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very slick - continued

ok, only a brief update, since it has rained quite a lot since part one was posted, and this has allowed considerable attempts to slide about islay's back roads with a liberal coating of the wet stuff.

suffice to say at this stage (over 300km so far) these tyres are great - no, i mean really great. yet again the council boys have been out chopping down large clumps of trees and the inevitable gorse along the high road (not the defunct television programme), and despite their best efforts to clear up the bits that fall on the ground, a number of passing places (how quaint) are liberally strewn with mounds of sawdust. fine when it's dry, but often a bit of a liability when wet. and having made a rapid dive into one of those just the other morning (to avoid a truck that was much larger than i), no skiting across tarmac was displayed at all. road grip is indeed mine.

tyre pressures are 95-100psi and the comfort factor is as good as any other i have tried. more news at 500km, though when these wear out in a year or two, there will probably be another pair of the same replacing them.

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very slick - part one

schwalbe ultremo

since there's not any print deadline for anything that appears on the post, it perhaps makes more logical sense to update road tests while they happen rather than wait until some arbitrary point in the future to present the completed thesis. at the time of typing this, i've put nearly 200km on a pair of schwalbe ultremos, and while that's hardly a lifetime on a pair of tyres i might reasonably expect to achieve between 3000 - 5000km, first impressions often make more difference than the later kilometres by which time i might be used to them.

as mentioned on an episode of the 'hebridean commute', i cycled a few miles through roads that had been left with a partial covering of decimated gorse bushes and the ultremos shrugged this off as if it wasn't there. that's a very important factor on the island, since some areas are more remote than others and, at this time of year, it's not always too warm. spending time at the side of a back road trying to fit a new inner tube due to a puncture is not a welcome task at any season, but particularly not now.

the ultremos have an internal band of tightly woven schwalbe ultremovectran, a material that composed the bulk of those big airbag things that shrouded the mars lander when it bounced onto the surface of the red planet. a puncture on the colnago might be inconvenient - a puncture on one of those things might give nasa more than egg on their collective face. so not only am i glad it's there, i'm confident that it will do just what it says on the box.

so far in the test, it hasn't rained to any great degree (hard to believe, i know), so all current impressions are based on dry or mildly damp roads. many of these roads make paris roubaix look like a motorway and have included a few cattle grids for good measure. (worth pointing out that i fitted schwalbe inner tubes, with those cool transparent dust caps, to make this a more complete test of the company's products. according to chris hearn of bohle uk, schwalbe importers, each tube is individually manufactured in germany with no join, and each inflated to test pressure before being boxed for sale.)

up until this test, the colnago has been shod with michelin pro light 2 through all its development phases since the axial pro of 1998. the pro light 2 has a declared weight of 220g, while the schwalbe ultremo has a claimed weight of 195g. (in mitigation, the pro race light has a claimed weight of 190g, but michelin do highlight less puncture resistance than the standard pro.) now in real money, that's just less than an ounce, but remember that it's rotating weight which has a greater effect on a bike's performance than static weight. at the level i'm at, and possibly a large number of the ultremo's target market, this won't make much difference to the sunday ride (i'm not noticeably any faster), but it does appear to make life smoother.

schwalbe ultremo on colnago

and aside from the ride quality, the tyres were easy to fit on a pair of 2006 campagnolo proton wheels, and just as easy to remove. in my experience, something that doesn't necessarily apply to all modern road tyres (or mtb tyres, come to that).

so at the moment, the ultremos have given a similar ride to the continental tubulars fitted to the lightweight wheels tested earlier this year, and they were oh, so sweet. for probably regular updates on how the ultremos are fairing through the islay winter, check back from time to time.

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wrench science

cyclus_logo

it's many a long day since i felt the urge to dispense mechanical knowledge to the great and worthy, but with a carpet of 'flemish toothpaste' covering most of our roads, and therefore probably lots of other roads around the country (particularly if you dwell in agricultural regions), now seems as good a time as any.

bottom brackets these days tend to be sealed units and there's not a lot that can be done about an ingress of murk, other than replace the unit when it gives trouble. so we're not going to concern ourselves with the bicycle's nether regions. but it does make more than a good deal of sense to look after your headset.

the colnago was originally fitted with a campag record headset at birth, and i bear hordes of shame in admitting that the same pair of cups and bearings is still in place after three years (and a few months). it has been regularly serviced, but everytime i open it up, i have been dismayed at the incredible amount of gunk that has not only mixed with the grease in the bottom cup, but also in the top one. perhaps campag's sealing is not what i thought it to be. but now, when a modest degree of play appears in the steering, even a very light degree of adjustment results in the dreaded 'indexed steering' or 'brinelling' as the techs would have it.

headset

sadly there is no way back from this malaise, and a prospective diet of rough, ready and crappy roads, interspersed with several cattle grids, is unlikely to improve matters. granted, with colnago's refusal to succumb to the integrated headset illness, leaving things as they are is unlikely to have any detrimental effect on the carbon centre of my world, but it's not an ideal situation. so the only long term remedy is to replace the headset.

in common with many who have no regular need for more sophisticated headset tools other than a plastic mallet and a couple of bits of hardwood, historically i have simply battered headset cups into submission and into the headtube. but those were all but indestructible steel lugged frames, and it all worked out well in the end. but the colnago is made by the guys at ferrari (well, almost) and somehow blocks of wood and mallets don't quite fit the scenario.

and unlike those of you who can pop the bike into the nearest bike store for headset therapy, i am the nearest bike store so it has become necessary to acquire headset fitting bits and headset removing bits. park tools would have been lovely, but sad to say there is somewhat of an inverse price/how often am i going to use these ratio. so the next headset fitted to the company colnago will get there courtesy of cyclus bicycle tools. what's the difference between park and cyclus? about £89 as far as the headset press is concerned. when the headset arrives, i'll let you know how professional they make me appear.

and in the finest tradition of a grimms fairy tale, there is a moral to this. check your headset every five minutes (you know what i mean...)

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winter cool(ness)

when i started getting more seriously into cycling many moons ago, the best you could hope for by way of non advertising hoarding apparel was a ron hill 'tracksuit', seemingly much favoured by those who considered themselves serious touring cyclists and who continued to wear such clothing when blindly walking about the supermarket looking for provisions.

santini wool jersey

if you were a cyclist in civvies, about the only giveaway was the little oval patch on the back of each hand (mine can only just be faintly seen as i type). now, however, all has changed: the superior being can now lounge about in giro d'italia zipped sweatshirts, even when the observationally challenged still look and say they didn't realise i was into football(?). and while it is somewhat of a cycling faux pas to turn up at the sunday run (even on islay) wearing a polka dot jersey, slumming around the office wearing the santini world champion wool jersey depicted here, would be considered coolness personified.

what makes it even better is the price - just under a hundred pounds. so if you wish to start the new year subtly stating your transportational or sporting preference, contact mick or andy at prendas and i'm sure they will be happy to assist.

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now i'm really cross

ira ryan cyclo cross bike

davie graham joined the islay contingent of velo club d'ardbeg for the 2006 gran fondo ardbeg, and it turned out that he is/was a bit of a cyclo cross aficionado. i know this because he has very kindly copied me in on his e-mailings to let the great and good of the scottish cyclo cross scene know where and when each weekend's racing will be.

i don't own a cyclo cross bike, and even if i did, it would be something of a trek (no product placement intended) to make it to the mainland to get muddy of a winter's weekend. but it's nice to know that there's such a great following for 'cross north of the border. or, indeed, anywhere at all.

jez, newly promoted to his post of assistant editor at the post (you too can make up your own job titles. it's fun.) does actually own a cyclo cross bike (it's a cinelli, since you ask), but i've not known him to use it for its intended purpose, even though some of our roads are making it hard to tell the difference.

and then along come anthony and brian on cycling.tv's uci channel presenting copious amounts of european cyclo cross racing on broadband (did i ever tell you that this is what broadband was invented for?) and now i'm hooked. i am eager for the next race. and what makes this form of the sport more accessible to joe public than perhaps a six hour stage of a three week tour, is the fact that races last a mere hour plus one lap.

and even more aligned to thewashingmachine post's irrational prejudices is that more than one of the top guys batters round on the cyclo cross version of the colnago c50. and also the curious, but eminently satisfying fact that they don't seem to use linear pull brakes ('v' brakes to you and me). cross bikes have beautifully simplistic and mechanically effective cantilever brakes, with great names like spooky and frogs legs.

spooky carbons

spooky brakes are available in death defying carbon fibre at the even more death defying price of $259 per pair or £110 in the uk without pads or straddle wires (you can get more details in the uk from cx imports or in the usa from cyclocrossworld - though at the time of writing, they were out of stock). so back and front may use up most of your loose change but worth it on looks, let alone their avowed stopping power. for the less well heeled, the spookys are available in good old alloy for a mere £55

cross seems to be big across the pond - chris distefano of chris king products tells me that sram sponsor a team of colnagos for the cyclocross season (naturally fitted with ck headsets). that seems to me to be taking it seriously.

i am also reliably informed that the tyres de jour for the ultimate cross bike should be made by dugast though this will entail having a pair of wheels with what we roadies would refer to as 'sprint rims' - dugast only make tubulars. and the top of the range dugast tub will relieve you of €125 (£84 or $161). i have no idea if the top guys run clinchers, but i'm sure someone can e-mail to tell me.

dugast tubulars

not too sure about the notion of having several bikes in the pits in order to change when the first one gets dirty - i don't think you can do this in mountain bike races, but cross has been around a lot longer than mtbs so no doubt there's some good reason for it. nor about the addition of artificial obstacles to the route, but there can be little denying that it adds to the thrill of the chase. (watch the highlights of the treviso race on cycling.tv)

so we should perhaps point our gratitude in the direction of cycling.tv, since i can find at least five scheduled races between november and early january, which is far more than i think have ever appeared on eurosport. i'm afraid i do not know what sort of tv coverage cross receives in the usa.

my apologies for having the temerity to pen (euphemism for word process) an article about a branch of cycling about which i am woefully ill-informed, colnago c50 cross bikethough i have found out a great deal more in the process of researching, but the post has a history of approaching any form of cycling (well, apart from those guys that jump off things) with enthusiasm, and a dearth of knowledge should never prevent that. just watch scott coady's 'cobbles baby' if your enthusiasm has been locked in the bike shed for too long, then pop over to cyclo-cross.com and download a video of the 2005 world championships. or subscribe to cycling.tv to watch the rest of the season.

better still, get yourself a cross bike and ask davie graham where and when the next race is

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vorsprung ortlieb teknik

lots of yummy cycle stuff comes out of germany these days - we've had those amazing wheels from carbonsports, fitted with smooth as silk continental tubulars, the colnago is currently shod with schwalbe's latest and now, just to help the hebridean commuter along his merry way, we have the ortlieb sling-it with 16 litres of space encapsulated in hard wearing and effectively waterproof cordura.

ortlieb sling-it

ortlieb's marketing spiel describes it as 'an extravagant and fancy shoulder bag', so it worries me somewhat as what they consider to be dull and drab, since the item under review is khaki green and black. crumpler bags are extravagant and fancy, this is functional, which is all we really wish to ask of a shoulder bag for the rural commuter. (to be fair, the sling-it also comes in red/black and yellow/black. fancy.)

i know not how much you know about islay, but around this time of year we have upwards of 50,000 overwintering geese on the island, and none of my acquaintance would take kindly to extravagant and fancy. this will do nicely thanks.

ortlieb sling-it

marketing would have it that it has a coated and padded inner organiser for safe laptop transport (see photo). now fortunately the day has not arrived when i have found this to be a necessity and having just been out in a force eight gale featuring our old friend, torrential rain, i would need a great deal of convincing that my computer would have been still dry upon my return. there is a larger version sized to deal with the world's larger computers, (up to 15" according to ortlieb) so check first if this is a feature you think you might need. the larger model has an internal capacity of 21 litres.

ortlieb sling-it

computers aside, there is a large amount of room inside. 16 litres is obviously more than i had imagined. i was carrying a change of shoes and a large digital camera, and there was still plenty of room for other items of clothing, perchance a newspaper or a copy of cycle sport. there are two zipped pockets with wee pen pockets inside one, gearing it adequately towards the cycling business person, or chaps from thewashingmachinepost.

ortlieb proudly state 'no pvc' on the attached tag - the fabric is a very substantial cordura with 'welded' seams and large patches of velcro to keep the necessary bits tightly shut. the rim of the enclosure is internally fitted with what i take to be stiff plastic, ensuring that the bag retains its shape whatever you have managed to stuff its insides with.

as you can possibly see from the photo, there is a hefty shoulder strap with a removable pad for the bit that rests on the shoulder, and a removable fixing strap to stop the bag swinging all over the place when on the bike. this is the bit that gave me difficulty since ortlieb do not supply wearing instructions. perhaps i'm just too dense to suss the correct mode of wearing, but my initial foray into the great beyond either had my rear view over the right shoulder obscured, or the bag swinging across my back when bopping up a hill or two. i think i may have overcome this by re-positioning this fixing strap, so any complaints should probably be laid at the door of operator error - time will tell.

if you'd prefer something a little funkier than a rucksack (and the jury is still out on that one - early days yet) then this may be just the item you need. it's certainly waterproof and space for stuff is great and retails at a shade under £62.

the ortlieb sling-it is currently the subject of a long-term test on the hebridean commute, so check the page from time to time if you're interested.

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in case of emergency, pull tab

assistant person at the post, jez hastings has been scrabbling around in a rapha gilet for as long as i can remember. he tells us why.

rapha gilet

i have been testing this rapha gilet for a year now, so i've a bundle of experiences and emergencies in which it was key. at first look it has two major points: 1 it is incredibly small and light; 2 it looks like something an extra from the rocky horror show would wear, or maybe the silver one looks better still (very starlight express-ish).

although both true at first glance putting it into use made me rethink. this is an amazing piece of kit and has been with me on and off the bike. when i'm not riding, i spend the rest of my time out of doors teaching people how to live with nature and in the wilderness (don't ask) and it is therefore eminently suitable for the climate up here. what with regular winds of force 6-7 and cold rushes too. and that's just the summer months(!) it has a regular place (when not being worn) in my rear pocket or rucsac.

fabric wise it's made of pertex parachute material at 30grms (super light), as used in those big round bits that stop people from falling out of the sky too quickly, it's also pretty impressive as a wind blocker. the back is a stretchy mesh that at first glance, looks rather weedy, but it's strong and allows the back to breathe (you get very sweaty riding into a relentless headwind for hours at a time). it also has a zipped breast pocket (not too sure what for).

to get the gilet over a cycling jersey, the top has a double zip one on each shoulder, and velcro tabs to hold the high-ish neck closed. i wasn't too sure about this system at first, however it is much better than a single zip, allowing a comfortable airing when open, but preventing a cold blast down the centre of the chest. the elastic base holds it tight on top of a road jersey and the reflective piping does what it says on the box.

In use it has worked well, and you may have picked up on my enthusiasm for it by now; I have used it flying down the alpe d'huez at 65km over my vc d'ardbeg jersey, (you had to get that bit in, didn't you - ed) to daily/regular use here on islay. the most impressive was at the Braveheart ride a couple of weeks ago, when it was almost as wet, but not as windy as islay. i wore it over a merino wool undershirt and rapha road jersey and under our club s/s nylon jersey. no waterproof jacket for me. i was warm, dry-ish and happy the whole ride.

therefore, what really pays for kit of this quality and price, is when it is in use, this is not just a fashion accessory but a well designed and now a vital part of my kit.

rapha have now reduced the price of the emergency gilet from £85 to £50 so now's a great time to avail yourself of one. and while we're in rapha mode, the next issue of their luxury quarterly magazine rouleur now edited full-time by guy andrews, is available on 30th november. subscribe now and get a free pair of merino socks. i know it makes sense.

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ascent. the mountains of the tour de france by richard yates. van der plas publications $29.95www.cyclepublishing.com. available in the uk from prendas for £22.50.

it seems that the modern, commercial world of cycling has sent many ascent by richard yatesof us scurrying back to the halcyon days of yore when we all watched in sepia and monochrome. to the days when men were men, bikes were steel and tarmac hadn't been invented. the post has recently reviewed the velopress tome, cycling heroes (see below) and now this hardback appears from van der plas publications of san francisco. what is it about american publishers and european cycle history?

read more

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when thursday comes

when thursday comes

we're all creatures of habit at heart - admit it, don't you just love coming home from work on a friday, with the weekend ahead, sitting down in front of the central heating and having the basset hound bring you your pipe and slippers while a copy of this week's comic lies menacingly on the pile of newspapers and magazines at the side of your chair? or maybe that's just me, minus the pipe and basset hound.

several years ago, cycling weekly ran a series of adverts entitled 'when thursday comes' a clever spoof on the saturday title that referred to that minority sport of soccer. those adverts were great, and let's be honest, so is the comic. in the face of cycling websites that update by the second and feature races that sound as if they were made up by someone in the marketing department, the comic has soldiered along manfully, still providing us with local british race and time-trial results, as well as international race reports. and hands up those who spend ages combing through the classifieds in case someone's selling the same bike you've got? for how much?

with eurosport and cycling.tv broadcasting an ever increasing range of races, the need to get the comic on a thursday to find out how our heroes fared at the weekend has admittedly diminished. and yes, the covers have become markedly worse than almost any other title on the market apart from heat and closer (sorry nigel),the comic but thursday would not even begin to be the same without cycling weekly comfortably ensconced inside the daily paper.

our newspapers arrive on the island on the morning ferry, and we are rapidly approaching the time of year when the weather prevents that happening - and it's always on a thursday. that means that i don't get the comic until friday - i am not fun to be with for the remainder of that thursday.

so admit it - your cycling world would be grossly devalued if thursday came and there was no comic. and if you haven't a clue what i'm on about, buy a copy - soon.

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wingra heron hops & derailleur society

wingra heron hops and derailleur society

no, i didn't make this up. it's a bicycle club, seemingly in a similar vein to velo club d'ardbeg except there's more of them. based in wingra, wisonsin, they have managed to have a short movie about them made and posted on the sony media software website.

you can read about how the movie was made here, but if you're not a techy person, ignore that completely and watch the movie here.

if i've read the intro text properly, the film was apparently made by sony to demonstrate how easy it is to achieve moviemaking with only a digital video camera, a microphone and, of course, sony software. all that aside, isn't it indicative of something or other, that they chose to make a movie about cycling.

world domination is assured

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loitering with in tent

depending on how seriously you take your cycling will depend on how much you know about serious training methods. and i don't just mean eating two power bars an hour and using the eleven sprocket.

since i may well have some serious cycling to keep me occupied come next summer, i am going to have to stop kidding myself that the odd 70km on sunday before espresso will cause valverde to rethink his season, and train seriously. and i'm quite looking forward to the challenge. at least i am at the moment.

but it seems that it is no longer enough to fulfil il campionissimo's dictum of 'ride a bike, ride a bike, ride a bike'. currently being touted on competitive cyclist's website is a range of cat 'altitude tents' as used by levi leipheimer, jan ullrich, johan musseuw and roberto heras, amongst others, enabling the very serious cyclist to train at sea level while sleeping at altitude.

competitive cyclist have a very comprehensive pdf file available explaining why the heck you would want to sleep in a tent to make that ardbeg jersey move even quicker (to get to the old kiln before the clootie dumpling cools down). costs in the usa start from a mere $215 for a face mask (which has to be plugged into a $6200 generator allowing simulation of up to 12,000ft) up to a $7,750 tent system.

and there's enough room in there for a turbo trainer

the colorado altitude training tents are distributed in the uk from altitudetraining.co.uk. costs here are from £150 for the face mask to around £4500 for something all the family could sleep in. thanks to bill mcewan for assistance in the uk and rip young in the usa.

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size matters

we all know that the bicycle industry is as prone to the foibles of fashion as any other. you can read reviews in almost any of the monthlies where a paint job can be described as 'so last year'. that's just the superficial side of cycling.

but are we in danger of being sold fashion as engineering innovation, while the tried tested and faithful is being dumped over the side. like the 1" steerer that used to be a standard feature of all the world's road bikes. did aluminium kill it off? and does anybody care?

read more...

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couldn't resist this one

rapha merino top

no apologies for this. how could i resist printing the pic above? rapha and colnago in the one picture - this one depicting the new (lower price) rapha merino training top. see more at rapha's website. how long before we get a rapha - colnago sportwool jersey? please.

drool...

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seriously folks...

plastic peloton people

just to prove, as if further evidence were required, that we don't take everything too seriously at the post (apart from the coffee at debbie's on sunday) - aided and abetted by andy and mick at prendas, this has to be the best cyclist's christmas present ever.

if you are a regular subscriber or reader of procycling magazine, you may recognise anthony pope's plastic peloton person. i say person because these are all depictions of lance armstrong through the years, cunningly disguised as a lego person. and if you look closely you'll notice that they are all smiling apart from the lance with the cofidis jersey. now that's attention to detail.

framed, individually numbered in a limited edition of 500 and signed by their creator, they are available from prendas for £20. get in quick.

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serendipitous

velopress catalogue fall 2006

there i was tapping away on the keyboard espousing the merits of cycle posters available from velogear (see below) and what happens? the very next day a velopress and a velogear catalogue arrive in the mail from colorado (along with some fabulous postcards with illustrations from the 'cycling heroes' book reviewed below).

but style is style wherever it appears, and the chaps and chapesses at velopress have outdone themselves with the cover of the 'fall 2006' (autumn to those of us in the highlands and islands) catalogue. cycling minimalism at its best. so much so, that i have shared it with you here - front and back shown above. the contents can be accessed via both the velopress and velogear websites. buy stuff and they're bound to send you a catalogue.

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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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