the meaning of life, the universe and everything

campagnolo seatpost

most of you will be familiar with douglas adams' 'the hitch-hiker's guide to the galaxy, but for those of you who missed out on this little gem, either in paperback, tv series or movie, allow me to avail you of its salient purpose. apparently, up until it was destroyed to make way for an intergalactic highway, the earth was in fact, the very embodiment of a computer programme. this, adams was keen to relate, had been running for ten million years and was on the point of delivering an answer when destroyed by the vogons.

this answer, which has entered the popular lexicon in oh so many different ways, turned out to be the number 42. that nobody understood this result prompted its deliverer deep thought to state that perhaps the original question had not been correctly understood. if it's a book, programme or movie you have yet to experience, i apologise for having whipped the carpet from under your enjoyment.

colnago cx-zero

the dawning realisation that cycling itself is in thrall to a singular decimal number was brought to the fore only the other day on colnago's announcement of their forthcoming cx-zero model, due to arrive in the uk around mid-september. in the website blurb, colnago pay tribute to one of their most favoured models, the inimitable c-40, a frame that "earned an unprecedented 13 podium finishes in paris-roubaix over a six year span".

that cambiago has chosen the cobbled classic as an appropriate testament to the c-40's undoubted pedigree is no pure coincidence, for the cx-zero is intended to hark back to the days when one frame would suffice for the cobbled classics, the ardennes and each and every grand tour. lately, specialisation has entered the team mechanics' vocabulary, often meaning that bicycles for the hell of the north are drawn from the manufacturer's cyclocross range. this has been the case for team europcar for the last two seasons, where they have opted for the all carbon cross prestige model to reach the roubaix velodrome.

colnago cx-zero

coincidentally, this has also made some sense in the light of increased width of the tyres used in the pro peloton. though i have not so far attempted a match, i fear that my colnago c-40 would be somewhat reluctant to accept 700 x 25c tyres, or if it did so, the clearances would be minimal at best. the new cx-zero "frame and fork clearances allow for larger 25c tires for an air cushioned ride" a tyre size that will be standard on complete bikes.

it would be tempting to think that 25c will become the tyre width of choice, particularly in light of so many studies demonstrating that this size has lower rolling resistance than the ubiquitous 23c. but that, in fact, is not the number i had in mind as being the answer to the meaning of cycling life, the universe and everything. to paraphrase adams' deep thought, perhaps you have not understood the question, had i indeed posed one in the first place.

colnago cx-zero

no, in this particular case, the number i had in mind is that relating to the seatpost diameter. it's a number that has been on the increase for many a long year, first to accede to the drainpipe widths proferred by aluminium tubing (which requires to be larger in order that it might equal the strength of steel). to a certain extent, carbon has suffered from a similar dilemma for more than a year or two, the great god stiffness being pandered to with seatpost diameters exceeding 30mm. this compares disfavourably (in my opinion) with that of our undeniable heritage: 27.2mm.

though this latter seatpost size is likely purely accidental, being a compromise between the internal diameter of a steel bicycle tube, and the optimally reamed size retaining appropriate strength. colnago, however, see things slightly differently; 'the 27.2mm seatpost transmits less road shock to the rider'. this may or may not be true. the colnago c-40 was fitted with a proprietary seatpost diameter of 28mm, meaning that, despite the rose-tinted glow of cambiago's nostalgia and fondness for the competitive successes of the c-40, they're being somewhat economical with the truth.

colnago cx-zero

my colnago master, however, does set itself aside from its carbon brethren by having a campagnolo chorus steel seatpin fitted, and it is definitely 27.2. lest you think colnago to have gone completely retro with the release of this new model, let me disavow you of such thoughts, simultaneously giving light to the continuance of incompatible standards across the board. 'new for the cx-zero is the colnago exclusive and proprietary press-fit bottom bracket! for the first-time on a road bike, colnago introduces a proprietary press-fit bottom bracket. colnago has never been a company to 'jump on the bandwagon' of the current trend. colnago has been experimenting with the design for years.'

much as i love the marque, i find the latter admission to be slightly disappointing. there are more bottom bracket variations on the market than i figure necessary in a civilised world, but all seem to work just ginger peachy. quite why we need another is beyond me. however, i think the return to a 27.2mm seatpin is a fine tribute to a glorious past, not only for colnago, but road-cycling in general.

rather obviously, it is the meaning of life, the universe and everything.


monday 22nd july 2013


top of page.


a sort of happy birthday

rouleur issue forty

though i cannot claim to be innocent of all charges, there is a theme running through the majority of cycle publications, websites and often blogs like this one, that treats their respective readerships as an homologous audience. that magazine sales and web traffic statistics show little sign of disappearing into the ether, must surely bode well for the collective acuity in appreciating and pandering to such an apparently well-defined demographic.

we are a cycling nation of sportivists, of individuals seemingly unable to make up our own minds as to the best bicycle on which to spend our hard-earned, besotted with le tour, yet keen to proclaim a preference for the giro. though few of us will even hang a leg out of bed at night, we like to be fed a constant diet of fitness articles. less enamoured with the possibility of attempting any mechanical salvation upon the array of carbon in the shed, and frequently enamoured with how quickly people we don't know managed to ride ten miles.

of course, the foregoing is something of a sweeping generalisation. i have no idea if anyone actually buys a bike as a result of marcel wust's exceptional riding abilities but rather doubtful prose. in fact, i'm not even sure anyone reads my uncapitalised narratives all the way to the end, but from the number of print and web-based periodicals that continue to occupy our browsers and the shelves of w.h. smith, it seems we are a needy race. for those of us who spend way too many hours in front of a computer screen, irrespective the medium that will eventually present it to an adoring and consuming public, it is something of an excellent state of affairs.

rouleur issue forty

and the quirky outcome is that apparently no matter how many of us type unrestrictedly solely for the love of doing so, we are not seen as guilty of undermining the incomes of those who do so for a living. at least, i don't think we are.

the first issue of rouleur magazine was published in may of 2006, with a page count of 68 and containing columns by many who still contribute today: jack thurston, matt seaton, graeme fife, and editor guy andrews. the latest issue, number forty, arrived in appropriately reinforced card packaging, keeping a total of 210 pages safe, just in case the postie turns out to be an aficionado too. the design has subtly altered too, using a few more decorative fonts than previously encountered, but each and every one of them offering a more considered and, dare one say it, intellectual approach to the world of road racing.

if it's time to upgrade that bicycle in the bike shed, this is not the magazine for you; nor is it the periodical of choice if you figure that a better approach to ascending and descending would help your competitive edge. despite editor guy andrews and infrequent contributor, rohan dubash being two of the uk's finest mechanics, i don't recall ever reading pointers on how to set up my dual pivot calipers and the merits and demerits of an italian threaded bottom bracket.

rouleur issue forty

but if you are a frequenter of twitter, you can surely not have missed the hip hoorays tweeted on receipt of the latest and greatest through the letterbox (assuming it's big enough). just recently i paid tribute to rouleur's stablemate privateer, offering a similar level of luxury and quality writing to the offroad world. though david carson may have alerted us to 'the end of print', the combined aroma of ink on paper that has been a feature since rouleur issue one has perhaps singlehandedly saved us from a future consisting solely of rgb pixellation. it is a tangible intangible that is worthy of lengthy savouring, and for which we must pay tribute to the manson group, printers of repute.

2006 to 2013 is a mere seven years, hardly worthy of a cake with candles, but given that the frequency of publication has brought us to issue forty already, carrying with it features such as the road to sanremo, battenkill, orbea, and trips to exotic locations such as turkey and morrocco, the contents read like no other cycling publication. there are one or two wannabes recently surfaced, but in my opinion, none have truly come close. to have become a cycling institution in only forty issues, yet to have survived the iniquities of the recent economic past to bring us a fortieth issue is testament to all who work, have worked and contribute to rouleur magazine.

so well has it infiltrated the psyche of the pelotonese, that if it didn't exist, we'd have to invent it. and that might be a lot harder than you'd think.

happy fortieth rouleur.

rouleur magazine

sunday 20th july 2013

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

the poly peloton

poly peloton

assuing that study is uppermost in your mind, attending art school can help educate that pent up creativity and expressiveness into a facile means of display. though i doubt there is what could be termed a correct way to handle a paintbrush, some ways are simpler and more efficient than others. likewise the weight of pencil, thickness of line, reactions between watercolour pigments and the myriad options afforded by differing media. all these avenues can be endlessly explored by either the bona-fide art student, or the inquisitive artist in the comfort of his/her own home. in truth, it's part of the frisson afforded by experimentation.

many of the more traditional media have been in part usurped by the advent of more complex computer software. so just when you thought comfort and facility were yours for the keeping, several other lengthy avenues cloud the horizon, and it's time to start all over again.

poly peloton

i have personally maintained that adobe photoshop is, at its core, a simple programme to master, though i will admit that its more arcane commands, filters and obscure menus can often seem more like an intellectual exercise than a means of creative expressionism. it's likely that you need an appropriately wired brain that encompasses the electronic equivalent of sharpening a pencil or mixing inks with acrylics, in order to sail through the tasks thrown up by a different way of working, but that could be said to be true of many other distractions.

professional cycling is a serious business; it may be delightful and obsessive entertainment for those of us standing at the roadside or its televisual equal, but a lot of people have invested a great deal of time, money and training in providing the ultimate form of this entertainment. sure, there will be humorous moments, but few of them happen at the point of competition. it's also very much a matter of observation; those involved in the heat of battle (so to speak) are less likely to envisage real or imagined situations that might add to the overall entertainment. which is kind of where the poly peloton joins humour, observation and modern computer technology all together.

poly peloton

the man behind the brightly coloured and acutely observed illustrations goes by the euphemism of grey pea. in a parallel of the 'chicken and egg scenario, which came first, the ability to find humour in professional cycling, or that of manipulating 3d software?

"I've been using 3D software for nearly 18 years, but the 2013 Tour is the first time I've been inspired to create humorous images. Long after the races finish, we always talk about those funny/odd stand-out moments, and I just thought it would be nice to add some colour, albeit from my slightly odd low-resolution perspective."

the problem for the contemporary artist remains remarkably similar to that of his/her antecedents; which medium would lend itself to the project in hand? why, for instance, do leon kossoff and frank auerbach find it necessary to depict their respective visions in thick impasto, while rowland hilder was content with the more delicate flavours afforded by watercolours. and why did henry moore feel the need to cast and sculpt large chunks of bronze? now to return to the immediate present, is there one particular software programme that allows grey pea to create these illustrations, or are they an amalgam of several?

poly peloton

"I use 3DSMax and Photoshop. 3DSMax allows the 3D objects, scenes and final renders to be created, and I simply use Photoshop to overlay the 'ident' logos on the rendered image."

my great concern when producing what passed for artistic endeavour, was the amount of time it took to create a sinlge picture. many of the great and good seemed able to spend months if not years on a single work, while i'd often painted, cleaned up and washed the paintbrushes by teatime. how long does each poly peloton illustration take to complete?

"I created the original character designs long before the 2013 Tour started, but saw an opportunity to use them and bring some fun into what can sometimes be a very humourless sport. Initially, I set about creating a lot of stock assets that I knew I'd need for the scenarios (Finish gantry, vehicles, trees, crowd barriers, and the obligatory dog etc). As this series has evolved, it gets quicker to complete an illustration as I can re-use assets from a previous scenario. That's the beauty of digital assets. I think towards the end of the Tour, once I have a large suite of assets, I'll be able to create an illustration in a few hours."

poly peloton

prior to my attending art college, i had begun to specialise in watercolours, generally regarded as the preserve of the amateur. it's an observation the validity of which escapes me, since i've always found the medium far harder to work than oils or acrylics. however, you might imagine my disappointment on realising that the art college drawing and painting department would only accept watercolours as studies and not as final works (which had to be submitted in oils).

it's likely that attitudes have changed somewhat since those days, but many software artists still resort to pen, pencil and paper for initial sketching of ideas. does grey pea follow this most traditional of processes? "The software allows full control over cameras, lighting and positioning of objects, so it's just as easy to dive straight into the software and skip the traditional pencil and paper for the 'concept' stage."

it's a modern curse or enlightenment, depending on your point of view, that tautological naming has often been thrown out the window. for instance, thewashingmachinepost quite obviously contians no hint that its pixels are concerned with cycling. similarly would hardly seem the first choice for a service comparing insurance providers. and just in the past day or two have i come across a website that offers to compare hotel prices, operating under the moniker kayak. poly peloton is marginally less obscure, though had you seen none of the accompanying illustrations, uncertainty would not be a stranger.

poly peloton

would i be correct in assuming that the name has an affinity with polygons? "Ah, you spotted that then. Yes, I was trying to come up with a nice catchy phrase which referenced the polygonal art style. As a phrase, 'Poly Peloto'' seemed to have a nice rhythm to it and also (to me anyway) suggested child-like fun."

if you have ever watched any of those 'the making of...' documentaries, you may have seen some of the rudimentary renderings of many of our favourite computer animated movies. once the action has been properly scripted, the files are offloaded to what are generally referred to as render farms for smoothness of concept. the poly peloton remains in this early polygonal state. has grey pea any thoughts of rendering these in a less geometric fashion, or would that ruin the effect?

"The geometric polygonal appearance was always going to be an art style. I'm a huge fan of old retro videogames and I guess some might say that I'm stuck in my ways. But the challenge of creating complex shapes from very few polygons still interests me. I certainly wouldn't get the same enjoyment out of creating hyper-realistic looking cycling images. We have photography for that."

as each new version of photoshop emerges from adobe towers, there are at least one or two features that encourage a "how on earth did they do that?" gasp. for many of those working on the software engineerings aspects are not necessarily, in the case in question, avid photographers. you therefore have to wonder how they knew that such quirks and procedures were the very things we needed, even before we ourselves knew we needed them. it seems that it's not necessary to be creatively involved in the end as opposed to the means to that end.

poly peloton

is grey pea a cycling obsessive like the rest of us, or is professional cycling simply an easy target? "I'm afraid I'm an obsessive now. I used to cycle everywhere as a kid (didn't we all?) but then cycling and I parted company for many years. The family arrived, an in 2004 I realised I was very unfit so decided to do something positive about it, and I took to the bike once again. In 2005 I rode London to Paris, finishing the ride along the Champs-Elysees. Since then I've been hooked on both the activity and the sport. I cycle commute in the week, with longer social rides with friends at the weekend. I am currently clocking up an average of 8000 miles per year, so yes; I guess I could be classed as an obsessive."

i have made mention more than once of having been occasionally advised i ought to make thewashingmachinepost my career. though it virtually is already, i believe those dispensing the advice were thinking more in terms of appropriate financial remuneration. i doubt this will ever happen for a variety of reasons, but there are many who have turned their spare-time cycling obsession into a successful commercial venture. is the poly peloton purely for the pleasure of audience and creator alike, or are there commercial considerations afoot?

"Initially the characters were created for my own amusement. Then with the approach of this year's Tour I decided to take a step further and create Poly Peloton for anyone who had a mild interest in cycling, poor quality humour or retro video game art. To be honest, I am staggered by the sheer volume of positive feedback it's receiving on a variety of social media sites. People just seem to 'get it'. This was never started as a commercial venture, but who knows what the future might bring..."

finally, why the secret identity? it's no secret. I am Grey Pea"

poly peloton

saturday 20th july 2013


top of page.


rapha transfer trousers

rapha transfer trousers

it dawned on me while recently on the bus to bristol, that great britain is full of people and things that are all in the wrong place. no matter which section of whatever motorway i had no idea we were driving along, every lane was full of cars heading in a similar direction to myself or, on the other side of the central reservation, heading in a completely different direction. and it wasn't simply an endless stream of cars. from having never seen an eddie stobart truck in the flesh before, by the time i reached my destination, i had seen probably half of mr stobart's fleet. along with all manner of other temperature controlled, aerodynamically styled trucks, delivering promptly and logistically to all four corners of the country.

and that's kind of where i gained the notion that pretty much everything must surely be in the wrong place, or there would be no need for so many articulated lorries to move it hither that thither. though i'd probably not have paid tribute to the experience prior to indulging in two lengthy coach journeys in the same month, doing so is rather a relaxing experience. leaving a couple of professionals up front to take care of the driving and navigation, i had only need of relaxing in my surprisingly plush seat watching the aforementioned traffic accompanied by hugh laurie on the ipod.

rapha transfer trousers

there are, however, only a couple of observations i might make that would break up my decisive sanity in opting for such a method of transfer. firstly, of all the myriad bus stations visited on the journey south, only one features big, heavy electronic security gates on entry and departure. and at that selfsame bus station, the driver casually announced that the "the bus takes a break", and for health and safety reasons, we had all to disembark for around half-an-hour. considering there were two drivers each taking turns at driving, this was a mystery.

even more so when such a bus break was eschewed completely on the return journey.

however, the rules of transfer are rarely of our own making. those are contained in the remarkably small print at the bottom of one's e-ticket. come to think of it, that's the page you never bother to print out. luggage ought to be in the overhead rack, or more conveniently for access, stowed under the seat in front. a lot simpler to grab hold of those in-flight magazines.

appropriate apparel is also more than just a nod towards pragmatism. long-distance coaches are either unnaturally cold, or oppressively warm, making layering every bit as much the superior choice as it is on the bicycle. and in an effort not to create a bad impression on the tall bloke with the beard and unsuitable waterproof who has occupied the adjacent seat for the last stage of the journey, merino is a safe choice. no smell.

rapha transfer trousers

in contrast seemingly to many of my fellow passengers, i do not find a pair of denim jeans to be the most practicable of legwear on bus trips of several hours. something a little less constrictive and restrictive offers a greater degree of comfort and movement i find, which is where the better than ideal rapha transfer trousers are quite possibly the pinnacle of the genre. made from a polyester, italian wool and elastane mix, they are, i am reliably informed, of similar intent to a pair of joggy bottoms, only with a substantially greater level of class. the fit is more than worthy of note and the comfort factor is, to use a superlative 'off the scale'.

aside from their impeccability in the face of lengthy periods of transfer, they offer a well-thought out level of practicality. on a visit to glasgow's alpine bikes for a bike fit, these were the ideal choice to wear over a pair of bibshorts, and the ankle zips on each leg allow the trousers to be safely pulled on or off over outdoor shoes, trainers or cleated road shoes without fear of reshaping the close-fit hems.

the relaxed waist fit (size 30 reviewed) is closed by means of a tightly snapping popper and adjusted by an internal draw-cord fitted through the waist. there are two zipped front pockets that will keep hold of a modest amount of loose change and a set of keys, but i'd be wary of overfilling lest one's sylph like profile harbour unsightly bumps. there's one rear zipped pocket.

rapha transfer trousers

rapha contend that not only are the transfer trousers ideal for travelling (as i have already detailed above), but also for donning over race kit after blowing apart the rest of the field in last sunday's sportive ride, or for warming up on the turbo. i fear neither of the latter two options will feature in my palmares.

few of us will find ourselves in the position of requiring a lengthy transfer between grand tour stages, a practice to which this garment alludes. however, whichever way you wish to constitute yourself in the world tour firmament, these are an unashamed luxury to which you really ought to treat yourselves.

that and a black jaguar xf sportbrake.

rapha's transfer trousers retail for £150 and are available in waist sizes 28" up to 38" with a standard 34" inside leg. black only.

rapha transfer trousers

thursday 18th july 2013

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condor extreme orange polka dot socks

condor polka dot sock

there are more than just a few theories as to why we are generally so besotted with hills. by which i mean both riding and watching. though a dutch win on alpe d'huez is as likely these days as a frenchman on the podium in paris, the climb is still renowned for its dutch encampment on at least one of the twenty-one corners. whether they actually see anyone cycling is a something of a moot point, but orange would seem to be the colour most associated with the mountain.

it is a sad reflection on our grasp on reality, that many of us are convinced that, because we've read in search of robert millar a couple of times, his anti-gravitational properties have been osmotically transferred. the truth is rather less palatable. even those who regularly form the grupetto in the pyrenees and alps are better climbers than the rest of us, yet we persist in entering sportive rides that have more climbs per kilometre than you can shake a stick at.

condor polka dot sock

being part of the audience at a grand tour in the mountains, or one of the hillier classics can be brought down to bang for buck so to speak. if you've ever stood at the finish line of a tour sprint stage, you'll be well aware of the speed achived by a large collection of riders fighting for position. even with the superhuman abilities displayed by the very best climbers in the world tour, they're never going to reach the 60+ kph of a sprinter, and nor are they going to pass in one large, fast clump of riders. seen either individually or in small groups, perhaps at a more respectable 25kph, the mountain climb audience is going to be entertained for a lot longer.

whichever way you want to look at it, from that of spectating or participating, there's a good chance that displaying allegiance to the anti-gravitational attributes of the grimpeur may be uppermost on one's list of apparel. much like those oval tan-lines on the back of the hands, this can be the equivalent of a special handshake. there's almost as much smugness to be gained from civilian ignorance as from peer group recognition, as long as one does not resort to brashness.

condor polka dot sock

in the cycling wardrobe i have a polka dot le coq sportif retro jersey, meant purely for leisure wear rather than on the bike. i wear it sparingly. however, the folks at condor cycles in london's grays inn road have the ultimate cunning plan that plays more than one side of an equation. their extreme polka dot socks rather obviously pay tribute to the king of the mountains prize in le tour and others. however, orange is rarely the colour associated with summitting first.

it is, however, the favoured colour of a friend of condor's production director, a man who sadly died of cancer at christmas last year. the late gentleman was also a lover of riding the pyrenees, so condor decided to honour his memory by offering these quite excellent white and orange socks and donating the profits to prostate cancer and the hospice in the weald. i cannot think of a better reason to buy this particular cycling sock; the fact that they're also of great comfort to your feet in all weathers can only be viewed as the orange icing on the cake.

the orange polka dot race sock retails for £8.99 with all profits donated to charity. they're available in small/medium and large/extra large.

condor extreme orange polka dot socks

thursday 18th july 2013


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haynes advanced road bike maintenance. haynes publishing softback. 301pp illus. £25

haynes advanced road bike maintenance

the modern bicycle can be seen as simplicity itself; the ideal mode of transport for the contemporary individual. ideal for gaining and maintaining a comfortable level of fitness, partaking of the daily commute and slapping a number over the back pockets and either tearing off into the distance, or perhaps more likely, hanging on the back for grim death. with a well-proven and relatively simple method of transmission, wheels that need little, yet arguably simple maintenance and tyres that can mostly cope with the entire gamut of uneven road surfaces, needing only replacement tubes in the event of a puncture on the road, its simplicity commends itself.

granted, as with any item of frequently used machinery, there are features that require periodic fettling to keep all running smoothly, but many of those too can be achieved with a few tools and a bit of common sense. but as a particularly apt quote has said "if it were truly common, more folks would have it." in my early days of offering cycle maintenance to the cyclists of the island and those visiting in summer, i was confounded to note that several of the local motor mechanics would bring their offsprings' cycles for fixing.

with the motor car rather obviously being several levels of complexity above that of the common or garden velocipede, i (wrongly) assumed that mending an errant derailleur would be child's play for a trained motor mechanic. take a few steps back, however, and it's perhaps obvious to note that the mechanical principles behind the bicycle are just not the same as encompassed by those on four wheels. and require a substantially different toolset.

and while i am in the process of proclaiming the devilish simplicity of the bicycle, i am being somewhat naive. yes, even though colnago's hydraulic disc equipped c59 with its campagnolo eps electronic eleven speed shifting is comfortably more rudimentary than the hubble telescope, it's a darned sight more complicated to setup and maintain than sharpening a pencil. and the increasing level of sophistication shows little sign of levelling off and settling down anytime soon.

so while i have, somewhere in the cupboard under the stairs, a well-thumbed copy of richard's bicycle book, were i to find it, the late mr ballantyne's diagrams and words of wisdom would probably bear scant relevance to the carbon, steel and wiring looms currently filling thewashingmachinepost bike shed.

there is, of course, the well-respected local bike shop or lbs, where an errant bicycle can be dropped off for fettling by one more qualified than oneself. if you're at all nervous of inadvertantly creating mechanical mayhem, that is perhaps the more practical option. but even those behind the counter, dressed in a cinelli apron and grasping a multi-tool of allen keys will be less than impressed with a nonchalant "it's making a noise somewhere". i think something a mite more specific would be most welcome.

so even if you have no intention, no facility or no toolset with which to attack velocipedinal maladies, it does no harm at all to have an informed overview of just how your bicycle does what it does. and such knowledge can pay great dividends when time comes to upgrade a few parts, or invest in a whole new bicycle. then at least you may be able to see beyond the sales talk.

however, there is a substantial number of cyclists of all styles and abilities who are not only prepared to get their hands dirty, but eager to acquire the knowledge required to carry out simple, medium and complex tasks. even on a superficial level, there is great joy to be had in collecting a comprehensive selection of quality bicycle specific tools.

at least i think there is.

the haynes manual is a well-known aspect of the motor industry. anyone with any pretensions of understanding the car they've just purchased, particularly if it's in used condition, almost feels compelled to acquire the appropriate haynes book, even if it spends the rest of its career in the glove compartment. it is therefore hard to argue with their expertise in producing pedigree maintenance manuals, and quite likely a pedigree of which one can feel confident in taking advantage of.

advanced road bike maintenance is perhaps a slightly misleading title, for though there are many aspects and procedures that most certainly come under the heading of advanced, simple jobs such as mending a puncture, or replacing a gear or brake cable are also explained in detail. there are probably few nowadays who have need of gluing a tubular, but if you have, then page 69 would make a good starting point.

in my long-gone days of selling bicycles, i was wont to leave the little paper books tagged to the gear levers in situ for the benefit of the cycle's new owner. its multi-lingual pages described in simple detail just how to adjust recalcitrant indexed gears, a few millimetres askew due to cable stretch. however, more often than not, the bicycle would be brought back after a week or so, the whole transmission system in a state of confusion. from then on, i removed the little booklets, for it was far simpler to remedy the situation myself, than allow the ham-fisted to meddle naively.

the haynes manual explains in clearly defined and illustrated steps just how the cable tension ought to be set, resulting in perfect gearshifts each and every time. the authors however, suggest placing the chain in the smallest rear sprocket before making subsequent adjustments, yet campagnolo suggest placing it upon the 5th smallest sprocket.


in view of the manual's advanced status, i was slightly surpised there were no instructions on how to repair or adjust the internals of brake/gearshift levers from any one of the major three. and in view of how time is marching on, i was also confounded that the chapter on disc brakes made no mention of hydraulics. the fact that these are not competition approved by the uci really ought not to be the deciding factor. (in mitigation, this is a 2013 english translation of a 2011 german language edition. however...)

electronica is at least given a token mention. though concerned only with di2 from shimano (campagnolo's eps isn't even mentioned) there is a three-step description on fitting the wiring loom and just as many informing how to check and charge the battery. to be honest, much of this is covered in the manual accompanying a di2 equipped bicycle, but it's at least nice to see modernity getting a look-see.

however, there is a great deal to commend this excellent road bike maintenance manual. from the opening chapter covering a basic toolset, expanding into the more rarefied of items, to cosmetic frame repairs and travelling with the bike. with the almost complete lack of standardisation and compatibility within the bicycle industry, it cannot be a simple task to offer a one size fits all approach to both the mechanically inept and the technically superior. authors dirk zedler and thomas musch have made a reasonably fine job of doing so. the text is clear and mostly closed to misinterpretation, while the substantial number of colour photographs make it a simple task for the most technically incompetent to follow each stage of the job in hand.

perhaps the most annoying feature, and it's one that afflicts each and every maintenance manual on the market, is that the bicycles and components illustrated are quite immaculate. rare will be the occasion that the home mechanic will find themselves working on such pristine componentry. that, however, is a cross we all have to bear whatever our level of expertise/

if you're at all interested in maintaining your bicycle, or even simply understanding enough to make sure the guy or gal at the lbs is appraised of from precisely where that grinding noise originates, haynes manual of advanced road bike maintenance would be a decent choice from the bookshelf. maybe if a reprint becomes necessary, printing on grease-resistant paper in ring-bound format would make it a tad easier to work through several of the procedures. if bicycle technology development continues at its current pace, i sincerely doubt this will be the final edition.

haynes manuals

wednesday 17th july 2013


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outside is free

saligo bay

i cannot claim to be the originator of today's heading. if you speak nicely to rapha's ben lieberson, he may well be inclined to show you the t-shirts he has with that very motto marked upon their constitution. as a member of the original rapha continental, ben has perhaps more experience of the great outdoors than do the rest of us, but he's a bike rider who seemingly notices not when the road heads upwards (because he never gets any slower), and a man with an infectious and eternal optimism. while we rode in the breeze and rain in provence this april past, he was keen that we embrace the elements and realise that indeed outdoor is free.

i have no wish to come across as all touchy/feely by impressing philosophy upon you. doubtless many of us do adhere to such thoughts while escaping the day to day, sat in the saddle and delighting in that which forms round about us. like many of you, i spend most of my working week sat in front of an admittedly large computer screen, being all designery and facile, all the while peering past the blinds across the window, imagining just how nice it would be to be riding around the principality. a man cannot, however, live by the saddle and ten-speed gearing alone; both we and the fairer sex have need of earning a crust, hence that large computer screen.


but the current bout of fine weather is all too good and too rare to be summarily ignored. the anemometer sat atop my neighbour's shed has barely moved all week, a laxity it will more than make up for come the autumn and winter when its bearings will likely need replacing. better still, i currently have two rather fine carbon bicycles in for review (i know, i know; it was poor organisation on my part), both of which are keen and eager to strut their stuff in the rural idyll. so who am i to deny carbon finery its day in the sun? or, to be more precise, its early morning in the sun?

as i have pointed out till everyone is bored to tears of hearing about it, i do not live sufficiently far away from work to have need of a bicycle to get there. it would in truth, take longer to remove the cycles from the bikeshed than stepping to work does in the first place. thus, there is not even the satisfying need of a cycle commute to work. however, due to a coinciding set of circumstances this past week, i have been an orphan, left alone to my own devices, with the croft all to myself. it has, therefore been a relatively simple matter to extricate myself from slumber some sixty minutes earlier than usual, and nip out on the bicycle(s).

there is even justification for that which i have undertaken on each and every work day since last monday. two bikes for review demand an aglommeration of kilometres; you would expect nothing less. thus, i can get up at the crack of dawn, grab a jam sandwich and a glass of san pellegrino before heading out for 25km or so before returning for a hearty breakfast. though you will find it hard to argue, on friday morning, approaching bowmore village, loch indaal must have been quintessentially the most beautiful place in the universe at about 7:32am.

islay scenery

with a flat calm sea emulating the apocryphal mill pond shrouded in early morning haze, it was hard to see where the world stopped and the sky started. and since this is the countryside, it was easy to appreciate all set before me without interruption from the infernal motor car. in fact, on each and every morning this past week, i have barely met more than two motor vehicles per day (though i did discover just how well a new set of dual pivot calipers performed after meeting a substantially sized tractor on a blind bend. i don't know who got the bigger fright).

while we still have light mornings, and before the great unwashed arise to concern themselves with the daily ministrations of life, do yourselves a favour and get your sorry asses out of bed early enough to take the bike out for a quick whizz before breakfast. then when daydreaming out the window during the working day, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing, you not only made the effort, but reaped the benefits.

because outside is free.

tuesday 16th july 2013

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................