Monday, July 25, 2016

Of Things Illuminated


Over the weekend I attended a rather wonderful show that a friend was involved with. It's kind of difficult to categorise, but essentially it was a public art installation - an "illuminated sculpture trail," where a series of enormous, imaginatively-shaped lanterns, constructed of willow and papier-mâché, were placed throughout indoor and outdoor spaces, for visitors to wander amidst in the night.

The main part of the show was in a space about a mile out of town, and attendees were encouraged to walk from the town centre to get the full experience. So leaving our bikes behind, we strolled along a completely unlit series of backroads, along with dozens of others.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Unintended Road



It was the kind of road that I had seen test tempers and strain friendships. And as we pedaled - upward, endlessly upward, past outstandingly bland scenery - I would sneak sheepish glances at my companion’s face to check for signs of seething. Miraculously, there was none. Only a stunned, almost amused exertion.

“Horrible wee road, this!”

My computer's gradient reading appeared to be stuck at 16%.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Tripping



Although I generally try to keep the posts on this here weblog regular, everyone needs a break now and again - most certainly you, dear readers, from the bicycle-madness and general nonsense that is spouted on the electronic scrolls you've come to know as Lovely Bicycle. Not to worry though, as both of these features shall return after a brief interlude. And how.

Enjoy the time off, grab all the cycling you can, and thank you, as always, for reading!


Thursday, July 7, 2016

What Remains



Maybe it's because I have watched too many Scandi-noir miniseries lately. But thinking of mementos and souvenirs conjures up something sinister - like the "trophies" a serial killer would keep. Then again, maybe that is not entirely inappropriate.

Out of a tattered yellow box I remove the little stash of objects and set them out on a cloth. They are meaningless bits of refuse to anyone but me, and I hide them not so much out of secrecy, as to avoid them accidentally being damaged or thrown into the trash. Still, there is an air of the secretive, of the deeply private and intimate about them. There is a feeling that the objects are a collection, tied together not only by some special theme but by a form of devotion. They are the things I keep from my bicycle rides.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Cycling Underpants: a Look at Three Varieties



The phenomenon of cycling-specific underpants - as distinct from performance-oriented cycling shorts - is a fascinating reflection of today's hybrid bicycling culture. Riding a bike for transport is more popular than it has been in some time. But it is also different from what it was in its original heyday, many decades ago. On the whole, commuting distances are longer. The layouts of the roads invite a more aggressive riding technique. And the bicycles that many use for transport these days have morphed to accommodate - from the stately upright steeds they once ubiquitously were, to more sporting machines that encourage "active" postures.

It is an era of post-sport transport, and it blurs boundaries. Boundaries such as those between rural commutes and distance road rides, or between navigating busy city roads and training for criterium races. Consequently, the boundaries between everyday attire and cycling-specific technical garments are likewise blurred.

Do you “need” cycling underpants? The answer depends on a variety of factors, including how much time you spend on the bike for transport, your position on said bike, and the intensity of your pedaling. Suffice to say: If your underpants are letting you down in the comfort department, yet you prefer to cycle in ordinary clothing (or at least what looks like ordinary clothing), it is something to consider. Luckily, this breed of special garment is now available from a number of manufacturers and in multiple varieties. Over the past few months I have tried the following three and present to you my impressions:

Friday, July 1, 2016

Donard Cycles: a Cottage Industry



What comes to mind when you think of carbon fibre bicycle frame production? This is not a test. Just think about it for a moment and form a mental image.

Me, I picture something clinical, sterile. Lots of computer modeling. A team of engineers. Sophisticated machinery. Automated processes. A facilities that is more lab than workshop.

What I don’t picture is - oh, I don’t know - a stone cottage in the middle of the Irish countryside? In which an unassuming, youthful-looking man toils alone, in a low-ceilinged attic workshop, sculpting strips of something black and tough and a little gooey into the shape of a bicycle. Yet that is what I get when I visit Owen Byrne at Donard Cycles.  Even having known, roughly, what to expect from our email and phone conversations, I am still taken aback.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

#BikePeeing Finalists Announced - Vote for Your Favourite Capture!


Two weeks ago I proposed a little photo contest to celebrate the beauty, mystery and resourcefulness of the stealthy, cross-disciplinary adventure that is #bikepeeing.

Granted, the subjectmatter is a tricky one to tackle. After all, can the complex and elusive essence of #bikepeeing truly be captured? But I suppose one does not know until one tries. And I applaud those intrepid participants who applied their artistic visions to this difficult question.

Having selected 6 of my favourite entries, I ask you now, dear readers, to vote for the one you like best. Those with the top two votes shall each be rewarded for their efforts with a pair of cycling underpants of their choice (details below). No names with submissions, so as not to bias you immediately. But you can click the link on each photo to view the original entries.

Monday, June 27, 2016

In the Dark on Women's Bike Fit? Why a Gendered Approach Falls Short



It seems like every now and again discussions flare up on the importance of proper (road)bike fit for women, and on the industry’s failure to cater to female customers in this regard. Speaking very broadly, these discussions tend to polarise around one of two points of view:

A. that female-specific body proportions warrant a distinct approach to bike fit, and that not enough off-the-shelf bicycles are produced with it in mind.

B. that female-specific proportions are a myth. What women need is greater variety in smaller frame sizes, and industry staff that don't talk down to them.

As last week's article in Total Women's Cycling hints at, there is also an inherent bias built into these discussions, depending on who is speaking: Mainstream bicycle manufacturers are motivated to convince women they can fit just fine on the off-the-shelf bicycles already being produced. Custom fitters are motivated to cultivate the idea of problems in this regard, to which they can offer solutions.

Friday, June 24, 2016

It's Not All Doom and Gloom!



So you may have heard some interesting political news from Europe this morning. But take it from someone who lives on the Ireland/UK "frontier" - everything is fine! Absolutely fine, I tell you. The price of imported rapeseed oil has only gone up by 400% so far. They won't be starting to deport the cross-border cattle till next Tuesday. And it will surely be weeks yet before they begin building the wall.

Now, I know that in these confusing times, opportunity for reflection can be difficult to come by. Which is why I'd like to help - with some reflective leopard-print decals from the Swedish manufacturer Bookman (who also make some cool lights).

Thursday, June 23, 2016

On Vestigial Gearing and Its Evolutionary Implications



How do you know when you've got gears you don't use or need? It's a tough call. Some might even say there is no such thing as "gears you don't need," especially when it comes to those low-low-low ones. If you can set up your bike with a sub-(sub)-1:1 gear, go for it! And even if you usually don't use them, you never know when they might come in handy, so better save them for a rainy day. I mean, who knows - you might go on a long trip where all the climbing comes at the end, when you are already right and truly exhausted. Or you could be called upon to rescue a cat from a tree.