it was galileo who kicked it all off by dropping a couple of differently sized balls from the upper reaches of the tower of pisa, an edifice that may not have been leaning quite so heavily in the 16th century as it is today. galileo thus demonstrated that gravity works equally and evenly upon each solid body, accelerating them all at the same rate. no doubt the early reaches of gravitational theory took into account any aerodynamic drag that may enter the equation.
in the late seventeenth century, sir isaac newton published principia, his hypothesis of the inverse-square law of gravity that applies to each and every object. he figured that such a law pretty much had to exist, otherwise there was no observable manner in which the planets could maintain their spatial orbits in relation to one another. using this theory, he successfully predicted the existence of neptune based on the inexplicably eccentric movements of the planet uranus.
unfortunately, einstein's theory of relativity in 1915 poked a few holes in the thoughts and observations of sir isaac.
but just before the post begins to resemble an episode of the big bang theory, this one-sided discussion needs to regain its roots on our home planet. for to be quite honest, just how the planet mercury keeps just far enough away from the sun is really of no nevermind when considering the practicalities of cyclocross activity. and just while we're talking about gravity, let me surreptitiously introduce momentum to the conversation.
momentum is the combined product of mass and velocity, rather obviously explaining why it is that a rider of superior weight has an observable tendency to roll to the bottom of the hill ahead of the ten-stone weakling. of course, the existence of ceramic bearings in those hubs may just impose an inequality in my narrative, but i assume that will be taken care of by the velocity aspect.
thus, to place all this in some sort of comprehensibe context, and allowing for my extremely rudimentary recall of high-school physics (i have a higher, you know), when the bicycle heads downhill, relatively unimpeded by outcrops of undergrowth or less than salubrious road conditions, its mass, helpfully encouraged by gravity and some sort of low drag co-efficient, it's going to get progressively faster. and unless that road or track is of endless proprtions, there's a point at which the end-user (you and me) is going to have to intervene. that's what brakes are for.
as far as i'm aware, neither galileo nor sir isaac had promising careers as cyclocross riders, though the non-invention of the bicycle at that point may not have treated them too equitably. i have seen photographs of albert einstein on a bicycle, but i confess i did not look closely enough to check whether it featured cantilevers or discs. either way, the vagaries of off-road riding must surely be taken into account when considering the stopping needs of the average and not so average cyclocross bicycle.
disc brakes have been uci legal in the cyclocross arena for almost three years now, but it is most telling that the majority of euro riders are still using cantilever brakes. up till now, it has been predominantly the american contingent that have welcomed rotors with open arms. irrespective of which option is featured, there is still the not inconsiderable matter of the firmament underfoot when it comes to how quickly the brake levers can overcome gravity and momentum. but if necessary to nail flags to the nearest wall, i'm still in favour of cantilever over discs, even having ridden both.
that doesn't make me a bad person; right?
i confess it came as something of a surprise to discover that fsa offered a rather fine set of cantilever brakes suitable for cyclocross. their imagery had successfully fooled me into believing that the road was uppermost in their minds, even though the hakkalugi is equipped with a most commendably appropriate fsa 'cross chainset. the k-force cantilevers are neatly presented in a card box, offering two pairs of brakes complete with fixing bolts, straddle hangers, straddle wires and cable ends.
what was not in the box was anything resembling a set of fitting instructions. you will be wondering just how hard it could possibly be to bolt four brake units to the frame pivots, but somewhere along the lines, there's the not always obvious method of fitting the return springs. and though one end easily slotted into the hole at the back of the pivot, there were a few moments of concern when i couldn't see where the spring connected to the brake.
inboard of the brake pad, between the clamp bolt and the frame, is a small slot featuring one of those impossibly tiny allen bolts on one side. slotting in the longer end of the spring once the brake has been bolted to the frame subsequently allows the tension to be adjusted either for the purposes of centreing the brakes, or increasing the return pressure.
the sturdy carbon cantilever arms sandwich the pad assembly, one offering a hook for an end of the straddle wire, the other a clamp and barrel adjuster for post tension adjustment. the straddle hanger is simplicity itself to fit; a single allen bolt clamps it to the brake cable. the part that slides over the frame pivot is thoughtfully made from brass, a material that promises both smoothness, low friction and longevity. that seems more than welcome on a cyclocross bike.
fitting, despite the lack of instructions, was a reasonably simple affair, and though i'd love to tell you that i had the pads adjusted perfectly first time, i'd be fibbing. luckily there was no-one about to hear the squealing from the front rim.
though i have not, nor ever will pin a number on my back and mix it with an offroad peloton, i do have in my possession a rather ideal circuit around bridgend woods that offers pretty much every kind of surface you could expect to meet were you of the competitive genre. hardpack, mud, gravel, grass and rock are all available with no real need to search them out, but the rickety bridge is no longer a part of the equation.
i have not cyclocrossed for many a month, during which time, it seems, the rickety bridge has taken early retirement. as i near bridgend village, i have usually nipped onto the track running parallel to the road, exiting but a few metres from the gravel packed hill into the woods. a left turn at the top leads onto a sharp descent down towards the river sorn, previously crossed by means of the aforementioned rickety bridge. the danger: unsafe bridge sign rapidly met was the first test of fsa induced braking power. i have dry feet to prove my point.
i like to think of myself as a smooth rider, not prone to sudden and inexplicable changes of direction, nor one who fails to constantly anticipate any unforeseen hazards. this is certainly easier around a course that has been previously ridden, but i have as my mantra sean kelly's exhortations to keep off the brakes because "they'll only slow you down". however, given that this is a review rather than a simple offroad bike ride, i made every effort to bring myself to a sudden stop in the most inopportune of places, as far as possible without skidding.
i was mostly successful in my venture, other than when the tyres occasionally lost grip.
but cyclocross is rarely about hurtling to an immediate halt, more about scraping off just enough speed to maintain trajectory but without sliding into uncharted portions of the undergrowth. each successive lap increased either my confidence or foolhardiness, depending on your point of view, but i can't say i was ever in danger of examining the surrounding plant life closer than from the saddle. it seems almost nonsensical to say so, but these brakes did pretty much exactly what you'd expect them to do, and in a most timely, efficient and impressive manner. additionally, it seems there is no demanding requirement for superior upper body strength to have them do so.
the argument over whether to ride cantis or discs will quite probably be settled by the manufacturers who will opt to discontinue the former in favour of the latter at some point. but for now, while the choice is mine to make, i'm more than content to place my trust in this rather impressive contradiction to gravity and momentum.
the fsa k-force cyclocross brakeset retails at £280. the set reviewed features the old graphics, now updated in line with many of fsa's product line. fsa is distributed in the uk by windwave.
monday 2nd september 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
i'm never sure whether to mention it too often or not because the sentiment could conceivably be misinterpreted. i have pointed out once or twice that there is rarely a day passes that i do not spend more time than is seemly in polite company, wrangling pixels in photoshop. i have been called an expert, but principally by those less well versed in the software, and thus perhaps unqualified to judge my abilities. however, it's a programme i have used since 1994 through each individual release, so it would not be stretching credibility too far to say that i've probably got the hang of it by now.
i prefer to think of myself as a black-belt.
however, were it simply pixels of which i was left in charge, it would not be inopportune to describe me as a one trick pony, a charge that might seem entirely just. but personal pride would never let me be satisfied with such an equine appellation, so it behoves my reputation well that i'm also rather competent in illustrator and indesign. a balanced reputation.
the previous model of updates provided by adobe, owners of all three mentioned pieces of software was spaced over an eighteen month cycle. thus, if you were currently mastering your imagery in photoshop 14, then number 15 would happen along in the early part of 2015. throughout the period between 14 and 15, a small international army of prerelease testers would be fed a steady diet of improvements and new features with instructions to try and break them before the fixed versions were released upon an expectant public.
you can perhaps see something of a perceived problem with the foregoing, for mere weeks after one release, there could conceivably be a sooper-dooper whizz bang new feature that those lucky prerelease testers can play with for around a year before the civilians get a shot. by which time the testers will likely have achieved genius status. these fortunate few would be perpetually ahead of the game.
but as of early 2013, adobe shifted away from boxed products and moved to the cloud. the latter is a term that has been bandied about with increasing frequency of late, more often than not to make some forms of technology seem more contemporary than they actually are. however, in adobe's case it means that you no longer purchase any of their products, but rent them. the procedure now is that the subscribed user downloads the software from adobe's cloud (internet connected servers) and installs it on his/her computer. once a month, the software checks-in with the server to make sure that the user is paid up to date. stop paying, and the software stops working.
such methodology has met with a not inconsequential degree of resistance, for it is not impossible that this model might eventually cost more than the previous one. however, what it does allow is for adobe to incorporate properly tested new features as and when they are ready, updating the users' software on a regular basis. no longer do the anxious have to wait a long eighteen months to wrap their keyboards or pen tablets round a slew of new and desirable features.
the bicycle industry gives the impression that it is still trapped in the old method of annual updates to the shiny stuff none of us can afford in the first place. this past weekend, friedrichshafen in germany has played host to europe's largest annual cycle show at eurobike, where the world's manufacturers display much of what they have been working on since eurobike last year. this is not an exhibition for the faint-hearted, existing over a total of fourteen halls. much like the statement concerning the apparent fact that just enough news takes place each day to fill a newspaper, it seems almost as incredible that many a bicycle development is only ever ready by the last weekend in august each year.
however, friedrichshafen is more than a bus ride (or ferry boat trip) away from washingmachinepost croft. and intrigued by the wiles and excitement of the bicycle industry though i am, i'm none too sure that i have the stamina or inclination to scrabble my way through fourteen halls jam-packed with bicycles and their necessary accoutrements in three days. for were that not seen as sufficient in itself, there would be a certain onus upon my person to tell you all about it afterwards. with my admitted predilection for literary digression, that could take weeks if not months.
however, the uk resident has less need these days of a flight to frankfurt or zurich airports with a german-english phrasebook contained within handluggage, for the number of cycle shows in britain has grown by one more. perhaps capitalising on its successful bid for the tour de france grand-depart in 2014, yorkshire has reserved leeds town hall over the weekend of 20th-22nd september for a cycle show of its very own.
though it might not be presenting the cutting edge as displayed in germany, it's not short of exhibitors for episode one, including ricky feather, trek, shed 6, brother cycles and milk bikes to name but a few. naturally enough, the ability to accessorise has not been ignored, nor that of media and prints. one of the complaints often levelled at cycle shows, particularly by the civilian population, is that having seen a desirable trinket, purchase is often unavailable. but with bike shops, spa cycles, ellis briggs, yourspokes and vertex ride, it seems that taking the chequebook or plastic might be perfectly in order.
thus, if you fancy starting the countdown to july 2014 as early as possible, pencil in the yorkshire bike show at leeds town hall on your rouleur or prendas calendar for the weekend of 20th-22nd september, a mere three weeks hence. then you can tell me all about it.
sunday 1st september 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
my summertimes when i was an art student were spent working for the terminal building catering franchise at an international airport near me. grandiosely, i told folks i was in storage and distribution, but in reality i worked in the stores, unloading food and drink from a never-ending series of delivery trucks and subsequently distributing it to the various catering outlets dotted around the terminal building and departure lounges. hardly an executive position, but for one who was the embodiment of designer scruff, it was likely the best place to be.
situated on the floor above the stores were the kitchens supplying the airport restaurant, a substantially sized facility leading onto a bar that wasn't that much smaller. sadly, the same dimensions were not applicable to the drinks and keg storage area, but you can't have everything.
the chefs employed in the kitchens were numerous, arranged in order of seniority, one that i'm not sure i ever quite grasped, though it was obviously a descending hierarchy from head chef via the assistant head chef all the way to the commis chef. there was a pastry chef too, but i never quite figured out where they fitted into the grand scheme of things, for the girl that fitted that position was still the pastry chef when i became no longer a student several years later. hardly a rapid rise through the ranks.
one of the assistant chefs, on my return to the fold prior to my second year at college, was soon to become a father, and over the course of the last few weeks before the happy event he decided he would refrain from shaving until his firstborn cried its first cry. in a show of solidarity, not only did the remaining clean-shaven kitchen staff (with the exception of the opposite sex, of course) decide to do likewise, but the three of us working in the stores thought it a bit of a wizard wheeze to join in.
up to this particular point, i had been careful to shave each and every day, a regime that had continued even when impersonating a bedraggled art student for the rest of the year. however, much like sneaking that first cigarette on a bench on the beach promenade, or having an alcoholic beverage for the first time at the newsagent manageress's wedding reception, there is a time in every easily led chap's life when growing a beard seems like a great idea.
those of you who have attempted a similar group effort to grow whiskers will likely also be aware that not every chap's facial growth is the same. bluntly put, some look like captain birdseye inside a matter of days, while the rest of us look merely as if we spent the night on a mate's couch after a heavy night. (not that such a thing ever truly happened, you understand). i, however, thought that my beard growing was progressing at an impressive rate, wondering just how long it would be before i looked like phil collins post lamb lies down on broadway.
however, to paraphrase robert burns, it is often something of an eye-opener "would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us". an inopportune sighting of my reflection in the window of the local bakery on the way home from work one day could easily be classified under the heading frightening experience. as an art student, i felt it incumbent upon me to keep my hair long and scraggly; this was augmented by a pair of prescription spectacles fitted with reactolite lenses. even on a relatively overcast day, these had a tendency to turn dark, a lot darker than their wearer truly realised.
thus this unexpected vision portrayed a bloke with several days' facial growth, longer than shoulder-length hair and dark glasses. without wishing to dwell upon this for a moment longer than necessary, my first act on entering the house was to grab my electric razor and remove all evidence of hirsute behaviour once and for all. since that day, i have never again attempted to grow a beard or moustache, and even shave early on sunday mornings prior to heading out for the sunday ride.
leaving out those for whom facial hair is a religious imposition or freedom of choice, every other chap in the world over a certain age has a daily shave. some do so by means of an electric shaver or via one of those multi-blade razors and either an aerosol of foam or, as in my case, a tin of shaving cream. whichever is your chosen option, there is an entire industry setup to attend to your every whim, whether it be for a particular product or fragrance. there is no badge to be worn upon one's sleeve; 'tis of similar ilk to brushing one's teeth.
however, cyclists are, if you are not already aware, something of a different breed. we either shave our faces or we don't, but an additional choice has to be made over whether we shave our legs. it makes no real difference as to how you justify doing so or otherwise, but the choice has to be made. mountain bikers seem largely content with hairy legs 'neath baggy shorts, but there is undoubtedly unseen but nonetheless tangible pressure on the roadie to pedal feverishly fast with smooth, hairless legs if only to inculcate an all over smoothness of form.
it would be unseemly for the honed athlete to do otherwise.
in much the same manner that you would scarcely be seen aboard a liveried pinarello dogma wearing mountain bike shorts, you would not, under any circumstances shave those legs using bog standard as advertised on tv shaving foam. the athlete is considerably more discerning in such matters, and such discernment will undoubtedly bring the discerner to dz nuts bald, a super smooth shaving cream.
even a surreptitious glance at the instructions on the impossibly white tube will leave you under no misapprehension that bald is aimed specifically at your legs. with an eloquent metallic appearance, the cream need only be squeezed directly onto those rippling leg muscles or into the palm of the hand. either way, the cream is slathered evenly over one leg at a time before shaving commences; i could almost feel the distinct lack of aerodynamic drag as i sped coffeewards down uiskentuie strand. 'notice chiseled definition and look like a champion' as promised by the packaging.
do not succumb to the influences of any tv advertising for shaving foam that does not have your best acceleration at heart. it may seem crazy, but as the brainchild of dave zabriskie, why would you expect otherwise? as the man himself is quoted as saying on the tube "shave it high and tight".
dz nuts 'bald' smooth shaving cream arrives in a 200ml tube at a cost of $15/£11.50
saturday 31st august 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
klaus zuberbuehler is a psychologist at st andrews university in scotland, and has spent over twenty years studying animal communication. he is able to translate the sounds that infer a diana monkey has seen a leopard, or perchance, a crowned eagle, both of them natural predators. biologists have long approached the issue of decrypting a theoretical secret language of the apes by trying to teach human language to chimpanzees and other species. enormous effort has been invested in teaching them our language either in the form of speech or by way of signs.
in 1974, boyce rensberger, a new york times reporter with expertise in sign language conducted likely the first newspaper interview with a species other than humans when he spoke to a signing chimp by the name of lucy. lucy apparently invited rensberger, now at massachusetts institute of technology to join her up a tree; an invitation he declined, i might add. however, with very few exceptions, teaching human language to animals has been somewhat abortive. monkeys and apes are in possession of the underlying faculties necessary to the creation of language; they hear and comprehend sequences of sounds in much the same way as we do. they're also pretty much in control of sound vocalisation, with a similar range to that of humans, but ultimately, they seem incapable of joining the dots.
sadly, the abilities displayed by the primates seem to have completely by-passed cows and sheep. it is less than confidence inspiring to careen down the unkempt and pot-holed descent from borraichill to be confronted with a herd of cows who seem not to have grasped the concept of tidying up the road after themselves. though most of us would move out the way with unbridled alacrity if faced with a speeding bicycle, that's rarely the natural reaction of an agglomeration of cattle.
i've lived here long enough to have become familiar with at least some of the wiles displayed by ruminants standing in my path; talking to them is the first line of defence. cows in particular are easily spooked; concentrating on chewing the cud apparently makes a limousin cow all but oblivious to the surrounding world. a few words to the wise makes a hoof in the downtube (read into that what you will) less likely. sheep on the other hand are just scatty, hopelessly unpredictable and inevitably on both sides of the road.
one of them is going to move to the other side; the trick is guessing which one.
in this case, communication between two species is more often than not, less than successful. no matter the message conveyed by the speeding cyclist, comprehension on behalf of the farm animals is pretty much non-existent. to which end it does seem rather pointless to ride towards them mouthing loud exhortations to the effect that i am simply out for a bike ride and that there is truly no need to be alarmed.
if only there were a means of audibly having them quickly return to the green stuff on which they ought to have remained in the first place. and it would need to be singularly loud to be heard from an appropriate approaching distance. something like spurcycle's reinvention of the bicycle bell.
i believe i'm correct in relating that the british safety standard as applicable to bicycles, bs6102, requires that each new cycle must be sold with a bell. whether you subsequently decide to fit it is entirely up to you; in essence a standard with no teeth. however, those that have arrived in the cardboard boxes of bicycles for review would hardly have woken a sleeping child even at a distance of a few paces, so something with a few more decibels would not go amiss.
the last time spurcycle was mentioned in these pixels was when they produced their griprings, a modular set of bar grips for flat bar bicycles. with their new bicycle bell the objective was relatively simple: design a bell to be exceedingly effective in the midst of noisy urban or metropolitan traffic. "To do so forced us to reconsider every design aspect and engineer to a higher standard," said Spurcycle co-founder Clint Slone. "With the Ringer, we've made that bell."
as is common in these days of internet funding opportunities, spurcycle initiated a kickstarter campaign to raise a minimum $20,000, allowing them to put the idea into production. but so successful has been the appeal (in both senses of the word), with just over twenty days to go, they've already realised $196,623, almost ten times as much as required. that pretty much consolidates the success of their invention. naturally enough, when the bell enters reality and able to be clamped to the bars of a cielo or colnago, i will be rudely interrupting the soporific meanderings of islay's sheep and cattle.
if you fancy one of these bells for your very own bicycle, there are still funding opportunities available that might see you in the first virtual queue for receipt. pop across to the kickstarter link below for more details and the opportunity to pledge.
friday 30th august 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
rather fed up with a seemingly endless series of training shoes and the like, none of which seemed to last the distance, i rather fancied smartening up my feet by clothing them in a pair of brown brogues. however, being one of those ultra cool guys who would obviously seem far more at ease in a pair of converse all-stars or old-skool vans, the idea of becoming respectable as my late father would have described it, took a great deal of procrastination to absorb into a carefully cultivated persona.
then mrs washingmachinepost was kind enough to present me with a pair of tan brogues for my christmas last year, and the decision was effectively taken out my hands (or feet). it would be naive of me to deny that these are also rather cool in their particular way, but the intention had initially been to keep them for special events only. that way whenever social pressure required me to be smart, at least there would be somewhere to start. however, what was intended as a brief period of familiarity, designed to prevent sore tootsies at those times of need, turned into a far longer term of acclimatisation.
in fact, there has barely been a day when i have not worn them since last christmas.
to this degree, they have been put through the wringer; worn while hoovering the grass, fixing the bike, walking to the office, sitting on the bus to london and a whole host of other trials and tribulations that neither they nor i were expecting. because that's what shoes are for, particularly comfortable shoes. and to add icing to my delight, they have already lasted considerably longer than my last pair of converse.
however, they have not suffered the iniquities offered by the late summer undergrowth inhabiting bridgend woods, aided and abetted by the amateur incompetencies of the would-be cyclocrosser. by comparison, road-cleated shoes hardly know they're born. click in on leaving the house, click out at the coffee stop, then click in once again for the homeward trip. no real scuffing opportunities and no impending demands to run breathlessly up a rocky and rutted path midst the trees. that's what offroad shoes are for.
at this point, it becomes necessary to consider semantic definition, for the box containing a pristine pair of dmt marathon 2.0 offroad shoes has a distinct flavour leaning towards mountain biking. naturally enough, the thought of riding a sprung farm-gate was furthest from my mind, for cyclocross season is more or less upon us, and the champions were for more refined rural purposes.
as the ibis is fitted with blue crank brothers eggbeaters, i fitted an appropriate pair of cleats to the soles of the dmt shoes, and since my faux cyclocross course in the woods has the odd section of running (who am i kidding? i can barely even manage fast uphill walking), i removed the two allen bolts at the front and installed the optional toe-grips to aid this rural cabaret. the shoes' description fits me to a toe: 'This is a model created for the beginner looking for a shoe utilising the same technologies and design of top models.'
even though i have a well-specced 'cross bike and my rudimentary techniques have been honed to a greater degree than exhibited last year, i would doubt i have truly passed the 'beginner' stage. and i'm pretty sure jeremy powers would agree. the dmt marathons seemed thus the ideal footwear. however, i think that dmt sell themselves a bit short. though the uppers appear to be made of synthetic material, offering a tad more dots and dashes than i think truly necessary, the adjustable fit enabled by three velcro straps is quite impressive. the width is perhaps a smidgeon on the generous side, evidenced by a noticeable folding of the upper just below the middle strap. pulling this tighter had no real effect, but in mitigation, there were truly no adverse effects in the process of getting down and getting dirty.
the insole is a particularly comfortable affair, whether attempting to run or making life hard with energetic pedalling. the sole gave absolutely no cause for concern, offering decent grip on hardpack with rocky lumps, grass or mud. the upper is a wee bit less rigid than i'd prefer when performing my very own version of a 'cross dismount, but even had i been racing (perish the thought), given that the champions are aimed at the beginner, no complaining can be reasonably tolerated.
as a self-confessed ten-stone weakling, i'm aware that i cannot offer the same degree of power input as sven or zdenek, but i had a darned good try. disappointingly they did exactly as they were bid, offering no word of complaint and leaving me as svelte and respectable as a pair of tan coloured brogues. at the end of term, usually written at the foot of my report card was 'must try harder'. nothing's changed.
i'm never too sure why offroad shoes feature perforated panels on the upper; offroad is more than likely to incorporate at least one or two patches of muddy water. maybe considerably more as winter beckons. even running through rain-soaked undergrowth leaves the honed athlete with wet feet. surely there is a less invasive method of ventilation?
with road footwear reaching ever more stratospheric price points, and incorporating as much carbon fibre as boeing will allow, it is rather refreshing that a highly competent box of footwear can be had for considerably less than £100. if you're contemplating a forthcoming season of cyclocross but spent all your money on the bicycle (and who hasn't?) ease yourself into the competitive (or non-competitive) slipstream with these economically priced and brightly coloured offroad shoes. yes, it has been pointed out that white is hardly the most suitable colour midst muddy puddles, but i've adopted an insouciant, devil-may-care attitude, because on the occasions when they're still white(ish) with coloured bits, they don't half look pro.
the dmt marathon 2.0 offroad shoes retail at a cost of £75, available in white but with various coloured highlights. sizing ranges from euro 37 to 48 (size 44 reviewed). dmt are distributed in the uk by paligap.
thursday 29th august 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
the british prime minister is well-known for holidaying on islay's neighbouring island of jura. he stays at a lodge which is only reachable by sea (more dramatic than it sounds; the domicile rests on the shores of a sea loch) and pops up here every now and again because he can get away from it all. his party politics are coincidentally the same as the proprietor of portnahaven post office, alastair redman, a young gent who has been recently placed on the conservative party's approved list of parliamentary candidates.
alastair's youthful exuberance regarding conservative party politics often borders on the obsessive; as far as he's concerned, they can do little or no wrong, and i'm sure most of us don't quite see it that way. while david cameron was in the vicinity, mr redman had a meeting with him to discuss the need for more local power on the islands and a need for fairer allocation of spending. he was quick to point out that the treasury "benefited substantially from the vast amounts of tax revenue generated by our world-renowned distilleries, but (they) have given us little in return."
as you would expect from politicians, many more words passed between messrs redman and cameron, but in order to restrict any similarity between thewashingmachinepost and a party political broadcast, i'll leave it at that. what they did not mention at anytime during their conversation, or at least if they did so it was not reported, was the subject of cycling.
mr cameron did apparently not let slip that he has intentions of imposing a legal requirement for cyclists on islay and jura to wear helmets in order to protect their hebridean heads from the parlous state of the roads. nor did he express any intent to impress upon the hebridean or national population to give evans or halfords a call and order a mandatory bicycle. pedal for scotland has yet to take on a compulsory stance. yet perhaps these are ministerial or presidential diktats that has simply yet to have its day.
ostensibly, we live in a democracy, though the definition of that particular word frequently seems to adopt the position of a moving target, depending on who is proclaiming adherence.
turkmenistan declared its independence from the soviet union in october 1991, and despite being formerly a communist state, it is now in the hands of the democratic party of turkmenistan, yet another variation on the meaning of the word. it is, i believe, described as a presidential republic, a description i will leave to your own investigations before this begins to resemble an article in the new statesman. the current president, chosen from candidates hand-picked by his predecessor, president niyazov, is a gentleman by the name of gurbanguly berdimuhamedow.
try fitting that on a standard business card.
it seems that, in direct contrast to prime minister david cameron, turkmenistan's unpronouncable president harbours a predilection for riding a bicycle, having been filmed last month 'winning' a cycling race in the country's capital ashgabat, riding a custom green mountain bike. so enthralled is the gung ho leader with two-wheeled travel, he has apparently approved a four-year state programme to develop the sport of cycle racing. he has also reportedly previously ordered his own officials and students to participate in bike rides.
considering the apathy and derision that our own nicewaycode has received on twitter recently, i rather think a similar directive from westminster would have received an entirely different reception in britain. but in an obvious move to completely distance mr cameron from the new reality that pervades central asia, he has now ordered all citizens to purchase or otherwise acquire bicycles in preparation for a mass cycle event on september first.
i take it we have all ignored the obvious contradiction between the act of presidential ordering and the word democratic as an intrinsic component of his party's name?
however, secretly i think many of us will applaud the no messing about attitude of president berdimuhamedow when it comes to furthering the cause of cycling. not for him the messing about with platitudes and inconsequential cycle lanes in the cities. simply make everyone get a bike, a campaign that "will help to boost health, ensure environmental security and promote cycling." the president expects the population of more than £5 million to take part in the ride come september.
disappointingly, and rather undermining all the good that gurbanguly berdimuhamedow appears to be doing for the humble bicycle (custom green or otherwise), human rights groups have classified turkmenistan as one of the world's most repressive regimes.
perhaps i ought to have a word with portnahaven's postmaster about the nicewaycode.
wednesday 28th august 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................
this will certainly lower my reputation in the eyes of at least one or two. i can pretty much imagine the guys at 21st avenue bicycles in portland partaking literally of the meaning of rotfl, closely followed by several other bike workshop staff. most of the chaps and chapesses who wield spanners professionally you can picture as having been gunslingers in previous lives; the very folks who would swagger through the saloon swing-doors into the middle of a dust strewn western street. i don't wish to impress upon you that these are intrinsically bad people, simply that they generally come across as masters of their fiefdom and likely to smile out loud at the shortcomings of the home mechanic.
or, indeed, the customer who doesn't know the difference between a schrader and presta valve.
the subject almost under discussion is that of wrapping bar tape onto a pair of bendy bars. a bit like playing drums on a country and western song, it's the sort of activity that seems oh so simple until you try it. add to that the fact that certain individuals amongst us (and i confess i have my hand in the air at this point) would scarce admit to being unable to successfully wrap both sides of the bars before breakfast. it's almost like admitting to having no idea how to lubricate a bicycle chain; and you know how much we laugh about that.
it does me a great disservice to admit that i bought the new bar tape almost two months ago, yet it has sat in its delivery packaging in thewashingmachinepost bikeshed ever since it arrived in the mail. i'd rather you didn't repeat that to anyone else. and just like most things which could easily have been undertaken months or even weeks in advance, stripping off the old in favour of the new had been left until the very last minute. and in karma's inevitable way of slapping me on the face, the minute the 'cross bike was on the workstand, it started raining.
i receive, over the course of a year, a reasonable number of bicycles for review, velocipedes which have either been despatched from taiwan fully-formed, or more or less beautifully set up in a distributor's workshop. on only one occasion in more than a decade of reviewing has the bar tape been less than immaculate.
peruse the pages of mr andrews book of cycle maintenance or perchance that offered by the publishers of haynes manuals and they will offer the same method of beautifying those handlebars, whether of alloy or carbon. start at the bar end, leaving an over-wrap that can be squished inside by the end plug before working your way up to the bulge in the centre via those annoying brake levers. that's the part that's always been the fly in the ointment; one of them is negotiated with ease while the other defies reason and leaves an unsightly gap.
and i have never been able to suss why it is that i seem to have more tape left on one side than the other. karma again.
but, and here's where the sniggering will begin, i have found an alternative method of wrapping, one that obviates the unsightly mess created by unequal lengths of black electrical tape trying to fasten the end section in place near the stem. using natural flavour cinelli cork tape, i started at the top of the bars, wrapping over the top of that first bit of tape and heading inexorably downwards to the bar ends. this allows the last bit of tape to be inserted wholesale into the bar end before being contained by the thoughtfully provided monogrammed end caps.
this offers a particularly neat finish (or start) near the stem, requiring no unsightly electrical tape or even those logo'd strips that never seem to wrap at all well. and it matters little when the inevitable happens and one side leaves more tape than the other, for the extra is simply pushed inside the handlebars. of course, those who aren't sniggering are asking "but does it work?"
i have just returned from my own version of what i like to call cyclocross, investigating the undergrowth from various disadvantageous positions. however, if i might digress briefly, i'd like to thank jeremy powers for that excellent movie on how to get on and off the bicycle when faced with adversity. i might actually be making progress. yet allowing for my tight grip on the bars while descending through the bramble bushes, a less than taut grip on the bars while running up a secluded glade and all the other manoeuvres an incompetent cyclocrosser might be expected to make, the tape remained firmly in place.
yes, i did have to re-wrap the left side up as far as the brake lever due to initial incompetence in yesterday's rain, but it certainly wouldn't be the first time that's happened. i can understand that this is a serious break with tradition, and that eddy's mechanic would never have succumbed to such iniquities, but does this face look bothered? for at least now i have a set of handlebars that look as professional as sir dave's marginal gains, and 21st avenue in portland is too far away for me to hear that raucous laughter.
tuesday 27th august 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................