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ritchey logic ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

pedal to the metal

specialized crux dsw

while i would dearly love to add the word 'metallurgist' to my hypothetical business card (which already names me as a senior publishing executive (northern hemisphere) and social media consultant), the fragility of such an apellation would be seriously undermined should anyone look too closely. in an ideal world, i'd have myself nominated as a knowledge management consultant, purely on the basis that it's a highly difficult claim to successfully repute - predominantly on the basis that, along with yours truly, very few people know what the title actually means. however, from a purely personal point of view, i have creatively re-positioned the word in contemporary vocabulary, to spuriously mean that i have a (velocipedinal) affinity for metals.

of my two regular rides, one is constructed from round steel tubing, the principal defection to the blackstuff being via its carbon fork. admittedly its bikeshed bedfellow is wholly carbon, but it does one no harm to keep an eye on the opposition. as we have discussed during previous conversations, the carbon bicycle alluded to above takes the form of a specialized crux elite, when the crux was a definedly bona-fide cyclocross bike. never ones to avoid a bandwagon on which they might jump, specialized have re-positioned the crux as a gravel bike, with all the negative implications contained within that definition.

in fact, when next on specialized's website, look sufficiently close and you might note that the crux is categorised as both a cyclocross and a gravel bike. the giveaway tell-tale is the width of the tyres fitted as standard to the majority of crux models, checking in at 38mm. as any obsessive cyclocross aficionado will tell you, the uci has mandated that, for competition use, cyclocross bicycles are restricted to a maximum of 33mm. thus, were you to spend £7,000 on a specialized crux pro, with the intention of joining tom, wout and mathieu on the cross circuit later this year, you'd have to shell out a few more pounds to acquire race legal rubber.

however, disagreements over whether 'cross is a subset of gravel or vice-versa, until very recently, any flavour of specialized crux would have proved to be carbon from front to back and top to bottom, demonstrating the direction in which accepted development has traditionally travelled. yet, as recently as 2016, i reviewed a polished aluminium specialized crux e5 x1, a bicycle outfitted with a sram rival groupset and which, a mere eight years ago, could be purchased for the princely sum of £1,800.

how things have changed.

in what carbon fans might depict as a retrograde step, specialized have re-introduced an aluminium metal crux frame, kept as lightweight as possible by means of their previously controversial and awkwardly named, d'aluisio smartweld welding process. this has allowed the proffering of a 9.37kg bicycle, less than one kilogramme heavier than the comparable carbon crux comp. though the proof may be in dragging the pudding through the undergrowth, cycling socialisation would suggest that metal trounces burnt plastic in the durability stakes. whether the latter proves true or otherwise, those of a certain age are predisposed to believe that to be a truism. in which case, moving from carbon fibre to metal (aluminium) could be seen as a progressive step in the right direction (understood to be finally settling on steel as the only truly pragmatic choice).

of course, just as bike frame materials tend to change at a glacial pace, financial matters could probably outgun tadej in a time-trial. for that reason, what once weighed in at £1,800, now retails at a less favourable £2,300, admittedly a rise of only £500 in the space of eight years. according to my opinion (as richard sachs might say), this is deserving of our approbation, though not quite as favourable as either a steel ritchey cyclocross bicycle, or ultimately, one of mr sachs custom versions with one of his delectable fork crowns and a set of cantilevers.

well played specialized and i look forward to the arrival of a steel version

specialized cruz dsw

wednesday 12 june 2024

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

a sense of purpose

stage monitor

i spent two evenings of the recent weekend demonstrating my limited percussive abilities at a local hostelry, along with two gents with whom i have a long (musical) history. the area available for guitar, bass and a not altogether huge drumset is, to be blunt, somewhat compact and bijou, intrusions into the percussive domain arriving courtesy of a guitar amplifier and one of the public address speakers. these restrictions undoubtedly limit my ability to achieve certain outcomes, but on the basis that i have been playing the same venue around four times per year for more years than i can truthfully remember, i'm sort of used to it by now.

many an aspiring musician at an early point in his or her career harbours dreams of making it, whatever that actually means. i am well acquainted with a number of respected professional jazz musicians, all of whom earn sufficient amounts to support themselves and their families, but i seriously doubt any would confirm that they'd made it. the latter conjures images of a successful string of concerts initially nation-wide, leading inevitably to world tours and lucrative recording contracts. personally, my ideal of having made it, when still in my youth, revolved predominantly around either being the drummer in a resident jazz piano trio, presenting a musical menu just sufficiently outwith the commercial milieu to attract occasional approbation from fellow musicians and an appreciative audience.

those of you who have visited islay in the past may have familiarised yourselves sufficiently to recognise that the island is hardly the centre of the musical universe, effectively rendering the above aspiration null and void. the alternative, less jazz-based, was the possibility that i might achieve some success as a studio session drummer, rather undermined by my unfortunate inability to sight-read to an appreciable standard.

by now, of course, i am long past the age when either of the above might still be achievable, a situation that i believe can be extended to my weekend colleagues (though i sometimes wonder about the guitarist). nowadays, my more modest, though not necessarily any more achievable yearnings, are to occupy a stage on which there is more than sufficient space to comfortably setup my drumset, possibly on a small riser, offering unlimited elbow room. included in the above would be a monitor sound system that enabled me to hear any accompanying musicians with pinpoint clarity, or, at lower sound levels, musicians who played with sufficient perspicacity not to drown out the rest of the band. i'm thinking jazz piano trio here (red garland, thelonious monk, bill evans - you catch my drift?)

contemplating the unlikelihood of any of the above conferred similar thoughts about what it is i might desire or expect from my weekly kilometreage on the bicycle. having never pinned a number on my back for competitive reasons, i believe i passed that particularly high water mark several decades past, resigning myself to the knowledge that whatever my unaided top speed at present, it will continue to decrease in the coming years. oddly enough, that is not something that i fear; i'll settle for retaining the ability to ride my bicycle as often as possible, along with the stamina to plough recklessly into galeforce headwinds and horizontal rain. aside from the latter situation, which is all but exclusive to the hebrides, i figure most of us hold fairly limited, yet similar demands from our cycling exploits.

i have no great desire to own the latest in carbon fibre augmented with wireless electronics, though i would hardly condemn anyone for whom such ambitions fill their waking dreams. personally, i'd settle for a set of amber sidewall tyres that did not disguise their amberness from view after only a few winter kilometres, and even as much as one-third of of wout van aert's bike handling skills. i daresay there will be those at the back of the room issuing guffaws at such tame, desultory ambitions, however unlikely either are to be realised. that said, i believe it's of some importance to maintain one or two ambitions in a jersey back pocket; as the years roll by, the simple act of riding a bicycle may be held front and centre, but a little extra-curricular motivation always comes in handy in moments of despair.

tuesday 11 june 2024

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

that's entertainment

dauphine

its that time of year. as the sunday morning peloton headed from the direction of kilchoman distillery, passing sunderland farm and heading towards foreland on the perimeter road round loch gorm, we became aware of a motor car approaching from behind. so, like the courteous cyclists we believe ourselves to be, we pulled in en-masse to the nearest passing place. however, as we came to a halt, we observed another vehicle approaching from the opposite direction, a fact that ought to have necessitated the following car pulling in behind us. but, like i mentioned above, it's that time of year.

though scotland's schools do not close for the summer until the end of the month, there are still a large number of visitors on the hallowed isle from overseas, or perhaps from closer at hand, who do not have children about which to be concerned. it hardly needs me to point out that the main reason for many of those visitors is the presence of a wide variety of malt whisky distilleries. as far as we are aware, the vehicle behind us had just left kilchoman distillery, while those approaching were heading for a visit. either way, the following car failed to stop in the passing place, a portion of which we already occupied, heading onwards on the single track road in the direct path of the oncoming vehicle.

in fairness to the driver of the following car, the car heading in our direction had clearly just driven past another passing place in which they really ought to have stopped. having painted a fairly clear picture, i probably don't need to point out that both cars found themselves midway between two passing places, with literally nowhere else to go. for those of us astride our bicycles, what followed was pure entertainment, as neither driver appeared able to reverse (a common problem round these here parts). in order to facilitate an escape route, we all moved to the other side of the road, as the reversing light on the car which had passed us, lit up.

what followed resembled a comedic sketch. the car heading towards kilchoman was peopled by two gents, while the other possessed a young japanese woman. so much for chivalry, as she was the hapless individual forced to reverse uphill in a rental car to reach the passing place. i cannot deny that we smiled out loud.

sundays are, to one degree or another, apparently designed for entertainment. those with nothing better to do will often head to the golf course to pursue their hobby; we have the luxury of riding the highways and byways of our island home, while others may be keen to settle in the armchair and watch back to back episodes of columbo. on arriving home from the sunday morning ride, i opted to occupy the aforesaid armchair, but for the purposes of viewing the final stage of this year's critérium du dauphiné, the avowed precursor to the tour de france.

this year's has seen wall-to-wall entertainment, with remco outgunning josh tarling at the last minute for the win in the midweek time-trial, lots of riders falling off in a very wet downhill, remco running out of steam to have primoz roglic take yellow, and then, on yesterday's stage, the slovenian's jersey came under serious attack from matteo jorgenson and, the surprise of the race, canadian derek gee. from the point of view of the armchair viewer and critic, it was the sort of season's entertainment that began recently with this year's giro d'italia, which, despite tadej's impressive time-gap at the finish, was, itself, pure italian entertainment.

somewhere in the croft, i possess a coffee mug on which is printed 'cycling is life - the rest is mere detail', a mantra with which i have found no reason to disagree. but nowhere on that mug does it say that cycling, and particularly televised road racing cannot simultaneously be entertaining. it's enough to make you feel (admittedly temporarily) sympathy for those golfers.

monday 10 june 2024

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world bicycle relief

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totally different but not at all the same

isle of jura

on 8 june 1949, the first edition of george orwell's 1984 was published. the book was written by orwell (aka eric blair) at barnhill cottage at the north end of the isle of jura, islay's nearest neighbour, with the title drawn from the year in which it was completed (1948), orwell simply transposing the last two numbers in order to place it in the future. it's a book that has been published in many editions since, and in almost every major language across the world.

garduate of leith school of art and edinburgh college of art, with a ba honours in sculpture, hans clausen (who, i might add, is not even remotely as german as his name might suggest) decided to commemorate this literary milestone by acquiring 1,984 copies of the book, donated by contributors across the world, and exhibiting them, library style, in jura's craighouse village hall. no doubt it would have been even more appropriate to have done so within barnhill cottage, but actually getting there is not for the faint-hearted, and would, effectively, have guaranteed a very small audience.

isle of jura

however, having read 1984 as part of my sixth year english studies, all those many years ago, and knowing it to be an event that would never happen again, i decided to have an away-day on jura, given that the weather was reasonably favourable, and allied to the fact that i rather enjoy cycling on the island, even if it is only a 26km round trip from the ferry ramp at feolin. since the next recordable anniversary is likely to be that of the book's 100th, in 25 years time, coupled with the knowledge that i may not be fit enough (or still alive) in a quarter of a century from now, the specialized crux and i opted to ride to port askaig, take the ferry across the sound of islay to feolin and ride mostly upwards (average 6%) to craighouse.

i have frequently made mention in these very pixels, for both cyclists and motorists to be considerate and courteous towards each other when perambulating the single track roads on islay. that goes double for riding or driving on jura, where there is only a solitary single track road from the ferry to craighouse, several of the passing places on which i visited during yesterday's bike ride. paying an amenable £4.80 return for self and bike, the first part of the road north hugs the shoreline, before gently veering left and heading upwards for several kilometres.

islay from jura

it's a road which, despite seeming always to ascend on the way to craighouse, engenders similar sensations when returning towards the ferry, apart from the last section which is decidedly downhill. and while yesterday's weather was undeniably sunny at times, a strong, chilly north-westerly meant i'd to pedal hard even when heading downhill on the return part of the journey, following a rather filling lunch at the antlers restaurant opposite the village hall.

despite being islay's closest neighbour, jura is markedly different; those 13 kilometres between feolin and craighouse are largely desolate, peppered only by the occasional distant farmhouse. though the population of jura hovers around 200, there are reputedly ten times that number of deer, with acres and acres of empty space in which to do whatever it is that deer actually do. and not to be spiritually left out (if you'll pardon the pun), a few metres before reaching craighouse village hall, is jura distillery, separate from the islay malts in that it is categorised under island distilleries, and not along with the ten currently operating on islay. that said, jura distillery regularly joins in the islay whisky festival.

i have ridden farther north than craighouse on previous occasions, once hoping to make it as far as ardlussa, home to the island's sole gin distillery, but a combination of needing to eat (only available in craighouse) and returning in time for a ferry, rather put paid to reaching such a distant, north easterly location. one of these days. it would be great if we were able to manipulate the parcours of the annual ride of the falling rain and take in jura, but the ferry timetable on sundays, even during the summer, is almost guaranteed to have someone become stranded on the wrong side of the sound.

islay from jura

however, whether you're a fan of orwell, jura single malt, lussa gin, deer, or the possibility of clambering over the three paps of jura, or not, might i humbly suggest that, if on islay for any appreciable time over the summer or autumn, that you put aside a day, or half a day, to cycle on jura. it really is completely different, but at the same time, not at all the same.

sunday 9 june 2024

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fast and furious

wet road

according to recent statistics, this year's giro d'italia was the fastest on record. at least, it was for tadej pogacar. this is likely the result of several different factors, involving rider nutrition, advances in training methods and technological improvements to the bicycles. but as i have mentioned on at least one previous occasions, has it actually made for more exciting racing? as a subjective query, there are probably several answers to that. but while bicycle and component manufacturers have been falling over each other to make the bikes faster, it's worth wondering out loud whether they've done anything to improve rider safety? or is it possible that things have gone the other way.

on thursday's stage of the critérium du dauphiné we witnessed between 30 and 50 riders crashing on a fast descent, presumably at the behest of considerable surface water. a spectator filmed video from the roadside clearly demonstrated just how fast the modern-day peloton can travel (earlier in the week, they were shown to be riding downhill at almost 100kph), meaning that any inadvertent movement within a close-knit peloton is bound to result in devastation such as that witnessed on thursday, a major incident that led to official neutralisation of the stage.

much to my shame and embarrassment, i am not well acquainted with racing in eddy's era, but i cannot recall reading or hearing of similar incidents taking place in the years when steel tubing reigned supreme. this is not, yet again, one of those rose-tinted bouts of nostalgia; i don't doubt there have been rain-enforced crashes since cycle racing began, but the noticeable increase in speeds has surely made them more likely? yet, for all the technology thrown in the direction of carbon bicycles, there appears to have been no particular concern for the safety of the rider.

my own descending speeds are nowhere near those of the professional peloton, and barely even those of the amateur milieu, but in wet weather, sporting only a set of rim brakes acting on aluminium rims, i'm a great deal more circumspect. i'd prefer to remain upright. i have the distinct advantage, however, of being well aware of every pothole, twist and turn and possible traffic behaviour likely to be experienced on the few short descents available on the isle. therefore, i'm just a bit more likely to push the envelope further than judicious thought would suggest. however, i'm not racing; there's no accolades waiting at debbie's, and i still have to turn up for work the following day. but as many have pointed out, brakes are all but useless if the contact between tyre and road ceases to exist, and even in wet weather, i'm never riding fast enough for that situation to occur.

the professionals, however, have been contracted either to try and win races, or support the team member designated to carry out that task. at the risk of stating the glaringly obvious, winning can only be achieved if you ride more quickly than your peers. but irrespective how professional and quick they have become, and disregarding the increases in tyre width seen in recent years, knee-jerk reactions are hard to control. therefore, if the rider in front keels over at speed, due to slippery roads, the automatic response is almost always to pull hard on the brake levers. in days gone by that would have resulted in less dramatic slowing of the bicycle than is now the case, possibly, if you're lucky, preventing the front tyre from losing traction. and there are statistics to prove that speeds were previously of a lower order, meaning less likelihood of slip-sliding away.

hydraulic disc brakes, on the other hand, are remarkably effective, possibly leading to increased descending speeds in the knowledge that, under more normal conditions, braking can be left almost till the last moment. however, the sudden decelerations that can be achieved by way of disc brakes will almost certainly result in an immediate lack of grip on the sort of wet surfaces seen at the dauphiné. that might just explain why the sight of almost four dozen riders sliding along the tarmac was a rare occurrence when eddy was king.

yet despite the advances made with tyre technology and the aforementioned popular increase in tyre widths, disc brakes, allied to wireless gear changing and aero carbon, little seems to have been of concern when it comes to safety matters. as a confessed, non-engineer, i have no real idea if it's even possible to enhance bicycle safety; race cars are currently capable of having their drivers survive crashes at speeds of almost 200mph, but that's like comparing apples and bricks. however, if safety measures remain essentially inapplicable to any and all road bikes, does it actually make sense to continually look for ways to make them quicker? would those of us who watch from the comfort of our armchairs quickly lose interest if next year's giro d'italia was actually several kph slower than this year's?

if weather patterns are changing, and bikes are getting quicker, we might well face the possibility of more injured rides and more neutralised races in future.

saturday 8 june 2024

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now you're just being ridiculous

colnago tour de france bike

we know that, on 29 june, the 2024 tour de france peloton will roll off from the start-line in florence, featuring this year's giro winner, tadej pogacar. it's also odds-on that world champion, remco evenepoel will be joining him, based on his current form in the tour's precursor, the critérium du dauphiné. it also seems quite likely that primoz roglic will be there to wear the new red bull, bora hansgrohe jersey as they all head ultimately to nice instead of paris in the battle for the maillot jaune. i would imagine we hope that visma lease-a-bike's jonas vingegaard and wout van aert will be there too, also in different jerseys to avoid clashing with the aforemementioned, maillot jaune, but we'll have to await the results of their present training camp to learn of the dutch team's tour selection.

incidentally, does anyone know why it's necessary for the likes of visma lease-a-bike to change the colour of their jerseys to avoid a clash with the yellow jersey in le tour, yet, not in the dauphiné? both events are run under the auspices of aso, and both sport a yellow leader's jersey, so why not give visma the option to gain greater use of an expensive set of alternate jerseys?

however, to continue with my original theme, along with each and every other grand tour, monument and one-day classic, the participating teams will be seen aboard the bicycles provided by their contracted sponsors, several decorated in team colours, with the occasional one-off special ridden by national champions or star riders. why then, you might ask, would the world's premier cycle race find it necessary to promote an official bicycle? this seems every bit as ludicrous as condiment manufacturer hellmans aligning themselves as official barbecue partners of the euro 24 soccer tournament.

yet, whether at the behest of the amaury sports organisation or simply by way of some unilateral self-promotion, colnago have produced a limited edition of 111 fleur-de-lys editions of the c68 which, they claim, is the official bike of the tour de france. this, despite the fact that no-one will be riding a bog-standard c68, let alone this limited edition. (tadej and the rest of team uae generally opt for the v4rs). apparently this official bike is intended as 'a tribute to florence, the cradle of the renaissance', with the frame featuring the fleur-de-lys, the lily symbol, the heraldic element that unites the history of the city of italian poet, writer, and philosopher, dante alighieri, considered one of the most important writers and poets of the middle ages and originator of greatest literary work in the Italian language (the divine comedy), to the french nation.

and you thought it was just a bike.

this special c68 features the fleur-de-lys serially reproduced on the top tube in gold on a bleu de france-coloured metal leaf field. this pattern, in addition to being a tribute to a recurring coat of arms in french royal iconography, '...echoes the pattern of the frescoes in the sala dei gigli, one of the most beautiful rooms in the palazzo vecchio in florence, the venue for the tour's team presentation and the starting point of the first stage of the tour.' colnago are also at pains to connect the decor on this particular bike to other aspects of french france, including as a reminder that the french nation was, historically, protector of the florentine republic. and according to cambiago (or its emirates substitute) 'the lily decorative element is therefore not only a visual tribute, but also embodies the spirit of co-operation and friendship between the two nations.

and you still thought it was just a bike.

apparently the bleu-de-france metal leaf finish required to be applied by hand, creating a textural difference between each of the 111 frames, making each unique. and just in case you figured this particular colnago was missing a detail or two, the 3d printed bottle cage is designed to replicate the form of the tour trophy (though i admit, i cannot see the resemblance.) additionally, the bicycle features a limited edition of colango's cc.01 carbon handlebar/stem combo. and to underline the sponsorship connection, it has apparently been agreed that tadej will ride the number one edition '...during the team presentation", a bicycle due to be auctioned by sotheby's once the race is underway.

despite the reputed alliance of the bicycle with the country of italy, the groupset originates not from vicenza, but tokyo, in the shape of shimano's dura-ace di2 r9200, the rear derailleur of which will feature a ceramicspeed oversized pulley wheel. it's also outfitted with a set of enve ses 4.5 wheels, reputedly hand-spoked in italy with gold spokes. while the very first numbered edition is likely to achieve silly money at auction, unless you are in receipt of a substantial pocket-money allowance, the remaining 110 bicycles are hardly likely to be found at the bottom of a lucky bag. they're on sale to the rest of us for a shade under £20,000.

good grief charlie brown; it's only a bike.

friday 7 june 2024

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cycling uk ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

you don't know what you've got till it's gone

mercian super king

there is, i believe, a case to be made for embracing modernity, provided a perspicacious assimilation can separate the wheat from the chaff. in other words, does any particular contemporary development brought to our collective attention exist due to a concerted demand, or is its presence predominantly an end in itself rather than a means to an end?

only a matter of weeks past, one of the two banks with a presence on the island closed its bowmore branch doors for good. that this had been planned for an appreciable length of time can be deduced by the fact that the premises are already on the market for sale.

like almost every uk bank, the reasons posted for its closure were effectively created by the bank's continued modernisation, encouraged by several well-placed economic enticements. but the blame for closure is placed squarely at the feet of their customers. for many years, banks have encouraged the latter to adopt digital banking and the inevitable smartphone app, so-called choices that ultimately allow them to dispense with staff, close and sell their real estate (branches), and ease the pressure on the remaining staff. many former administrative tasks can now be undertaken by those persuaded to adopt the above-mentioned technological advances.

the resulting drop in footfall within societal branches can then be cited as the logical and economic reasons for branch closure. in other words, it's the customers' fault, not ours.

banking is, of course, simply one example of the constant march of technology, seemingly without any serious investigation into any future repercussions that might prove less than equitable. the company for which i worked as a college student during the summer holidays, was one of the first to surrender its accounting procedures to computer control, but so not to find itself in the grasp of an unforeseen future dilemma, it continued with pen and paper throughout the first year of the experiment, before retiring it to the staionery cupboard.

the bicycle industry too, used to employ a tad more forethought when foisting new technology upon an unsuspecting public. though younger riders will be unlikely to be aware, when indexed gear changing was first introduced to mountain bike groupsets in the 1980s, every gear lever from shimano and suntour (remember them?) featured the opportunity to revert to friction shifting in the event of damage to either of the derailleurs. it's a technology that eventually transferred to the road, via downtube levers. even campagnolo was in on the act. with apparently very few reports of derailleur damage during the probation period, ultimately the feature disappeared.

there does appear to be a headlong rush to adopt the latest version of anything, without concern for the veracity of its existence. i'm well aware that such apparent luddite suspicion from yours truly is hardly unexpected, but in this case, i'm hoping that it is not driven by unrealised technophobia and nostalgia. that said, it will probably not come as any great surprise to learn that i truly miss the days when the brake cables exited the top of the brake levers. even in those days, bets were being hedged; campagnolo offered brake levers with the option for both bar concealment and stoppered lever tops.

i realise this particular meme is one to which i periodically return, but this current monologue has been curated by the recent demise of mercian cycles, a cycle business that has closed after 78 years of trading. there are numerous apocryphal tales of cycle businesses that closed during the mountain bike era, following a failure to modernise, in the mistaken belief that it was a fad. if we take a blatantly cavalier approach to the loss of mercian cycles, the same argument could surely apply. framebuilder, ellis briggs posted a youtube video the day after mercian's announcement, not just to sympathise with their predicament, but to enlighten the listening/watching velocipedinal public as to the difficulties and expense of adopting modern technology to the handbuilt steel frame.

it is not, however, just the fact that i, for one (along with my minority of peers), have a preference for old skool steel tubing over carbon fibre, but the potential loss of specific bike-building skills. though the uci might have legislated against any messing with the ubiquitous double-diamond frame, ensuring that a steel road bicycle frame still bears a recognisable resemblance to those produced in carbon fibre, they are made by substantially different means. in common with many lost skills, the nomenclature often persists. despite the fact that monocoque carbon frames comprise two halves glued together, we still refer to its component parts as tubes. it exists in much the same way as does leading in computer typesetting. the latter describes the spacing between lines of text despite there being no lead strips involved.

though i'm sure that, as we adopt hydraulic discs, wireless gear changing and carbon frames, we comfort ourselves with the assumption that there will always be those who continue to build with metal tubing for the iconoclasts who have singularly failed to enfold the 21st century to their bibshorts. but as with supply and demand in almost every other strain of industrial endeavour, should the number of framebuilders employing steel tubing eventually fall below a certain level, there will be little or no incentive for companies such as reynolds and columbus to continue its production.

then where will we be?

concerns are already being expressed by those of us remaining loyal to the concept of rim brakes. though all three of the major component manufacturers still (for now) offer caliper brakes, as the majority of their recently launched groupsets are disc-only, it can only be a matter of time before they begin to re-examine that situation. they may already have done so. and whether you prefer cabled electronics or wireless electronics, there's no denying that neither of those require brazed-on frame cable stops. that has already reduced the number of carbon framesets suitable for mechanical groupsets, and if many more steel framebuilders follow mercian, the option will all but evaporate.

as a result of my cyclocross obsessions which frequently favour wout van aert for the victory, should i wish to follow in his cervelo tyre-tracks, very much against personal desire, i would be forced to adopt electronics, due to a lack of any mechanical compatibility inbuilt to his r5-cx.

my doomsday prognostications will eventually, however, allow the cycle industry to follow the example of the banks, claiming that their current offerings have resulted from the purchasing choices made by the customer, deliberately oblivious to the fact that it's a situation created entirely by their own track-mitted hands. the clichéd phrase would encourage us to use it or lose it. that's hard to do if it's already been lost.

thursday 6 june 2024

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it's all about the bike (again)

sram xplr wireless

i'm ashamed to admit that, in eddy's heyday, i was too preoccupied with my juvenile artistic endeavours and playing drums in three art school bands to have much truck with the velocipedinal realm. while mr merckx was wearing one of cycling's most iconic jerseys (molteni), i was blissfully unaware of the professional milieu and the machinery aboard which its historic battles were fought. even on completing my studies and undertaking my'employent in waiting', the passing of numbered cyclists and marshals stationed at dual-carriageway junctions, made little impression. though i had, by this time, become aware of at least the tour de france, i had failed to join the dots that would have shown that cycle racing existed within considerably less professional levels. even, i hasten to add, levels of which i may have personally been able to take advantage.

however, despite my admitted ignorance of that with which i am now obsessed, i do not recall an overt fascination with the bicycles featured in le grand boucle, either by yours truly, or others displaying similar traits. my first road bike was fashioned from plain gauge steel, and bought by mrs washingmachinepost from a mail-order catalogue (i know). to make matters worse, when i opted to upgrade, i effectively purchased a bicycle that was less capable than its predecessor, though arguably better favoured in the gearing department. however, a 52/42 rivetted chainset was perhaps not the ideal means to accommodate future growth or fitness.

of course, it is perfectly possible that fascination with bicycles and their associated componentry was every bit as rampant as it is today, simply that the lack of an internet and youtube kept it hidden from (my) sight. in fact, the earliest preoccupation with matters technical that i recall was encouraged by the arrival of that infernal mountain bike from across the pond. while i'd love to say i was largely immune to its machinations, that would be telling fibs. along with everyone else, i too was gripped with investigations into just how small an inner-ring could be fitted to my sugino chainset, which tread pattern might prove to be the most prudent tyre choice, and just how much metal i should cut from the handlebars to offer a pragmatic balance between narrowness, ergonomics and aesthetics.

sad to relate, it's an equation i never quite mastered.

i believe it may have been lord voldemort who first coined the phrase 'it's not about the bike', in his 2001 autobiography, a title subsequently turned on its head by the inestimable robert penn and subsequently by sean yates three years later. careful observation of the subject over the past few decades would tend to suggest that the improving popularity of cycle sport has gone hand-in-hand with a more detailed interest in the sport's mechanical side.

this may be the result of the attendant marketing that has inevitably accompanied the rise and rise of the bicycle and its riders. this, to be fair, was largely to be expected, given the change in velocipedinal demographic and capitalism's quest for the fuel that might future proof its endeavours. however, i confess that, while i was always aware that the advent of aero, hydraulics, wireless electronics and an obsession with weight was bound to take the bicycle into a different sphere altogether, the collateral damage inflicted by the above situation was always bound to attract a class of cycle fan arguably more in thrall to the machinery than the action the latter enabled.

however, at the risk of stating the glaringly obvious, we now have an internet, and boy do we have youtube. and on that youtube are those whose lives appear dedicated to bringing us detailed insights into the utterly insignificant, wrapped up in the contemporary culture of faux exclusivity. for example, it is but a matter of days since i watched an earnest journalist point to an all but minor cosmetic change to the frameset of a well-known italian marque, against the background of the team mechanics insisting he refrain from pointing it out.

given that the event at which this tiny addition of carbon fibre was on display is one that closely precedes the pre-tour de france presentation of intent, a stage race that attracts virtually all of the world's cycling media and their photographers, if the change was truly meant to remain a secret, there are better ways of keeping it that way. being warned off by the mechanics seemed designed more to attract attention than disperse it. witness the concerted fawning over the sight of sram's unannounced, 13-speed wireless gravel groupset at the unbound gravel event in kansas last weekend. let's face it, if you wanted this explr groupset to remain secret, would you have provided one to former race car driver, valtteri bottas? granted, the latter claimed he was unable to comment, but made no attempt to restrain ben delaney from filming every imaginable angle.

even rapha managed to offset the victory at unbound by ef education easypost rider, lachlan morton, by drawing attention to their bizarre clothing innovation, consisting of a skinsuit with an inbuilt drinking water bladder. i confess that more than just a small portion of my interest in any form of cycling is related to the mechanical aspect, but treating pre-announcement discoveries as akin to the revealing of a nation's nuclear launch codes wears thin very quickly. especially when, rather melodramatically, the discoveries appear mostly to have been carefully stage managed.

wednesday 5 june 2024

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

advance warning

mv isle of islay

as mentioned, probably to the point of boredom, last week islay and jura witnessed the 2024 edition of fèis ìle, more commonly referred to as the islay whisky festival. as you might guess, the islands' combined population of about 3,200 is greatly increased by an influx of so-called whisky aficionados, easily recognised (as are cyclists, now that you come to mention it), by an apparently regulation mode of dress. though there will ultimately be the sight of t-shirts purchased during the various open days, generally speaking, the predominantly male audience seems to hail from germany, sweden and japan, the latter individuals generally a tad smaller than their european cousins.

as i sweated over a hot computer keyboard in the main street office, groups of about five or six, tall, bearded individuals, dressed predominantly in black, with at least one featuring a worn backpack, would frequently pass the window, on their way to whichever distillery had opened its doors on that particular day. spotting those returning was every bit as easy, for they would all be sporting logo'd carrier bags most likely containing one or two festival bottlings. not for the first time did i suggest to one of the island's distillers that filling those bottles with cold tea could prove highly lucrative, on the basis that the purchasers were statistically unlikely to drink the contents.

whisky has switched from being scotland's national drink, to scotland's national collectible. inadvertently find yourself in a confined space with a whisky enthusiast, and you're more likely to be regaled with the contents of their reputedly extensive collection of whiskies, than by their considered opinion of the flavours to be realised from a filled glass.

the festival, since its inception at the turn of the century, has grown from essentially a family affair that initially saw visits from real whisky enthusiasts, to the feeding frenzy it has become. the vehicle belonging to a well-known whisky auction company can be found at almost every open day, ready and willing to accept festival purchases and auction them for hopefully larger sums than were paid at the time. in 2019, when last we ran the tour de islay (might be a nice idea to revive that for next year, perhaps), having passed lagavulin distillery just before 10am on the saturday morning, where queues indicated the doors had yet to open, by the time we reached ardnahoe distillery in the north, some two hours later, the lagavulin festival bottle was already for sale on german e-bay for double the price charged at the distillery.

to begin with, the natural limiter on the number of attendees was that of accommodation; obviously enough, the availability was distinctly finite. however, within the first decade of this century, calmac introduced road equivalent tariff (ret), which reduced the cost of putting a motorhome on the ferry from over £200, to less than £100 (depending on size), meaning that accommodation, to a certain extent, was no longer a hindrance. unfortunately, in common with the majority of scottish west coast islands, a constant influx of motorhomes and camper vans has become something of a blight on the landscape, both literally and figuratively.

if you wonder where this might be leading, let me introduce the subject of august's ride of the falling rain, entry to which, though free, rather obviously entails a trip to islay, comprising probably a minimum of three days (though you could possibly manage it in two if you're happy to leave immediately on reaching the finish line). for the sake of ubiquity, we'll assume that the majority will arrive on the hallowed isle by means of the aforementioned calmac ferry. currently, the smaller of the two boats has a problem with its loading ramp, entailing all commercial traffic having been swapped to the larger ferry. while this hasn't necessarily reduced the number of vehicles travelling to and from the island, it has meant that several bookings have had to be transferred between boats; in other words, a proportion of visitors are not arriving by the sailings on which they thought would be the case.

and given the preponderance and ever-growing number of distilleries within our shores, an increase in the number of visitors would not be an unexpected result. since they all have to stay somewhere and the ride of the falling rain exists within the english schools' holiday period, accommodation and spaces on the ferry might well be in short supply. it could be, unfortunately, that this article has arrived too late, but basically, if participation in the 2024 ride of the falling rain is on your to do list, i'd suggest visiting the calmac website the minute you've finished reading.

i believe the correct procedure is to ensure you have a ferry booking before you try to find accommodation, but either way, you need to book now, though last month might have been better.

tuesday 4 june 2024

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

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

campagnolo ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

showers pass ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

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

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