Monday, 30 January 2012

just over a 100 clicks

Saturday was a special day, not a breath of wind, a blueish sky and four hours to spare. The cyclesguff hotline wasn't displaying any plans for a rendezvous, so it was time to wrap up warm and head out for a solo adventure

The conditions of last week were all but a distant memory as the first ramp of the day offered a breathtaking view out east along the Campsies. With a false sense of security, I decided upon a route that would take in a fair amount of climbing. The problem with that decision was discovered all too soon, ice and lots of it. With the chance of a spill, the route was quickly changed and would mean riding along main roads. Not ideal, but at least the roads would have been treated.

The Duke's Pass is over there.....
With an optimistic outlook and dreaming of an increase in temperature, the allure of a wee gem of a cyclepath to Aberfoyle (part of no.7 sustrans route) was on the cards. With no sign of ice, a blue sky over head and a path that meanders alongside the River Forth all was tranquil and bliss. The route over the Duke's Pass wasn't as enjoyable. The height gained from traversing hairpin bends provided views of mist rolling along Loch Ard. I should have known better than riding straight through the 'road closed' sign and warning that this road is not treated for snow and ice. What started out to be a sublime climb, quickly became a series of impersonations. A cyclist wearing spd-sl cleats does have an uncanny resemblance to a duck, swan etc on a frozen loch. Small shuffling, canny steps and then, whack! The gradient didn't help, neither did the hoots of laughter from a few bemused walkers. A small group of cyclists coming over from the North had similar stories of toil. Oh well, not to worry, there is always a nice coffee shop on the banks of Loch Venachar to visit and warm up.

Thankfully, the conditions after the Duke's pass did improve. Added to that, a chance meeting with my wife and kids at a cyclesguff regular haunt - Berits & Browns gave me a boost. With caffeine running through the veins the Crow Road was next.  

The guide to the Great Road Climbs of the Pyrenees by Graham Fife has been a regular visitor to cyclesguff chat. The front cover has a similarity to a section of the Crow Road climb from Lennoxtown.

Is there a possibility of cyclesguff members and readers offering a tongue in cheek version of that sublime book for this blog? If the sudden change in conditions and eeriness of the Crow Road on Saturday are anything to go by, we may have a something to consider......

I didn't stop to take a pic of the doppelganger section on the decent to Lennoxtown. The road was dry and stopping wasn't the proper way to treat a good descent.

Stay upright

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

bikes and freedom

Bikes and freedom gang the gether tae, fellow guffers.

Just showin’ off a wee bit since the 2011 census allowed for a declaration of Scots in the language section.

I have lost count of the memorable days out on the bike that have involved whisky and the scents of whisky making as we pass a distillery.
There is a very fine ride from Grantown north on the west of the Spey towards Tamdhu, Cardhu and Macallan before doubling back for a glimpse at the Imperial distillery (sadly dilapidated) and a wee squint at Dailuane. Or Glenfarclas to Benrinnes through the glen in all it’s bleak Scottish Highland glory before making the turn to Dufftown. In that part of Speyside it is hard to move without finding a distillery and similarly on Islay home of our ally thewashingmachinepost the 8 distilleries add a certain spice to your bike ride.

Burns’ Night raises the question of which whisky to have to celebrate Scotland’s National bard. Looking at our storm chasing route of 21 January I can see that we passed close to no less than 5 distilleries. Auchentoshan, then Littlemill now demolished but the casks are owned by Loch Lomond Distillery in Alexandria, Glengoyne on the return from Killearn and close to Tambowie a farm just outside Milngavie lost the best part of 100 years ago but a name mentioned by the bard himself if I remember rightly. Choices, choices. Similarly it is hard to pick out just a few words of Burns. However there are ones that resonate for me and are all the more powerful when spoken out loud. An extract from Tae a Louse…

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n devotion!

(in English
O would some Power the gift to give us
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!)

Freedom and Whisky Gang Thegither

Visitors to cyclesguff will not be surprised to see a post about whisky, especially on Burns night. This cyclesguff rider has a generous offering of a 15 year old Glenfiddich Distillery Edition from Routemaster General to enjoy once the bairns ur in their scratcher. So far, the nicht has seen a 8 year old Little Mill being poured and savoured. A wonderful malt, with a slight floral nose and a crisp, simple palate resulting in a lingering taste that has you going back for more.

Until production stopped in 1992, Little Mill was Scotland's oldest working distillery. Even though the distillery was established in 1772 references go back to the 1750's. Burns did have a love for a dram and he was certainly around at that time. 

By the time another famous Scot, Kirkpatrick MacMillan was fined for running over a pedestrian in the Gorbals, Glasgow (brave man)  bestride a velocipede... of ingenious design, Burns was long gone. However, this excerpt from his poem, "Winter: A Dirge" is maybe one for all cyclists to recite the next time a character building winter day comes along.
The sweeping blast, the sky o'ercast,
The joyless winter day
Let others fear, to me more dear
Than all the pride of May...

Bide upright

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Storm racers

Strava continues to offer a new perspective on old roads
A cyclesguff trio persuaded each other to head out in the wild weather today. With wind speeds and gusts forecast in excess of 40mph and a 50% chance of rain, it really wasn't ideal.

The rendevouz was Partick station and catch the train to Helensburgh. Helensburgh enjoys a lovely location right on the banks of the River Clyde. On a peaceful and tranquil day, this is a nice place to visit and ride through. Today wasn't to be that kind of day. The first turn on the front after leaving the station was interesting to say the least. 20kph was out of reach and gusting cross winds racing in off the river would blow the cyclesguff peleton into all manners of weaving patterns. Not safe, and not exactly the best start to the ride.

The ride did improve and this was when we turned right and headed over the climb to Glen Fruin. The climb has some lovely features; hairpins, views out over the Firth of Clyde estuary and the welcome feature of a tailwind helped with the steeper sections. The emerging view from the top of the climb is one of those scenes that you feel that you have earned. Glen Fruin is a spectacular area, very quiet and the ribbon of tarmac that is about to be explored can be seen skirting through the countryside on its way to Loch Lomond. The first ever post of cyclesguff has a picture of the Glen looking west. Today wasn't the day to take photographs.

I do however have a picture in my head of a readout from the bike computer. It was showing 50kph and my heart rate was 135bpm. Not bad for an undulating section of road. Alas, my fitness wasn't the reason for the fantastic pace. Mother Nature was obviously feeling that we had been poorly treated earlier in the ride and was now in full support mode, great fun. The ride back to base is a mixture of major and minor roads, one of the most pleasant sections being from Drymen to Gartness. This road is a cracker, steep ascents and short chute descents, tight bends, off camber sweepers and dips that plummet down into the trees. The exposed areas where brutal with the wind whipping up and causing all sorts of mischief.

My return home was met with a bowl of freshly made Scotch Broth. A fitting tonic for a wet and weary rider.

Stay upright

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Mineral exploration

This very long post (sorry) has been in the draft pile for sometime. A few bike feeds coming in early today, strongly suggested that today was the day to finish it.

Cyclesguff has been watching the developments of bicycle braking technology with a keen eye. The 2010 decision by the UCI to allow cyclo-cross bikes to use disc brakes in officially sanctioned races did provide some comfort that they can still make a decent decision. The advent and subsequent adoption of discs in the mountain bike world followed a similar path to the response of the news from within the cyclo-cross world, the initial response has been polar. Why use a system that weighs more, requires a new frame (or tinkered), forks and of course, brakes? The other camp was more than happy to view progress and be in place to help develop, refine and possibly make history.

Tim Johnson first disc-equipped UCI High level win
The reports coming back from those that earn their keep by riding a bike flat out for an hour over a demanding cross circuit is favourable. Let's not forget that they also have the luxury of swapping a bike for a clean one if the mud is causing havoc with the controls, gears etc. Just like mtbs and disks, once you had used them for the first time, it was difficult to consider going back. They worked like nothing else. Even in the early days, discs out performed the good ole cantilevers and v-brakes. Also, when was the last time a buckled rim caused an issue on a disc equipped bike?
This leads to the next stage in bicycle component evolution. The cable versus hydraulic disc brake system debate is in full swing over in cyclo-cross land. The 'will they or won't they' rumour mill is also in full swing with SRAM being touted as having developed a hydraulic brake system for drop levers. Whereas small brands are developing piggy back hydraulic interim solutions and others still pushing the boundaries of cable systems. For those readers that have used Avid's excellent BB7 cable operated discs, you'll know that a cable operated stopper can be a very effective tool. Not only that, in terms of maintenance, they are a breeze.

For those that still follow and adhere to the weight penalty claims, let's consider the development of mountain bike rims. The disk specific rims are lighter. The reduced wall thickness, due to lack of a braking surface, not only makes for a lighter rim. It also removes weight, where it counts - the extremities of the wheel. A reduction in mass in this area has a major benefit to a sport that is almost Fartlek in its adjustment of pace. The development of tubeless tyre technology has also resulted in some interesting gains. The ability to run lower pressures, results in more grip, this can also help with comfort for those riding a fully rigid 29er - you know who you are! 

I still require bounce
Tubeless tech is also amazing when it comes to reducing punctures. I've been riding tubeless on my 29er SS for over 18months and have yet to puncture. There are thorns in the tyres, but the sealant is doing its work and the pressure holds. Compare this to the tube set-up that was used previously and I was patching tubes on a regular basis. Now, you could argue that tyre tread, rubber compound, ply etc would also have something to do with it. And, you would be correct. There is also a slight weight penalty in a tubeless specific rim (it will improve), but the reduced all-up weight of a tubeless set-up is still in the weight weenies favour. The simple truth for me, is that I'm not going back to tubed tyres on a mtb. The benefits outweigh the faff of fitting and sealant peeing out when changing tyres.

The road world has also seen a few forays into tubeless tech. The well received Hutchinson tubeless clincher hasn't been adopted by the consumer to the level where it competes against the establishment. It is quite possible that Hutchinson where ahead of the curve. My summer bike is currently shod with a fantastic pair of Shimano C24 wheels. I seriously considered the clincher tubeless version of these wheels before parting with the cash. My only reason for not going down the tubeless route was lack of tyre choice. I've never had much luck with Hutchinson tyres and my experience of Michelin Pros and more recently, Continental GP4000s black chillis played to the standard set-up. The roads around where Cyclesguff ride are far from perfect, but the C24's have been faultless. I would even go as far as saying that they are best road wheels I've experienced (sorry Big Al). One thing that will let them down is the price to replace a rim. The alloy breaking surface has performed well, but like any alloy rim, they will require replacing at some point.

Now it is time for some future gazing and teasing. Will I buy new wheels that use old standards, doubt it. Will I buy a new road frame that will have a conventional brake bridge and forks that are drilled for calipers? Doubt it. Will I consider buying a 11speed electronic groupset? Doubt it. There was a wee teaser out there recently that eluded to a hydraulic groupset. For me, the smart money has been on hydraulic gears and disc brakes for sometime. The technology works, it is reliable and is universally accepted by other markets as being, currently the best solution. That tease is no longer tickling away and overflowing with potential. Today's press release of the collaboration between Magura and Cervelo has created more of a scratch than a satisfying end to the tickle....

Has this collaboration moved the game on? Well it's approved by the UCI and will feature in this year's Tour de France as Garminn-Barracuda are using the set-up. Cyclesguff has to ask, what happened to Magura hydraulic rim brakes, did they ever progress beyond the nineties? Since questions are being asked, what happened to the wonderfully sublime aesthetic of Campag Delta brakes - there is a similarity with the RT caliper.... Deltas suffered from style over substance and where not as powerful as the contemporary Shimano offerings. If memory serves me well, they where also prone to problems with the mechanism. Campag enjoyed the rewards of having the upper hand in the peleton when it came to gruppo supplier and the status helped to shift components. This is quite possibly the reason why riders of a certain age covet Delta brakes and regard them as being an iconic product from a golden era.

The exclusive one-year deal that Cervelo and Magura have agreed to with the RT8 TT for its own P5 may well provide other companies with the time to come to market with a 'total' solution for 2013. There is no doubt that the early adopters will be very interested in considering these new brakes. It will be interesting to watch how many considerations are converted into purchases.

The new magura brakes will not suffer from the problems associated with routing traditional brake cables around and through convoluted aero frame designs. The tighter bend radius that a hydraulic hose can accommodate will provide greater options. However, a few frame and component design engineering teams have developed interesting and creative solutions for traditional cable brakes.

We know that the UCI is driven by commercial activity as much as bicycle component manufactures drive frame design. The rumour is that Shimano and LaPierre bicycles approached the UCI with a disc equipped cyclo-cross bike and a proposal for the rule change. The cyclo-cross market is at an all time high, races have record entries, and bikes are selling well. There are even a few brands with disc equipped bikes. If the 'pros sell bikes' argument is anything to go by, this is certainly a growth area. The mtb market has seen growth through the once niche market of 29ers now being mainstream. As for road, the biggest news has been 11 speed and electronic shifting. Thankfully, the racing has more than made up for the lack of drama on the component front.

The drama in the mechanic's truck on the other hand looks set to become even more entertaining. The range of tech that they now have to understand, maintain and adjust to suit individual rider's requirements is a far cry from the days when Deltas where the pin-ups of the component world. A fantastic insight to the changes from a mechanic's perspective can be found at Park Tools. One particular comment that is interesting is how the bike industry has almost standardised threads. The reference to stripping and cleaning bottom brackets could be a tinkerers dream. As for today, how many bottom bracket (also sealed) standards are out there?

I told Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle not to use them....
So, what can we expect in the bike market over the next few years? Have Campag missed out on a golden opportunity and decided to follow big S and go electric?  Will the recent UCI disk brake decision and opportunity of introducing a premium product that is transferable to cyclo-cross and road encourage and inspire the smaller players to take on the establishment? This member of Cyclesguff certainly hopes so, and the UCI doesn't appear to have a ruling that does not allow discs to be used in road races. The main reasons the pro-peleton haven't adopted them is due to there being no perceived benefit. Marginally slower wheel changes, neutral support having to carry various set-ups and potentially heavier bikes (the UCI could solve that easily) are hard facts that don't make for an easy debate. Once the technology is optimised and standards are agreed to, the debate will be far more interesting. 

Readers of Cyclesguff may remember the zero bhp post. The bicycle rider in that article had a very interesting point to make about a road bike equipped with discs. Basically, disc brakes would have enabled him to post an even more impressive time.

The Factor 001 bike has being doing the rounds for a few years, their site states 

Factor are working on an all-new road bike that will be launched at Eurobike 2012. Our mission is to redefine what a bicycle can be by integrating innovative design and advanced technology to create machines that enthral their riders with an attention to detail, ride quality and level of electronic sophistication that is unmatched in the marketplace. 


Hopefully it will be in reach of mere mortals, the 001 is over £20k.  


By the time disc equipped road bikes are the hottest ticket in town, the roads around here will be so bad (cue future post about council tax freeze) that my 29er full susser will be shod with Continental GP6000s Jalapeno Peppers and unobtanium nano-tech drop bars. The integrated controls on those drops will be fed from the same reservoir that supplies the gear and the brake system with mineral oil. Geraint Thomas will have just won the muddiest ever Paris Roubaix on a disc brake equipped bike, hydraulic groupset, severely buckled rims and no complaints about traction. Wait a minute, do the UCI allow brake discs on a velodrome?

Stay upright

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Lack of Social Fitness

The plan for the ride was to head out with a small group at 9:30, 60+k over local roads and then home. The plan didn't last long, a poorly wife and two hyper kids put an end to an early 'escape'. The free pass would come my way later in the day, so with time to spare I decided to sync the iphone and start using Strava. If you have an iphone, Garmin etc and haven't used Strava, don't hang about, give it a go. For those on android keep an eye on strava

UPDATE: Strava is now available for android

The interface ticks the boxes with a clean simple layout that is broken down into various sections. It was recently named as the "Technical Innovation of the Year" by VeloNews and to make things even better, it's free. I've paid more for apps that aren't even close to Strava in terms of content, features and the very hard to develop - joy of use. The feature that allows you to compare other riders on segments of your ride will no doubt become addictive. There's also a premium version that's caught my interest....

The ride was too short, just a smidgen under 45k. The roads were quiet and a tad slippy with sections of ice and slush. The sky was clear and the wind almost non-existent. The pic above was taken almost two years ago to the day. There was some ice at the same point today, but nothing like what is shown above. Just shows how mild a winter Scotland is having. All in all, it was great day to be in the saddle, that experience continued when I uploaded the stats to Strava. 

The title of this post has nothing to do with previous mutterings about Trail Etiquette. Judging from the leader board of times posted on the segments section, there are some seriously fast folk out on those roads. I have to find more time to ride my bike and post some improved times.

Stay upright

Friday, 13 January 2012

Night time cuddles

Dr Dawson called with the welcome 'I'm thinking of ways to make you hurt in 2012'. Oh dear, what are we signing up for now? I was looking forward to a steady pace road ride this Sunday and am not even in the frame of mind, never mind the physical shape for bike related pain. Then again we are at the outset of 2012, the sky is blue and with an optimistic outlook I was ready for what was next 'what are you doing on the 13-14 October?' Yes! I certainly had time to prepare. I've now checked the Bear Bones 200 event details and have started to consider rides in preparation for the event.

The Caledonia Etape will be the first major test of 2012. There are a few new sportives that look interesting that cover old training roads and have a variety of challenging terrain.  Fellow guffers are off to ride a few of the spring classics, Amstel Gold in April and Paris-Roubaix in June, so training with them will provide time to condition and build the stamina for a potential trip to the French Alps July-August. 

The big mtb challenges prior to BB200 have yet to be explored. One challenge that is definitely on, is an assault of the West Highland Way - the timing of that will be dependent on midges.

It's only the girls that bite

 Stay upright

Sunday, 8 January 2012

thewashinglinepost No.2

The winter weather here in guffland has been mixed to say the least. We have braved the wonderfully titled Hurricane Bawbag, enjoyed balmy 10Âșc winter days and experienced monsoon rain. So, why not break out the T-shirts for the next installment of the thewashinglinepost

cyclesguff colour way was not intentional at point of purchase

Stay dreaming

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Pack of Biscuits

2011 was the year when cyclesguff first clipped into the world of blogging. The riders of cyclesguff have been amazed at the audience, those clipping in and spending time reading 'guff' have visited from almost all corners of the globe, however, Africa still eludes us.

Cyclesguff has plans for 2012, one of the plans is the Pack of Biscuits interview series. The series is titled after Alisdair Gow, better known as Big Al, owner of Wheelcraft, a specialist handbuilt wheel and bicycle shop. Big Al has been running Wheelcraft and hand building world famous wheels and wheelsets (and tweaking nipples) for longer than he cares to remember - without him, the wheels of cyclists from around the world would be, well, less round. He's also the only cyclist that cyclesguff is aware of who has been immortalised in Oor Wullie - that's A-list celebrity DC Thomson style.

Big Al always has a pot of coffee on the go, never ending supply of biscuits and good chat. The supply of biscuits is down to one of his charging structures. Over the years, the price of a small repair, spacer, ferrule etc has been a pack of biscuits. This seemed like a fitting title for the series and something to share and enjoy.

Co-op mince pies and M&S treats buys you a Royce hub
The shop is a delight, one of those places that relishes visitors and amazed new comers in equal measure. The sheer volume of wheels, old and rare parts, frames hanging from the rafters, tools and of course, the chat. The walls are covered with posters, postcards, photos and hand written notes and an assortment of phone numbers.

Big Al back in the day
The setting is also very special, nestling at the foot of one of cyclesguffs favourite climbs, the Crow Road. Cyclesguff would be hard pushed to think of a better spot for a bike shop. Big Al also shows a soft spot for a well known road at Glen Lyon. This is also a cyclesguff favourite and will no doubt feature in 2012 rides.

The interview was recorded when the shop was in full swing, cyclists where coming in for a coffee, chat and chance to warm up. Wheels where being discussed, ordered and trued. It was a horrible day, horizontal sleet and 40mph gusts of icy wind. However, I'm glad that my journey to Wheelcraft was by bike, the only problem was the tailwind. A 32x20 29er singlespeed spins out very quickly. Then again, a small gear would be the order of the day for the return home and there was no chance the wind would change direction.

The interview was recorded on an iphone, so apologies for lack of audio brilliance. 

If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Wheelcraft, you have to go and say hello. If you aren't in the vicinity, the pics will hopefully provide a feel for the shop.

More info here

Don't ask for black spokes

Stock check....

It works
Stay upright and Best Wishes for 2012