect you.

at all.

graeme obree - banned by the uci

almost every strand of the sporting life is guarded by both national and international bodies, the chain of command being distributed by means of the former being associated to the latter. in the case of cycling, this means that were the uci to dictate that yellow socks had become persona non grata, british, scottish, irish and welsh cycling would become responsible for having their blazers enforce the sock rule, however odd or regionally inappropriate it may seem.

of course, being the governing body, headed up by an elected official, does not necessarily foster any obvious logic behind their rule-making. consider that of the hour record. in 1996, chris boardman achieved 56.375km, utilising former record holder, graeme obree's stretched-out 'superman' position. for reasons that are difficult to fully comprehend, the uci decided to outlaw the 'superman' position and relegate boardman's achievement by naming it 'best human effort'. all subsequent attempts had to emulate the efforts of eddy merckx, aboard a steel-framed bicycle totally devoid of all aerodynamic aids.

graeme obree - banned by the uci

luddite though i am, i'm not entirely sure that it's in the bicycle's best interests to stunt arbitrary technological developments, allegedly based on availability and cost. obree's 'old faithful' frame cost him around £50, yet the uci cited lack of commercial availability as one of their reasons for striking it from the list.

the finger could also be pointed at formula one motor racing, a sport that has seen gas turbines, traction control, active suspension and ground-effects, amongst others, summarily dispensed with from the starting grid. however, not one of us would ever be likely to confuse a formula one ferrari with a fiat 500, yet many of the aforementioned technologies have filtered down to the average family saloon, even though lewis, sebastian and the other boys in the band can no longer take advantage.

graeme obree - banned by the uci

in cycling, we are constantly reminded that, always assuming your bank balance is up to it, you too can ride precisely the same machinery as peter sagan, geraint thomas and vincenzo nibali, even if it is geared (pun intended) more towards the above gentlemen than it is towards us, the great unwashed. if someone in aigle wakes up tomorrow morning and decides that tubeless tyres ought not to be a component of the professional peloton, there's an outside possibility that our access to tubeless compatible wheels might evaporate overnight.

it's this sort of dubious technological restriction that has arrived at the door of livingston's endura cycle clothing. in common with many other apparel providers worldwide, endura are continually attempting to develop ever more slippery clothing capable of cheating the mores of aerodynamic drag. their collaboration with drag2zero led to the printing of tiny chevrons across strategic regions of their d2z encapsulator suit making it arguably the fastest skinsuit of its kind in the world. naturally enough, the uci have banned it.

so who better to explain and expound the irrationalities that have afflicted road and track cycling in the late twentieth, early 21st century than 'professor' graeme obree? click the link below and watch while the flying scotsman does precisely that, in his own, inimitable fashion.

however, you can still peel potatoes (watch to the end to see what i mean).

the awesome graeme obree | endura d2z collection

tuesday 05 february 2019

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tell them we sent you

quick mention for those intending to visit islay's shores on a bike during the summer. velo club d'ardbeg recommended coffee/tea stops - in no particular order.

club headquarters at the old kiln cafe, ardbeg distillery. excellent food as well as designer coffees with froth. the single malt is apparently just ginger peachy. open monday to saturday from easter to september, seven days from june to september.

debbie's cafe

bruichladdich mini market (debbie's cafe), a few hundred yards from the distillery. highly commended designer coffees with outside tables. we like. open all year round with a cycling wall in the coffee corner.

welcometogreatcoffee.co.uk

braehouse gallery, portnahaven. sited at the entrance to portnahaven village, the gallery also offers takeway coffees and a range of cakes. there's also quite a wide range of photos, islay souvenirs and other desirable odds and bits. though you can't sit in for coffee and cake, there is a table and chairs outside along with an adjacent bicycle rack for parking.

and recently opened in islay house square, bridgend in the islay studios photo gallery, a fine selection of designer coffees are now available while you admire the surrounding imagery.

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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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.......................................................................................................................................................................................................... thewashingmachinepost

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book reviews

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