i would think that the 'danger' for anyone writing a regular (or irregular, as the case may be), is that there always exists the probability or possibility that you will find yourself repeating yourself. there's always a sort of deja vu in that you come upon a subject that seems just there to be written about only to realise that the reason it seems ripe for same is that you wrote qbout it a few months or years ago.
well, i'm willing to live with that. if i can't remember if i wrote about something just recently, i'm willing to hope that my reader can't either and plough ahead regardless. so this time we're on the issue of research and development otherwise known as marketing ploys - i'm employing the the conspiracy principle here so you will perhaps excuse the cynicism as it appears.
i know for a fact that i've mentioned before that i always figured that when you acquired a mountain bike, there were endless widgets and gadgets that could be added to said steed over the course of time, while when you bought a road bike, that was it. well road bikes have inherited a fair number of 'developments' from the mountain bike world - inch and an eighth head tubes and a-headsets spring to mind - but they also seem to have inherited the incessant tinkering of the manufacturers.
by this i don't mean tha fact that cipollini's bikes now look like zebras as does mario himself, but more the endless trendsetting that will hopefully sell more frames. although the post has endless admiration for colnago, somehow adding a hole to the chainstays on the c40 and charging about another £300 for the privilege seems a bit rich, if you'll pardon the pun. and pinarello making the rear stays and front forks look like they've been designed by salvador dali on the new dogma elicits a similar response.
while we're almost on the subject of pinarello's dogma, i spy another worrying trend starting. a few years ago, steel framed bikes were de rigeur. aluminium was, at best, used in the extremely lightweight bikes for mountains or, occasionally, time trials, thopugh i don't think cannondales have ever been made of anything else. now everything is aluminium, even the very cheapest of the cheap and steel has been relegated to winter training frames or, at the other end, top line exotica (pinarello's opera and fondriest status carb are steel main tubes with carbon rears and the corum from de rosa is made from dedecciai 16.5 steel).
the dogma, however, is made from magnesium, supposedly exclusive to pinarello but i notice that the carrera brand from halfords has £1000 bike also made from magnesium tubes (one then has to wonder why pinarello's magnesium frame costs over £2000). magnesium, as a metal, is particularly prone to corrosion, so if this problem has been overcome, and it seems likely that it has, then it is a more easliy workable and potentially lighter material than aluminium. so if it catches on, and i see no reason why it wouldn't, then everyone will have to junk their alloy frames and get magnesium. and the manufacturers will rub their bank balances with glee.
being on an island, and away from the hustle and bustle of daily cycling life, i have no real idea how often folks replace their frames (perhaps some of the more active readers would care to e-mail and let me know, and we can call it some kind of a survey - and i don't mean sponsored riders who get a new frame every couple of months - ok lance?) but i have held on to my steel colnago frame for about six years and i have a reynolds 653 frame sitting forlornly in the bike shed that's about three years older than that. both have survived very well, though the colnago would be showing less signs of stress if ernesto didn't insist on chroming so many bits. chrome, sea air and winter grit do not sit favourably with each other. both still ride well (at least, as far as i can remember of the 653) but, if like me you are prone to buying every cycle magazine you can lay your subscription on while regularly browsing the cycling websites, you can't help suffering from feelings of inadequacy on viewing the nice shiny carbon/alloy/magnesium/berillium that surfaces in the adverts and bike tests. but does it all make sense?
check out all the current offerings from colnago (www.colnagonews.com) and if you look closely enough, you will notice that they still sport regular headset cups, even the most recent dream and c40 models. check pinarello (www.pinarello.com) or litespeed (www.litespeed.com) and compare. most of their most recent models sport the 'integrated' headset - what campagnolo have cleverly called 'the hiddenset'. these work by incorporating the headset bearing surfaces into the head tube, thereby lowering the stack height and consequently the distance between upper and lower bearings, especially on large frames. however, despite presenting a more 'aerodynamic' head tube to the world, i shouldn't think too many cyclists pedal fast enough for this to be a factor even in time trialling, though aesthetically it is particularly pleasing. but how many of you have ended up with 'indexed' steering due to 'brinelling' of the bearing surfaces? i know it's happened to me occasionally, but it becomes a simple matter of replacing the headset and glory be, a new bearing surface comes along with the replacement.
but if it happens on your hiddenset? well the bearing surface is contained as part of the frame, and having spoken to someone who attempted to re-cut a damaged bearing surface and trashed the frame as a result, i can't really see the attraction. the bicycle has always seemed an simple proposition to me because of its component nature and the relative ease with which damaged or worn parts can be replaced. there seems a danger of this being disturbed.
if we go back to my earlier point that corrosion is almost an inherent factor on everything bar a full carbon frame, what happens to those frames, alloy or steel, with carbon rear stays when the metal starts to corrode? granted the majority of setups have the rear carbon bits glued (bonded) to the seat tube, but if the surface to which the glue is bonding corrodes, then those splendid wishbone stays will end up rattling about every time you stand on the pedals.
millar, armstrong, ullrich et al have nary a problem since their frames are replaced before they're old enough to suffer from such problems and i doubt if they spend several hours in the bike shed of a sunday morning drying them off and cleaning the grit after a particularly grotty weekend training ride. that's what mechanics are for and there are probably not too many grotty weekends in the sunny climes where winter training is carried out.
don't get me wrong, i don't think it should, or expect it to be otherwise for professional cyclists, but it worries me slightly that the developments made to frames tend to be made at the leading edge and almost immediately applied down the line to those of us who can barely reach the trailing edge. granted, it's a nice option to be able to purchase a bike almost exactly the same as the ones the pros ride (don't know of anyone who has succeeded or wants to buy a formula one ferrari just because schumacher drives one) but i'd prefer to have bike that can be easily serviced without a truck full of campagnolo frame tools and a full set of spares.
because i don't know that i'd notice the difference.
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 amazon.co.uk or amazon.com
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 powerbook g4, ibook and imac computers, using adobe golive 5 and adobe photoshop 7. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.