a colleague in the office has two kids at school; one's at primary and his elder sister is now in secondary, meaning she has two lots of calendar details to take care of across the course of a year. there are huge swathes of highlighter pen trawled across the summer months when she has to carry out her work in the evenings and at weekends because they're both on holiday from school. and there's a scattering of individually highlighted days to denote so-called in service days, when the kids have the day off, and there's a conspiracy theory that so do the teachers.
a woman who makes her calendars work hard for a living.
i'd dearly love to present myself as a serially organised person, almost carelessly slotting events of great import into my lack of a daily routine while impressing upon innocent bystanders that all is as easy as falling off a log. were i a modern executive, important fixtures would be digitally stored for casual retrieval in the face of external adversity, while remaining cool, calm and collected. nothing if not smooth.
the reality, as we all know, is substantially different. in the days when bicycle repairs formed a large part of my day to day, it was not uncommon for me to meet customers with a blank stare when asked as to how work was proceeding. i am commonly in the habit of saying yes to every task of digital manipulation, hoping against hope that i can juggle the results to appear on top of the problem. it rarely works.
i too, am someone who could make extensive use of a calendar. so why is it that i don't?
i have an ipod to cover all bases, something that will beep timeously to remind of tasks quickly forgotten. unfortunately, on more than one occasion, a second ipod would have been a great boon to remind me to take the first one to work to begin with. realistically speaking, what earthly use would a calendar be? if i set reminders, i'd have to remember to look at them, and i'd really need something that could co-ordinate calendars at home and away, just like my ipod that i can carry with me.
but i just love this time of year, as we head towards christmas and new year, when calendars directed at the pelotonese make themselves known. calendars are easy to visibly check how the weeks are passing, and physically how many days are between two disparate dates. but undoubtedly the very best bits are the cycling photographs decorating the upper half of each month; there can be little more encouraging pinned to a wall, than a reminder of the weekend's ride a reminding that lasts till at least wednesday, then a portent of that which will take place over the coming saturday and sunday. how can it fail?
as we just scrape into the first days of november, optimism is re-kindled for a cycling-filled 2012 with the appearance of the prendas ciclismo les memoires du peloton extravaganza that is already lining up to seamlessly replace its predecessor currently hanging by my bedside. it's a hard concept with which to argue that having a year's worth of john pierce photos to look at last thing at night and first thing in the morning can in some way be bettered. and just to make my 2012 even better than it looks like it might be, the month of june features robert millar in king of the mountains mode, while december has been allocated to flying scotsman, graeme obree.
try doing that on an ipod.
the prendas 'memoires du peloton' calendar will be available to purchase from 21st november. £9.95 each or £17.50 for two.
posted tuesday november 1 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
for all the adulation that mark cavendish has garnered for his tour de france green jersey and subsequent world championship hoops, nobody is really that bothered about the kilometres preceding the point at which the htc leadout train engaged the turbo. for 2012, substitute sky for htc (hopefully). those last few kilometres will often have most of us on the edge of our seats, making no sense of the gaggle of jerseys and wondering how on earth david harmon does. but what of the preceding kilometres?
sadly, with the exception of a few intermediate sprints, and in this i include all three of the grand tours, and most definitely the tour of quatar, flat sprinters' stages have little to commend them from a visual point of view. helicopter shots of fabian and oscar discussing their respective breakfast menus just doesn't do it for me. similarly the time-trials; perhaps one very late in those three weeks can be a bit of a cliffhanger, but again, they're hardly an exciting visual spectacle no matter the impact the result may possibly have on the overall.
it is, therefore, of little surprise that what we're really waiting for are the mountain stages. though the cavendish's of this world may not share our enjoyment, it's a chance to see the very best slogging it out against the very best, and doing so at a speed that allows unadulterated views of every grimace on every gradient. though shifting down the block at speeds in excess of 65kph may be a lot harder than it looks, there can be no denying that scaling some of europe's highest mountains and mountain passes looks every bit as hard as we all know it to be. it is strange, therefore, that large numbers of us confuse the ability of the top professionals to ascend with our own total lack of the same.
as i have mentioned several times before, most cyclists simply can't climb hills. wanting to doesn't really count. so why do we need a very big book acting as a biography of such lofty heights?
the easy answer is to reply because we do. right? there's no denying the fact that during any mountian stage of note, there is precious little of the bumpy bits to be seen. they're usually all but obscured by flag waving basques, or the eye is distracted by an american chap wearing an oversize viking helmet. the spectacle is everything; stages such as these are the high point (pun intended) of many a grand tour, but the sprint on the champs elysees, on the streets of milan or the roadways of madrid arrive all too soon, and we leave without ever really knowing the mountains we claim to be oh so familiar with.
those are the mountains, the really tall mountains, yet below 300m ascendency has its own monuments, and it was truly unbounded joy to find the first 'mountain' in daniel friebe's comprehensive guide to the pointy bits of europe, is the tour of flanders' koppenberg; all of 78 metres top to bottom, surfaced with thousands of adorable cobbles. i kid you not when i say that i'd gladly have bought the book if this was the only mountain contained within. but it just gets better on reaching page twelve, discovering that mountain number two is also from the tour of flanders: the muur van geraardsbergen (110m). the sight of more cobbles, beautifully captured by photographer pete goding, is enough to make those neck hairs stand to attention. this first chapter cycles through many of the monuments attributed to the spring classics; mur de huy, cipressa, la redoute, mont faron.... a veritable smorgasbord of hard climbing.
though yet again a book of the coffee table variety, there is some exceptionally attentive narrative enclosed within its pages. daniel friebe may be no slouch when it comes to riding his bike up many of the mountains portrayed, but he also has the literary skills to enliven their respective characters when experienced from the comfort of a stationary armchair. mr goding's photography could not have been a better match; not for him the predictable, oft seen views of the croce d'aune, puerto de urkiola, lagos de covadonga, monte zoncolan, and the col de peyresourde. devoid of fans or cyclists, many images snapped in atmospheric conditions, this is where we learn more about the character, history and eccentricities of each of the fifty climbs than could ever be matched by eurosport.
each one is accompanied by a box-out fact file, detailing the anorak figures guaranteed to turn you into the next anthony mccrossan; maximum gradient, average gradient, total height, total length, a 3d profile and a map. the latter is perhaps worth scribbling down, or even photocopying if you intend riding to the top, but for the rest of us, the romantics if you will, this is an absolute delight of a book that should be accompanied by a 'do not remove' sticker on the surface of the coffee table.
if you're asked what you want for christmas, this is it.
posted monday 31 october 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in the pages of a book currently under review (which, with luck and a tailwind, will appear tomorrow), i learn that gilbert simoni test rode the last three kilometres of the monte zoncolan in 2003 prior to its inclusion in that year's giro d'italia. despite his prowess as a climber, and despite having the bicycle fitted with 39x27, he apparently only just made the summit. his team-mate, leonardo bertagnolli, slumming it on 39x25, never made it that far. he turned around and went back down the hill. now those are the sort of answers that are often forthcoming on internet forums or perhaps at pre or post-race interviews when the likes of simoni, armstrong, contador et al are queried over the combination of chainwheel and sprocket that did it for them. it's part of the anorakness of cycling fans.
were bertagnolli to enquire of simoni how he summitted with far more ease than the former, all would be perfectly understandable. were i to ask simoni the same question, you would be well within your rights to cast an askance glare in my direction. robert millar told attendees at a scottish masterclass many years ago, not to ask such questions regarding the tour de france, because those asking would not be riding the tour; thus his answers would be of little use to the questioners. whatever we think of our climbing abilities, that riposte is undoubtedly true. applying such relevance to the case of simoni above, if he only just managed to summit, we would probably need a bus.
a similar accusation can be levelled at the other end of the cassette; it is my understanding that the mark cavendish club reach the finish line in something like 53x11. how many of your immediate peloton ever use the eleven sprocket with any regularity? even nigel tufnell didn't get that far down the block. so yet again we find ourselves in the land of make-believe; knowing that petacchi, cipollini and others can reach fearsome speeds in gears that most of us own, really doesn't help a whole heck of a lot.
and while we're in the realm of things not helping very much, i find myself somewhat confused over the contemporary method of figuring out just what gear i'm in at any given moment. as i averred yesterday, numbers are not quite my thing, but to pop things into a more comfortably abstract sense of things for a moment, if i were to ask you to divide one number by another and multiply it by the colour you first thought of, i figure you'd be on the phone booking me a room with comfortably padded wallpaper, and a cycle jacket that fastens up the back. but in reality, that's almost what we're being asked to do by the modern method of having numbers to swap in the peleton.
in pseudo mathematical terms, the procedure for having gear inches at your disposal runs thus: divide the number of teeth on the chainring by the number of teeth on the desired rear sprocket, then multiply it by the wheel size. if that sounds a bit like comparing apples with pomegranates, then you may just be correct. to employ numbers already present in the narrative, simoni's zoncolan combination of 39x27 provides a 39 inch gear. cav's sprinting preference bestows a whole 130 inches. how am i doing this? some of you will already be familar with the process and likely confused as to the point of my seemingly vaccuous digression, but the formula used word-wide, for road bikes at any rate, dictates that the sprocketty, chainwheel number is multiplied by 27, a number representative of something that, to all intents and purposes, no longer exists.
look at the numbers on the side of whatever tyre takes pride of place on your road or 'cross bike; the smaller number is here irrelevant, but the big one that starts the short sequence is almost certain to be 700. twenty-seven comes from the historical wheel-size that used to be the prevalent option in the uk at least; 27x1.25". divide 700mm by 2.5 in order to garner a set of inches from the modern wheel size in use today, and you'll arrive at 28. would someone care to elucidate why then, we're multiplying by 27? use this formula for simoni's setup and you arrive at a smidgeon over 40. i do understand that all this is derived from the time when the pedals were directly connected to the front wheel of a penny farthing; if the wheel was 36" in diameter, there's your 36" gear. once modernity reared its ugly head, formulas were required, and we ended up with the foregoing rudimentary arithmetic.
but leaving aside my doubts over the equalling of sprocket and chainwheel teeth with any form of length measurement, who the heck cares? numbers such as these fail to take in any comparison of perceived ability or propensity toward achievement. if i can climb port askaig brae using a 42 inch gear, does that help the mighty dave t settle on his own choice of gearing? and if pre-informed that the sunday ride would be taking a flyer up the hill at storakaig, does this mean i should arise a bit earlier to swap cassettes? does anybody this side of a leopardshack contract actually do that?
enjoy the ride.
posted sunday 30 october 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
currently, i can think of several arguments for and against being interested or obsessed with numbers. given that the current global economic crisis revolves entirely around numbers, a comprehensive comprehension of the intricate ways in which they can be manipulated is undoubtedly a very handy and highly employable skill. but when listening to or reading the financial news that seems to have crept from somewhere near the back of my newspaper to perilously close to the front, i can't help thinking that when related to national or coprporate finance, numbers have ceased to be a means to an end. they are now a concentrated end in and of themselves.
when the ceo of wpp (apologies for the over-use of acronyms) was interviewed only the other morning regarding his salary increase being more than three times the company's increase in profits, his command of obfuscation was more or less the equal of his command of digits. apprently, £1.5 million is regarded within his particular peer group as being 'a low basic salary, topped up with incentive and stock bonuses'. i now feel compelled to search for an employer who will offer me such a commendably low basic salary.
there is little doubt that numbers got us into this mess in the first place, or rather, not the numbers themselves but the people who push them around for a living, particularly where those numbers represent someone else's bank balance, rather than their own. but the numbers themselves are the fall guys here, patiently sitting in all their innocence, happy to represent any commodity, currency or deficit you wish to define. one day you're the positive number at the foot of a bank balance, next day you're being castigated as a representative of the greek national debt.
and if every country has national debt, where is all the money going?
the numbers referred to above, however, are in the esoteric region, hardly within the grasp of us mere mortals not in government somewhere. the numbers allowed to be possessed by you and i are far more anodyne and in some cases, infinitely more friendly. perhaps it would be seemly to represent the numbers game in a more benevolent light, principally by attaching them to the handlebar of a bicycle. if those seem unfriendly at any given time, i would tender that we only have ourselves to blame.
long gone are the days when it was only possible to affix a tiny peg to one of the front spokes, an instrument that would cheerfully click a three or four digit counter attached to the appropriate fork leg. as you pedalled, the numbers not unnaturally increased one digit at a time, though representative of what, it is hard to say. the best that could be gleaned from this rudimentary display was that the trip from house to library and back was 728. those are hardly the figures that would gain access to british cycling's fast track programme.
cycle computers are considerably more sophisticated these days, offering a plethora of information that may be of great import, along with possibly just as much that adds to the confusion. i doubt there are many who will rue the passing of tethered computers, where not only was it necessary to wind the attached wires round the front brake cable, but eminently possible to separate said wire from its sensor if not too careful with one's handlebar adjustment. wireless is undoubtedly the way to go, and even that has become a sophisticated setup.
ant+ is a wireless technology that works similarly to bluetooth, but sits within a wider range. thus compatible accessories no longer have to be frustratingly close to the head unit, but can be more practically affixed on useful parts of the bicycle. this technology has been previously exploited by garmin, and has here been adopted by bbb in their new range of digiboard computers. the model under inspection is the snappily named bcp-51wh, augmented in this case with the optional cadence kit. all spread out on the kitchen table this provides a method of displaying speed, heart-rate (there's a chest strap hrm included in the box) and pedalling speed. the lack of connecting wires can be viewed as an impressive bonus, but doesn't mean that it's plain sailing after opening the lid.
the digiboard head unit isn't huge, but it's not tiny either, so i was opting for fitting it on the stem to provide better support when randomly pressing buttons en-route. rather than provide two separate mounting brackets, bbb have decided that one size fits all is the ideal solution, one that would seem sensible and sane, but to do so, a degree of user interference is required. there are four miniscule screws on the bracket's base that need to be unscrewed with one of those comparably miniscule jeweller's screwdrivers which, of course, is immediately to hand in all cycling households. whatever you do, please carry out this operation over something like a dark towel, not only to catch the inevitable dropped screw, but enabling easy discovery when the inevitable happens.
the large, coin-sized battery to power the digiboard is supplied in the pack, and the step through instructions to set each function are clearly and easily defined. where i came unstuck was in my repeatedly pathetic attempts to have the hrm, speed and cadence paired with the head unit. i fear that bbb have to accept at least partial blame for this state of affairs. pressing both sides of the large button at the bottom of the unit puts it into pairing mode, where it hunts for anything that might be of digital use and sets it up accordingly. it nabbed the speed sensor almost immediately; fitting the cadence unit to the left chainstay and pressing the button again nabbed this one straight away, but lost the speed completely. no amount of frustrated footering (including removing and replacing batteries and re-setting the main unit) would remedy this situation. don't even get me started on pairing the heart rate sensor.
original problems notwithstanding, it turns out that every sensor needs to be in operation before successful pairing can be achieved (who knew?). the following morning, all worked in mere minutes. (joyous) screams again. the gap required between sensor and magnet (cadence and speed) meant that both sensor units were required to adopt angles well separated from the horizontal or vertical. surely accidents waiting to happen? perhaps not.
in an effort to give the digiboard as hard a time as possible, it was fitted to the stem of a colnago cyclocross bike, but one with a square(ish) cross-section. mounting is via a couple of zip ties, easy enough under the circumstances, but quite hard to tighten as fully as would have been the case on a rounded model. i'm very much in favour of the mini-bungee method, but i apologise for trivialising. not only was the whole enchilada fitted to a cyclocross bike, but the subsequent riding pattern was in thick mud, wet grass, unruly undergrowth and rock-strewn pathways. in fact, pretty much everything that might be expected to disrupt normal service in oh so many ways. add to this my very best sven nys impersonations, and the cycle was frequently carried up scrabbly inclines, expressly designed to greatly worry the worryingly exposed cadence sensor.
it is incredibly naive of me to think that the chaps at bbb would not have taken all this into account during the 'what have we here, gentlemen' stage of development. despite my giving not one fig for the safety of every last bit of the digiboard, everything continued to work even when, by rights, it should have been seriously ruffled into an inoperative state, even if only temporarily. nothing i did over several days of incompetent leaping on and off, and one or two inadvertant excursions into the undergrowth (something most of you may more usually refer to as crashing). even substantial quantities of mud failed to stop those ant+ neutrinos from reaching their destination. but what you all really want to know is 'is it truly waterproof?
for once in my long career, i can unequivocally testify in the affirmative. after at least a couple of hours of playing in the wet, i rode home in absolutely torrential rain, precipitation that caused major incidents of localised flooding all across the island, but throughout which the numbers never skipped a beat. i jest not when i say that this was the equivalent of submerging everything in water for about fiteen minutes. the three buttons around the edge of the unit are large and easy to operate even with long-fingered gloves, though they do make it awkward to remove the unit without altering one or more readouts, (and possibly even resetting everything before having the chance to read the day's exertions.)
the speed display is the largest and easy to view; cadence and heart-rate readouts are a tad smaller, but still commendably legible even under duress. at the foot of the display there's a variable readout providing options such as ride time, average speed, maximum speed, calories expended and a myriad of other inscrutable but doubtlessly entertaining facts and figures. at the top left corner, the time of day is constantly displayed, digits that inhabit the bottom right when the unit is in sleep mode. surprisingly, considering powertap hubs are also ant+ compatible, there's no option to pair and view power output. perhaps it's not as simple as i'm presuming. in this day and age it also seems strange to me that none of the acquired data is downloadable to a computer for hours of endless amusement at a later date.
there's one model above that tested, costing around twenty pounds more and adding an altitude readout, but i'm happy to settle for the numbers i could see before me in bridgend woods and beyond. there is likely more going on here than is strictly necessary if you're only along for the ride, but if needed for training purposes or as a record of longer journeys, this is an entirely appropriate purchase at around £130 retail, and well worth the money for its ant+ ability and stunningly effective waterproofing.
it's nice to know that the folks at bbb are so forgiving of reviewers' incompetence. i really ought to read manuals more closely. it seems that i installed the speed sensor on the fork with the battery enclosure facing inwards instead of outward, thus requiring the bizarre angle i achieved to have the speed register on the head unit. i can only apologise to windwave and bbb for my inadequacy in this respect.
bbb products including the digiboard, are distributed in the uk by windwave.
posted saturday 29 october 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
no doubt something of a legal minefield, the trade descriptions act was introduced in 1968 to protect the hapless consumer from the vicissitudes of predatory manufacturers, retailers or perchance, service industry providers. for, as we all recognise, the latter's sole purpose in life is to prevent the great unwashed from being able to purchase the very goods which they have advertised as being fit for purpose. according to the act, products sold must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. any advert or verbal description must match that depicted by the trader, or the law will not be a happy chappie, and wrists will be in danger of being smacked.
that being the case, i think i may have a legitimate case for complaint.
normally, i would attempt to solve any problem of this type by contacting the manufacturer directly and pointing out the error of their ways, preferring to come to some amicable agreement rather than dragging their hard-won reputation through the metaphorical dirt. but with the case in question, i adjudged it more prudent to warn the cycling public in advance. for i believe that said manufacturer would wish to stifle my cries of 'foul', as such could adversely affect their admittedly finely crafted sales ploy.
now i should make it plain that the product in question is not faulty in any way; quite the contrary, the merino socks to which i refer, are quite possibly the finest example of their genre i have had the good fortune to wear. i distinctly remember, several years ago, telephoning the incumbent sales operative (such a demeaning term; the lady to whom i refer was, and probably still is, one of the nicest i have met) to effuse over an earlier version of the selfsame product. it may be the decent thing to point out that the current item's ancestor gave no cause for concern in either quality or manufacturer's description, and is thus exempt from the current discussion.
it cannot be denied, however, that the current merino socks, in three alternative, yet fashionable colours do not fit the manufacturer's description.
let me elucidate, if you will. after a morning from printer hell, having spent nigh on four hours attempting every variation possible to send an a3 publication to a networked colour printer and failing miserably, the only available solution was to take the rest of the day off and commute to bruichladdich village for a soya cappuccino. notice my use of the word commute in this context; i'm sure i could have described my cycle trip as a jolly but that would surely demean the importance of the coffee as an escape from the morning's tangible misery.
as mrs twmp was expecting me to return for tea, i have no real choice but to describe my return trip as a commute, and i'll happily argue till the cows come home with anyone who says different. my morning attire was that becoming of a pre-press professional in a rural economy, and i could see no reasonable argument that would provoke me into swapping this mode of dress for one more becoming of a pelotonesian. commuters simply don't do that sort of thing. there's no getting away from the fact that a pair of rapha cotton trousers have legs with an almost magnetic affinity for chainrings and chain oil. the best methods for disturbing this state of affairs is either to roll the offending trouser leg up towards the knee, or more funkily, to tuck it inside the right sock.
in order to accomplish this, the sock needs to be of commensurate length, a feature that rapha's pink and black, fig and yellow or morroccan blue and white have in abundance. and should your street cred stretch to turning over the sock's top, the word rapha can be plainly seen in the knit. all seems to be hunky dory so far. my regular reader will, by now, be thoroughly au fait with the route between bowmore and bruichladdich villages, taking in the exposed expanse of uiskentuie strand, with dunes on the left and mountainous raised beaches on the right, both peppered with freely roaming sheep and cattle; the rural idyll, if you will. it is here that i take exception to rapha's website description and where i feel legal redress may be in order, for perren street describes the items in question as city riding socks.
my above described route surely lays rest to that erroneous description; nowhere is there a building greater than three storeys high; nowhere is there a set of traffic lights, a roundabout, the gas, electricity board or british telecom digging up the road; nowhere is there a belligerent taxi driver intent on confining my cycling to the gutter, and if i choose to leave my bicycle unlocked outside debbie's, i know for a fact that it will still be there when i come out again. quite plainly not the city; in fact, not even a town. i will therefore be contacting my member of parliament, member of the scottish parliament and member of the european parliament to have seek compensatory redress against those fibbers in perren street, and i will not waver from my cause until reparations are made.
another three pairs of city riding socks ought to do the trick.
rapha's city riding socks are available in black with pink trim, morroccan blue with white trim and fig with yellow trim in sizes from small to xl for only £s;15 per pair.
posted friday 28 october 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i make no apologies for following yesterday's diatribe that concerned, for the large part, a musical digression, with yet another one today, but if it bothers you, i do hope you will bear with me while i set a hopefully appropriate scene. many years ago now, in the days of the dark-side when i owned a motor car, there was even a time when i listened to the radio. i say this by way of qualification, since latterly i found radios, cassettes (remember those?) compact discs and even ipods, to be little more than an unwarranted distraction. i was never a particularly competent or confident car driver, and i felt it somewhat of an unwarranted intrusion on the journeys of others that i should be less than concentrated on the task at hand.
however, in the course of driving from bowmore to ballygrant for the purposes of displaying, yet again, my own particular take on the art of drumming, the radio station to which i was listening announced that i was about to hear some r 'n' b. given that i was, at the time, playing in a blues band, by my understanding, one half of r 'n' b, i was looking forward perhaps to some rory gallagher, maybe a smidgeon of eric clapton, and possibly even some bb king. what subsequently inhabited the one speaker still working in the front of my motor car, was an endless stream of synthesiser and drum machine backed ditties, songs that would have made the rolling stones look at each other in blank confusion. this most definitely was not rhythm and blues; not even close.
so how could a well-worn acronym that had survived the decades denoting a particular style of music be hijacked by modernity? surely john peel would have made some inglorious protest on our behalf? it seems that, though the original style from the fifties and sixties is still a legitimate form of reference, the more recent stealing of the apellation was apparently adopted to describe the melange of urban contemporary music that arose after disco died in the 1980s. so how now am i supposed to know to which style any given individual is referring?
though i've little in the way of notoriety to gain from not owning a mobile phone and subsequently informing the world that this is the case, i find that the modern world of which i assume i am a part, begins to make conformist assumptions that such a device will be a part of my daily armoury. only a week or so ago, i had one of those unsolicited phone calls from a mobile phone company wishing to have me transfer my affections to their service. on re-iterating the salient fact that i did not own such an item, the gentleman on the other end felt it necessary to exclaim his disbelief that there was truly someone in the civilised world who could function without such a device. i'm afraid i had thanked him for his call and replaced the receiver before i had time to hear the justification for his outburst.
being a none mobile phone owner does indeed place me at a disadvantage within my peer group and close relatives on so many levels. unlike my daughter, i am unable to ask what the current temperature is in glasgow; unlike my son, i cannot return home from each day's work and sit sullenly on the sofa, reading a whole slew of text messages, oblivious to any attempts at conversation being made by either mrs twmp or myself. i have no minute by minute access to the facebook page i do not have, and i cannot regale my followers on twitter with thought or photograph when standing by the bicycle on islay's atlantic coast. i can see many of you wondering how i can continue to function on a daily basis. i am also completely unable to climb aboard the citylink coach when heading to glasgow, and immediately make some unannounced person aware that 'i'm on the bus'.
but i now find that both of the above aspects of modernity have colluded to make the world an even more complex, fashionable and inscrutable place. only the other evening i was reading of tullio campagnolo's groundbreaking discovery/invention fomented atop the croce d'aune pass (in my humble opinion, still one of the finest monikers for a mountain pass, ever), resulting in the commonplace quick release skewer found on almost every quality bicycle in the world. whether simply a simplification adopted by the cognoscenti, or an abbreviation recognised by all those with a bicycle, q/r has become the defacto reference for said skewer. you know this to be true.
however, whereas every cycle website, movie, magazine et al, used to come with its very own website url, these seem to have been wholesale replaced by little square black and white boxes composed of massively obscure, randomly arranged squares or bits. i first came across this affectation around three years ago when my trade registration for the london cycle show mentioned a bar code required for scanning on arrival at earls court. to my mind, the defined bar code of the day consisted of varying thicknesses of vertical black lines, as often found on the reverse of books and items of food. it has become the modern method of computerised stock control. howies allegedly produced a t-shirt many moons ago featuring a screen-printed bar code that was intended to set off those security barriers just inside the doors of high street stores. hours of endless fun on a saturday afternoon.
on printing out my trade pass, the only resemblance of code was one of the monochrome squares previously described. blaming my printer for misinterpreting whatever graphic the organisers had included in their website's graphic array, i e-mailed the press office to admit to this seeming lack of propriety, only to be told that the black and white square of bits was the very code to which they referred.
these now inhabit many an advertisement for bicycles, bicycle components and pretty much everything in between. happily for those such as i who are bereft of a mobile device, these little squares often lead nowhere other than the company website or, even worse, their facebook page, but there's always the feeling that the world is trying to tell you something; just not in english. however, horribleness has been compounded in the knowledge that such digital squares are professionally referred to as qr codes, apparently an abbreviation for quick response. tullio must be turning in his grave, for now there are manufacturers applying qr codes to their bicycles; tern bicycles apply them to their frames encoding traceable information leading to an indvidual microsite for each, while fox suspension forks have similar applied to the fork legs, qr codes that link to diagnostics to assist with fork setup.
but why did they have to adopt the abbreviation qr? yes, i am aware that the technology was devised by toyota almost twenty years ago, as a means of tracking car parts, but when edge composites altered their marque and became enve due to trademark hassles in europe, and sunday bicycles became sabbath for much the same reasons, why could the cycle industry not have avoided the rhythm 'n' blues saga by adopting an alternative method of address? campagnolo and i would like to keep q/r just the way it is/was for as long as the world revolves.
how about code referral axiomatic provision? (think about it).
posted thursday 27 october 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
around the second or third year of the islay jazz festival, when the blues band in which i played still had its full complement of musicians, we were presented with the opportunity to share the stage with a scottish resident, but originally californian blues guitarist. the idea was that we'd play some of our repertoire, and become the backing band for some of his. though the band had been in existence for a reasonable number of years, working with those of a professional disposition was a relatively new experience, and when they're big, burly and arrogant, there's an overweening desire to go hide in a corner somewhere. the guy who founded the band, formerly the manager at one of islay's distilleries, had left the building, so to speak, and was now resident on the mainland, far, far away. since he had been the one with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the blues (you can't imagine that a bunch of hebrideans would really have that much of a clue would you?), we were probably bluffing it at the time, and just getting there by the skin of our teeth.
this bluffing had, for the time being, impressed the festival organisers enough to engage our services as if we were good enough.
our world was based almost entirely on playing songs that someone else had taught us, in a genre of which we had been neglectful, failing miserably to investigate the heritage behind the sounds. thus, when this large, bearded and surprisingly gruff californian counted out time for a chicago shuffle, there were a lot of quizzical stares being exchanged between bass player, guitarist and not least of all, yours truly, the drummer. not only that, but it turns out there's such a thing as a texas shuffle too.
sometimes you get the mountain, and sometimes the mountain gets you. with rehearsals in the afternoon and gig at night, there was no time to ask google in which direction the drumsticks should move in order to at least superficially resemble shuffles played deep in the heart of texas. for heaven's sake, why could the american states not have a word with each other and come to some agreement over those dotted eighths?
fortunately, there is a level of musicianship only just better than average that allows bluffing of an order that will blindside anyone within the first three rows. that was the evening that i discovered i had acquired that ability.
needless to say, i have since read feverishly, watched attentively and listened closely to anything that might inhabit the shuffle patterns of which i have made mention. thankfully a good friend of mine who is a professional drummer of note in the americas has a particular affinity and skill with shuffles and has been good enough to explain in minute detail, every last nuance of the regional variations, even stretching so far as to deliberate over a half-time, rolling triplet shuffle (sometimes known as the purdie shuffle). what you should all know about shuffles, just to place everything in perspective, is that they are as funky as an incredibly funky thing. in fact, sometimes funkier. spemd enough time in the worlds of the late lamented jeff porcaro, billy ward, the late john bonham and pretty much anything by steely dan, and both shuffles and funk start to inhabit one's being.
this is a very good thing.
so far, my narrative has avoided bringing bicycles onto the scene, but such an omission cannot last for long. half-time rolling triplet shuffles do not happen by themselves overnight, but a rudimentary sense of rhythm is attainable by all, even those who quite plainly cannot dance at weddings. and finding an appropriate rhythm when climbing, time-trialling or simply riding to and from work is the key to successful cycling. it is the only key; everything else is just flannel. by successful i do not intend to invoke the competitive spirit, nor am i advocating making use of those little headphone loops built-in to many a jersey or jacket nowadays.
cycling is a decidedly funky activity in which to participate, in the very way that driving a motor car isn't. those cranks are more than happy to emulate a drum machine, and like many a sparse click-track, it's pretty much up to you as to how you fill in the gaps. not so that riding into the back of parked cars becomes an occupational hazard, but in the manner integral to the finest of musicians, by way of a groove that acts as a backdrop to both the exciting and the humdrum (even cycling can be humdrum on occasion)
many of us have already found our groove, while some of us had no idea there was supposed to be one there in the first place. just shuffle about a bit until you find something that matches with those cogs in your head.
it's a groove thang.
posted wednesday 26 october 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i've had this conversation before. italian cycling history is way too important to be left to the italians. it's likely a case of us being on the outside looking in, while they're doing exactly the opposite. when colnago started having bicycles built in taiwan, a certain amount of rationalisation had to be accommodated; up until that point, all their bicycle frames had been constructed in the italian homeland and not entirely unnaturally the bottom bracket threading had been italian. why wouldn't it be? however, the dreaded oem market supplying taiwan doesn't deal in italian bottom brackets, so compromise dicated that far eastern output receive english threading.
as some of the earlier models were returned to cambiago for finishing, two distinct bottom bracket threadings doubtless led to complications in the inventory front. so it was apparently decided that standardisation was in order, leaving only the historic master x-light steel frame with italian threads. in certain quarters, this wholesale adoption of more or less the worldwide standard in bottom bracket threading brought steadfast accusations that colnago was now manufacturing its entire range in taiwan. those made in italy stickers were castigated as a complete lie. the truth is somewhat different, but what was most noticeable was the aghast thought that one of italy's most respected framebuilders would dare to give up on italian manufacturing in such a cavalier manner.
many of italy's foremost cycle manufacturers now build in taiwan, predominantly due to economics; everything is pretty much still designed and originated in italy, many of the carbon moulds are designed and fabricated in italy, it's only the carbon layup expertise that is being taken advantage of in the far east. why is it that so many of us have this mental block regarding italian bicycle product being outsourced from the motherland? what is it that italy has got that we are so in love with, yet italy seems happy to dispense with in such an apprently carefree manner? as i have mentioned on more than one occasion, carbon fibre has no idea what nationality it is (ironically, much of the carbon still used in italian manufacture comes from toray, who most certainly are not italian; where do you draw the line?).
however, it cannot be denied that italian design and invention carries a cache that is decidedly missing from items originating elsewhere in europe or, indeed, the world. london's condor cycles still trumpet the fact that their own wide range of bicycle frames is built by italian craftsmen in italy (it is somewhat of a mystery as to how london can manage this at a price and quality point that italian home market seems incapable of doing. but more to the point, why are we seemingly overjoyed that a british brand buys from italy, but upset that italy buys from taiwan?) the fact that espresso and cappuccino emanate from the same source, does that heritage no harm whatsoever. while waiting for a train at glasgow central station only the other week, at least two gentlemen passed by wearing blue italia emblazoned track tops, and i'd venture a guess that neither had holidayed in tuscany within recent memory. it's more or less a state of mind.
guido rubino's coffee table book cataloguing all that is great and good about the italian bicycle industry is a cycling fanatic's dream, and not just those immersed in the country's heydays when coppi and bartoli trammeled the giro d'italia. and the book's title is not as specific as it at first seems; there is more to its content than mere bicycles. celebration is made of italian componentry as was and is nowadays.
the book's subtitle is the people, the products, the passion, and for once the 'passionate' ingredient holds true to its definition. too often this is a word cited in the publisher's or author's trailer for the work, but leaning heavily on the emotion being endemic in the reader rather than implied from the page. though snr rubino is bereft of the ability to write in english, jay hyams has made a commendable job of translating the enthusiasm of the original author. the contents page should probably have been printed on greaseproof paper, for the names thus presented will engender a serious amount of drooling on behalf of the cognoscenti: ambrosio, bianchi, bottecchia, campagnolo, cinelli, colnago... the list goes on. each chapter provides a concise history of each, intelligently illustrated with both retro and modern imagery.
translation from one language to another will undoubtedly result in the odd compromise here and there, and it has to be said that the occasional pedestrian phrase enters the fray, but the wealth of well-researched knowledge contained in such relatively brief testimony is impressive. it's not a volume that one would be inclined to read cover to cover in an orderly fashion; i did try, but flicking pages invariably led to indulging passion of my own, leaping from the chapter on colnago (where else did you think i was going to start?) to that of de rosa and quite logically to olmo. even the master himself, dario pegoretti, merits an impressive four pages.
in a change from my more usual philosophy regarding the review of cycling books, rather than me telling you why it is that you should be asking santa to leave a copy of italian racing bicycles under the tree, it really behoves my reader to explain why that would not be considered a thoroughly explicable form of behaviour. to place it in the vernacular, why the heck wouldn't you? if you consider yourself amongst the road-going cognoscenti, there's surely a danger of being ignored and ridiculed by your fellow pelotonese should a copy be not on that coffee table come december 26th, or perhaps a couple of months before.
and it has the chic-est black cover you've ever seen.
italian racing bicycles is published by velopress and available in the usa from the velopress website. velopress publications are distributed in the uk by cordee books.
posted tuesday 25 october 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................