Belting along the highways and byways whether aboard one of the fleet or tirelessly navigating the M25 in my little Ka, legions of drivers blatantly texting and phoning (devoid of a headpiece or similar remote technology) while in the flow of traffic never cease to amaze me. One woman even passed exceeding the motorway speed limit while slumped over the wheel, composing messages and seeping into other lanes. “Sorry mate, didn’t see you, I was on the phone” seems increasingly acceptable, met with notable vitriol on the perpetrator’s part should their communication be interrupted in the interests of road safety.
In keeping with most cyclists, some examples of road user behaviour are so bizarre as to remain lodged in the consciousness for many years. Back in the summer of ’99 I was hurrying to a Wednesday night Beast way meet. Thundering along the notorious Romford Rd joining the people’s republics of Manor Park and Forest Gate aboard my other Univega, hauling a bulging expedition pannier, I was confronted by a man travelling toward me on the wrong side of the carriageway seemingly conducting an evangelical service from the driver’s seat of his ten year old Nissan!
Automatic transmission is a wonderful thing, a lifeline to many with degenerative conditions, disability and/or restrictive mobility and possibly to those driving professionally for long periods. However, I refute simplistic assertion from some sans clutch that “Not having to think about the gears” ensures complete focus on the road and therefore, better driving. The left foot may be idle but observation suggests the left arm is all too often free for guzzling soft drinks, applying make up, rolling a joint, clapping in time to piped music and of course, clutching the phone….
The Holdsworth has unexpectedly emerged from hibernation, partly so as I can test some lovely fixer kit before the weather turns continually bandit and until the Teenage Dream’s front end is sorted. I’ve amassed all the parts for said makeover but in the meantime some kind soul has helped themselves to my Czech made headset press! A bit of phoning around suggests there’s a wholesale shortage of these keenly priced workshop staples... I don’t want the hassle of outsourcing to a shop and conversation with a mobile “Mechanic” operating locally inspires a vote of no confidence so there’s little alternative but to wait until new stocks arrive at these shores.
Elsewhere I find myself irascible at the dwindling choice of seat post diameter.
Objectively, offering a limited range of sizes reduces manufacturing costs, allowing these savings to be passed to the consumer-great when purchasing carbon and other exotica. However, not all seat tubes are 27.2 or 31.8, the Holdsworth and Teenage Dream being cases in point. Both are 531 throughout and 26.8 and 27.0 respectively calling for some creativity. True, lightweight Taiwanese made alloy posts remain fairly plentiful thanks to mountain biking’s popularity but sometimes it’s nice to have form and function in that order.
Therefore, following some extensive enquiry, my solution to the problem is to entrust a local precision engineering firm to reduce the diameter by point two of a millimetre. From here, the venerable Kalloy Uno will retire to the spares drawer and Rolls titanium perch will sit pride of place atop the Thompson- Happy Christmas Teenage Dream!
One-inch ahead stems are increasingly scarce-as rare as hen’s teeth in fact so I wasted no time in procuring this 80mm Woodman. Hailing from a time before compact geometry while perfect in the leg, the Teenage Dream’s top tube leaves me ever so slightly stretched over long periods with a 9cm stem so, the reduction redresses the balance perfectly. It also means the Bell Lap with their subtle curves and lower weight can lead the charge. Fear not the whopping WTB are set to front the Univega, which is entering yet another subtle transformation thanks to the acquisition of some V brakes. My love of a well-honed cantilever certainly isn’t waning but heel and pannier clearance-particularly with the voluminous expedition type could be improved.
Taking stock, in every sense and evaluating wants, needs and my capacity to hoard versus available storage space sees some unused but worthy kit gifted to friends who would appreciate and make good use of. Other stuff is being sold in the interests of space, the proceeds ploughed into other projects.
Sometimes charity begins at home but not for these fellas. Jamie King and Henry Brydon are repenting from a past life in recruitment, disillusioned by the nine to five they’re going in search of fulfilment and stories to enthral the grandchildren. Inspired by Alistair Humpreys’ globe trotting exploits, 2010 will see them embark on an eighteen- month, 18,000 mile charity ride across Europe, Asia and Australasia in aid of Multiple Sclerosis and Brain Tumour Research respectively. Curious? Take a look at their website www.TheBlazingSaddles.com
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)