whisky galore


for the purposes of this trip, we'll consider islay as being round, though a quick look at any map will easily convince you otherwise. but as the strategy behind the ride is ostensibly to start in one place and end up back at same, round does it for me.

since i live in bowmore, it would worry the clouds of judgement to begin the ride anywhere else, but in order to retain an incentive other than hot food and a shower, i didn't start with the distillery of the same name. rather than do so, i headed out along the low road, local nomenclature for the very straight eight miles leading to the village of port ellen in the south. entertain a headwind in this direction (as i did), and there quite literally is no shelter at any point; i'm not one much for checking weather forecasts but scanning the horizon before setting off is the least required in this case.

the reason i'm off in this direction is to visit, in sequence, the three closely grouped distilleries along islay's southern coast. with one exception, all of islay's distilleries are situated on the shoreline, since prior to the rapid increase in road transport, and the appearance of suitable ferries to and from the island, everything in and out went by puffer.

for reasons of logistics, i cycled past laphroaig and lagavulin en route to ardbeg, with the clear intention of stopping at the other two on the return trip. this distillery, formerly owned by the previous owners of laphroaig, and latterly used to store casks from same, is one of only two to have appended a restaurant, in this case, the old kiln cafe. in order to fit as many of the island's eight distilleries into a single day without time-trialling, my arrival at ardbeg was just ahead of what could be described as an appropriate time to eat, though if pressed, a coffee could easily have been had.

as a record of having visited, i intended to take a photograph of my velo de jour - a production sample 2010 colnago ace - in each still room along the way, as well as a photo of a miniature proffered by each establishment. this may be seen as a trifle out of the ordinary, but i feel i ought to make the declaration at this point that i am, in fact, tee-total, and as such, have no desire to sample any of the produce created at each stop along the way. aside from which, those rear pockets on a cycle jersey have things to carry other than eight miniatures.


ardbeg suitably accounted for, it was back on the colnago and off in the general direction of port ellen, visiting lagavulin and laphroaig along the way. the coast along this part of the island is dotted with small sheltered bays and inlets, at least a part of the reason why the distilleries are so situated. today is windy, but not overly so, and cycling is a very pleasant way to cover the distance between the three. along the way i pass small groups of whisky aficionados intent on a walking pilgrimage.

most of the island's distilleries schedule 'quiet time' during the summer months, allowing essential maintenance to coincide with a natural reduction in each individual water supply. lagavulin was in the last throes of this period and their still room still bore traces of paint tins, brushes and dust sheets, but enough space was available to lightly heft the colnago into a position with the stills as a backdrop.

strangely, in these days of rampant commercialism, lagavulin no longer sell miniatures of the brand, settling for a rather larger bottle for those only wishing a sample rather than a steady supply. i was later to discover that caol ila, also owned by diageo, suffers the same proclivity, thus derailing my cunning plan to have a photo of such from each location. at least they had a still room.

round the curve of lagavulin bay are the remains of dun naomhaig castle, at one time the summer residence of the lords of the isles and thus historically connected to finlaggan much further north. not much exists apart from crumbling stonework, and the ruin is best seen from the route into the bay by boat.


the road to laphroaig is rather leafier, with most of the left side of the somewhat uneven road bordered by trees, including the attractive, tree-lined avenue leading to the distillery. opposite the entrance is the field of designated land parcels owned by the friends of laphroaig. a cleverly disguised marketing exercise, membership of the friends entitles you to claim one square foot of this 'islay land' which is dutifully marked on a map and in many cases 'claimed' by the act of placing the national flag of the member's country, square in the middle. laphroaig 'rents' this land back by payment of a dram each time the member return's to the distillery. and many of them do with alarming regularity.

currently owned by jim beam, laphroaig has a rather impressive still room and an even more impressive and recently refurbished visitor centre. it is the only islay whisky to have been granted the seal of approval by hrh prince charles, a fact proudly proclaimed by the royal seal on the distillery wall.

leaving laphroaig is to let yourself in for a lengthy cycle consisting of less than favourable road surfaces, a few hills and some astounding scenery. it is perhaps a sad fact that those of us who live on this beautiful island often fail to see that which attracts many others, the distilleries being a case in point. most of us see the distilleries as being no more remarkable than the local supermarket because they've always been there, but eight of them midst a population of around 3500 makes it the highest number per capita in the world.


riding out of port ellen, past the site of the former port ellen distillery, now dwarfed by the bulk of diageo's port ellen maltings, i opt for riding along the 'high road', a narrow, singletrack road that uninterruptedly leads to a half mile short of bridgend village. however, in order to take in the next port of call at caol ila distillery, cycling is vastly improved by turning off onto the glen road, an even narrower and less frequented route that leads past dun nosebridge, an unexcavated huge iron age fort.

much of islay is split into estate land, owned by various 'absentee landlords', though fortunately they generally have the island's and its population's best interests at heart. the glen road is entirely on dunlossit estate whose owners have a commercial interest in raising pigs, groups of which are dotted along the lower reaches of this road. these pigs seem to startle rather easily often giving rise to a similar reaction from daydreaming cyclists. islay on the whole, is rather flat, with all the bumpy bits being round the edges, but as the glen road skirts those edges, it's almost unavoidable that some of the route will head upwards. fortunately, once past knocklearach farm, the descent can be quite exhilarating, if a touch shorter than the climb.

caol ila

the road brings me out at ballygrant quarry around midway through ballygrant village, and it's a simple case of checking for oncoming traffic, before turning right and heading towards the sound of islay. and it's at this point, entirely coincidentally, that i meet up with the mighty dave t. it is the stretch of water between islay and jura that gives one of the distilleries on its shores its name: caol ila is gaelic for sound of islay. the road to the distillery veers off the main port askaig road and climbs briefly before descending quite steeply. it flattens for a very short distance, at which point the distillery and the fast moving sound are visible over the armco. caol ila's still room is one of the more iconic amongst islay's distilleries, it's six enormous stills looking out through large windows to the sound and across to the paps of jura. it's also situated on the first floor of the building, meaning a heft across the shoulder to get the colnago in place for photos. never so glad of lightweight carbon fibre.

climbing the road out of caol ila seems steeper and longer every time, and might be one of two occasions on this trip when a compact chainset suddenly seems a perfectly good idea. bunnahabhain distillery is the most northerly, and is situated about four miles along the coast, reached by a narrow, winding single track road which has two excellent descents, though bearing in mind that both have to be climbed on the way back. there's a whisky cask (full of water to prevent it being apprehended by enthusiasts) sitting about 1km from the distillery advising of its proximity.


bunnhabhain is on an exended shutdown when we arrive, the distillery workers engaged in power washing the not inconsiderable expanse of walls, and the still room is in darkness. with its relatively sheltered position creating a stillness in an often windy isle, the midges are overwhelming, and dave and i are less than inclined to remain for long, heading back up the shallow but lengthy climb out of the village. on reaching that cask by the roadside again, it's a humorous moment to realise that the opposite end states 'other places'. the road just past ardnahoe loch climbs to around 20%, with a false flat in between, and though i leave myself a couple of bail-out sprockets, it's an invigorating few minutes for the legs and cardiovascular system. but from here, it's pretty much all downhill till we reach the main road again, and head south towards bridgend with a right turn just before the village to head towards bruichladdich and a welcome coffee at debbie's before braving the antique interior of bruichladdich distillery.

it has always seemed a bit of a paradox that bruichladdich's marketing, label and bottle designs are so much at odds with their 'no computers used here' stance to the making of their whisky. the colnago has to be lifted up a set of narrow, rickety stairs to reach the cosy still room, where the stillman places a glass of bruichladdich on the saddle for the photograph. in comparison to all the other distilleries on islay, the interior of bruichladdich seems stuck in a time-warp, and i mean this as no criticism. it really is a wonderful place to visit.


at this point the mighty dave t heads further south to home in port wemyss, while i turn north to head for home in bowmore. i could have turned off for loch gorm to visit islay's newest farm distillery at kilchoman, but time is not on my side, and the gravel road that leads to the farm is not particularly colnago friendly; especially when it's not my colnago.

in common with all apart from kilchoman, bowmore distillery sits on the water's edge at the bottom of main street and school street. their still room is at ground level and has easy(ish) access to get the ace in for photos. bowmore lays claim to being the oldest distillery on the island having been opened in 1779. this is my last port of call for the day: roughly 100km, having left home just after 9am, and home for around 4:20 visiting seven distilleries in a day. it's been very much a cycling trip rather than a distillery visit, since there is barely time to sample the delights of each even if i did drink any of it. bowmore

now it's your turn.

thanks to the staff and management of each of the distilleries visited for their time, access and not minding me wandering about the innards of their buildings carrying a bicycle. thanks also to colnago uk for supplying the ace, a review of which can be found here


posted friday 25 september 2009

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a question of colour

carbon cx-1

likely every one of you has heard the apocryphal if oft repeated story of the cyclists who replaced his frame every year, but had each subsequent model painted the same as the previous year's, so that his wife wouldn't know that he was buying new. and while this story has some merit amongst those whose better halfs have little or no interest in bicycles anyway (stand up the real mrs washingmachinepost), it has now become almost impossible to do. at least well nigh impossible if you are intent on owning something from one of the major manufacturers.

paint on bicycles has become as much a slave to fashion as virtually every other part of the cycling world, for which i lay the blame squarely at the feet of the mountain bike. quite why proponents of getting muddy at the weekend should have felt it necessary to anodise everything in sight and preferably a different colour each week, i shall probably never know, but it didn't take long for its insidiousness to stray to the paint shops of pretty much all and sundry.

this may well have been the dawn of marketing as we currently know it since, as an emerging genre, the mtb saw quite a rapid degree of development, and the simplest way of shifting units year upon year was to make them a different colour, thereby incoprorating a necessary degree of built-in obsolescence. many of the original mountain bike purveyors are now just as seriously involved in the road bike market, so an unhealthy degree of crossover was always likely to occur.

however, it's not the frequency of the changes made to bicycle colour schemes that are of major concern; that's pretty much as much a part of pedalling life as shimano, campagnolo and sram changing the componentry in subtle ways each year. it's simply the society in which we live. however, if you've ever watched a that exists of the care and attention that goes into painting a colnago eps, you may join with me in wondering why the end result barely seems to justify the effort. now i don't know if this is simply a phase we're going through, from which we'll emerge to scenes of graphic and colour delight, or whether everything, including decor, is now the province of computer aided design.

as rohan dubash has alluded to in the current issue of rouleur, while colnagos ostensibly bore the same paintwork in days gone by, it was possible to detect strains of individuality if placing two models side by side. and i very much doubt that this is a trait that has all but vanished from colnago alone. hopefully there has never been the sort of embarrassment experienced by women if two turn up to an event wearing the same dress, if several riders are at the start line in identically painted bicycles, but i'm beginning to think that the bicycle makers do not see paint in quite the same way as i, or many of my acquaintances.

that fine upstanding paragon of the handbuilt steel frame, richard sachs has been known to let frames out of the workshop in colours other than ferrari red, but i think they are likely in the minority. such has become the association between sachs and the colour red, that it would seem almost sacreligious to ask for one in any other colour. think of the shame and obscurity that would descend upon your household if you'd waited seven years for a sachs frame in blue, only to be shunned by the sunday peloton. and the one other frame builder forever associated with one colour, bianchi, seems hell-bent on removing any connection with celeste as they plough on into the 21st century. yet i'm willing to wager that for many of us, there is simply no other colour for such a bicycle. if it was good enough for fausto and marco...

so with much of the production of today's carbon emigrating to the far east, where there is a certain degree of homogeneity amongst the carbon offerings, it would be most satisfying to find the world's cycle companies settling on an identifiable corporate image, different from everyone else, but which doesn't necessarily change every year.

how else am i going to get another colnago without the mrs knowing?

photo above of the bare carbon colnago cx-1


posted thursday 24 september 2009

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putting a stop to it all

muc-off disc brake

lance armstrong has already asked the question on his twitter feed as to how long it might be before we have disc brakes on our road machines, though given the uci's penchant for banning or preventing anything that might conflict with their eddy merckx era mentality this might be a wee while longer than big tex would like. always assuming, that is, that lance was looking at discs as being a forward step rather than a retrograde one. but in similar manner to the everything on computers mode that seemingly pervades modern education, is there really any need to move the brakes away from the rims on a machine whose ethos consists of trying to achieve everything other than stopping?

scour the ranges of cyclcross machines currently on offer and compare that with the same of twelve months ago, and i'd be willing to bet that there are more fitted with discs for 2010. this is inspite of the fact that the uci has not sanctioned the use of this type of brake in approved cyclo-cross races. cross, however, has a more relaxed attitude to fun and competition, and fewer are the cross stars being used to sell bicycles. thus there are many races that care not one whit for the uci, though not at elite level it should be noted. whether we have the ability or not (mostly not), many of us are entranced by the carbon fibre ridden by those in the pro tour, and it is the sight of a colourful peloton over cobbles or ascending alpine mountains that puts us in mind of owning similar. whether we need it or not.

since disc brakes are not currently allowed in any form of road racing, it would be a very hard sell for any manufacturer to add one to the range, since none of the top riders could be seen to ride such a machine. there are mechanical considerations too: while not entirely borne out in practice, there were fears that adding powerful discs to light weight 700c wheels would provide more twisting force than such were designed to absorb, leading to a frantic breaking of spokes; just what you don't want on the descent of the colombiere. mountain bikes, where disc brakes have become de rigeur over the past ten or so years, have smaller diameter wheels, or at least they did have until 29ers came along, but tend to have what i would conservatively refer to as more sensible spoke counts and chunkier rims.

however, as with all technical development, this can probably be relelgated to old wives tales, since i am unaware of any reports concerning such breakages on the cross and commuter bikes currently sporting discs. but what kind of discs? the simplest form consists of a standard brake wire pulling a lever and actuating a caliper on the shiny disk. mountain bikes very much tend to favour the hydraulic disc brake which, while certainly more effective, requires some sort of fluid and hoses to make it work. discs also require brazed or rivetted mountings for the calipers both front and rear: if you think that carbon is being pushed to the limits of ugly at the moment, this will do little to limit such aesthetics.but it really comes down to a case of stopping power. the current breed of dual pivot calipers offered by sram, campagnolo and shimano do, by and large, perform more than adequately. i can think of few situations in the field of racing where accidents could have been avoided if a set of avid hydraulic discs had been in place; brakes on road bikes are mostly used to scrub off speed, usually before entering a corner, or attempting to avoid a scrum of photographers just past the finish line. hydraulics on downhill mountain bikes perhaps need less justification when you look at the terrain encountered on the way down.

in cases such as beloki's horrible accident when lance took to the fields, discs may well have altered the outcome, for joseba at least. pads acting on rims are subject to heat, and that heat, under extreme circumstances, can melt the glue retaining a tubular on the rim. shift the braking away from the rim, and lo the problem is solved. but that's almost as sensible as sending two space shuttles up at once, in case one of them breaks down - it's rarely going to happen.

so while the ever descending weight of carbon bicycles may justify the additonal weight of hydraulic or even mechanical discs to maintain that all important uci minimum, that's the only verging on sensible reason i can think of to shift away from calipers. in much the same way that it is inarguable that a bb30 bottom bracket axle is stiffer than the standard 24, there are precious few in the world that are ever likely to test the limits of this difference; how many of us (and i include the professionals in this) actually need disc brakes on our road bikes?

however, should you be one of the few with a cyclo cross bike that has such brakes, it may well interest you to know that muc-off proffer a very fine and effective product for keeping the brake surfaces clean and efficient. owning nothing that might feel the benefit of this product, i passed my review sample onto an acquaintance who has a tendency to give his mountain bike and its disc brakes almost as hard a time as he gives himself. satisfaction can, it appears, be guaranteed. £6.17 will get you a 400ml can, or £8.99 for the 750ml workshop edition. it may be a while before any of us in the roadie world need one of those sitting in the bikeshed but i know some of you occasionally venture to the dark side.



posted wednesday 23 september 2009

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colomba charity ride

colomba chemo classic

i have long maintained that cycling cures all ills, even in the face of some reasonable arguments to the contrary. however, since most of this contradiction tends to come from non-cycling colleagues and friends, usually suffering from a cold or cough at the point of conflict, i ignore and continue with the higher moral stance. granted, cycling has done little for my dandruff, but otherwise, i feel in the best of health, as do other members of the velo club peloton.

of course, such opinion, balanced as it may be, can only stretch so far, and the law of averages and illness dictates that it is not quite an absolute truth. uk cycle apparel manufacturers, colomba, set up a local cycle club for the younger members of their community, mostly 14-17 year olds, but with a few older constituents. one of these, 19 year-old rob knibbs, contracted hodgkin's lymphoma in 2008, but has now been fortunate to find himself, after treatment, to be in remission. so to celebrate, rob, in conjunction with colomba, has organised a celebration charity ride of around 65 miles (110km) on 14 november of this year.

no surprise that the ride will concentrate on raising funds to aid those others, cyclists or otherwise, who suffer from hodgkin's lymphoma.

aside from the opportunity to ride across the yorkshire dales, reputedly one of the finest parts of englandshire, top british cyclists, and recently announced members of the sky team, ben swift and geraint thomas will join the assembled pedallists as well as alex dowsett, and possibly ed clancy and lizzie armitstead.

and as an added incentive to prospective entrants, colomba are offering a discount on their sportwool jerseys which equates to the same amount as the ride's entry fee of £15. purchasing either their tricolour or black club jerseys means that you are effectively riding free of charge. it's not a race, and there's no standard of effort required: you can take your time or try and impress the pros with those sprinting skills acquired from watching cavendish in missouri. (though if i were you, i wouldn't bother)

for entry details, jersey discount and a route map, click over to i have no info regarding maximum numbers, but sooner rather than later always seems like a good idea to me.

raising funds in this method helps maintain that cycling cures all ills train of thought and gets you a decent bike ride into the bargain.


posted tuesday 22 september 2009

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pride and responsibility part two

richard sachs

richard sachs has very kindly allowed me to reprint the missive sent to his cx team members, which can but clarify my words and sentiment from yesterday:

Okay, it's time atmo. After all the dancing around, sniffing each other out (meant with love, huh...), hustling, filling up your inboxes, hustling other people, ensuring folks that we are real, doing the hustle a few more times just to make it rain even harder (as in, getting us more stuff and more funds), after all the fantasizing, bulshitting online about how cool and how worthy we are, the racing begins. Pookums goes to the MAC events this weekend, the Dom does (and conquers) 'Cross Vegas and then is off to the MadWis USGP, and the rest of us all do Catamount UCI C2 next weekend.

I have sent out as much booty as I could and will follow up with the balance over the course of this coming week. Thank you for bearing with me and also my repetitive emails about clothing sizes, chainrings, and whatever else (schedules) I had here but never transcribed for posterity. eff man, I am so scattered.

Please remember this from an earlier email, as well as from years past in case you've heard me state it before: there is only one first reason we exist and why we go to races. That first reason is that we owe our souls to every single sponsor, equipment provider, behind-the-scenes donor, and fans/followers/friends who support us. We are at the races to prove a point. That point is to be ambassadors for all of those I just mentioned. (Y)our obligation is to know everything about every company on the kits as well as about every part we use until the season ends. We are at the venues to represent, and represent well. We (the team - you - us - the folks who raced here before 2009) give good brand. In an era and in a climate in which teams falter, vaporize, splinter, cease to exist, and just plain can't raise a f**king dime, we are flush. We are quite flush atmo. Data point - we're not Radio Shack flush, but heck - I can only panhandle so much, huh. We have parts. We have a good war chest of funds. And we have each other.

The second and third reasons we exist are interchangeable. That we have each other is a gift. The gift gives back in spades, especially to me atmo. But our team is not just a team. This is a troupe, a cabal, a closed society, and a family. We should bleed for each other and for 'cross. We should know how lucky we are that our paths have crossed (no pun...) so that the next four plus months can be filled with opportunities that afford us memories we'll cherish for the rest of our lives. Cue the string section. Let's each of us do what we can - or have to - to ensure that the other 5 has a banner filled season filled with mighty fine and fun times at the venues, at the meals, while traveling god awful miles to hotels we can't find, on start lines, and every place we spend time with each other.

Let's also use our support system and each other to help everyone reading this have the most successful season of racing possible. We also have personal goals, and we each have an obligation to help the others reach those goals atmo. We are each others motivators, coaches, pit crews, and shoulders if needed. It's a gift to be in each others lives, racing 'cross, and having the support and camaraderie that we have. Let's represent, let's make memories, and let's race.


why isn't it all like that?


posted monday 21 september 2009

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pride and responsibility

richard sachs jerseys

i'm not sure if there is a specific time of season for quiet reflection on what has gone before, and what may be coming in the future, but now is likely as good a time as any. i mean this not for you or i, but for those involved in professional, or even semi-professional cycle teams by way of riding, management or sponsorship. you and i can watch interestedly, disinterestedly, apprehensively, excitedly and doubtless in the presence of several other emotions relevant to the situation, but at the end of the day, weekend, week, or three weeks, we can switch off and decide whether we want to read further by the day, week or month. or walk away. i think the sentiments for those more closely involved may take on a different hue.

when embarking upon my career as a drummer (snigger), it was pointed out by a fellow musician that i would never listen to music in the same way ever again. how right they were. and similarly, in my current position as self-appointed reviewer of bicycles, components and clothing, bike rides are rarely as simple as a bike ride; there's always some aspect of something or other that needs to be looked at in a more analytical fashion. (this is not a moan: i'm very well aware of just how incredibly fortunate i am.) i doubt that the professionals in any of the aforementioned capacities will ever regard cycling in the same way either, always assuming they had a view of cycling in the first place.

what has brought this on? well, two things really: one was receipt of an e-mail from richard sachs (see below) sent to the members of his cross racing team. if ever anyone had doubted for a moment richard's involvement in the sport, involvement in running a team, and the esteem in which he holds every one of his sponsors and riders, this would dispel the lot. and it's an attitude that i fervently hope pervades every corner of every cycle racing team in the entire world. but realistically, it probably doesn't.

the second reason for my diatribe was another co-incidental e-mail from the owner of one of the teams involved in last week's tour of britain. this team didn't win, nor ever looked like dominating our premier road race, but he said that watching them race had made him 'very proud'. somehow, when commerce is involved, and superficially appears to be the prime reason for being involved in bike racing in the first place, emotion and sensibility are two factors that we of the spectator variety tend to expect to be missing anyway. and it's very refreshing to find out that this isn't always the case.

let's not kid ourselves, the majority of sponsors invest in cycling in order to advertise their product(s), and it's a darned sight cheaper than putting the same logo on the side of a formula one car. granted, there's usually one well placed member of management with a penchant for two wheels, but few are the marketeers who hold altruism as their watchword. many teams rise, have their moments of glory, then disappear when the sponsor has gained as much mileage (pardon the pun) from lycra as they feel is justified. admittedly there are one or two long-lived sponsors, but how many jerseys have you seen lance wear since last century?

so it generates a warm glow of sincerity to find evidence that there are those at the top who have the greatest respect for their teams and have their, and our, best interests at heart.

hope springs eternal.


posted sunday 20 september 2009

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you need to see this

just because...

video by the inestimable dave christenson


posted saturday 19 september 2009

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getting that bike clean

muc off

it's a strange dichotomy that a frame caked in mud is a badge of honour for those concerned with the offroad world - though i'm not so sure about cross riders - while italian carbon fibre should gleam at every opportunity, no matter the prevailing weather at the time. i had thought the latter state would be a cinch during an extended period of sunshine and windlessness; no mud, and no puddles on the roads, should bestow shininess from morning till night. and with roadracer mudguards front and back, any stray smudginess should be dealt a glancing blow at source, leaving the colnago as polished on return to the bikeshed as on exit. well of course, i was wrong.

where does all that dust come from? and why does it find it necessary to to adhere to the clearcoat? doubtless those questions were answered on the two days i missed during higher physics, but the dust remains, and in order to satisfy that finely judged degree of self respect that no roadie would be without, it has to be cleaned off.

post tour stage or one day classic, the team mechanics would be out with the park tool workstand, the hose, and the no home should be without bucket and sponge. and yes, soap and water can achieve a great deal on a bike with method and application born of a seasoned daily routine. but that is a part of what team mechanics are employed to do, even if they would put up a convincing argument to the contrary. you and i, on the other hand, have a myriad of other chores that await, unless the better half has gone shopping for the weekend. or david and sean are presenting the vuelta in fewer minutes than could be reasonably considered ideal. so a modicum of assistance is required.

it's at this point that a large cardboard box of muc-off sprays, brushes and lubes could come in handy. and in this case, that's exactly what is sitting on the bike shed floor. drop the wheels out, grab a water bottle of, surprisingly, water, and squish it across the bike's tubing, paying particular attention to areas of coagulated muck. this would be the normal occasion on which to liberally apply soapy bubbles in huge quantities, but in this case i applied a fine mist of muc-off pink stuff in a big bottle. leaving muc-off bike cleaner to soak in for a few minutes results in substantially less welly required when the time comes to clean the muck off. in fact, for relatively light coatings of grime, it was possible to remove lots by showering the the bike with another layer of water from that ever-so-useful water bottle. i liked this.

of course, the problem with cleaning one part of anything is that it leaves any surrounding areas looking worse than they did before; in this case, i'm referring to the chain. it is a fact of cycling life that no matter which dry lube you prefer to use, the outer plates of the chain always lose their shine and display a similar propensity to that of the tubing for attracting stuff that you'd rather it didn't.

this is where you can feel secure in the knowledge that the people at muc-off ride bikes too, because one of the cans sitting in that cardboard box is a degreaser, dedicated for use on cassettes and chains. in a similar way to the pink stuff, the degreaser is sprayed onto the chain (in this case), left for a modest length of time before more of that water is required. i didn't quite believe this bit, because i really didn't think that squirting water on an oilyish chain would clean it close to that of jewellery shine. it simply remains to wipe the chain with one of those bits of cloth that can always be found in sheds and garages, and if you had a face small enough, it could be clearly seen in each link.

muc off

now, if you have been paying a reasonable degree of attention, you will hopefully have realised that all this water, pink stuff and degreasing aerosol is likely to have left the chain, at very least, bereft of suitable lubrication. the bike riders at muc-off at this point, are one step ahead of you: a bottle of dry lube.

the instructions in excruciatingly small print on the label, advise that degreasing should be carried out prior to lubing - which is just as well because that's pretty much what the past ten minutes have been all about. after shaking the bottle vigorously, the method of application is to drip a spot of dry lube on each link. many cyclists swear by cans of spray-on lubricant, but the argument against this style of application is that of waste: unless you fit one of those plastic straws to the nozzle and direct the spray to just where it's meant to go, an aerosol tends to become multi-directional, especially out of doors in a stiff breeze. therefore the application to each individual link from a small bottle really ought to be a superior method - only in this case, that turns out not to be the case.

the white liquid in the bottle is very much a liquid, expressing from the nozzle in quantities far in excess of that required. i tried to be very, very careful and specific as i lubed the colnago's chain, but no matter the method or angle of attack, it still resulted in a substantial amount of white lube all across the ground under the chain. do not, whatever you do, lube the chain over the living room carpet, because when the other half returns from that shopping trip, somebody will be in deep sh*t.

in use, the muc-off dry lube is very effective, even after a morning pedalling in driving rain. i do find dry lubes make the chain sound a bit more clattery than those oil based lubricants, but i have faith that this is merely acoustics as opposed to inherent friction at source. while many of us take pride in a clean, shiny machine at the start of each ride, few have either the time, inclination or dedication to keep it looking that way. muc-off, for a price, have provided a more than equitable method of achieving exactly that. and with growing concern for the planet very much at heart, muc-off products contain no scary chemicals and are mostly bio-degradeable.




posted saturday 19 september 2009

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is it ok if i wait until next year?

brailsford murdoch

it will not have escaped your attention, particularly if you are a frequenter of your local newsagent, or have a habit of popping into w h smith on your way to or from work, that the majority of magazines, apart from using pretty much the same colour scheme on the cover (the sort of thing that mr garbutt ignores on a regular basis), have occasion to tell us all what's inside. it seems likely that they have a valid reason for this on two counts - firstly they would like to identify themselves as being different from the magazine(s) sitting adjacent on the same shelf (and here's where my argument against using plain cmyk on the cover comes into play, but i think that's perhaps for another day, or another forum) and secondly, the weaker of the two notions, you might conceivably want to know what you're going to be reading on the train/bus/car on the way home.

call me different if you wish, but i'd rather they didn't do this, because i love flicking through the pages, discovering just what the editors and their staff have concocted for my reading pleasure in whichever issue is under question. for this very reason, i adore rouleur magazine because the only word that ever appears on the front cover is rouleur, leaving a degree of anticipation for a slow peruse of an evening in the bath. granted, mr edwards has probably already e-mailed with sample spreads, but i try ever so hard not to look at these before my copy falls through the letterbox. i know of no other cycle magazine that follows this edict.

so could we please extend the rouleur philosophy to the never-ending story that is the 2010 sky cycle team? i am frequenter of twitter, i sample most of the cycle websites (apart from the appallingly laid out, which i cannot forgive future for messing up) and pretty much everywhere i look there are dribs, drabs and snippets relating to who has or has not signed for the sky team. earlier today the guardian apparently stated that bradley wiggins had finally signed on the dotted line, sky having provided the finance to buy himself out of his garmin contract (money that was now about to be used to entice alberto contador away from astana).

i am quite fed up to the back teeth with all this surmising; dave brailsford says brad hasn't signed, and mr vaughters is apoplectic with rage, while i have entered a state of complete apathy. it is almost akin to those performers who merely need to set foot on a stage to receive a standing ovation: at that particular point, they haven't done anything at all, so what is everyone clapping for? they might be rubbish this time.

and similarly the sky road team. i don't doubt that the management and coaching team will hit the ground running, while sky's bottomless coffers have ensured that there is no dearth of talent joining the ever increasing roster of riders. but i don't actually care, at least i don't actually care at the moment. the vuelta has yet to finish, the worlds will take place next weekend, and we're still a long way from the tour of lombardy in late october. and, as i have not refrained from pointing out recently, there's a whole chunk of cyclcross to get through before even thinking about the tour down under.

so i am more than happy to bide my time and pay absolutely no attention to who will be riding for which team until they present themselves on the international stage at the commencement of 2010. then it will be all new and exciting and colourful, and i will let forth with exclamations such as 'i didn't realise he rode for them!' of course, i know i'm trying to live in a world of cycling that doesn't exist, so doubtless next week's comic and the monthlies will have pages and pages devoted to our future tour champions.

just don't applaud until they've done something.


posted friday 18 september 2009

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