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Haaienfiets!

September 18th, 2012 by Mick Allan

Or Sharkbike in English…

sharkfiets

grrrrr

no guts no glory

Book Review: Just Ride.

August 30th, 2012 by Mick Allan

Just Ride cover

I’ve been a fan of Grant Petersen for a very long time. I first became aware of him when he was head honcho at Bridgestone bikes. I even worked for a short time in a Bridgestone Bicycles dealership;  Hollywood Bikes in LA. Petersen continued to extol the virtues of steel as a frame material when the whole industry seemed hell bent on abandoning steel for oversized aluminum. Bridgestone bikes featured lugged frame and fork construction long after everyone else had adopted tig welding. What Petersen was trying to do was retain some of the features he valued, but in the fickle trend-led world of mountain biking Bridgestone bikes eventually became thought of as old fashioned, behind the times, obselete. I don’t know if this was the reason that Bridgestone (giant Japanese manufacturing conglomerate) stopped making mountain bikes and shut down their US operation. Probably.

Thankfully Grant Petersen went on to found Rivendell Bicycle Works. Which kinda picked up where Bridgestone left off. Rivendell bikes are steel, their frame tubes brazed together using lugs of various degrees of fanciness. But this is merely the cornerstone of Rivendell’s ‘velosophy’. Rivendell Bikes are the antithesis of the super-light-weight close-clearance carbon-fibre race-bred bikes which dominate the high end of the bicycle industry. They are also the antidote.

To modern eyes these bikes look old fashiooned, and they are, but it goes way deeper. These are not superficially retro styled bikes. Petersen recognised that lots of people were riding the wrong bike. Wrong in size, but more often wrong in type. The equivalent of everybody riding around in the bicycle equivalent of a Formula 1 car.

His occasional ramblings on the excellent Rivendell website have been condensed into an excellent book; Just Ride, A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike. As someone with a pretty clear set of notions about cycling this book was a revelation. Firstly he changed my mind on a bunch of subjects. As a self proclaimed seeker after the truth this was ‘interesting’. (it’s hard to be rewired so profoundly at my age). It also put in to words a few ideas which were already coalescing in my mind – his chapter on clip-in pedals smacked my right between the eyes.

And I disagreed with him on a bunch of stuff (Woo. Big deal you say? For me, sad old bicycle anorak who finds mistakes in every bicycle magazine or book I’ve ever read that’s quite a big deal), but he’s not wrong. We simply hold different views. And I loved it. Reading a book whose subject matter is so well thought out, so thorough and resolved. A radical and serious book by a true expert. It’s just about the best bicycle book I have ever read. There is not a single word of BS in the whole thing. Not just a book to read to understand Petersen’s philosophy, I understand my cycling better having read it, and I thought I knew it all. My only criticism? It was too damn short.

If you ride a bicycle I urge you to read this book. It might just challenge everything you think you know.

I sent Grant a copy of Cyclorama, I almost wish I hadn’t because his book is so bloody brilliant I feel embarrassed to have him read mine! What I really do wish is that I’d read his book before I’d written Cyclorama. That tells you something huh?

Mr Petersen and his publishers have kindly allowed us to reproduce an extract from his book in our Bike Culture section, here – The Shoes Ruse

There are lots more book reviews in Cyclorama’s Bike Culture archive here.

Thick and Fast.

August 22nd, 2012 by Mick Allan

I’ve got products and books piling up for for review faster than I can open the parcels! We’ve been so busy with The Book that it’s all gone pear shaped on the product review front. So.. I’m determined to get started on the task of reviewing all this stuff before the pile falls over and traps me against the keyboard. At least 90% of the stuff I’m sent is really outstanding gear. Among them some of the nicest, most innovative and interesting products and publications I’ve ever got my hands on. The other ten percent? I was brought up to believe that if you can’t say anything good about someone/something then don’t say anything. An attitude which doesn’t sit well with someone who’s set themselves up as a product reviewer! But I’ve had one or two products through which suck very much. And honesty, in relationships and product reviews is everything. Knowing what effort their creators put into designing, financing, manufacturing and bringing their creations to market I find it hard to be as honest as I want to be. One of these products, a book, is a direct competitor with our very own the Cyclorama book. I’ll gird my loins and wade in.

Anyhoo.

This:

Schwinn on the bank

… as you may already know, is my venerable Centenary Schwinn which comes out for the ’summer’, though this year’s rainfest barely qualified. The kind people at Nonusual sent me a set of their gorgeous Gropes handlebar grips recently. Black with red laces was the inevitable colour choice from the many permutations available. Now, it takes a lot for me to change the original parts on this bike. It’s ridden, regularly, which is more life than most Centenary Black Phantoms are allowed to enjoy. I swapped the tyres only because one of the originals had perished prematurely. I swapped the original steel dinner plate ring for a smaller – Profile Racing Imperial – only to save my knees from imploding. And it ‘fits‘ – this being the last (imperial) model Schwinn ever made in the US. The seat got blacked because I just don’t do brown. And that was it, until I spotted the Gropes Grips. I got the long version which, designed as they are for drop bars, has given me enough off-cut to do another two bikes. Yay! They went on easy enough. The lacing was a bit fiddly but not difficult to achieve a very professional finish following the very comprehensive instructions included. They’re finished off with some very nice cork grips with a big G. Initial concerns that these would immediately fall out were unfounded. They’re incredibly well made, straight, true, well finished and soft, thick supple leather. They suit the bike perfectly and I love them.

Gropes grips on a Schwinn

You may be aware that I never talk about prices on Cyclorama. A thing is worth what you’re prepared to spend on it. This is the kind of product, if you own the kind of bike that these would suit, that you’ll order first and ask price questions later.

If I had a 5 star points scoring system these would get a six. Highly recommended.

There’s a gallery of images on our FB page here:

Exciting new Brompton bag!

July 30th, 2012 by Mick Allan

Yes I know. The words ‘exciting’, ‘Brompton’ and ‘bag’ don’t sit comfortably in the same sentence. But bear with me. Brompton bikes are no longer the exclusive preserve of a particular kind of cycling geek. As the venerable Brompton’s domination of  the global high-end folding bike market has increased it’s come to be appreciated by a whole new generation of international urbanites. The Brompton is now, officially, cool.

This is my latest one (or at least it will be when I’ve finished paying for it…) the very coolest Brompton of all, (IMHO) a 3spd with Titanium ends. I haven’t even ridden it anywhere that isn’t carpeted yet but it’s great to once again have a Brompton in the family.

Anyway, waffle waffle. I was approached recently by Demano a Barcelona based bag maker, whose range includes a Brompton bag. Very few companies make Brompton bags, Brompton’s own are the most numerous, unsurprisingly. And then there’s offerings from tradish’ Brit’ companies like Carradice and Brooks which, though extremely high quality and desireable, seem to hanker after a ‘Tweed Run’ view of the world. They’re nice and all but, you know, I don’t wear brogues and a Barbour and a deer stalker hat.

One of the things which attracted me to the Demano bag is the very thing which attracted me to the Dutch Clarjis bags which now grace most of the families’ bikes – their recycledness. Just like Clarjis Demano use old vinyl advertising banners. The result is an attractive, tough, waterproof and durable range of bags which has strong environmental credentials. And they’re all individually unique. And a big chunk less expensive than most.

The Demano Brompton bag is available from CitiBici, Barcelona (who ship worldwide).

The one they sent me was manufacturered using a banner which once advertised a Barcelona sketeboarding event, and to my delight, features the city skyline which includes a glimpse of one of the loveliest buildings on earth, Gaudi’s Basilica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia. Wonderful.

So, I await an opportunity to test this bag with eager anticpation. Full test coming soon.

demano bag on ti brompton

brompton three quarter

The Tour de France

July 23rd, 2012 by Mick Allan

Am I the only person in the UK who isn’t apopleptic with delight at the prospect of a British winner of the TdF. For the first time in the Tour’s 107 yr history a Brit finished the race in The Yellow Jersey, it’s all over the front page of every newspaper in the land (including – unbelievably – The Daily Mail, that’s never, as far as I’m aware, had a single good word to say about cycling/cyclists). And I don’t give a shit.

It dawned on me over the weekend as people who know me – cyclists and non-cyclists alike – have been greeting me with big smiles and expressions of wow, isn’t it great? And I’m struggling to find the enthusiasm to crack a smile. I am, it cannot be denied, a miserable old curmudgeon. I have the kind of droopy middle-aged face skin which makes it look like I’m scowling even when I’m happy. But that aside, you’d imagine that, as a Cyclist this would make me happy. But it doesn’t make me happy.

The trouble is this: I was once in love with The Tour. I watched it every day – and the highlights on a rest day – and for twenty years I harboured an ambition to one day join the throngs lining one of the mountain stages. As someone who’d survived testicular cancer I watched Lance destroy the competition year after year from the edge of my seat. I was a fan.

Fignon, Hinault, Delgado, Lemond, Indurain, Millar, Pantani, et al. I was a devoted fan. I loved the heroism of it, and I loved the heroes. And then it all went to shit. Year after year I watched as the drugs scandal after drug scandal slowly ruined my sport. It became harder and harder to feel any joy in it. I tried to stay true but, like anyone in a romantic relationship who is lied to, whose lover cheats on them and, however deep the feelings, eventually, slowly, inevitably….. I fell out of love.

In recent weeks it has been announced that the US Drug people haved banned Armstrong from competition and are bringing charges against him. That was the final straw.

So last week when Wiggo was doing well, and then when he looked certain to win, and even when it was inevitable – I simply couldn’t bring myself to watch it. In my heart it’s broken

So well done Brad, great guy, worthy winner. But for me – it’s just too frickin late.

Special Edition Cyclorama messenger bag by Seagull

June 7th, 2012 by Mick Allan

Professional cycle messengers the world over use Courier bags for a bunch of good reasons. The cheap and nasty, sweaty vinyl ‘newspaper boy’ bags which were pressed into service twenty and more years ago have evolved into practical, waterproof and durable bags which are comfortable to wear all day long.  A messenger bag allows you to get off the bike and in to a building in one bound. Panniers might have a greater capacity and make the bike do the work of carrying the load, but they are a faff to get on and off, don’t come with shoulder straps so you have to actually carry the darned things. Messenger bags are hands free. The other alternative – ruck-sacs/back-packs – have two straps which obliges the user to remove the whole bag to get in it. Messenger bags can be slipped around from back to chest under the shoulder. Lots of companies make them now and they are available in a mind boggling range of sizes, colours and levels of quality.

I had my own go at designing a messenger bag nearly twenty years ago. Unhappy with the short-comings of the available bags it was based broadly on the then market leader (Fellow anoraks with long memories will remember the arrival of Timbuktu bags on these shores C.1990) but (hopefully) advanced the waterproofness and on-the-fly strap adjustment to another level. I sold a few and I kept one for myself, but beyond that I never took the big step to turn it into a business. My personal McAllan bag lasted fourteen years of almost every day use. And it looked very tatty towards the end! So when the sad day came to replace it I set very high standards for its replacement.

In the search for the perfect bag I stumbled across Seagull bags from Columbus Ohio. There are lots of good bags out there but I don’t think many come close to Seagull’s levels of excellence. But it’s not just about quality, Seagull bags are completely customisable from an enormous range of colours and special features. You can even spec the colour of the stitching. But that’s not all. They can also adorn their messenger bags in the graphics of your choice.

Mick's new bag

My new Cyclorama bag got held up for weeks in UK customs (and even though I’m not able to ride my bikes at the moment!) I’ve been desperate to get my hands on it since the day I discovered Seagull’s excellent bag configurator. Anyway, it’s here now. First impressions? It’s everything I hoped it would be. You’ll have to wait until I’m back in the saddle to find out if it’s as practical as it is good looking.

Beyond their presence on the product pages of Cyclorama.net there is no financial arrangement, we don’t make any money on sales of this bag. We just thought you might like to buy it. The Cyclorama Seagull bag, along with all their other products, is available directly from them via their excellent website.

Just tell them we sent you.
Mick