Um Bongo, Um Bongo, they drink it in the Congo

Today i went full aerobongo for the commute to work: skinsuit, space helmet, disc wheel, trispoke, shoecovers, everything. I mistimed my commute and ended up over ten minutes early, sat outside on a kerb in my spangly new BSCC skinsuit waiting for the site to open and ignoring the bemused gaze of passers-by. I scraped a 20mph average for the hilly 15 miles.

#bongocommute #bongoweaponry #startledfellowcyclists #slightlyembarassinghackbike

The reason for my aero commute (or lessons in using a crane to squash a fly) was that the last Aust classic league was taking place after work. In a couple of weeks the action shifts to the lake. I needed to have a ‘bit of a dig’ before this weekend’s race and also wanted one last go at the course record for this year. Tonight’s race consisted of 2 separated 5.3 mile races with an aggregate time and individual times recorded for posterity.

It was grand to catch up with people, most of the club-mates were looking utterly resplendent in their new team kit – many thanks to Ade Ridley for a sterling design that captures everything that is important about the club. One chap was sat on the grass getting things ready; he had the dreaded 13 on his back. I told him it was upside down, trying to imply that he needed to turn it the wrong way up in order to escape the curse, but he looked at me blankly and it suddenly seemed a bit complicated to explain so i left it. After my first circuit i saw him wrestling with a puncture and felt bad, as though somehow I’d created the situation by drawing attention to the number error.

Number wrong way up.

It was a fairly balmy evening and I even went so far as to shed my kneewarmers; but there was just enough of a headwind on the way back to dent my ambitions. Nonetheless, i decided to absolutely shank it for the first 5.3 mile circuit in a sort of ‘shit of bust’ (another thing my dad used to say) attempt at the CR, then see what happened on the second 5.3 mile circuit. In the end I came agonisingly close, turning in a 10.46, with the course record being 10.42. It suggests that on the right day the record should be within reach, perhaps even fairly straightforward. Unfortunately that day never seems to come and the window on this course opens and closes very quickly. it’s now closed for another year. The second lap was a formality, I was a busted flush and knew it from the very first second. I coasted round about 30 seconds slower.

This weekend sees the mega-hilly, a truly horrible event in the Cotswolds. I’m organising it and riding. Should be a blast, if a very slow and painful one.

Bespoked Bristol 2013

This year’s Bespoked Bristol is on at the Passenger Shed, Temple Meads. It’s a highly pornographic offering of hand-built bicycle bongo. It’s also very busy, to the extent that it had me harkening back to the days when cycling was deeply unfashionable and resolutely unmainstream. Only briefly though.

Wandering around the show is a strange experience. The endless number of carefully constructed frames creates a form of artisan framebuilder fatigue. There are only so many hand-cut, fillet-brazed, lugged creations you can see before it coalesces into an endless sea of reynolds 953 erotica. Certain items stood out; mostly the strange or quirky builds. Occasionally a staggering and sublime bicycle cut through the increasingly generic quasi-low-pro fixtastic norm.

Paulos Quiros Randonneur

Generally it was quite tricky to get near some of the tastier bits of metal. There were lots of men taking lots of pictures of bicycles. I was taking some pictures of some of the bicycles. Penny wasn’t that keen on standing still, she knew there were lots of other things to see, so I snapped infrequently. I took photos of men taking photos of bicycles instead.

Man taking picture of bicycle
Man taking picture of bicycle
man with ‘dopers suck’ t-shirt taking picture of bicycle

The ‘dopers suck’ t-shirt made me laugh. I’m sure it’s worn in good faith and all that jazz. Reformed armchair cycling fans are like reformed smokers; they go that little bit further. Most of these built-for-the-flat, stravacommuting, evangelical straight-edge drum-banging ‘just say no’ grange hillers where kicking around in yellow plastic bracelets 18 months ago, having a jodrell over every spoken word from big lance, despite his obvious drug-taking and malodorous personality.

Some other observations from the show – retro is still very big business. There was a time when everyone got ridiculously excited over things that looked like the future; even if it looked decidedly funky. Those days are gone.

Time travel space ship from the future

Most of the ‘newer’ marques and clothing companies were shamelessly mining some kid of cycling steampunk aesthetic, none more so than ‘Chapeau’, a new range of cycling garments. They liberally sprinkled their stall with lots of old broken things, like the sewing machine below. I presume to give the impression that they hand stitched each cap using the Singer.

They seemed to be going for the ‘gentleman’s attire’ market. It’s carefully thought out, slyly pitched. It’s also boring and cynical with an incredibly unimaginative name. It would be easy to blame Rapha for this current obsession with marketing and style over substance, they’ve certainly spawned a legion of imitators, eager to cash-in on the disposable income of the current crop of ‘new’ cyclists and the extensive and photogenic back-history of the sport. It’s bogus.

Serves only to remind me that Cycling Weekly used to be about bike racing, rather than the privilege of 9 hours soft-pedalling for £54. 

By far the ugliest things in the show were the wooden bicycles. They made my stomach turn. Well done to the chaps for showing that you can make a bicycle out of wood and for showing why bicycles aren’t made out of wood. 

Has it gone yet Dad? Make it go away. Please.
NURSE! MY EYES!

The Donhue stand near the front of the exhibition hall was attracting lots of covetous glances. They won the prize for the biggest ever chainring seen on a bike. Apparently it’s some sort of experiment to see if they can wring 100mph out of a fixed wheel.

The mother of all dinner plates

One piece of craftsmanship stood out above all of the amazing frames and builds; a Reynolds 953 stainless steel racing tricycle. The builder had got the weight for the finished trike down to 10kg. This is staggeringly light for a tricycle. The Longstaff used by Dave Keene to set several comp records was much heavier than this beast. The welds are beautifully finished and it is a thoroughbred.

The framebuilder was a friendly chap and he gave me a leaflet for this year’s World Tricycle Championships, taking place in Kent in June. It features a trike criterium race. The general consensus amongst those who have seen a tricycle criterium is that it’s like the chariot scene from Ben Hur, but with more violence.

If you can get to the show this weekend, then do. It’s a fantastic day out and it’s in Bristol.

 

Breaking the Chain

My chain snapped on the way to work yesterday. Too much torque: raw, unabashed power pulsing through the cranks tore one of the links apart and left the chain coiled in disgrace on the tarmac.

At the moment it popped i could have sworn by Thatcher’s Digne Bones that my chain tool was back at Traumfahrrad towers. Imagine my surprise when i saw it glistening at the bottom of my carradice. I‘ve resolved to try and remember my chaintool ever since Steve RoughStuff had a chain-related catastrophe in the middle of the Brecon Beacons. We began to panic and cry. We thought we were going to die at Heol Senni, until Graham Audax-King came to the rescue by delving into his tardis of an Audax bag containing an entire set of workshop tools. Resolving to remember it and actually remembering it are two  very different concepts, but somehow I managed to do both. 

I suddenly felt resourceful and manly; the trajectory was complete – I had become my Dad. There was no technical problem beyond my compass. I shortened the chain and wrapped it round the 15 sprocket, heading into work in single speed mode. I felt almost unbearably smug and had to tell my workmates of my early morning adventures. They failed to share my excitement and self-satisfaction or understand why fixing a chain and making it to work on time was such a fantastic start to the day. 

Riding home today I stopped to help a fellow cyclist who also had chain issues. It must be something to do with the long and brutal winter exacting retribution on the moving parts of bicycles everywhere.

So far this week I’ve fixed a chain whilst out on the road, chitted some potatoes, changed a terry nappy and made a sour dough loaf. It’s Richard Briers Day every single day chez traum.

 

We want the finest drillium available to humanity, we want it here and we want it now.

There are two mythical materials used in the construction of high-end bike frames, both of which are million miles away from the current crabon hegemony. The first of these is known simply as ‘unobtainium‘. A longstanding member of the london bicycle community and early guiding light of the LFGSS forum, known only as Cornelius, or Corny to his chums, rode a bike made of purest unobtainum. It was reputed that it had been built using materials left over from the construction of the space shuttle. It was shiny and silver and shimmered delicately in the smog.

Even rarer than unobtanium is the delicate filigree finish of a piece of finest drillium. The high-water mark for drillium was the 1960s and 70s, a time when weight was seen as the definitive measure, prior to the relentless focus on slipperiness cemented by Lemond’s Tour victory. Drillium is a startling frame material, two parts emmental to three parts solid silver. Occasionally an example comes up on fleabay or via Hilary Stone. Several minutes can be spent gazing at the delicate curlicues and intense fragility of the wonder material. Alf Engers is seen in some quarters of the King of Drillium. Some of his Shorter frames and components defined the aesthetic and practical limitations of the material.

For some time i’ve been exchanging pictures of drillium with Elliot Davis, with each trying to outdo the other with a new and outrageous example. I sent him the images of the Aende, the bicycling equivalent of mint aero. He linked to the campag seatpost. I thought it only right and proper that i share some of these meisterwerks with you. Feel free to add your drillium tales to the comments thread.

Chainset , brake levers, seat post of purest drillium
holy drillium, batman
drillium fork steerer
beautiful high-end drillium
not dissimilar to the airlite hub, but much more extreme
Molteni Merckx Drillium

The Dark Side

As a general rule, i have few principles or convictions. There are a couple that tend to affect the way I live my life:

1. I’m a vegetarian.

2. Mountain bikes make me feel physically sick.

You may recall that some time ago my ‘friends’ identified, correctly, that a classic stag-do humiliation would involve making me ride a mountain bike. This came in some distance ahead of being cling-filmed to a tree naked, or other derring-do.

As you can see from the image, they topped it off with a rather fetching-looking jersey. The experience was witnessed by all and sundry who happened to be out that day, and retweeted by the owner of the local bike shop.

Of late, I have felt this conviction waver in the face of the new-found practicalities of a changed way of life. I am embarking on ‘project dark side’, the assembly of an all-terrain bicycle suitable for transportation of a small child.

I have sourced a very cheap and old Orange C16 frame with a rigid fork It’s the best of a very bad bunch. I couldn’t bring myself to look at anything other than a rigid steel frame. I have embarked upon an ebay trawl and forum surf to see if i can get a job lot of cheap parts. I have already come up against a number of obstacles. Firstly, the dimensions of everything are completely whacky, especially the wheels. Secondly, I have no experience of fettling the type of things that need to be fettled on a mountain bike. Thirdly, and perhaps worst of all, these sort of bicycle-shaped obscenities usually come with a triple chainset. This is rank and cannot be tolerated.

I shall keep you posted on my journey into the Stygian gloom. With any luck it will look a bit like the one below, without the bar ends. And a slammed stem. And minus the goddamned triple.

Numbness and Penguins’ Eggs, Cold Hands and Bernard Hinault at Liège-Bastogne-Liège (and other spurious comparisons)

This morning was the first seriously cold start of the winter, with a gaggle of malicious minus temperatures hanging around outside waiting for unsuspecting cyclists. I prepared by wearing two pairs of gloves: a thinner set of Defeets and some Pearl Izumi Cyclones over the top. This has typically saved me from the cruel nastiness of numb and painful fingers. I’ve never really suffered from cold hands, unlike others I know who have struggled for years to find some sort of solution to the pain and misery of icy digits.

Bernard Hinault wasn’t averse to riding in cold weather and it’s impossible not admire the relentless and indefatigable spirit of Le Blaireau. I recommend Richard Moore’s recent book, Slaying the Badger, for further insights into the character of arguably the last great patron of the peloton. One of his landmark victories came in Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 1980. Around half of the field abandoned within the hour, unable and unwilling to ride into the ashen and ghostly face of a savage blizzard. Hinault stayed put, finally pulling out a 10 minute lead over Hennie Kuiper and taking the win, but at a cost: he had such severe frostbite that two fingers on his right hand remain numb to this day.

Hinault leads the peloton through the endless blizzard

Being able to ride through unbelievably harsh conditions and get the job done is a good way to pick up points. See Ian Stannard at Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, or Andy Hampsten’s epic ride over the Gavia in 1988. This year’s Chippenham Hardrider is the closest I’ve come to hypothermia on the bike.

ski goggles. really.
jesus.

During this morning’s 6 mile ride to work my hands stubbornly refused to warm up. This is of course exactly how Hampsten and Hinault must have felt. I gained some feeling in my left hand but the fingers on my right remained cold and became extremely painful. When I arrived at work the pain had increased to the extent that I felt nauseous. I have had cold hands before but usually it’s only for the first bit of a ride. For a brief moment I thought of Cherry-Garrard in his savage quest for penguin’s eggs, walking into the eternal frozen night of the South Pole and becoming permanently frostbitten. And i resolved to get some better gloves.

I suspect that one of the causes might have been paradoxically because i wore two pairs of gloves. They were quite tight with no layers of air between the fabric or around the fingers. I think that a layer of warm air is required to add insulation, which is perhaps why mittens or even the lobster’s claw, are a popular choice for those with poor circulation. I have ordered some thicker and hopefully more effective winter gloves for the really cold mornings to come.

Fashioning an Extremely Long Mud Flap From Society’s Leftovers In A Spirit Of Organic Austerity

Full mudguards are the answer to any number of questions, but particularly the inherently controversial poser: “Which is better, Race blade or crud?”. Thus far, as we have seen, only one person is sufficiently qualified to make that judgement; us lesser secret cyclists lack the skills and aptitude to test things properly.

Full mudguards do, nevertheless, have one minor issue. The gap from the end of the rear guard to the road surface is a yawning chasm that allows a substantial amount of road spray up into the eyes and face of the following rider. The only way to solve this problem is to fit an extended mudflap. It’s a growth cottage industry and there a number of inventive ways to fit a flap.

the 57th mudflap tested by Car Free Days

I opted for a 4 pint milk container. it has just the right blend of rigidity and ‘give’ and is pre-shaped to curve around the back wheel. I expect the other members of base club to thank me for my efforts on tomorrow’s filthy lane ride. I will test for rear wheel spatter and then write a full review of this very expensive piece of übertech.

Organic Milk Mud Flap. Maybe it might keep the cows away.

As things currently stand i suspect that by Easter I will be a fully fledged member of the Audax fraternity with a dyno-hub front, 28mm tyres and SPD sandals. Party on!

On the GorePath

I duly sucked it up and bought the Gore Path jacket on Kieran’s recommendation.

I will be wearing it early next week and will submit a formal judgement of its retard level once i’ve worn it properly.

i wore my older endura luminous commuting jacket – a bad buy, too big, too nasty – on my longer ride to work the other day. I ended up sweating like a fat man in Patisserie Valerie. It was disgusting. I had to wash my newly washed cycling clothes that very evening.

The Gore Path better do the business in wicking away the stench of enclosed cyclist, otherwise Kieran’s for the high jump.

More Cyclo Cross

Bristol South CC and West District legend George Keene was telling a story at the bar the other day regarding a near miss. He narrowly failed to add the divisional CX championships to his lengthy palmares.

George on the Open Turf
determination and raw power

Back then cyclocross was filthier than a wet weekend in Rhyl; the various events took place on working farms and agricultural estates and riders spent far more time walking than riding.

As he told it, he was in the lead until the fateful moment when he somehow collided with a pig. Steve nearly spat his beer out.

that’s nothing…

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