Tag Archives: maintenance

Scottish cycling podcast 12: preparation and setbacks

In this podcast, I share my thoughts about preparation for cycling events and bouncing back from setbacks, as I come to terms with making a balls-up of a recent podcast interview with Helen Wyman.

How many of you have tried a repair a the night before a bit race or event?
Many of us have tried it, I know I have. I the podcast, I recall a race I did on the ‘Jacobite Chase’ circuit, back when retired racer Jimmy Rae was still organising events.

The theme here is that preparation is vitally important, especially for big events.

Listen on the player below, or on iTunes.

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Focus on mechanics: Brendan Milliken

Brendan has kindly agreed to answer some of my questions about the past two years he has spent as a full time mechanic for Endura Racing.

You’ve spent the past 2 years as mechanic with Endura Racing, remind us how you got the gig?
Since the age of 14 I have been involved in cycling, as a rider and working in cycle shops as a mechanic, cycling has been a big part of my life and to be involved in the professional scene on or off the bike has always been a dream. I have been involved with Endura Racing for 4 seasons now, from the original incarnation that was PedalPower Race Team/Endura where I assisted the team with mechanics and support in the team car at a few Premier Calendar events. During the 2009 Halfords Tour Series after a mechanical-strewn 1st round, I was offered the position of mechanic, looking after team bikes, driving and logistics which led to a full time job with Endura and Endura Racing.

Tour Doonhame 2011 | Photo by Larry Hickmott | www.VeloUK.net courtesy of Endura Racing
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Focus on mechanics: Mark Leadbetter

I’ve been meaning to give mechanics some attention on the blog for a while, and it’s easiest to start with one I know: Mark Leadbetter is a bike mechanic local to my Stirling area, and a club mate. An experienced wrench, he honed his trade at Stewart Wilson Cycles in Stirling (below), which has recently changed hands and is now revamped and trading as Velocity44.

He’s a good wheel builder and mark considers this his own speciality or ‘wizardry’. I’ve spent many years examining factory wheels or those built by other people which would come to me for service or repair… spotting even the most minute mistakes in the build. I think of the many thousands of wheels examined in all that time… I saw only half a dozen or so that I would have been happy to have supplied.

When I wrote this post, Mark didn’t have a website, but you can now reach him at www.markleadbetter.co.uk
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Owen P – 2011 winter ‘sponsors’

I’m a bit late this post, but after last year, I thought I’d do it again. Owen P is proud to announce newly signed sponsorship deals for the 2010/2011 winter period.

Winter ride, Dollarbeg

For heart rate monitors he is sponsored by tonydeebo, a bike-obsessed world traveller who very generously sent his old Polar S625X HRM/bike computer. A nice bit of kit that will enable Owen to take training to the next level and make the most of riding time when baby no.2 arrives.

Training programme has been planned by Donald Maclean, a workhorse cycling coach and volunteer who devotes many hours of his time to the Wallace Warriors, the incredibly successful youth section of Stirling Bike Club. Donald is working towards his British Cycling level 3 qualification. As far as I know, the only other coach in Scotland with this qualification is Mark Young, who has worked with Endura Racing and the Scottish Commonwealth Games Team.

For 39-tooth chainrings and 9-speed cassettes John Galloway has provided support. John is a former velocast presenter and has some great chat to share on twitter.

For 9-speed derailleurs I thank twitter. To my shame, I have forgotten the name of the generous someone who posted me an nearly new Tiagra mech for my winter bike refurb.

Jim aka cowspassage cut me a great deal on some 9-speed shifters. Worth a follow on twitter if you fancy some witty banter.

Plain black Gore Bike Wear bib shorts by were provided at a very attractive discount by Pete at Flying Fox Bikes. The Gore kit is simple yet functional, a quality that appeals to The Scottish Cyclist.

Flying Fox mountain bikes, road bikes, BMX, Stirling / Clackmannanshire

Scottish Cyclist: Steve McCaw

A few weeks ago, Steve McCaw was the pick of the week on The Velocast. Steve seems something of an unknown figure in Scottish Cycling so I though it was worth researching ome info about his career and achievements.

He once rode the 2nd fastest 50 mile time trial ever recorded by a Scot in roughly 1:46:00, and he was also Scottish 50 mile TT Champion after making a comeback to racing.

John Galloway lauds him as the best wheel builder he has ever met (a prized trait as per the Official Rules). His standard time to make a wheel is apparently precisely 49 minutes for a 32 spoke.

There was an amusing comment on the Velocast about his ‘logical brain’. When asked “Don’t you spend more time building your own wheels?”  Steve replied “No. Why would I build a substandard wheel for a customer?”  Other notable catchphrases include: “Do you have something like a braddall?” “Nope. But we do have an actual braddall.”

I have searched for more information on his career and found several recent time trial results but not so much about the glory years.

1983 Scottish 25 Time Trial Champion
1983 Team Scottish 25 Champion (Steve McCaw, G Kay and A Gray)
19?? Scottish 50 mile Champion

the wheelroom

Pick of the week: old rags

Oily rag, originally uploaded by Owen P.

My Velocast-style pick of the week is “Old T-Shirts”.

Old T-Shirts are essential for bike maintenance. They can be used to clean and polish lightly dirtied bike parts, with or without soapy water. After that they can be used for the thick mucky crud that ruins an old toothbrush or a proper bike cleaning brush in an instant. Slipping an edge in between the cogs and pulling it back and forth is a good way to get dirt out of those hard-to-reach areas.

Furthermore, this helps me to weed out the T-shirts in my wardrobe that just refuse to die.

Mechanical skill = Scottish Cyclist

9. The reputation of the Scottish Cyclist increases proportionally to the amount of bicycle mechanics he is able to perform. Wheel building/truing and frame building/repairs are highly prized skills.

Hence Graeme Obree is a particularly heroic example of the Scottish Cyclist. Whether or not you are a fan of the time trial, the pursuit or the hour record (his disciplines) his skill in innovating and inventing bike frames and aero positions (other key Scottish traits), all borne out on a shoestring budget, are exceptional.

Official rules – the full list

Performing your own maintenance

Official Rules of the Scottish Cyclist

#8. The Scottish Cyclist will perform as much of his own bike maintenance as he possibly can. At all times he shall strive to improve his knowledge of bike parts and mechanics. Only when the cyclist is truly stuck with a mechanical problem shall he take his bike to a professional mechanic.

Official rules – full list

The Official Rules of the Scottish Cyclist

The Official Rules of the Scottish Cyclist owe a debt to the Official Rules of the Euro Cyclist, a comically and self-consciously elitist facebook group about cycling style.

The Official Rules of the Euro Cyclist are 61 rules, which satirise (or do they?) the egotistical, flamboyant style of European pro cyclists, primarily Italians.

The Euro rules works on many levels, sort of like the Borat Movie- it is steeped in irony but at times the wall posts and image comments seem to take the whole thing a bit too seriously, missing the joke (or is there a joke?).

As I have got into road cycling through 2008 and 2009, I have become more aware of the finer traditions, codes of conduct and etiquette of the sport. I value these and aspire to follow them but offer suffer a degree of inner turmoil. Sometimes I just want to ride without worrying if my wheel is a few centimetres in front of the rider to my side, if my kit is colour-co-ordinated, or if the mechanism that shifts my chain from one sprocket to another was designed in Sakai or Vicenza.

The Official Rules of the Scottish Cyclist are the antidote to the Euro Rules. They value the Scottish qualities/stereotypes of “grit and determination”, laud the plucky underdog and the valiant loser, bemoan bad luck and bad weather, urge spendthriftiness, and eschew style.

I shall post the rules separately one-by-one, so as to allow debate, and collate them in a single list as I go along.

#1. Practicality and functionality shall be the primary concerns of the Scottish Cyclist. Under no circumstances should the Scottish Cyclist pay heed to aesthetics or style, either in his/her bicycle or clothing.

2. The second most important rule for the Scottish Cyclist is cost. Kit and equipment shall always be selected for best value. Under no circumstances shall excessive expense be paid to overtly stylish kit. It is acceptable to pay higher amounts for quality kit or components for their longevity, but never for reasons of aesthetics.

3. Training shall be based solely on feel, while racing shall be guided by sensations and instinct. Computers, power meters, coaching programmes, gym membership are too expensive, and scientific data is way too much hassle.

4. The Scottish Cyclist shall wear plain black bibs, or shorts, of any colour. Shorts may be any length, i.e. tights or bib 3/4s are permitted. Whatever shorts are best for the conditions, and are best value for the Scottish Cyclist are acceptable.

5. Team kit is generally frowned upon, especially if matching shorts and jersey are worn. Matching cap, gloves, socks, etc all at once is strictly oot ay order! In some circumstances retro team kit may be accepted, e.g. Robert Millar’s Peugeot jersey, but it should never be worn as a matching set.

6. It is not necessary for The Official Rules of the Scottish Cyclist to stipulate precise requirements for each piece of cycling kit. Suffice to say, that if they are practical, inexpensive, and do not match or are overtly stylish, they are acceptable.

7. The Scottish Cyclist’s legs shall not be shaved unless peer pressure is too great. Peer pressure may come from other cyclists (i.e. pressure to shave) or from ‘normal’ people (pressure not to shave). Certain circumstances where shaving may be acceptable include: when racing at a very high level, when riding an event such as the Étape de Tour, or on a cycling holiday in Italy. However, it is highly impractical to have to take a merciless slagging from non-cycling friends or family, and this may outweigh the pressure from cycling peers.

8. The Scottish Cyclist will perform as much of his own bike maintenance as he possibly can. At all times he shall strive to improve his knowledge of bike parts and mechanics. Only when the cyclist is truly stuck with a mechanical problem shall he take his bike to a professional mechanic.

9. The reputation of the Scottish Cyclist increases proportionally to the amount of bicycle mechanics he is able to perform. Wheel building/truing and frame building/repairs are highly prized skills.

10. Any colour of bike is acceptable, but overly prominent logos, world championship stripes or customised rider names are not desirable.

11. While a lighter bike is beneficial, the Scottish Cyclist should not pay too much attention to its weight. This is partly to ensure maximum durability to withstand the harsh Scottish conditions. The Scottish Cyclist should overcome any drawbacks in equipment quality through fitness and skill.

12. Wheels shall be equipped with clincher tyres. The propensity for punctures on the rough Scottish roads rules out tubulars. The risk to puncture a tubular miles from home is too great. However if the Scottish Cyclist can effectively fit tubulars, this is a useful skill.

13. It should go without saying that ridiculously stylish eyewear should not be worn at any time. Eyewear should be cheap clear glasses to avoid rain and road-dirt, except when the sky is cloudless (generally only in July and September). Glasses may be worn under helmet straps and headband or cycle cap, to avoid losing them.

14. Hair should be kept neatly short, as this is most practical and easiest to manage. Investing in a set of clippers and cutting one’s own hair is cheapest in the long run. However, the particulars of style are of little importance, so the Scottish Cyclist can sport a ponytail or comb-over if he can be bothered with the extra hassle, it doesn’t really matter. Following fashion with regard to hairstyles is forbidden however. No highlights, self-consciously messy cuts, ironic style mullets or peaks.

15. The Scottish Cyclist should never ride without a helmet. This is due to the unreliable road quality, often treacherous weather conditions and the proliferation of bampot drivers. During winter, traditional cycling caps, wooly hats or handkerchiefs are worn for insulation (any colour or style).

Helmets may be any colour or style, but white is not preferable, being the preferred colour of the show-off and prone to getting dirty. Helmets can be worn when venturing indoors. The Scottish Cyclist doesn’t care what people think of him/her.

16. Saddles and handlebar tape may be any colour, but white is highly impractical due to the filth thrown up from Scottish roads. Black is therefore the most sensible colour. Cleansing or replacement of tape must always be performed by the cyclist as per item 8. above.

17. Facial hair is certainly not prohibited, in fact it may be extremely useful to insulate the face. This is especially practical for long-distance tours.

18. As the most widely available and best value, Shimano components are preferred. Under no circumstances should the Scottish Cyclist use Campagnolo simply to show to his peers how stylish and wealthy he is. Stylish, expensive kit is no substitute for dogged training at ungodly hours of the day in horrible conditions with a heavy bike.

19. If the Scottish Cyclist finds himself in the presence of a cyclist riding a bike costing more than 2000€ he shall regard his “acquaintance” with a mixture of disdain and SEVERE condescension, unless the rider’s ability is commensurate with the cost of his equipment.

20. Generally any physical activity other than cycling is encouraged, especially if it is outdoors. Cycling of course, should be preferred at all times, and if The Scottish Cyclist does indulge in other sports, he must be careful not to overdo it. Sports that are approved by the Scottish Cyclist Rules are fell running, cross-country running, Munro climbing and swimming across lochs.

21. One point where the Scottish Cyclist is in agreement with the Euro Cyclist: in the event a motorist disturbs one’s ride: one shall proceed to ride up beside the car, form a clenched fist and bang the boot of the car while shouting and swearing. In fact, the broad Scottish accent is infinitely better at expressing doing one’s rage than Italian. Wild arm and head movements however, add to the effect, in both languages.

22. The seatbag and frame pump are essential pieces of equipment. These are needed when the Scottish Cyclist punctures in the middle of a 200-mile training ride through the Highlands, hours from civilisation.

23. Mud guards are necessary that the rider can ride through winter and foul spring/autumn conditions. Mirrors are not allowed unless one is too old or infirm to to turn one’s head.

24. The use of 25- or 27-toothed cogs are acceptable due to the propensity of ridiculously steep mountainous training routes that the Scottish Cyclist rides. 25 and 27 tooth cogs may also be necessary for the Scottish Cyclist that fuels himself on Irn-Bru and sausage rolls. A single fixed gear is preferred though. Graeme Obree won the Tour de Trossachs mountain time trial, over the Dukes Pass and the Braes of Greenock on a fixed gear- nuff said.

25. The Scottish Cyclist should never feature his/her personalised nameplate on his bike. The bike should be significantly individual to distinguish it from other bikes, even of the same make and model (preferably through customised parts).

26. Road pedals (e.g Shimano SPD-SL) are preferred, however mountain bike SPDs are acceptable should the Scottish Cyclist need them for practical reasons- e.g. in order to wear commuting shoes for the daily ride from Lochgilphead to Glasgow, or should the rider want to switch easily from his/her road bike to mountain bike.

27. While strong black coffee is fine, tea or white instant coffee is a much more Scottish drink. Better yet, the Scottish Cyclist shall drink Irn-Bru with a shot of his single malt whisky of choice.

28. Motivational music during training shall consist of whatever motivates the Scottish Cyclist! Suggested tracks include:
500 Miles – The Proclaimers
Caledonia – Rod Stewart
Why Does it Always Rain on Me? – Travis
Take The Long Way Round – Teenage Fanclub

29. Water bottles shall preferably be freebies from sportive rides or found at the side of the road when watching pro races. Under no circumstances should they be discarded until completely spent, even when not matching bike or clothing colours.