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

changing lanes

lost lanes books

i have the greatest of admiration for jack thurston, he of the lost lanes series of books, which, despite being thoroughly contemporary, describe a form of cycling that harkens back to the halcyon days of yore. i may be somewhat wide of the mark when it comes to appreciating the style of velocipedinal activity that permeates those particular books, but it often seems that so-called slow cycling, is no longer the activity it once was. if evidence were required in support, you may recall a washingmachinepost article from last week, where i quoted the statistic indicating that 28% would feel more inclined to adopt cycling, were it faster and easier.

my own conclusion has me wondering what on earth was the question that returned such an answer, and how accurately was it interpreted?

there still lives, at the back of the bikeshed, a taurus corinto steel roadster, powered by a sturmey-archer three-speed gear. i have always envisaged that to be the ideal perambulator on which to emulate mr thurston's philosophical vision for the contemporary cyclist. it does occur, however, that such machinery might be taking things just a tad too far, but i confess i'm unable to test that theory due to a plethora of broken spokes on the rod-brake enabled, italian bicycle. granted, it does feature a couple of brooks roll-up canvas panniers affixed to its sturdy rear carrier rack, but without the spokes, those are somewhat superfluous.

however, the over-arching problem in framing my prospective emulation difficulties, is, at least in part, the lack of leafy lanes about the principality. granted, if riding along the southern single-track roads past ardbeg distillery, there can be appreciable tree-cover from spring onwards. the road i describe leads towards the kildalton cross in the grounds of the ruined kildalton chapel, and is a particularly enjoyable bike ride if we tactfully exclude the short, but excruciatingly steep exit from loch a chnuic. meeting a vehicle heading in the opposite direction and forcing a dismount, pretty much guarantees a steep walk for a few metres. it really is too steep to get moving once again until the road levels out.

additionally, the earlier descent towards the dower house and the aforementioned sea loch provides a steep enough return, to which a three-speed sturmey is considerably less than equal. add to that, the not inconsiderable distance to reach the area from bowmore (around 33km) would surely render moot, any thoughts of velocipedinal meandering in the first place?

however, i fear that the principal barrier to my becoming a true thurston acolyte, is a continued persistence in riding a less than relaxed road bike, with no appendages that might encourage the fitting of panniers or a bar bag. (it is my firm belief that bikepacking bags are the very antithesis of the cycling mode with which i wish to become familiar). do not misunderstand my motives; i greatly appreciate the availability of a bicycle that will allow me to test my ageing mettle against the elements, maintaining a level of fitness that allows that state of affairs to persist for as long as possible.

but...

there is a nagging suspicion that, not only might i begin to acquire flabby bits and a less capable cardio-vascular system were slow to become the word of the week, but that my delight in watching cyclocross and the spring classics, might either break some unwritten and hitherto unknown code of conduct, or evaporate altogether. i'm not sure that, even in my advanced years, i'm ready for that to happen.

it occurs, however, that cycling appropriately along any of islay's lost lanes, might depend greatly upon a particular state of mind that i have utterly failed to adopt. the choice, as i see it, is which might require less effort; continuing to ride at the edge of my admittedly modest abilities, or achieving a calmer state of mind that might equate better with that which i profess to desire.

what would wout do?

jack thurston's lost lanes book series

tuesday 27 february 2024

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cool riding

the fonz

not so very long ago, the popular contention was that cycling was 'the new golf', a claim that was not as derogatory as it might seem. my father was, to be kind, not a particularly competent golfer, despite possessing a leather golf bag emblazoned with his surname. this is perhaps not quite as narcissistic as it may at first appear; it was simply a case of our family sharing their surname with arnold palmer, arguably the first 'superstar' of televised golf, beginning in the late 1950s.

my father's middle-executive lifestyle invariably included a reputed 'need' to spend the occasional weekday playing golf with clients. in this respect he probably was quite successful, never being in any danger of embarrassing himself and said clients, by actually winning a match. as i understand it, using golf for this particular purpose was common practice amongst middle-class executives, a practice that was apparently threatened at one point in the past decade, by cycling.

personally, i had a lucky escape in this respect, having once been invited to join my bank manager for a bike ride around the principality, a potential engagement that was only avoided by the gent having need of attending a meeting on the scottish mainland. fortunately, the subject was never again broached. do not misunderstand my motives: i had no personal qualms with my bank manager - he was (and is) a perfectly likeable fellow - but i had no great wish to transform a bike ride into some form of mobile meeting or consultation.

reputedly coined in 2010 by the market research company, mintel, the acronym m.a.m.i.l. (middle aged men in lycra) could also be viewed as the early part of the popularisation of cycling, eventually leading to the comparison with golf. intending no disrespect to those who actually partake of the occasional game of golf, it's not the most active or physically testing of sports. in fact, i have been moved on more than a single occasion to state that golf is far less a sport than it is a hobby.

enmity towards the activity, in my case at least, is engendered predominantly by the amounts of money that can be earned by those at the top of the sport, remuneration that frequently appears to be out of all proportion to the effort invested. i mean, they even have someone alongside to carry their golf clubs, so it's not as if any training undertaken has to rely on the improvement of one's physique, stamina, or nutritional conditioning. i can but point out that i hold similar misgivings about snooker and darts.

at the time of writing, i have not long finished watching the irrepressible wout van aert take top step on the podium at kuurne-brussels-kuurne, following his third place in saturday's omloop het nieuwsblad. the combined distance of both events tops out at near 400 kilometres at an average speed of around 44kph, achievements which require one heck of a lot more training than any championship winning golfer. yet wout has a reputed annual salary that is easily exceeded (by a factor of close to 1.5) by the £3.5 million paid to the winner of golf's player's championship.

i mention this purely as an aside that might place certain factors in some sort of perspective; i realise that points such as this do not always find themselves popular with many, and it's not one that i have any intention of continuing to press. at least, not for the present.

there is not doubt, however, that during the decade stretching from 2010 to 2020, cycling exhibited an increase in popularity. there are a number of reasons for this, including the facts that prince bradley won not only the tour de france, but olympic gold, while chris hoy won several olympic golds, and, if memory serves correctly, not only were both provided with knighthoods, but the accolade of bbc's sports personalities of the year. british cycling and cycling uk (formerly the cyclists touring club) both trumpeted a dramatic increase in membership and for a time, the larger cycling retailers spread their wings just a little farther across the nation.

extending matters by just a year or two, the covid years brought an increase in cycle sales due to a desire to travel in isolation from the virus, and the fact that cycle stores were considered to be essential services during periods of lockdown. whether or not this increase in popularity fostered a 'coolness' factor upon the activity of cycling, is a point worth debating, but surely only from a point of distant observation? which beggars the question, do those of us who ride regularly consider ourselves to be 'cool'? it's a question that would receive short shrift on the island; there are so few of us in the local peloton, that even when dressed in debbie's jerseys or one drawn from the local distilleries, i seriously doubt any innocent bystander would describe any one of us as 'cool'.

however, i ask the question purely on the basis that, when removing my endura primaloft thermal jacket on return from the sunday ride, i noticed the inside label ended with the statement, 'we'll still be riding when it's no longer cool'. the jacket dates from 2019, a year that fits just inside the decade referred to above, so it could easily be argued that, at that particular point in time, endura at least, considered cycling to be 'cool'.

but do we still consider that to be the case in 2024?

monday 26 february 2024

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long distance runaround

footsteps

the three occasions on which i have ridden the hot chillee london to paris bike ride, the opportunity to ride in a peloton on closed roads (in france), behind a lead car, with motor cycle outriders and road captains was perfectly topped off by the existence of a support vehicle that followed us all the way to the eiffel tower. whenever any rider suffered a puncture, rather than have to faff with a replacement tube or puncture repair kit, the mechanics simply replaced the wheel, fixed the puncture en-route, and handed your wheel back at the end of day with only a small charge fo the service. as is the philosophy behind the event, it's the equivalent of being a professional rider without the need to ride as fast as the pros.

thankfully, i never once had to make use of this service, but it was always nice to know it was there just in case.

the year following my last successful attempt, i was invited to ride the etape loch ness, a rather pleasant sportive that took all participants down each side of the loch, starting and ending in inverness, near the cathedral. though technical support was available during the event, it was static and concentrated at several of the feed stops. any malfeasance experienced while riding would have necessitated a walk to the nearest of these, though i believe there were vehicles patrolling the parcours in case the latter was all but impossible.

once again, i did not have need of visiting any of the support sites, but only the following week, as i approached debbie's in bruichladdich, the rear tyre went pop. at the time, i opted to have my double-egg roll and soya latte before heading outside to replace the inner tube. at that point, i discovered that the rear of the prototype wheels fitted for review, hadn't been finished correctly at the rim weld, and had chewed its way through the tyre sidewall. on replacing the tube, this was obvious from the two bubbles of inner tube intent on escaping from the gaps. placing a section of the damaged inner tube inside the tyre, i managed to ride home without further incident.

yesterday, however, was possibly the culmination of any bad luck i may have accumulated over the years. out for a ride on the cyclocross bike, as i rode the seriously disintegrating section of road between the cattle grid adjacent to the wood pellet byre and the cottage at cluanach, i experienced the despondent feeling in the back tyre that every cyclists dreads. fortunately, it's a stretch of road that receives very little traffic other than the occasional tractor (which is why it's in such poor fettle in the first place), so it was easy enough to find a space to remove the rear wheel, ease the punctured tube from the tyre, replace it and inflate it while leaning the bike against a wooden passing place post.

unfortunately, though setting off full of hope and eager to head towards the day's double-egg roll, i had gone but a few hundred metres, and that sinking feeling arrived once again from the back tyre, having punctured for a second time in one morning. i had checked the innards of the tyre for any incursion that may have caused the first deflation, but to no avail. with no more inner tubes at my disposal, there was no alternative but to head for home on foot, wheeling the bicycle as i went.

it could have been considerably worse; the afternoon's route was to have taken me around loch gorm, at its furthest, around 23km from home. the reality of saturday morning was that i was just over ten kilometres from home, a distance that took me a couple of hours to cover.

on repairing the damage with the bicycle on the workstand, i removed the tyre completely, checked the rim tape, rim edges and every inner centimetre of the challenge grifo tyre. i found nothing. fitting a new tube and inflating accordingly, the tyre remained perfectly sound. it's still ok today. quite what caused both punctures yesterday, i haven't the faintest idea. just one of those things, i suppose. however, following that lengthy walk home, i had the perfect excuse for falling asleep in front of the telly come saturday eve.

i wonder if hot chillee ever visit islay?

sunday 25 february 2024

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controlling interest

e-motor controller

anyone who has ever built their own bicycle from an amalgamation of the necessary components will know well just what is required to complete the process. and when i say 'build their own bicycle' i am not referring to those who are skilled with brazing or welding torches; that stage is someone else's problem; i'm thinking of those of us who started with a complete frame and fork set, and proceeded from there. in truth, procrastinating over the specification of the eventual bicycle, is one of the most joyous parts of the equation.

the hypothetical incumbent can opt either for factory-built wheels from any of the better known suppliers, or stretch the specification sheet a little further by opting to detail rims, spokes and hubs. though not the original set of wheels on my ritchey logic, i finally opted to have london's condor cycles construct a pair of wheels sporting mavic rims, laced to a pair of campagnolo record hubs via 32 stainless steel spokes, in a three-cross pattern. it's of what a decent wheelset consisted when i began cycling way back in the mesolithic period, and nothing has changed in the interim to have me believe the latest crop of straight-pull, minimally spoked wheels are a proven upgrade. and with the nation's roads becoming less and less smooth on a daily basis, a bombproof set of wheels seemed like a bit of a wizard wheeze.

however, there's little to deny that the major question one has to ask when assembling any bicycle of any particular genre, is whether to roll with shimano, sram, or, excluding mountain bikes, campagnolo? for many of us, the choice is a simple one; go with that which you know best and which has, until now, provided the best experience. the fly-in-the-ointment arrives for those who are in their formative velocipedinal years, unaware of the differences and similarities, or just how simple or hard it might be to get spares or upgrades.

that's where the cycling press comes into its own, whether in print or online. the internet is awash with reviews of pretty much everything currently available, and in one or two cases, stuff that has yet to make it to market. the difficulty is in separating prejudice from independent thought. granted, i believe the majority of reviewers to hold themselves to some standard of integrity, but everyone has their favourite and least favourite. it would be just your luck to read a review of campagnolo chorus, for instance, by a rider who has the shimano logo tattooed on their forearm.

and unlike the motor trade, for example, finding somewhere that will allow a test-ride, or a series of test-rides to find your own preference, is not an easy task, particularly if you live quite some distance from some of the larger bike stores. as someone who has ridden all three in both electronic and mechanical formats, i'd say it's quite likely that you'll grow to love whichever is your final choice, but don't stop me from carrying out your own research prior to plonking you hard-earned where your tools are.

and while we're discussing tools, it's as well to make yourself aware of the tools that might prove necessary to complete the assembly. for instance, if you opt for campagnolo, you will either have to purchase one of their eyewateringly expensive chain tools, or befriend someone who already has. at this point, it's prudent to return to the cycling press in all its glory, where it's relatively simple to find adverts relating to almost anything your palpitating heart desires.

in the good old days, when the comic featured vintage-style adverts proclaiming 'when thursday comes', a large number of its pages towards the back of the magazine were populated with full-page ads, stretching to double-page spreads which listed pretty much every component known to mankind, admittedly in very small print, but each item individually priced. nowadays, i can read the comic in a single saturday sitting, while consuming my soya latte and double-egg roll, but in the days of which i make mention, cycling weekly could last for days and days, calculator in hand, working out how much it would all cost if i opted for this, and this and this, ready and willing to be affixed to this.

those were indeed, the halcyon days of yore.

adverts featured wheels, spokes, bottom brackets, pedals, chains, q/r skewers, handlebars, saddles, seatposts, bottle cages, groupsets, tools - you name it and it could be found. and if you wonder what inspired this particular mechanical walk down memory lane, it was my happening across a series of adverts on one of the trade websites for 'controllers for dual-motor systems' an illustration for which you may already have quizzically witnessed atop this particular article. to make matters worse, these illustrations were labelled ld-ls86 and variations thereof. rolls off the tongue, don't you think?

you may now leave me to my reverie.

saturday 24 february 2024

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the way to go

barnacle geese over islay

the islay newspaper to which i provide my limited services was recently named 'community newspaper of the year' at the highlands and islands media awards in inverness a couple of weeks past. the head of the judges commended the paper on the basis of it providing an essential critical voice within the islay community; a feather in our community-based cap.

for those domiciled in somewhat larger urban or city locations, i might point out that difference between a local newspaper and a community paper, is the embracing of a localised sense of community, supporting the endeavours of local organisations and charities, while offering more economic rates of advertising for both the latter and the former. it also encourages community participation in the compilation of local news, predominantly on the basis of a lack of a large editorial staff.

advertised in the last two fortnightly issues was an islay birdlife festival to be held in the gaelic centre on the outskirts of bowmore village. this three-day event, organised by the royal society for the protection of birds (rspb) consisted of art workshops with renowned islay-based artist and broadcaster, heather dewar, photography workshops and instruction from a member of the rspb's local staff, while the ornithology trust were on hand to assist with bird identification.

working on the logical assumption that matters on the first of the three days might be slow to find its feet, i opted to attend day two, set to learn just how the event was faring, whether attendance had met with expectations, and hopefully to acquire a few photos for inclusion in the next issue of the paper. as (bad) luck would have it, i arrived during the intermission between workshops and after the ornithologists and photographer had departed to undertake outdoor activities. however, from the point of view of public relations, it was a visit that was worthwhile undertaking.

i have mentioned on previous occasions that the newspaper office is but a few hundred metres from the croft and thus outwith the need to procure a bicycle from thewashingmachinepost bike shed. and on previous necessitous visits to the gaelic centre, i have been content to walk the four kilometres distance that constitutes a round trip. however, during a production week such as the current example, time is of greater essence, entailing my riding to work aboard my cyclocross bike, leaving mid-morning for the event venue. it should be pointed out, in all fairness, that i do not own a motor car and islay's public transport system scarcely encourages its use within a specific time frame.

even accepting the fact that i am a regular cyclist, and reputedly fit enough to undertake any island-based bicycle travel, i can think of only one or two others who might have taken a similar option. and both of them are members of the sunday ride. but in possibly a perfect example of a self-fulfilling prophecy, the reason i'm fit enough for such velocipedinal outings, is simply because i ride my bicycle on a regular basis. the problem, as i see it, is the lack of fit and healthy islay residents choosing not to walk or cycle such minimal distances. it's a state of affairs that is reflected all across the nation and farther afield.

for several years i have naively hoped that my example might have been one followed by others; i'm sure you can guess how that worked out. and almost every morning, as i pop out for my pre-work walk of a couple of kilometres, i am passed by one of the secondary school teachers in his large, scandinavian motor car, driving to a building that can be clearly seen from my sitting room window.

islay is one of six scottish islands charged with achieving carbon neutrality by 2040. it has turned out to be a remarkably slow process, though i doubt anyone ever thought otherwise. yet i had expected greater progress than currently demonstrated. the biggest problem to be solved is that of the distilleries, all of which consume enormous quantities of energy, currently the majority of which is supplied by fossil fuels. but i'd imagine that transport comes a close second, one that could likely be at least partially remedied if there was either encouragement to undertake shorter journeys on foot or by bicycle. or some draconian ban on unwarranted use of motor vehicles within the boundaries of each village, none of which is larger than can be walked from end-to-end.

and then i woke up.

friday 23 february 2024

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carless and bible black*

calmac ferry

at one time, islay's locally-based roads engineer was a member of the sunday morning peloton. despite having a partly built lotus seven/caterham two seater car in the garage, he had begun his cycling career, such as it was, by perambulating the highways and byways of islay aboard his mountain bike, in order to better inspect the road surface degradation at closer quarters. as a result of occasional persausions from yours truly, he graduated from a mountain bike to a specialized road bike, which he ultimately rode as if it was a weapon, garnering strava badges like there was no tomorrow.

since he had inside knowledge of the whys and wherefores of local road planning, procedures and repair schedules, it was only half-jokingly mentioned that, as we turned off the main road at uiskentuie, we ought to place a road closed sign across its width, one of our number having already left a similar piece of signage at foreland road end as they headed towards the sunday morning grand départ. the latter could be collected and folded away as we passed en-route to debbie's, while the other could be despatched as i and the bowmore dwelling pelotonese headed home after coffee and toasties.

during the summer months, the circuitous parcours leading from loch gruinart to loch gorm and towards kilchoman distillery is apt to be the scene of intent distillery visitors and meandering motorhomes, the presence of which frequently interrupted sunday morning velocipedinal bliss. disappointingly, the engineer fellow was less than inclined to acquiesce to our prankish behaviour. as a result, the guess how many cars we'll meet between here and foreland? competition was born (for those interested, the maximum currently sits at 23 in a little over 6km).

i doubt that the velo club peloton is the only example of those wishing for a car-free future, or even a car-free punctuation of the usual vehicle inflected bike rides. however, unless the nation's motoring public has a sudden and wholesale change of heart and mind, it's something that will probably remain one of those pipe-dreams best kept to ourselves when in polite company. yet such oases of car free culture do exist, notably in tempe, arizona, where the aptly-named culdesac development refrains from appending car parking spaces alongside its apparently desirable residences.

culdesac consists of a 17-acre site featuring 760 units designed to ultimately house around 1,000 people. small beginnings perhaps, but such car-free areas already exist in new york and san francisco, as well as parts of mainland europe. and in order to assist with the car-free mentality, residency at culdesac arrives with a 15% discount on lyft rides, free transport on the metro, car sharing for a mere $5 per hour and 1,000 bike parking spots. the first 200 residents were also provided with e-bikes to help stave off any thoughts of rejoining the car culture.

motorised transport is unlikely ever to disappear altogether. even when motor cars have become reliant on electricity rather than fossil fuels, it's almost certain there will still be some corners of assisted mobility that still features the infernal combustion engine. however, as long as that knowledge is borne in mind, there's no real reason why the pursuit of a car-free culture can't continue unfettered. if islay's public transport system was to be radically improved, aided and abetted by plentiful access to bicycles and e-bikes, perhaps the extra length and girth soon to be displayed by the island's two new calmac ferries would prove surplus to requirements.

though i doubt it will happen in my lifetime (or even several of my lifetimes), i do look forward to the day when calmac begins operating cycle ferries, with row upon row of cycle racks on the lower deck. at which point, we probably won't need those two road closed signs anymore.

free to a good home.

*with apologies to king crimson.

thursday 22 february 2024

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work ethic

rocket bike

i believe i have made mention on a previous occasion, of my confusion over the existence of the e-road bike. though i do occasionally make use of my bicycle for commuting or transportational reasons, predominantly i ride my bicycle because i enjoy it, and because, almost inadvertently, it keeps me fit. when i commenced reviewing cycle clothing, i would specify size small in bibshorts and tights, but medium in jerseys and jackets - the latter option was predominantly due to my having long arms; if opting for size small in long-sleeve tops, the cuffs regularly came to a halt before reaching my wrists.

despite a few decades having passed since first i was offered the opportunity to review cycling apparel, i still comfortably fit into the above specified sizes. though i'm hardly guilty of over-eating, i'm tempted to cite my regular cycling as the very reason why my body-size appears not to have altered to any appreciable degree. and , in common with many of you, i seem to have maintained a reasonable degree of fitness for a chap of my seniority.

my confusion over the existence of the e-road bike genre, has much to do with all of the above. though the gravitational despondency that is imposed on each weekend's climb of the col du rspb (as to which i believe it is referred on strava), the challenge remains: to reach the summit while my fellow pelotonic colleagues are still within sight. it scarcely needs pointing out that the ascending obstacle as outlined above would melt away to insignificance were i to resort to an e-bike.

a few years past, when taking a party on a guided cycle trip to craighouse on jura, one member of said party genuinely enquired whether i found riding an e-bike to be a practical and enjoyable experience. i quizzically pointed out that my specialized crux was entirely bereft of either electric motor or battery. her reply indicated that she thought my speed of ascent could only be explained by the bicycle having been one with an 'e' prefix. i took that as a compliment, but also as evidence that riding my bicycle as often as possible was, indeed, keeping me fit.

while perfectly aware that tv series such as star trek is entirely fictional (so far), one does have to wonder if the transporter that allows individuals to travel from spaceship to planet in the twinkling of an eye, was developed from a sense of laziness. no longer would it become necessary to fuel and prepare a shuttle craft, before climbing aboard and piloting oneself several thousand kilometres from overhead orbit. and, as the mighty dave-t has frequently pointed out, though you can acquire the most expensive or desirable bicycle available, at some point in time, you're going to have to pedal it.

that latter observation would certainly help explain why perfectly fit and healthy acquaintances of mine have an unerring habit of driving themselves a few hundred metres from home to work, despite being perfectly capable of walking. that being the case, and it is so, in far more cases than you would hope, just as water finds its own level, human beings will predominantly search for the easiest option when it comes to getting from a to b, no matter the cost or apparent effort in discarding ostensibly simpler methods.

i am insufficiently well informed to know whether the above situation has become worse in recent years, when so many so-called energy saving devices have been invented, including wireless, electronic gears. when i was a small lad, walking a six mile round trip to school and back seemed perfectly normal; we all did so. i doubt if many of the school-age kids in bowmore village would agree, given that, despite the majority living no more than half a mile from the secondary school, a large proportion are taken to school in the car by mum or dad.

this would presumably explain why a recent survey elicited the disturbing information that 28% of brits would allegedly choose cycling as their primary mode of transport if it was easier and faster (objectives that i would have thought, may be considered to be mutually exclusive). arguably this would appear to be a convoluted means of pledging allegiance to the e-bike. or conversely, it might simply point out a more believable situation, that answering thus bathes the respondents in a better light than admitting that cycling would only present itself as a viable option when hell freezes over.

which, once again, beggars the question, "what is wrong with these people?

wednesday 21 february 2024

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lucky thirteen

ekar cassette

while i rode a disappointingly pragmatic raleigh shopping bike throughout my teenage years, my younger brother sped about on a red and green ten-speed racer, of which i don't mind admitting, i was particularly envious. i'd be fibbing if i said i could recall the brand writ on the downtube, but i do recall it had the brake cables exiting the tops of the levers, and the requisite gear levers clamped near the top of the same tube. and despite my own eager investigations being rebuffed by the bicycle shop owner, reputedly on the basis of those ten gears being somewhat flaky in operation, verging on the unreliable, i do not recall my brother ever being troubled in that department.

working on the theory that, if you want something done, do it yourself, i had still to wait until my college years were well behind me before mrs washingmachinepost ordered me a ten-speed racer all of my very own. how that all worked out for the better can surely be witnessed by the post soon approaching its 28th anniversary next month. need i say more?

however, the incremental increase in the number of sprockets available on the rear wheel can be explained in two ways. perhaps the most obvious, certainly with regard to recent developments, is that of marketing. while bicycle manufacturers can add or remove carbon seemingly at will, while altering its physical shape during the process of offering it in annual colour changes, component manufacturers have far less at their disposal by way of provision to their marketing departments.

adding a sprocket every so often possibly fulfils an inherent need, both technologically and promotionally.

of course, that which is likely to be quoted in those promotions is an ability to preserve the rider's cadence by lowering the numerical difference between each gear change. in a strange quirk of fate, that contention turns out to be true; if the gap between sprockets is minimal, say one or two teeth, shifting down or up, depending on cycling conditions, will provide a smoother transition than moving up or down by four. in effect, it's a win/win situation, providing the manufacturer not only with something to promote to their fan base, but a justifiable reason for doing so.

of course, it's eminently possible that shimano's move away from the freewheel of yesteryear to the cassettes of today may possibly be held responsible for allowing the numerical increase. the last freewheel that graced any of my own bicycles, was possessed of eight sprockets, following which the component became effectively redundant, replaced by its lighter and arguably more efficient successor. either way, many of us had mentally called time on reaching ten sprockets, theoretically doubling the scope of the above mentioned ten-speed racer (cross-chaining notwithstanding). vicenza, however, harboured other ideas, leveraging the spinal tap meme with the introduction of eleven speeds.

disappointingly, campagnolo opted to eschew the standard cadence reasoning, in favour of citing nigel tuffnel as providing the necessary inspiration. and then, of course, there was twelve.

as with almost every aspect of gear developments, irrespective of the originator, the continual addition of just one more sprocket was predicated almost entirely on the needs (demands?) of the professional classes. while it might be something of a bonus to experience continually smoother pedalling as a result of the aforementioned closing down of jumps between gears, the majority of us could probably cope without just ginger-peachy, thanks very much. the sunday morning ride has yet to include either alpe d'huez or the ventoux in its predictable weekly parcours, and i'd imagine the majority will find themselves in similar circumstances.

but, as you will be eager to revisit, campagnolo just couldn't satisfy themselves or their acolytes, with a mere twelve sprockets. while gravel riding might be more of an intangible state of mind, vicenza decided that it was time to invoke lucky thirteen as a means of equating its single ekar front ring with this enlarged number of sprockets at the rear. but of course, in the process of so doing, something had to give, and that something was the dimensions of its trusty freehub, one that had not altered since eight gears became the norm. it transpires that you simply cannot fit thirteen sprockets into the same space as twelve.

this was a problem shimano had encountered when upping their own ante, to compete with campagnolo's move to twelve speed cassettes. (as a brief aside, it verges on the inexplicable that it was found necessary to develop a gravel-specific groupset, when campagnolo subsequently outfitted the colnago of dutch cyclocross professional, ryan kamp, with their twelve-speed super-record wireless groupset)

i don't mind admitting that i have frequently considered replacing the sram rival 11-speed groupset on my specialized crux with a 13-speed campagnolo ekar groupset, but the apparent necessity of purchasing a new wheelset to accommodate such a shift has meant that particular notion remains as intangible as the construct of gravel riding. and though i tend to think that mrs washingmachinepost would put her foot down with a firm hand, were i to seriously consider it, campagnolo have, today, released a lower-priced version of the ekar groupset by appending the letters gt to the name.

retailing at close to £1200, it substantially undercuts the recommended retail price of the original carbon offering by around £500 (that said, it's possible to find the carbon groupset online at substantially lower cost). however, cognisant of the aforementioned need to acquire a compatible wheelset, campagnolo have additionally introduced zonda gt wheels priced near £600.

whether you think it necessary to have a reputedly unlucky number of sprockets at your behest while cyclocrossing or pretending you're in thrall to gravel, vicenza has now lowered the cost of admission. whether that's a good thing or not remains to be seen, but i may soon find myself in earnest discussions with my bank manager.

tuesday 20 february 2024

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

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

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

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

world bicycle relief

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

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

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

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