now just before i start into this piece, let's get the excuses out the way: i was up early on saturday morning, then i'd to ride into a gale force wind to get to the port mor wheelers before riding home into the same wind. then i was playing a gig in the evening, so i'd drums to set up, play, take down and get home around 1:30am which, due to the commencement of british summertime, meant it was actually 2:30am. so having matched a saris powertap rear hub with a garmin edge 705 gps unit, it's no surprise that the figures displayed would not be the least bit worrying to sir chris.
a couple of years ago, cyclepowermeters.com were kind enough to release an srm crank for test on the company colnago - a test which was no more impressive in the numbers game, but which suffered, to my mind, from requiring a trail of wires along the down tube, as well as a sensor stuck inaccessibly on the bb lug. this time it was yet again cyclepowermeters to the rescue, sending a handbuilt wheel featuring a pro+ powertap hub and mavic open pro rim. not that it was really intended to be a part of the test, but the wheel (building of which is sub-contracted to a third party, due to a high degree of business at cyclepowermeters) was darned well built, surviving less than billiard table surfaces with aplomb. saris have incorporated the all but proprietary ant+ wireless networking protocol into their current crop of hubs (an upgrade is available to those purchasing before this became the norm), allowing pairing with suitably enabled 'head units', in this case, a garmin edge 705.
cyclepowermeters can supply the rear hub with either a shimano or campagnolo compatible hub, a particularly pleasant offer these days when the former seems a smidgeon overweening. there really is little to compare with the comforting snap of a complete campagnolo drivetrain.
pairing the units is simplicity itself: navigate to the settings menu, and scroll down to ant+ and effectively tell the garmin that a powermeter exists. of course, with only eight different display areas available on the garmin's screen, it's necessary to decide which of your current set of numbers you're willing to give up. in this case, i dumped cadence - which strangely hasn't worked for a few months - and average heart rate in preference to power and average power. aside from ensuring that the digital power switch is on, giving the rear wheel a quick spin should let you know whether all is well or not. (there is a very helpful video on garmin's website that walks you through all the above steps.)
i can't pretend that this worked perfectly, for reasons that i don't understand; after the initial setup, i had some very impressive numbers display on the screen, impressive but for the fact that the bicycle was stationary at the time. first ride gave a bit more of the same, when all seemed to be normal and above board at the point of grovelling up the hill at storakaig, to the accompaniment of some very nice digits on the garmin. sadly flatland riding was less complimentary, but doubtless only too realistic. all this was spoiled on stoppage at debbie's for a wattage infusion when the meter spiked to 16,000 watts, rather skewing the average power reading, and making me a dead cert for the british track team in 2012. by ride number three, however, all seemed to have settled into a comfortable groove with numbers that would have to be doubled and multiplied by the colour you first thought of, before they'd even be considered adequate. still, now's a good time to nip back to the top and read those excuses just one more time.
of course, during the ride is not the time to be paying too much attention to the garmin display, that's for the post ride entertainment. assuming you are either a geek, nerd or simply comfortable with the computer age in which we live, the proof of the pudding is in the downloading. part of the reason for this test was my perceived connection between power output and the gps information stored by the garmin: by comparing the power readings with location details it would be possible for rider, coach or both, to figure out where gains could be made; whether power was being lost on the climbs (yes), or on the flat (yes) aiding that all-important training plan. such a comparison seems a great idea until the geek or nerd within realises that there doesn't seem to be any suitable software to undertake this task.
cyclepowermeters recommended the wko+ trainingpeaks software or sporttracks: the latter happy to deal with gps map overlays, and the former to give excruciatingly detailed graphs of just where those watts were missing, but combining the two would seem to be a case of installing and juggling both (unless i've missed something somewhere). both are for windoze only: macusers are no less well-served; the online garmin connect allows gps examination, as will garmin training center. ascent which i have used with the garmin before, promises compatibility with power graphs from the garmin edge, but i couldn't find any way of doing so, and i notice from their online forum, that i'm not the only one in this situation. it seems there might be a gap in the market, if anyone is in the mood to plug it; the notion of comparing power with location seems quite an obvious notion to me - however, i couldn't write a piece of software if my life depended on it.
in mitigation, i am well past the stage where any amount of advanced training such as offered by the powertap/garmin combo would make any difference to my performance on the sunday ride. so perhaps the gps/power comparison is simply a novelty i'm chasing rather than perceived as of major use to the aspirational cyclist. nonetheless, in practice, this seems the way to go: no fiddling with an ugly looking chainset, wireless or otherwise, simply a change of rear wheel which is just as easy to swap if you fancy a watts free ride. the wireless performance, first two rides notwithstanding, was first class, as was the wheel itself. the hub was occasionally a bit chattery over less than comfortable roads, but it is a mite larger than your regular campag or chris king offering. seemingly a fit it and forget it solution.
the wheels as supplied, built round a cycleops powertap pro+ hub (it even came with velox rim tape) costs £925 direct from cyclepowermeters or you can rent it from £11 per week for a minimum four week period - a garmin edge 705 can be had from an additional £4 per week. if you're not sure whether watts are for you, this might be the more pragmatic introduction to the world of graphs. phone or e-mail bob tobin, because if you could bottle technical support, his would be the preferred contents.
posted on monday 30 march 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
what started out as an alternative to print, so to speak, has now come of age, with the release of the second album - episode two. for those entirely higorant of which i speak, a rumination of literary cycle fans, headed (apparently) by philip diprose, figured that there was no quality outlet for writing that spoke of the many facets of enthusiasm(s) and passion that people from all over the world felt for their bicycles, where they rode them and how they rode them. in a feat of organisation that would put the united nations to shame, many, many writers, photgraphers and artists were contacted (including myself, i might add) with a view to contributing what would become the ride journal, volume one
printed in a limited edition of 1000, they all disappeared like snow of a dry stane wall: giving rise to an obvious market and plenty of enthusiasm for the ride journal volume two. the publication of this follow-up album has taken a tad longer than i think any of us would have liked, but i am informed that pages are getting closer by the minute. contributors for this second instalment inhabit all levels of cycling stardom, from those with none at all to those currently on the top: chris hoy, greg minnaar, pharrell williams, john tomac, dave yates, us framebuilders, south african and us cyclocross, australian bmx. and one of the most painful track crash stories you'll ever read, all contained within 160 pages of soulful musings, stunning photographs and incredible illustrations.
and one more thing, as steve jobs would say - exclusive pics of a certain texan who's making a comeback.
posted on monday 30 march 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
this morning's ride, coming as it did after the clocks went forward by one hour at some ludicrous time during the night, was hard. hard because the wind had shifted overnight to its more usual southwesterly direction, but without a trace of the warmer draughts that can usually be expected from this specific angle. yesterday morning was a lot worse, since the north wind doth blow, and did in fact blow me off the road while minding my own business down uiskentuie strand. however, since the sunday ride is often the only decent ride i manage these days - too much work, not enough cycling time - the harder it is, the better it is for me. absolute purgatory at the time, but ideal for reflected glory over a double espresso soya cappuccino later on.
it is a feature of this southwesterly wind that the closer we get to debbie's in order to bathe in this reflective and exaggerated glory, the more the wind blows harder in our faces (and bodies, arms, legs...) and making it to the spedding sprint in a position to contest said scrabble for the 30mph sign, becomes even more of a game of cat and mouse than it usually is. we have a strong suspicion that most of britain's sprint track team learnt their tactics and moves from the mighty dave t.
however, as of the end of last week, there is even more reason to attempt to either win or come second in the end of ride whizz: a sofa. long have we bent deb's ear to install a sofa a la central perks, that those weary legs might be rested in exotic comfort. foolish but accommodating woman that she is, debbie had obviously listened, because there, in the corner, was a two seater sofa with cushions; a prize worth racing for. so the agreement was arranged while we circled the principality, that the first two across the line would be rewarded with being seated on the spedding sprint sofa, a particularly enticing carrot, i'm sure you'd agree.
of course (and the more astute amongst you will have seen this one coming a long way off) no account was taken of the fact that maybe, just maybe, debbie might have other customers of a sunday lunchtime who would be suitably attracted by the option of a comfy chair while supping their designer coffees. which is exactly what happened. staggering in through the front door with legs only just still in operating fashion, jez and myself, first and second in the sprint, were somewhat dismayed to discover two other cyclists, who couldn't possibly have experienced the pain and suffering we had just endured, sitting in our rightfully earned seats. decent chaps that we are, we settled for the new designer chairs around the tables, casting derogatory stares askance whenever the opportunity presented itself. all, sadly, to no avail.
but i tell you this, if it happens again next sunday, there will be trouble.
the photo is of mr hastings and spartacus on the spedding sprint sofa at debbie's
posted on sunday 29 march 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the number of variations on the bottom bracket on the market today means that it's doubtful that any can claim to be the industry standard despite the marketing ploy of at least one major cycle manufacturer. the square taper isn't dead: so far the humble single speed track chainset seems not to have strayed from what did indeed used to be the standard. the square taper moved subtly on to the isis and shimano splined versions, before all caution was thrown to the wind and the big s stuck the bottom bracket axle to the drive side crank, moving the bearings outboard in an effort to increase stiffness and increase the bearing size. campagnolo have followed suit, but in one of those oblique marketing ploys to remain eccentrically different, the bearings are fixed to the cranks; only the empty bearing cups are threaded into the bottom bracket shell. of course everything continues apace: now there are botom bracket shells in some manufacturer's frames that press-fit the bearings without cups. and yes, that means the bearings have moved inboard again. go figure.
so now that the dust has vaguely settled, at least enough to start making commercial decisions, chris king components of portland, oregon released their own bottom bracket last year; well, they released a set of bearings in cups that will allow use with other people's chainsets. sadly for us colnago owning campagnolo aficionados, not only is it only available in english threading, but it doesn't work with campag chainsets. actually that first bit isn't entirely true: up until recently, all colnago's italian frames bore italian threading in the bottom bracket shells, while their far eastern offerings used the more common english standard. lately, colnago have decided to adopt english threading across the board (with the possible exception of the master steel frame), so provided you'd prefer shimano, fsa or sram, you can pop a chris king bottom bracket in your carbon eps.
i, however, own a colnago c40 with italian threading, so wiggle very kindly (and i really do appreciate this) allowed me to retain the focus variado expert for a few days longer and to replace the fsa bottom bracket with which it arrived, with a rather fetching brown anodised ck version. chris distefano at chris king very helpfully included the toolset required to fit the unit, so a hot knife through butter adequately describes the ease with which this was achieved. since i own the appropriate park tool to fit shimano/fsa bottom brackets, i checked that this would fit the cups too, just in case you don't feel like shelling out for the rather more clever looking ck version. while the park tool works, it's nowhere near as effective as the ck tool, which employs a square slot in the centre for a ratchet. also with the tool kit is a greasing unit which fits on the end of a grease gun and allows fresh grease to be evenly distributed through the bearings: it's a very clever and simple idea, but since this bb was brand new, i have had no need to try out its effectiveness.
the chris king bb arrives with three spacers to allow fine tuning of the chainline: since there was a spacer in place on the factory fitted fsa unit, i replaced it with one of the ck versions when fitting. it subsequently turned out that this was not only unnecessary, but had moved the chainline sufficiently to the right to prevent changing to the big ring. the moral of the story is to check before you ride.
since the focus was split new when it arrived, the fsa bb performed beautifully from the first pedal stroke, so i really didn't expect to notice much, if any, difference when riding with the chris king. but it just shows how wrong you can be. considering this morning's ride required every gram of forward motion available due to gale force, sub zero winds, the chris king unit was a revelation; despite my colnago using a campagnolo record bottom bracket and thus being used to quality revolutions from my cranks, this was, literally, unbelievable. i really did not expect this. if you're finding sluggish progress from your existing steed, or fancy a really effective upgrade, this is quite probably it. chris king are one of the very few companies to manufacture their own bearings in-house, apparently a very smart move if the quality of the bottom bracket is anything to go by; to say nothing of their headsets and hubs. and if chris king are renowned for anything it is the longevity of their components - so while the bottom bracket is as smooth as a very smooth thing at the moment, in around ten years time, there's every probability that it will still be performing at the same level. (it has a five year warranty.)
available in a myriad of colours, the chris king bottom bracket retails at around $129 in the usa, and £100 in the uk. worth every cent or penny.
posted on saturday 28 march 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i believe it was 1989, during the tour of britain. cycling rather well, but not showing any great interest in the race, robert millar popped off the front of the peloton and headed off into the distance, eventually winning the race overall. when interviewed after the stage as to why his sudden burst of energy that left most of the field standing, he said he'd just be given some good news. it subsequently turned out that the good news was greg lemond's recruitment to team z for the following season. after lemond's eight second victory in that year's tour, it's easy enough to understand why robert had become so cheery, particularly since greg won the tour again in 1990.
and so rose the star of vetements z, the brainchild of roger zannier as a means to promote his children's clothing range of the same name. of course many other fine cyclists wore the distinctive jersey through it's run in the professional peloton: atle kvalsvoll, ronan pensec, eric boyer and paris roubaix winner, gilbert duclos lassalle. having said only a few months ago that keeping one eye on the prendas website for jerseys of an iconic nature was an excellent idea, you really have to hand it to the chaps for producing such a fine garment at such an excellent price.
the vetements z short sleeve jersey is available in sizes xs through to 6xl (for the sprinters) at a cost of £45 ($65), and if wearing this rather brightly coloured jersey were not enough to dazzle the rest of your peloton, there's an authentic casquette to match; one size fits all for only £7.50 ($11). buy both of them together, you can save some pennies and be charged only £50 ($72).
i'm sure robert and greg would wholeheartedly approve.
posted on friday 27 march 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
thewashingmachinepost does not provide the income (actually, it doesn't really provide any income) to keep a colnago in the pristine condition which it deserves, so it is necessary to undertake work that has a greater degree of remuneration. and a apart of this work involves hours of sitting in front of an imac (a very nice 24" screen) laying out pages for the local newspaper and exhibiting the many facets of my black belt in adobe photoshop. and while the ins and outs of local news are not strictly within my job description, it's impossible not to have noticed one or two idiosyncracies and eccentricities that seem to concern themselves only with the parochial.
over the years, one of the features that has grown to become almost an annoyance, has been the predilection of various societies, associations and individuals to inform, by way of press release, telephone, word of mouth or e-mail a forthcoming event. not so strange, you may well be thinking to yourself, but the annoying factor arrives after the event has taken place: nothing. not a photograph, a report or even a mention of how the whole thing went (or in some cases, didn't went). since this is an annoyance to me on behalf of others, i try as hard as i might to avoid imposing the same annoyance upon you all reading these black and yellow pixels.
sadly, in many cases, i am prevented from informing you of the aftermath of any event or happening i may have flagged up during the course of my scribblings; sometimes because nobody tells me, but quite often because i simply am not in a position to be present at everything, or even anything that occurs in the wonderful world of cycling. happily, in the course of handcrafting thewashingmachinepost over the years, i have been fortunate to attract many correspondents who are not only happy to inform me of things i might otherwise not have known, but in some cases, are happy to send a report of sorts after attending themselves.
a few weeks back, i alerted you all to an audience with the great graeme obree in glasgow's tramway, an alert that had been passed on to me by johny cunningham, a long time benefactor to the post. and not only did mr cunningham point out this unexpected appearance by the flying scotsman, but was in a position to attend and send me a brief report this morning. for this, i am truly grateful, and i'm hoping that after i have mangled his words, you too will be as appreciative.
graeme talked for two hours straight, with frequent questions from the audience in between. he invited questions on any topic from the outset, which helped prompt him into more detail about the stages of his career. jc tried to draw him out on verbruggen's crusade, but he said he didn't take it personally and left it at that. a few tried to tease out more, in his own words, about "my 32 hours as a professional road cyclist" with le groupement. he said he was fired because he wouldn't take up the 'medical backup'. there were a few chuckles and quips then about 'medical backup'; the audience was filled with knowledgeable fans, but it wasn't a 'dirty washing' session. about an hour in, some director or other of the new transport museum fund (which the ticket sales were in aid of) announced that "the bar was shutting at 8pm", to which a voice at the back shouted "we don't want a drink", nobody moved and graeme carried on.
showing what trust he has in everyone, he passed around the medal he received for his second successful hour record breaking ride. on the reverse it states 27 april 1994. 52km 713 metres. A good hour passed before the medal reappeared from the audience back to the front.
he would have talked till midnight and everyone would have let him, but another 'suit' jumped up and ended our fun.
above is a picture of graeme's latest bike, built by himself with "the last 653 tubeset in britain", to comply with present rules for an hour record attempt. the huge gear is 67 x 13. he was asked his cadence on it and he said 74rpm. he's developed a new riding style to suit it, also using a conventional bottom bracket with wide pedal spacing to apply a twisting/leaning motion on the cranks to get his whole body powering the 1/4 turn or so he said he uses to punch the gear round. he's also using shorter cranks, 170mm against his previous 172.5mm, using the famed obree reverse logic to get the results he wants. (johny says this may not be explained as well as graeme did, but he understood what graeme meant.)
so there you have it - not only did we tell you about the event, but now we've told you about the event. once again, i am grateful to johny cunningham and to eric spencer for not only attending on their own behalf, ostensibly for an evening's entertainment, but for having the perspicacity to make mental notes of graeme's discourse and take a photo of the bike. is everyone else as jealous as i am?
posted on thursday 26 march 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
fausto coppi is one of the most admired cyclists of all time, certainly for his avowed style on and off the bike; style that is, pertaining to his pedalling grace and a degree of sartorial elegance, often absent from the peloton of the forties and fifties (and certainly missing from the current racing scene). he was also renowned for his illicit affair with the woman in white and most certainly for his almost inexplicable early death at the absurdly young age of forty.
born in 1919, coppi was a son of the earth; his parents ran a small farmstead in castellania, something we in scotland would probably refer to as a croft. so life wasn't a bed of roses from a financial point of view, and young fausto certainly wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth. that cycling offered a way out of such endless and low paid work, which could conceivably have been the only career path on offer, is something that has identified the sport for the greater part of the twentieth century. while we might match the mantra of pain and suffering with black and white pictures of coppi ascending mountains with no other in sight, this pain and suffering was far better remunerated than farmwork.
the young fausto turning out to be easily one of the best cycle racers of his generation is none too surprising, as his background would likely provide a healthy work ethic: not for nothing is the advice ride your bike, ride your bike, ride your bike attributed to the man, when asked how the prospective cyclist should train. that he should become known for his refined tastes and attitude to life is less of an obvious connection. unfortunately this addiction to the finer things in life was eventually to bring him nought but anguish in his private life, leaving his wife bruna for guilia occhini - the legendary white lady.
mr fotheringham has certainly done his research into coppi's life and cycling career, a not unexpected aspect of any literary tome from his word processor, but what was unexpected was its apparent lack of adherence to the latter part of the book's title. for despite fallen angel being a fine read, exhibiting a literary comprehension that avoids foisting itself upon the reader, i find myself at the end of the last chapter still unaware of william fotheringham's passion or dispassion for such an iconic rider.
high up on the wall of my office is a large black and white poster of fausto ascending alone during the 1952 tour; coppi was an icon when he was alive, and in much the same fashion as jimmy hendrix, john bonham and kurt cobain, his star has been rising and increasing its glow since his untimely death in 1960 from undiagnosed malaria. his career had much to commend it: world champion, five giro wins, two tour wins, milan-san remo three wins, paris roubaix one win and italian road champion a total of four times. there is obviously much to back up the esteem in which he is held; this isn't the first book to be written about il campionissimo, and it will likely not be the last, along with the film footage available on dvd, bearing witness to his battles with bartali, his importance to italy during the war years, his devastation on the death of brother serse and throughout, his adoration by the tifosi.
so by my reckoning, any book released in the anniversary year of his giro/tour double in 1949 has to not only to recognise the passion of fausto coppi, but to try to explain both it and the reflective glory enjoyed by coppi aficionados. perhaps even to indulge this passion in its chapters. william fotheringham must surely be a coppi fan to have even considered writing these chapters - heaven knows it's been a long labour of love. perhaps i have simply not been clever enough to read between the lines to appreciate his passion. if the book has taken the opposite tack - analysing a coppi divested of the legendary status with which the last forty odd years have encrusted his character, then i will admit that i may have missed the point. fallen angel is a very good book; it leaves no stone unturned, it explains much in great detail and it organises his life and career into an appetising read.
what it doesn't do is explain to me why i, and millions of others adore coppi with an almost religious fervour. maybe i should go and read it again.
fallen angel: the passion of fausto coppi will be released at the beginning of june 2009. this review is based on a yellow jersey press, uncorrected proof which arrived in paperback format (the published version will initially be hardback) and devoid of any photographs or an index.
posted on wednesday 25 march 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................