the setback post

Month: January, 2014

The not-so-Secret Project

So yeah, it’s a Planet X XLS. Big whoop.

XLSThe park bench weighs 21.1kg and boasts a 4.4% increase in vertical compliance.

TSP’s TSP represents a number of firsts.

It’s my first drop bar disc bike (first cable discs too), my first crabon crosser [sic], and my first attempt at tubeless. The ease of tubeless setup using Stan’s alarmingly light Iron Cross* rims with Superstar tape and valves, and Stan’s own sealant, took me by surprise.

The tyres are Vittoria XG Pro clinchers – not the tubeless specific TNT edition incidentally, because I’m a huge cheapskate. The wisdom of this choice has yet to be put to the test: they are lighter and cheaper in their standard incarnation, but may carry a slightly increased risk of broken clavicle.

xgpro (1 of 1)

The part that really upsets me is that going tubeless means I can’t observe my usual practice of binning the stupid valve nut. We all have to make sacrifices.

TSP has not been ridden in extremis yet, but first impressions are promising. True to form, it’s ready in time for the very last race of the season, at which the Geophysicist will be representing on the TCX.

Wish us luck.

* Being a huge dork, I originally took this choice of name to be a reference, in somewhat questionable taste, to the German military symbol and decoration. Turns out it’s actually the name of a bike race, which makes a lot more sense.

I can haz dick breaks

A little while ago I nailed my colours to the CX disc brake mast. (I also spliced the mainbrace, shivered timbers, and groped the cabin boy for good measure.) The time has come to put skin in the game.

I’m not going to be reviewing these any time soon because you can’t review a product meaningfully until you’ve done your best to break it in a variety of comical mishaps, but I’m now in possession of a set of post-recall TRP Spyres, which are are bringing the The Secret Project to a halt with some alacrity.

spyre (1 of 1)

Watch this space.

We need to talk about shaving

Actually, we don’t.

In the next couple of months the usual suspects are going to run pieces about whether or not you need to shave your legs, and they’ll trot out a bunch of half-baked reasons, half-truths and bullshit lore. The terms “rite of passage”, “ritual” and “tradition” will come up a lot, and they’ll be accompanied by lots of bulging quad porn.

iamroadiehearmeroar500 (1 of 1)Thank Christ for wide angles.

Essentially, no one cares if you shave your legs, in the same way that no one cares if you have splash bar tape or a helmet from the mid-90s held together with gaffer tape. If those are your choices though, don’t be surprised if you’re shunned for your total disregard of others’ aesthetic sensibilities. Amateur cycling is a game of preening imitation and whether you admit it or not, the moment you pull on your team kit or your club’s jersey (the one with the logos of your local bike shop and the treasurer’s landscape gardening company on it), you are pretending to be a professional cyclist.

Why else would you choose to wear your matchy-matchy outfits? Why else do you “train”? Why else would you pay for the privilege of of earning your 38th place in a Cat 4 road race on grey, unspectated B roads, if you don’t subscribe to some higher ideal of what riding a bicycle means?

It depends on my mood whether I cast this behaviour in a light of noble futility or pathetic self-delusion, but either way it’s pointless in the broader, cosmic sense.

So yes, shave your legs. Or don’t. No one cares.

From Russia with glove, sort of

I’m predisposed to like Canadian things because I’m half Canadian and because being able to tell people this at parties makes me marginally more interesting than that guy over there who’s just British or something.

In this spirit I assumed that a pair of bona fide (that’s Latin for “fuck a dog”) Canadian cycling gloves from a suspiciously French sounding company, named after a Russian city, had to be good. I was so confident of this that I paid a popular killer of local bike shops ten of my pounds that I earned by working for a pair of Louis Garneau Sotchi gloves, a smug saving of thirty five pounds over the retail price.

As it turns out, I pretty much got what I paid for. Despite their stylish and vaguely expensive appearance, these gloves manage the rare feat of being both incredibly sweaty and quite cold, even in relatively mild weather. Added to this, they have some of that ridiculous mega-velcro on the cuff that is guaranteed to ruin everything it touches, including the gloves themselves.

Perhaps I’m unusual in this respect, but I normally dress myself for cycling. Having put one glove on [glove A], I then need to use the freshly gloved hand to put the other glove on [glove B]. With the Sotchis, the velcro of [glove B] invariably snags [glove A], so as a result the thumb and forefinger areas are ‘bobbled’ all over after a couple of months of occasional use.

sotchi (1 of 1)

Note ‘bobbling’. That’s not a photographic background, it’s the cell wall I paw in frustration.

I say occasional use, because every few weeks I forget how much these gloves suck and I give them another chance. That, or the ones I like wearing are in the wash or the dog ate my homework et cetera, et cetera.

In conclusion, meh.



J-Pow in full flight – Photo: Louie Traub

Last week’s US Cyclo-cross Nationals in Boulder, Colorado have generated no end of coverage, written and otherwise. ‘Cross is a particularly rewarding discipline for photographers, offering no shortage of visual drama, replete with mud and pain. The confines of a ‘cross course lend themselves to documentation and Boulder’s Valmont Bike Park is no exception. What I really appreciate in a photographer however is not the ability to record information, but the talent to tell stories and to reflect something of the atmosphere of an event in their work.

I’ve just happened across the work of one such photographer, Louie Traub, who has posted extensive coverage of the Nationals on his blog, here. It is well worth a look through. Louie describes himself as a “former newspaper photojournalist turned photography dirtbag” and along with his dog, he’s living the dream, pursuing his passion for cycling by doing what he does best – taking pictures. I look forward to seeing what he does next.

On the tech side, much has been made of SRAM’s new 1×11 drivetrain which put in an appearance at Boulder, and which will doubtless come to dominate the US scene next season. By releasing it in February SRAM is cleverly forestalling the fallout from the recall in March, so we can expect the Mk. II to be race-ready for September.

Otherwise, we got some excellent gif fodder. Assuming you don’t value your eardrums in the slightest, you’ll want to turn the volume up for this:

That sound at the end is American for “Well done, that man”.

Little boxes


It’s easy to imagine that being a mechanic is a perpetual cycle of polishing carbon and servicing buxom wenches’ bottom brackets, but the reality has more to do with packaging.

This falls into two categories. The first is the sexy kind: the kind you arrange in a pile to take a photo of for your three (3) blog readers and which you agonise about discarding when a build is completed. Opening this stuff is the secret joy of building bikes, your own or other people’s. A single build is two birthdays and a Christmas worth of ripped apart cardboard and shredded plastic, and there’s a shivering, guilty pleasure in being the first to fondle a new groupset or a frame that’s never been touched, at least never intimately.

The second kind of packaging is the bane of the shop rat’s life. It’s the fussy, messy mass of tape and plastic and corrugation that stands in the way of wheeling a bike onto the shop floor. The setup of a pre-built bike is fifty percent making sure the wheels allow motion and that the brakes impede it to the correct degree, and fifty percent tearing, hacking, peeling and flattening.

I love the first kind; the second makes me tired.

If all this is too highfalutin and tedious, here’s a video of Norway’s answer to Graham Norton inviting people to guess what the bulges in Thor Hushovd’s bibs are.

You’re welcome.

Braking news – wait, what?

It goes without saying that as an internet bike expert, industry insider douchebag and all-round great guy I have an almost limitless knowledge of the current market. I know exactly who sells what bike doodad, what’s good, and whose kneecaps need blowing off.

Somehow, despite all that, I failed to notice the drop bar hydraulic brake system that’s been sitting under my nose:

TRP Hylex

The TRP Hylex Photo: TRP

Granted, it’s completely useless if you want your gear-changey things attached to your bike-stopper things, which I do, but luckily someone is on the case. Cue Retroshift, makers of that cludgy but lovable downtube shifter/brake lever mashup…

Retroshift Hylex

The above image was posted on their facebook last month and apart from demonstrating their willfully lax approach to studio cleanliness, it also shows a TRP Hylex brake lever with a shifter bolted to it. This has to be by far the simplest (and doubtless most affordable) way to combine your love of changing gear with your desire to stop in a timely and controlled fashion.

I’m not saying I’m going to buy it – I’m not – but I salute the effort. I’m sure it will be of interest to the sort of person who’s still letting bar-cons stand in the way of their accession to adulthood.

In other news (and with possible relevance to what shall henceforth be referred to as The Secret Project, or TSP’s TSP, or something else entirely), TRP has announced the arrival of the first post recall Spyre brakes, releasing the following:

Spyre post-recall

I am confident that this marks the beginning of the end of what historians shall remember as a time of great darkness in the march to greater brake enlightenment.

#DIATD part two – a black and white issue

I thought being the poster boy for Scottish cyclocross would be the highlight of my cycling career but thanks to Jack Luke I have more sweet pics of me gurning muddily in pursuit of my unassailable 94th place.

The rest are here.



Is there anything Marianne Vos can’t do?

She even manages to make those ridiculous bars look somehow acceptable.

Dig in at the Dock 2014: things wot I lerned

  • Doing absolutely no training at all is great preparation for an hour of peri-chunderous suffering.
  • Rutted cobbles make heavy demands of your stem bolts and riding five sixths of a race with your bars at the wrong angle blows.
  • My beautiful XTR pedals don’t clear mud nearly as well as I’ve been led to believe they should.

xtr (1 of 1)(but they are still beautiful)

  • The geophysicist is an excellent, if slightly abusive, one woman cheerleading team.
  • Remounting in front of a hundred spectators is somehow a lot more difficult than doing it on a quiet backstreet.
  • Not having anywhere to stuff your dollar bill raffle hand-ups can lose you a remarkable number of places.
  • I suck at riding a bike, but that doesn’t stop me enjoying it.

Thanks to David Hamill and John McComisky for their sterling work in organising.

More to follow, maybe.