there are many essentials in the day to day existence we call cycling. a bicycle is likely the first of those, though i suppose standing outside a branch of evans cycles, giro helmet in hand, or campagnolo casquette on bonce would at least be a start. probably better to have the nous to refer to cycling weekly as the comic; that way, everyone will take you seriously until there's enough money in the piggy bank for some bendy bars and skinny wheels. for those well past that embryonic state, we're into serious accoutrements: shorts, jersey, proper helmet and shoes that make you walk like a duck in the coffee shop.
if we drill down just a touch further, there are a number of items on the bicycle that it would be hard to cycle without. i have, you'll be glad to hear, no real intention of ticking them off one by one: unless you're one of those squishing your nose against the showroom window, these will all be part of your existence already.
assuming this to be the case, and counting on the likelihood that at least one of the cycling publications awaits your cash at the newsagents each week or month, advice regarding how to keep body and soul together as that professional contract edges ever nearer, will not be in short supply. and the most basic advice, which, much to my shame and discredit, i singularly fail to heed on pretty much every ride, is to make sure that, hot or cold, you drink at regular intervals as the scenery blurs past. short of arming with a camelback, as disparaged by the mighty dave t, such liquid intake has to be stored somewhere: in a bottle, in a cage, on the downtube.
sounds basic, and it is, but like much in this variegated two wheeled world, oh that it were that simple. carbon tubing abounds, or at least, carbon monocoque does, and the black stuff doesn't stop there; a brief survey of the online retailers reveals as many variations on the carbon bottle cage theme as there are carbon bicycles, some at prices that are likely to elicit a wtf? response. let's face it, your average bottle cage doesn't have to do that much, other than hold a water bottle for hours on end, with enough savvy and grip to allow simple supping now and again (preferably more now than again). for the benefit of forcing a reaction, consider the campagnolo carbon cage. weighing a scant 18 grams, and relieving your wallet of up to its rrp of £102 ($163), doing exactly the same job as an alloy cage weighing 38g more, but costing £97 ($155) less. of course, it's a free world: you pays your money etc...
but it's nice for artisanship to trickle down, to allow that delight in the individually hand-made to extend as far as the humble bottle cage. after all, it's unlikely that the plastic container grasped lightly, has seen any hand other than your own. while not necessarily the only handmade cages on the planet, king cages of durango, colorado present a couple of options in either titanium or, more to my liking, stainless steel. both are claimed not to mark the bottle, something that the newfound era of style almost demands. while not exactly challenging regular currency, owning a designer bottle holds only so much sway while the logo remains intact and visible. otherwise it's just a bottle.
but playing devil's heretic for a moment, and discarding style in favour of a dose of substance, an unmarked bottle is of little use to man nor cyclist if it does not remain where it is placed. it's a fine line trod by many a cage: i currently have one that refuses to emulate the circumference of its charge, and while not resulting in bouncy, bouncy on tarmac, it does rattle the nerves on a quiet day. by contrast, the work-a-day version that finds its way onto all the review bikes that a season hosts, has a thing about letting go of any bottle it is presented with. that does nothing for on the bike style or rehydration.
i'm on steel at the moment, portland steel from the workshops of chris king, so despite the inert relationship between the two kings, a steel bottle cage bearing the same name would seem the perfect match. the design is slightly idiosyncratic, as you can hopefully see from the accompanying photos, but it does grasp the bottle firmly, and if you care to click across to the king cage website, you can see a slightly indistinct movie on just how handmade these cages are. granted, the cage has only been on the cielo downtube for a morning, and presently, all roads lead to relative smoothness; until the ice, frost and remnants of snow evaporate into the wide blue yonder, it is less than prudent to encounter a series of cattle grids, to give the grasp a fright. but the minute that chris king bottle in the steel king cage succumbs to vibration and gravity, you will be the second to know.
of course, if, as i suspect, that does not come to pass, then we will spend our time discussing some of the other essentials of cycling.
king cages are available in stainless steel at approx. £16 or titanium for around £45. they can also be ordered direct from the king cage website at $17 for steel and $60 for titanium plus postage.king bottle cages
posted sunday 10 january 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
take a look at the photo beside these words. that's a soya cappuccino unashamedly scoffed at debbie's in bruichladdich this very afternoon. soya milk makes a far better trough of froth than standard milk, and thus i can indulge my non-dairy preference with a smug grin on my face and a white moustache on my top lip. you pretty much have to agree that the cupful thus illustrated would be well worth a few miles of anyone's time. but as if the gold at the end of the rainbow were not enough, the chariot du jour only added muchly to the afternoon's enjoyment.
the sram white bar tape arrived a couple of days ago, preceded by a couple of those black ten-speed power links required to join the sram ten-speed chain. this latter component was necessary because the klutz assembling it (not a million miles from here) cut the chain too long, and you can't remove one of these blighters without destroying it. so, chain fitted, brake cables swapped to the other side of the road, it was time to cover the plumbing with bar tape. white tape, in this instance, has to be considered mandatory: this is no ordinary bicycle; this is a chris king bicycle, and, as everyone knows (or ought to), the man in charge of telling the world is mr chris distefano, one of the finest human beings on the planet. ask anyone. and cd has decreed that coloured tape is only fit for articles such as tennis rackets: bicycle handlebars should be clothed in white. i am not man enough to disagree; and to be honest, white tape with a black bike is very hard to beat.
courtesy of glory cycles in connecticut, a honey coloured brooks team pro saddle with copper rails now sits atop the seatpost. having fitted oval concepts traditional bars and stem, i thought it seemly to match these with an oval concepts r700 seatpost, but as that has yet to arrive, for the time being the saddle is being supported by a pro series aluminium alloy post.
wrapping bar tape, whether white or not, is not a frequent occurrence at washingmachinepost cottage, so the realisation that the left side, having been wrapped from the front, was wrapped the wrong way, simply delayed my start time and increased the longing for that soya cappuccino. there might still be one section of wrap that hasn't overlapped in quite the manner intended, but since it's on the inside of the bend, i won't tell if you don't.
to put all this in context, i have ridden carbon for the last seven years, with one or two brief exceptions when it comes to review bikes. the cielo is all steel, without even a carbon fork as a token gesture to contemporaneity, so trepidation would be a reasonable word to describe wheeling through the frost and sand mix that currently constitutes our front pathway.
the doubters amongst you will be wondering why all the hue and cry over a bicycle that i have already had the pleasure of riding and writing about during one great week in may last year. this is not exactly the same bike, nor is the build the same, but i take your point. however, the terrain is substantially different to that of portland; the cielo in oregon was used predominantly as a commuter. no different to here, come to that, but between bowmore and bruichladdich, there is not a single set of lights, precious few cars, and i can ride on my side of the road without having to follow cd to make sure i don't get lost. more importantly, these are roads that have been well trammeled on carbon, well enough, in fact, to have ingrained memory for comparison with steel.
it's really the only adequate word. i'm sure there's an even better one, but my lexicon is deficient in that department. this is one of the most beautiful bicycle rides my saturday afternoons have ever experienced. that may sound insubstantially uncritical, and a trifle gushy, but this was the first ride, and all that was asked of the cielo was to get from a to debbie's and back to a. i had no intention of giving it welly on the brief hills en route: let's just wait till i know everything is bolted and clamped in a manner that offers no release.
what i was watching, both literally and mentally, were those r415 wheels. my existing ck wheelset rolls so smoothly, that it would be very hard to notice any improvement when that cappuccino was centred in the head up display. however, both wheels feature only twenty eight spokes (sharp intake of breath), built two-cross at the front, three-cross at the rear. i'd suspect that sort of build to be less resilient than my usual footwear, but perhaps it's the 25c continental four seasons, or maybe it's just because they're just such damn fine wheels, that all roads lead to gliding again. is it possible that love between a cyclist and his wheelset can ever be accepted in modern society?
so that's the first ride over, not done with, but over. a bottle-less ride because i awaited a king (no relation) stainless steel bottle cage (what else?) for the down tube; it arrived in the afternoon post, so the second ride can be hydrated: it's a style thing.
posted saturday 9 january 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i spent at least a part of today, wondering whether there are any photography websites that feature cyclists. mind you, i can't think of any decent reasons as to why they would, unless said cyclist is a particularly keen photographer with a demonstrable degree of international repute. that said, i have no intention of apologising for my continued featuring of photographers on the post, because for many of us, photographs form a large part of our cycling intake, likely more so than the written word. in fact, interviewing photographers is a fine way of redressing the balance; apparently a picture is worth a thousand words, so there's a bit to catch up on.
in this case, i've sort of already done the introductions; visually, at least. a couple of days ago, i received a copy of dan sharp's il centenario and i distinctly remember telling you about it. so, assuming you were paying attention, you'll know that he followed last year's giro d'italia with camera and lenses, and returned with a rather fine array of images depicting the 100th running of the race.
but dan lives in portland, oregon which, you will be fed up hearing, is regarded as the cycling capital of the united states. therefore, there's a good chance that mr sharp has cycling affiliations that go well beyond the odd italian stage race. so i take great pleasure in giving us all a chance to find out more about dan sharp.
posted friday 8 january 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm blaming it on the cold weather, dark mornings and ever-darkening afternoons. i'm sure that's why a little snacky-poo mid afternoon has become less of an option, and more of a convention. our printer has chosen to start buying those choc mini rolls (mmmm) and latterly, treacle scones in an effort to stave off our collective hunger pangs. examined rather more closely, these hunger pangs are likely somewhat on the ephemeral side; they might well be real, but is the best way of satisfying them to stuff one's face with mini rolls (mmmmm) and scones?
let us, for the sake of hypotheticalness, suppose that i am in early season training mode, that i have noted my resting heart rate, figured out how many hill reps i need to do in the front driveway and limbered up by pumping both tyres to 100psi (6.8 bar). all i really need to seal the deal is something to train for. of course, a honed athlete does not live by bread alone; there's those nutritional factors to take into account, and despite combing the chapters of chris carmichael's food for fitness, i can find no reference to choc mini rolls and treacle scones. in fact, despite my knowing that a mars bar would help me work, rest and play, chris seems to have completely overlooked this well known dietary advice.
actually, whether you take all this training stuff seriously or not, if you just want to be able to ride your bike with grace, aplomb, and no stomach resting on the top tube, it is a good idea to take at least some account of what passes for food on your table, or next to the laser printer of an afternoon. however, this is the generation of instant gratification, of indexed gears and clipless pedals; that's why, when you stroll past the mini roll counter, it's not too much of a stretch to reach for a convenient pack of four treacle scones or, even worse, danish pastries.
there is, of course, a perfectly formed solution to this problem which fits neatly into the instant gratification folder, and will keep those mid-afternoon (or even mid-morning if breakfast wasn't all it's cracked up to be) hunger pangs at bay. and it comes in a box.
graze.com was started by a group of seven like-minded folks who realised that like-minded included a few more than just them. looking at the card box that arrived through my letterbox, i think i must include myself, and can think of one or two others who'd like one of these too. the contents are all natural: there's a container filled with dried pineapple, pecan and raisin, a pumpkin seed mix, a tray of pitted olives and a small tray of walnuts. included in the recycled box is a sheet of recycled paper detailing all the carbs, fat and protein pertaining to each sealed container which, if you are following a micro detailed training regime, makes adding up the numbers a whole lot easier than a mini roll wrapper. oh, and a recycled napkin.
the happy part is that this is all orderable over the interweb for a mere £2.99 including delivery. you'd have to have a very restricted diet not to find something in the extensive list of options to fill your box of natural goodies, which includes fresh fruit. now, i know what you're thinking; why don't i just take a pop to the supermarket or health food store and do it for myself. but ask yourself this: do you currently bother to make up a couple of sandwiches the night before. i've had great intentions of doing so for many a long year; i used to make myself a pasta dish every morning for lunch, but that habit unfortunately didn't endure, and it's now a case of grabbing what i can, when buying my daily paper. i can assure you that it doesn't have the attraction of the little box that sits before me now.
should you be suitably intrigued, and you should be, graze are currently being kind enough to let you have your first box at half price. ordering is a simple process, and you can have them delivered regularly on the same days each week, or vary it at your leisure. this means that, as the sportive season kicks in later in the year, you and i will be the svelte, fit, healthy front runners, calmly chatting nineteen to the dozen on the front of the climbs.
either way, snack time will never be the same again.
posted thursday 7 january 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i've seen it all, and you probably haven't; in fact i have a copy sitting on the arm of the chair as i write. and hopefully, once i have dissected the contents, you'll be keen to grab a copy for yourselves. the title, in case your italian is as poor as mine, refers to the centenary of the giro d'italia, and can roughly be translated as the centenary, a story. the story is made up of photographs; there are no words, even though credit for this story is given on the back cover to jeremy dunn (of embrocation fame), max erdenberger, and the inimitable mr joe staples.
the superb photography is by portland based photographer, dan sharp, some of whose recording of the 2009 giro d'italia you may already have seen as one chapter of the rouleur annual. so here we have a collaboration that not only encourages us to see the race from a very different perspective, but to sit back, put the feet up, and enjoy the story.
there are distractions, as there would be at any cycle race, and little observations that catch the eye as the peloton approaches, departs or is apprehensively expected. it's an interesting collaboration; dan sharp was the guy behind the lens in italy, while i actually spent all of one day riding in portland with messrs dunn and staples while il centenario was taking place many hundreds of miles away. so the story has effectively been written by those who weren't there. a rather clever idea: the outcome of the race has not been re-written, nor has it been re-arranged, but dan sharp's grasp of the scenes set in front of his lens and shutter, allow for a precis of this centenary.
in my case, this is a personal issue; at least one week of the italian proceedings were watched on portland televisions, and i find the story very reminiscent of the way i saw it. it's also quite remarkable that, despite accusations of the 100th giro being geared towards lance's comeback, his presence is conspicuously absent from the story. it's a real italian affair.
should you wish to avail yourself of a copy of una storia, and i understand it is a rather limited edition, you can do so through the auspices of ampersand vintage in north east alberta street, portland. the book costs $20, and postage to the uk was $12; your mileage may vary, so drop myles an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask. as a follow up to this story, part two will consist of an excellent interview with dan sharp in a day or two.
you'd almost think i knew what i was doing.
posted wednesday 6 january 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i live in an agricultural community, and not too far from the island's abattoir (actually, nowhere is too far from the abattoir), so despite my long-lived vegetarianism, it is all too apparent where the meat on someone else's plate comes from. this contrasts, apparently, with those who live in the more urban regions of the united kingdom, and, for all i know, several other international locations besides. i can remember not whether the survey on which i am about to make comment was carried out solely on children in those areas, or whether adults were included too, but it seems that not everyone is imbibed with the same information to which i am party. several of the respondents, when asked where meat came from, answered 'the supermarket' (strangely, butchers' shops seem not to have featured).
us country hicks can certainly laugh, and more than likely do, but surrounded by buildings, roads, cars and buses, it's easy to see where the misdemeanour has been inculcated amongst city folks. there are likely many examples of the same misapprehensions all across the social strata, but this is the one most often cited. it's at least a part of the reason for the rise in number of city farms.
based on no research whatsoever, no officially conducted surveys, and pretty much assimilation of hearsay and observation, there seems to be a breed of cyclist suffering from a similar malady with regard to componentry. in my early days as a practicing obsessive, the bulk of advertisements featured in our only outlet to sanity, the back pages of the comic, were for bicycle frames, both classified and the regular retail channels. this state of affairs harked back to the 1950s when, in the uk, purchase tax was applied to complete bicycles, but not to frames and components purchased separately. thus, the budding cyclist, bereft of a pretty penny, could acquire frame plus groupset and assemble a bicycle without contributing to the national coffers.
in order to make pragmatic choices regarding both, it will be quite obvious that a modicum of knowledge regarding each component, what it did, and where it would be placed, inserted, bolted or clamped on the bicycle frame, would be an over-riding necessity. granted, things were a lot simpler in those times, with far fewer variations on a theme, and far fewer hours of frustration, desperately trying to figure out why index gears simply wouldn't. nowadays, more and more manufacturers are offering complete bicycles, such is the benefit of far eastern construction. thus, often the first inkling that the modern acolyte has that his bicycle even possesses a specific component, is when the local bike shop mechanic informs him/her that it is gubbed, to use a fine example of glasgow vernacular.
thus, if i may, i'd like to relate this componentiary astigmatism to the chris king cielo that sits in thewashingmachinepost bikeshed. it is currently devoid of a couple of bits (to use a technical term) that i intend fitting before we go out together and explore the new homeland, but it already features a few rather idealistic components that will make this one of the best specced bicycles this side of easter island. and one of those beautiful blue anodised components is that which made chris king a name worthy of our reverence.
many will be glad that i gloss over the technicalities, partly to save lengthy tedium, and partly in an attempt to safeguard the extent of my ignorance of such matters. basically, the headset facilitates the ability of the fork to steer inside the head tube. since it requires to do this as smoothly as possible, the ideal way is to place bearings at the top of the tube, bearings at the bottom and have the steerer rotate within. for those with even less mechanical nous than that possessed by myself, it seems worth pointing out a couple of flaws in this otherwise ingenious system.
firstly, placing screeds of little ball bearings inside tidily made aluminium casings, smothered in as much grease as possible, doesn't, you will be unhappy to hear, exclude all the crud and rain that britain has in greater amounts than any other european country. thus, in order to keep the little shiny chaps rotating in perfect harmony, it's often necessary to disassemble the edifice at regular intervals, clean and inspect before putting it all back together again possibly with new bearings and definitely new grease. unfortunately, few of us are as conscientious as a pro team mechanic, so the likelihood is that this will be carried out far less than strictly necessary.
the second problem is that while the steering works in rotational fashion, the front fork (and the rest of the bicycle, come to that) is acted on in a vertical fashion. cattle grids do not enhance this process. therefore the bearings in the lower part of the headset get battered silly on occasion, resulting in what you may have experienced as indexed steering, though technically, it's known as brinelling. when that happens, it's new headset time.
in 1976, chris king designed the first sealed bearing headset, and more or less solved both problems in one swell foop. sealed, or cartridge, bearings consist of an inner steel ring, and an outer steel ring, with the bearings sandwiched in between. the bearings are greased and hidden behind seals and snap rings. the ingress of gloop and yuk has been all but prevented, and the bearings themselves no longer run on races that could conceivably suffer from brinelling. it gives an indication of the faith chris king components place on their headsets, that each arrives with a ten year warranty.
ostensibly a modest amount of maintenance is still required periodically, but i know of one or two folks who have had the same headset on several bikes, without so much as showing it a tub of grease, yet all is well with the world. chris king can offer this length of warranty without losing sleep at night because, unlike almost everybody else, they manufacture the bearings in-house at their portland facility to exacting medical standards, and everything is hand-checked before despatch.
the original headset from 1976 still works; it's currently sitting on the window-sill next to the boss's desk (or it was last may). the range has increased over the intervening years to take account of the varying trends that afflict the bicycle industry. the no threadset fitted to the head-tube of the cielo is of the 1.125" variety, and even straight out of its box drives like a hot knife through butter. and it assembled with considerably less fuss than the sky team press launch.
when so much in the bicycle industry seems to have become prey to the demands of mass production, it's of great comfort (to me at least) that the bicycle i am about to spend a large part of my year with, features such manual attention to detail on those components of which some might not even be aware. every now and again substance and style can be very happy and contented bedfellows.
posted tuesday 5 january 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................