Thursday, 31 January 2013

AN APPROPRIATE BICYCLE - Pt. 14: WHERE I RIDE






I do actually ride my bike(s), you know. I have even conspired to form a number of specific routes. There’s the one that takes me into Richmond, along Sheen Road through Sheen itself, to Putney Bridge by way of Barnes, across the river, then left down Fulham Palace Road at the end of which I cut through Hammersmith and join Chiswick High Road and then head back home via Kew. It’s about a 13 mile journey but can be easily extended by taking a diversion through the heart of Fulham and then across to High Street Kensington. Without the deviation I will stop for coffee somewhere in Chiswick. When the detour features I take my coffee at Nero (which has pictures on the walls of people drinking coffee for you to look at while you're drinking coffee) next to Boots Chemist on Kensington High Street – for some reason I like it there.
          I have formed another course which takes me in the opposite direction, away from the city: through Twickenham, out along Staines Road, down towards Hampton and Thames Ditton, stopping off in Kingston before heading home via Ham and Richmond. I prefer to traverse this route when the weather is more agreeable, for its suburban backdrop doesn't suffer overcast conditions gladly. I have devised other courses but they tend to be variations on the aforementioned routes. For example, the Chiswick Circuit may bypass Putney entirely and makes its way towards Hammersmith by slicing through Barnes Common and taking Castelnau Road (a.k.a. the A306) towards Hammersmith Bridge. I can’t imagine that this saves much more than half of a mile and Castelnau Road is such a bore of an avenue that I don’t know why I even occasionally bother with this collinear bypass.
In the run-in to Christmas I established a new route of approximately 17 miles and with a few tough climbs thrown in. I haven’t based any these circuits on specific cycling requirements, and they’re more likely to be determined by something else I have to do or, more specifically, somewhere I want to go. I think the Wimbledon Circuit was originally informed by the presence of a Debenhams and a TK Maxx there, but you really shouldn't read too much into that.
So the Wimbledon beat forces me up Richmond Hill, back down through the other side of Richmond Park, then around Wimbledon Common by way of the A3, before joining Coombe Lane, passing through Raynes Park and then on to Wimbledon. The first time I rode this circuit I stopped for coffee on Wimbledon Bridge, where all the big shops are, before starting out towards Putney and joining Upper Richmond Road/Sheen Road and then on into Richmond itself. The second time I stopped off in Wimbledon Village, at the Starbucks up there, then took a detour passed the All England Tennis Club, ended up in Wandsworth, picked up Putney Bridge Road and made my way back towards Richmond (it had been a particularly cold day, but very stable – not bad conditions for cycling once you get going). As a whole, I like the Wimbledon Circuit but there is an aspect to it I'm not so fond of: the stage where I have to follow the A3 – or Robin Hood Way, as it’s also known – around Wimbledon Common to reach Wimbledon Proper. It isn't a question of distance, I just think there must probably be a more pleasant route through Wimbledon Common that avoids the tedium of cycling alongside the A3.

Just the other day I was quite in the mood for riding the Wimbledon Circuit and thought I might have another crack at finding a way through the Common, having abandoned my previous attempt on account of the freezing conditions and the confusing abundance of paths. But after studying Google Maps I was sure I’d identified the passage I needed to follow.
I hadn't – couldn't possibly have. Wimbledon Common is an undulating tract, with a Golf Club and everything. The wooded areas are surprisingly thick and there’s no accommodation for racing bicycles: even mountain bikes are prohibited on some of the trails. 
To build strength I try not to change gear too much, but some of the downhill dashes through Richmond Park necessitate I shift up to avoid spinning out. So it had been on the approach to Kingston Gate. I don’t know if it’s the nature of down-tube shifters, but some of my gear changes have been pretty rough. And this is part of the appeal of bikes like the Pinarello, where the gear shifters are integrated into the brake levers, and my recent apostasy with regard to the Carlos might have something to do with this. But my head tells me it’s a question of technique and of practise. Besides, down-tube shifters have an aesthetic appeal.
            By the time I reached the edge of Wimbledon Park I was keen to breach the Common, even if I had to dismount and walk it – which I did. I ended up carrying my bike across sodden, mire-like conditions, finding some succour on the open heath occupying the Common’s interior, but was still unable to then cycle due to the stubborn snow and the signs telling me not to. The cold-snap had lost its grip upon the rest of the Capital – even Richmond Park was enjoying the thaw – but the heart of Wimbledon Common had some catching up to do.
            I got a bit lost but found an exit onto West Place and the open expanse of common that surrounds Rushmere Pond. I recalled enough of the topography from Google Maps to then find my way to the Starbucks in Wimbledon Village and took my coffee earlier than I would normally do.
Wimbledon Village is an odd place. It’s like you’re on the top of the world up there. It rests on a sort of plateau, and I find myself physically aware of the fact. I like the feeling of isolation this gives, of being cut off from the rest of London. If I lived alone and wanted to disengage myself from other people then it would be a good place to dig in. I imagine those flats that occupy the floors up above the shops are different to those that lie in London’s lower lying recesses. I would expect the light to flood in and to feel close to the elements, with a view over the city from my back window. One might even become rather forlorn.





Whether or not investing in a water resistant cycling jacket is the right thing to do, I judge it to be entirely necessary. An open, regular ¾ length coat is vulnerable to water spray coming up the rear and making a mess of it, whereas an elasticated hem will merely contrive to leave one’s derriere exposed to take the flak instead. The cycling jacket adds extra length at the back to deal with this – sort of like a synthetic mullet – and it’s made from material that can cope. But whereas cycling jerseys can be tailored to leave a less serious impression, the jackets often read like a statement of intent. For practical purposes, they’re usually cut in the most reflective of fabrics: fluorescent yellow, silver, white, red. The Italian manufacturer Castelli does some nice jackets in black and/or grey, and I like their red scorpion motif that adorns them, but they’re normally quite expensive. Rapha – a British firm – do a very nice looking all black coat, but that costs £240 – way over my budget.
It was whilst scouting some of the on-line retailers that I discovered the Mavic Sprint in 'bolt blue' – an ‘everyday rain jacket with storm proven features’. Its RRP was £115.00, depending on where you read about it, but Ribble Cycles were selling limited sizes for £51.26. (£98.99 seems to be the going rate in actual fact, although that’s still listed as a reduction. £110 is cited as the RRP on the 2012 design, only available in two-tone black/green or white/black.) There appeared to be issues with the sizing, though – an inescapable reality when looking to order on-line – and, just as it was with the Solo jersey, the reviewers of this product were of the opinion that you should order a size up. However, the Mavic Size Chart implied that they were fully aware of these international vagaries, and the labels reflected that: an International Medium would be counter-labelled as a German/UK/American Small, and even as a Japanese Large. But no, the English reviewers reckoned you had to go up a size based on the German/UK/American designation. Again, the size chart revealed the existence of a German/UK/American XS and XXS, so I thought…  I thought I didn't fancy taking my chances and took a tour of all the cycling shops in my expanded area to find somewhere that stocked Mavic apparel, found a dealer not far from me, could see where the reviewers were coming from but reckoned that a German/UK/American Small would probably be about right. This was just as well because Ribble didn't stock a German/UK/USA medium – this was end-of-line kit, after all.
It was worth the bother because the Mavic Sprint is as nice an anorak as I've come across. I particularly liked what the Guardian had to say about it when they reviewed the product back in late 2009:
‘You wouldn't necessarily choose to wear it down the pub, but nor would you stick out too much if you did.’
I’d choose to wear it down the pub, assuming it was raining, although that’s entirely contingent on it being “bolt blue”. I'm not sure what shade of blue ‘bolt’ really is, or how the (French) manufacturer, Mavic, chanced upon the phrase – was it a play on the idiom ‘a bolt from the blue’ perhaps? Anyway, the jacket is a shade reminiscent (no pun intended) of those old Peter Storm anoraks they made in the 1970s and 80s, and anyone of a certain age might appreciate the cachet. This means that if I choose to wear it with a pair of slim fitting black cords and some broken in desert boots I might vaguely resemble a member of a late 1980s indie-pop band, such as The Pastels. It’s not entirely why I bought it – I bought it because it was the least cycling-looking cycling jacket I could find of any quality at that price – but it’s nice to at least have the option.
            I think I like Mavic too. They’re more normally associated with the manufacture of wheels than they are apparel, but I like the sound of their name and I like the way it’s type-set. Best of all I like the little square sub-insignia they attach to their clothes: a black ‘M for Mavic’ set upon a yellow background, which contrasts very pleasingly against the bolt blue.





Friday, 25 January 2013

AN APPROPRIATE BICYCLE - Pt. 13: PROVENANCE, PART 2


Almost desperate to find just a trace of evidence pertaining to the bikes Carlos manufactured (or rebadged), I launched a final search-engine offensive, but this time in French.  “Carlos road bicycle steel” translates as “acier de bicyclette de route de Carlos”, so I ran a search on that, but without the preposition ‘de’ in case it proved grammatically restrictive.
            My reward was an advertisement on vieux-velo.com from someone selling an old Carlos bike, with everything but the wheels for €650!  The notice read thus:

‘Je vends mon cadre de vélo de route de marque CARLOS, modèle 1983, entièrement COLOMBUS; tout équipé sauf les roues, de taille 55 dans un état correct.  Convient parfaitement pour une conversion FIXIE, par exemple.’

Or in other words (and I have translated the advert literally because, first, I don’t speak French and, second, because I thought the verbatim translation held a certain charm):

‘I sell my framework of bicycle of road of brand CARLOS, model 1983, entirely COLOMBUS; very equipped except the wheels, of size 55 in a correct state.  Is appropriate perfectly for a conversion FIXIE, for example.’

You’d have thought that this would have pleased me, but you’d be wrong. The Carlos in question was too early a model to be comparable to my own, and was built using Columbus tubing, whereas there’s no indication that my Carlos has been hewn from such reputable a material (although it’s not impossible). But it did get me thinking about how the French might refer to their classic bikes: vieux means old, and velo is a more informal alternative to bicyclette. I tried running a search using the words ‘acier velo route Carlos’ and found another image on the website ‘Vélotaf’ (a French web-forum concerned with cycling, similar to our Bike Radar, perhaps?) which looked like a good match. The frame appeared to be identical in form, although the components were quite different. But, lacquered in blue, I couldn't help thinking that this Carlos looked rather cheap, and the accompanying thread shed little light on the company’s origins, let alone the quality of their produce.
I think it’s probably time to let go of my obsession with Carlos’ provenance...



 
 [Carlos in Blue]


Unpleasant things have been happening to me of late. I've just purchased a CO² inflator and concomitant cartridges, to fit inside my Ortlieb Saddle Bag alongside a spare inner tube, tyre leavers, glueless patch kit and modest multi-tool. I then decided that I should invest in a cycling jacket and found one that pleased the eye. My metamorphosis is finding its form as I slowly take on the attributes of a fully-fledged cycling enthusiast, but my bicycle-esteem is starting to suffer as some sort of result.
It was never supposed to be like this. I thought that by eschewing carbon, cleats and conservative clubs I’d be impermeable to the vanities and conceits of more zealous cycling aficionados. Instead, I've returned to fawning over images of vintage bicycles on Gumtree and eBay, thinking about how far I might be prepared to go.
            Talking of which, that Pinarello Veneto is up for sale again. But guess what: not only has the seller corrected his spelling but he’s fixed the price at £600 (open to offers if anybody wants to submit a bid through eBay – he’s rejected two already). Presuming that the Brookes saddle has a resale value of, say, £150, and assuming my Carlos to be worth a little more than the £295 I paid for it – given the rapturous reception it received from the guy at Crown Cycles – would it be fair to speculate that I could offer £580 for the Pinarello, sell the saddle and the Carlos (and the Jamis, too, if it came to that) and actually end up breaking about even? It’s a tempting prospect, for the Pinarello is still very enticing and probably faster and easier to handle than my Carlos.
Such a proposition doesn't sit quite right with me. For one, the Pinarello has something of the Bianchi or the Colnago about it: lovely bikes all, but high-end Italian marquees loaded with connotation. They are highly desirable machines, and that’s reflected in their value. I don’t think I’d be able to relax if I rode on something like that. The threat of theft or impact damage is not my real concern here: the issue is more how these bikes might reflect upon their owner. What sort of individual rides a Pinarello? Miguel Indurain won his five consecutive Tours de France titles on them, I think, and Bradley Wiggins has just ridden one to his first, so what business have I got owning one?
Why should this matter? It doesn't matter, actually, but I've only recently embraced cycling of the road-racing kind and it would feel almost impertinent of me to ride a bike of such calibre. I’d feel like the guy who put his gear before his physical ability: who spent more money than time in honing his or her craft; the person who launched himself into their new-found hobby for all the wrong reasons.
There’s something else that’s troubling me. If I give up on Carlos then I might be disturbing the narrative. Part of me was sad to see the Raleigh Record Ace go, but I was sure it was the right thing to do. Buying Carlos also felt like the right thing to do, and even the guy who sold it to me expressed this sentiment. Carlos feels right. Carlos is unique without being ostentatious. Carlos has some foibles but does ride rather well. Carlos is consistent with my approach. Carlos is Weltschmerz.
Carlos is also in keeping with the accessories I've amassed: the two cycling jerseys that I bought on the cheap; the fingerless gloves that didn't break the bank; the moderately priced but classy looking bottle cage; the base-level cycling shorts my mother kindly bought for me; or the old Adidas Sambas that make for a perfectly serviceable pair of cycling shoes. And I want to ride a Pinarello? It would feel like sedition!
I'm not going to bid for the Pinarello this time but I shall keep an eye on the market for other bikes, with a view to selling the Jamis. Because whatever becomes of Carlos, I feel a strong, almost uncontrollable urge to purchase another white bicycle replete with 1980s era livery – like a PDM labelled Concorde, perhaps?



[A Concorde 'Gavina' in PDM colours]

Thursday, 10 January 2013

AN APPROPRIATE BICYCLE - Pt. 12: THE TEAM


It was time to start rallying the domestiques, so I put together my first newsletter:

‘Hello and welcome to the curious world of Carlos-Weltschmerz, a small cycling outfit I am cobbling together to race this year's London to Brighton bike ride.
If you are reading this it is because you have already expressed an interest in joining forces with me, with the understanding that it's not some sort of Sunday afternoon jolly: prospective members of Team Carlos-Weltschmerz will be expected to attain a reasonable level of fitness so that we might post a better than average time (whatever that may be). However, the reason that you were invited in on this project in the first instance is because I know that this shouldn't be a major issue for anyone concerned.
You may also be aware that the post-race celebrations will be taken as seriously as the race itself. Indeed, whilst it's not essential that you buy into the ethos that underpins Carlos-Weltschmerz, one should be aware of the code of ethics that informs it; this is an institution that applauds individuality and resists conformity – 'my club' rejects the very notion of a club.

I can confirm that this year's London to Brighton is scheduled to take place on the 16th June with registration scheduled for the 2nd March. I will take care of these formalities but need permission, and confirmation, that I can bill people for their portion of the registration fee when the time comes.
Further, Evans (S) – Carlos-Weltschmerz's club secretary – will be looking into the availability of hotels for the day in question and I am told that January is a good time to make bookings. As such, I will need to know what sort of sleeping arrangements people are prepared to enter into and, again, permission to make bookings on their behalf. Essentially, I'm asking that people confirm their interest – I will understand if it has since waned – and give me the green light to proceed with making firm plans.
With regard to training, I'm hoping that we might get away with just two or three group sessions to commence sometime in the spring, just to get used to cycling in a line and so that everyone sort of knows each other a little. Cafés and pubs may play a role in this.
Thank you for your interest in helping my theoretical organisation in its quest to replicate Tour conditions. Please let me know if you're still on board.

Regards

James Evans
(Directeur Sportif - Carlos-Weltschmerz)’

I was happy with that – why shouldn’t I be? I was even happier when Messrs Mommersteeg and Messrs Gowland returned emails affirming their will to participate. My brother’s and Wenborn’s cooperation had never really been in doubt, but I hadn't been entirely sure about the other two: I don’t know them so well. How wonderful, now, that their earlier interest has proved to be sincere. If they’d turned me down I don’t think I would have even bothered looking for replacements. I can think of no obvious substitutes regardless.
I look forward to our team getting together for the first time, of Carlos-Weltschmerz becoming some kind of tendentious reality, a hotchpotch of part-time cyclists in muddled fatigues, winging it a little.

In the meantime, I've just finished reading David Millar’s memoir, Racing in the Dark: The Fall and Rise of David Millar. Millar is a British/Scottish cyclist who got caught doping in 2004, was subsequently banned for two years and now rides – clean – for Garmin-Sharp. It’s a good read and provides an insight into the minutiae of road cycling, especially during a period when a significant proportion of the riders on the ProTour circuit took the drug EPO, and other performance-enhancing elixirs. [Few will argue against the advantage that taking EPO – or erythropoietin, to give it its proper name – delivers. The drug works by stimulating the production of red blood cells, which in turn hastens the transferral of oxygen to the muscles that will benefit from it. In Michael Hutchinson’s splendid book The Hour, the former time-trial specialist supposes that taking EPO would probably knock a hypothetical 3 or 4 minutes off of a 40 km time-trial, a race he would otherwise expect to complete in something like 48 minutes. That’s an unequivocally significant disparity.]
I'm not interested in the politics of doping (not as far as this project is concerned, anyway) but it is worth noting that David Millar is one of the few ex-dopers who not only appears genuinely contrite – or contrite at all – but is now making a real effort to help clean up the sport. More intriguing to my mind is how Millar describes the culture of cycling and the people who involve themselves in it. The pre-caught-doping Millar comes across as rather impudent, but he as good as concedes to this acknowledging that his peripatetic upbringing imbued in him something of an ‘adolescent mentality’. It is Millar’s willingness to expose his less palatable characteristics, as well as those of professional cycling as a whole, that ultimately has you rooting for the man. He doesn't reach out for reader’s sympathy and seems sincerely grateful for the second chance he’s been given. It’s almost as if the whole episode has made him a better person, and it’s just a shame he had to dope in order for this to be so.
There’s a bit towards the end of the book where Millar discovers the joys of ‘cycling for the sake of cycling’. As a professional – even as a keen amateur – he’d always been motivated by the act of competing, and it further illustrates how far the man has come since his brush with infamy. This new-found enthusiasm culminates in him forming a cycling club with his training partner, the Canadian cyclist Michael Barry, an informal institution they've christened Velo Club Rocacorba – Velo meaning bicycle, Club meaning… club, and Rocacorba being a mountain close to Millar’s home in Gerona, Catalonia, that many professional racers like to climb as part of their training programme. Whilst I whole-heartedly approve of this ‘frivolous, nonsensical’ endeavour, as Millar describes it, it does sort of stiffen my resolve in the face of cycling convention. VeloClubRocacorba. It’s not Carlos-Weltschmerz, is it?


[POST-SCRIPT: On reflection, it’s probably worth passing some comment on the matter of drug-taking, and on the subject of Lance Armstrong in particular. I've not been into road cycling long enough to emote profusely on the subject, but it is with interest that I watch the ongoing saga of The Boss/The Texan/Mellow Johnny (?!) slowly unfold. In précis, Lance Armstrong was formally charged with doping and trafficking drugs by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in June 2012, charges that Armstrong resolutely denied – not the first time. Armstrong’s response was to file a lawsuit against USADA requesting that the agency drop all imputations against him, which was dismissed, then revised and resubmitted, but ultimately ruled in USADA’s favour. Or something like that.
Armstrong was subsequently banned from competing at ANY level (which appeared moot, considering he had already retired from competitive sport) by USADA and stripped of all the titles he’d won under its jurisdiction dating from 1 August 1998 to the present day. Rather surprisingly, and perhaps tellingly, Armstrong announced that he did not intend to challenge this decision, citing the continuing strain it would place on himself, his charitable foundation – Livestrong – and his family, although he continued to protest his innocence.
Up until this point, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) had been reluctant to pursue the same line of enquiry against Armstrong as USADA, and called to task its recommendation that Lance be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. USADA responded by disclosing the full details of their investigation, which the UCI were unable to refute, and Armstrong’s Tour wins were then revoked. The day after the UCI made its decision Lance Armstrong removed reference to his seven Tour de France triumphs from his “Twitter Biography”.

Not long after Bradley Wiggins’s victory in the 2012 Tour de France, I found myself in the company of a pleasant Gaulish gentleman from Marseille. Keen to gain some sort of insight into how Wiggins (I refuse to refer to him as “Wiggo” – for why refer back to my beef with Altura’s use of the word “mitts”) was perceived by the French, I asked him… how was Wiggins perceived by the French? ‘Oh, yes, we like him very much.’ Did he think Bradley took drugs to enhance his performance? ‘But of course.’ Whether a cyclist dopes or not appears to be immaterial to the French: they assume that all winners of the Tour de France are doped up to their eyeballs. It makes no difference to them, I'm told, in terms of a rider’s popularity. They won’t take the same puritanical view that English speaking Protestants do: it’s just the way it is.
But what did the French think of Lance Armstrong? Not very much, it transpired, the reason being that they considered him arrogant, with no amount of respect for the heritage of the Tour at all (and maybe because he is an American). Armstrong has admitted as much himself. Indeed, he seems to take some sort of bizarre pride in knowing nothing – or pretending to know nothing – of the history of the sport and the characters who have forged its myths. He’s in it for himself, no more, no less.]



Wednesday, 9 January 2013

AN APPROPRIATE BICYCLE - Pt. 11: GEAR


What an alarming vesture a pair of bicycle shorts is. 
The dipsomanic free-for-all that is Christmas brought with it the customary bearing of gifts. Anyone keeping track may recall that cycling accoutrements were very much the order of my day. Unfortunately, there was some sort of mistake with regard to the jersey I’d put in a request for (the Giordana Tech Silverline). If I hadn't already been laden with the spoils of my recent battles on eBay, and if the Altura branded jersey that erroneously materialised on Christmas Day hadn't been a bit too ‘enthusiast’ for my liking, I might have taken it on the chin (or should that be the torso?). Fortunately, my mother is a very understanding woman and was quite prepared to return the offending item and furnish me with the money instead.
But she got the cycling shorts spot on. I hadn't been so specific with this requirement – all I insisted on was that they had to be black. Black they are, save for a reflective A (for Altura) stamped down the side of each thigh, but they’re a scary article of clothing. I hadn't realised that bicycle shorts incorporated such a substantially padded gusset. When not being warn, the fabric hangs shapelessly off this polyurethane cushion and it can take a while to figure out what goes where. I'm not really looking forward to wearing them, if I'm honest, and whilst in training will probably cover them up with something more flattering. But they are a necessary acquisition, for how can I convince in the peloton without them?
          Next up was a saddle bag, courtesy of my de facto Mother-in-Law. Apparently, when she acquired it, she was concerned that it couldn't possibly be what I really wanted on account of its inconsiderable size. She need not have worried, for I’d asked for the Ortlieb Micro Saddle Bag fully aware of its scale.
It would be a very foolish thing to enter a cycling event without the wherewithal to deal with a puncture. I’ll be thoroughly sickened if I do puncture on the London to Brighton, but a spare inner tube, and the means to fit and inflate it, are the nuclear deterrent of cycling. Actually, that’s utter flannel, because being prepared for a puncture will have no impact on whether one punctures or not, obviously. This mobile kit is the type that you hope you’ll never have to use, and will only have to if one is unlucky enough to puncture when one’s too far from home to do anything else other than deal with it there and then. What makes the inconvenience of carrying this gear bearable – and I know people who prefer to take their chances – are the satchels available, designed to fit under the saddle or up against the handlebars. They come in various sizes, depending on what eventuality you want to contend for. I'm only interested in conveying the bare minimum: a spare inner tube, tyre leavers, glueless patch kit, a CO² inflator and concomitant cartridges (the latter set-up yet to be acquired). I can fit all of this in the smallest available bags the market has to offer, probably with enough room spare to carry a modest multi-tool.
So the Ortlieb Micro Saddle Bag looked like the most handsome, compact and waterproof option there was, and reasonably priced too. I ended up with the black/grey variant – I’d only asked that the orange/signal red be avoided – and I'm very happy with it.  It fits pleasingly to the underside of my saddle, via the medium of two screws and a plastic bracket, and there’s a handy mechanism that allows the bag to be released from its moorings, should my bike ever need to be left unattended in less than salubrious surroundings.





Then there was bar-tape. I’d been very specific about this. I told my Mother to order ITM branded bar-tape, to accord with my ITM handlebars, or not to bother at all. (I do not want for much and I'm quite difficult to buy for, so am actively encouraged to present requests come the festive season, and can be quite pragmatic about this. In my youth this meant that my Aunt or Grandmother had to suffer regular trips to Replay Records in Bristol in search of obscure hip hop LPs. Some 20 years later and I've been reduced to asking my relatives for bar-tape.) Kudos to my Mum again, for she managed to deliver exactly what I petitioned for. I was particularly amused by the fact that the tape hadn't even come in a box – just a cellophane bag – although I did feel I’d obliged her to engage with some sort of seedy cycling underworld, where presentation is considered an irrelevance.
            I hadn't stopped there. I’d informed my brother (my other brother, not the one who rides for Carlos-Weltschmerz) that I could do with some detachable lights, but only because he was struggling for ideas. This was preferable to him wasting his money on something I didn't want or need, so I was happy to oblige. The thing was I’d submitted a late request to my Mother for some Altura Classic Crochet Mitts (in case she struggled in finding ITM bar-tape on the black market) but sensed that this submission had been surplus to requirements. With this in mind I told my brother to commune with my Mother, hoping this would guarantee me the gloves, but backed this up with a half-hearted request for some lightweight detachable lights, just in case, and supplied him with a list of agreeable models. To be fair to my brother's had a lot going down of late, but I suspect he took the path of least resistance and ran with the detachable lights idea from the off. Moreover, when he got to Halfords, he saw only a limited selection of lights, bought what he thought was best, but not the right kind. When I took them back (with his approval) I could see where he went wrong: he’d spotted the sponsored display for the Cateye brand and thought that was it, that was all Halfords had, which was not actually the case.
            So rather than exchange these discrepant lamps for the appropriate Knog or Lezyne models that Halfords did in fact stock, I solicited a full refund and bought those Altura Classic Crochet "Mitts" at the first given opportunity.  (It bothers me that Altura label them as 'mitts'. What’s wrong with gloves? This is an example of the infantilization of language that has come to plague modern society.)
The weather has been unseasonably mild of late so I might get to wear them sooner than I think.






I’d anticipated adhering my new bar-tape myself, for what is a man if he’s incapable of appending bar-tape? However, after I’d removed the existing bind and made the necessary adjustments, the newly acquired tension in the brake cables caused them to pull against each other whenever the handlebars were turned. Further, I wanted the assurance that I’d properly secured the brake levers in their new position. So I made enquiries in the bike shop that not long ago opened down my road – Crown Cycles in St. Margarets – to discover that the proprietor was prepared to put things right for a nominal fee. I'm glad I did because he pointed out that the astriction to the right cable was pulling the rear brake out of alignment. He’s going to put that right by changing one of the cables, and then he’s going to take great care over fastening the new bar-tape.
            He liked the bike. He dated it back to the 1980s. He suggested that I might like to think about changing the rear cassette because the existing one is more geared towards touring. I don’t think I’ll bother, though.



[POST-SCRIPT: The cost of the work the Guy From Crown Cycles did for me wasn't as nominal as I’d been led to believe it would be. I had a suspicion that this might turn out to be the case after he’d identified the problem with the tension of the cables and what needed to be done to put it right. Not only was there the extra cost of labour but he’d be replacing one of the brake cables so as to provide the requisite slack. I was a little put out by this but, on collecting my amended bicycle, I was very happy with the job he’d done – with the wrapping of the bar-tape in particular. He ingratiated himself further by telling me that he thought the Carlos was a very nice bike, the handlebars, stem, headset and frame all being choice components, with only the wheels being considered slightly below par – and that was relative to the aforementioned componentry; its Achilles Heel, if you will. Because, in truth, my abject failure to find any detailed information on the internet relating to Carlos had made me wonder whether or not the bike was as good as I'd been given the impression it was (and I don’t mean "good" as in Colnago good, or Pinarello good, but well-made and capable and fit for purpose). The Guy From Crown Cycles then asked if I didn't mind letting on how much I paid for my bicycle. I told him and he answered that I’d done well for myself. Like I said, he thought it might be an idea to replace the wheels at some juncture, and maybe the brakes too, but this was a testament to the quality of the bike as a whole and it was very much worth spending money on to iron out these weaker links. That’s something to think about for the future, for sure.]