Archive for November, 2011

Bag of Spanners

November 24, 2011

Words: Rohan Dubash

Rohan and Rouleur Editor Guy Andrews host our first Road Bike Maintenance Evening  in London on Monday, December 5. It will be a closed event and space is limited. We have goody bags for budding mechanics courtesy of Park Tools, Finish Line lubricants, DT Swiss and Continental tyres. See you there.

A few years ago I was working in a high-end road bike shop and approached by a customer who was complaining about noise coming from the rear hub of his Colnago EPS. It was a very nice bike with all the trimmings and a full Campagnolo Record 10-speed groupset, the top of their range at the time. I asked him to pop his wheel out so I could feel the bearings. When I saw him struggling it became clear that he was not well versed in something as rudimentary as wheel removal. For starters, he tried to remove the wheel while the chain was half way up his cassette and on the large chain ring and, to make matters worse, thanks to the fact that he was running his brakes very close to the rim, his tyre got stuck between the pads. I told him to open the quick release to make his life easier and he said “What’s that?” – a comment that surprised me as he had owned the bike for several months. I showed him the small brake release buttons on his Ergopower levers and he said “Oh wow, I never knew they were there and nobody has ever told me to position the chain before taking out the wheel. Thanks… that’s much easier.”

It was at this point that I realised that sometimes the things we take for granted are not always obvious, which is why we want to share with you some simple tips about correct bike set up and adjustments that will make your life easier and your cycling more enjoyable…

Wrapped, Rouleur issue 7

To me, fresh bar tape indicates a state of mind – as, for that matter, does a spotlessly clean bike. The former world pursuit champion and Six-Day star Tony Doyle would agonise over the wrap of his bars and have them re-done, even minutes before a pursuit heat, if they weren’t perfect. Nothing left to chance, pride in your workplace, as it were. Whenever I see freshly fitted white bar tape, I am reminded of a passage from The Rider by Tim Krabbé: “Kleber is standing in front of me. We greet each other. I point to his bars. ‘New tape?’ He smiles apologetically. ‘For morale.’” Exactly.

Delta, Rouleur issue 5

Computer modelling and new materials now produce better brakes made out of less material, which meant the Delta route was washed aside by the super-efficient dual pivot caliper and the more user-friendly combined brake and shift levers. Even though the Delta has gone, it certainly left its mark as component design moved on, perhaps for the better. But let’s face it: love it or loathe it, and function aside, has there been anything since as aesthetically pleasing as a Delta?

Colnago, Rouleur issue 4

But maybe the final decades of the 20th century were the golden years for frame design and manufacturing. After all, it took ten years to make a better carbon frame than the C40, and customers now demand new developments every year. It is sad to say, but Colnago has to change, and change it will. But whatever happens in the coming years, Colnago is still the name that instantly conjures up images of countless victories, quality products, innovative engineering and a love of the bicycle – a love of cycling.

SSC, Rouleur issue 3

Time moves on and the days of the hand built wheel have all but gone. A new, almost brutal, technology has been fuelled by CAD programs, the demands of less weight coupled with greater strength and the eagerness of designers to push the boundaries using their imagination and new materials. Yet still the hand built wheel will not die. When adversity calls, many turn to a traditional wheel. One has to understand that the bike is a sum of parts. Each component must work in harmony. If a part fails to do this, unreasonable demands may be made on others. Did Hincapie’s choice of wheel in the 2006 Paris Roubaix make unreasonable demands on other parts of his bike? A wheel  may well be stiff and strong but is that enough?

Campagnolo, Rouleur Issue 8, 23 and 24

That afternoon changed everything for me. I found myself collecting catalogues and posters scrounged from local bike shops. The more I read, the more obsessed I got. Holdsworth’s Bike Riders’ Aids and its pages of European cycling exotica was my bible. It had beautiful photos and sketches of Campagnolo components with weights, prices and brief résumés for each product. I used to pore over those pages for hours, committing almost every word to memory, and writing out imaginary build lists with Campagnolo, Cinelli and Clement.

Today when you receive any modern bicycle part it is accompanied (or should be) with a heap of warranty information, disclaimers and a comprehensive instruction manual written in several languages, labelled with repeated warnings about excessive torque, use with non-associated parts and danger of injury – or even death – if you choose to ignore the manufacturer’s recommendations. In 1982, all you got was a simple picture of a rear derailleur sitting underneath a set of sprockets with sparse text explaining how the travel adjustment screws should be set – nothing more, nothing less. It was not the mech itself but this greaseproof paper instruction sheet that set me thinking. There was no question about the emotional gratification of finally getting my hands on my very first bit of Super Record gear, but that shiny instruction sheet that lay flattened out in front of me had been carefully folded by someone and placed in the box, prompting me to think about how that iconic component part ended up sitting on the dining room table. Up until then, a product was simply a product – lovely as it may be – but the moment I opened that box I began to consider that there might be more to owning it than simply ownership itself.

Winter Without Thermals

November 17, 2011

Guest blogger Ian Franklin waxes lyrical from Thailand and recommends you join him for a ride in the warmth of Chiang Mai.

I wake up in the morning, decide to do the hills, go out with the flatlanders or down to the velodrome. Everyday I have that choice and most days the sun shines. I have no snow, ice, cold winds or inclement weather to stop me. Just occasionally, during the rainy season, a deluge keeps me at home on the turbo trainer.

My riding colleagues here in Thailand share this idyllic life though some still have to work. They arrive here from a variety of countries. In the past couple of years I’ve ridden with people from all over the world, as well as a Frenchman who masquerades as Francis Moreau, although we all know that he is in fact Tony.

Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand attracts all kinds of rider and most of us have some kind of eccentricity that led us away from our grown-up children in farangland to live in a country where the riding opportunities are limitless but the racing limited.

Here I can’t time trial or ride LVRC events but I have learnt to road race on a mountain bike. There are occasional events for the 55-plus riders (sometimes 60-plus). Last month I rode such a race over 17km that headed straight up a mountain. Twenty-five riders aged dwindled to a mere half dozen after 5 kms and then down to two – just a Thai rider and me. The last kilometre went around a few hairpins and soared into the sky whereupon the Thai just took off. I was left nursing  second place. I could never do mountains.

The Thais know how to organise and the podium presentation saw two attractive girls handing out the trophies in the manner of the Grand Tours. Free food, free water, music and dancing rounded off the event which, with the various categories (elite, over 85kgs, juniors and so on), attracted some 250 riders.

One local bike shop owner – a former SEA Games champion – organises events on a fairly grand scale. Last week he promoted the three-day Masters Tour of Chiang Mai consisting of an 88km hilly road race, a 40km circuit race and a mass start of all 150 riders who pelted up and down a dual carriageway at close on 50km per hour, then finished up the same treacherous mountain that ruined my chances a couple of weeks before. I didn’t ride. ‘Masters’ included elites and juniors…

Vets were categorised up to the age of 50-plus and at 63 I was not prepared to test my legs against super-fit 50-year-olds. The second day hosted some MTB circuit races that I competed in, finishing second again in a field of over-55s. Organisation was impeccable, with police outriders, more dancing girls, a mass of trophies and lunch at the famed Chiang Mai Night Safari.

There are no formal clubs and Thailand Cycling Association does not seem to understand cycle sport. Here, at the local 333m velodrome, we recently watched the national junior track championships and suffered the painful sight of 14-year-olds riding a 70-lap points race in 34-degree heat. Everything has to be outsized, huge and challenging.

Life as a cyclist out here in Thailand is always full on. Mondays we ride 120km in the hills; Tuesday evenings it’s a bash with the Thai chaingang of 40 riders who tear up and down the Canal Road; Wednesdays it’s the velodrome for three hours;  Thursday morning and I’m out with the flatlanders quietly spinning  for a couple of hours, readying for an assault on the local 11km mountain in the early evening. Fridays it’s back for an easy ride with the local expat groups in preparation for Saturday’s hard 150km. Sundays? I stay in bed.

There may be floods, riots and general mayhem in Thailand but at least I don’t have to suffer the British winter and have long since discarded my wardrobe of Roubaix thermals and overshoes.  Any retired cyclist could no better than winter out here in Chiang Mai. The weather is pleasant, there are many riders to join up with and, most importantly, the cost of living  (food, rent, massage) is cheap. You could probably live here for three months for the cost of your heating bills in the UK.

Worth thinking about on your chilly ride tomorrow…

Cold Comfort

November 10, 2011

Words: Claire Beaumont Photos: Andy Waterman

Guest Blogger Claire Beaumont from Condor Cycles warms to the cold and makes light of the dark…

I don’t hate winter, I embrace it. It is this mid-point in the transition to winter that I don’t care for. While everyone else is still trying to hang on to temperatures in double figures, I yearn for it to drop and stay low.
Yesterday it was biting and cold, today a little mild. If I wear legwarmers I’m too hot. Should I start in a gilet? Arm warmers aren’t quite suitable anymore. Should I go with the 3/4 fleece-lined tights or stick with bibshorts and knee warmers? My glove choice is always off and I end up with sweaty palms after 40 minutes.

What I want is the cold. I really enjoy ambling along a lane, pulling my buff up around my face and snuggling in.
I have this pair of Endura bib longs that I’ve had for years. They fit really well – by chance, I think, because I bought them in a rush for £10 in the sale. The Roubaix fleece comes right up my tummy like a security blanket. There are these foot loops too and they keep the cuffs in place and wrapped around my ankles.

And, you know what else? I love those moments when you stop at a traffic light, look across to your companion and see steam rising off their body.

How about that feeling when your face is really chilly and your eyes feel a bit strange and you have to blink a bit? Then they go a little watery. That’s the cold and that’s winter.
I like seeing the fog and mist below me, stuck down a valley or a hill. I like to see a rolling view not blocked by the tree leaves. I like getting up in the morning and riding from darkness to dawn to daylight, watching everyone wake up.

When you finally get to your cafe stop or back home and walk indoors, that whoosh of warm air sweeps over you, cheeks turn pink, nose shines red like a beacon and toes tingle. Most people just take a moment to sit there in their baselayer and tights. I sit there smiling smugly.
”Yeh, I’ve just been out, in the cold. Now for something hot and well deserved. Maybe a mince pie or bit of crumble.”

I find myself perusing winter clothing with great enthusiasm. In the summer I never normally pay attention but the winter presents itself with a real need to be dressed correctly, and as you’d imagine I have a fair collection of winter apparel. But, I want more. I get engrossed in technical features. Maybe I like the winter wear because you get all tucked in, covered up and look rather svelte. Christmas excesses disguised under a thermal wrap.

My winter rides are, as they should be at, base tempo for a couple of hours. However, as a cyclo-cross racer, this is my time of year. I like to ride at a fair old lick around Regent’s Park to keep my fitness up. I meet with my fellow female accomplice on Tuesday evenings for some covert cyclo-cross in a dark park. We do a fair bit of standing around, working out mini courses. Then we smash about like idiots and stop and decide what drill to do next. Thus my outfit must be breathable, must not flap, but also be comfy and warm.

For those who dread the season all I can say (and it’s such a cliche) is :

There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad preparation.