i'm so cool, i shouldn't be allowed out on my own

frame fit pump

i own, for the purposes of inflating my tyres, a park tools track pump. i don't mind being frank with you (or, indeed, any other name you may care to choose), but it is the only way a ten stone weakling such as myself (all muscle you understand) is ever going to get enough air in a set of 700 x 23c or 25c tyres to stave off death to the wheel rims, or allow me a low enough rolling resistance to keep up with the mighty dave t. while i would defend to the hilt, the opportunity to accept style over substance, i am not particularly in favour of form over function, thus the carrying of one of those mini-pumps stuffed in a back pocket does not fill me with confidence. agreed, track pumps look rather unsightly clunking one on the back of the helmet, and those little gas pumps scare me to death (and weren't too well received by security at gare du nord in paris). thus the only way i can currently come to terms with the need to pump up tyres in the wilds, is via my nice white blackburn airstick.

until now.

when at art college, there was a book in the library entitled ghastly good taste by john betjeman where the author defended his love of victorian architecture, attacking both notions of modernism and those of antiquarianism, so feel it only fair that i warn you of the following similar idiosyncratic tendency. i cannot, in all honesty claim responsibility for moving in this direction; the notion to fulfil this experiment at, thankfully, very low initial cost, was inspired by photographs on the rapha continental. in which case i must offer thanks to my friend daniel wakefield pasley, even if his part in this was unwitting. yes, if i'd only just get to the point, i'm talking about a frame fit pump.

i can almost feel that collective sharp intake of breath.

this, of course, need not concern members of the teams who have just had launches recently: the team car will cater to their every whim. granted, there are also a number of you out and about on one or two flavours of carbon fibre who must naturally also be excluded, since the current trend not to remain faithful to straight tubes could conceivably run you into style and function problems. but otherwise, why the big to do?

for a mere four pounds, i purchased a plastic frame fit pump with a similar barrel length, if not diameter, to the aforementioned track pump. function would dictate that this be fitted vertically up and down the seat tube; that's exactly the sort of location that the manufacturer had in mind, since the end that fits over the valve is shaped to snug in against the triangulation of the seat tube and down tube. however, there are factors that mitigate against this: for starters, style rears it's ugly head; placing the pump there would obfuscate, in this case, those two beautiful cielo decals. then there's function to consider: firstly, it would be impossible to utilise those seat tube mounted bottle cage bolts when occasion demands, and secondly, the valve end of the pump is rather open to the agricultural crud that infests islay's potholes.

frame fit pump

happily, the alternative postioning is so cool that admiration and envy follow me wherever i go. with careful and patient positioning, the pump, assuming it to be of the correct length, will fit under the top tube, slanting downward slightly at the front. even better. of course the less generous amongst you will be sniggering and pointing out that, without a couple of hopelessly unstylish velcro straps, that pump will fall asunder at the first sign of vibration. i can happily say that you are so wrong, that you are as wrong as somebody who is very wrong.

and just to show you how wrong you are, i popped out for a modest 65km today over those roads that we keep for special occasions with the added frisson of six cattle grids, two of which are looking decidedly shaky these days. the photos accompanying this article were taken today lunchtime at debbie's, with only 15km left for home, and i guarantee that the pump had not shifted one centimetre since leaving washingmachinepost cottage. no photoshop was used in the processing of those pixels.

i know that there will now be a run on frame fit pumps, as acolytes all across the world rush to emulate. i am comfortable in my trendsetting at the vanguard of velocipedinal propensity, even if i did nick the idea from somewhere else. yes, for the naysayers, there is a modicum of rattling over the rougher portions of tarmac, but into our headwinds, bicycle noise is rarely an intrusion.

so how cool am i?


posted saturday 30 january 2010

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should we be frightened of bike shops?

glory cycles

i generally regard myself as well-versed in the ways of the velocipede; i like to think i can tell the difference between marketing and real substance, and i can find my way round both a set of bicycle tools and an array of components. this is not to say that i can use one necessarily to repair the other, but you hopefully get the general gist. therefore, i have no need to fear entering a bike shop, for what surprises could possibly lay in wait that would unbalance my confident attitude? well, on a totally basic level, it's attitude that is perhaps problem number one.

on one of my rare trips to scotland, i made my way directly from the bus station to a cycle shop of no small reputation in the world of competitive cycling, and thus road bikes. this was during the tour de france several years back, and on entering the shop, eurosport's live coverage was on an overhead telly. eager to identify my status as one of the cognoscenti, i enquired as to who was leading the stage. eh?.... armstrong. actually, since this was one of the finer mountain stages, and it now transpired that a rabobank rider was patently at the head of affairs, the shop personnel had perhaps assumed i was enquiring about the race lead rather than the stage. i ended that line of enquiry and proceeded to wander about looking at the selection of high-end frames and clothing, meandering which elicited no response at all from the staff.

tour de ville

at no point was i asked if i needed any help, or what i might conceivably be in their shop for in the first place. in short, i was being ignored. enter a young chap wheeling a time trial bike, wearing a jersey emblazoned with the shop name, and they were all over him like a cheap suit. i managed to ease out the door past the display of idolatry, and into the afternoon sun. i can't say this event put me off bike shops for life, but it did little to enhance the experience. what would that have been like for mum in for an inner tube for son's bicycle or, heaven forbid, to purchase a new bike with no earthly of what to look for?

i urge my employees and mechanics to always acknowledge a client when they walk in the door. and i mean, the second they walk in the door. my shop is very, very small. even if they are deep in the middle of a repair, my employees should be acknowledging our clients right away. that helps address any pre-conceived intimidation factor. molly cameron, owner of veloshop in portland, oregon. and he's right, his shop is rather small, and any prospective customer is faced with two workstands in the middle of the shop the minute the doorway has been passed. to be brutally honest, it's a workshop with retail bolted on; what might be termed a proper bikeshop, but one that could appear intimidating to the uninitiated.

'i've trained everyone to be very conscious about talking down to our clients, so we take a practical and thorough approach when explaining products and services. if we are speaking over their heads, i ask the mechanics to bring it back down a notch. and we will often just ask the customer, 'how much do you know about your bicycle?' it helps when we begin the dialogue on the same page whatever their level of knowledge. then we know how best to communicate with them.


now i have no wish to portray the average bikeshop as a haven of terror, because i'm absolutely sure that the vast majority are at least civil to their customers, even if that doesn't extend to rolling a red carpet to the door for each one. however, they do have to tread the fine line between customer freedom and attention. witness the apple stores, should you ever have been shopping or browsing in one of those: there are admittedly considerably more apple assistants, but checking your e-mail on several thousand pounds worth of apple macintosh seems not to be a worry; there's always someone to ask if you get into difficulty. yet, while the smaller of the two wiggle brothers and myself were attemtping to find the well-hidden tour de ville in london (now there's a real bike shop), we happened upon another en route. since time wasn't a factor, we entered for a browse, during which time the two assistants ignored us completely as we manhandled some fairly expensive hardware. there was no real indication that they'd noticed our presence at all.

with the much maligned influence of internet sales, where high street presence and concomitant rents are often not an issue, i would imagine that the days of the small, independent cycle retailer may be slightly numbered in the long run, similarly, in fact to those of the corner shop prior to the invasion of the supermarkets. it would seem logical, therefore, that these independents would want, nay, need to take a more pro-active and friendly approach to not only retain existing custom, but bring in new custom on a regular basis.

river city bicycles

glory cycles of columbia, south carolina, upped sticks and moved from florida to conentrate more on their online presence, but haven't forgotten that they're a bricks and mortar operation too, and reliant on keeping the customers they've got, while hoping to attract new ones. owner clive de sousa puts the onus on himself. 'fish stink from the head down, so the only way i can ensure my staff treat my customers right is, to lead by example. selling the right size, and making sure bikes leave the workshop 100% is culture at glory.. the problem with being a self-made man/woman, is that you have to shoulder all the blame if folks are being scared away

many a shop owner or employee must tire of the customer who brings in a bicycle for repair, complaining that it's making a noise, yet blissfully ignorant or unaware of what might be causing said noise, or from which part of the bicycle it is emanating. but as molly cameron says "it is ok that some people don't want to learn all the intricacies of bicycling."; how many of us know enough about our motor vehicles to explain all to the workshop foreman? craig hardie of hardie bikes in fife, scotland says 'it does come down to people and not dumming anybody down and thinking they have no clue. this can be the intimidating bit of going into a bike shop to ask for help. hopefully my customers feel that they are treated the same no matter what level of knowledge they have.'

and that is likely the nub of the problem. bike shops do not have the monopoly on ignoring customers, or treating them as imbeciles, nor are some devoid of staff who know a lot less than they think they do. i spent an entertaining ten minutes in one of the large electrical retailers in glasgow, listening to a senior member of staff explaining to a couple intent on buying a scanner, just what interpolation meant. and believe me, he wasn't even close. having the decency to accept everyone as an individual, and put them at ease should be the first step in keeping the (potential) customer satisfied. you just never know how much money is burning a hole in those trouser pockets.

river city bicycles

always allowing for space and size, bike shops could be a great, informal place to hang out, even if you're not one of the in crowd. an excellent example of this is river city bicycles in portland; a colossal shop with more staff than some have customers, but the sort of place you can just chill, have a coffee, chat to staff or friends alike (i spent a good quarter hour discussing jazz with a bass player who was in to have his road bike gears adjusted, and i'd never met the guy before), and likely spend money you hadn't planned on parting with. river city's mark ontiveros put it plain and simple: we try to treat our customers as if they just walked into our home. we hope to ask the right questions and then do our very best to guide customers to their best options.

perhaps i'm just scaremongering and have an uncanny knack of stepping into the very few shops that couldn't care less, but according to sporadic correspondence, i don't think i'm alone. and there's a tangible difference between walking into a shop that does it right, and one that just plainly doesn't. you might think that any preferential treatment i may have received in some of those i have mentioned is due to my status as the bloke from thewashingmachinepost, but don't kid yourselves. i very rarely mention that at all because i have been met with enough blank stares in my career, and i really doubt that it counts for that much anyway. a visit to the bike gallery in portland was a joy. several of the staff were happy to shoot the breeze about all things cycling, and never once asked to see the colour of my dollars. my interweb proclivities were only revealed in the course of conversation

perren street

if my prognostications are correct, and the life of the bicycle shop is threatened by telephone and online experience, will the notion of intimidation simply transfer? rapha have created a very successful business through their website and telephone sales, so how do they ensure their customers aren't frightened off by the choices, sizes, colours etc, particularly if they're new to cycling and don't really 'get it' yet. chief executive, simon mottram 'the key factor is having knowledgeable, passionate but also considerate staff. our customers are generally quite affluent and discerning, so they are used to being treated well. we try to make sure all rapha people understand what the customers are like and employ people who have charm and patience!

he may just have hit part of the problem squarely on the head: affluence. this latter attribute may apply to more of us these days than was ever the case, and with affluence comes, rightly or wrongly, a certain degree of expectation. if you're about to drop several thousand pounds on a carbon frame, it's not asking too much, i wouldn't think, to expect a decent level of customer service. bike shops ought to be like sweet shops are for kids, and there is no doubt that many of them are. if they're scary for you and me, just imagine what they're like for civilians. i think i'll leave the last word to the inestimable molly cameron.

'do not assume the client knows anything about bicycles, and don't act like a jerk when they don't know what they are talking about.'

thank you to all those who contributed to this article. i am eternally grateful.

veloshop | glory cycles | hardie bikes | river city bicycles | rapha


posted friday 29 january 2010

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on a bicycle made for two

wiggle bros & hutch

there are good ideas and there are bad ideas, joined also by those that seemed like a good idea at the time, but turned out to be less so. however, there are also ideas that not only seemed perfectly creditable at point of origin, but turn out to be better, or even morph into something else altogether. which answer you would be given by the wiggle brothers at present, would depend greatly on which part of the day it was asked. i cannot comment on mr harmon because he is too far away for immediate quote, and i fear that, after a hot shower and satisfying repast, his answers would have moderated somewhat. however, mr hastings is frequently within the crosshairs, and puffing and panting with the best of them. last week's official launch of the team wiggle tandem (known to you and i as the wiggle brothers) was, if anything, the setting in stone of the idea that turned out to be more than either probably bargained for. but it also defined the well-worn statement today is the first day of the rest of your life.

via the launch and the website, david and jez have now committed wholeheartedly to specific events. where previously the idea could reasonably have been seen as a solution looking for an outlet (or, as my father used to say, a drip looking for a puddle), the announcement to the world that the wiggle brothers are a bona fide double act starts to place everything in its logical perspective.

the events, to me at least, seem rather daunting, as well they should be. unlike the mighty dave t's attempt on the bowmore/bridgend record, wb are putting their mouths where their double chainsets are, and preparing to undergo purgatory to achieve long-standing records. 380 miles acros the widest part of britain is not most folks' idea of a holiday, and the need to do it in 17.5 hours underlines that fact. add to this their willingness to miss not only emmerdale, but coronation street, and eastenders in order to try for more than 280 miles in twelve hours, and you begin to see their resolve. the final competitive double-act for 2010 is the road that goes from liverpool to edinburgh which they need to cover in around eight and threequarter hours to bring the record in on target.

wiggle bros tandem

michael hutchinson, probably britain's best contemporary time-triallist was present at last thursday's launch: i'm curious to see what happens. normally with this kind of escapade there is some previous form, and this time there isn't really. the old records tended to be set by good riders, but as jeremy and david point out, they've got the advantage of 50 years of technology. i have no idea at all how that'll balance out.

it's no secret that neither of the wiggle brothers have set the time trialling world alight in any spectacular way, but both are convinced that, with the technological advances in frame construction, training and nutrition methods, it might just be possible to take on those for whom the mantra ride a bike, ride a bike, ride bike was pretty much all that was contained in those pre-chris carmicael training manuals.

the other difference is the considerable backing of online cycling retailer, wiggle, who are not only providing kit and kaboodle, but also substantial financial input. this is as necessary as fitting a power meter to the rear wheel: both riders feel that in order to do themselves and their sponsors justice, the entire affair has to be carried out in a professional manner, one that would rival the setup of many a domestic racing team. this, of course, is not just for the commercial aspect of team wiggle tandem, but also for the organisation that needs to be in place to ensure smooth running of each attempt. michael hutchinson again: 'i think it's going to depend to a large extent on how patient they can afford to be with the weather; or how lucky. some years ago i put in a schedule for the straight-out 25, and spent two months waiting for the right weather. it never showed, except for one morning where it hadn't been forecast, and i couldn't get the relevant notifications in to the rra the required 24 (or 48?) hours in advance. the administration of these things is a not insignificant problem.'

it would be unfair to say that now the hard work starts, because that's been underway for a while. those of us in velo club d'ardbeg know this only too well each sunday ride. training continues apace in such exotic places as the south of wales, and later in february messrs harmon and hastings will be in the south of france hoping to show the endura racing team just how it should be done. but the launch has provided the necessary impetus, and the fact that it's now in the public domain means there is no backing down. all roads lead eventually from lands end to john o'groats; there's no passing go, and no collecting £200 until orkney is faintly visible in the distance.

team wiggle tandem


posted thursday 28 january 2010

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it's a perren street thing

rapha cent cols challenge

for some, it really is the hub of the universe: it's where all the good stuff comes from, even if the good stuff is sometime out of financial reach. that's as good a reason as any for serious desirability. however, it's not just material goods that rapha are responsible for; there are more than enough fringe benefits for the committed cyclist that ensures the philosophy is spread far and wide. and happily, they do not respond only to the apple computer of old: not invented here.. in those days, if apple hadn't come up with the idea or the standard, they'd do their own thing. an expensive option for their customers. rapha are far more accommodating than that.

later this week, i hope to have a story involving perhaps the first instance of rapha's devolved autonomy, but for now it's a case of amalgamation of effort. many of you will be well acquainted with phil deeker and his cent cols challenge. last year was the first undertaking of the challenge, and as part-sponsor, rapha not only provided the option of event jerseys, but placed ira ryan and graeme raeburn in a team of four to experience the agony at first hand (ira crashed, graeme finished second). the event was judged to be a success, both by rapha and phil.

this year, expansion is the name of the game: there's a cent cols in the alps, which has already sold out, and there's a comparable event in the pyrenees which you might just manage to get a place on if you're quick. not unnaturally, mr deeker and rapha have conversed since the premier challenge, the upshot being rapha's takeover as title sponsor. which can generally be seen as a good thing. but didn't rapha just recently announce a series of randonnees last year, and won't this sort of confuse the issue?

rapha cent cols challenge

simon mottram of rapha sees no conflict; the randonnees are purely and simply some of the finest riding the well-versed cyclist could enjoy: the cent cols challenge, on the other hand, is the epitome of pain and suffering. mr mottram and i are agreed that we probably couldn't ride cent cols if our lives depended on it. 'phil is everything we'd look for to represent the brand: he's fit, irrepressible and his organisational skills are extensive. why wouldn't we want to become more involved? the cent cols pretty much epitomises everything that rapha's about'

that, of course, is the opinion of the new sponsor, but how does the originator see the possible conflict between the rapha randonnees and the rapha cent cols (i should point out here that i was the one who pointed out the possible contradiction, but it didn't seem too much of a stretch at the time). 'the cent cols is pure challenge. the randonnees are cycling holidays for the very fit, with lots of extra treats added to the package.  i think there is quite a gap between them. both represent an ultimate in their genre, but to complete the cent cols is  a real achievement. to ride a rapha randonnee is certainly a lot more enjoyable but doesn't have quite the same adrenalin factor.'

as mentioned above, the 2010 cent cols alpine ride is sold out, but if you'd like to experience the pyrenees rapha and deeker style, take a click over to the cent cols site immediately. price for some of the most exhilarating cycling you may ever see is around £1600 ($2600).

rapha cent cols challenge

more rouleur, more often

rouleur 16

but, just to be completely topical, as steve jobs would say 'there's just one more thing'. rapha is now officially six years old; the first product made it to sale in july of 2004, but the machinations behind the scenes began in january. a couple of years later, in conjunction with the inestimable mr andrews, they launched the quarterly luxury (what else?) cycling periodical we have come to know and love: rouleur. as somewhat of an acolyte of the writings and photography that reaches my letterbox every three months, i have long sung its praises; unashamedly so. however, it has been a running joke (which may be overstating the humour factor) between mr andrews and myself, that true satisfaction will only be attained when rouleur goes weekly. i believe the answer contained words such as 'over' and 'dead body'.

but i may yet have the last laugh as, on the occasion of rouleur's almost fourth birthday, number 16 marks the start of a bi-monthly release. therefore, those of us with no concept of patience, and a predilection for reading vast amounts in short spaces of time, have been thrown more than a few more crumbs. rouleur 16 rejoicing need only be stretched until later this month, when one of the finest cover designs reaches eager track-mitted hands (and there have been many great covers in its short lifespan).

issue sixteen reaps the benefits of guy's recent trip to japan, with the first of his shimano articles, there are more idiosyncratic cartoons/illustrations by richard mitchelson, the tour of california by jeremy dunn and photographer dan sharp, and the cover story of team z by will fotheringham. and we all know which favoured scotsman rode for that team. you can find more details on how to buy a copy on, prendas ciclismo or always riding. if you're really lucky, your local bike shop might stock some copies.


posted wednesday 27 january 2010

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chris king r45 wheelset

chris king r45 wheel

this is the point where i think it would be customary to stand up, push the chair slightly backwards, and state: 'my name is brian palmer, and i'm a wheelaholic'. thing is, transfer that sentiment or statement to the genre of aholic with which it is normally associated, it would be condoned as admitting to a problem for which one sought a cure. or at very least, counselling and help. happily, any obsession with bicycle wheels is, in my humble opinion, something to be celebrated, and i'd be more than happy to wear a t-shirt attesting to my 'affliction'. and again, in my humble opinion, it is an obsession that is being not so subtly undermined by the ever-increasing number of factory builds that arrive on a wide variety of complete bicycles.

many of these wheels are also available for purchase by any self-respecting cyclist as means of updating their pride and joy, either for the need for speed, or simply for cosmetic reasons. hearking back to the old adage 'a pound off the wheels is worth two off the frame, it's perhaps easy to see why this modern version of the good old rim and spokes concoction is proving so popular. the spoke count has headed ever downward, rim weight has lessened due to computer aided design, and the spokes have gone radial and straight.

while i may be a wheel obsessive, i'm not sure that my obsession translates well into unimpeachable technical ability. i can build wheels, and i can build them reasonably well, but i figure that's more by luck than design; for me it's still an inadvertant mastery of a black art, rather than carefully applied mechanics and/or mathematics. if it's more of the latter you need, i suggest you have a conversation with ms kirstein of epic wheelworks in portland.

chris king r45 rear hub

meantime, here's the cod science: radial spoking is reckoned to aid the aerodynamics, at least one of the reasons why this lacing pattern is almost exclusively applied to the front wheel. there are others, but we'll come to them soon. the front wheel is the first part, and indeed, the first moving part of the bicycle that cuts through the air, therefore any turbulence it creates will have consequences for the bits that come next. by the time any airflow hits those mashing legs, it's already in trouble, so the lacing pattern at the rear doesn't actually matter much from an aerodynamic point of view. if examined closely, any crossing of spokes in that front wheel could possibly be blamed for eddies of turbulence, but bear in mind that the fastest moving parts of the whole edifice are firstly the tyre, secondly the rim, and thirdly the spokes as they enter the rim.

so, no matter how many other spokes each crosses before reaching the rim, every wheel results in a spoke end and spoke nipple in the same position; therefore it wouldn't be too much of a stretch of the imagination to figure that the cross-pattern has very little effect on the aerodynamic efficiency of the wheel. secondly, if you read the warranty information on standard campagnolo and shimano hubs, you will discover that building those into wheels using radial spoking will result in voiding the warranty. this is because a radial spoke transmits any impact or absorbed energy directly from rim to hub flange, thus concentrating the former directly to the latter. check those boutique wheels, and you'll see that the hub flanges are either morphed into the hub shell, distributing energy across the entire component, or the flanges are a darned sight thicker than the more conservative offerings. in practice, i have found radially spoked front wheels with a spoke count of less than 28, to offer less comfort than two or three cross regular wheels. and if we're perfectly honest, for the majority of us, any increase in speed is likely due to a tailwind.

the rear wheel, adhering to the trend, spokes the non-drive side also in a radial pattern, but the drive-side will be two or even three-cross to resist the twisting forces applied by the drivetrain. whether straight spokes are used to prevent breakage, or to make it easier for machines to lace and build, is open to interpretation. it is an uncontestable fact that most regular spokes tend to break at the bend. this can often be traced to either poor quality drilling of the hub flange, allowing for too much continual movement of the spoke in its hole, badly built wheels, or a wheel not suitable for the rider and/or riding being supported by the wheels.

isn't it a worry that all this concerns me about wheels?

dt swiss 415 rim

chris king wheels, however, are built using wheelsmith spokes, laced into accurately drilled hub flanges and laced into dt swiss rims. dt swiss have been wheel specialists for more years than most of us have been riding, and over two pairs of ck custom wheels, their rims have proved unimpeachable. chris king wheels are machine built, at least initially (i have seen the machine), however, each wheel is subsequently checked, trued and tested by a chris king human being. i have been riding a pair of ck wheels built 32 spoke three-cross on ck cyclocross hubs for the past two years, and as yet, they have not seen a spoke key. they are as true as the day they were made.

chris king precision components are not ones to sit on their laurels: they may well have a deserved reputation as a producer of state of the art hubs, but that hasn't stopped development and release of the r45 hubs or, as they are more colloquially known 'swift'. it's the rear hub that has seen the most amount of development, with the ring-drive components having been crafted in titanium. this has allowed for two ultimately noticeable results: the number of teeth in the ring drive has been reduced from 72 to 45, and the properties of the metal have conspired to all but remove the once famous chris king buzz, something that has inspired more than one ck t-shirt.

i asked brian schultz, the engineer at chris king responsible for the r45 design about this reduction in the number of engagement teeth in the new titanium ring drive. was this because there were too many in the first place, or had r & d had shown a better way? "chris' initial criteria when designing the ringdrive was that there should be no more than 0.5" of movement at the pedal before the hub engages. with the significantly lower gearing in the mountain bike world, this translated to about 5 degrees of rotation at the hub for most gear combinations.  Hence, 360 degrees, divided by 5degrees = 72 teeth. this reasoning still holds true for mountain and cyclocross, so there are no plans to change that I know of.

on a road bike, the generally higher gearing means that the 0.5" requirement can be met with a greater degree of rotation before engagement at the hub. so we cut back the number of teeth to 45, which gives a nice round 8 degrees of rotation at the hub before engagement. the reduced number of teeth combined with the softer spring enabled by the smaller and lighter titanium drive ring ,all conspire to dampen the buzz.  also, the ringdrive for the R45 is smaller in diameter than the mountain hubs, so cramming 72 teeth on there would make for very small teeth."

delving deep into my desperately lacking mechanical knowledge, it's worth having a brief overview of the patented ring drive. if you've ever had to replace the freehub portion of a campagnolo hub, you will be well acquainted with those ever so annoying little spring-loaded pawls that engage the toothed section of the hub. it's the same principle used by almost every manufacturer of contemporary cassette hubs. when you freewheel or back pedal, these pawls are forced to shelter inside carved recesses around the freehub's innards. pedal forward, and the springs - frighteningly spindly little bits of wire that make paper clips look like girders - force the pawls back into their 'up' position, enaged in that toothed surface once again.

chris king, however, have eschewed this rather heath robinson affair altogether, in favour of diagonally toothed rings that engage around all 360 degrees. when freewheeling or back pedalling, a spring forces the surfaces apart, but not completely (hence the famous buzz). forward pedalling motion engages helical splines on the freehub body pushing the teeth back together again. warp factor ten mr spock. because of this ingenious system, contact when pedalling resumes, is far quicker and solid than with the more traditional spring-loaded pawls. it's far easier to understand when you see it in action than it is to describe (especially considering who's doing the explaining).

the downside, if you only speak campagnolo, is that the ring drive prevents the use of a campag freehub, due to the depth of the splines. and the length also prevents the fitting of anything other than ten speeds. this is an affliction that affects any non-campagnolo compatible freehubs: campagnolo's freehubs are minimally longer than those of their japanese counterparts. in the case of the cielo, a ten-speed sram cassette fields the same spline pattern, so there's no problem, but the wheels on the colnago wear an american classic cassette with vicenza pattern sprockets and osaka's spline pattern.

chris king r45 front hub

of course, all the technical wizardry and theoretical physics don't amount to a whole bunch of energy bars if the end result compares to wooden wagon wheels. granted, the latter didn't seem to cause john wayne undue problems, but that was when the west needed conquering; this one has apparently already succumbed. both wheels on the cielo are built on 28 hole hubs and rims, the front two-cross with those wheelsmiths, and the rear three-cross. the hub flanges are a tad thicker than those on previous ck hubs, and chris distefano said that not only did the r45s drop to 20 at the front, but they were happy to allow for radial builds. due to weight distribution, the rear hub is only goes down to a 24 drilling. build patterns and spoke drillings should be a matter for consultation between you and your wheel-builder, an option that appeareth not on those boutique versions.

the flange on the rear non-drive side is slotted, apparently for both weight and style reasons; it's a rather attractive retro feature to be sure. the dt swiss rr415 rims have a sort of hammerite silver finish and a more aero profile than the 1.1 on the road or cross wheels. it's quite a good idea to use inner tubes with longish valves.

as a lightish fellow, 28 spokes back and front cause me no sorrow: i once built a 28 spoke two cross mountain bike wheel and gave it the hiding of its life, to see how well it hung together. it did (though the carbon nipples weren't a good idea). generally speaking, any new wheel of a certain quality will roll nicely on its first outing; or maybe the first few. therefore, a run to debbie's for a celebratory soya cappuccino (heck, i've got a new pair of wheels: that's worth celebrating) would be unlikely to cause undue hassle. it's the continuing rotation over a more extended period, encompassing roads and cattle grids that may have seen duty as subject matter in paul nash's landscapes of conflict. rolling on quality cartridge bearings such as those fitted to all chris king products is most definitely the closest to gliding i have experienced on a bicycle. i know i have alluded to this in previous discussions relating to the cielo, but nothing has subsequently happened to have me change my mind.

shod with 25c continental rubber undoubtedly has bearing on comfort; more surface area than the more popular 23c adorning the majority of contemporary sportive and racing wheelsets, but there's no denying that a well built conventional wheel has properties that those boutique variants have lost sight of, in the quest for contemporaneity, stiffness and lowered rolling resistance. still resorting to my less than scientific stiffness test, i closed the rear shimano caliper till the pads were mere millimetres from the rim, then pedalled as hard as a ten stone weakling is capable of up a rough and ready 8% gradient. nothing touched nothing.

chris king r45 rear

the mighty dave t is usually the downhill king when it comes to the sunday ride; he claims it's due to his 'superior weight', and the rest of us usually have to start pedalling to keep up while he still freewheels in style. that is no longer the case. despite my giving away a few stone, any descent this past weekend turned the tables, and all through the magic of reduced rolling resistance. so, plastered with style, i win both up and down.

king hubs are easily maintained and adjusted, should such ever become necessary, using a couple of allen keys and the anodised finish is exemplary. i have the lustrously deep blue ones, to match the headset and bottom bracket, but the swift hubs can be obtained in any of the regular king colours. as i understand it, at the time of writing, chris king do not offer this hubset as a complete wheel build option, though i'm sure it's only a matter of time. in this light, these could reasonably be seen as prototypes, and it suits my sense of one-upmanship to consider them in this light. the front hub sells for $149, and the rear at $349. front drillings are 20,24,28,32; rear: 24,28,32. evolution imports uk will be bringing these hubs (though probably not the wheels) into the uk in the foreseeable future, along with a number of cielo frames. uk pricing is currently unavailable.

i will be gliding for a long time to come.


posted tuesday 26 january 2010

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craft elite windstopper long sleeve jersey | craft wool crewneck baselayer

craft-elite jersey

life and cycling (not necessarily in that order) are all about choices; sometimes we make good ones, sometimes we make poor ones, and sometime those choices are made for us. in most cases it's not the choices that maketh the man/woman but the nature of the reaction to those choices. the choice of bicycle is of a more permanent nature: few of us have the financial wherewithal to change on a whim if the colour's not right or the size isn't quite what you thought it to be. there are enough expressed opinions on the web and the cycling press to aid the pre-purchase choice, so i must be concerted in my opinion that the majority of you have a suitable velocipede sitting in the bike shed. if not, you've likely only yourself to blame.

clothing is an entirely different matter altogether. the bike is going to be the bike irrespective of the outside temperature, rainfall, snowfall or headwind. unless you are of the irrepressible variety, chances are that clothing is donned head to toe before a single digit has experienced the great outdoors, and i figure you're telling me lies if you insist that your choice of apparel has never been remiss. it helps to have an extensive wardrobe at your disposal: something for every conceivable situation. but even then...

so you will perhaps sympathise with saturday's choice of outerwear being not quite what i thought it would be.

craft are a swedish company responsible for a substantial range of appropriate clothing not just for cycling, but for running, cross-country and skiing. it seems likely that there will be a suitable crossover between those disciplines, informing all to the benefit of those participating in each. it's winter, it's still cold and the correct choice of clothing is a very good idea; it's a lot harder to get away with the wrong choice at this time of year than during those warm, balmy days of summer (or so it says in the holiday brochure).

craft-wool crew neck baselayer

i was sent an elite windstopper long-sleeve jersey, and a crew neck wool/polyester baselayer, providing an apparently impervious upper layer. or so i thought. saturday morning dawned so misty that bowmore distillery's bonded warehouses, only a hundred metres or so from the kitchen window were all but invisible. it took much of the morning to clear and when the cielo was taken from its place of repose, the temperature had not risen as far as i'd hoped.

strangely, the craft baselayer features the polyester section on the inside, and merino wool on the other. craft claim that the polyester 'lining' is to prevent itching, while those who offer full merino make great play of the lack of itch. i'm with the latter. additionally, one of the main selling points of merino is the lack of acquired odour when worn for any given length of time. placing the polyester next to the skin would seem to nullify this feature on the craft baselayer.

that said, the garment was a good, warm fit, though without the softness i'd associate with all merino, and i did rather like the higher neck than is the case on competing products. craft speak positively of their bodymapping ergonomics, and i must confess that, assuming you don't have bumpy bits in places where honed athletes shouldn't have bumpy bits, you could wear this to less formal social events.

the elite jersey oozes build quality, with even the splashes of colour making sense in the overall design. many is the jacket/jersey that has completely inexplicable and inappropriate flecks of colour about its person; not necessarily to the detriment of function but hardly the epitome of style. the windstopper fabric infiltrates the entire front of the jersey, each side of the full zip, continuing across the shoulders, and across the top of the back. the windproofing does not extend to the fleece lined arms, but as my arms are the first appendages to get swot and hetty, this seems a logical step. when new at least, there's every likelihood that you'll be mistaken for the brown paper cowboy, and arrested for rustling.

the sleeves are my kind of sleeves, with length in abundance leaving no naked gaps between gloves and wrists. and they're soft. pockets extend to two small(ish) outers and one substantial centre container which will swallow an entire team car. outboard of this is the mandatory zipped version for the cappuccino money. the hem has monogrammed gloop to keep everything in place while waiting for the last man in the lead out train to peel off, and the fabric's elasticity ensures that fitting over the crewneck baselayer flatters the slimmer figure. if push comes to criticism, i thought the jersey (medium tested) just a smidgeon on the short side, though in mitigation, i must confess that bunching was entirely amiss. fit across the chest was amongst the best. the collar is bereft of windproofing, but it is of commendable height, and fashioned in a cunning dart shap towards the zip.

craft-elite jersey

the downside to this all is that of choice, mine, and perhaps just a little mis-comprehension. i have a couple of merino jerseys that would have warmed me well in saturday morning's chill, and with the windstopper badge on the craft's fabric, i thought this too would serve me similarly. within the first couple of miles, i wasn't heating up as much as hoped, (windchill took the temperature to a couple of degrees below) so i stopped and put on a thin windshell. that did the trick, warmth was achieved, and the outer shell was removed a mile or so later. however, in the conditions, i needed to keep pedalling persistently to keep the chill at bay, and i have to admit that the elite wasn't as cosy as it promised.

choice is a funny thing, and the key to it all is to realise that you may have opted for the wrong one, and learn from the episode. i cannot fault the craft jersey: it may not have been as warm as i'd hoped, but craft make no wild claims in this direction, and there are outer shells as part of the elite range, meaning i should probably have paid more attention. day two, and an outer covering was most defintely required due to a smattering of precipitation. in this case, the temperature was even lower, and the craft windstopper proved itself the equal of the imposed climate: not too hot, not too cold.

winter is now tapering towards the finer days of spring, though still a few weeks off, and the opportunities to comfortably wear a jersey such as the elite will be on the increase. the baselayer is equally personable and practical, though i'd like to reserve the choice to pick 100% merino more often than not.

the craft elite long-sleeve jersey is currently available from always riding reduced from £102 to a satisfying £81.73 in black/grey or iron/red (tested) small to xl. the wool/polyester crewneck baselayer retails at £40, again in small to xl

always riding | craft

happy birthday rabbie burns


posted monday 25 january 2010

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the name game

verenti rhigos

when i was at college, i played in a band; in fact, art college was rife with them, as, to be honest, was the rest of the city. aberdeen is a university city: all this creativity, and a ready made audience meant that you could go out any night of the week to see a live band, usually with a choice of more than one. and with cinemas in the days before multi-screens, student unions (considerably more than one), along with various smaller venues, we received a good share of the bigger touring bands. the mid-seventies were a good time to be a rock star wannabe.

along with the effort and vague organisation involved in putting a band together, was the altogether more important task of choosing a name for said collective. when we recruited a guitarist outside the cloisters of artistic development, he arrived along with a small, but well filled notebook containing hundreds of names for bands, which he'd been writing down for several years.

unsurprisingly, some of these names were too bizarre to even consider, while one or two had already been appropriated by those a bit more famous than we were ever likely to be. however, a band that had been in existence for a good couple of years before i made it as far north as aberdeen, had successfully performed under the name rainbow. their chosen genre of music was that of so-called progressive music, replicating many of the works of genesis, pre peter gabriel's departure, along with some of their peers of the decade. if the name sounds familiar, that may be because upon leaving deep purple, guitarist ritchie blackmore decided to adopt the name rainbow as the nom de plume of his own assemblage of musicians.

verenti rhigos

naturally enough, mr blackmore was blissfully unaware of the existence of one of north-east scotland's finest, but his management soon did, as, believe it or not, aberdeen's rainbow decided to have a lawyer's letter sent, advising of their previous call on the apellation, and that ritchie would do well to choose another name. that this was dismissed with a counter claim by a musician with far more clout and far deeper pockets than the aberdonians, meant that the treetops hotel no longer put up posters advertising weekly gigs by rainbow, while ritchie blackmore went on to release seven studio albums and seven live albums with ritchie blackmore's rainbow. sadly, in the intervening years, i have completely forgotten what the aberdeen band changed their name to, but it's really of no nevermind.

similar problems afflict the cycle industry: it is no real secret that sunday bicycles have become sabbath (i wonder if ozzy osbourne is reading?), and there may be one or two others who have metamorphosed after the cease and desist order arrived on the desk. the most recent to suffer from this name game, is wiggle director, paul bolwell. if you're an avid follower of twitter tweets, particularly those concerning the world of bicycles, you may have come across a regular flow emanating from kiron bikes, which dried up around october of last year. after many tweets promising (and showing) some interesting looking frames and associated accessories, it all went quiet.

copyright problems.

however, a name is only a word used to designate something: what it's called doesn't intrinsically affect what it actually is. so after kiron disappeared, verenti arose, and bicycles bearing that name on the down tube are almost with us. but the name game doesn't come to an end there. my current bicycle du jour is described on the cielo website as the sportive model, a term that has become all too familar in recent years. perhaps having become aware (well after the fact) that a majority of cyclists do not, nor have any intention of racing, either simply the nomenclature has varied, or indeed the frame angles and tube lengths; folks like us spending several hours riding a hundred miles or more, prefer a touch more comfort than bertie, lance and the lads, and we like to have bicycles that fit our needs just as much as the pros.

verenti rhigos

thus, initially the verenti range will consist of six sportive models, ensuring that 'during a seven hour ride, the last 45 minutes are as pleasurable as the first without compromising speed and performance.' future months and years are likely to encompass road racing, time trial or cyclocross, along with own brand 'me' components. the pictures accompanying this article are oblique views of the top of the range rhigos.01 (a town in wales, if my research serves me well) which will be outfitted with sram red, mavic ksyrium sl wheels, and 3t components. i have no price for this bicycle, but a quick look at the finishing spec would give you a reasonable idea. sitting below this will be five alloy models, beginning at entry level.

release is promised for early march, and if all goes to plan, there's a possibility of a test/review on the post around that time. the cycling weekly website lists ten sportives in march with a further eight in april, so if entry to at least one is amongst your goals for the year, it might just be worth waiting for more of the pictures to appear. for the time being, the website merely states new website coming in spring 2010', but they've not been slow off the mark when it comes to sponsorship, as many of you may have noticed that the dragon ride has been re-named the verenti dragon ride. and it's sold out.

verenti bikes | verenti dragon ride


posted sunday 24 january 2010

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