bike mechanic 2023

when i still lived on the scottish mainland, i had unfettered access to two or three local bike shops, so every time my bicycle suffered some sort of mechanical malfeasance (real or imagined), 'twas but a simple matter of riding to the bike shop door and emulating every other awkward customer by informing the chap behind the counter that "my bike is making a noise." i can but assume that trained mechanics are educated in the art of rolling their eyes.

rather ashamed to admit that, in the majority of cases, i was unable to identify the parts of my bicycle in order not only to appear brighter than i was, but in order to give the hapless mechanic a fighting chance of discovering the source of my complaint, i decided to learn. and the source of much of my subsequent learning was a paperback copy of richard's bicycle book, a published volume that i subsequently wished i had purchased in advance of acquiring a bicycle. given the use to which i wished to make of my velocipede, it transpired that a 42/52 chainring combination, married to a 14/21 six-speed freewheel, was, quite frankly, never going to cut the mustard.

of course, the problem with idiots like myself is that, once a book like richard ballantyne's has been read and apparently understood, suddenly i'm an expert on the subject, the expounding of which led to more eye-rolling by the bike shop mechanic. as perhaps the perfect example, and i realise the process i am about to describe will predate many of my readers, dismantling a freewheel in order to clean the innards. though each brand of freewheel demanded a specific remover, that specific piece of knowledge seemed to have escaped this newly qualified expert. so where i thought i was removing the entire component from the wheel hub, all i had achieved was removing the (left-hand threaded) lockring. that sense of satisfaction had me then innocently remove the sprockets from the freewheel body and scatter what looked like thousands of tiny ball-bearings all across the garage floor.


i appreciate that freewheels have been effectively consigned to history, but should anyone find themselves in the above self-created situation, be prepared for a lengthy and utterly frustrating period of time, attempting to place all those tiny bearings back on the lower cone of the freewheel body. always assuming you found each and every one of them on the garage floor.

that incident encouraged me to learn more, particularly on discovering that removing the crank bolts on a square taper bb did not immediately allow easy removal of the cranks themselves. i mean, how could that happen? thus, when i arrived at hebridean civilisation, i possessed a working knowledge of the average bicycle; a pragmatic situation indeed, due to the complete lack of a bicycle shop within several hundred kilometres. it wasn't too long before the fellow who owned a cycle hire business in the village, asked if i'd be willing to maintain his small fleet of hire bicycles, a situation that added more to my level of expertise.

i don't mind admitting, however, that my mechanical velocipedinal knowledge has distinct limitations. with the onset of hydraulic suspension systems on mountain bikes, hydraulic disc brakes and electronic shifting, i have decided to remain entrenched in the mechanical age, a situation that is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. but should i wish to revisit that particular prophecy, it might be that, in the current vernacular, there's an app for that.

the contradictorily named steam software developers have produced a programme entitled 'bike mechanic simulator 2023', initially to be released for desktop computers and subsequently for playstation 4, playstation 5, xbox one, xbox series x|s and nintendo switch, the gameplay of which includes, "repairing, servicing and bike assembly within the jobs received for completion. the player's role is also to maintain the workshop with its tools and repair stand."

of course, there's every likelihood that i may have misunderstood the point of the project, the evidence for which is the company's statement saying, "gameplay is limited to a time within which players can do various random jobs." i'm sure there are any number of professional mechanics who rarely consider what they do as 'gameplay', but inclusion of the word would perhaps suggest this is not a means of training the next generation of tour de france fettlers. if further evidence were required, steam also confided that "bike mechanic simulator 2023 will, to some extent, as far as the mechanic job is concerned, be simplified."

so the possibility of my learning how to fit integrated cables in less than a week, seems that it might prove to be a forlorn hope. however, in the grand scheme of things, many of us have made 'off-the-cuff' remarks to the effect that, if you could achieve something on a games computer rather than reality, many of the upcoming generation would be better acquainted with the likes of cycling, or many another sporting activity. perhaps bike mechanic simulator 2023 won't explain just how to install campagnolo's hirth-coupling, how to fit a chain at the correct length, or deal with a recalcitrant tubeless tyre. and i'm pretty sure none of the virtual situations will require the virtual mechanic to attempt removal of a rounded allen bolt, seized within the frame threads. but if it inculcates an investigative desire to learn more, then it will have achieved a lot more than many of us have when trying to interest the younger generation in the art of velocipedinal fettling.

in my book, that's a good thing.

bike mechanic simulator 2023

monday 13 february 2023

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money makes the wheels go round

bicycle pounds

i am, to place not too fine a point upon it, an extremely fortunate chap, almost entirely at the behest of pursuing an alternative career online. though thewashingmachinepost is not the day job (nor is it ever likely to be), the profile it has garnered entirely as a result of being the longest surviving cycling blog in the world (it'll be 27 years old next month), has made it possible for me to feature and review some fabulous products over the course of those two dozen plus years. and though i seriously doubt any of those who have provided review samples over the years have done so because they think i'm a decent bloke, perhaps this is an opportune moment to thank all those who have supported my scribblings across the years.

that said, i am not in the habit of taking all this apparent generosity for granted. if ostensibly waterproof and windproof garmentage is sent for review, i can guarantee that i will ride in pretty much anything the atlantic ocean can throw in my direction, in order to test the veracity of the product. i have not once stooped to the level i recall from one publication, which offered a group test of waterproof jackets by having the reviewer stand in the shower to get wet.

similarly with bicycles, wheels and other componentry. though i am not an engineer or physicist by any stretch of the imagination, i endeavour to provide a real world review of any product that hopefully relates to the manner in which all of us, who are far from inhabiting the professional classes, tend to ride our bicycles. the fact that i have lashings of atrocious weather in which to do so, is simply a fringe benefit.

however, it is notable that some of those products have not been particularly light on the price tag. a campagnolo eps super-record equipped colnago c59 hit the upper limits of the expense account, arriving in at close to £10,000, and that was in february 2013. not only an awful lot of money for a bicycle, but from my point of view, a very expensive piece of machinery to entrust to a chap in the hebrides. review bicycles that followed the colnago were, to my mind and bank balance, a tad more reasonably priced. for instance, the ritchey logic that currently lays claim to my principal bicycle, in its present form would cost a few pounds short of £4,000 to replace, while my specialized crux cyclocross bike was priced at an even more amenable £2300 when it arrived in 2016.

but the cost of riding has increased a smidgeon since then. though specialized no longer list an elite version of the crux, the nearest comparison would surely be the present day crux comp, costing exactly double the price of the elite, despite being outfitted with the same mechanical sram gearing and brakes. ritchey, on the other hand, still offers their truly excellent steel logic frame for less than £1300. but it appears they might be the exception to the new rules.

though possibly featured as a means of emphatically stating they're still a force with which to be reckoned, mavic recently introduced the cosmic 45 disc a full carbon wheelset that employs similar technology to that of carbonsports lightweight range, in that the carbon kevlar spokes are embedded in both the rim and the hub flange, priced at a somewhat eyewatering, £3,500, though considerably cheaper than lightweight's miellenstein wheelset, costing £5,400. (if that seems a tad on the cheap side, they also offer their obermeyer wheelset at £7,000).

i appreciate that this might be old news to many, but i live a somewhat cloistered lifestyle here in civilisation and i don't get out much. but what i do get, courtesy of debbie's café, is the opportunity to read the comic each week as i sup froth and gorge on a double-egg roll. this week's issue almost caused me to choke on the latter. for in the clothing review section and given a four and a half star rating, was the lengthily named assos equipe rs johdah winter jacket s9 targa, presumably so-called to justify the price tag of £610. and but a few pages further on, was this week's bike review of a scott foil aero bike, priced at a nifty £15,899.

granted, nobody actually needs kit that costs that much money, but if we're happy to accept cycling weekly as the magazine of the (velocipedinal) people, there must be a whole slew of folks standing in wh smith's this weekend, seriously questioning whether they might more realistically take up jogging instead. but i cannot, with a clear conscience, excuse myself from the situation, pretending to be a cynical onlooker from the outside looking in. for, as i sat reading the frightening cost of admission, i was grounded by the recollection that the review jacket hanging on the back of my chair, would offer but a fiver's change from £400.

i very much doubt that any of the above scary price tags are simply there for effect. everybody's costs have risen dramatically in recent months, and were i not one of the privileged few who can ride state-of-the-art kit at someone else's expense, i certainly could not afford to do so at my own expense. in which case, is it possible that the manufacturers of said kit might want to set their sights a tad lower? pretty much all of the above also offer far more economically priced products, kit that would prove more than adequate for the majority. and i do understand that there are people in this world who have a far higher disposable income than most of us, and for whom there will always be manufacturers willing to cater to their substantial bank balances. and nobody's forcing us to acquire the pricey stuff; just ask the mighty dave t.


sunday 12 february 2023

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offroad heroes. rapha editions/bluetrain publishing softback.253pp illus. £35

offroad heroes

just as the e-bike is bombarded with plaudits for saving the immediate future of the bicycle industry, so too was the mountain bike in the 1980s. many western nations, including those of britain and north america, have rarely, if ever, been fully committed to the bicycle as a means of transport, or even as an adjunct to leisure activities. and as the motor car strengthened its grip on national psyches, the bicycle was, and to a certain extent, still is, perceived as the province of the less well heeled; those who cannot afford a motor car. in many cases, it seeme unpalatable to view that as a choice, rather an apparently iniquitous state of affairs.

"The motor-age consensus was that bikes are for kids, cars are for grown-ups. And unfortunately the serious side of bike companies was run by a bunch of adult engineers who probably last rode a bike 20 years before and now drove to work..."

so while bicycles were still sold through local bike shops and the likes of halfords in the uk, in the 1970/80s, there was little to encourage the great unwashed to realise their sense of individuality and opt for life in the saddle. and then along came the mountain bike, the manufactured offspring of several days out in the hills of mt. tamalpais in california, where a bunch of eccentrics had re-purposed wholly inappropriate bicycles to screech downhill, the threat of injury and disaster only a slipped foot off a pedal distant. messrs kelly, breeze, ritchey et al were really only out to have a bit of fun; thoughts of changing cycling across the globe had never featured as a principal objective.

of course, subsequent events have elevated them to hero status, a state of affairs this latest bright green volume from rapha editions/bluetrain publishing has set out to explain and celebrate. and while we're here, it seems only fair to address the 'elephant in the room'; the fact that here is a serious celebration of the world of the mountain bike published by a cycling apparel company whose original stated aim was to make road racing the most popular sport in the world, and in a book edited by the originator of rouleur magazine.

offroad heroes

but, if i'm allowed to paraphrase the mantra of one of rapha's british competitors, cycling is (or perhaps ought to be) 'many tribes, one clan.' demarcation is probably none too helpful for anyone; there will be many reading this review who possess not only a road bike in the bikeshed, but perchance a cyclocross machine alongside a mountian bike and possibly even a gravel bike. and at the very least, it makes sense that the over-privileged roadie accept that not only did the mountain bike sustain the industry, but several innovations featured on skinny-wheeled carbon fibre, originated in the offroad mud and dust.

guy andrews, proprietor of bluetrain publishing, and founder of rouleur magazine, is joined in this comprehensively illustrated treatise on the history of offroad by richard cunningham, guy kesteven, tym manley, geoff waugh and matt wragg. not only does that explain the impressive writing, but the depth and breadth of the book's contents. and of course, rapha's erstwhile roadie stance has of necessity become diluted at the behest of the company's american owners, both of whom are keen mountain bikers, with no noted preference for skinny tyres.

and it will not have escaped the attention of many, that rapha currently offers a sizeable range of offroad clothing, purchasers of which have every right to be as well-served as their roadie counterparts.

offroad heroes

in a manner remarkably similar to that of david carson's raygun magazine of the early nineties, bluetrain, who have produced many books for the rapha editions imprint, have become renowned for a less than conservative stance in the visual aspect of publishing. offroad heroes is no exception, with its fluorescent green cover and robust typesetting reprised through its 250 plus pages. the initial approach attempts (successfully) to place the succeeding chapters in some sort of perspective, outlining the distinctly offroad nature of early cyclocross racing, as well as the exploits of the rough stuff fellowship.

it's a book that, of necessity, primarily traverses two continents; north america and europe, the latter experiencing the spearhead of the mountain bike boom as a directed overspill from its country of invention. testament to this is paid in the chapter entitled the repack years 1970-79, one which tells you all you need to know about the mountain bike's clunker ancestors.

"You don't think of your historical context, " laughs Charlie (Kelly). "We just woke up thinking how we were going to have fun on our bikes."

offroad heroes

there follows several comprehensive dissertations on the individuals without whom mountain biking would not have become what it is today, be they bike builders or riders: tom ritchey, mike sinyard, the aforementioned charlie kelly, john tomac, missy giove, hans rey and many, many more, those dissertations are copiously illustrated, visually describing the great, if currently brief, heritage ascribed to the world of knobbly tyres. there is also lip service paid to the fun nature of just riding mountain bikes as opposed to racing them...

"MTBs never quite fitted into the mould of cycle sport. The charm of mountain biking is that while you can take it very seriously if you must, there remains something light-hearted about riding bikes in the mud." there's some who would claim that to be less pertinent in the present, but if nothing else, one of the notable accomplishments of this excellent volume is to show that though currently accepted as a sporting activity, even included in the olympics, that was never the original intention.

offroad heroes lends itself to the habit of dipping in and out; there's no real compulsion to read chapeters in consecutive fashion (i began by simply looking at the pictures, before delving into the nitty gritty), but if i have any criticism, it's a lack of a contents page, or possibly even an index at the back. perhaps neither were considered necessary in the laissez faire world of the mountain biker, or indeed, as an adjunct to the impressive layout of the book, or maybe i'm just too much of a roadie to appreciate radicalism when i see it?

either way, this is a highly compulsive read. if you identify as a mountain biker, you owe it to yourself to acquire this treatise of fun and inspiration. if you're a roadie, it depends to an extent on how absolutely necessary you think it is to always wear black shorts and the peak of your casquette in the down position.

rapha editions - offroad heroes

saturday 11 february 2023

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artificial intelligence

zwift + strava

there have been many column inches published in the daily press of late concerning the antics of chatgpt, an openai artificial intelligence programme that apparently has the ability to construct intelligent and intelligible articles and dissertations based on user input, along with writing music and creating artwork. just how credible are the results depends greatly on what you expect and the veracity of the source material. in latest developments, openai have said they plan to watermark their output to prevent users passing off the results as their own creation, while america's legal system has stated that the software's output cannot be legally copyrighted.

having read one or two articles reputedly created by the software and generated in a timescale that makes writing thewashingmachinepost appear as one of the trials of hercules, it's hard not to credit the software's creators with having done a pretty good job. however, as with any new technology, immediately there are fears that it will undermine certain modes of employment, with employers deciding that a $20 piece of software makes more commercial sense than the annual salary of a journalist for example. still, that's a discussion for another day and, to be honest, an entirely different blog.

however, the encroachment of technology, whether in the form of millions of lines of code, or wires instead of cables has, the evidence would suggest, taken yet another grand leap forward. in the 1970s and 1980s, a certain amount of this technological advancement was purported to allow humanity a greater amount of leisure time, only working perhaps one or two days per week. the drudgery, or grunt work, would be handled by software and dedicated hardware. what seems not to have been foreseen, was that the originators of the latter, would be inclined to hang onto the profits for themselves, rather than distribute it more evenly amongst the workforce.

this has, to all intents and purposes, led to the dramatic situation where amazon workers have joined a union and taken strike action for a decent working wage, while the man at the top has several million dollars worth of power yacht built in the netherlands, a ship that will require the dismantling and reconstruction of a bridge to allow the vessel to reach the open sea. orwell was possibly one of the few with the perspicacity to put into words, the realisation that all are born equal, but some are more equal than others.

but should the original prognostications have actually come to pass, and those of us in gainful employment were to benefit from the foretold increase in leisure time, it's quite possible that many of those within the velocipedinal realm would have chosen to spend a period of that recreational largesse in the spare room or garage, eyes fixed on the flat screen tv in front of them, pedalling for all they're worth along the watopian highways and byways. perish the thought that the great outdoors should benefit from their presence. and though i have been known occasionally (ie, frequently) to disparage the watopian ideal, it has to be said that it provided necessary succour to many during the pandemic, and continues to do so to those for whom wind and rain are not comfortable bedfellows.

however, just because zwift has provided proclaimed benefits to the reality disadvantaged, does not mean that it acts alone. perhaps it's not the uprising of the robot nation that needs to be feared, but the uprising of the aforementioned lines of code. particularly when two of the major culprits are keen to become good friends.

only a matter of days past, zwift announced the addition of a feature linking their world to that of strava by way of short video clips. during my daily perusals of youtube, i have very occasionally come across lengthy videos purporting to show several hours of gaming video, showing, effectively, someone's attempts to play well-known video games of which i am considerably less than acquainted. while i can almost see the point of playing video games, i find myself at a complete loss as to why anyone in their right mind would want to observe someone else playing video games, no matter their avowed expertise in so doing.

and it is surely no coincidence that the respective logos of strava and zwift feature a remarkably similar shade of orange?

so zwift's announcement causes me even greater confusion when they point out that this new feature, activated via an icon on the action bar', " Zwifters an opportunity to elevate their experience on Strava by allowing an easy way to share videos of favourite moments from their rides, runs, or races, whether it is a favourite spot in Zwift's virtual worlds or a decisive moment in a race."

so, just to place that in some sort of perspective, someone riding a stationary bike, smartly related to an on-screen, animated avatar, can make a 15 second film of this entirely virtual happening, so that others on strava can witness what never really happened. while technologists worldwide, labour in relative isolation to provide tangible benefits to mankind, constantly aware that their well-meaning inetntions could be put to alternative and less beneficial use, two of cycling's more prominent online caretakers are intent on letting their subscribers share made-up virtual stuff.

assuming all future technology aims toward the indefensibly trivial, mankind can rest more easily, no longer in fear of the robot uprising. however, if i were an employee of gore-tex...

friday 10 february 2023

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no hands

look mum no hands

internet company, ionos have been running a tv ad campaign purporting to demonstrate how their internet expertise and web design credentials can drag businesses out of the dark ages and into modern commercial reality. the implication is that the businesses with whom they are coupled may have an unassailable product, yet the way it is portrayed on the web is hardly state-of-the-art. the strongly accented diva with piled hair and glasses transforms their existing web presence into one more commensurate with present day demands. the inference is that partnering with ionos will have a tangibly beneficial effect on the bottom-line.

but somewhere, within the marketing aspirations of ionos and their subjects, it appears things may have gone rather askew.

in a strange moment of serendipity, cycle café look mum no hands appeared at its old street address around 13 years ago, only a very big stone's throw from rapha's first pop-up clubhouse in theobalds road. granted, each had a differing purpose in life, but ultimately, both involved bicycles and coffee. during my once regular visits to the nation's capital city, i would arrive into euston station on the caledonian sleeper from glasgow central, and make my way to grays inn road, along theobalds road and clerkenwell street to 49 old street, where coffee and home-made muesli of the finest order would make for a more than satisfactory breakfast. a squidgy croissant and a mini-carton of orange juice on the sleeper never quite hit the spot.

look mum no hands

lmnh differed from rapha's dark grey offering in that it attempted not to sell a wide range of expensive apparel, but offered quality bicycle repair within the same premises. i visited on several occasions, even long after rapha's pop-up had popped off; the welcome was always friendly, the coffee was excellent and both lewin and sam seemed happy to take a brief break from their ministrations to indulge an inquisitve scotsman. as i recall, in the toilet, the toilet brush sat in a starbucks mug.

i always took that to be friendly rivalry.

the café was cheerfully frequented by cycle commuters heading into central london, and, at end of day, heading back in the opposite direction, indicating, even within the first few years, that there had been pent-up demand for just such a facility, easier to stop at with a bicycle than a branch of costa or caffe nero. perhaps the relaxed atmosphere and none-too-serious attitude made them the perfect subject for the high-tech approach of ionos.

except that, as of now, look mum no hands! has closed for good. their website, which looks nothing like that purported to be created by ionos, continues to display all the expected features, apart from a small white panel stating 'The Old Street cafe and workshop have closed down.'

look mum no hands

according to lewin chalkley, matt harper and sam humpheson, the covid pandemic effectively signed its fate after ten years of success. with many folks working from home during 2020/21, cycle commuters became few and far between, the aftermath of which has yet to return to the halcyon days of 2019. with a severely depleted turnover and rising costs, the owners said that the business was simply no longer viable. sam rightly said that, "I think we showed that bikes and cycling are inherently fun and friendly, as well as being a practical solution to many of our problems such as climate, congestion and health." however, doing the right thing is scarcely a guarantee of financial success, particularly in the current economic climate.

those rising costs have made it unlikely that i will travel to london in the foreseeable future, but i'm still quite disappointed to learn that the option of popping into 'look mum no hands!' is no longer a possibility. though i'd prefer to abstain from despondency, the velocipedinal realm seems not to have been recently experiencing the comfort and joy we had all been led to expect.

could it be that someone got it wrong?

thursday 9 february 2023

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cycling with benefits

saltire cycle path

due to a complete lack of audience research on my part, i truly have no real idea whether those who regularly read the post are predominantly in thrall to the competitive side of cycling, or veer closer to the simpler joys of cycling as evinced by the inimitable, jack thurston. from a daily scribbling point of view, this is no great disadvantage, for i'm inclined to write from a position of (quite probably misguided) independence. thus, even if you were all straightforward commuter cyclists, it's more than likely that you'd still be on the receiving end of monologues concerning wout and mathieu.

i confess that, over the years in which i have filled these black and yellow pixels, i have had more than a single opportunity to question the ultimate point of competitive cycling (or competitive anything, for that matter). the two principal occasions i recall, were the knightings of bradley and chris for effectively being successful at a sport at which they had chosen to be successful. for that has proved the nub of many a pelotonic discussion. is it not a tad iniquitous that those who profess towards excellence in sport, should, at the professional level be rewarded over and above their contractual remuneration, for participating in a sport that they themselves chose in the first place?

but, in tandem with rock'n'roll, folk or jazz heroes, in our specific case, victorious cyclists, such as wout and mathieu mentioned above, may act as incentives in our own lives. for example, though i doubt i have a competitive gene in my body, and have never pinned a number in anticipation of victory, watching road racing or cyclocross tends to have me redouble my efforts at the weekend to prevent my being left behind with only myself to talk to. in other words, those at the cutting edge can act as a source of inspiration to do better or to adopt a more healthy lifestyle, while they fight each other for dibs on the finish-line, even if your own participation is confined to riding to the shops.

though cycle sport may prove financially lucrative for a select few, many of those who are simply making up the numbers expend no less effort in the service of their 'masters' and sponsors, placing them, in that respect, on a level footing with the stars of the sport.

but professional cycling can also express a relevance to every day life in other ways, even if that arrives in more drab and mundane clothing, an aspect that is currently being trumpeted by media outlets north of the border. in august this year, scotland, or more specifically, glasgow, will become the centre of the competitive cycling universe as the first, all encompassing uci world championships occupy two weeks of the month. current hebridean conversation has revolved around whether the 'ride of the falling rain', taking place on sunday 6 august, ought to have its own striped jersey for the first one back for coffee and cake.

we've only just scraped at the opening days of february, yet scotland's mainstream media and national tourist organisation are already proclaiming this as scotland's big opportunity to grasp. visitscotland, in anticipation of a trickle down effect towards those with no interest in cycling whatsoever, has published an industry guide advising member businesses 'how to grow and develop cycling tourism.' though i have yet to see a copy of the guide, i am advised that it includes advice on attracting cycling visitors, cycling trends such as gravel and bikepacking, along with guidance on the services that velocipedinal visitors will require, such as bike hire and public transport.

it's possible that the velo club may follow a smidgeon of the proffered advice; depending on the dates of specific events, we might well position rotfr as a faux championship event, encouraging overseas visitors to make the trek to islay for the weekend to participate. after all, we have nine distilleries in our favour.

but, to quickly revisit the former paragraph, eagle-eyed readers will have taken note that none of visitscotland's advice concerns anything remotely compettitve. if markus stitz and mark beaumont are to be believed, bikepacking is the way forward, and assuming them to be correct, a loaded gravel bike is not one on which you'd choose to contest a world championship time-trial (though maybe it should be). but competitive cycling still possesses the ability to cast the velocipedinal net more widely. as advised by visitscotland's rob dickson...

"There has never been a better time to experience cycling in Scotland, with new cycling initiatives and experiences being created right across the country. Promoting cycling and helping businesses cater for this growing market will benefit communities right across the country."

see? not one mention of a yellow or pink jersey, integrated cables or feed zones. and this despite the expected crowning of 190 world champions over the two weeks, an anticipated one million spectators and a tv audience in excess of one billion, making it one of the top ten watched sports events in the world. of course, mr dickson will be well aware that cycle tourism is reputed to be worth over £37 billion to europe's economy, and eager to apportion some of that revenue for his members. cycle tourism in the south of the country has been forecast to boost the annual economy by up to £13.7 million.

however, along with the potential influx of the cycle tourists' pound notes, comes the realisation that much of mainland europe possesses considerably more developed cycling infrastructures than is currently the case anywhere in the uk, let alone scotland. the chairman of bike trossachs astutely pointed out that "...investment is needed on sustainable travel, accommodation and cycling facilities to give (visiting) cyclists the best experience."

rather obviously the vast bulk of the above can only be engendered by scotland's government in holyrood, so we can but hope they find as much inspiration from the uci's faith in scotland, as do those of us who like watching un-knighted people riding bicycles very quickly.

wednesday 8 february 2023

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the missing point

bicycle factory

the well-worn phrase 'all good things must come to an end', is one that has endured for many a long year, and i can think of few circumstances that would be likely to undermine the veracity of that statement. whether you find yourself in an unsavoury predicament, or indeed, one of continued joy, there is little doubt that, at some time, both will come to an end. beatle, george harrison, summed things up nicely in the title of his well-respected triple solo album: 'all things must pass'. it can be found as one of the central tenets in both religion and philosophy, so its application to the bicycle industry would surely rank as one of its more superficial duties.

the covid pandemic saw great benevolence showered upon the small world of the bicycle. should you have been of a mind, it would have been an opportune moment to set forth your own version of 'i told you so', when many previous disbelievers gratifyingly turned to the bicycle in order to escape the professed vicissitudes of mass public transport and the potential to increase infection from the covid virus. at least alone on a bicycle, the opportunities for personal transmission became considerably lessened, while undertaking often necessary transport journeys.

similarly for those effectively housebound for the duration of lockdown, officially sanctioned solely to one hour per day exercise in the great, but ostensibly infectious, outdoors. subscriptions to zwift, online purchases of smart turbo trainers and distanced installation of peloton bikes offered physical escape from the day-to-day mundanity of lockdown life. and the makers of the latter and all manner of indoor trainers were more than grateful to the chinese-originated pandemic, recruiting staff like never before, in tandem with amazon whose online sales poured even more cash into jeff bezos' bank account.

from an economic point of view, all of the above, and more, acted as if the all things must pass mantra had never been invented. or, if they knew, essentially behaved as if they didn't. that has to be a contributing factor in the parlous state of wahoo's current finances, and the job layoffs implemented by others (including amazon).

and then there is the e-bike market, one which gained significant impetus from the pandemic, growth that can probably be attributed to the average brit's reticence to undertake any more exercise than absolutely necessary, coupled with far less than the archetypal protestant work ethic. in 2017, the e-bike market was reckoned to be worth £65million, a value that grew to a reputed £150million in 2019 before increasing to £290million one covid-fuelled year later. by 2021, that number had increased yet again to £330million.

considering the relatively short journeys undertaken by e-bike, its substitution for four wheels conveniently avoided the knowledge that the average individual was perfectly capable of riding such distances under their own steam, on bicycles that featured no batteries and no motors. however, despite this, there are continued calls for government to subsidise the purchase of e-bikes, predominantly at the behest of the damocles sword of climate change, clamouring that, to the best of my knowledge, has singularly failed to take note of the more environmentally sound analogue bicycle. has it really come to the point where nothing can be achieved in any particular field, unless augmented with electricity?

however, as mentioned in a recent disparagement of electrons within these very pixels, the e-bike has become known as the saviour of the bike business, the guiding light of an industry that has seen a sharp downturn over the past eighteen months, one that the majority of practitioners behaved as if would never happen. so just before the e-sector becomes too self-congratulatory, it might be pertinent to point out that, despite mintel's optimistic long-term forecast for the e-sector, revenues declined by £20million last year ahead of a predicted slowdown in 2023. i'm pretty sure they didn't see that coming. but if they did, once again, behaved as if they hadn't.

according to a spokesperson for mintel, the biggest barrier to e-bike ownership is that of cost, a factor that seems unlikely to alter in the short-term, due to the vast majority of e-bikes being imported and the weakness of the pound. mintel too, seem to think that a lack of government subsidy continues to act as a barrier to e-bike sales. which, to my skewed mind at least, seems blatantly to miss the point that very few actually need electrons to get about; in many cases, an analogue bike would fit the bill just perfectly, almost always at lower cost.

still, all good things must come to an end.

tuesday 7 february 2023

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