Sunday, 23 November 2008

Baby, its cold outside…

The training day everyone fears arrived on the back of a North wind overnight. Coming home from a night out with family at the dogs somewhat after midnight the cold ripped through your average overcoat rather like a knife through, well… butter, but it was at least dry. At 7:30 this morning, however, there was a sugar coating of snow over the fields and roofs and it was still coming down although as I watched it turned to freezing rain. A day for making a pot of tea and going back to bed. Winter training, Pah! Not for softies like me.

Mid afternoon and the guilt of inaction finally gets to me so it’s on with the running kit, out with the dog and 50 minutes slogging around the fields and through the woods at the back of our home with poochie in tow. Mrs. Kipper, meanwhile, wisely decides to drop into the local Somerfield for veggie stew makings, rushing back to a warm house in record time.
By the time I got back home the sweat was dripping through 4 layers of Decathlon’s own brand finest and the thermometer had risen to an alleged 19 degrees from this morning’s measly one degree. All of my clothing (Apparel to those of you who can afford Hincapie stuff) went straight into the washing machine along with a major part of the contents of the fields I so delicately tromped about in. The shoes will have to wait for another day but I feel that preparations for Manchester have only suffered a minor setback.

Saturday, 15 November 2008


BKW’s latest post in praise of innovation lead me to consider how many of the improvements in bike design have been true advances and what effect some of those of “lesser” impact have had on the bikes we ride; so here’s a personal list of the good, the bad and the ugly:

The Good

1. Clipless pedals:To this day I cannot understand why it took Sean Kelly so long to change to Look pedals. I first used them in 1988 and from the first clip in I could see that they were a major step forward in both safety (have you tried getting out of tightly done up toe straps lately) and ergonomics. Certainly my feet stopped hurting immediately I first put them on.
2. Ergo Levers: O.K. I know, Shimano introduced the first ones in the early 90’s but I could never get on with those, my hands are too small and to this day start to ache after about 2 hours riding on them, So it’s Campag all the way for me. Anyway, to the point: to get to this point in development, they had to have both hidden brake cables and indexed gears worked out but the whole thing made a single huge step forward with combining gear changing and braking on a single lever on the bars. No more leaning down to change gear etc. etc.
The Bad

1. Disc front wheels: Recipe for disaster anywhere except pursuiting in an indoor velodrome.
2. Roval Wheels: I don’t have a problem with “boutique” wheels in general, certainly for racing, I even use them myself, but those Roval wheels with the plastic star thingy in the middle must be the worst of both worlds. How do you true them up and what happens if you break a spoke? Mind you the same goes for Lightweights, but if you can afford those, you deserve all you get when things go wrong.
The Ugly

1. Carbon frames: Does anyone actually believe the B.S. the hacks write about “torsional stiffness” “vertical compliance” etc. etc. While a carbon fibre frame is very light and rides just as well as a modern steel frame, all these “aero” tweeks, bulges and formaed shapes just seem to add cost. I don’t even have a problem that 95% of all carbon frames are made in factories in the Far East and end up looking the same, only differentiated by paintwork, but how long do these things last? Carbon Fibre is one of the few materials that do not follow Young’s modulus of Elasticity and there have been a lot of high profile failures: Splintering Look road forks in the early 2000’s lead to a number of serious crashes in the pro peloton, regular frame failures of (a high profile U.K. supplier relatively new to market) and the infamous story of Specialized’s complete failure to provide robust machines to either Quick Step or Gerolsteiner in 2006.
2. 1980’s colour schemes: Lime green and pink? What was that all about?

This is an “off the cuff” personal list with no real thinking through before I put fingers to keyboard. Further contributions in all categories welcome…discuss.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

World Cup

Beijing seems to have disappeared into the distant past and the Manchester round of this years World Cup is with us. Several of the big GB stars are absent, but the medals still keep coming. I'm really impressed at the strength in depth the GB team now has because lets not forget there's several up and coming names (Dowsett, Hampton etc.) are waiting in the wings in addition to the "new boys" riding here. Victoria Pendleton was interviewed in the Grauniad during the week and bemoaned the fact that there are so few events for women at the Olympics. She's right and let's hope the blazers in Lausanne are listening.

It also shows well when the weeks roundup takes up 3 hours of prime time Sunday afternoon on BBC2. The track was sold out for every session even before the Olympics had finished which , when you consider that 4 years ago they couldn't give tickets away is pretty astounding and shows the lottery money has been well spent. Every time a GB rider took to the track the noise was deafening and when yet another one won a medal I began to get worried that the roof would still be missing when I'm up there training in December. It must be terrifying for Johnny Foreigner, faced with a shouting, yeling stamping crowd against them to a man. I'm not saying they were partisan, but very noisy....