it's only an excuse

i've just come back from the bike shed of a saturday morning, having completed the necessary repairs on one or two bicycles deposited here for that very purpose. on finishing and still with mucky hands (best part of the job) i was placing the tools back on their own personal spots on the toolboard (this is all for your benefit, to make you think that i'm highly methodical in my approach) when i noticed that the colnago still bore the hallmarks of last weekend's run around the houses in the wind and rain.
as many of you will know, islay is an island pushing out into the atlantic ocean and meeting the same coming the other way. so to say the least, the atmosphere is salty, and the winds at this time of year (gale force predicted at the time of writing) are extremely effective at distributing the sodium chloride around and about. as to why most of it attaches itself to prized italian componentry is as much a mystery to me as to why so many people watch coronation street. islay also suffers from a bizarre set of affairs which dictates that the local roads department takes its instructions from mainland headquarters. the bizarre part of this seemingly unremarkable fact often results in large trucks out of an evening gritting roads that are neither frosty, icy or snowbound (in fact often wet with rain) because either it is icy at headquarters or the met office has predicted road conditions that would require the aforementioned grit.
consequently, while the local roads crew benefit from welcome overtime payments, the roads manage to build up a healthy crust of salt/sand at the sides of the roads. and since we all know where most cycling takes place, even on quiet country roads, there is no shortage of corrosives waiting to pounce.
if my methods were as methodical as i would have you believe, the colnago would be scrubbed and polished within an inch of its life before the wheels had ceased rotating, but in most cases, the bike is lifted onto the workstand, the bottle containing remnants of my lemon psp, lifted from the bottle cage and i head indoors to heat up/dry off or both, before changing out of my secret identity.
while i no longer (due to extreme laziness, it has to be said) have a separate 'winter bike' i do still have winter wheels which are ambrosio rims built on campag veloce hubs fitted with a nice new pair of axial pros (which have proved to be excellent in all weathers - i wouldn't fit anything else). since the hubs are pretty well sealed, they have now successfully survived three winters without servicing and still revolve as smoothly as the day they were purchased. thank you campy. however, the outer casing of the rear hub and the cassette both look as if they have been liberally dosed with sea salt (which, in point of fact, they have, though not by me). so while alloy doesn't rust as such, it does corrode - this is why i do not put on the spring/summer wheels with record titanium hubs, until the roads start be dry more often than they are wet.
i also note with great delight, that newer frames, including the latest columbus foca and deddacciai steel models, have resisted the desire to chrome the chainstays and/or other parts of the frame. chrome, while a very hardy coating, acts much like a sponge - it is porous and lets everything through to the steel underneath, which eventually rusts. despite liberal applications of autosol there are eventually pit marks that appear on the chrome surface - not so much on my chromed chainstay but the chromed steel forks are crying out to be replaced with a pair of carbon fibre (dream on).
i'm not naive enough to believe that this is a problem that applies to me and only me; i'm sure that folks on jura, colonsay, tiree and especially the outer hebrides will have as many hassles as i have, and gary, an american chappie who is over here working at finlaggan, said that the area he's from has the same salt air and similar problems. it must just be those of you in cities and central mainland that have an easy time of it keeping the expensive bits looking as they did when in the shop.
then again, maybe not
so unless you are posessed of such vast quantities of money and an understanding spouse that you can afford to replace an entire bike on an annual basis (i've tried but they always find out before you get a chance to order), it would seem prudent either to take care of the machine immediately upon returning from the daily 60 mile ride (does anybody actually believe this?), or get into a maintenance routine of greasing, oiling and servicing the bike on a weekly/bi-weekly basis to keep it running for as long as is practical. it is likely that componentry will require to be replaced at sometime but, as i am rapidly finding out to my cost, you might well be better to buy a groupset before finding out that the rear mech doesn't work with your existing shifters (that's marketing for you) and, to be honest, i'm sure we can all find a way to justify that (though i am willing to receive advice as to as many different ways as possible, in cse the first few fail to hit home).

Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here

any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from or

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

this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork, on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.

on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh ibook and imac computers, using adobe golive 5 and adobe photoshop 6.0.1. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.