One of the things I like about Cyclist magazine is that it usually encourages me to read about things that aren’t necessarily relevant to me, but which are nonetheless interesting. The article about the art and science of motivation is a case in point. Although ostensibly about sports psychology and racing, it still contains ideas and information that can be of use to a recreational cyclist (tackling monstrous climbs, digging out some determination for the last 10 miles of an imperial century, that sort of thing). Although not aimed at a non-competitive sloth such as myself, it’s still an interesting read.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The February issue of Cyclist is out, and it’s beginning to look a little like a pro cycling mag. Last month we had Geraint Thomas and “periodised nutrition”, this month we’ve got articles on Claudio Chiappucci, Fabian Cancellara, Markel Irizar and the aforementioned performance motivation piece. That’s more pro cycling than I want to see in a mainstream mag.
Anyway, after the usual news and new product stuff (including a shameless PR puff for Boardman Bikes) we have a Q&A with El Diblo (Chiappucci), which is a bit meh! If you really want to know about him, read the chapter about him in Richard Moore’s book “Etape”. The following spread, on work suits you can wear while cycling, is a complete mystery to me, but then I don’t actually own a suit (except for the SkinToo gimp suit in the cellar).
Max Glaskin’s cycling science piece about filling your tyres with helium was also a bit odd, and rather longer than it needed to be. But then we get Trevor Ward talking about why cycling outside in winter (as opposed to cycling on a £1200 turbo trainer in your garage) is a good thing. I like Trevor’s stuff. He makes sense. He’s a bit old-school. And then there’s Velominati Frank taking an eternity to tell a reader not to care about flaunting his junk in the workplace (arriving at work in cycling shorts).
The Big Ride is a big 14 pages of stuff about cycling in Marin County near San Francisco. I can’t see all that many riders making the effort to get over to north California for this kind of thing, so I’m a little baffled by this. It’s a nice read, but surely they could have found something a bit more relevant to the readership. Also, the photographer was clearly struggling with the very harsh lighting conditions, which has resulted in some pretty washed-out images. On the plus side, the California Dreaming headline gets another outing, and the mag proved that the gravel bike thing is bollocks by riding countless miles of gravel on two standard road bikes.
After the interesting motivation article there is a seven-page piece about Cancellara which tells us nothing we don’t already know. They didn’t even tell us why he’s called Spartacus (the original was a short, powerful Thracian) nor why he has an image of a 5th Century BC Corinthian helmet painted on his bike when Spartacus was a murmillo gladiator in the 1st Century BC who would have worn a full-faced galea. In the interests of verisimilitude I trust that Trek will sort this out soonest.
The UK Ride story is about the Wye Valley by the omnipresent Susannah Osborne. It’s a decent piece about a lovely part of the world, even if some of the photos are a bit grim and rainy. Then we have six pages of stuff about graphene, a potentially useful material for making tyres (and other things) from. The problem for me is that this is more about Vittoria than about graphene, so I take everything in it with a pinch of salt. Vittoria are investing in the future of graphene so of course they are going to say it’s the best thing ever. What I’d like to see is a few other experts expressing some opinions, because as it stands its a big PR job for Vittoria.
Next is another pro cycling piece, this time about Markel Irizar, one of Trek’s domestiques. It’s OK as far as it goes, but like many of these types of articles, it’s doesn’t attempt to understand the man or the job. Burying yourself in the service of someone else is a curious thing for a sportsperson, so why do they do it? Is there a psychological trait that enables domestiques to do what they do? I think the author needed a much tighter brief because it’s a bit “I-ride-super-fast-and-I’m-super-tired-but-it’s-my-job”.
Max Glaskin is back with the best piece of the issue, about handling characteristics and frame geometry. This is properly good stuff, but why only four pages? There’s loads more to be said (some of which Max covers in his excellent “Cycling Science” book) and I would like to have seen far more diagrams illustrating points made in the test. It’s a really good article, but it feels a bit throw-away compared to seven pages on Spartacus or 14 pages on San Francisco. Better treatment would have made this a stand-out feature.
I read the story about the Otztaler Radmarathon, not because I was particularly interested in the event (I will never enter one of these ludicrous European sportives) but just to see if it was any different to the dozens of stories like this that appear in the cycling press. It wasn’t. The format for these uber-sportive stories goes something like this:
Start with amusing anecdote/observation from the day.
Jump back to the initial plan for the feature (hopefully the initial plan will go amusingly wrong at some point).
Start the sportive slowly, get overtaken by everyone, find the rhythm, start to overtake a few people.
Tag onto the back of a group of fast-riding Italians/Germans/Swedes. Struggle to stay in touch.
Suffer horribly over massive climbs, be amazed at ancient old git riding faster than most other people on an old single-speed Alcyon, make it to the finish just in front of broom-wagon.
The Bikes section tested a boingy Pinarello (£4675 for the frame alone), a yellow Cannondale CAAAAAAAD12 Disc, and a Jaegher Meister/Bomb/Interceptor. The Jaegher is quite interesting (an expensive steeler).
And finally there’s Felix Lowe’s column. Nuff said.
I actually read this edition of Cyclist in the old-fashioned ink-and-paper version (I rose briefly from my day-bed and ventured forth to a purveyor of fags n mags nearby) so I can tell you it’s 130 pages, of which 90 are editorial. And I have to confess to being rather underwhelmed by this issue, much as I was by last month’s. It’s not terrible, but it isn’t up to what we’ve come to expect. With C+ (and even CA) upping their game in recent months, Cyclist needs to keep it’s eye on the ball if it is to remain the thinking cyclists’ mag of choice.