cern's large hadron collider cost a total of £2.6 billion, the bulk of which is accounted for by the collider portion itself (£2.1bn) and the detectors (£575m). it's referred to as the large hadron collider because it has a circumference of 27km, which you pretty much have to agree, is fairly large. cern (conseil european pour la recherche nucleaire) placed those 27km of large diameter piping underground because 27km of real estate above ground would have dramatically increased the budget. in order to keep the machinery ticking over, the british government contributes around £28 million per year, reputedly a tad less than the cost of a pint of beer for every member of the uk population.
and interesting comparison.
by accelerating two proton beams to a speed just a smidgeon below the speed of light and travelling in opposite directions, the resultant crash is then dissected to see what happened. this is pretty much how eddy boasson hagen was discovered. however, despite all this expenditure, enough underground space to build a small town, and lots of euros from western governments, quite how a bicycle manages not to fall over is still a classifiable mystery.
the first mathematical analysis of just how an unmanned bicycle manages to roll more or less in a straight line without external influence was attributed to the gyroscopic effect of the front wheel, aided and abetted by the mass and a degree of spontaneity from the handlebars. all this was written in stone as early as 1910, but physicists have always had their doubts as to the veracity of these equations.
a century later, successors of those doubting physicists constructed an experimental bicycle with all the gyroscopic effects cancelled out by a system of counter-rotating wheels. publication of the results derived from this experiment pretty much dipped all previous notions in the bucket. when the angles of the headset and forks, distribution of weight and turn of the bars were all taken into account, there were insufficient gyroscopic forces to keep the bike upright after all. in fact, the physicists who carried out this experiment were reduced to saying that quite frankly, science has no equitable explanation.
surely the quest for such a profound answer is worth more of the governments' budgets than crashing protons into each other? it may have discovered eddy higgs boasson, but made no inroads to prince bradley's descending abilities in wet weather.
we, on the other hand, may not care one whit for any equations that confirm the bicycle as the world's most valuable invention. not for us the intricacies of physics, for those are but mere bagatelle when climbing scary gradients in the big ring or being unable to feel our thumbs when traversing the cobbles. this devil-may-care attitude is justifiable because whichever chunk of the unknown universe is acting on our behalf, we have matters under our own control via a pair of pedals attached to some spinny cranks.
there are a number of aspects accorded the bicycle that are all too often taken for granted, and amongst a list that comes immediately to mind, those would be the bottom bracket, headset and pedals. my recent visit to pronto gara visibly demonstrated the chasm that exists between the quill pedals of everyday transportation and the star wars lookalikes currently affixed to my own spinny cranks.
i have owned three pairs of mavic's orginal clipless pedals, a design not too far removed from look's original notion and with a very similar cleat design in grey rather than red. these worked remarkably well; simplicity of form and action that generally gave little cause for concern (though my first pair were indelibly marked by a recalcitrant cleat bolt, never quite managing the same efficiency as when new). as a company originally better known for its wheels and rims, mavic's move into pedals, helmets, clothing and shoes could be seen either as a strategic expansion or possible folly. thankfully, the former seems mostly to have been the case.
however, for reasons best known to themselves, mavic opted to desist with their own pedal system at the end of last year and hooked up with the folks at time to develop something that can only be likened to something on which the jedi would be more than happy to apply force. and at the risk of sounding like obi wan kenobi, they're also something on which i've been most happy to place my zxellium road shoes.
i apologise for likely extending the star wars franchise just a millennium too far, but i almost wish i'd invoked the force when i popped out for my first ride. in common with associated members of the pelotonese (including eddy higgs boson), i attempted to clip my left foot into place before departing at just below the speed of light around the principality. that left foot, however, seemed not to have completed its enforced task, and after another couple of attempts, i figured either the pedal was at fault, or the cleat was not properly oriented. it accords no credibility whatsoever to yours truly as a famous cycling reviewer to intimate that on each of the aforementioned occasions, my foot had already been correctly clipped in. i have never before used a set of pedals where clipping in has been so easily if errantly achieved.
the knee trembler affliction that inevitably follows clipping both feet into a new pair of pedals, is the trepidation that extrication might not be quite so simple. i'm sure each and every one of you recalls just which section of road you were on when you fell over on that first clipless ride. however, i need not have feared, for unclipping is just as easy as clipping, though this time with a far more definite click of acknowledgment.
there are four models in this latest mavic pedal range: the zxellium slr titanium, the zxellium slr with steel axle, the zxellium sl and the zxellium elite, all of which follow the same form factor. according to mavic, the slr titanium and the slr are of carbon composition, though i must admit it looks just a bit like what used to be known as resin. naturally enough, the titanium loses enough weight to offer a pedal at 155 grams, while the steel axle version as reviewed arrives at 190g. flip the pedal to its underside and, apart from the brightly coloured red and yellow mavic decals, the substantial flat spring that keeps the cleat firmly in place is clear to view.
never ones to refrain from ascribing some form of technology to their products, mavic have dubbed this iclic; in truth, i care not what they call it, for it has so far worked seamlessly and remarkably efficiently. no doubt the result of the pedals' length, neither foot suffered any discomfort at all, even when deliberately pushing harder than truly necessary. the replaceable body plate forms an efficient platform to not only balance the foot, but to transfer all that pent up energy into forward motion.
i think it very likely that i'll be augmenting my other colnago with a pair of these, for after a quick comparison, they leave the previous mavic pedal range looking rather lost. the only subjective problem i could foresee is one of aesthetics; i really like the star wars look (sorry, time) but a couple of others have been less impressed. however, once your foot is clipped in, the appearance is lost in a blur of speed, so who really cares?
mavic zxellium slr pedals retail at £130 per pair, including cleats.
thursday 5 december 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................