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dave t's phrase of the week

"so there we were, on the upper slopes of the ventoux when i turned to fausto and said..."

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very trying

jez, myself and four non cyclists (james, alasdair, kevin and lewis) travelled over the water to lochgilphead at the weekend to take part in what seems to be an increasingly popular form of sporting recreation - the team triathlon. lochgilphead is one of the more recent converts to this phenomenon, though it's not a new one. we've been running one here on islay since 1992 and i doubt we were the first.

for those new to the concept, one person swims, one cycles (or attempts to, in my case) and the third one runs. the lochgilphead event was particularly well organised and apparently well oversubscribed. there were fifteen teams and ninety individuals taking part on what turned out to be a pleasantly calm but exceedingly wet afternoon. jez put in a very respectable time on the 20k cycle, while i would have been better timed with a calendar, and despite being absolute purgatory at the time, in retrospect we had a great time. i have a long list of excuses for my dismal performance if anyone cares to hear them...

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congrats jez

post contributor and colnago owner, jez hastings of islay birding has become the first visitscotland five star activity type thingy in scotland. so if you're ever on islay...

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power

my love affair for the bicycle has often centred round the fact that it's a beautifully simple machine. wheels are objects of art (well, they are to me, so there), the frame (full suspension farm gates notwithstanding) is a similar object of artistic and mechanical simplicity, even if constructed from nano tech carbon fibre, and they can generally be repaired with an assortment of spanners, allen keys and one or two specialist tools. that's something that can't be levelled at the modern motor car.

however, inasmuch as i adore this simplicity, i am not the uci, hellbent on standing foursquare in the way of lighter bikes and technological progress. campagnolo has been developing electronic gearchanging for a number of years, and quite successfully by all accounts, followed closely by the big s doing likewise, while mountain biking has suffered from a plethora of hydraulic disc brakes and suspension, which have become de riguer whether necessary or not.

5 red front derailleur

so it should come as no surprise that the humble gear changing system has now veered towards the hydraulic end of the actuation spectrum. not on road bikes you understand, because wires and electronics seem to be satisfactory on relatively smooth terrain (certain giro d'italia stages and islay's roads being taken into consideration), but as a seemingly logical development for the mountain bike. now you would think that something of this engineering fortitude would be coming from one of the big three. but it's not.

christoph muthers of 5red has struck out alone and produced the striking looking derailleurs and shifter shown here - state of the art cnc machining and beautifully scaled hydraulics, which doubtless owe part of their efficiency to the large strides made with disc brakes over the past few years. while expense appears not to have been spared, the cost of such a system is likely to be reassuringly expensive (it must be something about german engineering excellence - cast your mind back to carbonsports). the hydraulics push the mechs in both directions - no return springs need apply.

5 red hydraulic gearshift

christoph's website is only in german at present, though he has promised an english version and hopefully to keep the post informed as to his progress. it won't be appearing on a colnago near you sometime soon, but it does (well, to christoph and i, at any rate) make perfect sense for the technological stratosphere that is downhill mountain biking. and i wouldn't rule out future road bike applications.

i'd be willing to bet that at least one of the big three is learning german.

if this seems like the very set of componentry you need for your bike, please hold off contacting christoph until beginning of 2007 when production should be at a stage where limited supplies can be considered. start saving now...

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am i bovvered?

seems scott bicycles and the big 's' have been collaborating on bottom bracket technology (why am i not surprised?) and enabled press fit bearing cups that allow scott to do away with any threaded inserts in their carbon bb shell. scott have exclusive rights to this 'technology' for all of 2007 but it figures that everyone else's 2008 carbon frames will be awash with this.

just what we needed, even less standardisation of bicycle technology than we already have. this means that if you buy a scott 2007 road frame, you have no option but to fit shimano bottom brackets and chainsets. which should prove interesting since the saunier duval team currently ride scott bikes with campagnolo groupsets. does this mean that campag will have to alter their brand new ultra-torque to offer the same option? official rumour says more than likely.

oh to be a bicycle mechanic in the new millenium

campagnolo have a downloadable movie (mac and pc) on the evolution of their new ultra torque chainset/bottom bracket available from their website. and when the computer animation morphs to reality, guess which make of bike the ultratorque is fitted to? since the movie downloads as an flv file, if you'd rather have it in a quicktime friendly format, option click here

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the brit pack - a history of british riders in the tour de france. bromley video. 2disc dvd set 31.99

britpack dvd

simon and luke at rapha would love this stuff, and i'd be surprised if they didn't own a copy. we have to accept the fact that if bromley produced a 'french pack' or 'belgian pack' or some such, they would run to considerably more than two discs, and it's probably only us who still refer to 'great britain' who would feel the need to produce an historical record of how well we've actually done in the tour de france. it is largely because of cycle sport's minority interest this side of the channel that the achievements of those who crossed the water to take on the greats of the tour on their home territory loom large in the british cycling psyche.

and much like tony hewson's 'les nomades du velo anglais' it wasn't quite the easiest career move to make. charlie holland explains during his interview from 1986 that the continental riders were fervently hoping that he would drop out of the tour, since his successful 'unassisted' status (he had no team or manager) threatened to show up their own, less disadvantaged efforts.

there are endless documented entries to show how hard it was to survive as a continental cyclist from the early days of le tour, but some of the previously unseen footage (on eight millimeter film with accordant sound) is just too marvellous for words - who knew that half of this stuff existed?

all the greats are represented here including max sciandri (a very welcome inclusion despite his dual nationality), sean yates, chris boardman, tommy simpson (who, despite his notoriety, i confess to having known little about, apart from his untimely end on mont ventoux), barry hoban et al. even the great commentators are not neglected - voice over is by phil liggett and notable interviewees are sir jimmy saville and duffers.

naturally enough, and i have mentioned this on the appropriate section of the post, a chapter of major interest is that on robert millar. excellent footage of his king of the mountains win in 1984 and, if i haven't mentioned it before, his fourth position overall, still to this day the highest placing by a british (read, scottish) rider ever in the tour de france. to watch robert simply ride away from bernard hinault is a joy to behold.

millar's contemporary, malcolm elliot gains a chapter and a bonus piece of television coverage and we move as far forward as david millar, currently reviving his post drug bust career by winning the time trial in the 2006 vuelta.

these two discs are a masterful piece of cycling documentary, every bit as valid as something like l'equipe's book celebrating 100 years of le tour. whatever level of cycling knowledge or ability you posess, if you're a british cycling fan, you need these dvds in your collection. celebrate what our nation is capable of despite its minority status. available from bromley video

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broadband tv on the tv

i know you all watch cycling.tv on your computers, though some folks have plugged the computer into a tv to watch it bigger. well, cycling.tv's technical partner, a company called narrowstep, have announced a tie-up with a set top box manufacturer (amino) to provide broadband channels via the real telly. at least, i think that's what they said. here's the technical speak:

"Video content can be made available in linear schedules, via a search function, live and on-demand to meet the viewing requirements of all end-users. The easy to use Electronic Programming Guide will enable easy real time management of IPTV for channel operators, and offers built-in commercial models such as subscription, pay-per-view and dynamic one-to-one advertising, to IPTV channel owners."

so now we know.

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scribbly bikes

bicycle paintings

if you can cast your minds back to last december, the post featured works by brooklyn artist, taliah lempert. and unlike some artists of my acquaintance, she has not been resting on her laurels (so to speak). her website, bicycle paintings seems to be updated almost as frequently as the post, and on a recent browse of an evening, i came across a wonderful 'new' direction in bicycle paintings which taliah refers to as blind drawings.

it seemed pertinent to ask why they were called blind drawings (an uncharitable onlooker said 'because they look as if they were done with her eyes shut") and this is the answer i got:

bicycle paintings

"I started doing blind drawings 'cause I've been working on my drawing a lot, I'm relooking at some of the ways to learn to draw in the first place, mainly the book The Natural Way to Draw, kind of a modern approach and the Bargue drawing course, more academic. Going through the Natural way there's a big emphasis on blind drawing, which is a pretty standard part of learning to draw. You really focus on what you are drawing and imagine your hand following every movement of your eye as it moves around.

bicycle paintings

"The first bike I drew like this was Michael Barry's kid bike and it was cool & fitting to make these kinds of drawings of a child's bike. It's good to look at different ways of making a picture and I like the very loose quality of drawing while concentrating only on looking at the bike. I like the explosion of color and lines, there's lot of movement. These drawings are good in themselves and also hopefully help train my eyes and hands, and carry something over into my work, when I do look."

taliah lempert

i don't intend to turn thewashingmachinepost into an online 'modern painters' or a forum for art discussion, but i think these drawings are wonderful. if you've ever looked at a racing bicycle at rest, you'll know that it looks fast even when stationary. these scribbly drawings capture all of that pent up movement, the excitement that the artist feels for the bicycle. since taliah races track, i'm betting that she likes bikes at least as much as the rest of us.

you can bag yourself a blind drawing from bicycle paintings, for fewer dollars than you'd think.

all images are copyright taliah lempert and are reproduced with permission.

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where do we go from here?

if i have interpreted many of the old illustrations of early bicycles, most of them were made from wood. ok, so there were bits of wrought metal holding most of the wood together, but you get the general drift. so when the early cycle manufacturers felt it would be a good idea to make their products lighter, and also to allow them to make them a bit quicker, tubes of steel seem to have been the order of the day, thereby giving us, for better or worse, the double diamond frame so beloved of the uci today. this steel tubing hung around for quite a number of years, traditionally having one tube joined to another by silver soldering near perfectly mitred tubes into sometimes ornately carved steel lugs. in fact it was often the amount of ornament in the lugs that allowed each manufacturer to differentiate themselves from their competitors, something that mercian cycles (and other bespoke manufacturers) still do to this day (though i wouldn't pay 2000 plus for a fixed wheel whether paul smith had anything to do with it or not).

if you remember the famous reynolds tubing with which all self respecting racing cycles were created - 531, 653 and 753. i confess to having owned bicycles utilising all three variations, though not necessarily in the same bike. what happened to them? well all three utilised to a greater or lesser extent a manganese molybdenum steel alloy which responded well to lugged construction, but wasn't too happy about the mass production efforts of tig (tungsten inert gas) welding, and reynolds had to revamp their range utilising the more common chromium molybdenum steel which tigged quite happily. and suddenly, while no-one was looking (well, apart from cannondale), along came aluminium (aluminum if you're across the pond) alloy. now i admit to not being a fan of the latter, based entirely on the earliest models available. lots of folks built aluminium bikes using plain gauge alloy which was fine if you were on the hefty side, but had a tendency to transmit just a bit too much terrain information back to the skin and bones if you were of a slightly frailer build.

over the years (and we're only talking about the last ten years or so) framebuilders have become much cleverer with aluminium both in mixture, extrusion, and naming (scandium anyone?) so my initial prejudice need not apply. but alongside this development we have had titanium go in and out and in of fashion along with developments in carbon fibre that have culminated in pretty much everything ridden by the professional peloton today and a goodly number of us wannabees too. but do we really need all this?

carbon fibre can be 'tuned' to the demands placed upon it by the daily demands of cycling, though it is a somewhat moot point as to whether most of us can create these demands in the first place. after all, if it has become necessary to construct the wing roots of the latest big bad airbus, it seems somewhat like overkill to build a bike out of the stuff (and i speak as the fanatical owner of italian carbon fibre). yes it's very light and yes, if the uci would only allow you, it could be (and has been) made into some disappointingly esoteric shapes. but for the majority of us, steel would be perfectly ok. still.

so in the two months of the year, when everyone in the bike industry congregates in germany, italy, las vegas and london to show off the very latest carbon frame or widget, we have to sit down and think 'where do we go from here?' we've gone from wood, to steel, to aluminium, to titanium (and touched on magnesium and even beryllium) and come out the other side with all our eggs in one carbon fibre basket. but i don't see any other forward looking trends appearing. i am only a watcher, since i know little enough about engineering technologies to be in a position to predict the next step. reynolds have started shipping their 953 tubing which is a very light stainless steel, but on the basis of what's being shown at the bicycle fashion shows, carbon need not be worried.

the possibility exists that this will be solved by external forces. for over six months now, a shortage of carbon fibre has been predicted due to the increasing requirements of the aviation industry. shortages inevitably lead to increased prices so it may well be the case that we all have to look elsewhere for our next fix simply because the bank manager says 'no!' i for one would rather have a comfortable, light rideable bike made of metal than be a pedestrian lusting after carbon i can't afford.

while carbon has been described by no less than mike burrows as 'burnt plastic' perhaps the latter will be the wave of the future. there have been one or two less than successful plastic bikes but those were not created by those with performance in mind, whether offroad or on. one can only imagine what colnago, pinarello, specialized or trek could do with plastic using their extensive r and d budgets. of course, i could be horribly wrong. and i rather hope i am.

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tell them we sent you

quick mention for those intending to visit islay's shores on a bike during what's left of this summer. velo club d'ardbeg recommended coffee/tea stops - in no particular order.

club headquarters at the old kiln cafe, ardbeg distillery. excellent food and good coffee, though strangely (and disappointingly) still no espresso or cappucino. the single malt is apparently just ginger peachy.

bruichladdich mini market (debbie's cafe), a few hundred yards from the distillery. minimal eatery, but highly commended designer coffees with outside tables. we like.

the croft kitchen, port charlotte. longest established of the threesome with everything from full four course meals to the vca recommended carrot cake and designer coffees.

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

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