though we will come to it in the fullness of time, let's just for the moment leave cyclocross to one side, and concentrate on the more traditional (allegedly) sport of road racing. my object of concern/desire does have a greater degree of affinity with 'cross than such as europe's stage races , but bear with me, if you will, while i leave you to draw your own conclusions and make your own connections. sometimes reading takes on a more adventurous more if, as a reader, a certain amount of audience participation is required.
we shall see.
though not necessarily as a result of the pro-tour, but not set aside because of it, many of the european classics are contested by a not inconsiderable peleton of riders. as social modernity is accompanied by improvements in transportational issues, pavements/sidewalks have grown or appeared in locations not previously their preserve. couple that with a demonstrable and dramatic increase in so-called road furniture, and it is not hard to visualise the encroaching difficulties experienced by both organisers and peloton alike.
though visible from both the overhead helicopter shots as well as those at road level from the rear of a motorbike, many of these obstacles (and i fear we can describe them in no other way) are either clothed in swathes of padding, or alerted to by way of a member of the constabulary waving a flag in the face of an oncoming horde. the flies in the ointment in both cases are those of speed and numbers. if you're sat in the middle of a peloton, hurdling along a cobbled street at speeds that would make our collective eyes water, a man with a flag might not come into view until it's too late, and a team-mate swinging right at the last possible moment could conceivably leave a padded speed sign front and centre.
that there are not more accidents, let alone serious injuries has as much, if not more to do with the acquired skills of the world's professionals than it has to do with the consistency of that padding or the colour of the waving flag. it's a given that speedy reaction time is as much a part of the pro's skill set as an impressive srm reading, or the ability to stuff over 20 water bottles in every corner of a team jersey. unexpected obstaclery can be dealt with by an on-the-bike body swerve, a sudden change of trajectory, or perchance, a bunny-hop.
as the sort of chap who felt as much a part of the early mountain bike scene as that of the north of england brass band movement, falling about along the nether regions of the scottish countryside was not ever on my agenda. in a vain effort to pretend that such was not the case, i visited my local newsagent once a month to collect a copy of mbuk, in the pages of which i can distinctly remember a particular breed of mountain biker who dedicated all their spare time to leaping bike and person over and above ever increasing heights. like any skill demonstrated by the skillful, it looked disturbingly easy and effortless, but unless i am in a minority of one, many of you will have experienced the same inability to lift both wheels off the ground simultaneously without resembling the diaspora on landing.
the shortened version: i was (and still am) crap at bunnyhops.
after a thorough pasting in bridgend woods, either reviewing a cyclocross bicycle, or simply messing about on the hakkalugi, restoration of the common good can only be brought about by suffusive consumption of cheese and chutney inside that lovely brown bread that seems unique to debbie's accompanied by one or two soya cappucinos. it's a cyclocross bicycle, and though tarmacadam is hardly anathema, surely scrabbly bits should be tramelled wherever possible?
i take a short detour around the back of islay house, heading towards the gravel highway that is the access road to whin park. this must be a short cut employed by motorised transport too, for at the rear of islay house lies not only a road peppered with a myriad of potholes, but augmented with two sleeping policemen, or speed-bumps. just to clarify the scene without undue recourse to superlatives, i have spent an hour throwing self and velocipede hither and thither through the undergrowth; hunger has dawned and coffee awaits, so alacrity is the morning's watchword. now is the very time to show no-one in particular what i'm made of and bunny hop those two speed-bumps.
except, as i pointed out only a few sentences ago, at this i am undeniably crap, a skill that shows little sign of improving.
a bit like salsa dancing, now that you come to mention it.
posted monday 14 november 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
colnagos are most often thought of as finely hewn pieces of carbon fibre that miraculously and with great ease, transport the rider through the tuscan hills under blue skies and in temperatures several degrees removed from reality. this idyll is accompanied by the knowledge that, when pushed, particularly downhill, anything from the colnago stable will elicit several nervous, yet sharp intakes of breath, before converting them to smiles of glee as you realise the bike has everything under control, even if you haven't.
what does not come to mind when ernesto's name is brought to the fore, is lashings of mud, squirmy undergrowth, a mulch of leaves and a cacophony of cowbells. yet that has been the experience of landbouwkrediet's sven nys for the past goodness knows how many seasons of cyclocross, and it would be a crying shame if cambiago had let this experience go to waste.
thankfully, they have not let this slip past their front door, and the 'cross community is represented on two fronts: the aluminium word cup 2.0 and the carbon monococque prestige. i have enquired in previous years after the possibility of a review model from this section of the colnago catalogue, but this is the first time that there has been availability while the cross season is still in its ascendancy. there is also a justifiability this year, that cyclocross has raised its sporting profile a tad in the uk, making it more pragmatic and opportune for dealers to stock cyclocross models from colnago.
the carbon prestige model is the more exotic, trading at £1900 for the frame and fork, so sat in thewashingmachinepost bikeshed for a few weeks was the highly economical word cup model which can be had for either £1500 or £1600 (depending on spec) for the whole bicycle.
posted sunday 13 november 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
as with most geographical locations, there are advantages to living on islay and there are disadvantages depending very much on your point of view and sensibilities as to which one wins the day. with cities becoming larger and more populous, to say little of the ensuing congestion, retirees or those with a bit of cash behind them and the ability to work wherever they lay their hats, find it an attraction to leave the rat race behind and move to more rural locales. such as islay, for instance. then we find ourselves back to discussing those advantages and disadvantages, many of which assume an altogether different level of importance when options are limited.
our community council recently found it necessary to challenge british telecom over the desultory broadband service provided in some of the more remote locations towards the atlantic coast. the problem there, of course, is not of bt's doing, but that of the laws of physics. those complaining live considerably further from the nearest telephone exchange than the nominal three miles required to maintain any real advantage over dial-up. quite what they expect bt to do about that, i have no idea; physics is physics.
similarly the local supermarket of which there is only one on the island. granted there are two branches of same, one considerably smaller than the other, but both operated by the same provider. though it features the word scottish in its title, it is anything but, being controlled from scottish headquarters in manchester. on the numerous occasions it has been necessary to contact their laughably named customer service department, it has been all too clear that the city dweller on the other end of the phone or e-mail address has no idea whatsoever where islay is located on the map. and since we have no alternative but to shop at their store, why should they care about what foodstuffs are in stock and which aren't?
should you wish to travel anywhere other than on islay, you have recourse to two options: flying or sailing. from my point of view, that's a feature, not a bug, but then i rarely venture to scotland and beyond with any frequency. no matter how good or otherwise the service provided by the two carriers, they're an easy target; 'tis but a simple matter to ignore all that they do right, while criticising even the smallest thing that might possibly be deemed as irritating or inconvenient. i might point out that our latest, custom built ferry has broken down more often than surely ought to be the case on machinery so recently released from its makers. and it has been of irritating concern that having built the darmed thing, no-one seems to have thought about how to get passengers on or off at the islay end of the route. though three years in the making and seven months in service, we are still walking on and off the car deck at port askaig.
but like i said, an easy target.
for unlike those born and raised on the island, those who moved here, such as myself, had freedom of choice. nobody made me do it, so it is surely a mite unseemly that i would stoop to criticise my home and the various aspects that constitute same? some things could undoubtedly be improved, but on an island of little over 3,000 people, why should we necessarily expect a transport and communications infrastructure comparable to that servicing a town or city of hundreds of thousands? i believe it is known as economy of scale. as my friend billy ward would say suck it up.
similar principles can surely be levelled at the more exotic items of cycling apparel? i have in my long-sleeve drawer, one of the finest merino cycle jerseys known to mankind. appropriately described as espresso in colour, i first reviewed this jersey from portland's wwabi woolens in march 2008, meaning it has frequented that drawer for over four years. you should believe me when i tell you it looks and feels brand new. not because it has been rarely worn, in fact quite the opposite, but principally because, as i mentioned at the time, it is accompanied by possibly the longest set of washing instructions known to cycling kind.
having inadvertantly created an action man sized outfit from another excellent merino garment from the early days of the material's influence on the pelotonese, due to incorporating it with clothing used to an altogether less careful manner of washing, i have continued to heed every last word of wabi woolens' instructions. yes it's a faff, and no, mrs washingmachinepost does not leap for joy when it is added to the week's washing. in order to fend off her wrath, i have elected to hand wash the jersey myself and lay bare a small portion of washingmachinepost cottage in order that it may spend its time drying flat.
we are, as a subset of humanity, not renowned for paying care and attention to our race kit. prior to grabbing a shower on return from a stimulating sunday ride, damp and smelly clothing is usually gathered up en masse and thrown in the direction of the hapless washing machine, leaving our wrathful better halves to peg in orderly fashion on the clothes line. this would spell instant death to the original wabi merino jersey. but pride bears no pain, as my mother was often wont to repeat, and if a wabi merino jersey it is that i wish to wear, then i must abide by the rules.
i say this because there is an alternative of sorts, one which has been, admittedly, pointed out before, but since improvement is perennial, it surely bears repetition. almost exactly eleven months ago, i brought to your attention the first in a series of wabi woolens sport series merino jerseys, composed of a thinner variation on the magic wool, featuring a longer zip, a more race oriented fit and the ability to be machine washed after the sunday ride. though still a mite wary of high temperature washing, it could be unceremoniously thrown in the drum along with the detritus cycling and coffee can provide. the critical factor had now ameliorated.
harth huffman, the gentleman behind the wabi name is, however, a consummate perfectionist when it comes to fabric, fit and feel; constant improvement are his watchwords. while last year's sports series jersey was and is, a desirable garment, its evolution has brought delight to my honed physique by means of plush softness in one so admirably suited to the cooling days of winter. paired with a long-sleeve (did i ever mention i 'm rather fond of long sleeves?) merino baselayer, all but the fiercest of islay winds bend before its magnificence (particularly in its new red colour; an innovation in itself, as the original series was only available in black). if the wind-speed flutters above the comfortable, in combination with a gilet, comfort and joy are, as we say in the peloton peachy keen. in fact, if wind and lowered temperatures get a bit too much for the sport series, i can always rely on the espresso original.
the feature set of both jerseys is the same: attention to detail, made entirely in the continental united states of america from the finest merino wool and provided with three capacious rear pockets and a zipped version outboard of the middle one. sleeves are everything one could desire in a long-sleeve jersey, and while i greatly admire my espresso original, there is no doubting that red is the new brown.
wabi woolens jerseys are available direct from portland via the wabi woolens website. the sport series jersey first generation in black only, is available at a cost of $119 (approx £75). the contemporary version, in either red or black costs $175 (£108 (l/s) or $160 (£100) (s/s). sizing is from small to 3xl with 'tall' versions available in medium, large and xl. the original winter weight long-sleeve jersey is available in green, navy or orange at retail $165 (£104). same sizes as above.
posted saturday 12 november 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
in essence, the bicycle is simply another mode of transport, lumped in with cars, buses, taxis, motorbikes and seguays. it has no major claim to fame as a subset of the transportational mentality, other than its much proclaimed efficiency. but the latter, though technically indisputable, will require a ton of marketing persuasion to have the great unwashed adopt its sensibilities in a wholesale manner. i have just returned from my friday afternoon escapism, consisting purely of a to b to a, with a soya cappuccino waiting at b. arriving timeously and encouragingly dry, i fear i could not say the same about the return journey which was very wet and predominantly into a scything, gale force headwind.
none of that last sentence would look good as copy at the foot of a bicycle advert aimed at converting the more conventional.
yet, for all its foibles and lack of creature comforts, the bicycle in all its many forms has found itself a remarkably influential niche, one that has become almost self-perpetuating. i am not about to suggest that the bicycle is unique in this manner, for i can think of oh so many other niches, of considerably greater proportion, that have their own band of acolytes happy to indulge in the paraphernalia that has grown up around them. those that i am thinking of, however, are often at least one level detached from their fan base, either through a deficiency of personal skill, or more often due to a deficiency in bank balance.
the bicycle, however, is of humbler stock, being readily available to many who see it, initially at least, in its mundane garb as a method of simple transport. an elderly, but highly pragmatic gentleman who lives mere metres from his daily employ, purchased a bicycle shaped object, for modest recompense, from islay's recycling centre. on this he pedals to his work, and home again at meal times. though he is anything but infirm, the bicycle has made it easier to continue his daily work, even though the distance traversed is an incredibly short one. and he is full of praise for that bicycle.
it is the bicycle's ability to inspire that has likely kept it front and centre in a progressively technological world; it's the mechanical simplicity that proves the exception to the thunderingly rollercoaster of a rule that conditions modern existence. motor vehicles have become increasingly reliant on a lack of user serviceability, aircraft have become little more than mass transit metal tubes, and virtually everything you need to service modern living can be done online. bicycles, however, make life worth living for an increasing minority, and not simply through the act of pedalling.
as a student at art college, it was of concern to self and fellow graphics students that we were still being immersed in the technicalities of letterpress and stone lithography, as well as that of etching and engraving. this brave new world had developed photo-lithography and entertained the advent of rudimentary digital laser printers which, surely as members of the next wave, in which we should have been immersing ourselves. it is only relatively recently, as i mess about with pixels in photoshop and postscript in illustrator, providing bitmaps and vectors for digital plotters, that there's the dawning realisation those more archaic and rudimentary printing techniques of old provide the heart and soul of print. lasers are simply mass transit for postscript fonts and pantone process colours. stone lithography, letterpress and screen printing are akin to the bicycle, if you're willing to stretch credibility that far.
and just to throw a curve ball into the mix, what about coffee, that black liquid so beloved of cyclists, likely only for its historic italian connection? even this has benefitted from modernity; on my last trip through glasgow central station, i was served a double espresso from a dosatron.
that is a worry.
though the idea of combining a bona fide coffee shop with that of a proper bike shop is not a new one, the most recent exploration of both, and within striking distance (it's all relative) of even the west coast of scotland, is the now infamous ronde in edinburgh's stockbridge. even a cursory glance around its walls, as you sup the designer coffee of your choice and perchance an almond croissant, can't help the noticing of its tiled walls decorated not only with a varying exhibition of photographs, but also far larger homages to the bicycle and its sporting heroes by way of screenprinted, large format posters. it turns out that the progenitor of both (he is currently exhibiting photographs from italy's l'eroica retro ride) is printmaker and proprietor of dynamoworks, chris sleath.
firstly, to the photographs on the wall, how long is that exhibition due to last? "The L'Eroica show is on till Christmas and a reprinted version will go to Look Mum No Hands down in London in the new year. All editioned framed prints are for sale 'off the wall'."
in keeping with my paean to that which has not succumbed to digital technology, chris made use of a 1960s pentax film camera and some black and white film to produce his individual vision of the l'eroica event. this seems particularly apt for a ride that honours bicycles from a similar era, but is it a refusal to adopt digitalia, or just an appropriate choice for such a retro infused event? "Both! There were plenty of massive digital beasts being thrust into people's faces at L'Eroica but people seemed genuinely pleased to see someone with a 'proper' camera and I really loved using it. I was itching to get the film stock back home and although I had every faith in the camera because of where I bought it, you never quite know where you're at with film until it goes through the tank. Thankfully all went to plan and I am very happy with the results. Shots of 'men on bikes' have been done to death, so I mostly concentrated on the goings on surrounding the event which included the mother of all bike jumbles. Heaven on Earth."
such due diligence to the photographic art presumably left little opportunity to ride the event? "I really wanted to be in the best position to photograph the event, which is huge, so alas this year did not race. I am however hoping to next year or the one after. It is quite difficult to register as a non Italian; competition is fierce. I am trying to convince a restorer friend to come too and he has a huge stable of vintage bikes to plunder."
for the majority of us, chris sleath is a name new to the genre, though possibly due to most of us not living in edinburgh and its surrounds, so who asked who for the ronde exhibition? "As a keen vintage bike fan I have wanted to go to L'Eroica since I read about it 2/3 years ago. I have stocked Ronde with my prints since it opened so suggested a wee show about my trip to Italy. I am friends with Scott Mitchell and Andy Shaw too who have both shown at Ronde."
photography, however, is not chris's principal mode of expression. those large format screenprints to which i earlier referred were decorating the walls of ronde from its inception. aside from quoting coppi and merckx, they have a desirable lithographic quality to them, suggesting that chris sleath is not necessarily tied into a singular mode of print. is he quite happy living in the world of screenprint or has he thoughts of expanding into flatbed litho perhaps, or even letterpress? "I am fascinated by the dark art that is stone lithography, but I am drawn to the immediacy of screenprinting. The process lends itself to editioning in large numbers, up to A0 size, and I can easily work areas of dense, bold colour. In the past I have been fortunate to work at a private press in Manchester, where I learnt to set wood and metal type. This is of course a dying art and there are sadly very few fully equipped presses left in operation. Recently there seems to be a renewed interest in all things 'letterpress', especially in the States, but more often than not this is a photo-polymer process that is about as far removed from setting type as you can get, but the results can be very convincing to the untrained eye. The oldest working letterpress studio is Hatch Show in Nashville which has been printing music gig posters for 130 years and I am very keen to visit."
having spent an entire year speacialising in screenprinting during my third year at college, i can testify that, though ideally suited to individual output, it can be a mite labour intensive, where an extra pair of hands come in very handy. are more hands available at dynamoworks? "I work alone most of the time but my stubborness around learning how to use a Mac means I often seek help from my more experienced girlfriend. I try not to use computers much and I am perhaps making a rod for my own back but I went into printmaking drawn to its physicality and directness. I am not a fan of digital imaging and think it sanitises the human element. The printmaking tutors I have known encouraged making mistakes, which open up the whole process to new and unexpected technique."
though the idea of most print output, particularly that of an artistic nature, is to present a final image that belies the technique and technical requirements of the majority of printmaking procedures (you wouldn't believe how long it takes to set a single line of text for letterpress), few styles of printmaking lend themselves to easy assimilation without appropriate training or study. did chris learn printmaking at college, or is he simply blessed with an innate ability? "I never went to college to study anything! However I went on to work as a technical stage manager for many years, touring the UK and other more exotic shores which is probably why i am drawn to the technical aspects of printmaking. It appears that many people initially drawn to printmaking are subsequently put off by all the mechanics of it all. Like anything, of course, it just takes a little patience and lots of time (difficult). Then there is all that cleaning up which is constant and never ending!"
could chris give some insight as to the procedures employed to produce his merckx and coppi posters? "Some artist/printmakers work very slowly and deliberately but I am the opposite. Designs usually start with some sort of scribble and when I used to do large copper etching I would begin with a collage; literally scissors and glue stuff. Most of the composition is done while the design is emerging on the vacuum press, as I am 'pulling' the image. The print material from the past that inspires me is the collage work of the Dadaist art movement and agit prop Russian work. There may have been much thought gone into it originally but some of it seems slightly ad hoc and 'pasted'. I have so many ideas and avenues I want to go down but I am restricted by time and availability of equipment."
it is a sad but pertinent fact that man (or woman) cannot live by inspiration alone. though most of us would happily ride our bikes all day long, seven days a week, short of a pro contract, there's little doubt that the food on the table would be either scarce or non-existent. it more or less goes without saying that similar restrictions apply to artistic and graphic expression. is dynamo's output predominantly self-generated, or is there more reliance on commissions? "I don't run a commercial print studio, but use open access studios in Edinburgh. We are extremely lucky here to have the UK's oldest open access print studio which began life in the 1960s on Victoria Street. It is exceptionally well equipped, staffed and managed, but there are 200 members! So we all have to book time on the presses and wait our turn. My output such as it is, is small and inspired by my other interests."
which sort of brings me to the point, where does the cycling connection come from? "I have a very keen interest in vintage bikes of the 50s/60s era. I dabbled in restoration for a short time but it all takes so long and you need somewhere to do it and store the bikes/spares. Currently I am settled on a 1951 Wilson, 1963(ish) Jack Taylor and I did have a Bates but sold it to some collector in Japan. We bought a lovely Mercian recently and I constantly hanker after something, but resist due to financial constraint. This is perhaps all in the blood as distant relatives were keen amateur road men and the family had shops that sold own-branded bikes probably made by Bradbury's in Oldham."
though pure artistic endeavour is medium agnostic, tied predominantly to vision expressed through the most appropriate means, my attention was originally drawn to dynamoworks and subsequently to chris sleath by news of the ronde photo exhibition. does he consider photography to be an intrinsic part of the job, a commercial consideration, or simply one of personal enjoyment? "Thirty years ago I learnt how to process and print film which I stopped doing completely about twenty years ago. I absolutely loved using my recently bought, beautiful 1960s Pentax to photograph L'Eroica."
considering the printmaking for which he is arguably more recognised, are there any plans to hold an exhibition of printworks? "I have previously shown prints at Edinburgh Printmakers, Howies, Recoat Gallery, Look Mum No Hands, Artcrank,Coburg Studios, Urban Outfitters, lock 7, Sand Bar, and Bespoked. I am also part of a new print collective called Spektrum which is showing at Whitespace in Edinburgh from 26th November for three weeks." has he tried perhaps screenprinting his photographs? "Not yet but I have thought of it. Time, time, time."
most endeavours related to cycling acquire a certain eccentric logic, often only clear to those inhabiting the eccentricity, but also sometimes conditioned by commercial desires or necessities. since dynamoworks has allied itself unashamedly with the great, the good and cycling, is there perhaps an open opportunity to transfer some of those print designs to the polyester medium of a cycle jersey? "A couple of people have suggested it and might try and do something with the help of Ronde. The possibilities are endless, what with caps and musettes etc., but there is only so much time in the day and in the last five years so many people have jumped on this bandwagon that, to be honest, the market is saturated. There is always space for good design, but I want to concentrate on the printmaking, so that takes priority."
with his prints and photography invading not only ronde and look mum no hands, but also one or two pages in recent editions of the ride journal, there's little doubt our visual appreciation of the bicycle and its closely related offspring have been suitably enhanced. but the modern world of which all these are a part is conditioned to bigger and better, perhaps translated as more and more. is chris sleath's dynamoworks party to a cunning plan in the cupboard, or is he happy to follow where the ink leads? "No plan really. I am stocked in over a dozen places now and that is just about right. Too many and I wouldn't be able to supply them all, and would end up paying someone else to do what I love. That seems pointless to be honest. The next couple of designs may feature more photographic representations of famous 1950s/1960s cyclists, but I don't want to alienate my print buying public too much with my historic cycling fixation.
"If it ain't broke don't fix it"
posted friday 11 november 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
if ever there was a misleading heading, that is probably it. not the bit abut cervo rosso, but almost certainly the part about the iceman. it's the 10th of november, a date that i would normally be happy to consider, if not the depths of winter, certainly its inner fringes. there is something quite exciting about digging out the winter cycling kit, if not least because it usually means you get to wear more of it than the spring summer stuff. a long-time fan of long-sleeved jackets and jerseys, there is for me at least, a satisfaction in reaching for the lower regions of the cycling wardrobe and being suitably cosy prior to departure from the bike shed.
perhaps even more so at this time of year, it is prudent to pay attention to the mantra that dictates if body heat is more than comfortable within the first five kilometres, then there's every chance too much of the winter garb is being worn. that's where the iceman steps up to the plate. or rather, in this case, doesn't. faffing doesn't really do it for me; i like a smooth transition from civilian to cyclist and i'm on my merry way. this morning's faff concerned swapping tyres on the colnago to acquire data for a review further along the line.
it ill behoves the mechanic (me) to render insufficient attention to the tread direction in relation to that of the wheels. surely even sod's law should not allow the fitting of two tyres backwards? thus the faffing occupied more time that should have been the case, and frustration took its toll on body temperature. blue skies, strong wind and the notion that it is november led to a misjudgment of not inconsiderable proportions directly related to the insulating factor of a cervo rosso intermedio jacket. it has windproof panels and fleecy bits combined in a strategy that will protect the unwary from themselves, but its secret weapon is its insubstantiality. i mean this as no criticism; quite the contrary.
it's just that a jacket offering winter protection, wind resistance and the ability to laugh in the face of subtle precipitation, clearly shouldn't be this light or this thin. thus, despite little evidence of the iceman participating in today's force majeure, the perceived need to augment bodily cosiness was quite overwhelming, taking the shape of a short-sleeve jersey layered on top of a long-sleeve baselayer. who would have called me over cautious for so doing? not i.
but i should, in all honesty, have known better. for was i not more lightly dressed in colder temperatures over last weekend? you bet your sweet bippy i was. the confusion has a history: cervo rosso describe the intermedio jacket as a mid-weight, windproof jacket, but in my innocence, i didn't really know what that meant. so many apparel manufacturers, in my opinion, misuse the word jacket; for some it is a jersey, for some it's what most of us would think of as a jacket. though the intermedio offers a slim and tailored fit, there is no doubt that it could easily swallow a long-sleeve jersey without blushing, and if that's the case, then i probably should. so i did.
that first ride was too warm, but how could that be? admiitedly the jacket has fleecy bits inside interspersed with windproof bits, but if it were a duvet you'd surely think twice. isn't technology wonderful? the second ride was more abstemious; the jersey was forgotten and the elements were braved in only intermedio and a long-sleeve baselayer. if, like myself, you answer to anyone mentioning the phrase 'honed athlete', then body temperature, while encased in the latter combination, will suffice as calories, watts and beats per minute merge into one long surge of speed. however, this does not take into account the possibility of suffering a mechanical on the outer edge, where shelter is hard to come by, and the atlantic winds couldn't give a stuff. circumspection, therefore, is more persuasive towards wearing a jersey and filtering the watts into separate compartments.
stowage space is limited to a single zipped pocket across the lower back of the jacket, handy enough if your needs are minimal, but i can't help thinking that the more ubiquitous three pockets would cater to a wider audience. and perhaps a compact and bijou inner pocket would be handy for coffee money. the advantage of wearing a jersey underneath is as an aid to windproofing, for though intermedio by name and by nature does its job above and beyond the call of duty, confusingly, the shoulders are not favoured with windproof panels. this, in mitigation, was only noticeable when the baselayer was all there was between me and draughtproofing. a minor quibble i agree, but perhaps worth noting.
the full-length, waterproof zip has a home to go to at both top and bottom, zip garages that prevent snagging on jerseys at the bottom, and ever so sensitive skin at the top. there was the odd faff moment on zipping up, where the inner portion of the red zip garage seemed intent on denying the zip puller its true resting place, but i've a sneaking suspicion that had more to do with pilot error than that of manufacture. the sleeves, of commendable length and cuff closure are intelligently panelled to allow not only an impressive degree of freedom of movement, but a suitable combination of fleeciness and windproofing. it does no great harm that it looks rather cool into the bargain.
so, if the iceman cometh, or cometh not, with what would the sartorially predisposed, yet weather aware cyclist pair the jacket for ultimate comfort, speed and just a little indulgent joy. i know you'll think me eccentric, but in this case, november and the iceman notwithstanding, how about cervo rosso's winter bibshorts?
many years ago, when i would have passed for a signed up member of the cyclists' touring club (minus the beard and sandals), i met a fellow cyclist en route to arran who was clad in one of those hideous lemon yellow jackets and a pair of bog standard cycling shorts. as one attired for the elements in somewhat more precocious legwear, i enquired as to his obvious predilection for wearing shorts in the face of adversity. though his answer was a tad lengthy, the gist of it was legs are waterproof', a sentiment with which it is hard to argue.
but not only are they waterproof, they have an uncanny propensity to be all but ignorant of the cold (depending, of course, on how you define cold). add to that, the fact that cervo rosso winter bibshorts are luxuriously lined with unashamed fleeciness, and those initial quizzical glances begin to ameliorate. simply put, these are ruddy marvellous. the red piped bibs are firm yet all but pressureless; as a not very big person, i usually take a small size in bib anythings, which occasionally results in bibs designed for a shorter person than i, and the leaving of red marks on the shoulders. no such problem here.
i have unilaterally defined a well-fitting bib short as one that takes a modicum of wriggling to get into. if the shorts slide on without so much as a sign of consternation, then chances are there will be movement afoot in the saddle. cr's bibs fit my shorts theory to a tee, and the red gloop dotted hems patently stop any riding up without preventing blood flow to the legs. if it is not too unseemly to mention the inner regions, the garishly decorated hg11 pad is one of the finest my bum has sat upon.
but it's winter; are they cosy?
the bulk of the lining is good old super roubaix a material that not only inspires by its name, but singlehandedly exudes cosiness even in its spare time. the other fleecy stuff that is not super roubaix is less impressively monikered thermodream, but carries out its employ with gusto despite wishing it had been called super flanders or super something else. though in similar manner to every other pair of shorts on the market, they offer no protection to those important knee joints, everything north of there will think it's still summer. if i might be so bold as to offer a small suggestion, in the light that these are offered as and named accordingly winter bibs, a modest lengthening of the legs might be a welcome adjustment. they are not short shorts by any manner of means, but an extra centimetre or two of length would take them from being almost perfect to even more almost perfect.
the cervo rosso corsa intermedio jacket is available direct from their website at a cost of £152, ($245.05) while the winter bibshorts are a remarkably reasonable £112.50 ($181.25)
posted thursday 10 november 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
sadly, but not surprisingly, i was not invited to sicily earlier this week to experience the latest in groupset technology from campagnolo at vicenza. thus, anything i might scribble in these pixels would be subject to second-hand information, and not just a soupcon of conjecture on my part. however, as is often the case in this business, it's often not what you know, but who you know, and in this case, that is graeme freestone king.
graeme amongst many strings to his bow, is campagnolo's principal service training engineer for the uk, and has thus spent many an hour with campag's electronica in the past months. he's the guy who's going to have to train britain's campagnolo service mechanics on the ins and outs of the system before it goes on sale. he very kindly wrote the following piece based on first hand experience of the eps system.
After one of the longest trailers of all time, we can now reveal all with regard to Campagnolo EPS - Electronic Power Shift (not to be confused with the "other" EPS, which was all about slick-shifting chainrings).
The sytem has been a long time coming - early examples of an electric shift system were seen as early as 2007, but the first thing to point out is that the system launched to the cycling press in Sicily this week bears no relation at all to that early incarnation.
One of the key differences between that early system and the current, is that the early system used similar technology to Shimano - and like Di2 and Ui2, it was electric, as distinct from Electronic. When a new project manager appeared at Campagnolo in 2007 to look at the whole concept of non-mechanical shifting, he took the decision to redesign from the bottom up, along electronic lines.
So what's the difference? Well, an electric system simply uses a switch or switches to give a direct command to (in this case) a motorised mechanism. In the case of an elecronic system, the commands given are interpreted, digitised, and then fed to a controller which manages the movement of, the motorised mechanism.
In the EPS system, the job of collecting the instructions from the levers and digitising the commands is done by an interface unit that is usually placed below the handlebar stem, or to one side of it. Also on that interface unit is an LED which can show battery power state in response to a command from either of the control levers.
Campagnolo's opting for this latter technique of digital control lengthened the development period, but gives greater flexibility - the system can be tweaked by modifications to the firmware in ways that are not available so easily with an electric system. We have already seen practical applications of this - riders who tried early versions of the new system commented that the trimming function of the front derailleur was too slow - a firmware change speeded up this part of the functionality.
It's no secret of course, that Team Movistar have been using the system in the pro peloton for the last season - and in fact retained it on the bikes even in races like Paris Roubaix, where many of the Shimano-equipped teams and riders reverted to mechanical shift systems.
So, what's the model range and what are the features and benefits? Well, Super Record and Record get an EPS group. It's 11 speed, as you'd guess it might be. It will work with all current chainring sizes and cassettes including the larger time-trial chainrings.
The new parts of the groups are the EPS control levers, front and rear gears, an interface unit and the power unit. The other parts of the group are all common to the mechanical groups.
Super Record EPS makes more use of Titanium, carbon and other exotic materials to shave the weight - but the Record group is still not only lighter than Di2, but it also benefits from longer battery life than Shimano. Up to 2000km can be expected between charges (full charging takes up to four hours), depending on air temperature and usage conditions.
One key benefit is that by holding down the RH shift levers (which are placed just like the shift levers on the mechanical shift, although with a slight ergonomic improvement for the inner thumb lever), multiple shifts can be obtained. If you want to jump straight from the 16 to the 12, no problem, just keep your thumb on the thumb lever. OK, you have to learn how long to hold the lever for, but the facility is there and if you do overcook it, the shift is lightning-fast so you can still correct your error. As we'll explain shortly, the levers have an almost "mechanical" feel that makes this control very easy.
A second important benefit is the "ride back home" function. If the rider should be unfortunate enough to suffer system damage in a crash, or manage to deplete the battery despite the coloured LEDs that keep the rider abreast of the battery charge state and the audible alarm that tells the rider that they are in the final 6% of charge. The rider can manually disengage the rear gear from the electronic shift mechanism and push the rear gear into a position where he or she can at least ride home without having to do so, potentially, in top gear...
The "ride back home" system is linked to the system that disengages the rear gear in the event of an impact to the rear derailleur, allowing the parallelogram to move freely, so minimising potential damage. The front derailleur is, like Shimano, self trimming, and is designed so that if the rider selects an extreme cross-over position to go from, say, the small to the big chainring, the front gear compensates as it makes the shift for the less-than-ideal chain position.
The big concerns of all designers of electric and electronic systems are external electrical interference causing ghost shifting, and the ingress of water. Campagnolo have minimised the chances of the former by taking the digitised route for their shift instructions, and have addressed the waterproofing issue by applying IP67 standards across all the parts of the system including the connectors. IP67 is defined as resisting water ingress for up to one hour at one metre depth.
Partly in order to ensure this, but as importantly (in some ways more importantly given the multi-shift capability), the membrane switches that are triggered by the shift levers have four "domes", one inside the other. This also gives the pseudo-mechanical feel to the levers referred to earlier, which require approximately 1.5kg of force to trigger, so making the judgement of those multi-shifts much easier, even when wearing full finger gloves.
The system is very easy to set up, and includes an under-the-fingertips method of fine tuning the shift when riding. Following a wheel change for instance, if the replacement wheel has the cassette in a subtly different position to the wheel that came out, the rear gear can be slightly reset to compensate.
The full set-up is actually so simple, that whilst Campagnolo would not advise it, all but one step of the set up could, if necessary, actually be done from the saddle. I experimented with this on the hills of the Colle Berichi last month and proved to myself that it can indeed be done, without taking the hands off the bars.
The battery pack and power unit can be fitted below the downtube bottle cage, on the seat tube bottle cage mounts, or even under the downtube if required. In fact, since 25cm extension cables are available for all of the connections, large frames and frames with complex cable runs can be accommodated as well as novel positions for the power pack and the small interface that lives (normally) below the handlebar stem.
The battery is charged on the bike, thus eliminating one of the key areas where water can get into the system. It is designed to withstand 500 charges from flat and when it does finally die, the power pack with the "brain" of the gear system is replaced as a unit.
The system can be fitted with external cable runs to any frame, or with internal cable runs to frames with the requisite drillings. The connectors are, like Di2, 7mm diameter and the drillings need to be in similar places on the frame. Apart from that, there are no special characteristics required of the frame. The technical specification of the frame is the same as for Campagnolo mechanical systems. In some respects, the electronic control actually frees the frame designer up somewhat, as the traditional provision of gear cable routing no longer needs to exist. No real help under current UCI rules, but give it time...
The front derailleur is for "brazed on" fitting by default, and fits the standard Campagnolo clamps, which are optimised to place the front derailleur in the correct position relative to the chainset. To this end, a new 35mm clip has been designed for EPS, which can also be used with the mechanical systems. A special stabiliser has also been designed for frames where the construction of the front derailleur mount is not sufficiently rigid for the front derailleur to work correctly.
One thing that was very exciting to see, and a singular privilege, was the EPS production line at Vicenza. Apart from some of the electronics and the motor units, the whole EPS system is made at Campagnolo's factory in Vicenza. The level of quality control that is applied is staggering; every single part of every single group goes through a rigorous mechanical and electronic quality control procedure several times during assembly, as well as when complete.
Campagnolo are, consequently, only entrusting the maintenance of EPS systems to fully trained technicians in the first year, so a roll-out of training through the whole Pro-Shop network will be undertaken ahead of the after-market launch of EPS. OEM and Service Centres will receive full training earlier in the year.
In use, the system is fast, clean and works in a very predictable fashion. Ridden back-to- back with Di2 and Ui2, the system seemed an altogether slicker piece of kit. Getting the hang of the multi-shift took a handful of shifts only, and the front derailleur performance, especially, was exceptional. In a 40km ride, I tried to break every rule in the book to confound the system, but it shifted happily at low cadence, high cadence, under full load, on the extreme crosses of the chain; superb. Notably for a bike built with a compact chainset, deliberate efforts to get a front mis-shift failed. It worked correctly every time. For the cautious out there, though, Campagnolo have produced a chain catcher for use in circumstances that increase the risk of unshipping the chain; on the pave, in the mountains and of course, for cyclo-cross.
So how much is all this technology going to cost? Well, it's all guesswork at this stage, as although there are notional SRPs, the rules of commerce being what they are, we'll have to wait and see what the market does with them. Availability in the first year will be scarce though...
© graeme freestone king, november 2011
posted wednesday 9 november 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
some of us are driven, and i don't mean by chauffeur, driven to heights well in excess of those in our peer group, while others seem happy to take life as it comes, dabbling in a bit of this and a bit of that, whenever the fancy takes us. it's possible to be identified as a cycling obsessive, yet confine that obsession to owning/riding one or two bicycles, watching the tour on eurosport and reading pretty much every blog and magazine that will fit into the non-working part of the day. then there are those who work in the bicycle industry.
this covers a multitude of employment opportunities from the guy that parks the company car in the high street, while visiting another account customer, to the cutting edge where cycle industry employment means possessing a degree in aeronautical engineering, being comfortable with the terminology employed in finite element analysis and having a working knowledge of carbon layup techniques.
then there are those who run a small, highly reputable bicycle repair shop at 211 southwest 9th avenue in portland, as well as portland bicycle studio. as if this were not enough, there's a whole season of cyclocross to be participated in, and i don't mean by just making up the numbers.
meet molly cameron.
those who have been here for a while may remember a previous article involving ms cameron and portland's veloshop, but since i have been doing my best to remain one step ahead of any bandwagon jumping as regards the current preoccupation with cyclocross, it seemed only natural to talk to a rider who has been in with the sport in oregon since its popularity went through the hurdles, and one who continues to occupy much of the frontal portions of any cx race in the pacific northwest. allowing for the alternative disciplines of the sport open to the competitive spirit, perhaps a not unnatural question to ask is why race cross??
"It is exciting, technique heavy racing that favors the brave."
though cross season worldwide lasts for less time than its adherents and fans would like, is cyclocross simply one part of molly's racing season, or does everything else just get in the way? "I do look at everything in terms of training for and relating to cyclocross. I have to, as that has been a significant part to any of the success I have had on the bicycle. Yet realistically, I am involved in racing 365 days a year with coaching, co-ordinating and working with teams. I've trimmed back my personal road, track and mountain bike racing over the last five years to train and focus specifically on cyclocross."
unlike almost every other form of the sport, cyclocross races feature a pit area, allowing riders to change their bicycles as often as felt necessary, perhaps most noticeably on muddier terrain when gears and brakes tend to clog up. unlike road racing which frequently involves team participation, and the luxury of a following car, cyclocross is more an individual sport, and the garnering of a pit crew and sufficient bicycles to stock them with can be an expensive undertaking. therefore a modicum of sponsorship doesn't go amiss; is molly a sponsored rider?
"Yes, I am! This year I am racing for MetaFilter as: MetaFilter - Portland Bicycle Studio! Matt Haughey, the MetaFilter founder is a huge CX fan and was a supporter last year. People have asked what MetaFilter is. In the simplest terms MetaFilter was the first blog, the first Facebook, the first Twitter; truly the original gangster of social websites. I love that there is no product being sold or consumed on MeFi; what the members of the MeFi community bring to MeFi is what MetaFilter is."
part of the trepidation but also the joy of cyclocross, is the fear of the unknown. a circuit easily traversed last year can return this year as a virtual quagmire, meaning a whole different approach and an entirely different result. any preference between hardpack, sand or mud? "I am a mudder through and through. With that said, a good cyclocross racer should be able to excel in all conditions. I try."
with that in mind, the opportunity to change bikes during the race, and the intrinsic fact that cross races generally last only around an hour, there's not time to sit at the back waiting for an appropriate opportunity to pounce. most races are eyeballs out from the start, requiring a whole different level of fitness to those involved in the lengthier sport of road racing. does molly have a specific training regime to cope? "Absolutely. I could get very, very detailed with this question. But in a general sense: Meticulously build the engine, prime the engine, start the engine, then drive it at top speed until it runs out of fuel. Rebuild. Repeat."
most racing is held across the weekend, but on a regular basis throughout the season requiring a not insubstantial commitment to the art of travelling. build in the need to train well if it's the podium she has in mind, does running both veloshop and portland bicycle studio ever get in the way? "Of being a full-time cyclocross pro? Somewhat. We are in a fortunate situation here in the US that, while working a real, full-time job, a racer can have a reasonable level of success in cyclocross. You won't see that too much in Europe. The skill level disparity is just too great. The toppers in Europe are absolutely the best in the world and there does not exist in Europe the consumer-racer, "weekend warrior" culture we have here in the US. I am also damn lucky to have chosen bicycling as a profession, as my business work facilitates my racing work quite a bit. While running a bicycle shop and bicycle studio is damn stressful and tiring, I am really happy with what I have achieved over the last ten years. I am constantly striving for balance."
i mentioned in my introduction that cyclocross currently seem to occupy pride of place in the psyche of many a cycling obsessive, either by way of fandom or weekend participation. cyclocross was big in portland when i visited around two and a half years ago, and its popularity hadn't just begun then. with the recently rapha sponsored supercross in the uk being cited as a game changer over here, has molly any notion why cyclocross has become such an immensely popular sport in north america, seemingly overnight?
"It is the grass roots race promotion and relative ease of entry into the sport. For example: most beginner categories can race on any bike they have, no specialized equipment needed for first-timers to try cx out. The races are held on a closed course and the racing is generally fun and spectator friendly. Unlike road or mountain bike racing where, if you get dropped from the race, you are left alone, out of sight for a couple more hours until you make your way to the finish line. In cyclocross, if you get dropped, you can still enjoy pedaling around the course, until you get lapped by the leaders and are pulled. It makes for a more digestible first racing experience for most beginners."
richard sachs contends that 'cross fugkinc rules'. does molly cameron agree?"atmo, yes."
i was recently reading an interview with johnny depp, an actor who seesm genuinely bewildered by his fame, though perhaps not with his fortune. though very much a part of his well-rewarded occupation, he seems to regard it as exactly that; something he does for a living. therefore why pour adualtion on someone for being good at their mode of employ? though molly has yet to star in a movie blockbuster coming to a cinema anywhere near you, she is considered one of the stronger riders on the american cyclocross scene. does this place more pressure on her to perform to expectation?
"Yes it does. I am fortunate to have great supporters and sponsors who know what I am capable of and also appreciate my approach to cyclocross racing. I wonder to myself how long I can continue to consider myself an underdog in cyclocross. The level of racing in the US has gotten significantly better over the last five years. The quality and depth we see in our domestic racing is faster than it was when I started. If I quit working and running two small businesses would I be able to jump up to the front of top-level of cyclocross racing? While not an impossibility, I don't think so. I don't have any illusions about the level of talent I possess. If anything, I could be a more consistent rider. As it is now, I can put in a few decent rides and several mediocre performances through the course of a season."
to return for a moment to my johnny depp digression, it is not outwith the bounds of aspiration that youngsters watching his movies would entertain the notion of becoming a movie star themselves in years to come, though i'm none too sure how many would recommend it as a bona fide career path. it is, however, more than likely that some of the younger cyclocross fans watching from behind the barriers would see 'cross as something they'd like to participate in. has molly any suggestions as to how these acolytes might satisfy their eagerness? "Attend a skills clinic or contact a local club or bicycle shop to get info on where to start. There are endless amounts of friendly people out there willing to help you learn how to get involved in cyclocross racing."
does molly involve herself in teaching beginners?"Absolutely yes! My third job is working as a cyclocross coach for Upper Echelon Fitness and besides working with a select group of cyclocross athletes, we host a three days per week, eight week long summer cyclocross clinic series. It is pretty fun to get tuned up for cx season by teaching new riders all about the sport and its nuances for two months."
i sent my list of questions to molly earlier this year just as cross season was about to commence, intent on previewing the season from a variety of perspectives. molly did say she'd try to respond in a timely manner, but if you've read this far, it will come as no great surprise that there are too few days in the week for molly cameron, thus this feature is running perhaps a few weeks late. i did not view it as unseemly, at the very start of the season, to ask what this year's cunning plan was to be?
AHEM! Had I responded in a timely manner, I would have said: Win the Cross Crusade series overall here in Portland, podium at both UCI races in Japan, top ten at the USGP finals in Bend and a solid ride at Cyclocross Nationals in January 2012. I'm not quite ready to do any age group racing so no Master's Worlds for me.
"At this point, I'm sitting in 2nd overall for the elite podium and leading the GC for the single speed category at the Cross Crusades, I've got a couple busted ribs and a couple DNFs so, winning the Elite series GC appears to be out of reach. I'm aiming to win the last two races of the series before heading over to Japan."
there are those of a competitive spirit who concern themselves only with the aspects of the sport requiring a number attached to the back of a skinsuit. but there are always going to be times, now or in the future, when racing is simply not part of the equation. so, if molly wasn't able to race for whatever reason, would she still stand at the course edge, cowbell in hand? "When I am not racing, I'll be in the tents coaching, making coffee and helping out with tyre selection/pressure or, in the boxes washing bikes and helping my friends, athletes and teams out.
And, one of these days, I'll make it over to race cyclocross in Scotland!"
Molly kindly provided a list of the equipment that helps her add race wins to her palmares
Parlee cycles hand built cyclocross frame sets (built with ENVE tubing and forks)
ENVE composites compact handlebars, stems and seatposts (44cm, 110cm)
ENVE composites wheel sets (25mm and 45mm)
Shimano Di2 grouppos and components
TRP CX 8.4 and CX 9 mini V brakes (9 on front, 8.4 on rear)
Shimano XTR pedals and M315 footwear
Chris King headsets
Fizik Antares saddles
FMB tubular tyres (Gripo and Super Mud)
Trailhead coffee (important!)
Zanconato custom chainrings (44/38 130 bcd)
Lazer helmets and eyewear (Genesis and Solid State)
Mad Alchemy Embrocation.
posted tuesday 8 november 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................