though i'm sure it's a similarly familiar situation with respect to other sports, activities and subject matter, cycling experiences a flurry of book releases at two specific times of the year. one of those, and most certainly in common with everything in the entire world, is on the run-up to christmas, a time when we're all desperately searching for that ideal present. the slack can be taken up either with an appropriate book, or a token that can be spent in the direction of the ideal book. it's a symbiotic relationship; publishers need sales, customers need books.
more specific to cycling alone is the second partition of book releases, one that we are already in thrall to at this very moment. yes, every time the tour de france hoves into view, the world's principal publishers release either a new book or the paperback version of one released about a year previously. write a book about the giro d'italia and yes, it will have seen the bookshelves of waterstones and barnes and noble in late april, but every other cycling book is more likely to be restrained from release until those three weeks in july are more than a speck on the horizon.
though not one with much in the way of space on thewashingmachinepost bookshelves (nor the floorspace surrounding them, if truth be told), i am something of a bookworm and take great delight in those jiffy-bags arriving on my doorstep; more reading in the bath. the advent of the e-book has, on occasion, relieved bookshelf stress, but in truth, there is little to compare with the tactility of paper and ink whether in hardback or softcover. which kind of neatly brings me to the gist of my monday ruminations.
arriving in the post at the end of last week were copies of ned boulting's superb 'how i won the yellow jumper' an original narrative that was recently augmented by an e-book entitled 'how cav won the green jersey/jumper'. the printed book has been updated in paperback format to encompass both dissertations, providing a veritable cornucopia of cycling humour by a master of the form, if only by way of inadvertancy.
the second accomplice within the padded envelope is of a more serious, but no less entertaining concern, that of richard moore's slaying the badger', the intriguing and convoluted tale of the machinations both joining and separating greg lemond and bernard hinault. until now, both have been only available in hardback format at hardback prices. if you, like me, have an insatiable need to not only own and read quality cycling books, but read more than just once, there's an evens chance you'll have bought both in hardback format. however, some folks prefer to await the softcovers, and in line with such desire, with the graciousness of yellow jersey press, i aim to satisfy the requirements of just such an eagerly waiting audience.
i have one paperback copy of each of the above to give away to the senders of the correct answers to the following questions:
1) which cycling programme on itv 4 has been recently presented by ned boulting?
2) which prominent british cycling team did richard moore portray in book form last year?
you can enter to win both books if you wish, but the winner of one will not also win the other, to be a bit fairer to all concerned. if you're only aiming for one, please indicate which, but if i were you, i'd enter for both. you just never know. closing date is next monday 18th june. please make sure you include your name and a full postal address at which to receive your prize if you win. entries to email@example.com
monday 11th june 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it will likely just be me, or at least for the sake of ipc magazines and future publishing, i sincerely hope that is the case, but i am currently in the throes of dreading the tour de france. it is currently most encouraging to see brad's name atop the leader board at the dauphine, accompanied as it is by several of his team-mates including that of the promising chris froome, but conversation in the peloton this morning revolved round the fact that the dauphine winner rarely manages likewise at the tour. brad has gone on record earlier this year in his column for the guardian, that he fully expects to win the tour de france. i admire his chutzpah, and i have little doubt that he truly believes this will be the case, but had it been me (fat chance), i think i'd have kept that to myself. does brad not remember the tactical feigning of lance during the ullrich days?
careful what you wish for.
however, my concern is not actualy whether bradley will gather the bulk of team sky around his wheel tracks come the mountains to reach the top step of the podium. nor does it concern me greatly whether mark cavendish can scrape together enough slim pickings to form a lead out train and again wear the green jumper. these things either will, or will not happen, but the thrill of the chase is surely that which we all look forward to?
not so, if you subscribe to either of the principal cycling sport monthlies, publications which take the month of june as the perfectly formed excuse to fill the bulk of their pages with everything you really didn't need or want to know about the tour de france. in this i feel sure i ought to declare an interest, for i am not exempt from this annual fete, given that i feel the need to voice my distaste with this twelve monthly cycle (pardon the pun). it must surely irritate those responsible for the organising of both the dauphine and the tour de suisse, that both events are simply regarded as lengthy tour prologues, rather than races in and of themselves.
likely there are some brownie points to be gained, even if the dates of both events are dictated by the chaps in switzerland. for so keen are the major teams to try out their top lads, that a quality entry list is all but guaranteed. and we are all so willingly led to feed off the hype, that eurosport's audience figures must increase annually, along with visits to the websites that record all that goes before them. in this respect, and including the veritable plethora of column inches filling the aforementioned publications, the tour de france has not only to be paid great attention, but for commercial reasons is also to be perhaps grudgingly congratulated. i can now disassociate myself from the proceedings by mentioning that i intend to repeat my modus operandi of previous years and desist from mentioning the tour as soon as the riders have set off for the prologue in liege.
do not misunderstand my motives, for i too will be glued to every minute of coverage i can perhaps persuade eurosport player to deliver to my mac, but as one without any of the punditry skills and qualities of brian smith, i have no wish to either display or impose my thoughts on an unsuspecting public. but to move onto my regular moan, i really have no great wish for even the inestimable smiffy to assist me comprehend how the land lies and who might be wearing yellow on any given day. however, robert garbutt and cam winstanley seemingly have few, if any, qualms over filling my head with every inch of every stage, profiling the principal riders, the setup of every team and consulting several worthies as to who they figure might wear jerseys of note.
in my naivety, i was of the opinion and impression that we were all about to be entertained by three weeks of glorious scenery and hopefully intense and unrelenting competition. it is my firm belief that the whole point is to sit back in that leather armchair, with only the minimum of detail regarding each day's stage (such as start and finish towns and whether a mountain, flat or time-trial stage) and watch what happens. i have no great desire to be informed that the butler did it one month before the grand depart; we've already had seven years of that.
the july issue of procycling arrived gift-wrapped in a poly bag with a blow by blow guide as an added bonus. i innocently thought that this would leave the magazine free of tour hyperbole, but i was wrong. aside from the dubious line-up of hopefuls on the front and back covers, there are several pages featuring the tour contenders as well as a substantial article concerning the likely battles for the other jerseys. cycle sport, on the other hand has simply filled every square centimetre with the tour, inviting david duffield, and every member of staff who couldn't find an excuse to be out of the office that day to offer us their predictions. this is all surrounded by every stage, every team and all the favourites.
though 'tis undoubtedly my prerogative to ignore both, along with any spurious tv programmes that may offer to assist me in my viewing pleasure (and i can assure you i will), both are publications to which i subscribe, either by post or through my local newsagent. it's quite hard to save a possible tenner by asking both to supply only eleven issues per year and just forget the june versions. rest assured both have served purpose only to allow this particular dissertation, and will now be banished to a darkened corner of washingmachinepost cottage on their eventual journey to the recycle bin. it does, however, worry me just what the contents of the next issues will be; perhaps that's when they apologise for having been so wide of the mark regarding the final results that they may conceivably have been discussing a different race entirely.
meanwhile, i'll watch the race on a day by day basis, never once wearing a team sky jersey and simply enjoying whatever sporting outcome is delivered. i respectfully suggest you all do likewise.
sunday 10th june 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
xcweather promised, according to the little sparkly sun icons, that the day would would be filled with beating sunbeams suspended in an azure sky. they were, of course, rather wide of the mark. the website has its uses if employed to gauge the ferocity of the wind, but tends to leave a bit to be desired as to its accuracy in other ways. no never mind, it would simply mean long sleeves as opposed to layers of factor 50. it would be unfair, however, to single out xcweather, as the twerps voicing the today show on radio four paid witness to only 'overcast in the south, breezy and showers elsewhere', a phrase so unspecific in its determinants as to be utterly pointless.
road signs at crosshouses promise roadworks from 14th june, and though similar signs promise likewise on the high road, over four miles away, from the same date, it seemed prudent to experience the road as it is, in anticipation of what it might end up after the 14th of june. surface dressing, with its similarity to a destructive apple crumble, is never favourable to those on two wheels. propping frequent signs advising a 10mph speed limit at the roadside is ample evidence that nobody pays any attention to signs, especially if they concern speeds that ought to be observed by motorists.
i have previously mentioned that there is a road or two saved purely for special occasions, those for when a review bicycle, wheels or tyres seem to promise exceptional behaviour. subjecting them to such specialities may hopefully allow them to show their true colours. the three miles of farm road rising up past west carrabus farm to the former cottage at borraichill are, to put not too fine a point on it, crap. descending and twisting to coullabus they become even crapper over each successive metre. this is one such road. in fact, it is the premier travesty to which any bicycle componentry can be exposed. the downhill from the cottage resembles nothing so concrete as a road, and the likelihood of meeting the resident herd of cows in the middle of it, simply adds to the frisson and the squealing of brakes.
there was a click. if i'm totally honest, it was more of a rapid burst of clicks that could just as easily have combined to form a creak. distinguishing the cause was placed in a clouded perspective by sympathetic creaks from the brooks saddle. the latter however, were more benign in character, the result of lacking tension on the saddle bolt. i can blame no other than myself. the clicks played around the bottom bracket and had been, i thought, narrowed down to the five chainring bolts, several of which had proved slightly loose on a previous ride.
those had been severely tightened with a park tool 5mm allen key, even the two that rotated more freely than their siblings. a squish of gt85 had confidently removed any premise or forethought of creaking, yet here i was, only a mere handful of metres from home, and the click that was really a creak had returned with venom. en-route to the carrabus road, climbing was done in and out of the saddle in an attempt to isolate the problem, accompanied by one or two stops to footer with an allen key and crank bolts.
it seemed that effective repair, even though irritation was the principal casualty, would have to wait until home time. meanwhile i stoically forged on across islay's roads' department's tip to the third world, mentally picturing a cheese and apple chutney roll sitting aside a frothy soya cappuccino. a man has to have some objective in mind to stave off adversity.
that road well travelled, if not well maintained, dips at keeper's cottage before rising sharply to the coullabus farm entrance. 'tis but a few metres to the road junction at which a left takes me in the direction of uiskentuie farm three miles away. just ahead were two cycle tourists, the guy riding alternately alongside his female partner then behind, towing a small bob-trailer with one of those triangular flags announcing its existence to vehicles that may approach too closely.
i had by now ascertained that the creaking seemed to rely on left crank pressure; it clicked loudly as that foot descended roadwards. one likes to demonstrate one's benevolent insouciance when passing visiting cyclists, travelling just speedily enough to show my mettle, but not too fast in order to minimise any perceived arrogance. both the foregoing would obviously be severely diminished were a loud creaking to drown out my passing salutations, so i lightened up as much as possible with the left leg as i sailed past, at which point the firmament chose to smile upon my cheerful hello; the creak disappeared.
many of you will have been in just such a situation, when an irritation seems to have disappeared for good, only to be found hiding behind a chainstay or fork leg. yet my trials and tribulations across the grass and dunes of uiskentuie strand betrayed no resurgence of the problem, which truly had fled for pastures new. it is at times such as these that one becomes classically aware that the choice of pedal wear may have been a tad more apt than had seemed to be the case at point of departure. for through all the faffing, dismounting and remounting, clothing obliviousness remained thus.
though the specific definiton of the word classic resounds to the perfect example of a particular style, it is a word or adjective that brings its own connotations dependent on the circumstances of the day. it would not be too unseemly to refrain from giving the classic nod to an unspecified item if it is brand new and modern, for many amongst us, self included, may prefer to reserve the description for an item that has, over time, proved its initial worth despite a lack of alteration to the concept as time has rolled by.
rapha are rapidly approaching their eighth anniversary, the first product having made itself known in july of 2004. it is testament to their appreciation of longevity that they still, to this day, offer the classic jersey and classic bibshorts, virtually unchanged across those eight years. i feel confident in saying almost because i now ride in a pair of new classic bibshorts. these have eschewed the nalini pettachi pad that cossetted my bum for over four and a half years of constant use before the lycra said 'enough.'in fact, the pettachi pad lasted only a brief moment of time in the rapha empyrean, as it seems many was the bum that found no favour with it. mine was not amongst them.
however, though the classic jersey can be had only in traditional black with the all-important white monogrammed hoop on the left (short) sleeve, the classic bibs have developed a split personality in offering all-black, or black with cream bibs. as rapha's graeme raeburn said "The new cream colour is perfect for this fantastic weather; no more black mesh show-through on light coloured jerseys.", which comprehensively explains why the little black dress nabbed some invisible cream.
what has not changed, insofar as my perceived comfort is concerned, is precisely that. thewashingmachinepost bottom has experienced more than just a few pairs of bib shorts in its unassuming career, many of which have promised much and delivered accordingly, but you never forget your first pair of classic bibshorts, a garment which surely inhabits every last definition, nook and cranny of the word classic. while creaks, clicks and the occasional groan seem to come and go at will, even on passing the well-travelled, a classic pair of bibshorts with the added ability to conceal themselves when worn with white are of perennial delight.
shiny lycra may be all the rage in the peloton, set to provide an infectious gleam to applied sponsors' logos. rapha's classic bibshorts have a matt tactile quality that has no real bearing on saddle comfort, but a sartorial elegance that is hard to avoid even on the dishevelled. as i recall, my original classic shorts had a hard to find, black on black logo; modern times call for modern effect, and the black lycra now springs its contrast to the tune of a white rapha logo on each leg. the ideal length of each leg is held comfortably in place by a thin internal film of silicon gloop, that despite many an extra-curricular excursion in the chase of creaking bicycle parts, coupled to eccentric pedalling in the attempt to isolate the problem, the only item moving every which way was the rider. the bibs, just before they meet the mesh, feel like silk.
it transpires, however, that you need not simply take my word for it in this case. so confident are perren street that these will not be found wanting, that they offer a thirty day opportunity to ride either or both the classic bibshorts and classic jersey to destruction, and if your satisfaction does not reach that of my or your own 100%, you can return them for a full refund.
saturday 9th june 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
jimmy logan was a scottish comedian from dennistoun in glasgow who followed in the music hall tradition of his parents and ostensibly that of scotland's great music hall comedian/entertainer, harry lauder. in fact, logan toured a one-man musical based on lauder's life. jimmy logan was also the presiding minister at the church attended by my parents; not the same jimmy logan, i hasten to add. though the rev. logan was not a comedian as such, he did have a remarkably unstuffy attitude for a man of the cloth, and despite my non-attendance at his church, had the great decency to phone the eve before i left for college to wish me all the best with my course.
he and my father used to travel to local football matches on a saturday afternoon. both were ayr united supporters but every alternative saturday would also travel to nearby rugby park in kilmarnock to watch that team's home games. for reasons i have never understood, in football stadia of the time, the areas for standing to watch a match were known as the terraces, while the seated areas were known as the stands. go figure.
presumably wishing to be of rustic stature, both my father and the rev. logan were wont to occupy the terraces for their football entertainment. as is the case with many an enthusiastic supporter, oft times the language surrounding the reverend would become somewhat on the uncouth side. at these times, he would casually open the top buttons of his overcoat to reveal his dog collar, leading to mumbled apologies of "sorry reverend, i didn't realise" which was pretty much the rev. logan's intended reaction.
his laid-back attitude stretched as far as his careful marketing of the church's summer evening services. recognising that many would spend those balmy sunday afternoons and early evenings at the beach, in the country, or lazing in the back garden, the so-called sunset services were subtitled at the foot of the posters which i had eagerly produced in defence of my immature graphic skills, 'come as you are'. few of even the regular churchgoers would have spent those summer times partaking of leisure activities dressed in their sunday best. more often t-shirts, shorts and sandals would have been the order of the day, or at least the afternoon.
yet despite this sartorial admonition from those beautifully drawn posters, not one of the congregation would have dreamt of attending church service dressed in the togs that had sufficed for the day's play. every one of them had nipped home, dressed smart but casual to impress upon their peers that this was how lazy summer afternoons were spent, before standing martially behind those hymn books. because, for one reason or another, every section of humankind likes to dress according to their whim, for whichever activity in which they are about to participate, whether that be of sporting hue or otherwise. this easily observable fact thus calls into question grant petersen's contention in his book just ride, that "in its need for special clothing, bicyle riding is less like scuba diving and more like a pickup basketball game."
i am not, in this case, decrying the opening statement of his second chapter, for there is a substantial amount of truth in what he says. in fact, the very need for the pelotonese to dress in padded shorts and jerseys with three rear pockets, might conceivably be one of the reasons that prospective cyclists take time out for second or even third thoughts over joining the clan. but that doesn't obviate the fact that quite a number of us actually enjoy wearing clothes appropriate to the activity, seeing it not as a barrier to enjoyment, but our very birthright.
grant petersen is the founder and outspoken owner of rivendell cycles in the usa, makers of a type of bicycle geared (pardon the pun) more towards the commuter, the tourer and those who would prefer to think of themselves as folk with a bicycle rather than cyclists per se. in fact, his opening gambit laid bare in the introduction is that of self-appointed pointer out of "what i see as bike racing's bad influence on bicycles, equipment, and attitudes", followed by a vow to "undo it". this is a perfectly laudable crusade, somewhat undermined in my opinion, by his rather childish notion of referring to his intended audience as 'un-racers'.
it would be easy, as one of those inducted into the world of bicycles by the strong european influence of cycle racing, to poo poo everything from page one to page 206, but maddeningly, petersen makes a good case for many of his points, particularly regarding the subject of nutrition for those not intent on emulating brad or cav. in this particular chapter, the man speaks (or writes) a great deal of sense. there is also some remarkably sane advice for those riding in traffic, albeit some of it a tad obvious, but worth saying nonetheless. but in a manner with which i can identify well, he does tend to be self-contradictory at times.
concerning the subject of maintaining your bicycle and keeping it clean, petersen has some remarkably low standards. on that of wearing gloves on the bike, he is in favour of the unfettered approach, not wishing to place his pre-ride clean hands into a pair of 'stinky gloves'. the contradictory stance begins with the admission "yes, i can wash and dry them, but that's too much work". yet flip forward a chapter or two and regarding the installation of bar tape, he proposes beautifying the latter with shellac; "the short time it takes to shellac your bar tape or cork grips is always worth it" followed by "i do the left side, then the right, and by the time i'm finished with the right side, the left side is dry enough to slather on another layer."
it is strange that a man who finds it, by his own admission 'too much work' to wash and dry a pair of cycle mitts, yet is happy to paint two seemingly unnecessary coats of shellac over his bar tape. were that not sufficient to query his motives, he then portends that rather than finish off the bar tape with black tape, we ought to do so with fifteen wraps of twine on each side, providing four graphics to explain visually how we should go about this.
redefining the meaning of "too much work'.
i think it prudent that a lot of what is written within ought to be taken with a pinch of salt, partly because i can't help thinking that some of his more controversial statements may have been presented for effect, and taking into account the portion of his introduction that says "in real life, i'm not as mean (or judgmental) as i sound in this book...", is quite probably a truism, for nobody who could care less spends this amount of time and words justifying their viewpoint. he truly expects the book to be panned by the sort of folk who ride the sort of bike of which he is less than enamoured, and i think it my duty to at least partially fulfil his prediction. that said, there is a lot of wisdom to be garnered from each chapter, even if it's just to vehemently disagree; nobody should have such strongly held opinions that they cannot bear being poked at now and again.
there is only one part of the book that i fervently hope is a typo, or at the very least a momentary lapse of concentration. while discussing the numbers used to create the ideal frame of whichever type, petersen states at the foot of page 161 'mountain bike top tubes are twenty to thirty centimeters longer than road bike tubes, typically.' i do hope that was supposed to say 'millimetres'.
it would not be too much of a stretch to describe grant petersen as a visionary, even if that vision does not fit easily into an accepted norm with regards to bicycles, accessories and riding the darned things in the manner to which some of us have become accustomed. it may well be that, to the regular civilian, riding about on slivers of disturbingly expensive carbon fibre, while dressed like human advertising hoardings, appears to be exhibitionism of a peculiar sort, particularly when it's likely we're all going nowhere fast. but that doesn't make it right, wrong, or socially acceptable; having it thrown back in our collective oakleyed faces does no harm at all.
buy a copy, even if it's only to scream loudly at the pages. it's small enough to throw at the couch on a regualar basis.
friday 8th june 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it has been said on more than one occasion, that the finest examples of music or visual art are those that require as much effort on the part of the spectator/audience/listener as that of the artist responsible. now of course this depends very much on what you'd define as art and whether the term music applies to the more popular variety. it's unlikely that the latter is the case for good old pop music, as by its very definition it's supposed to appeal to a majority, and i certainly don't remember breaking sweat listening to radio one or top of the pops when it appeared front and centre on a thursday eve. more likely the statement referred to cutting edge jazz such as that of john coltrane and his disciples or much of the daily output from the london sinfonietta or kronos string quartet.
whether this proves to be your cup of tea is, quite frankly, between you and your itunes music library, but i am of the opinion that anything worth doing or having, ought to have at least a modicum of effort attached. for were we all to remain satisfied with the more popular items of artistic and musical endeavour, the top ten albums would probably consist of little more than take that or cheryl cole.
in 1972, on the strength of the single 'virginia plain', i purchased the first roxy music album (something of a disappointment if i'm honest, because i'd laid off buying the single on the assumption it would be included on the album (it wasn't), one rather unimaginatively entitled roxy music). though the track listing held one or two catchy tunes, there were others that proved a bit of an uphill challenge, particularly the bob (medley), a track that led to a few strange glances from school friends when played on their cassette decks (remember those?).
however, recalling my mother's admonition 'pride bears no pain', coupled to the fact that i had spent my hard-won pocket money, i persevered with headphones, and it is my concerted opinion that had roxy music and one or two others not been so inclined towards musical bizarreness on occasion, there are portions of contemporary music that might never have seen the light of day.
you can thank me later.
should the same be required of the bicycles in our lives? well, strictly speaking, the only effort we should be guilty of is the puffing and panting necessitated by climbing an 8% in the big ring, or your own personal equivalent. but shiny stuff engenders its own requirements, and it would be tantamount to a tantrum to ignore anything that proposes just a bit more faffing about than a di2 front gear mech. which brings me neatly to the most awesome pair of wheels it has been my pleasure to look at, let alone ride around on.
beautifully and meticulously built by jude kirstein at sugar wheelworks in portland, oregon, these are not your regular pair of hoops. for starters, the 36 hole rims are made from italian beech wood, marketed under the ghisallo moniker and very kindly supplied by ric hjertberg of wheelfanatyk. ric and his brother were the originators of the highly regarded wheelsmith brand of spokes (no connection to derek mclay of wheelworks in larbert, scotland), a selection of which he was also kind enough to supply for the build. these alone place the wheels on a pedestal, as original wheelsmith spokes are now remarkably akin to hen's teeth.
spokes and rims, however, do not a bicycle wheel make and in this instance the highly polished hubs were graciously supplied by white industries in the usa. the front mi5 hub features a 15mm steel axle, more regularly recommended for offroad riding, but according to jude it's the only white industries front hub that offers 36 spoke holes (the h2 road version tops out at 32h). the rear h3 hub can be had with shimano/sram cassette splines or campagnolo, depending on groupset. the level of gloss, shine and sparkle offered by these hubs, shows off the varnished beechwood to a sculptural level.
i cannot tell a lie; my intention had been to fit these to my chris king cielo, but one or two factors rendered that a tad impractical. the rims are 29mm wide, making them a less than easy fit between regular caliper brakes, and while wearing a pair of white panaracer pasela 700 x 28c tyres, fitting beneath those fullwood fenders was going to be a major struggle, one with which i opted not to engage. thus, the only option left open was to fit them to an ibis hakkalugi cross bike, offering the unfettered luxury of trp cantilevers and currently, no mudguards.
so far, so good. jude sent instructions to aid setting up the wheels after their long journey from pdx to glasgow to islay. she had trued the rims to within a few millimetres both laterally and radially, but figured i ought to check in my var truing stand and to put a smidgeon more tension all round. previously the ghisallo beech rims were available for only tubular tyres, the wood suffering a similar problem to that experienced by carbon at one time; sideways pressure on the rim exerted by an inflated tyre sidewall. this defect has been cured, ironically, by fitting a strip of carbon fibre in the tyre well to reinforce the wood. wood has other similarities to that of carbon in that it does not conduct heat very well, so the standard rubber pads have to be removed in favour of a set of cork pads.
though the tyre sidewalls indicate a pressure of over 100psi, jude reckoned that no more than 70 ought to be inflated in this case. once installed, i had my first experience of the effort that was going to be required on my part. i had slowly taken the tyres up to 70psi in stages, then left them outside while lunch was scoffed. midway through the latter, attention was rudely arrested by a loud bang, the rear tyre having removed itself from part of the rim and blown a hole in the tube. this tyre has continued to prove a mite troublesome during the bedding-in procedure, resulting in the occasional bump, bump, bump when traversing smooth road (of which, admittedly, there are precious few kilometres on islay).
the only solution so far has been to stop periodically, let some air out the tyre and attempt to re-seat the aramid beading, but in view of the ride quality of these wheels, it is but a small price to pay for the luxury and privilege of having these fitted to the ibis. i believe the cure may now be final, and have settled on 60-65psi as an agreeable inflation level.
first impressions are highly subjective. i figured that 28mm tyres, inflated to only 65psi, sitting on 29mm rims were unlikely to promise a fast ride, but my temerity was misplaced, for not only can i still climb hills like the mountain goat my publicity handout says i am, but these respond to a bit of welly every bit as well as a pair of treadless 23mm race tyres. however, the part that has me seriously stumped, something that will remain the subject of a longer-term test is just how to put the experience into words. make no mistake, these wheels need more than just physical effort on behalf of the rider; initially the faff might even keep you away from an extra cappuccino. but the rewards more than justify every ounce of effort you send in their direction.
they look fabulous and ride like nothing else you've ever tried. as yet, the opportunity to ride in the rain has not presented itself, but this is islay, so the chance won't be far away. toe-in on the front cantilevers is not yet perfectly set, so there's still a bit of untoward squealing under hard braking, though stopping itself is not a problem. wet varnished wood rims might not offer such a confident level of stopping in the rain, but i aim to find out. and though it may not come as much of a surprise, white tyres don't stay white for very long when you ride them, especially along the dunes on uiskentuie strand.
i would like to sincerely thank ric hjertberg at wheelfanatyk for supplying the ghisallo rims and wheelsmith spokes, to white industries for the hubs and most of all, jude kirstein at sugar wheelworks for not only building such a fabulous pair of wheels, but for being excited enough for both of us.
thursday 7th june 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
a stunning amount of money is spent, perhaps unwisely on occasion, on replacing perfectly good componentry on bicycles with stuff that would make your bank manager wince, purely in the interests of going a bit faster. for the mindful equation equates light weight with less to push in a forward direction, therefore justifying the alarming number that has just arrived at the bottom of the credit card bill. the logic is understandable but somewhat flawed, for light weight really only makes a real difference when gravity is to blame; in other words, riding uphill. most of us are well enough educated to comprehend the fact that heavier bicycles and/or riders have a tendency to descend at a faster rate than the light bulbs.
bring the intrusive subject of momentum to bear, and those fewer grams might conceivably bring disadvantages. bring any object up to speed, and though the rate of acceleration will vary according to drag and the mass that requires to be accelerated, once at cruising speed, the heavier object is likely to cruise more easily. the rider of the less weight challenged bicycle will require to input more energy to maintain speed than that of the heavier rider/bicycle combination, even if they were quicker to reach the desired velocity.
there's also the not inconsiderable problem of air resistance, one of the main reasons why time trial bicycles tend to favour a front wheel with a deep flange rim, is to smooth out the airflow before it meets those thrashing legs. the solid rear wheel creates more of a flywheel effect because the air has been well and truly disturbed as to render the aerodynamic properties somewhat null and void. take all the foregoing into consideration and the only logical conclusion is that, if you want to go faster than the guy next to you, one who is likely to be on a similar standard of cycle, you're going to have to train that body to be more efficient. succinctly put, that's where the nub of cutting edge cycling resides today.
cycle manufacturers spend an inordinate amount of pounds/dollars and hours having their bicycles wind tunnel tested, a process that undoubtedly has a dubiously favourable effect on the swooping carbon fibre eased from the mold. however, the wind in the real world rarely swoops past in one constant direction (at least, it doesn't on islay), surely rendering at least a portion of all that testing just a tad academic? related to track cycling, that wind testing may have some practical useability, but additionally, so does that of registering power output and methods of improving same. for conditions on the track are of a more finite sphere of control. if the guy who won the last 4,000m pursuit did so on an average power output of 850 watts, then an average output of 900 watts has pretty much got them beat.
the road is a whole different box of skittles, incorporating as it does various road surfaces, often wildly varying inclines and a wind resistance that knows not whether it's coming or going. theoretically the guy with the higher power output still has victory in his favour, but there are so many other factors involved such as lactic acid build-up, efficient fat burning, carbohydrate storage and a myriad of other bits and bobs bringing effect to bear on who crosses the line first. making changes to this - human physiology - is where the cutting edge is at present. if you think i am mistaken, take into account the the principal bicycle purveyors of the world seem concentrated on lobbying the uci to legalise the homologation of disc brakes for competition. so while hunter allen and stephen cheung have produced 280 pages of ways to make yourself faster, the bikebuilders are intent on improving ways to stop.
i do not wish to give the impression that i'd already figured just what cutting edge cycling was all about before i started reading. in retrospect (in other words, by the end of page one) all seems glaringly obvious, but i will confess that i thought we were about to be immersed in a dissertation regarding the properties of high modulus carbon fibre allied to the old chestnut, vertically compliant but laterally stiff.
the authors, however, both well-respected in their particular fields (allen is a renowned cycling coach, cheung is a sports scientist) have scant regard for the chattels of burnt plastic. in fact, they have few in mind for certain aspects of the modern heart-rate monitors:
"In looking at the features list of heart rate monitors (HRMs), we see that manufacturers appear to be in an arms race to load as many bells and whistles into the watches as possible. Some of the more dubious and unnecessary features include the following:
Body mass index calculator. The equation is weight (in kilograms) divided by height (in meters) squared, but your BMI does not change significantly day to day unless you suddenly lose weight by cutting off an arm. Use an inexpensive calculator instead.
Fitness tests built into the HRM. These tests promise to calculate your aerobic fitness by taking your heart rate, usually at rest, and then comparing it with equations built into the HRM memory. The problem is that these tables are generalized estimates based on other people.
Calorie counters. These counters are typically based on your heart rate along with other inputs such as gender and estimated maximum heart rate, so take these data with a grain of salt. However, a counter in HRMs or cycling computers will give you ballpark values that may be useful as estimates if weight control is a concern."
cutting edge cycling is one of the most comprehensive and clearly explained books on the subject of training the body for its intended purpose i have had the pleasure to review. i cannot vouchsafe for the veracity of the information contained within; i rarely wear so much as a watch when out riding let alone a heart rate monitor or, heaven forbid, a power meter, but the authors' collective intelligence and logic as regards current physiological thinking seems as close to infallible as it is possible to be. books, by their very nature, and currently even e-book versions as reviewed here, tend to be written in stone. several have only just reached publication when along comes an alternative order as the result of continuing research.
that, however, is something that will plague such volumes till the end of time.
this is not a book that will necessarily fill the gap between getting to bed and lights out, but it is considerably less convoluted than some of its peers. disappointingly, many of the illustrations seem suprlus to requirements, though it's possible they may fulfil the function of a visual break from the ceaseless scientific explanations and discourse. a photograph of mark cavendish punching the air as he leads across the line, captioned as "Whether they strive to be victorious at elite levels or to achieve faster personal bests, cyclists turn to science for new ways to improve performance by even the smallest margin " seems a mite incongruous and pointless. subsequent images do little to improve this state of affairs. however, there are several clearly defined tables and graphs to support and elucidate the often densely-packed narrative.
i confess that i will be very unlikely to put any of the contents into practice; i'm just not that kind of cyclist. but for those who have a desire, need or employment to go as fast as their bodies will allow, i doubt you need look much further than this.
cutting edge cycling by hunter allen and stephen cheung can be ordered or downloaded from the human kinetics website
wednesday 6th june 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
islay is divided into a series of interlocking estates, all of which are owned by non-resident landowners. this might imply that things have not moved on much since the highland clearances, but in point of fact, the reality is somewhat different. the most northerly of the estates is that of dunlossit, an amalgam of forestry, farming, fishing, deer-hunting and likely a plethora of other activities that estates regularly indulge in. it is owned by bruno schroder of schroder's bank who, suffice it to say, is not short of a bob or two and a not infrequent visitor to islay in his own private aircraft.
the estate office is ensconced at knocklearach farm, not one kilometre from the disaster of a cattle-grid to which i drew attention only a matter of days ago. just behind the substantial farmhouse is a barn conversion that, within the last year, was home to islay's version of a farmers' market. bridgend is home to islay house community garden. the building in whose grounds this garden exists was once the home of the margadales, current owners of islay estates, but in the last few decades the large building and a substantial portion of its grounds were sold to a former american pilot who still counts it as one of his homes, though he did place it on the open market a couple of years back.
the gardens are, as the name would imply, largely run by community volunteers under the auspices of a garden manager and have regularly entreated the local population to take advantage of the opportunity to purchase freshly grown vegetables. the similarities to a farmers' market are there for all to see; it's simply the islay version in the face of a farming community based primarily on livestock and the growing of barley for distilling. the garden is within reasonable reach of the majority of the island's population, though in true local style, few would ever consider utilising a bicycle to visit, purchase and subsequently transport their cabbages, carrots and potatoes off home.
the alternative at dunlossit (which i'm not entirely sure is still in operation), is in an altogether less accessible location, one that is none too attractive for even the most intrepid bicyclist. the approach from ballygrant village encompasses a hill that briefly reaches around 18%, while the ride from bridgend takes in a lengthy climb of an average 8%. it cannot be denied, however, that both would offer rather exhilarating rides home for any purchased vegetables. neither would it be too unkind to state that the island does not provide particularly satisfactorily for those keen on the quest for regular purchase of freshly grown home produce. but it would also be fair to point out that there is hardly anything resembling a cycling community intent on making use of this almost non-existent facility.
the same cannot be levelled at the rather substantial village of portland in oregon. on my most recent exploration, i visited one of several farmers' markets throughout the area with harth huffman of wabi woolens, one that was situated right outside a co-operative supermarket (as distinct from the co-op in main street, bowmore), where it was possible to choose from a wide range of coffee beans and then grind them as required. there was also a substantially sized fridge unit stacked with all manner of vegan products and at rather attractive prices (if my immediate mental conversions were accurate).
as portland village is relatively flat, 'tis but a simple matter to hop on an appropriately fendered and racked bicycle to collect and return with a substantial amount of personally selected produce. it is perhaps of little surprise that ira ryan, only a few days later, won a nahbs prize for his bicycle and chris king headset hinged trailer built for a portland chef to collect the daily veg from a nearby farmers' market. it is, for a certain portion of portlandians, the ideal way to shop. it was, therefore, surely only a matter of time before some enterprising portland framebuilder offered a bicycle named for the purpose, and that framebuilder is natalie ramsland of sweetpea bicycles. in fact the bicycle on offer is precisely named for the purpose: the sweetpea farmers market.
in contrast to the british way, natalie says that this style of bike is one that has never gone away, so i wondered if this was still faithful to the original idea or had it been developing on the back of envelopes over the years? "The Farmers Market developed over time, not so much on the back of envelopes, but through a series of bikes in which we explored ideas and solutions for a robust transportation bike. There was, of course, our original bike that we called The Farmers Market, whose rider reminded us that bikes don't have to be precious in order to be dear. Then there was a Rohloff hub bike with matching racks that had, designed to the last detail to be versatile enough to deliver pies or go bike camping. Another bike played with a visual minimalism that kept its utter pragmatism a secret. I brought together these values of easy-going strength, adaptability, and simplicity in designing the Farmers Market."
it would be naive to suppose that north america has become immune to the vicissitudes of the motor car. though geographical exploration was not one of the finer points of my visit, when in kansas city a few years ago, i became versed in the opinion that it would be well nigh impossible to survive there without a motor car. it seemed that all the necessary points for shopping existed in isolation, and the concept of collecting the daily or weekly necessities by bicycle would be pretty darned difficult, let alone remotely pragmatic. however, i often get the distinct impression that there are enclaves in the uk for which the phrase 'farmers' market' means little or nothing at all. as i have already intimated, portland is well accustomed to the idea, having embraced it by the basketful, but does natalie see this style of bicycle as a principally american genre, britain having just not 'got it' yet?
"I think it is so interesting that you see this as an American genre, because I think our side of the pond seems to romanticize and recreate city bikes that refer to another time or place; French porteur bikes, Scandinavian cruisers, etc. But style aside, I think that the functional elements of these transportation bikes reflect growing ridership and safer streets in American cities like Portland. When more people ride bikes, the ways people ride and what they chose to ride seems to diversify."
aside from my consideration of the farmers market (the bike) as being a bastion of certain portions of north american society, what is pointedly clear is sweetpea's determination to flesh out the frame with indigenous componentry. does she consider it of importance that as many parts as possible are sourced from her home continent? "It is. A name like Farmers Market naturally suggests a sense of place, a preference for the local and the sustainable. And it's true that with every bike we build, we have certain opportunities to choose USA sourced products. Still, I wouldn't say I let a preference for US made items inform every material and component choice. Rather, I was interested in creating an aesthetic that highlighted American design and manufacturing. Modern innovation and craft is more relevant than endlessly re-doing retro."
the bicycle is constructed entirely in steel, the staple material of the majority, if not all of portland's builders. this particular model utilises good old tradtional 4130 chromoly: a mix of reynolds tubes, straight gauge seat stays, paragon dropouts and one of those fabulous, flat top pacenti fork crowns. though natalie ramsden builds the sweetpea frames in north east portland, the famers market is built by her fabrication partners in central oregon, and she has a bike-fitting studio on the mezzanine floor above jude kirstein's sugar wheelworks in north williams avenue, the wonders of the interweb and international shipping mean that her output is no longer restricted to the streets of portland village and others in north america. presumably she is open to offers of interest from this side of the atlantic? "Absolutely! The Farmers Market was made to see the world."
taken literally, and bolstered by the short film displayed below, riding to and from the nearest farmers' market, wholefood store or, indeed, community garden is unlikely to recreate the effort required to attack alpe d'huez's twenty-one hairpin bends. that would preclude the need for eleven electronic gears, or perhaps any form of derailleur gear. i'd figure on a single-speed (the manner in which the basic model is offered) or perhaps one of those remarkably user-friendly, shimano alfine eight-speed hub gears. which would she see as the most practical choice, given the bike's intended purpose? "The best gearing option is the one that suits your topography, your daily commute, and your budget. This is the sort of bike that you can go off to college on as a single speed and then upgrade to an eleven speed when you take a job in San Francisco. Or upgrade to a Rohloff 14-speed when you embark on your cross-country tour."
till now, sweetpea's major claim to fame and distinction in a city seemingly filled with framebuilders has been that of specifically targetting the female market. there are one or two select areas of glasgow where a bloke riding a bicycle with sweetpea emblazoned on the downtube would be just asking for trouble. however, the movie depicts a chap sneaking off on his female partner's bike. is this natalie's way of showing that sweetpea bicycles are no longer singularly the preserve of the fairer sex?
"We've built many Sweetpeas for fellas over the years. But the reason our video tells this particular story is that it is far too common that women will get their boyfriends handed down bike or will upgrade to a bike designed for men just to get the components and performance they are looking for. We wanted to turn that on its head a bit. Women should have bikes that make their boyfriends jealous!"
those of us who count ourselves as amongst the senior members of the pelotonese are perhaps more used to a wide range of sizing options for our alpe d'huez climbing race bikes. given sweetpea's proclivity for providing appropriate pedalling hardware for the female population, does the offering of the farmers market small, medium and large apply just as well to the male of the species? "The standard sizes S, M, and L relate to women's sizing, but I should point out that most of our Lust Line customers opt for the custom geometry upgrade so that the bike fits them perfectly."
it's a curious notion that the male cognoscenti have their heads serially turned and influenced by the european racing bike, despite a blatant lack of practical necessity for just such a bicycle. that said, a particular majority within this society spend the bulk of those saddled hours either training (and i use the phrase in its loosest sense), riding sportives, or getting to the coffee shop as quickly as possible. the thought of employing a bicycle for purely practical and transportational purposes almost does not compute. however, as the bicycle re-asserts its rightful place in modern society, a myriad of other factors come into play, at least several of which can be satisfied by such as the sweetpea farmers market.
and that is a very good thing.
for a full available specification of the sweetpea farmers market, click over to the sweetpea website. frame and fork retails at $1750 (£1150) and complete bikes from $3600 (£2350)
tuesday 5th june 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................