Sunday, 2 December 2018

Paul Sherwen

Saddened to hear the news of Paul Sherwen. I grew up listening to and watching Paul and Phil commenting on the Channel 4 coverage of the TDF.

I had the opportunity to meet Paul and Phil many, many years ago. They were both very generous with their time and signed my autograph book. It was an amazing experience for a young lad with an unhealthy obsession for cycling.  

Thanks for the memories and the introduction to the wonderful sport of cycling.

Wherever you are Paul, Stay Upright

Sunday, 7 October 2018


It's currently raining, well let's say it is chucking it doon! A most unwelcome contrast to the wonderful crisp autumnal day that was enjoyed yesterday. During yesterday's ride I was contemplating tyres and what to fit for winter. It was at this point that I started to notice my thoughts wondering off to yet more reviewing of online reviews. Time would also be allocated to discussing the pros, cons and of course, price. For some reason, possibly due to a memory of Sean Kelly describing his most cherished Paris Roubaix win, the picture below was recalled from my memory banks.  

Note the cable routing, some fancy gear integration going on
The picture above is in stark contrast to the levels of diversification and marketing hype that we are currently experiencing in so many fields of life. I don't think I'm alone in these thoughts. And it wouldn't be too ridiculous of me to state that we are living in unprecedented times of constant product launches and the associated sense of flux. Welcome to Generation Beta. The online assault of mass consumerism has well and truly taken over. The Guffers can't complain too much. Where would this outlet be if it wasn't for the tools and technologies that we now take for granted? 

The image in question is from the 1984 Paris Roubaix. Judging from the rather lovely BMW moto, the notion that you must have all terrain tyres to ride on cobbles covered in mud and plough the edges of fields, had really yet to take a grip of the motorcycling world. BMW launched their Gelände/Straße range to the public in 1980. Hubert Auriol and his BMW R80G/S won that other famous and brutally challenging race that used to start from Paris in 1981. 

He did Stay upright
The rider of that moto and pillion had a level of skill and balance that most of us can only dream about. Cor Vos, the Dutch Photographer responsible for the shot isn't any different. The photographers were shooting on film. No immediate opportunity to review images on a digital screen or viewfinder. The positivity of the commissioning picture editors who believed in their skill. And, understood their ability to catch images that show the raw pain, emotion and eventual glory of the riders would be proven when the negatives arrived. What was the choice of tyres, gears, rim width, frame compliance, bar drop etc for the riders in the peloton? It's very evident that it was limited. 

The riders on the velos had their moment in glory. Alas, that wasn't to be found sprinting for the win in the velodrome at Roubaix. Sean Kelly won his first Paris Roubaix that year. If it was Alain Bondue or Gregor Braun, we may be listening to either of their voices and thoughts being beamed through multiple digital communication protocols. 

Stay upright

Thursday, 27 September 2018

just because...

Spotting this rig earlier today brought back memories. It didn't take long to spot the Columbus SLX sticker, a dream machine for a pre-teen in the mid Eighties.

There is probably some reference on this blog to my proper first road bike. It was lovely deep blue Cougar Columbus SL. The frame size followed the parent logic of buy a larger frame and he will grow into it. I never did quite make it to over 6ft!  

Stay upright

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Spend more buy less part 2

They did finally dry out
The Goodwood Revival, the annual festival of the halcyon days of racing, fashion and glamour is well and truly over for another year. I've been lucky to go to Revival on a few occasions. Unfortunately, the majority of last year's Revival was a wash out. Those of us under canvas suffered from very poor facilities. The Duke of Richmond obviously can't control the weather, but most of us came to the conclusion that his team could have worked harder prior to and during the Revival. The lack of shelter around the track added to the dejected looks of many revivalists that had put so much time, effort and expense into their get up and weekend.  This is not to say that it wasn't fun. 'Over the road' was the place to escape the frequent downpours, trudge through the mud and enjoy a tonic or two. 

The racing was fierce and probably benefited from the wet and slippery conditions on track. Watching classic sport cars worth millions all crossed up and drifting through the bends is a sight to behold. The wonderful noise of a highly tuned racing engine being pushed to the max and beyond as wheels spin and revs rise in the futile search for grip is an aural assault.  The smell of racing engines, Castrol R mixed with drizzle, or even better a drying track and you have a sensory delight. Thankfully, this year's weather was kinder and by all accounts, the 20th Anniversary looked like a spectacular weekend.

They also have an enviable history with Auto world
Recent years have been landmarks for a number of auto manufacturers, including Ferrari, Porsche and Lotus. They are all enjoying the spoils of being Septuagenarians with their latest and greatest making the news and featured in the mags and web. One company that has links with some of the great marques and is older than most is Campagnolo. If you ever have the opportunity to read about Valentino Campagnolo, his history in developing manufacturing techniques that resulted in Campagnolo working with the greatest marques is well worth the time. For me, Campagnolo magnesium car racing wheels are the some of the most pleasing castings to behold. The geometry and patterns are enhanced by delicate, sculptural casting details. These not only visually suggest that those responsible for the components fully embraced the value of design engineering, but also considered aesthetics to be an integral part of the development process. There are even Campag parts in space. NASA doesn't come calling if you are not good enough. If you happen to be drinking a glass of vino locale, please raise a glass to Valentino's father Tullio and Campagnolo founder, he invented the self-centering corkscrew in 1966.

if you go down to the pits today....
Part 1 of this post noted that the classic auto market is showing signs that there is more value in survivor cars than those that have been restored to an incredibly high level of finish. In a number of cases, the finished level of restored cars is better than when it left the factory. Concours d'elegance winners and 100 point cars will undoubtedly hold their appeal and value. There are devices used to check the level of paint, verify the originality and if any resprays have been applied. Paint finishes that replicate the 'orange peel' of the factory finish can be specified. If you want to keep the real deal under lock and key and have the wherewithal, just speak to a growing number of specialists that will build you a tool-room copy. How many of the cars racing during the commonly billed  'world's most valuabe race' at Goodwood are original will continue to be a loaded question. Given the chance, I'd happily go for a PurSang Alfa Romeo 8C.

It's obvious that racing takes its tole on the kit. Parts will be changed, panels will be reshaped and rules and regulations will enforce alterations during the car's existence. A classic car with a racing history and an owner/s that wants to keep campaigning will require continuous investment. Nick Mason's approach with his Ferrari 250GTO is welcome; the more it races, the more valuable it becomes. For the select few, Classic Car Racing is speculation to accumulation. Then again, the recent news stories about JD Classics are worth paying attention to.

Where does all this talk of classic autos (can't forget the wonderful motos) link in with bicycles? My experience of Goodwood also benefited from a great display of cycles and associated vehicles to feast upon. Classic names from classic times. The prices demonstrated that the market and appetite for classic bicycles is far from slowing down. If you are in the market, the growing number of specialists that have built their reputation on knowledge and attention to detail is the place to start. I find myself looking Velow and Pedal Pedlar, not a bad place to spend a few minutes and escape into dreams and ambitions of old......

a fair mix of interesting parts

The tyres should last a few laps
I recently had a chance to buy back my old Ciocc Columbus SL. A bike of real beauty, classic lines, elegant tubes and lugs of silversmithing quality. The paint was deep Rosso Red coat finished with black decals and yellow piping. Chrome forks, chainstay and dropouts were the metallic toppings of what was and still is a beautiful bike. Why didn't I buy? The fly in the ointment was the mix of Campag and Shimano. When I sold the Ciocc, I was at the transition point in my component manufacturer of choice. If the new owner had fitted a period correct Campag or Shimano gruppo, I would have probably gone for it. The time required to source the appropriate parts would be an issue. The cost could be offset by selling the other parts. I'll probably regret not buying it, but I've decided to move on. Not only from spending more time riding bikes on the roads, but also from spending more on kit that will end up not being used. Add to that, a project list that isn't getting any shorter, but at least the patina of those projects is being allowed to develop.

Stay upright

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Spend more, buy less part 1

I was discussing the value of patina with a few like-minded fellows recently and was reminded of an article written by Design Critic and Aesthete, the venerable Stephen Bayley. In the article he refers to cortification, a term archaeologists use for the surface effects of aging. Bayley uses this term to explain his annoyance of classic car owners and markets to over restore and basically destroy the authenticity of the vehicle. He continues to explain, that for him, texture is an essential aesthetic attribute of anything. The market share for those that want their cars warts and all is on the rise. Languishing in the knowledge that their pride and joy has been allowed to survive, age and mature gracefully (or hopefully disgracefully and thrashed around tracks, sprints, hill climbs etc). The problem is that this market is also becoming somewhat ridiculous with stories of ‘If it’s a one owner car covered in dust and found in a dilapidated state in a rat infested barn it will be worth more.'

Would that notion be transferable to bikes? If we use the cyclist 101 as a benchmark you will not be welcome with the chain gang on the Sunday blast with an unloved, oliy rag of a road machine. What if you ride the muddy trails? There is more than a sporting chance that a clean bike will end up in few digs and jibes – ‘You wash that more than ride it!’ I’ve always had a perverse pleasure in washing my bikes. The time to engage in a task with a set outcome, switch off from what else is going on and escape. The opportunity to check the bike over and carry out a few adjustments on a clean bike is a simple pleasure. And, let’s not forget the all-important standing back, admiring your bike with a beer (or tipple of choice) in hand. Bliss.

Sticking with Design for a moment, there's been a considerable amount of web traffic dedicated to the eagerly awaited Gary Hustwit film on Dieter Rams. The furniture that Rams designed for Vitsoe is an excellent example of company that produces products that are more about a sense of ownership (possibly custodianship) based on the fact that there is mutual trust between the suppliers, manufactures, owners and users of their products. The title of this piece has unashamedly been inspired from Vitsoe's message and philosophy.

Those that have been reading the blog (thankyou!) may have noticed that I'd set a myself a challenge of changing the stable. Selling off parts, frames, bikes etc with aim of reducing the quiver to three bikes – 1x mtb, 1x road/cross, 1x adventure. Hold that thought, let's add a 1x classic. I’ve decided to keep my Lemond Alpe D’Huez. The plan is to build it up with the leftovers from my sorely missed Litespeed. The ingredients making up the leftovers include Dura Ace, Thomson, Easton, Mavic and Fizik. This pre-enjoyed spec certainly has the makings of a nice bike that will no doubt enjoy a new lease of life.  At one point I was contemplating sending the Lemond away for respray. The decals are damaged, there is evidence of surface rust at the dropouts and more than a fair share of flaking paint on the garage floor. This is when cortification came back into my head. Why bother with a new coat!? Treat the frame to some Waxoil and keep it as Mr Lemond intended. Look and feel those imperfections and marks and escape back to memories of the journeys that have been experienced. Whether it was the Paris-Roubaix, a week long Whisky fuelled trip in the Outer Hebrides or chasing the other American with a TdF history when he descended upon the good buddies of Paisley. You begin to appreciate the marks, scratches and bumps. Essentially, the beauty of those earned features are there to be enjoyed. 

One item of my biking paraphernalia that has been used everyday and accompanied me on more journeys than anyone or anything that I know is my Ortlieb Sling-it Bag. There is a post from 3 years ago that covers the quality and thought that went into designing and manufacturing this most excellent product. It truly is a wonderful piece of kit, but one, which also requires a few repairs. If you look closely at the pic below you will see some frayed and damaged seams. I have yet to send the bag back to Ortlieb and take advantage of their repair policy, the reason being that I continue to use it.

In a world of mass consumerism, it is not at all surprising that there aren’t nearly enough companies offering this type of service. Far too many companies succeed in persuading us that last years model wasn’t actually as good as it could have been and use some nicely executed marketing tricks to ensure that we believe the hype. The early adopters and return customers will more than likely continue to be happier buying their latest and greatest. Maybe they can inform us if this year’s offering is any better than last? Time will tell and here’s why I’m beginning to spend more time sourcing the long-term test.  I don’t mean 6 months of using a product that has been kindly supplied for the testers enjoyment and subsequent praise.

I received a Trakke Mule Mk2 as a birthday present a few years back. This bag has essentially replaced the Ortlieb. It is probably time for a review. However, I’m going to hold off for another year or two and leave you with these thoughts: The bag is designed to last and if required, Trakke do offer a repair service. I’m hopeful that it will be many years until that call will have to be made. Just like the Ortlieb, little reminders of travels and experiences continue to make their appearance through the age and marks of the waxed cotton. The buckles and fasteners  continue to work with the straps and I’ve come to realise that on more than one occasion I’ve forgotten my keys! 

Stay upright

Friday, 24 August 2018


There are people who understand lines. There are people who make lines into something that is beautiful. And, there are people who see the brilliance and want others to appreciate it. The wonderful and colourful collaboration between rapha and Ridley Scott Associates incorporates a 'variety' of lines. Dario Pegoretti was one of the best. If you have yet to see it, pour a Grapa and enjoy.

Wherever you are Dario, stay upright

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Treacherous conditions suit Trentin

In an epic of display of how to Stay Upright, Italy's Matteo Trentin has won the 2018 European Road Race Championship in Glasgow.

With an air temp hovering around 14c, an unforgiving and undulating course of sodden road surfaces, tight bends and directional changes, the greasy conditions were far from ideal. The riders provided a stunning spectacle of riding technique and bravery. The pace, motion and noise of a peleton hurtling through a city in these conditions is a visceral experience. 

Towards the end of the race, isolated dry sections started to appear but riders faces covered in grime from their multiple tours of Glasgow told the real story. It was a tough and treacherous day to be in the saddle. 

Well done to all involved with the Euro 2018 Championships.

Stay upright