Posts Tagged ‘writing’

White Turbo failings.

January 19, 2011

Don’t buy a White turbo. Simple. I mean, that is mine up there after being on the bike for no more than two weeks. As you can see ( or maybe not because of the poor attempt at an arty iphone shot gone wrong ) it is Borderline killed, creased to bits with the white dye or whatever it is completely worn away at the sides and on the tail. It’s not like I have been hammering it either, I have been pootling about to and from work. My thighs are hench, I am not going to lie but not so hench that they physically chafe the sides of the saddle like sandpaper to a block of cheese.

What is worse is that this particular white turbo was straight up out of the box NOS from 1992 and now look at it, positively NOS. What are these guys using to colour the pleather anyway… Tipp-ex? Chalk? Milk? Whatever it is, it’s crap.

Mind you, this saddle does have a lot of charm in it’s current state with it’s used look and I suppose it is also perched on top of something that is as far from a show bike as can be. It is also probably the comfiest saddle I have used ( sans bibs ) so I can forgive a little for that, that said I am used to a collapsed flite and also a Regal ( best looking saddle IMO but hard as Tyson, riding a Regal is like cycling with a brick between your legs ). I suppose I just wish this Turbo had lasted a little longer, so all I am saying is: if you want a white saddle that will remain white for longer than 2 weeks. Don’t buy a turbo.

That is all.

Spinwell in Le Francais GQ.

December 19, 2010

Last Friday I had a pleasant surprise, by way of a January 2011 issue of Le Francais GQ magazine landing on my doormat at 9:15 in the morning. I flicked through it and straight to the L’Eroica piece. My pal Matthew Sparkes, tash and all on one page and a few of my words on the other. Buzzing!

Fancy a read? Head over to the Rock n Rollin’ Cycling team for hi-res scans!

Stall Holder Pass.

December 3, 2010

We headed up to the ‘tradesman’ entrance where the flurry of smug faces with badges on chests that read ‘stall holder’ entered empty handed and exited with frames slung over shoulders. Each time I turn up to a cycle jumble – normally an hour or so before official opening and for reasons I still do not know – I can’t help but look on in absolute envy at these men who trade goods before the curtain goes up.

One morning, this morning, the early rise had paid off. As my partner and I stood, watching the line of items enter and exit the building like leaves carried by an army of ants, there was an opportune gap. The man who had been standing there, guarding the door had gone for his flask of tea. My girl, now standing beyond the golden threshold gestures at me to enter also, me, being a softy, I shake my head from side to side, she grabbed my hand and pulled me along behind her. I was in and it was 8.30am, not the 10am advertised on the flyer, and all thanks to the wife.

Did I manage to grab the vintage cycling bargain of the century? Nope, not really. I actually spent 50p. Right before we were escorted from the beige leisure centre and consequently shamed by the stern organiser, I managed to pick up one of my most treasured possessions today; A book, the 1979 published TI Raleigh story, 52 pages of printed wonder and all featuring the magnificently dominant TI Raleigh team of the 70s. My favourite. Now, having been read, and the pictures ogled it now sits proudly on my bookshelf.

I recently visited Tuscany for Le Coq Sportif’s L’Eroica and, while I was there to ride the race, I was mostly looking forward to the jumble. I wanted to see how the Italians do things and, well, it was mostly the same as here in the U.K but in another language, and outdoors, and hot, with more good stuff. I wandered around, a few paper Euros in my pocket, eyeing up Delta brakes, boxed gruppos and complete bikes dripping in Campagnolo but I found myself, after a few rounds, settling at one stall.

He had, as well as the obligatory sea of componentry, a large and fruitful selection of golden era magazines, badges, bunting, stickers, catalogues, mascots and postcards. Dandy. He wore an oil stained blue jumper, sleeves rolled up, with grey hair and chunky fingers and he chatted with his apple-eating friend. I leafed through a section of Pink Cyclisme cards. On the cover, Maertens, Thévenet, Poulidor, Hinault, to name but a few and all with penned signatures. I pick them up and enquired as to the price of said items. Then, after a lesson, shouted in Italian and pointed out with sausage fingers about the greatest cyclists of all time we agreed on €1 each. I bought ten.

I love a cycle jumble, me, I think they are great. All of that goodness under one roof, the hardware going for an asking price and not to the highest bidder, where you can handle the items and not just be reliant on jpegs on screens, the folks you meet have knowledge and enthusiasm dribbling off of their tongues and relish any opportunity to inform you of the origin of any item sat on their wooden wallpaper pasting table, you can slice their delight with a knife. It is also a social gathering where friends meet, you’ll most likely come across many unmanned stalls as Barry will be over there chatting with Pete. Unfortunately for me there won’t be one around these parts for a good few months as they only seem to spring up in the warmer months, but I suppose that leaves me with plenty of time to garner one of those ‘stall holder’ passes.

King Engers.

November 1, 2010

At exactly 9:00 am the great guru of speed sport launched into ride to define a career, astride a purpose built TT machine this aging fighter with the rock star persona strained every sinew as he pushed forward from the start line. Ahead lay 25 miles of testing… Schooled by two decades of competition Alf would have quickly fallen into his race stride, not a gentle roll, or even a head down hard effort, the very nature of a 25 mile TT demands nothing short of maximum performance at every level, mental, physical, mechanical…never has the old saying ‘when the flag drops the bullshit stops’ been so appropriate.
Words by Gordon Hayes.

A seriously good read, about Alf Engers and his record breaking 49:24 twenty five mile TT.

Go check it out here.

Spinwell visits Reynolds.

October 19, 2010

Think of Reynolds and most will instantly think of 531, the tube of choice for racing bikes over countless years and not to mention the numerous tour wins that were gained aboard this cro-moly steel pipe. Since 1958 up until the modern day, the Reynolds butted tubeset has dominated the roads, Anquetil, Merckx, and Hinault all used Reynolds exclusively in their Tour victories. Now there’s an accolade.

I was recently lucky enough to be offered a bit of time to walk around the Reynolds factory and to have a quick chat with the MD about all things Reynolds and what came clear at my 45 minute mini tour was that Reynolds are still as passionate about the metal tube as they have always been. I may sound surprised at this but I really was, I honestly thought I’d be greeted by super high tech billion pound machines churning out carbon for motorbikes but what I actually saw looked like it hadn’t changed since Reynolds began in 1898. (more…)

Spinwell for Road.cc.

October 18, 2010

I wrote some words about my recent trip to L’Eroica for road.cc and the piece has just gone live! So if you fancy a read about the perils of riding along wet chalk, go take a peep.

L’Eroica, meaning ‘The Heroic’ is a race held every year in Tuscany, giving up to 3000 like minded, fanatical individuals the chance to ride and race on the ‘Strada Bianche’, the famous white gravel roads of Chianti and to spend two days wallowing in pure cycling nostalgia. In true heroic style only pre-87 bikes are allowed. So there are no auto-indexing gears – this is golden era cycling where shifters are mounted on the down tube, where tubular tyres are also favoured, alongside chrome, cloth bar tape, solid colour paintwork and water bottle holders that attach at the front and where the woolen jersey reigns. Any man interested in the traditions of the Italian cycle race can certainly get his fill here.

Read the rest.

The Hemingway Way.

September 28, 2010

I just got back from a fishing trip in Snowdonia and while the car journey through the Welsh valleys was beautiful and at times spellbinding, I simply wanted to be on my bike because as Hemingway rightly wrote:

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.

Notes from Haute-Savoie.

September 6, 2010

18 hours later and after 800 miles in a car with 4 other men we finally arrived at our destination, France’s beautiful region of Haute-Savoie, merely a stones throw away from Switzerland’s Western border.

We located our campsite on the edge of lake Annecy and quickly set up our living quarters, because despite our total lack of sleep for the past day or so we were all very eager to get out on our bikes. No time for rest.

Problem. Whilst reversing a fully laden car out of it’s parking space, Hardy touched a car to the rear which in-turn managed to pull Joe’s rear wheel out of true, quite badly. No problem. A trip to LocationVélo on the west side of Annecy lake meant we could get the wheel repaired ready for tomorrow.

We now have 5 bikes between but only 4 complete sets of wheels. So, rather graciously, Hardy, still extremely tired after our mammoth drive offered to lend Joe his wheels for day one’s riding agenda – A climb of Col de la Forclaz. This would also be myself, Kieran and Joe’s re-uniting of this, the very steep and very tough 12km long Col de la Forclaz, our most favourite local col.

No sleep for over 24 hours had taken it’s toll on me. I had to stop half way up a 14% section of the climb, riding in the hot midday sun I was utterly spent. Physically and mentally drained I lay down on a grass verge at the side of the road, jersey fully unzipped and helmet strewn to the side. I needed to cool down, I felt unwell. Water down my throat and energy gels in my system I finished this leafy climb with the others and at the top we were rewarded traditionally with Beers, Coke and an unforgettable view of the lake.

We Descend the Forclaz and head around the west side of the lake to pick up Joe’s wheel. We chat with the proprietor a while, he talks of “clipping into the wind” and the descent of the Semnoz. We finish up and head back to camp to rest and more importantly to eat. Tonight’s meal will be well deserved.

My mind is on Tomorrow. To ascend Montagne du Semnoz via the Col de Leschaux up to Crét de Chatillon. This route had me shook. Last year I remember I struggled, I had consumed all my food and emptied all the contents of my Bidons into my mouth. I was hungry and thirsty and my shoes were made of Lead. Not again.

Eggs scrambled, bread toasted and coffee brewed we sat down and ate breakfast ready for our day ahead.  Hardy and Army ( Adam ) had done a stellar job on the eggs. Cooked perfectly with parsley and bacon, these two boys have set us up and furthermore we now have a full team for today’s riding as Joe’s wheels are back, spinning straight and round. And then (as it was intended) there were five.

No bonkage this time but still not loving climbing this particular ascent, especially after Joe, Hardy and Army had dropped Kieran and I like banana skins on the road. They were gone and I was demoralised. Remind me, why do I do this? I ask myself as I solemnly climbed this baron, silent landscape. I could not answer but there was the Crét so I dug in and got up to be greeted by the happy, salty faces of four friends, a plate of Frites and a cold glass of Coke.

The best thing about the Crét de Chatillon is the descent, the climb is awful, I do not like the terrain but the descent, now that, I love. It starts open with beautiful vistas of Mont Blanc and the ranges out to the East and soon after you go over the highest point of the mountain pass, you immediately find yourself travelling at speeds of up to 60kmh through dense forest. The scenery changes quickly like a natural kaleidoscope of colours green, shadows hurtle past on the tarmac beneath as if one were stationary, my nose exhales breath of excitement and euphoria and in exchange inhales the smell of pine and cool mountain air, a perfect trade. Corners are banked, cars are sparse and apart from the odd mountain cow we are left to trickle down the side of La Semnoz, alone and for what seemed like an eternity. Wheels in motion, man and machine in perfect harmony with these alien surroundings. This place to me is like Heaven.

Fig rolls don’t go down, energy gels taste like shit and that night, Hardy’s Pasta Carbonara with Lemon was to my palette like what a gold medal is to a champion.

The sun rises behind us from over the mountains. It get’s warmer. Map unfolded, we plot a route East heading to the Col de la Croix Fry and Col des Aravis. We seem anxious, these mountains we have never seen and the lines on the map indicate some suffering at 2pm.

We leave Veyrier-du-lac and head up over the bump of a Col du Bluffy. Instantly to your right the precious view of Lac D’Annecy becomes obscured by the sight of La Tournette and Dent du Cruet. Covered in trees growing slanted on their sides these two brother hills have chalky peaks piercing their green coats like shark fins through water. We continue forward, pushing on pedals up the D909 to Thonês and Manigod and begin our long ascent up the Col de la Croix-Fry.

Despite the sun on the back of my neck my cap remains forward, visor directed towards the ground so I can’t see too far ahead. I see what looks like my cat Banton playing in the grass to my right , my concentration is broken and I feel the pain in my legs again, I ask myself the question. Finally I arrive at the top where I join my friends in eating our previously  made sandwiches containing  a fine slice of jambon and grated Comté fromage. I am getting cold, sitting here in sweat sodden layers, I remove my jersey and put it out to dry next to our table. Eating has made me feel better especially being as it wasn’t another fig roll. We check the map, refill our bidons at the restaurant and get moving towards the Col des Aravis.

After a short decent we meet the base of the Aravis. Stowaways go folded back into jersey pockets and it’s down to business, but business it was not as we had done all of the hard work on the previous climb. Just a few grassy hairpins with white peaks high to my left and to my right and we had bagged another.

I attempt to stretch my legs, cramp. We keep going, dissapearing off the horizon into the valley, one by one we traverse down the mountain into the gorge below. It flattens out a little and I pull over. There are walls of rock cascading up into the sky either side of us and down to my right in the ravine I see the clearest water flowing around massive diagonal shards of slate that look like they had been dropped there just seconds before. I don’t know where I am but right now I don’t care.

What followed was some of the most exhillirating riding I have ever encountered, the Gorges de L’Arondine, the D909 Southbound is otherworldly, like that of a computer game. Space invaders or Mario Kart. Cornering. I hear the sound of running water above and below. A waterfall, we are inside it, yet dry. Magnificent.  I have helium in my tyres. Beside me is Adam, behind is Joe, Kieran and Hardy and together we descent slightly, riding maximum to the mouth of the ravine towards Ugine, faverge, Doussard, Talloires and finally Menthon saint-Bernard and home to Veyrier-du-lac.

Tired and wired I go into the lake for the first time to soothe my legs. Tonight we pay for dinner and I’m having the Steak Haché. Kieran forgot his comb, he uses a fork and we realise our camp is a mess. Tomorrow we must clean up, before we drive South to the Giant.
To be continued.

Such an amazing time had by all, I can recommend this region to everyone interested in riding on the continent, it’s quite a journey but so, so worth it.

More photographs and my account of climbing the beastly Galibier up soon.

Essential Reading.

April 28, 2010

The second volume in the series of Rapha Guides, the Great Road Climbs of the Southern Alps continues our journey along the roads and cols of Europe. Written by Graeme Fife with the photography of Pete Drinkell, the book captures the beauty and intrigue of the southern regions of the Alps, exploring climbs and roads steeped in the history of road racing and beyond.

Moving from the Col d’Izoard, close to the French-Italian border and over the mighty Cime de la Bonette, the book then encounters Mont Ventoux in Provence, a trip across the border to Italy and then through the central southern Alps to finish on the Riviera.

As well as full bleed, double-page images, the book features hand-illustrated maps and col profiles. Fife’s narrative, crafted with lashings of historical references, cultural observations and road racing snapshots is matched by the powerful photography of Drinkell.

Yes please, I’ll certainly go for one of these.
swoop here.

The League of Cycling Purity.

April 26, 2010

Whilst hunting around for information on my latest bicycle acquisition I stumbled upon this quite amusing piece of writing:

Rules about bicycles

The frame must be of steel, lugged or fillet brazed.

Except for the first circle, wheels must be 27”, sprint rims, or (since 1997), 700c.

Components must be approved by the club. Generally this means they should be steel and of english manufacture. Now that there are very few bicycle parts made in the UK, members are faced with the choice of making their own from lumps of metal or using European components. Some Japanese parts are permitted, but very few and definitely no post 1985 Shimano.

All bearings must cup and cone ball bearings, with the balls loose and without cages.

Where deraillier gears are used, the control levers must be mounted on the down tube. After a fierce, and, at times, violent, internal debate in 1978 it was decided that it doesn’t really matter whether the cables are run over or under the bottom bracket.

Where hub gears are used, the control lever should be on the top tube. Handlebar or stem mounted levers are permitted but frowned upon and their use prevents the member from being elected to any of the great offices of the League. The control cable must be bare for the major part of its run, passing over a metal pulley mounted by a clip fixed near the top of the seat tube.

Pedals may be either rubber block or rat-trap type. Toeclips are permitted. They must be of steel, either chromium plated or stainless. Toe straps must be of leather, except for members undertaking jungle expeditions in the tropics, where since 1986 rot-proof nylon may be used. They may only be fitted after crossing the Tropic.

Clipless pedals are not permitted. The LCP is aware of the theoretical biomechanical efficiency gains that result from the centre of the pedal spindle passing through the ball of the foot. Some thought that the 1982 Shimano crank with this feature was a good idea, if flimsily executed. All agreed that is was a better idea than the one known previous experiment in this area, when in 1923 K.V. Brahhamlad-Vinkerton MA (Cantab.) made holes in his feet to accept the pedal spindles. Unfortunately, his garden shed was not as clean as might be desired for performing a major surgical procedure, and gangrene set in. He survived, but lost both feet. After his release from the Bethnal Asylum, he was fitted with artificial feet and continued his cycling, winning the League’s most improved rider trophy in 1933. Needless to say, his prosthetic feet had holes for the pedal spindles. K.V. Brahhamlad-Vinkerton was killed in action in 1944.

Read the rest of the rules of the LCP right here… and you really should too!

Rouleur 17.

April 6, 2010

It’s fair to say that Rouleur, since I discovered it is the only magazine that I can manage to read with the utmost of interest, cover to cover without being bored and I have no doubt that issue 17 ( out now ) will be the same.

Swoop yours here.
BTW. Have you seen how much issue No.1 is fetching these days? This one went for an astonishing £113!

Featuring in Embrocation.

March 24, 2010

So, thanks to my good friend Joseph I managed to get some of my work into issue 5 of the fantastic magazine called Embrocation. Page 26 features two of my photographs which serve to enlighten the words of Joe himself.

It’s a short piece, on the strangeness of driving ( yes driving, not cycling ) over two of southern France’s monster Cols: the Galibier and the Telegraphe. We drove over these beasts last year on our way from Annecy ( our spiritual home ) to do our final climb – Alpe D’Huez. One word on the Galibier – Baron. That said we had nothing but good times and this year we don’t drive them, we ride.

Nice work Joe and infinite big ups.

See more at Embrocation.

Budget.

March 15, 2010

it’s definitely a budget thing, because all of us have financial restrictions, whatever those might be; when it comes to choosing a new bicycle, there’s always a notional amount beyond which it is not wise to go, a limit either self-imposed, or imposed upon us by a partner who really can’t see why it is necessary to own more than one bicycle. just as an aside, I do have a certain sympathy with this, because it cannot be denied that the colnago has been sorely neglected since the cielo turned up (though I have told it that it is still loved as much as ever). I can only ride one at a time, review machines notwithstanding, and i figure most riders are the same, though I can see exceptions being made for those who need both road and cyclocross, and maybe mountain bikes, though i’m inclined to discount the latter option. just because I can.

An excerpt taken from the Washing machine post’s recent piece on the differences between cheaper and more expensive racing bicycle purchases. To spend more or to spend less?

A real interesting read. More here.

To Renovate…

February 22, 2010

Or not to renovate? That is the question.

You see, my bicycle, lovely as it is, just doesn’t have the lustre it had 34 years ago when it was wheeled out of the Ilkeston cycle works. The blemishes it has dotted all over it mar it’s appeal to some degree and it is for that very reason I have this mental tussle.

But why would you want to paint out all of that history? Sure it has a few scratches here and there but those scratches allude to it’s racing career and it’s time before me and to paint it would seem like I would be erasing it all. Like the hypnotist in the 2003 film Oldboy removing Dae-Su’s memory for the better. Or is it actually for the better? A friend recently said it would be “like buying the Mona Lisa and having her smile adjusted because you liked it better that way”.

That said, the owner of the previously mentioned Mona Lisa painting would be the owner so that individual could do with that paining as they saw fit. Right?

Wrong. A part of me believes that something of history, a classic item ( so long as it is not completely and utterly in need of renovation with blemishes that are of detriment to itself ) should not be tampered with and the possessor of such an item has somewhat of a responsibility of ensuring this. If not for the sake of him/herself then for the sake of the future because once that original paint and original decals are removed, they are gone, for eternity.

But then would a renovation not become part of the frame’s history in itself or would it devalue the item in another 34 years when it is discovered that the frame’s enamel jacket is less like a tube television and more like 30″ plasma screen? In viewing terms the tube worked just fine, showed TV programs, videos no problem but now we need plasma because it ‘looks’ better.

I think if I were to paint my 1976 Raleigh track frame ( SB numbered 969 ) I would completely regret it. It would ‘look’ better, I know it would but I would feel like I have wronged the earth in some way, like I had just removed a facet of it’s workings. I would also ( knowing my love for tradition ) grow to dislike the bicycle and end up selling it. This because in my eyes without it’s o.g jacket it would just be like most other resprayed professional racing frames out there: Void of any sort of credibilty of racing history or heritage.

And is racing history and heritage not the very reason we all love these classic, vintage bicycles in the first place?

Indeed it is and for that reason my bicycle, as it stands gets to live another day in it’s original condition. So like the very 19th century wooden framed windows that I peer out of on this cloudy day, history remains.

Europe.

November 9, 2009

If you love cycling, you love Europe, even if you don’t understand it.

It’s interesting because I know there’s a global audience likely reading this, and for many it might be so obvious that it seems hardly worth writing about. Still, growing up on the west coast of the U.S., the monuments, riders and traditions of this sport that I love seemed as foreign as the languages that are spoken.

Separated by the Atlantic, there are still countless numbers of cyclists who may never make it to Arenberg, Galibier, the Mortirolo, or the infamous Alpe d’Huez, but that doesn’t make it any less inspirational. In fact, it seems that the draw is almost more powerful because of the distance. The places and heroes of cycling predominantly still have names that many of can’t completely pronounce properly.

We are proud when “our guys” succeed “over there”—Lance, Andy, George, Greg—but I’d venture to say we might be more enthralled by video like these of Boonen and the Six Day because we can’t fully understand it. We just know it’s beautiful.

Lovely words from Slate Olson at Rapha.

Mash in Embrocation.

November 9, 2009

emb6-550x421

Spotted on my RSS reader this morning was a great write up from Mr Chow of Mash’s recent epic journey of the Tour of California. Brilliant, go read it.

“I Miss My Roadbike” –While it’s debatable the need of Campagnolo’s addition of an eleventh speed, 1 gear can (sometimes) leave a person in want of (just a little) more. A ‘1′ here represents, “The legs, body, mind and soul are in accord; all things are operating perfectly and are in concert with one another, the universe and my bike –the track bike is a marvelous machine and I am its master.” While, a ‘10′ represents, “I swear off all single-digit integers and things containing, made with, representative of, or otherwise related to anything with a singular unit of measure –single speeds, a singular-vision to finish the Tour of California on a track bike, etc.”

Via Embrocation.

Rouleur.

September 1, 2009

Rouleur13BoxSet

Everybody’s favourite magazine just done come out as a box set.

The exclusive Rouleur box set contains every single issue of Rouleur, from issue one to issue thirteen, in a beautiful box designed and produced for the set.

Good news for anyone looking for issue one then as I hear it goes for some good cash nowadays!

Swoop.

Fair weather riders overt your eyes

December 8, 2008

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Some might say that riding a brakeless track bike in the rain would be no fun, maybe dangerous, wreckless even. Well yes I guess it is dangerous and wreckless to a degree but I am pretty confident! ( touches wood ) However the fun ( given you have a tailwind or no wind at all ) is all there.

I left work on corporation street at 7.15pm tonight and I quite possibly had the best commute home I have ever had during the winter, the water on the roads gives you mad low rolling resistance which equals SPEED and might I add that said water on the roads, that gives you low resistance and SPEED, also gives you the unquestionable permission to skid for the sheer hell of it. It was like being 12 years old, riding my first mountain bike…going as fast as my legs could take me, off the road onto my pals gravel filled driveway. Proceeding to grip the left brake lever as hard as a fat kid would grip a stick of Blackpool rock, subsequently engaging the rear brake caliper creating a semi circle in my mate’s drive (made by a portion of my back tyre), that would perhaps look at home on a football pitch – You can’t but help it.

So tonight I pull up to the lights, jam the back wheel, come up to a corner, jam again and in-between absolutely mash on the pedals. I got a bit wet but its all good, my jacket kept my upper bits warm, my bobbled woolly ski hat kept my dome warm and my 10% spandex black jeans and canvas trainers kept my lower half… well… lets just say clammy.

Brakeless? easy, don’t stop, just go around ( touches wood again… ).

My quickest cycle home to date. Personal Best anyone?
All I am saying is tomorrow come rain or shine I am on the bike, as long as its not windy! Now that’s a whole other story.


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