it's all uphill from here on in


if it becomes necessary to narrow cycling down to only two features, there could be a great deal of arguing, debating and dialectic (which is sort of what the first two mean, but no nevermind) in order to arrive at a satisfactory consensus. not being confdent that this wouldn't take until perilously close to world's end, i'm going to assume the mantle of dictator and do it for you.

coffee and hills (though not necessarily in that order).

the disappointing factor, at least from the point of view of a benevolent dictator, is that pontificating without substance leaves one open to lone wolf attacks from those who still disagree. those over a certain age may remember that in school exams, a considerable number of marks would still be allocated for proof of concept, even if the final answer was incorrect. so if i tell you that the definition of cycling is coffee and climbs, i have a feeling that a few more would follow on behind if i were able to justify my final choices.

the coffee bit is sort of self-evident: both rapha and look mum no hands opened cafes, not ye olde tea shoppe, not burger joints and not furniture stores. there wouldn't be so many cyclists of all flavours sitting at the wooden tables with umbrellas outside debbie's throughout the summer months, if coffee were not a staple part of the cycling diet. this is perhaps underlined by the fact that we have eight distilleries on the island, and rarely do you see folks with bicycles sitting around the visitor centres with drams in hand. well, ok, actually you do, but only because the distilleries give them out at the end of a tour.

for me, that will suffice by way of evidence, and the case for the prosecution rests: coffee has to be one of the two features that define cycling. no correspondence will be entered into.


hills, are something of a different kettle of fish, because the word can mean anything from the approach to a humpty back bridge, to something the size of a tourmalet and pretty much all sizes in between. the very fact that even sportive rides, meant as enjoyment for the recreational rider, rather than testing grounds for the professional, regularly announce the total altitude gain in the same breath as the ride distance must count for something. if i have bicycles in for review, how well the machine goes uphill is an intrinsic part of the test. otherwise, why would the bicycle companies go to such lengths to make their top of the range offerings as light as possible? if all we ever did was ride along flat roads, like the one between here and port ellen, weight would constitute a very small part of our concern. a frame's resilience and spring are necessary considerations. thus, climbing is, at very least, uppermost in the minds of the manufacturer.

however, i'm sure i have made my feelings known regarding the sort of stuff being pointed in our direction by the marketing departments of the world's bicycle and component manufacturers. this is not to say that they are being deficient in any way, simply that we might not have as much need as advertising would have us to believe. racing cyclists have far higher expectations than ourselves, but it makes economic sense to not have to make racing bicycles for the professionals and modify for the proletariat. many of us, and i count myself amongst that number, buy into this belief system, and are ready to offload substantial amounts from our flexible friends in the pursuit of acquisition.


so coffee and hills it is, unless someone comes up with a particularly convincing alternative. continuing evidence, however, points to my being correct

having recently reviewed simon warren's 100 greatest cycling climbs, it brought great comfort and joy to find one of the rides being adopted by the chameleons of british cycling competition: rollapaluza. not content with having cross riders in fancy dress riding through a beer tent at herne hill, or two hapless individuals spinning legs for all they're worth on a couple of bikes that ain't going anywhere, they've decided to send us uphill. and not just any uphill.

on page 53 of mr warren's book is swains lane in london's highgate. according to the accompanying text, the road is one of london's best kept secrets topping 20% at its steepest point, yet only just under 1km in length. on july 22nd at 6:30pm rollapaluza, aided by a substantial prize list from condor cycles invite the great and the good to heave self and velocipede from bottom to top. on a road closed to traffic.

entry costs absolutely nothing, leaving all that loose change for a cup of coffee afterwards, but online entry closes at 9pm on tuesday 20th july. if you call yourself a cyclist and live in reasonable proximity to swains lane, you had better have a darned good reason as to why you can't be there. the winter season of hillclimbs almost exclusively inhabits the less metropolitan areas of the country, so an opporchancity like this may never pass this way again. at least, not until rollapaluza give it another shot.

now for that cup of coffee.


posted wednesday 14 july 2010

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bike snob. systematically & mercilessly realigning the world of cycling. eben weiss. chronicle books $16.95 hardback. 223pp illus.


it's easy to write a blog; well, let me qualify that. it's easy to set up a blog, since most of the software that allows you to do so is free, and pretty much all you'd have to do is write. that's kind of the first major obstacle, given that the idea is to make it a regular practice. not necessarily everyday as is the case here, but then not everyone's as obsessive as i. in my younger years i had quite a fascination with cartoons, and being somewhat of a dab hand with a pencil or fibre tip, the notion of creating a cartoon strip was often not far from my mind. however, i was a bit apprehensive that having started such, i may very quickly run out of ideas or inspiration, and then look like a total prat, bereft of continuity in the art department. i know now that this is a constant fear that haunts pretty much all cartoonists, but it was certainly enough to stop me starting in the first place.

writing, somehow or other, has always seemed the easier option, and perhaps even easier if confining the subject matter to one theme; in my case, it's bicycles. in fact, it's even narrower than that, since i tend not to stray too far from the roadie aspect of the genre. bloggers who rather eruditely comment on all aspects of politics and society have my utmost respect, because i know i'd have crashed and burned long before now had i attempted same.

i was always told that after starting to play in a band, i'd never listen to music in the same way again, and to a certain extent, blogging has a parallel. i tend not to read other cycling blogs for fear of destroying whatever it is i think i might have in thewashingmachinepost. there's always the scary high-wire act in finding out that other popular weblogs are completely different to my own, bringing on instant notions of inadequacy leading to general paranoia. so i generally stay well away.

however, i'd need to be living on an island in the atlantic not to be aware of which other blogs are proving popular amongst the cycling cognoscenti, and certain names tend to pop up with what might be considered alarming regularity. one of those, probably well known to most, is bikesnobnyc, a blog pointed out to me a good couple of years ago, and one regularly nominated amongst the very best. now at this point i have no wish to blow any nice-guy credibility i may have garnered over the years, but i have not found my visits to bikesnob particularly rewarding. somehow the regular poking fun at what could be considered easy targets, such as those on fixed gears, portland, rapha acolytes and lance armstrong did not seem the sort of thing i wanted to read. i was assured that this anonymous blogger was as much a cycling obsessive as the rest of us, but the words didn't quite seem to bear that out.

part of bike snob's notoriety came from the fact that the writer remained anonymous, or at least, anonymous to the majority of us. to me, this smacked somewhat of those who trade under bizarre monikers on the cycling forums, secure in the knowledge that they are pretty safe from personal retribution. however, the publishing of a book, and the necessity of touring to promote it meant that bike snob had to shed his cloak of invisibility and expose his identity: eben weiss.

the saving grace of being a solo blogging person is that one is writer, editor and proofreader (unless you have the luxury of a mr hitchen, like wot i have); there is no-one to intervene, to point out the rather cumbersome prose, and that 1300 words on the subject of a workshop apron is perhaps heading into geek territory. books, however, generally have to provide some sort of commercial return, a feature generally missing from the art of blogging. thus the process is encumbered with editors, publishers, proofreaders and marketing departments, all of which may just conspire to inform that writing is perhaps not the strong point that some of us thought we had nailed.

there's also the possibility that one's carefully nurtured audience will start parading outside the office window bearing signs alluding to just what a pretentious, self-satisfied git one has become. writing a book is thus a scary notion, and not one to be taken lightly.

so, to compress and revise, here's an anonymous blogger whose work i have no particular regard for, who has fulfilled any pretensions i thought he may have harboured at the outset, and who has just published a book with the the less than shy and retiring title of systematically & mercilessly realigning the world of cycling. an easy target has apparently just presented itself on a plate. and you know what? it's one of the very best books i have read in many a long time. this book should be included with any new bike purchase, and the sales person should stand over the customer until he/she has read it cover to cover.

each chapter is begun with black and gold, eccentrically but beautifully drawn illustrations by christopher koelle, followed by famous and less famous quotes by the great and the good referring to the bicycle. (my favourite is that from noam chomsky: bikes have wheels). even the page edges feature either cyclists, chain links or tyre tracks. there is no danger you'll ever forget the subject matter you're reading. a brief and humorously observed history of the bicycle up to the point that it became the machine we know and love, is followed by a modern ride through past-times in new york city noting how modernity and the motor car has changed the backdrop. and much as i rail against pigeon-holing of cyclists according to their weapon of choice (even though i do so myself on occasion), bike snob's categories are hard to argue with, more especially when there are tears streaming down both cheeks.

'the world of cycling is like a big bowl of lucky charms - it's full of lots of goofy-looking figures in different colors and shapes, but they all come together to be delicious.

bike snob is a very funny guy, and also a genuine cycle obsessive, demonstrating more than enough bicycle savvy and observation to be the sort of chap we should be listening to. i don't agree with absolutely everything in each chapter, but i'm not sure i'm supposed to. the contentious and smug edge would disappear very quickly if everything were too conciliatory and agreeable. it also wouldn't be as funny.

'as far as i know, nobody has proved conclusively that people have souls, much less bicycles, so the notion that your colnago has one is completely ridiculous'. every colnago owner will realise that this is complete bunkum.

do yourself and your bicycle the biggest favour you can, and buy a copy of this book. and while you're at it, get one for a friend too. they will never stop thanking you for it. when was the last time you bought a cycling book that came with four free stickers?

next there will likely be bikesnob coffee.



posted tuesday 13 july 2010

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where did you get that shirt?

debbie's cycle jersey

thanks to the preponderance of companies eager to provide anyone with the necessary financial wherewithal and a vague notion of design (or, on one or two occasions, obviously no notion whatsoever) it is possible to be dressed in similar fashion to your immediate cycling peer group while assembling a home-made peloton. this has obvious advantages where a legitimate or formally constituted cycle club is concerned, and saves buying assos or castelli and writing the club name in felt pen on front and back. for while incredible advances have been made in the formulation of indelible ink, and each jersey may have a certain uniqueness to it, you'll be on a non-starter if you ever fancy congregating on the start line of sanctioned road race. protestations are unlikely to be listened to.

it's not that cycling apparel providers have been remiss in creating suitable ranges of styles and colours that are offputting to the determined peloton, it's just that most are a tad reluctant to embroider or screenprint kilarrow and kilmeny clarion in quantities of less than two dozen, for the amount of sterling you may wish to proffer earnestly at their online sales facility.

still, minumum quantities are minimum quantities, and it takes a not inconsiderable amount of budget to cleave to such a modest number of jerseys, when you factor in the cost per colour for setup in the first place. i have come across one or two who advertise no minimum order; often true, but once the calculator has done its job, it is not outwith the bounds of reality that the one off jersey, crafted to your own personal whims and colour sense might not fall far short of the cost of a new chainset and pedals. if you're taking a tentative step towards a custom jersey as a commercial possibility, trying to gauge just how many are likely to be snapped up, and in what sizes, would not be my idea of a fun problem to have.

thus it was, and indeed is, for ms macdougall of debbie's cafe in bruichladdich. over the last year or so, the plunge was taken twice to furnish welcome to great coffee, jerseys, resplendent in black, maroon and cream, with more than a passing nod to the ride of the falling rain across the shoulders. the first instalment all but disappeared like snow off a dry-stone wall, while the second lot trickled more slowly, but eventually leaving the smaller sizes that likely only fit italian pros. and there is a complete dearth of those on the rhinns of islay.

welcome to great elephants

however, such is the growing popularity of debbie's as a must visit on any trip to the southern hebrides, that the possibility of acquiring a suitable cycling memento has created an insistent demand, one that is about to be satisfied in a matter of weeks. the original jerseys were produced by endura custom clothing in livingston, all the way across the other side of the country, a facility that has seen its workload increase almost exponentially. therefore, the six week delivery quote of only a few years ago has now become a part of scottish cycling history; delivery times just ain't what they used to be. thus, debbie having ordered to satisfy demand as far back as late may/early june, those already on the list will likely have to wait until the middle of next month to join the greater coffee inflected peloton. it would have been nice if delivery had equated with the forthcoming falling rain, but you can't always get what you want when you want it.

thus, should you wish to avail yourself of a versimilitude of the jersey signed by sir chris, graeme obree, mark cavendish, thor hushovd, brian smith, scott sunderland and graeme obree again, but without their scribblings on the front, you could do a lot worse than drop debbie an e-mail informing her of this. always assuming that she's less scatty than can be the case, your name will be added to the list and you can expect to be nattily dressed in a matter of a few short weeks.

elephant photo courtesy graeme ritchie

welcome to great coffee jersey


posted monday 12 july 2010

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continental four seasons tyres

continental gp4 seasons

oh to have the life of a professional cyclist, now that summer's here. in fact, maybe just to have the life of a professional cyclist at anytime of year, since it barely registers on the inconvenience meter to have to jet off to sunnier climes in the winter months (in the uk, that's around ten months of the year) in order to train or, perchance, to race. how many of us nip out on the sunday ride, having been presented with a suitably carbo-laden meal, ready prepared and with no dishes to wash afterwards? then climbing aboard likely the finest that modern bicycle technology can provide, with a sumptuous choice of cassette ratios and more wheel variations than wiggle, pursued every pedal-stroke of the way by an appropriately decorated vehicle carrying at least one spare bicycle on the roof, just in case the ashtrays are full on your first choice.

this following car performs a myriad of other helpful assistances too, or at least those inside it might. feeling thirsty? one of those sticky bottles can be handed from a window; suffer a puncture? think not of a £1.50 repair kit from debbie's. simply raise a spare hand. should the weather prove more inclement than at first thought seven hours previously, well, i'm sure i'm passed the limit of labouring the point. i have, of course missed out the two most important aspects of professional riding: firstly, the word professional would indicate that someone is paying to have them ride that state of the art bicycle, but secondly, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and there's a good chance that they might be expected to win something at sometime. considering the number of other professionals in the peloton all expected to achieve the same goal, maybe being a professional cyclist has started, in the space of a couple of paragraphs, to take on a less optimistic hue.

for all the advantages, benefits and perks of the profession i may have alluded to above, there is one that many of us might find less than palatable, though such may just be marginally alleviated by the promise of a nice wage packet at month's end. you see, professional cyclists don't have much in the way of choice.

skip back a few years, if you will, and bring to mind the jerseys of the polti team. yes, they were completely the wrong side of hideous, and we can all snigger whenever a photo of the period is part of a retro piece in one of the monthlies. but spare a thought for the hapless souls who trained more than you and i will ever find the need, and who cycled through weather systems very much on the delete as applicable section of the questionnaire, all the time having to wear that abomination of a jersey. imagine if you're besotted with colnago bicycles but you have to ride a trek; perhaps you're a campyphile, but the trek changes gear via an electric shimano group. maybe your best side is seen in a giro helmet, but they handed you a kapsco. see what i mean?

polti cycle jersey

on the other hand, despite a lack of regular income from an italian metal shuttering company, and the option to inhabit a hilton hotel in one of africa's southern states during the winter months, we have complete freedom of choice. fancy a colnago? then save up and buy one. have a penchant for one of those lime green endura jerseys? not a problem. caught between the world of civilians and the peloton, there's nothing apart from the application for a bank loan that can prevent us riding what we want while wearing our cycling apparel of choice.

i generally exercise the same element of choice, to a degree, when it comes to reviewing or testing items for the post. i could justify this by means of the all-important blogger's get out clause: 'it's my blog, and i'll do and say what i want', but i'm not quite that contentious. unless my reason for doing this is fame and fortune (yes, i laughed at that bit for quite a while too), there has hopefully to be a consistency, reason and justification behind those articles that extend themselves to external sources. otherwise, no-one would read it, and quite right too. but there is a certain frisson to abrogating choice in the face of supply. it forces questions and investigations that, left to my own devices and choices, may not have formed part of the daily discourse. that happened when the chris king cielo arrived last december.

the cielo was (and is) a very welcome subject of investigation, particularly since the latter is taking place over an extended period of time. however, the bits that came attached to the cielo were the choices of the guys in portland and most certainly not mine. i'm not complaining, and in fact i have rather enjoyed the journey, because neither gearset nor tyres would have been top of my list, for no other reason than that i, like almost everyone reading, have my own set of prejudices that tend to be as exclusive as they are inclusive. the gears have been dealt with previously, and will likely be dealt with again, but just right at this moment, i'm looking at the tyres. literally and figuratively.

for reasons that i don't completely understand, i have always had a somewhat unfounded prejudice against continental tyres. in all the time i have been riding bicycles in the manner that you and i would understand as bicycle riding, my wheels have never once been shod with rubber from continental. i have, on two occasions had german carbon wheels on test that featured continental tubulars, but again, those were as supplied, and not my specific choice (though they were quite fabulous to ride on).

the cielo owns two custom chris king wheels, with dtswiss rims and chris king r45 hubs, and inside the box from fedex were a pair of continental four seasons 700x25c tyres. something else different. we're all men (and women) here, well used to the unofficial badges of pelotonic brother and sisterhood, one of which quite categorically states that 23c is the optimum. thou shalt not consider any other sizes before cav or wiggo. the cielo is designated a sportive model, and thus comes equipped with enough extra space amongst its nether regions to store a spare bicycle. rather than doing so, the thoughtful fellows in portland chose to fill the gaps with an extra couple of 'c's. then i took up all the remaining fresh air with a pair of full wood fenders. it is testament to the cielo's clean lines that the bike still looks quicker than its rider.

in keeping with much of the country it seems, islay's roads are beginning to blur the line between 'road' and 'off-road', so wider rubber doesn't seem the disadvantage that it perhaps originally portended. according to continental, the four seasons model is based on the more commonly chosen gp4000, but with extra protection for harsher weather conditions. box number one ticked. there is, apparently, a duraskin cut resistant layer and two extra vectran breakers. vectran i understand, though the remaining nomenclature seems unnecessarily obscure, however, applying a degree of common sense to the proceedings, i think it fair to say that such tyres are built to withstand a substantial amount of abuse. this past winter has been a hard taskmaster. it's a comfort to know that the same hoop has been used at paris-roubaix, albeit in tubular format.

continental gp4 seasons

i'm not sure if laser printer manufacturers still rely on the old chestnut of projecting toner life based on ten percent coverage, a practice only of any real use if the output is confined to text. head into graphics territory and the life expectancy dips faster than a rollercoaster, rendering the sales literature perilously close to being economical with the truth. i'm not aware of any tyre manufacturer that quotes the life expectancy of its products in miles or kilometres (though i'm happy to be corrected), something of which i'm really rather glad. i've ridden the four seasons on the cielo since january this year, now heading towards six and a half months, and if i rationalise that at an average of 100 miles (60km) per week, then that's around 2,500 (4,000km) covered on one pair of tyres.

i'll confess to not having the faintest notion of just what total distance any pair of road tyres should achieve in their lifetime, but assuming the contis last till this december, 5,000 miles (8,000km) on islay's roads, would strike me as a satisfactory result. sadly, it may be that the rear might not quite make it: the tread wear gives me no cause for concern whatsoever, but underneath that zebrawood fender, the tyre has suffered a largish nick in the outer casing, though commendably there are no signs of it making its way through to the interior. throwing caution to the wind, and despite having acquired a couple of spares from continental tyres uk, i have decided to run the tyre in its present condition until the inevitable happens. i think that's why they call it road testing.

as to the other aspect of the four seasons, easily as important as their puncture resistance and wear factor, the comfort and joy imparted to the rider has been impressive. and those extra couple of 'c's have never once left me floundering at the rear of the peloton, held back due to the additional rolling resistance (though i did struggle to keep up with graeme obree). i haven't noticed any serious degradation of speed over the industry standard 23c, so much so that i intend to continue this association into the foreseeable future. sometimes the lack of choice can throw up unexpected pleasures that would have remained uncovered and unexplored had i been left to my own devices and prejudices.

when cornering, rouleuring, grimpeuring, sprinting (all relative terms you understand) and stopping, they have performed as well as, or perhaps better than one could reasonably expect, particularly taking into account the would-be professional hanging about between the saddle and the handlebars. and just as importantly, they're black; coloured tyres are so passe these days, don't you think?

i can't but admit to the fact that the inner tubes are currently not from the same producer (that's not what was in the box), but again, thanks to continental uk, the replacement in the event of a puncture, definitely will be.

now, where do i sign that pro contract?

continental grand prix four seasons tyres are available in black only, in folding format and in 700 x 23c/25c and 28c with a suggested retail price of around £39 ($53)


posted sunday 11 july 2010

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tour de lance competition winners

tour de lance

about a week ago, i ran a fairly simple competition on the post to win two copies of bill strickland's tour de lance, a book in which bill followed lance through the 2009 season, his return to professional racing after a brief period of retiral, preceded by a record breaking seven tours de france wins. the question was what is the name of lance's cancer charity, and i confess that the answer i had in mind was livestrong. however, around half of those entering tendered the lance armstrong foundation as the answer, which is, technically, correct. therefore, in fairness, i was happy to accept either answer.

the two respondents chosen at random by mrs washingmachinepost from the competition e-mail box were andreas mikkel hansen who lives in a completely unpronouncable location in denmark, and ryan lord in tucson, arizona. thanks to the many who entered, and the prizes will be on their way to the winners during the coming week.

thank you to mainstream publishing for providing the prizes.


posted saturday 10 july 2010

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gran fondo colnago philadelphia

washington at valley forge

america's east coast suffers a similar fate to the east coast of scotland when it comes to the winter months; december is one of those months. during the american war of independence (1775 - 1783), the thirteen colonies of the new world rejected the legitimacy of the british parliament to continue to rule their social and political lives. in 1775, they formed the second continental congress and authorised a continental army to do battle with british troops, having been declared traitors and in rebellion by the british government. an army needs a commander-in-chief, so congress appointed george washington to the position. by the beginning of 1776, the army notionally consisted of 20,000 soldiers, and though it is reckoned that 250,000 served in the army throughout the years of the war, there were only ever as many as 90,000 serving at any given time.

in december of 1777, winter had almost completely set in, rather putting paid to much in the way of serious campaigning by either washington's troops or the british army. the revolutionary army had just battled through what turned out to be the last major skirmish of the year, and in order to survive to fight another day, washington needed to find somewhere safe and sheltered for his men to ride out america's severe east coast climate. camped in what was then known as the white marsh area (now known as fort washington state park), several locations were suggested to wait for father christmas, but general washington settled on a position 29km northwest of philadelphia: valley forge.

valley forge replica cabin

named after an iron forge on valley creek, valley forge kept the troops close enough to the british army to restrict their raiding parties from entering the inner reaches of pennsylvania, but still far enough away to discourage any suprise attacks. the location also held the strategic and natural defenses of being sandwiched between mount joy, and the raised ground of mount misery (no, i'm not making this up) 12,000 troops, ill-equipped and hardly carbo-loaded, dug in to prepare themselves and their encampment against the pervading cold. just over six weeks later, the construction of a veritable village of cozy and comfortable quarters had been built, despite the necessity of collecting timber from some considerable distance away. washington's perspicacity in the winter of 1777/78, despite the loss of 2,000 men to illness, starvation and exhaustion, was borne out when the british army moved towards new york in june of 1778, pursued by washington's army.

we know the outcome of this war of independence, if only because america now has its own flag and president. valley forge has become one of those significant locations from the period still held in high regard amongst americans. there is now a monument bearing an uncanny resemblance to the arc de triomphe in valley forge national park, where a visitor centre, memorials and replica cabins illustrate this important part of american history.

if memory serves correctly, the principal spaceship in battlestar galactica was named the valley forge(i stand corrected as it has now been pointed out to me that valley forge was the spaceship in the film, silent running. just saying.

on august 8th, just under one month distant, the very first gran fondo colnago philadelphia will take place across a selection of the roads of pennsylvania state, and with the exception of the piccolo fondo (31 miles), the medio fondo (57 miles), and the gran fondo (102 miles) will incorporate valley forge national historic park, where the route traces the historic encampment tour, and feature stunning views and replica revolutionary war cabins.  circumnavigating the memorial arch participants will then cross the valley forge covered bridge. at this point, the medio riders will head back to downtown philadelphia, while those with either the cojones, the training, or a colnago will head further out to the outskirts of french creek state park before embarking on the return trip. the king of the mountains competition is also at valley forge.

valley forge kom

if this is an event that has now grabbed your attention and perhaps a place in your diary, you only have until tomorrow (july 11) to enter at a reduced price. then the price goes up. the entry limit is 1500 in total, and organiser brian ignatin tells me that they're well on the way to having a full start line on sunday august 8th. as you'd expect at an event of this magnitude, entrants can expect an italian style lunch, aid stations, mobile tech support, and a free commemorative jersey. all three events will set off at 7am, and will benefit the american melanoma foundation.

it makes little difference whether you are a british or american national; the opportunity to participate in this, the first colnago event on america's east coast, taking in one of the most famous monuments of the american war of independence is a hard one to resist. i confess that i had been invited to be on the start line myself, astride one of cambiago's finest machines, and it grieves me greatly that due to a clash of activities, i will be unable to be there. i don't intend to make the same mistake next year.

major brownie points to brian ignatin for not only inviting me, but for assistance with this article.

gran fondo philadelphia | piccolo fondo | medio fondo | gran fondo


posted saturday 10 july 2010

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because it's there

brooks colt

it may be apocryphal, and i have not a single notion as to who was originally asked the question, or responsible for the much quoted quote, but the unknown mountaineer who was asked why he found it necessary to continually climb life threatening escarpments, reputedly said 'because it's there.' ignoring the fact that his grasp of english is dubious at best (escarpments is plural, 'it's' defines a single instance), the riposte comes across as an attempt to explain the inexplicable, perhaps on the basis that if the activity of climbing spiky peaks for a hobby were looked at too closely, there might be some explaining to do. that explaining might not all put mountain climbing in a positive light.

it is, of course, the sort of question that could be levelled at several activities, though fortunately many of them are not quite in the realm of life threatening. my efforts pointed in the direction of riding up hills as quickly as possible, always remembering that all-important ponytail, bear noticeably less alacrity than a few years ago. yet despite this decreased velocity, the effort involved seems, if anything, a lot more than truly palatable. so why don't i just settle for riding at medium tempo, chased by a helpful tailwind? a bed and breakfast at the far end would suffice until the wind changes direction.

because it's there.

you see, my answer is no more convincing than that of the unknown mountaineer. there will be many of you who share my predicament vis-a-vis cycling up hills, though those of a younger disposition will perhaps find the slowing a shade on the wrong side of comprehensible.

brooks colt

procrastination is, if the correct spin is placed upon it, an art that requires to be practised and refined, until it can be utilised at will. in fact, a devil may care attitude towards persistent procrastination is almost as desirable as becoming a grumpy old man/woman. it's an art that i seem to have acquired with almost no period of induction, though it does have its embarrassing side effects. just over one year ago, i became the proud possessor of a custom colnago master x-light, one painted in molteni orange and decorated with old-style colnago logos on seat and down tube. what separates this model from those available at your nearest colnago dealer, is the carbon b-stay that occupies the rear triangle. my worry has always been the unseemly predisposition of the italians to liberally coat seat and chainstays with chrome.

misunderstand me not; i do think that such shiny decor is most befitting such a masterpiece in fluted steel, but the sea-salt saturated atmosphere that pervades every square centimetre of island life, has an insatiable appetite for chrome. it cheerfully eats such ostentation for breakfast. so while i would cycle same with pride, my pride would likely be short-lived, no matter how many variations on preventative maintenance were employed. a carbon rear end laughs in the face of such airborne corrosion, and my pride should continue into the foreseeable future.

such a veritable sculpture in carbon and steel deserves careful consideration before hanging jewel-like componentry about its person; not, you understand, necessarily expensive jewellery, simply something appropriate and functional, of which there is copious amounts available. the difficulty, again with which many of you will concur, is choosing which bits to acquire. and this is where my preponderance for procrastination has stepped into the breach, for after well over twelve months, the colnago is still not in a mobile state.

but it's getting there.

brooks colt

the one component which was never in doubt, was the saddle. it was always going to be, and indeed is, a brooks. this brings us back to the because it's there statement. the brooks team pro that sits atop an oval concepts seatpost on my cielo gave my backside a hard time for a longer period than i'd care to admit. thus, all being considered, you'd figure that i'd be a touch reluctant to repeat the exercise when the master eventually hits the road. but here in the uk, almost all our bicycle industry has gone to china; there are few bits of velocipedinal attraction that can truly be said to be built in great britain. notwithstanding the fact that brooks england is now wholly owned by an italian saddle manufacturer, it is of great comfort and not just a little pride, that those leather saddles are still made in this country. it is of considerable import to me, that the pinnacle of italian framebuilding (it has ernesto's signature on the top tube after all), be complemented with possibly the finest example of saddlework the world has ever seen.

a colnago with a brooks saddle will imbue me with an innate sense of pride, and as my mother insistently drilled into my psyche in my younger years, pride bears no pain. while the occasional grimace may purse my lips in the coming months, i ride a brooks because it's there. in this particular instance, the saddle is the most recently issued brooks colt, a faithful recreation of a model discontinued in the 1980s, one directed more particularly at the american market. i have yet to place bum on this fabulously mustard coloured seat, but the original was apparently considered one of the most comfortable models produced in smethwick.

the seatpost gracing the master's columbus seat-tube is another relic from the eighties and nineties, a campagnolo chorus steel model. why oh why did campag ever discontinue these? it provides even more ammunition for my contention that the italians seem totally oblivious to that which they have. and thus, seem at a loss to understand why clamouring occurs when items such as this seatpost exit from the catalogue. this is minimalism at its finest; while the clamp is shiny, the post's shaft is of a satin finish, with a campagnolo flying wheel logo and the word chorus etched on the rearward facing portion. the heck with the so-called weight penalty incurred by both; substance should never get in the way of style.

brooks colt

as the situation currently stands, a colnago seatclamp has been fixed over the tube slot, the lower portion of the post suitably greased and inserted, and the brooks colt, with its brass rivets, chamfered side and gold embossed logo, clamped in place and given an initial coating of proofide both top and bottom. traditional alloy bars and stem from fsa are ready and waiting, ciamillo zero g calipers are in the box, leaving only a modicum of procrastination to be dealt with.

rest assured, sooner rather than later, that brooks will be tested, at which time i will smugly regale you with my apposite and informed choice of bum rest.

the brooks colt saddle is nowhere to be found on the brooks website, but i can assure you it is a reality at a price of £114. aside from the mustard version on the colnago, i am assured that it can be had in both black and honey, and i have heard tell of a pink version available come this autumn.

brooks england


posted friday 9 july 2010

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