i think by now we're all used to the never-ending technological developments in cycle racing trickling down to the more mundane users, such as ourselves. marketing may well have convinced us that electronic gear shifting is the veritable bees knees for the so-called leisure cyclist, but it cannot have escaped your attention that both shimano and campagnolo spent years having their sponsored riders undertake all the on-bike origination work. couple that with the fact that these switching developments have initially been released at the top of the tree, rather than at the grass roots level.
hardly the ideal way to bring it to the masses.
and though the uci have still to tick the relevant boxes, and though hydraulic disc brakes have become a permanent fixture on even relatively low-cost mountain bikes, the colnago c59 reviewed on the post only a matter of weeks ago, provided only five pence change from a ten thousand pound note. so yet again, technological development will be a while coming to the proletariat.
race radios are currently going through an identity crisis; legal in some races and banned in others, while the directeurs sportifs can still remain behind the wheel of the team car, watching the breakaway forming on the little telly sited between themselves and the guy in the passenger seat. there may be technological developments affecting the proverbial sticky bottle, but since that would have limited application for the pelotonese, such adhesiveness will likely remain the preserve of the sir daves of this world.
but it's the fragility of the race radio allowance that currently gives cause for concern. while those of us embroiled in the world of panache feel inclined to object to the continued use of race radios, on the basis that racing is being directed from the car, others (including one or two riders) have their misgivings over the use of power meters to regiment multi-day stage races.
certain teams (naming no names) are perhaps already ahead of the game in certain respects, particularly with regard to the possibility of the uci taking race radios out of the equation altogether. the prominent purveyors of gps units - garmin - have quite obviously been alerted to what could be a strategic problem, at least on behalf of the guys in the car, currently embodied in the prototype edge 401 that has been complicating my cycle riding over the past month or so.
for built-in to the 401 is a dual-band satellite receiver, one of which accesses the regular geo-stationary global positioning system, the other simultaneously accessing specific tv satellites (like sky, for instance). thus, in addition to all the regular data such as that displayed on a garmin edge 810 (on which this model is based), the touch-sensitive screen can be swiped to display a tv picture. using a bluetooth headset, it's a cinch for the rider to hear the online commentary. you can see why jonathan is interested. it also now has a screen capable of displaying millions of colours.
those of you already in thrall to the bar mounted garmin will have already seen a potential pitfall concerning the positioning of the edge device on the current garmin mount. to descend for a moment into the world of print, the screen is set in portrait format, when current television pictures tend to be in landscape. garmin, however, are one step ahead at this point, having adjusted their truly excellent mounting system to allow rotation of the gps device through ninety degrees.
islay is perhaps not the ideal location in which to review the 401, for there are numerous blind spots, where the satellite signal tends to fade somewhat. however, having seen certain of the mountain stages in the tour and giro, it's likely the problem is not contained to the southern hebrides. though the gps signal remains strong no matter where i've been riding, i did experience an occasional loss of picture while attempting to ride and watch the e3 harelbeke, though this could have been due to other factors. garmin are undoubtedly going to have to do some development work on the battery technology required for such a device; in order to view the picture clearly under bright natural light, it is necessary for the backlight to be permanently on, something that reduces the seventeen hours promised for the 810 to nearer five or six on the 401.
and displaying millions of colours apparently doesn't ease the problem. since the 810 manages to alter from a black on white display to a white on black in low-light conditions, it must surely be possible to have the same switch the backlight on and off depending on ambient light.
i've ridden this over all manner of road surfaces, and it probably seems a tad obvious to state that you wouldn't want to be trying to keep an eye on the competition at paris-roubaix.
for perhaps obvious reasons, though there is now a mini-jack sited alongside the usb port and micro sd card slot on the bottom of the unit, it would be a smidgeon impractical for the professional peloton to ride with white ipod headphones plugged into a handlebar unit. i am given to understand that the incorporation of bluetooth in the edge 810 is actually descended from this prototype rather than the other way round. bluetooth allows the use of a wireless headset, in my opinion, the feature that seems to need the most development. mine had a tendency to drop out every now and again, and though for an amateur like myself this was simply an irritation, it could have more serious consequences for the professionals.
however, it's pertinent to remember that this particular 401 has the word prototype stamped across the back, and i know well that i'm not the only one riding with one of these on my handlebars.
is this a good idea? well, i can sort of see why it appeals to team owners and directeurs sportifs. "it's a clever piece of technology", said rapha condor jlt's john herety, "but i'm not sure i want any of my riders watching tv, rather than those all around them." rcj rider, jimmy mccallum said he was more used to relying on his garmin for training rather than racing. "it would take some getting used to in a proper race, and i'm not sure i'd like to regiment my racing based on a tv picture."
the technology has been well thought out, despite the misgivings mentioned above. it is possible to switch off the tv satellite via the garmin's settings panel, though the gps unit is 'always on'. ironically, the biggest problem relates to the tv broadcasts themselves. while watching the e3 broadcast on sporza, those pop up ads were all but impossible to close, especially with gloved fingers, and even on sky, the adverts have a tendency to interrupt race coverage. the breakaway only has to time its departure to coincide with the commercials, and team strategy is up the proverbial swannee.
though i have asked the obvious question, garmin have remained tight-lipped as to when the 401 might be released to the great unwashed, or whether it will remain the preserve of the professionals. believe it or not, when i contacted the television licensing unit regarding the viability of this device in the public domain, i was informed that, not only would a tv licence be required if used in the uk, but a separate licence would be required for each unit. of course, if you already hold a household tv licence, you're covered, but if used by a professional team (such as rapha condor jlt), john herety's simply wouldn't apply.
mind you, i'd love to see them try end enforce it.
(in case the date escaped your notice, this was an april fool. the garmin 401 does not exist)
monday 1st april 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the original islay bike ride of note was named the espresso run, admittedly by yours truly; it's a dirty job, but somebody had to do it. this was occasionally augmented by the slightly longer version which added in a few kilometres round loch gorm, but basically the idea was to cycle from bowmore to port charlotte (more specifically, the croft kitchen) for a double espresso and perchance a dod of carrot cake. at that point in time, the croft kitchen was the sole purveyor of what now is often termed designer coffee.
after the lengthy persuasion period, coercing mr torrie of glenmorangie to furnish us with ardbeg distillery cycle jerseys, there was a slight (well, quite substantial), geographical shift to club headquarters at the southern end of the island, usually for coffee and clootie dumpling. ardbeg, though easily the finest source of the latter this side of tokyo, offered cafetiere coffee that left something to be desired, particularly when pushing the plunger occasionally dispensed coffee all across the table.
it is a truism, however, that there is little more certain than change, one that fortuitously arrived in the morphing of bruichladdich mini-market into what is now colloquially and internationally referred to as debbie's. not for nothing has the slogan welcome to great coffee been emblazoned on those rare and in demand cycle jerseys. though sometimes a factor completely missed by some, it is rarely sufficient to acquire an industrial strength coffee machine and hope that all the work will be done by the machinery. debbie was a highly trained dispenser of immaculate coffees, and it took but one visit, post sunday ride, for the feckless velo club to quickly switch allegiance.
and we've been there ever since; a home from home.
but yet again, change can also be seen as a form of progress. the conspiracy theory would view the latest development as being a surreptitious move to woo the velo club back to its ancestral home, and on the basis of easter friday's visit by a reconnaissance party (me again), it might just work. not, you understand, as a substitute for debbie's (heaven forbid), but as a favourable adjunct. for ardbeg distillery has installed a brand new coffee machine in the old kiln annexe, and the recently trained staff certainly have the ability to offer a rather fine double espresso.
sadly, for the time being at least, there was no soya milk. threats have been issued.
and as if this were not enough, the celtic house in bowmore's shore street is about to convert half of the upstairs into a cafe, also offering designer coffees. so in a rather large topographical game of join the dots, it's possible now to ride to ardbeg in the morning for coffee and cake, ride 25km to bowmore for a mid ride caffeine boost, before setting off on the final 15km to debbie's for coffee and a toastie (pepper, no salt). how good does it get on an island just under 40km end to end?
give me a week or two and i'll have tasting notes ready. then we'll settle down to organise the islay coffee festival.
sunday 31st march 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
regular perusers of these black and yellow pixels will be all too well aware of the fact that i moan rather more than is truly seemly for one of such advanced years. first off, the powers that be footered with my beloved 1" headset, widening it to an unheard of 1.125", completely unnecessarily and for no good reason, so far as i can see. however, not content with such meddling in the cockpit, they then grabbed hold of that delightful little square taper bottom bracket, a component that was doing nobody any harm and had served eddy and i well for many a long year, made it bigger and stuck it outboard of the bb shell.
while i'm sat here in repetitive mood, might i once again point out at this juncture, that subsequent headset developments came up with the integrated and semi-integrated headset, shifting all the gubbins inside the head tube. now both of the latter squiffings were done in the name of the great god stiffness, but at the risk of incurring engineering wrath, how can moving the headset bearings inboard and bottom bracket bearings outboard, both achieve the same end result?
the perennial conundrum.
yet i've been riding bicycles long enough to remember when lycra shorts could be had only in black and without any form of lettering applied to the outside of the leg. inside, things were considerably less comfortable, at least after washing. for them were t'days of real chamois to cosset the posterior, a natural product that required endless massaging with specific cream to regain the softness of touch seen at point of sale. failure to do so would not only have brought tears to your thighs, but given new definition to the word chafing.
though eddy would have ridden his entire career beset with such undercarriage formalities, given that there was truy little alternative at the time, it was undoubtedly seen as a feature, not a bug. however, the bulk of my own cycling career, such as it is, has revolved around persistent developments in the realm of the synthetic chamois pad, fabric that never once has any thoughts of remaining other than soft and cushy. in truth, the application of designated chamois cream is entirely at the individual preference of those about to ease their bums into the lycra accoutrement.
you will have noticed a complete lack of any moaning from me regarding this technical development, mostly because i am 100% in favour. thus, my secret has been discovered; i only moan subjectively and very rarely objectively.
so bite me.
and you will perhaps be aghast at the notion held by a less than vocal minority (of which i am not one) that such padded development is still requiring of chamois cream. i think this verging on the edge of blasphemy, for two distinct reasons; firstly, it is part of our rich and varied heritage as cyclists, and secondly, i'd really rather not discover just how abrasive any of these contemporary materials might become over the course of a hundred kilometres or so. chamois cream it is.
dave zabriskie, eccentric though he may be, can be thought to have greater experience of bum on saddle than many of us. and based on this considerable experience, he has developed a tube of chamois cream quite brazenly named dz nuts. it's probably not too much of a stretch of the imagination to figure out how that appellation was arrived at.
unlike many of the substances from which i have had the good fortune to benefit, dz nuts chamois cream is dispensed from a tube rather than a tin or a tub. extensive testing of this particular facet has resolved itself by my having no great preference either way, though i seem to make less of a mess with the tube. though a number of the chamois creams on offer are imbued with pleasant aromatics, dz nuts offers a mild menthol sensation; slightly disconcerting to begin with, but with repeated use far more of a plus than any kind of minus.
at this time of year in particular, the combination (not literally) of dz nuts chamois cream and inheat make for the silver lining appended to each and every bike ride. however, as summer reputedly approaches from afar, and heat build-up is not just something experienced by nasa astronauts on re-entering the earth's atmosphere, dz nuts menthol assisted chamois cream will be the one accessory (other than the bicycle of course) that you won't wish to leave home without.
dave zabriskie, we salute you.
a 4oz tube of dz nuts sells for £18
saturday 30th march 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
when i was a young lad (only a matter of weeks ago), my bedroom adjoined the sitting room of my parents' house in which both my younger brother and i lived at the time. both my father and brother were keen (read: obsessive) soccer fans, who'd spend each saturday watching bbc's grandstand at lunchtime to view and listen to prognostications about the afternoon's forthcoming matches before heading out to either rugby park in kilmarnock, or somerset park in ayr to cheer on their respective teams.
they would return not long before tea-time to watch a round-up and the results of the day's matches, where the pundits would point out that things had gone pretty much as they ascribed, except that the other team won. as if that were not enough, in pre-sky television days, highlights from at least two of the day's proceedings would be shown later that same evening, and that's where the inherent problem came to a head.
i have no earthly interest in football whatsoever; never have, never will, and frequently resent the fact that it is assumed that all gents of the male persuasion hold this reputedly inborn absorption. when your bedroom is but a few sheets of plasterboard from incessant commentary both on and off the television. shouts of 'how could he possibly have missed that?', 'get your eyes tested ref!' and 'oh for heaven's sake; call yourself a goalkeeper?', would ring through over the better part of an hour, along with that really annoying crowd noise that seems an intrinsic factor of each and every football match.
though my brother did play football at a really amateur level, i can't remember any occasion on which my father demonstrated any soccer skills above and beyond the mundane. yet, here they both were, shouting an endless stream of advice at those who received a weekly wage for kicking a ball about a football field. (i hope at this point that the urge to vent forth about the obscene amounts of money currently paid to so-called professionals in the game doesn't come across as being ony just resisted through a demonstration of excessive willpower.)
it's not the first time that i have had cause to regurgitate this very same tale over the intervening years, castigating two members of my family not able to defend themselves (if only because they don't actually read this stuff). in so-doing, i have taken the eternal moral high ground, for who amongst us would be so foolish to demonstrate their ignorance in this method?
and then along came milan-sanremo 2013. it was cold, it was wet, it was snowy and it was curtailed to a less impressive distance. heroes of the spring classics such as tom boonen abandoned in the coach that had transported he and his peers past the snow-blocked turchino pass, describing the conditions as 'inhuman'.
yet, flick back to the 2011 rapha festive 500 during which i spent each day of the challenge getting wet and cold while fending off the pushings and shovings of winds verging on hurricane force. you are indeed correct; much of that was unbridled stupidity. nobody was paying me to ride, and there was no trophy and adulation at the end, yet not once did i consider abandoning (actually that's not true, a couple of times at least i thought of just going home and watching only fools and horses).
so what on earth were those relatively highly paid cyclists thinking of by abandonings a few hours riding in the rain? if it was too cold, then perhaps they ought to train on islay rather than jetting off to corsica and mallorca for the winter. and though i cannot claim to be the only idiot populating twitter during that sunday afternoon with snide comments and smart-ass one-liners, it's quite likely that i should have shown a greater degree of propriety, sympathy and sense of reality.
because let's face it, i wasn't actually there.
though pretty much every world-tour rider receives a stipend well in excess of my own, that stipend is received for services rendered towards their directeurs sportifs and ultimately the sponsor(s). both parties would be most agreeable to the riders being able to carry out such tasks for pre-defined sections of the season; injuries received while riding in the cold and wet are not a part of the plan. add to that, even the curtailed distance is by some way a tad longer than my average sunday morning ride, ridden at a speed that i could not achieve downhill with a following wind.
so, do i have any right to sit cosily in the comfort of my leather armchair issuing mutterings of 'oh for heaven's sake, mtfu'? maybe, but probably not. would i phone tom boonen and tell him he's a wimp? i very much doubt it, because he was likely a great deal more perspicacious about such matters than i. have i simply turned into my brother and my dad? there seems every likelihood that such has become the case. so, to every cyclist i may have castigated via twitter during the 2013 milan san remo, i offer an unmitigated apology. i was wrong, you were right.
perversely, i rather enjoy riding in the rain, and havae no fears whatsoever of galeforce headwinds, but if any of you still harbour sentiments similar to those i voiced on twitter, perhaps you'd like to watch the video below from vittoria's neutral service, then maybe reconsider. as fabian cancellara was quoted as saying "everyone is a hero today".
friday 29th march 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
soya cappuccino and carrot cake. one of your five-a-day. probably as good as it gets. the feast of weekend (and mid-week) champions, and compared to the thought of converging for an early evening meal with friends, one of life's great informalities. and while we're on that particular point, consumption of the aforementioned ought also to comprise a relaxing hour or so in the comfort of an appropriate hostelry.
the bike du jour can be casually left leaning against patio furniture outside debbie's, furniture that is currently too cold to occupy in the face of an icy blast from siberia. opening that red door is a simple matter; it's closing it against the wind that is more of a challenge, quickly enough however, to retain that homely, welcoming aroma of the finest coffee this side of easter island.
i'd be very wary of ascribing any degree of formality to sportwool and lycra, but considering it is the fashionable and pragmatic clothing in which to find yourself for, let's say, the sunday ride, it has a specific job to do, and can therefore escape any ascribed notion of leisure wear, in the sense of seeming relaxed and inconspicuous sat at the coffee bar, or the chair that rests beneath richard sachs' remonstrations to 'make lifelong memories, and race.' if i may, just for a moment take a brief sideways step and transport the peloton to starbucks, costa or cafe nero, how relaxed would we all appear if sat in front of froth and cake in any of those establishments?
therefore, in order to enjoy a verisimilitude of lounging unaffectedly midst one's civilian peers, perhaps something just as ostentatious and cycling specific, yet considerably less than pelotonic ought to be available in the honed athlete's wardrobe. something along the lines of prendas ciclismo's leisure jacket; a team issue jacket if you will, but where every one of us is a team member.
it resembles nothing more or less than a baseball style jacket, or the apparel worn to school by one or two of the principals in movies such as grease. there, however, the conjunction with americana comes to a complete halt. i've said it before, and i have no compunction about repeating myself; if mick and andy didn't exist, we'd have to invent them. no matter your affections for any specific cycle team, or indeed, in this day and age, a cycle clothing brand, wearing anything emblazoned with prendas ciclismo marks one out as a member of the cognoscenti.
for the purposes of longevity and comfort, the portuguese made jacket is fashioned from a comfortingly thick mix of fleece-backed cotton and polyester with elasticated cuffs, collar and hem. the full length ykk zip has a padded prendas ciclismo tab to ease the up and down-ness, and two convenient front pockets to allow an insouciant pose leaning against a nearby coffee bar. writ large across the front are the words prendas ciclismo solidly embroidered, while the same appear screenprinted on each sleeve. on the back, testament to mick tarrant and andy storey's seventeen years in business. and despite alex salmond's endless persuasions to the contrary, personally i have no wish to split the borders anytime soon, so an embroidered union jack at top right suits me just dinky doo.
midst protestations from mrs washingmachinepost, i have been wearing this jacket since it arrived a few weeks ago; its comfort, cosiness and, dare i say it, funk have been ideal in the sub-zero temperatures and strained output from the croft's storage heaters in the face of siberian adversity. if it were necessary to constrain into a few words, 'absaflippinlutely brilliant' wouldn't be too strong a phrase. there is little doubt that one's sporting affectations would be unlikely to remain a secret if worn in starbucks, costa or cafe nero, but in such polite and cosmopolitan company, it would fare far better than those strange, cultivated tanlines.
i regard myself as one of life's perennial mediums, not in the sense that i have conversations with those who have passed over, but in terms of sizing. however, as noted on the prendas website, these jackets are just a tad oversized, thus that which i have worn for froth supping is labelled small. bearing that in mind, you might wish to drop a size from the usual when offering up your measly £69.95 for anything from an xs to a 4xl.
i fully expect to see a sold out notice on prendas.co.uk within a very short period of time. there's also a molteni badged version available.
thursday 28th march 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
serendipity, as a word is every bit as effective as haberdashery, even though neither have any real connection in terms of their semantic definitions. but some words are just so intrinsically intriguing, even when stripped of any definition, that i'm always looking for an appropriate opportunity to use either. even antidisestablishmentarianism has joys and frustrations all of its own, particularly in the light of its self-contradictoriness. for if disestablishmentarianism defines the act of removing the virtues of establishmentarianism, then appending the prefix anti surely disavows the definition of disestablishmentarianism in the first place?
yes, my head hurts now too.
but the serendipitous nature of which i have need of outlining refers to the arrival, for once, of a product for review that so closely matches the perfect conditions required to do so, that serendipitous is likely the only pertinent way to describe the situation.
according to the bbc, the high pressure system that would more usually be currently positioned over southern europe, offering up our regular south-westerly prevailing winds, has taken note of global warming, and taken up station over scandinavia. therefore, the winds that have recently blasted much of the united kingdom, including the southern hebrides, are adhering to an east-south-easterly direction, and a whole sight colder than those that would more normally affect the weekend of palm sunday.
as of monday morning this past week, the road between kennacraig ferry terminal and campbeltown at the southern tip of the kintyre peninsula, was opened, under police convoy, after a weekend of being blocked by severe snow drifts, something i cannot recall having previously occured in the twenty-five years i have lived here. ferries being cancelled due to high winds is nothing new, but serious amounts of snow lying on the roads and surrounding fields at loch gorm on the atlantic coast, is not something you'd even find nearer christmas, never mind the week prior to easter.
the sunday morning ride took place in minus six degrees (celcius) gale force windchill. it was cold, a cold that has only moderated slightly in the ensuing days.
the serendipitous part can be explained by the arrival of a tube of dz nuts embrocation at the end of last week, just in time to coat both legs in copious quantities to defend against the cold. inheat can be purchased in three versions: low heat, medium heat and high heat; i'm here reviewing the low heat version. strangely, though the tube offers instruction on how to slather the lower limbs for best effect, very much against the grain, it advises doing so onto freshly shaved legs. most others i have had the good fortune to employ have often counselled against such practices, something that leaves one in a quandary if legs have been shaved, yet a biting cold invites the unwary. good for dz i say.
following instructions, i made good with the regulation slathering, one that offered a mildly aromatic sensation as well as a smooth tingling in the honed muscles, a tingling that happily continued to simmer for the entire duration of the sunday morning ride.
i confess that i have been often the purveyor of a healthy degree of cynicism towards the practice of embrocating, one that seemed a tad pretentious unless your name was boonen or cancellara. however, cold weather places irregular demands upon the hapless cyclist, leading to a swallowing of pride and suspending of that inner cynic.
i cannot attest to any greater level of speed due to this serendipitous embrocating, at least none that could be directly attributed without some post-ride scientificness. however, embrocating has never been about riding faster, simply remaining warm enough to attempt it in the first place. but considering i was never particularly fast in the first place, whether it does or doesn't is really of no nevermind. personally, i'll settle for a warm tingling.
wednesday 27th march 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
it's nice to get hold of a brand new shiny bicycle, with up to date, state of the art componentry, a sheen to impress the chaps at the coffee stop and a polished chain running smoothly and purringly over ten or eleven sprockets that could be used individually as shaving mirrors. all the cables run smoothly, grasping just enough to offer a slick gear change, while the brakes bring the bicycle to a halt smoothly and unerratically with nary a sound from still pristinely anodised rims. and while pedalling to and from the coffee stop, one has almost to avert one's eyes at the powerful strobe effect engendered by whirring spokes viewed just past immaculate bar tape that shows not a single grubby finger mark.
those were the days.
disappointingly, the above impression lasts only several months, before the front mech seems incapable of sitting comfortably above the inner ring without a nudge from a right foot. and the gear cables seem to have stretched just enough to have the chain rattle incessantly over the ramps notched into one or two of those now less than mirror-like rear sprockets. the anodising has gone completely from both rims and you can't help noticing that one rear brake shoe is not sitting at the optimal angle for either unhindred stopping or even pad wear. is that a creak coming from the saddle, or perchance the bottom bracket? i thought it was sealed?
problem is, most of us let those sort of things go until they either stop working altogether, or simply break. and we then (quite rightly) lambast ourselves for having let it go this far. what happened to the glorious new bicycle that used to sit in the bike shed, eager and willing to impress?
though i'm setting myself up for a fall by saying this, but in the days of being a one-bike person, i used to change the chain every three months no matter what. it was a simple system to adhere to, and it guaranteed that my cassette lasted an inordinately long time. many of you will be mentally forming the words pish tosh. every three months!, but we all have our little peccadilloes; each to their own.
however, the number of bikes has grown somewhat in the past few years, added to which, i am fortunate enough to receive several review models over the course of a year, making any sort of system of chain replacement, not only null and void, but darned near impossible to track. therefore, when replacing the chain on the cielo recently, the process bit back, and a skipping chain necessitated a new cassette. and i have grave doubts about the wear on my sram red inner chainring.
if you add to that the fact that, rather bizarrely, the front cable stop for the rear brake cable has rusted over (the rear has no rust at all), and what was once a showroom bicycle now presents itself in a less favourable light. some of this, as you quite rightly point out, is mere frosting and has little or no effect on how well the bicycle rides or operates, but extrapolate the instances listed above, and it is not an unfair assumption to presume that the working bits are experiencing a similar stream of events.
somewhat obviously, the time to replace some of those bits and bobs would be sooner rather than later in order to retain a cycle that has acquired a patina of use, but can demonstrate a mechanical worthiness concomitant with that when new. or, of course, we could simply buy ourselves a nice new shiny bicycle and start the whole process all over again.
but though the financial privations endured in those halcyon days of yore were undoubtedly worth the sacrifice, a pressing family life, if not downright disapproving of such unnecessary expense, will have found endless other methods of relieving you of most of your monthly bank balance, all of which are socially more acceptable than the latest in carbon fibre and electronic gearshifting. in fact, in the worst case scenario, there may be precious little pocket money to allow any of the incremental upgrades mentioned above.
what to do?
it's a problem the car industry seemingly solved several years ago, by bolstering the old adage that buying on hire purchase was indeed, living on the never, never. put down an optional deposit on a brand new car, pay an almost acceptable monthly fee and at the end of three years (thus obviating the need for an mot test), they still own more of the car than you do. the option then is either to pay the outstanding and own the vehicle outright, or simply hand it back and repeat the process on an even newer model.
it doesn't make perfect financial sense the way your mother taught you, but it does mean that it's never out of warranty, looks almost as good as new when you hand it back, and there's the joy of getting another shiny one to replace it with before it becomes a mechanical and financial liability. of course, at some point, money will no longer be in such plentiful supply in which case you are left bereft of a motor vehicle, or you've made plans to buy the last one before you retire.
wouldn't it (possibly) be neat if you could do the same with bicycles?
well, it turns out that you can. though rather obviously a tad less imposing financially than that of purchasing a motor car by similar means, the bike leasing company offers a reasonably impressive list of cycles which you can effectively lease in similar manner to the car system outlined above. for example, nab yourself a 2013 de rosa merak with campagnolo athena eps retailing at £4,299.99, place a deposit of £645 and you can ride it away for only £89.58 per month for a couple of years. arithmetically, that totals the lease cost at £2,795. you can of course, pay a lump sum lease of exactly the same. at the end of the period, you have the option of purchasing the bicycle at 35% of the original retail price (in this case, £1504). equating to the total purchase price cited at the start.
you'd figure there ought to be a catch somewhere, but so far i'm struggling to find one, though the bike leasing company request that you insure the bike while in your possession, a not unreasonable request, but one that costs pennies nonetheless. when the payments are complete, you can hand the bike back, purchase it as detailed above, extend the lease for another twelve months (15% of rrp) or keep up the payments and get a new bike. (to figure out whether it's for you, however, i'd recommend taking a look at the terms and conditions). all this means, effectively, that you can ride a new bike every two years.
if there's a perceivable downside, it's that the company doesn't offer every make of cycle on the planet. from a brief perusal of those on offer, your choice needs to be made from (road brands ): argon-18; de rosa; felt; bh; airstreem; eddy merckx and kinesis, though there are other styles available such as mountain, folding and electric bikes. custom builds are available, but of little use if you've set your heart on something with cervelo, pinarello or colnago written on the downtube. add to that, and it's a small gripe, but their website, though easy to use, could do with looking just a tad more contemporary.
perhaps then, the days of rusty gear cables, sticky chains and grotty handlebar tape will be a thing of the past, though tradition's a hard feature to get rid of.
tuesday 26th march 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................