Archive for the ‘armchair’ Category

Happy New Year

So, it’s 12th January.



And it’s wet out. Although I guess we’ve had worse.

A brief update on my cycling:

  • I’m not doing a lot of riding right now. I resolved last year that I wouldn’t stress out about winter miles, and that I wouldn’t ride in icy conditions or pouring rain.
  • My weight is 11st 3. I feel pretty tubby, but actually this is 2-3 pounds lighter than I weighed in Jan 2010, and 6-9 pounds lighter than Jan 2009. I’m 6 pounds heavier than my target weight, but this will come off easily over the next few months.
  • I have been in the gym, not just on the spin bike, but hitting some weights, at least once a week since the start of November.

2011 plans:

  • I have the Puncheur on 6th March – the by now traditional early-season benchmark.
  • 12-19 March I’ll be in Girona for a cycling training camp with Millsy, Jonny and Simmo.
  • I’m signed up for the Tour of Wessex in late June, which promises to be a new (and tough) experience.

I don’t have any plans for a European sportive mission this summer. I couldn’t get enthusiastic about the two-part 2011 Étape du Tour – neither leg on its own offered as distinctive a challenge as La Marmotte, and signing up for both was too much money and too much holiday. However, the event is still very much on my list for the future. The Tour of Wessex is a big event on home turf, and for the moment that’s enough.

Other plans will hopefully involve an MTB expedition to Spain around Easter time – ‘stay tuned’, as they used to say during the 90s.

The Brooks England Blog

A pleasant lunch-time browse.

Check out the Brooks blog, a nicely-designed complement to their main website.

The retro leather-upholstered chap thing is not really my bag (yet?), but Brooks’ skilful marketing of an old-world product in modern times (through creative web publishing) is admirable.

Chasing Legends

I went to see a screening of Chasing Legends at the Empire Leicester Square last night with two of my long-time riding compadres Ewan and Millsy. Essentially it was a biopic of Team HTC Columbia during the 2009 Tour de France. This was the one with 6 Cav sprint wins, the big Jens Voigt faceplant (I can’t believe I had to watch it again), the Hincapie-Garmin blowout, and Contador getting his second overall victory.

The production was high quality – there was great rider-POV footage of fast sprints and especially the team time trial in Montpellier. Cav was the star of the show, and he came across well on camera. Phil Liggett, veteran of 30-something tours, was awesome. The highlight was possibly an interview with the old-timer (what was his name?) who finished 7th in 1950 having competed before the war, fought the Germans during the war, then returned to competitive cycling.

I could have done with seeing more footage of the mountain stages; but aside from Tony ‘Panzerwagen’ Martin’s perfomance on Mont Ventoux, HTC Columbia kept a low profile on the climbs. I enjoyed the comic banter between directeurs sportif Rolf Aldag and Brian Holm.

But if I experienced a few minor adrenaline wibbles during the 90 minute film, I bonked during the live Q&A. This was billed as the highlight of the evening – a live satellite broadcast beamed to screens across the country, Phil Liggett interviewing sprint legend Cav with support from the film’s director and the Chuckle Brothers Rolf and Brian.

I’m afraid it didn’t really work out. Liggett performed stoically in front of the blazing white lights of the O2 theatre; Rolf and Brian cracked a few jokes; the director contributed something or other – but we always came back to Cav. I actually rate Cav more highly than I used to, I think he’s cooler than everyone reckons – but the panel was crying out for the intelligent insight of a David Millar or a Michael Barry. We all sneaked out before the end.

I’d really love to see Rapha make a similar film using archive footage from classic Tours de France (1989 for example). Or perhaps a series of Tour Legends docs focussing on each member of the Club de Cinque: Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault, Indurain and Armstrong.

Life Cycles trailer

Life Cycles OFFICIAL Trailer from Life Cycles on Vimeo.

I recently bought a mountain bike, and soon I’m going to be shredding some mean-ass gnarly shit like the fine riders on this Life Cycles trailer. Watch me crash and burn.

Tour of Britain 2010

Photo: Joolze Dymond

On Constitution Hill, Swansea, stage 3. Photo: Joolze Dymond

I really enjoyed watching the highlights of this year’s Tour of Britain. The 8 stages saw plenty of aggressive racing, breakaways, bunch sprints and some impressive solo victories. Having 6-man teams (as opposed to perhaps 9-10 on the Tour de France) made it harder for one team to control the race, and resulted in more dynamic racing.

The queen stage was probably stage 3 into Swansea, which culminated in a win for eventual winner Michael Albasini up the steep cobbles of Constitution Hill – although my digibox picked that precise day to malfunction, so I missed it (thanks Virgin Media). Albasini held on to the yellow jersey thanks to some dogged defending by HTC, despite his own bout of ‘dysentery’ after the Swansea stage, and the team’s being reduced to 4 men mid-way through the Tour.

I’m looking forward to a potential sprint showdown in next year’s Tour de France, between former HTC teammates Mark Cavendish and André Griepel (aka The Gorilla) [Honestly, he’s an animal – even from the aerial footage of a bunch sprint you can spot his massive lower body]. Griepel, who I’d never heard of before, won 3 stages in the Tour of Britain, but has never ridden the Tour de France. Now Griepel moves to Omega-Pharma-Lotto, where he’ll be well placed for a head-to-head against Cav next summer.

Retro bikes – Marin Mount Vision

1999 Marin Mount Vision

1999 Marin Mount Vision.

Ross Peat sold off his Marin Mount Vision a couple of months ago. The former UYCC captain and recent energy-gel addict pleaded a ‘lack of space’ as the reason for sale in the ad – but clearly, the thing had to go.

Back in the day, Ross was the organisational lynchpin of the bike club. He was head honcho when I turned up in Goodricke carpark in October 1998 for my first ever ride, and was generally adept in and out of the saddle. To be honest, without him at the wheel, it’s hard to see how our motley crew would have gone riding at all. Always a calm head in a crisis, Ross was expert at weighing the benefits of riding versus, say, heading to the pub – faced with low-lying mist half a mile from the carpark, he knew when to bail.

When I first met him Ross was riding a burgundy-red Kona Explosif, a la this:

1995 Kona Explosif frame.

1995 Kona Explosif frame.

– a few models up from my old 1995 Lava Dome, and from the same classic Kona vintage. But the Explosif was stolen by some Tang Hall lowlife, and Ross was forced to purchase a new rig (after a suitable grieving period). Enter the Marin.

Clean lines: the Marin's pro flight-deck

Clean lines: the Marin's pro flight-deck.

At the time, the Marin Mount Vision was high-end cross-country full-suspension, and fairly eye-catching thanks to its M-shaped frame geometry and girder-like yellow swingarm. Furthermore it was XTR-equipped. The club was impressed.

Added value: take a second look at the Salsa seat clamp.

Added value: the Salsa quick-release seat clamp.

Over years of faifhful service, however, the once-sharp blade became dulled. 10 years after the Marin first hit the scene, I took it for a ride on an off-road social with Tom, Andy and Ross (who by then had of course upgraded to something else). From my experience riding hardtails and road bikes, riding the Marin uphill was like pedalling a canoe with a knackered drivetrain.

The bike went for £250, a ‘freakin’ bargain’ according to one happy Retrobike customer.

Rollapaluza record

This is unbelievable. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘high cadence’.

Rapha films online

Don’t miss the full-length edition of this movie – about Sean Kelly – screening on this Friday, 20 August. I missed the Yohan Museeuw one last Friday, but on 27th there’s a 3rd screening, about Dario Pegoretti.

I just love the way Rapha keep getting cooler.

Retro bikes – Klein Attitude Comp

The Klein Attitude Comp, in its glory days.

My mate Andy Booth recently sold his Klein Attitude Comp 2000, and I feel the time is right to salute man and rig.

The details are hazy, but as I remember Andy bought the Klein in 2000 with some insurance money. He’d had his previous bike stolen on York University campus, but that wasn’t the source of the windfall – something to do with a traffic accident, a sore neck (I’m feeling in the dark here)?

Anyway, he bought the Klein. Andy’s a tall chap with a penchant for brightly coloured bikes – hence the crane geometry and lurid paint job. Yet the Klein was lean and fast, and over time, as is to be expected, the frame was adorned with all manner of trick upgrades, including Hope hubs in gun-metal grey, and – the jewel in the crown – a Chris King headset.

The Chris King headset, in silver - still as smooth as the day it was fitted, etc. etc.

This bike experienced a golden age in the early noughties, accompanying us on some memorable rides with the University of York Cycle Club (UYCC) in Yorkshire, the Lake District, and beyond.

Still going strong: riding the Klein in Borrowdale, August 2005.

Crag-top stunts - Helvellyn?

Crag-top stunts - Helvellyn?

Latterly though, the Klein fell from grace, and became rather a sad figure, its whale-like Serfas saddle in particular becoming the butt of many a trailside joke. In the end, the Klein was replaced by a younger, sleeker model, and its once glossy sheen became covered in the dust of neglect. That Andy eventually put it up for sale without even cleaning it was an indication of just how bad things had got.

End of an era.

Robert Penn’s bike

I caught Robert Penn’s fantastic documentary on BBC4 on Monday night. The Story of the Bicycle, timed to coincide with the launch of Penn’s book All about the Bike (jacket below), saw the one-time round-the-world cyclist build his dream bike from parts sourced direct from manufacturers in many different countries – bars from Italy, hand-built wheels from the U.S., etc.

The resulting super-rig, the bike of dreams, turned out to be a Brian Rourke steel frame equipped with full Campagnolo Record, Continental tyres, Chris King headset, Cinelli bars, and – the cherry on top! – a Brook’s saddle. A fine combination of kit, if not exactly in line with my tastes. However, you have to ask – why the blue and orange colour scheme? Dark red, white panels and black lettering, surely?

Jacket image: All About the Bike by Robert Penn.