Tuesday, 21 June 2016

luck and unluck

A brief glance in the section titled the things we do will reveal the affection that cyclesguff have for the spring classic Paris Roubaix. Guffers and associates have notched up some 10 appearances at the paris roubaix cyclo since 2008. A bunch of passionate and very well organised enthusiasts Les Amis de Paris Roubaix run the event every two years ensuring that us amateurs get a chance to ride 53km of bone jarring stones in 210km and that the money goes not to ASO who organise a shorter event the day before the pro race but to renovating, rediscovering and rebuilding more secteurs of pave. A neat masochistic/sadistic circle ensures our pain leads to more pain.

In the race luck surely plays such a huge part in winning or losing. You can see how in the right circumstances, riders who’s usual job is just to get on the front and ride for the team have their day in the sun. Magnus Backsted, Yohan Vansummeren and this year Matt Hayman have been able to outwit the pack of chasers who’ve been undone by mistakes, accidents or mechanicals. Other specialists seem to have the cycling gods shine on them more regularly and in recent years none more so than Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara have seen the sun moon and stars align in the shape of victory. At the same time luck shines a cruel fickle light depending on when it reveals itself. It is quite possible to be lucky and lose or to have bad luck and win. This year Cancellara straddled the crown of the pave with his bike and Sagan somehow wheelied on his front wheel to avoid him and carry on racing. Great bike handling, great skill but as Sagan might describe the incident himself it was ‘unluck’. His rhythm was disturbed enough, and on his own he could not bridge the gap so a win eludes him.

In this year's cyclo on 12 June a spill early on was sore but did not end the race though instead scraped an arm, leg, hip and shoulder smarted a bit and the fall put a hole in a rather nice jersey. This guffer narrowly avoided disaster when the rider behind launched himself into a wet corner at the bottom of a hill on the pave and unseating himself slipped into a rather ugly one piece mud suit.

As the examples reveal it is not so much the fact that you will experience the capricious nature of luck in a race of this length but more to do with where it manifests itself.

The last secteur is known as Pave de Hem. 1400m of cobbles that merit as little as 3 stars in the pro parcours but easily catch the unaware, tired and na├»ve. In this instance about a third of the way in a wobble in the saddle department. There isn’t much call for out of the saddle action on the pave so this guffer determined to hold on and tighten the wobble at the end. Not surprisingly under such duress the wobble persisted but minimal fanfare no mighty snap or bang the saddle in question simply fell off. The clamp sheared at the bolt half on half off and the saddle post with the lay back was no more. Equipment can be stressed to destruction at any time, and there can be little complaint since this the fourth time the post has endured such agonies. I am glad to say that the guffer in question was sufficiently energetic enough to be ride the last 5km or so BMX style out of the saddle, through Hem and over the flyover into Roubaix and the velodrome and gather a few respectful glances and bad jokes about sitting down along the way. Unluck no doubt. But unluck with great timing.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Toys out of the SRAM

Apologies for the lack of recent blog content, too much time spent away from the bike. Thankfully, the sun has been out and a new purchase has rekindled the passion for two wheels.

The latest purchase is proof that my 'one bike for all' test almost worked. Time also had to be allocated for a spot of tweaking and personalising the new bike. That allocation of time has resulted in a very frustrating and time consuming experience.

I’ve decided to replace my go to bike – Boardman CX Team with a Boardman CXR 9.2. The price was right - without sacrificing a family holiday! The CX team is up for sale and being someone who wants the new owner to enjoy their purchase and not have to spend time fixing and adjusting, I decided to do the right thing; replace cables, brake pads, deep clean etc etc. The fun really started when I started to change the gear gables on the SRAM Rival Double Tap levers.

Let’s take a moment to think about who the SRAM Rival components/groupset is aimed at. Would I be wrong in suggesting that it is at the lower/mid end of the groupset spectrum? For someone on a budget starting out? As fitness and ability levels improve, they may also start to consider replacing and upgrading components from the same manufacturer to ensure that everything works. That user may also have plans to build skills and knowledge in bicycle maintenance, buy tools for the job and have a sense of achievement in making the bike run smooth and quiet. If that’s the case, SRAM think about your user! Maybe I’m wrong and naive, maybe the market is the bike manufacturers looking to shift units and accessories.

Sometimes, a single speed is the only way to escape

The interface and experience of a product does not start and finish at the immediate touch points. For me, and I'm sure many of us out there, who take pride in maintaining and servicing our bikes. Well thought out placement of fasteners and clear access to mechanical features provide you with a sense of confidence that the team responsible for bringing that product to market have considered us, the market.  In the case of SRAM Rival (I don’t have knowledge of their other gruppos) this is far from the case. I have never had to refer to bike forums to workout how to change a gear cable. I have also never wasted 2 hours of a lovely sunny evening also fitting said gear cable. If I had recently started cycling and fell into the 'user profile' listed above, the experience would result in me never specifying SRAM components or considering bikes with their groupsets. 

Have Shimano closed the patent loop hole to such a degree that the competition are really struggling to improve upon STI component packaging? If this is the case, should we accept that the trade off with combined brake/shifting is the complexity of the actual components and how to maintain it? In short, no.  At one point last night I had an image of a very helpful and understanding bike shop mechanic looking forward to an early escape and heading out into the sun. Just at that point, in walks some chap, his rear mech cable has snapped and he really needs to get the bike fixed asap. Good luck and there goes today’s servicing profits!

I’m wondering what levels of training and product awareness are now in place for bike mechanics? I was recently chatting with a bike industry rep and he had an interesting take on the proliferation of Standards, he prefers Options. I can appreciate the marketing logic behind Options. If I ever have the opportunity to spec a custom bike with Options, where would I start? Note to self: One bike for all rule kicked into the long grass, I am now thinking about a new MTB. Hydro Electrical rear set up, cable front, or go 1 x whatever, 29+ boost rear end with 5" Full Fat hub spacing upfront, frame geo corrected for suspension for when I want to fit electro active bouncy forks that understand the terrain based on previous rides, GPS data and telemetry.....We have now entered the generation of syncing ourselves and bikes to apps. The developments are no doubt exciting and keeping the jockey wheels of the trade lubed. However, I am wondering what the total user experience and journey will be like? How long will that Option remain current before it is made obsolete by more ratios, mm/inches (don't you just love the unit of measurement wonders of the bike trade) and girth? If my recent experience is anything to go by, I sincerely hope that the current company making the e-generation headlines has got their act together.

Stay upright and connected