my son has recently passed his driving test, and suddenly the petrol gauge that barely moved when he was learning, has developed an innate sense of gravity; it keeps hurtling towards empty. only a few months prior to the alleged happy event, he bought himself a mountain bike which i placed at the back of the twmp bikeshed, because i (correctly) figured that my own bicycles were likely to receive more use than his. junior's bike is still there, untouched and, so far as i know, unloved. to an extent i can almost understand why it has achieved fewer revolutions than hoped for, as it easily weighs as much as two of my own cycles. those not yet of honed athlete status really ought to be astride something of a lighter stature.
however my former partner in crime, mr hastings and i are both agreed on the salient fact that petrol is not yet expensive enough, if those in their late teens and early twenties can spend many an idle evening driving round the village for no particular reason. aware of how much it is costing number one son for insurance, it concerns me not just a little that he still has money to burn at the filling station. perhaps the novelty will wear off.
keeping it all in the family, i cannot remember the last time mrs washingmachinepost returned from a saturday shopping, full of the joys of spring and keen to inform just how incredibly cheap the whole experience had been (in a financial sense that is). because like it or not, food is our fuel, and i'm not that sure that it costs a lot less than several litres of unleaded. the only real difference is that we, as human beings, have little option but to ingest food of one kind or another, while a constant travailing of bowmore main street in a black car with alloys cannot, under any circumstances, be considered the same thing at all.
the ride of the falling rain, about which i have mentioned remarkably little, took part last sunday, covering as usual, copious numbers of kilometres across and around the hallowed isle. numbers had increased only a smidgeon from last year, which is perfectly fine by most of us, for the ethos of the ride is akin to that of a mobile conversation with no external trappings such as marshals, feed stops and arcane details like timing chips. additionally, consuela is not standing at debbie's ready to hand over gold, silver and bronze cerificates. we like it that way, and it seems many others do too.
but no matter what distance is covered by individuals over the course of the day - we are nothing if not amenable to improvisation - it is necessary at some point or other to re-fuel. i admit i was surprised at the participants who indulged not only in a coffee prior to the start, but to a plated slice of carrot or clementine cake complete with serviette. and on arrival at the old kiln cafe at ardbeg distillery, the half-way point, i was just as surprised to find many tucking into a two or three course lunch. the portion sizes at the old kiln are not to be sneezed at, so it was perhaps less of a surprise to see several bicycles being stowed atop cars, pedalling completed for the day.
some of us, however, are made of sterner stuff, content to fuel up at breakfast with a substantial plate of scott's porage oats (with peach slices), a soya cappuccino at deb's and able to retrieve from the middle back pocket, a rather squished peanut butter sandwich at the old kiln. i did, of course, have my secret stash with me; perhaps rather obviously some bikefood berry energy drink (in my la gazzetta bottle), but ensconced in one of the other three back pockets was a packet of bikefood's new energy sweets.
i stopped eating sweets at the remarkably early age of ten. despite my parents stocking up on boxes of chocolates, packets of fruit pastilles and marathon bars (this is history as we know it) for a treat on saturday nights, i demurred from consumption, and have done so pretty much ever since; who knows why. however, the very nice people at bikefood were kind enough to send a box of their energy sweets and always willing to suffer for my readership, i thought a 100 mile ride would be the ideal opportunity to test the veracity of their claims.
i do so love it when stuff that is meant to be good for you turns out to taste brilliant, so much so that i am blissfully unaware that any good is taking place. welcome to bikefood's lemon sweets.
in years gone by, planning was of the essence. on the eve prior to the falling rain, i would cycle across to ardbeg and leave a bottle or two of highland spring at the manager's house, along with a couple of energy bars and drink sachets for that necessary refuelling. add to that the fact that i had two bottles on the bike; one with energy drink, one with plain water. this turned out to be somewhat on the wrong side of overkill, and my needs have diminished over the years. 2011 however turned out to be altogether different: porage, coffee and peanut butter would not seem to add up to a day's energy needs, but the ability to simply pop a lemon sweetie every now and again seems to have comfortably made up the difference.
suitable for vegans and vegetarians, gluten and wheat free, every pack of a dozen sweets provides around 30grams of carbohydrate and over 100 calories. more recently, we are told that carbohydrates are not enough on their own; it's handy if a modest amount of protein is in the mix, in this case 0.5g per pack. yet unlike many a product designed to enhance or maintain performance, these taste just like lemon sweets. even mrs twmp is partial to one of these, and she'd have trouble driving 100 miles.
a darned clever idea that comfortably fits in a rear pocket. genius.
bikefood energy sweets are available direct from the bikefood website at a cost of £1.45 per pack or in a box of ten packs for £12.75.
posted friday 12 august 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
next month's lagavulin islay jazz festival will be the thirteenth in a hopefully never-ending series, and i have been extremely fortunate to have played in every edition of this festival. in fact, bassist mario caribe and i are the only two to have done so, though if i'm completely honest, mario's appearances have been on merit; i've just been in the right place at the right time, drumsticks in hand. the festival takes place over two days and an evening, and to accommodate rank amateurs like myself, it is necessary to find a way round limited rehearsal time. and that's where jazz standards come into play.
as the name suggests, these are a considerable number of tunes that are well known to the professionals, and simple enough that us civilians can play without converting to a public display of embarrassment and humiliation. this year's edition has provided me top billing; the brian palmer trio. however, i well know that both mario and pianist paul harrison will have my best interests at heart; when i submit the tunes that i'd like to feature, they will gently point out why that is not a good idea, and that we should probably play something different instead.
there are cyclists around who are also willing to take the less experienced under their wing, pointing out easier ways of doing things and shouting words of encouragement when the road is steeper than the number of teeth on the big sprocket will allow. disappointingly, those who provide the machines and components on which we ride rarely seem to have those best interests at the top of the company manifesto. witness my perennial carping about the number of different bottom bracket standards, and even the confusing amount of headset diameters in use. it would seem that the word standard has a different meaning within the cycle industry than it has for jazz musicians.
one of the most infuriating variations is that of the pattern of splines on the ubiquitous freehub. it is no secret that shimano cassettes will not fit campagnolo's deeper splines or vice versa, though latecomers to the gear party, sram, had at least the decency to adopt one of the existing standards (shimano) rather than invent their own. i own two bicycles running on sram and two that favour vicenza, and in order to use wheels designed for the former on bicycles using the latter, i have what is referred to as a compatible cassette, one that uses campagnolo's spacing but with shimano's spline pattern. however, my recent review of cole's c24s had to be carried out aboard the colnago only because i specifically requested a campag pattern freehub.
it's very unlikely that this situation will change, for doubtless campagnolo (the odd one out) has too much time and money invested to go changing anyhting now. however, on my portland visit of two years ago, chris king lent me a prototype cielo fitted with chorus just to accommodate my preferences. i discovered at the point of returning the bicycle, that the ten-speed cassette fitted was a shimano dura-ace, for chris king did not subscribe to the italian way of doing things. i was impressed that shifting had been so tidy, but as pointed out to me by chris distefano, when the sprocket numbers go up, there's not a lot of gap to play with. compatibility in this respect has almost been force fed.
however, for the 2011 north american handbuilt show, chris king (the man, not the company) custom built a cielo racer and kitted it out with a campagnolo groupset, meaning he was excluded from using his own hubs. this led to much speculation at the time that the company might just be easing themselves towards a version of their r45 hub with a campagnolo spline pattern; that specualtion has now become reality. or at least, a slightly delayed reality; the campagnolo version of the r45 will make its grand entrance in january 2012. just in case those of a shimano/sram predisposition are feeling left out of the development loop, a simultaneous announcement brought chris king manufactured ceramic bearings as an option on all variations of the r45.
so, though my own cielo is fitted with sram red and a very fine pair of (non-ceramic) r45 hubs, there's still room for another fine pair of r45s (ceramic or otherwise) on the campagnolo equipped colnago. purely in the interest of examining those standards, you understand.
it's waiting until january that's the problem.
should you have not met chris king hubs before now, only a matter of weekends past, they notched up their 21st professional win of the 2011 season with united healthcare pro cycling. a healthy recommendation if one were needed.
posted thursday 11 august 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
during the months of winter, it is not uncommon to view picture story after picture story of how the search for the last few milliseconds of aerodynamic advantage, hell bent on bringing that finish line closer than it was last season. the vagaries of weather, wind and other riders tend to mitigate against the simplicity of ironing out any minor kinks in the carbon fibre, but that seems not to stop many from issuing eagerly snapped up soundbites as to how the result of windtunnel testing makes their bike several seconds faster over your average tour stage. the flys in the ointment are both the guy sitting in the saddle and the fact that the organisers have had the temerity to feature corners in almost all the stages.
if only everything were as direct as the path to that enormous propeller.
this malady formerly only afflicted time-trial bicycles, where an accompanying churning of pelotonic air is particularly absent, but it's likely that the majority of gains that can be made in this discipline have already been realised. now it's the turn of the average road bike. that in itself is largely unsurprising, if we can take into consideration the increasingly more common necessity of getting the green jersey contender across the line in first place as often as possible.
while concealed brake calipers are nothing particularly new in the time-trial discipline, more recent standard road bicycles have started to adopt the same trend. though it is possible that these hidden calipers are not manufactured by the bicycle companies themselves, their positions on the front and rear forks are very much dictated by the latter. thus any subcontractor has to match aesthetics with mechanical efficiency, and i can't help thinking on occasion, it's the latter factor that suffers.
the dual-pivot system currently in vogue has served us well for a considerable number of years, and with reference my opening gambit regarding the endless quest for aerodynamic efficiency and thus increased speed, it seems almost humorously contradictory to make similar improvements in the means of stopping that happening. but taken as a logical series of events, the faster the bicycle is designed to travel, the more power needed to slow it down in timely fashion. most of us, i'm inclined to think, would like to think that the brakes fitted to our bicycles will do their job with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of efficiency. if that involves design without the need to blend into the bodywork, i can't see too many complaints from those spending their own money.
of course, we'd all like the brakes bolted front and rear to look nice, but if push comes to shove, for me looks will always be subservient to mechanical efficiency. at least in the braking department. thus i am happy that the majority have carte blanche to effectively ignore the shape of the frame they are attempting to bring to a halt. however, i am not averse to a modicum of justified bling, something visibly proffered by tektro's less than snappily monikered r970sl calipers. these can be acquired in white/red, matt black/silver and a blast from the past, jps gold and black. additionally, for a limited time, the 970sl calipers are also available in team geox neon yellow.
i'm not stunningly proud of my formula one racing addiction when i was a lot younger, but i do remember brazilian driver emerson fittipaldi racing a black and gold lotus 72 sponsored by cigarette company john player special. so far as i can ascertain, that was the inspiration behind this particular colour scheme. we live in interesting times when it is possible to purchase a brake system in four different colours. henry ford must be turning in his grave.
if one really has to have a reason/excuse to purchase brakes that replace the standard groupset offerings, one factor is likely to be weight. in this case, a pair of sram red calipers were being removed from the colnago to be temporarily replaced with the trps, relieving me from the need to carry an extra 300 grams (ten ounces in old money). though, as i have pointed out before, i could lose much more than this with a decent haircut, if the all-up weight of your bicycle is a serious consideration, 300g is not to be sneezed at. this featherweightness is achieved by using titanium hardware and cnc machined magnesium arms, of a most confidence inspiring chunkiness. the pads are by the all but ubiquitous swiss-stop. each caliper has a sliding quick release, but one i had little need of, given that campagnolo build a q/r mechanism into each brake lever.
the bulk of each caliper is finished in matt black, with the pad holders in shiny gold as well as the cable adjuster atop the caliper arm. the gold is continued through to the lettering applied letting you know what you've bought. fitting both front and rear was simplicity itself.
suggested uk retail price is £399.99. sharp intake of breath.
it is a scientifically proven fact that bling does not stop fast moving bicycles very well; there needs to be some substance behind the shine. if you're sitting there thinking that one set of brakes is pretty much like another, then i would have cheerfully have joined you on that couch only a few weeks ago. at the price being asked for these, unless you are particularly deep of pocket, there would really need to be a darned sight more than just a saving of weight, however considerable. my cynicism generally knows no bounds, and though an undoubtedly attractive pair of brakes, this was going to be a hard sell.
in much the same way as a pair of tyres, i am convinced that the majority of brakes currently on the market will make a reasonable job of stopping a rider on a bicycle in dry weather. yes, some will make a better job than others, but by and large we're all quite comfortable to ride out on whatever came on the bike when purchased. the real test, in my opinion, comes when precipitation is at its worst, and if possible, on a brand new set of unworn aluminium rims. what a coincidence. scottish summers are not renowned for their lengthy periods of blazing sunshine and unstinting temperatures, and the arrival of the recently reviewed cole c24 lites provided a confluence of serendipity. in the process of trying to upset the coles in the pouring rain over the worst roads i could find, braking was of primary concern yet secondary consideration. by this, i infer that i placed all my trust in a pair of calipers that had yet to prove their worth.
stunning is probably the one word that springs immediately to mind.
there was no hint of snatching at any point during the review period; quite the contrary. the modulation afforded was little short of impressive, providing confident feathering when it was only necessary to scrub off a modicum of speed, yet handfuls of stopping power when the cows on the carrabus road were undecided as to which was the better choice of roadside verge. the impressive part was that i didn't ever feel that the brakes had reached the extent of their power; no matter how hard i'd needed to squeeze the levers, it always felt as if there was more in reserve and flexing was conspicuous by its absence.
while i enjoy an incredible lightness of being just as much as the next guy, i'd be very loathe to spend my hard-earned to simply achieve improved weightlessness. however, in this case, it is necessary to consider lightness as a by-product; an added bonus if you will. this is precision stopping in a truly attractive package. whether you feel you can justify the not inconsiderable price ticket is between you and your bank manager, but from now on everything else is just going to feel like slowing down.
trp brakes are distributed in the uk by upgrade , at a suggested retail price of £399.95
posted wednesday 10 august 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the lucky few amongst us arrive in this world built for speed. i am most definitely not one of them, though i can think of a few to whom i would attribute this redeeming feature. of course, being one of the stealth-like brings its own disadvantages; nobody likes you much on the tuesday chain-gang because after the first turn, they and most of the fellow peletonese are simply hanging on for grim death. and despite an appetite that would put many a plague of locusts in the shade, not one ounce of fat has migrated to those places the rest of us try to hide.
there is also a less than healthy obsession with numbers, most of which relate to heart-rate, power output, or simply maximum speed in a straight line. these are all quite telling aspects of the racing game, but ones that many would prefer remained a matter of confidentiality between self and coach. thus it is that clothing pertaining to these lucky/bedevilled few has to closely fit the form of the honed athlete, that no extraneous material be allowed to flap in the breeze. nor, indeed, should there be any time wasted in ridding of excess heat or moisture, yet for long, hard hours in the saddle, a modicum of comfort would most definitely not go amiss.
this all seems gravely serious, very much at odds with the joy and happiness that we would normally associate with riding a bicycle; even, on occasion, at speed. but there is humour to be had even in the depths of an srm power readout, for though such professional attire is undoubtedly out there, clothing the fast and the furious, there are many amongst the great unwashed who will naively purchase a verisimilitude of this professionalism to wear in those weekend moments of leisure.
and recently, i have been one of them.
almost twenty years past, jim livingstone returned from australia and formed endura clothing, based in livingston, near edinburgh. initially more well-known to the offroad community, their decision to sponsor a fully-fledged and highly successful road team has brought them considerable attention from those on narrower tyres and ostensibly smoother surfaces. if you are well-founded and respected cycle clothing suppliers, it ill-behoves you to ignore the ideal conditions for product development provided by a continental grade race team, and all credit to the chaps in livingston for having taken advantage. the clothing that sees direct benefit from professional rider input is the endura equipe range, which has a website all to itself.
i bear no illusions whatsoever as to my propensity for speed, even if clad from head to toe in the same equipe clothing as accompanies the endura race team around the european circuit. in so doing, i open a mass of contradictions, for though the right chest says look i am in fact riding a colnago. similarly, my shoulders pay tribute to the tyres of continental and fizik saddles, while the reality is that the master is shod with vittoria and seating is courtesy of san marco. and as if merely to add insult to injury, despite changing ten gears via campagnolo's ergopower shifters, the side panels display sram in a very convincing red.
however, this is the iniquity of the replica. i am displaying my support for a team native to the country of my birth and residence, yet am perceptibly undermined by their own, separately negotiated affiliations. this is not a malady confined to the world of cycle team clothing. unless i am very much mistaken, not all the nine year old boys i see at the local playpark are named ronaldinho or beckham and have a penchant for one or two premium lagers at such an early age. it is a contradiction that is seemingly accepted by society at large, its saving grace being that, though somewhat slower than the real endura riders, i am still quick enough to avoid a knowledgeable readership.
the endura equipe team replica kit basically consists of a jersey featuring all the above mentioned logos, and a pair of bib shorts. though blessed with a couple of unnecessary coloured swoops from the armpit to the shoulder, mercifully the principal panels simply vary in the shininess of their shade of black. endura did warn me prior to sending that the jersey is of aero-fit cut and thus my more usual medium size may be a tad restrictive. comfortable in my own skin, so to speak, i stuck with the requested medium, and in retrospect, i'm glad i did so. however, if you are possessed of one or two lumps and bumps that you would prefer not to display to the world at large, i'd shift up a size; this is a very close-fitting jersey.
the interesting bit is that the jersey is made in the uk, despite its sizing being more akin to that of italy. i think this is something on which endura might place slightly greater emphasis, particularly when many others are manufacturing in the far flung reaches of europe and asia.
it features a full-length zip and a lower cut collar than is the norm on most cycle jerseys. the hem is elasticated and trimmed inside with the silicon gloop that keeps it where it's supposed to be. rather excitingly, the inner ends of the closely fitted sleeves also feature gloop, something that added a slight frisson to the practice of actually getting the jersey on in the first place. once on, the equipe jersey is like a second skin, offering pretty darned near no wind resistance at all and staying put under all sorts of duress. the rear pockets are capable enough for a true race jersey (few professionals carry the contents of a bikeshed with them), but surprisingly a very welcome zipped valuable pocket that is surely surplus to requirements when arguing with brian smith in the team car.
i have made my feelings know in previous endura mentions, that i have my aesthetic doubts over the equipe logo, particularly that opening 'e', but i have rather warmed to the lime green in which it is depicted. if you can comfortably fit into one of these jerseys, you will love it. the fit alone is worth an extra 3kph, and there is little to compare with the closest most of us will ever get to looking like a professional.
knowingly, endura also provided a very slick pair of lightweight armwarmers; it may be summer according to the calendar, but a hebridean ambient temperature say otherwise. most armwarmers are simply tubes of a lycra-type fabric with gloop or elastic at the top to hold them in place and, if you're lucky, some nice warm fleece on the inside. endura's equipe armwarmers are tailored to within an inch of their lives. and your arms. these, bright green logos on the outside notwithstanding, are very particularly left and right, with inner gussets for the inward bend of the elbow, and an outer panel that covers above the outer elbow. they easily manage to continue the second skin effect of the jersey, look ruddy fabulous, and accomplish just what you hoped they would.
if i have to make a criticism it is that the left armwarmer featured a rubberised line green tab that eased the job of getting it on and off, but the right version was bereft of same. i'd put this feature on both.
interestingly, the made in the uk badge of honour is not carried through to the shorts, featuring as they do an italian seat pad and italian power lycra. i'm afraid that even during several lengthy rides as a clandestine member of team endura, i was unable to figure out what was the difference between power lycra and the ordinary stuff. that, however, matters not one whit. unlike their upper torso brethren, the shorts are of more regular dimensions, but then there is probably more emphatic movement to contend with than the stillness of a pro's upper body. the bib section starts around half-way up the torso with two mesh straps at the front merging to a single white mesh portion that meets the word endura at the lower back. not that the jersey made any attempt to move upwards during riding, but if it ever does, there is plenty of power lycra to keep the lower back from breathing in cold air.
the outer leg panels are perforated, presumably for both comfort and air conditioning, while the legs are gripped with tenacity by more of that gloopy stuff.
as you would perhaps expect, the dimpled pad inhabits the same fluorescent green that colours the 'e's on each leg, and in common with the very best of padded shorts, once in the saddle, you'd never know it was there. i'd like to think i cut a striking figure in my team replica kit, that were i to infiltrate one of smiffy's pre-race talks, they would accept me as one of their own. sadly, that's more than likely a clinical delusion which would be immediately dispelled even on a training ride. if i were endura, i'd make a plain version of this jersey, bereft of the sponsors' logos, for it is a superb item of apparel that can easily hold its own with its peers, and not everyone wants to look like a wannabe. the shorts are of the usual impeccable endura equipe quality; not fussy, not flashy, but a triumph of both form and function.
i nearly got past the audition, but smiffy said my yellow shoes clashed with the molteni coloured colnago. some folks just don't know class when they see it.
the endura team replica jersey retails at £74.99, in sizes small to xxl. endura also offer a cusomisable version on which your name and national flag can be added for an extra £15. the equipe bibshorts retails at £99.99 in similar sizes.
posted tuesday 9 august 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................